Pigface Kicks the Industrial Funk Outta Ziggy’s
Highway miles of black sound cable coil snakelike in piles onstage as the sound crew jacks into instruments no band teacher has ever seen before. Industrial supergroup Pigface gears up for an evening of raw, aggressive, funky jams at Ziggy’s in Winston-Salem.
Sheep on Drugs, a self described ‘“eurotrash, electroclash’” disco duet has just cleared the stage, leaving a crowd disappointed and restless for the headliner. A fan turns and says, ‘“God I hate techno,’” to a corset-clad brunette on his right. Pigface is somewhat obscured by white cloth panels and their backlit silhouettes slink onstage as grinding, synthesized, melodies begin to emerge from the motley assortment of computers, effects processors, guitars, keyboards and drums.
Project manager Martin Atkins has been in the business of making Pigface more industrious than industrial for 14 years. Comprised of members from other industrial acts such as Nine Inch Nails, Ministry, KMFDM, Thrill Kill Kult, Atari Teenage Riot, Skinny Puppy, and Hate Dept., Pigface began their project after going on the 1989 Ministry Tour. Atkins worked with producer Steve Albini for one week to help develop a group with an identity that would be ‘“wilder, nastier, sexier, more aggressive, and sweeter than anything.’” Atkins says, ‘“We didn’t rehearse at all the first two weeks. It was terrible. We wanted this to be more cohesive and a closely knit, social project.’”
Atkins’ dedication to the project is clear in his treatment of the fans ‘— every partygoer this evening holds coupons redeemable for merchandise equal to the cover fee. Fans line up to get their goodies while Hanin Elias of Atari Teenage Riot finishes the first song. Cloth panels removed, the band is now revealed and they launch into ‘“Asphole,’” with vocalist, guitarist, and keyboardist Curse Mackey at the helm. Part hot-rod hipster and part twisted faerie, Mackey claws at the mike and his chest much to the delight of the female members of the audience.
Filling out the lineup for the evening is Charles Levi from Thrill Kill Kult on bass, Martin Atkins on drums, performance artist Th’Enigma, Krztoff of Bile on Guitar, and Steven Seibold of Hate Dept. also on axe. Pigface switches out the lineup as frequently as these guys switch instruments in the middle of the show.
‘“It’s amazing to me how good these guys are on so many different instruments and that they come from so many different kinds of bands,’” remarks fan Cassandra Brown. ‘“It’s so cool that people from all these bands work together instead of being competitive.’”
Brown’s sentiment is shared by Curse Mackey.
‘“I love having my hands in different things, it brings a stronger identitiy of the music. I love this,’” he says.
Aside from Pigface, Mackey has his hands in Grim Faeries, Evil Mothers, ASP Beat Battalion, and animation work with Cell Division Films. Martin Atkins is running Pigface, Underground Inc. updates, Invisible Records and other projects.
Performance artist Th’Enigma, a soft spoken man tattooed almost head to toe in puzzle pieces, with a fierce goatee and embedded neo-tribalist horns has been on countless TV shows and has toured with the Jim Rose Circus. Th’Enigma gave the crowd a taste of sideshow decadence by sliding a nail through his tongue, spraying the crowd down with sparks as he placed a hatchet against a grinder, and chased girls through the audience with a stage chainsaw so convincing they ran in terror.
Atkins said, ‘“We are absolutely thrilled to have him along. It adds to the mayhem and the threatre of the show.’” Not a single Pigface member can cite boredom as a pastime.
Boredom was certainly not an affliction of the masses at the Ziggy’s show. The band was feeling their sound and the crowd ate it up. Elias and Mackey climbed over the barrier to touch the fans and even shared the mic during many of the songs. The resonating refrain, ‘“Ground zero!’” was shouted in unison by both fan and performer during ‘“Alles Ist Mein.’”
The highlight of the evening was the last song of the night. Pigface gave the crowd a bass funk overdose at the capable hands of Charles Levi with ‘“Suck,’” a Pigface song popularized by Nine Inch Nails at Woodstock ’94. The sultry lyrics of the song with lines like, ‘“It gets too tight, I come undone,’” piqued with the smoky rock club swelter, the breathy stained voice of Mackey and the grinding insistence of the ladies’ hips, made for an explosive encore performance.
Pigface gave their loyal following what they wanted, a dirty rock club environment twisted up with retro erotic funk and decadent well-performed tunes. Many of the fans in the audience have been following their work for over ten years. By the screaming and dancing from the crowd when Martin Atkins took his bow, it looked like they wanted ten more.
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