The following is somewhat of an “unreleased” interview between Austin artist Ben Aqua and myself, originally conducted around the time Aqua performed at the now infamous “slime rave” during 35 Denton. Aqua is an accomplished visual artist aside from being a musician, so I asked the performer about his evolution in art and music. He had undergone some dramatic stylistic changes since his days of one-man confrontational performance art/solo metal act called Assacre, which is where many in the state originally discovered Aqua in the early to mid 2000s. Later he would go on to handle more dance-oriented sounds, and his performance under the moniker, MVSCLZ, at the now-defunct Swiss House back in 2008 introduced North Texas to the artist’s new direction. That show also stands out as significant in regard to the many house shows I’ve ever seen in the area. So, it comes as no surprise that Aqua has been involved with two of the more memorable underground events I’ve been lucky enough to witness, and it is a privilege to bring his newest, high-energy focused work to the slightly more propped-up confines of the Dallas Contemporary this evening. I’ve also seen Aqua put on a brilliant performance in an actual club in the past few months, and it comes as no surprise that he nailed that too. Aqua’s label, #FEELINGS, recently released the debut by local DJ, Ynfynyt Scroll. The label also has a terrific statement of purpose.
And though he doesn’t just do portrait work, Aqua’s portraits are essential, and one of his best was recently included in a post on Glasstire concerning remarks the President made on gay marriage. Have a look and see if his image doesn’t jump out. His band portraits have made the already tired idea of band portraits by other artists seem downright silly by comparison.
FrontRow: What’s the current status of MVSCLZ? Do you have any particular memories of your shows in Dallas? I believe you played Swiss House and Fallout Lounge?
Ben Aqua: MVSCLZ still performs randomly here and there. He performed at Festival Nrmal in Monterrey, Mexico a couple years ago, and opened for A Flock Of Seagulls in Austin in 2011. The Dallas MVSCLZ shows at Swiss House and Fallout Lounge were some of my favorite shows. I remember getting some comments about how “things like this don’t really happen here very often,” I guess meaning that sweaty, masked homosexuals in silver tights don’t usually perform hiNRG synth pop songs in Dallas very often for some strange reason.
FR: How have things changed for you since the Assacre days, with both music and art? Do you recall them with any fondness? The world seemed pretty different around 2005 or so, looking back now.
BA: My artistic direction has changed and warped a lot since the Assacre days. My main focus right now is on my new dance music label #FEELINGS and producing some new more club-friendly trax of my own, as well as some remixes for various artists around the universe.
Assacre was very much a sad, angry and dark time of my life. It was nice to be able to yell “SUP FAGGOT” in a drunk frat boy’s face at a house party, and get away with it, somehow. I think my visual art and music is more subtle these days. I really enjoy taking photographic portraits of my friends and interesting situations. I like just closing my mouth, stepping back, and listening and watching the wacky things people do all the time. It’s the best. I like connecting people and sharing ideas, thus #FEELINGS.
I’d do Assacre again, but only if I was opening for Blind Guardian in a Transylvanian church at exactly midnight on a Friday the 13th.
FR: What sort of stuff do your sets focus on? If you could name a few tracks…
BA: I improvise all my DJ sets, but lately I’ve been playing mostly juke/footwork/vogue house/dream rap/dark club type trax. I tend to play hyper, high energy music that may sound like it was produced by an alien/cyborg/virtual reality slut hybrid creature.
Everything is usually sped up way faster than it probably should be. Last time I DJd at a #FEELINGS warehouse party in Austin, I sped up Keri Hilson/Timbaland’s “Return The Favor” to 160bpm. My latest mixtape for Houston bass label Freshmore is pretty indicative of the stuff I’ve been jamming. Actually, I think this song pretty much sums up the music I get really hyper about playing during my DJ sets these days.
Image: Crop from Ben Aqua Strikes a Pose (2012) – Collaboration with Jess Williamson.