Dallas musician-DJs Hesh Qwalino and Hampton Mills have recently collaborated to curate a new bimonthly event named Mutant Wave, a night of eclectic synth, minimal, darkwave, coldwave (and “whatever”-wave) type acts and sounds. The first outing of the event is on Wednesday, July 20, and features Dais recording artists Them Are Us Too alongside locals iill, Bathhouse, and Austin’s Missions.
I’ve known Hesh and Hampton for several years now, the former through his Hex Cult and Teen Slut projects, and Hampton primarily through his djing at the Cold Cuts industrial/EBM/synthpop night (though he’s also been in bands, too, detailed below). Hesh and Hampton are both incredibly funny, positive, supportive, and eminently like-able people that I’m happy to call friends. (Did I mention they’re funny?) Through their own efforts at bringing underground, interesting, and just plain weird sounds to folks both through their djing as well as producing some of the better industrial music coming out of Dallas now (i.e. Hesh’s KMFDM-on-acid project Teen Slut, which has played all kinds of spaces, from divey DIY venues to The Church/Lizard Lounge), Hampton and Hesh have helped form an important and inter-networked scene that includes older Church EBM-heads, postpunk fans of all ages, and younger, more artsy millenial DIY types that don’t neatly fit into legacy dark music subcultures. Their new event serves as an important bridge between older and younger demographics, something that’s often hard to find in the darker corners of Dallas’ music environs. A hearty hats off is due to them for making Mutant Wave happen.
When they announced their new event — and especially when I saw the lineup they’d managed to cobble together — I knew I wanted to pick their brains about the whys and hows of the new event. I interviewed them below, in July, 2016.
Can you give a brief introduction of yourselves to readers — let’s assume they know nothing about you, and what Mutant Waves is. So, who are you, and what is this Mutant Wave event you’ve been promoting for July 20th?
Hesh: Hesh is the name & I’m a musician/Deejay/performer/D.I.Y. promoter at heart and a venue promoter by default. Mutant Wave is every third Wednesday @ RBC in Deep Ellum. It’s a collaboration between Hampton (Mills) & I. We are taking some time each month to focus on the darker side of all things punk, industrial, synth pop, EBM, techno,noise,no-wave, whatever-wave… We aren’t trying to pigeonhole the event, or our integrity, so we will showcase whatever the fuck we want, anything that needs to be heard under our discretion.
Hampton: Hampton is the name, rabid music fan/DJ/photographer/tastemaker are the guises most pertinent to this discussion. I have been wanting to do something like this (Mutant Wave) for a while, i.e. taking a more active role in curation and promotion, in addition to DJing. Hesh approached me a few months back with the idea, and it was basically the same idea I had in my head, and here we are. We are going to be all over the darker side of things, no boundaries.
How does the breakdown between promoting and “curating” (booking) the event break down between you two?
Tesh: We split everything 50/50. We both will be booking the bands & selecting/deejay’ing the tunes + in the future we will be adding guest dj’s to build a stronger community in the DFW metroplex.
Hampton: Yep, half-and-half. Both of us are equally involved in the curation and promotion aspects, as well as sharing DJ duties.
What bands are playing Mutant Waves and how did you choose them? Can you give a little background or description of each of them and why you think they fit the event?
Tesh: Them Are Us Too / MISSIONS / iill / BATHHOUSE… It formulated perfectly for our debut showcase. We had a couple bands lined up already but ran into a wall confirming a national artist. I t turned out Kennedy from Them Are Us Too was looking for a show & with the help of Alex Velte from iill as support along with BATHHOUSE we had it clutch in little time. We moved some things around and adjusted accordingly. Hampton added MISSIONS to slip the cherry on top.
Hampton: I’m really happy with the way our first lineup came together. It’s exactly the sort of cocktail I had in mind. BATHHOUSE from Denton will kick things off with their brand of dark/noisy synth-laden post-punk, followed by the always on-point sounds of Dallas darkwave darlings iill. MISSIONS from Austin are up next, with a solid set of mutant synth jams from the farthest reaches of the galaxy, followed by the dreamy, syrupy, synth-gazy haze of Them Are Us Too.
