By Drew Sheldrick
There’s an undeniable sense of ‘cool’ to Paul Mac despite his almost veteran status in the industry. The long-time Newtown boy had to reschedule our interview because he was riding his motorbike at the time and excused himself on multiple occasions when we finally got to chat so he could “light-up a ciggie”.
It’s an aura that’ll serve him well now that his iconic electronic outfit, Itch-E & Scratch-E, is set for a comeback 15 years since he first formed it with collaborator Andy Rantzen. Their first album Itch-E Kitch-E Koo spawned the single Sweetness and Light, a track credited with breaking down barriers between the underground rave scene and more mainstream venues.
But Mac said he never felt part of either establishment.
“We just floated along. We were more interested in inventing new territory than playing to any particular scene,” he told Sydney Star Observer.
“But every new movement eventually becomes mainstream after a while. Techno went to dance which became Top 40, and hip hop goes from being Public Enemy to becoming Chris Brown.”
Those who don’t remember Itch-E & Scratch-E’s music are more likely to be familiar with Mac’s notorious ARIA acceptance speech for the band’s Best Dance Single nod in the mid-’90s. Mac thanked the ecstasy dealers of Sydney for inspiring their efforts.
Despite changing the band’s name after the controversy — reportedly to avoid the media attention post-awards — Mac seemed happy to revisit the famous incident with a hearty laugh.
“I stand by that fucking speech, I’m proud of it. When it comes to music I’m all for exploration and fun as long as it’s safe,” he said.
In the studio putting final touches on their reunion album, Hooray For Everything, it’s musical exploration that’s still the motivating force behind Rantzen and Mac’s creative drive, so don’t expect a complete return to their post-punk/electronic/noise-inspired roots.
“I’m sure there are bits of our personality in it, but whenever I get a sense that we’re delving into nostalgia, I scrap it,” Mac said.
Mac said he was looking forward to bringing Itch-E & Scratch-E to The Forum at Mardi Gras, as it’s a space he feels most at home in.
“All the venues at the party have got their own thing going on, but The Forum always felt like the place the weirdos shared a home,” he said.
“Mardi Gras pays you fuck-all so you only do it for the love. I’m proud of Mardi Gras though, and I know the community goes up and down with their appreciation of it, but I think it’d be a much duller place without it.”
Mac said a new solo album is on the cards next, as well as talks with Daniel Johns about another collaboration for The Dissociatives.