"I really can't have my name mentioned, for obvious reasons," the 26-year-old founder of the Mark Dutroux Slideshow says from his west Cleveland home. "I'd get in too much trouble. The idea of me naming a musical project after a pedophile child murderer probably wouldn't go over that well."
Especially since the musician (let's call him Mark) works in an environment where kids are present. By now, though, Mark's getting used to controversy. His project -- a chilling, rather accomplished foray into dark power electronics -- is sure to offend just about anyone who comes into contact with it.
Mark's debut, the sick, superb Eight Pieces of Evidence, is an orgy of harsh noise, cochlea-shearing tones, and ugly electronic violence. The fact that "the Mark Dutroux Slideshow" refers to a notorious Belgian child rapist of the mid-'90s, who paid for kidnapped young girls, then starved and molested them for months, doesn't help matters. Nor do his occasional lyrics: "Dance and wallow, cunt-pig . . . wipe my cock clean," he spits on "This Kingdom."
Turns out the guy has already ruffled a few feathers. "You are a very sad individual. Do not trouble us further," wrote Alan Trench, head of World Serpent Distribution, in an e-mail response to Mark's inquiries into having his project distributed by Trench's company. "Your reasons for doing what you do are your own, for you to justify to yourself, and no one else."
Well, not exactly. The Italian government, for one, wanted some justification before allowing the disc on its shores. Earlier this year, Mark landed a distribution deal with Anaemic Waves Factory, a small but notable label based in Livorno, Italy. Problems quickly arose, however, when Mark sent Anaemic a package containing his disc and album artwork -- which contained photos of Dutroux's victims, along with the price he paid for each of them. The package was held for more than two months by the Italian postal service. Italy, it seems, has very strict laws regarding references to child murder/molestation, and the Slideshow immediately raised a red flag.
Anaemic eventually received the package, but when the label started advertising the music on its website, owner Luigi M. Mennella was bombarded with irate e-mails. Even the Italian police began to question the disc's legality, applying so much heat that Mennella pulled the plug on the record to end the controversy. It's easy to understand why: Naming a musical project after one of the most notorious pedophiles in European history seems cheap, crass, and sensationalistic -- an easy way to attract attention. Even the man behind the project doesn't offer much of a rebuttal.
"For someone to say it's offensive or in bad taste -- I'm sure it is," says Mark, who has since talked to the Spanish label Tabula Rasa about distributing the disc. "But I think it can be cathartic for some people."
It's probably not a coincidence that most labels that deal in this kind of music are based in European countries like Germany and Italy, where the moral restrictiveness of past fascist regimes still casts something of a pall over the land. Just as death metal was incubated in Florida (a hotbed of Christian conservatism) and black metal often comes from socialist Scandinavia, extreme music like Mark's might be understood as a means of lashing out at society.
That's Mark's story anyway. His music is a sort of pressure valve, an aural Fight Club. But Eight Pieces of Evidence is over the top to the point of cartoonishness. Mark says he isn't trying to shock so much as comment on the extreme measures required to get people's goats these days.
"I Iisten to the Beach Boys as much as I listen to anything else, and to be able to make a subtle reference to something that actually is kind of edgy for the time period, I think, is fuckin' awesome," he says of the once-controversial sexual innuendo of Brian Wilson and Co. "If I could make a huge stir by making a subtle reference to sex in a song, I would totally do it," he states, adding with a sigh: "To push buttons has become difficult."
Up until now, that is.