Hesh, you’ve been involved with the bands Teen Slut and Hex Cult. Whatever happened to Hex Cult? You’ve also dj’d off and on — what do you consider yourself overall: a musician and artist, a dj, all of the above? What were you trying to accomplish with Mutant Waves?
Hesh: LOL. I’ve been testing everything at once & even though I haven’t released a recording with HEX CULT or TEEN SLUT… its been a fetish of mine, keeping these projects in a chamber only to be showcased by live performance. they will be released but only when I/We feel its right. HEX CULT WILL NEVER DIE! We’ve just been taking a well needed break to focus on other ventures. I am saving up for gear in order to conquer the destitute situation we’ve left & find the sound I truly desire . I’m not trying to blow a horn but we are in the process of working on a LP with Stefan Gonzalez on drums who shouldn’t need a introduction but he is a bad ass & has conceived many projects I am inspired by… So, yeah that’s gonna be cool …
Hampton: Fuck Hesh.
Hampton, I’ve known you mainly as a dj, specifically with Cold Cuts at Off the Record. When did you start djing, and what drew you to it? Have you been in bands? When did you start djing and how did that all progress, and what have been some of your ups and downs doing that, and do you have any particular philosophy or approach when you dj?
Hampton: I actually started DJing while in college up in Denton, at a bar (long gone at that) called The Depot. Since my early teenage years, when I discovered punk, hardcore, and later, synthpop, industrial, and EBM, I’ve been really drawn to exposing others to different kinds of music. In the 90s, I ran a mail order company out of my house called “Noise Therapy” with a close friend of mine, specializing in industrial, EBM, darkwave, etc. Our basic goal was to serve as a conduit between fans of these darker genres, and the small labels and distributors (many of them overseas) without trying to make a buck.
We really succeeded, and never made a dime, but definitely achieved our primary goal. Over the years, I have fronted (as vocalist) a few metal bands. I have an electronic music project in the works with my fiancé, Katie, that will see the light of day at some point. As far as DJing goes, I really just try to set a mood through my entire set, across genres. I DJ exclusively vinyl, and I really enjoy that aspect of it, the ritual, of the vinyl experience. I got back into DJing a few years ago when my good friend, Matt Haag (the other half of Cold Cuts) approached me about guest DJing with him at Singlewide. We had a blast, and within a few months, we formed Cold Cuts, and had a monthly dj event at Off The Record in Deep Ellum.
Is there a music genre or subculture you feel most grounded in? For example, would you say you grew up listening to mostly goth, experimental music, postpunk, industrial, etc? What genre or subculture feels most “at home” for you, and is there a particular one you got your musical chops or primary musical reference points from?
Tesh: I grew up listening to everything & anything always questioning everything & anything and then built my own taste in music through skateboarding & watching skate videos. If it wasn’t for skateboarding I think I could’ve been lost in this opinion. I feel like skateboarding has a strong punk ethos & without that I wouldn’t be who I am today. I’m not a Wikipedia punk & love finding under recognized artist but I can tell you that Misfits T-shirt in Hot Topic is in there for a reason & it’s a terrible reason.
Hampton: Skateboarding was also my gateway into all of this. I think Suicidal Tendencies and The Misfits were my first obsessions, followed closely by Joy Division. After casting a wide net and finding tons of ’77-era punk to chew on, I discovered Ministry, when Twitch was their current album, and my world was turned upside down, followed shortly by Front 242. From there I really dug deep into the WaxTrax! catalog, and then backwards into bands like Throbbing Gristle, Cabaret Voltaire, SPK, Neubaten, etc.
I really enjoyed reading interviews with current bands that I was into, reading about their influences, and then sort of working backwards to solve this mystery of where it all came from, where it all started.
How did you get RBC to agree to the Mutant Waves event? Who all was involved and what did the proposal sound like?
Hesh: I am currently the Bar Manager @ RBC & help with booking when I can. This is my first test run for the club & I have plenty of things up my sleeves for this coming Fall.
Hampton: The RBC side of things was all handled by Hesh, for sure.
What do you think are some of the best bands in the DFW or North Texas area these days, and why?
Tesh: Shit, So many! Off the top of my head: Akkolyte, Orgullo Primitivo, Unconscious Collective, Slimy Member, Mountain of Smoke, Kallohonka, Dead To A Dying World, Pissed Grave, Steel bearing Hand, Seres, SSTD, Frauen, Heavy Baby Sea Slugs, Sleep Colony, Vulgar Fashion, Filth, George Quartz, Tx Connect, Street Grease, Cygnus, Spice boys, Trunk Rider, Vectorvision, Jake Schrock, Power Trip, Burning Moon(R.I.P.), Lily Taylor, Rat Rios, Honor System, Laughter, Noids, E-lixr, Cutter, VIDEO, iill, BATHHOUSE.
Hampton: Oh man, here we go: Slimy Member, George Quartz, Wax Ruins, Nervous Curtains, iill, Sleep Colony, Vectorvision, Power Trip, Cutter, Little Beards, Kitbashes, BATHHOUSE, Seres, True Widow, Vulgar Fashion, Steel Bearing Hand, Frauen, Tx Connect, Cygnus, Yells At Eels, Deform Uniform, Black Taffy.
This is a question I try to ask everyone I interview: If you were stuck on a desert island, and somehow could play records or listen to music magically, even in lieu of non-existent electricity, etc., but could only bring 5 LPs with you to listen to for the rest of your life, what 5 LPs would those be, and why?
Tesh: I’d bring John Carpenter original soundtracks and anything created by Haruomi Hosono.
Hampton: This question always makes me have a mild panic attack, not the stranded on a desert island part, but the part where I have to pick only 5 albums. Today’s panic selections:
Joy Division – Unknown Pleasures
The Misfits – Static Age
Tangerine Dream – Phaedra
Front 242 – Geography
Ministry – The Land Of Rape And Honey
See, I’m already short of breath. I forgot to include a Bowie record.
How often do you expect Mutant Waves will be? What will be its regularity, future content, and that sort of thing?
Tesh: It’s every third Wednesday @ RBC but that is likely to change to a bi-weekly event if the community is strong.
Hampton: Mutant Waves will occur the third Wednesday of each month at RBC in Dallas.
Tesh, what and when is Terror Vault, by the way?
Tesh: CHANGING THE DATE TO SOMETIME EARLY OCTOBER SINCE AUGUST IS JUST TOO DAMN HOT!!! SUBSCRIBE TO THE TERROR VAULT PAGE ON FB & YOU’LL FIND OUT! D.I.Y. SPOTS ARE DYING SO I NEED SOME TIME TO THINK BUT I’VE GOT SOME KILLER BEE’S UP MY SLEEVES & YOU’LL BE HAPPY SO HOLD TIGHT, THIS NEW HIVE WILL THRIVE…JUST WAIT.
What are some of your pet peeves, currently, about what goes on in the Dallas music scene?
Tesh: I can’t remember who told me the Dallas music scene was just like high school but they were correct.
Hampton: It does seem to me that things around here can be a bit too clique-ish, but I’m not sure we are unique in that regard.
What are some of the things you think are really strong in the Dallas music scene right now, and by the way, what to you, is “the Dallas music scene”?
Tesh: The community is weak but the attitude is on point.
Hampton: In my opinion, it seems like there is a very supportive and active metal scene, an up-and-coming scene for darker electronic bands, as well as healthy scene for edgier post-punk bands. Wanz is also extremely active in curating, promoting, and performing in the Dallas techno scene. There seems to be enough of an overlap in these scenes that sort of boils down to a core group, of whom I consider my peers anyway, and most of them congregate, for example, at events like Stefan’s Outward Bound Mixtapes, or your Wardance events, Oliver.
Where can folks go to keep up to date on what’s happening with Mutant Waves for this event and for the future?
Tesh: Search Mutant Wave on social media sites & stay tuned for a website in the near future.
Hampton: For now, Facebook is our main presence, but we’ll saturate other outlets here soon, once we get out of launch mode.
Anything else you’d like to add or give a shout-out to, before this wraps up? Gracias, sirs!
Tesh: No Parents No Rules, Fake it til you make it.
Hampton: I don’t like stuff that sucks.