DAMIEN is an industrial, electronic artist based in Ipswich.
A global pandemic may not typically be the perfect time to launch a solo music project, but for Ipswich-based artist DAMIEN it was.
After going through a "fairly messy" divorce several years ago, they were left with self-doubt and questioning their purpose in life.
"By this stage I was in my early 30s, heading towards mid-30s and really feeling all my best years were behind me – at the time that's how it felt. And here I am starting life completely from scratch, what do I do?," DAMIEN says.
"I wanted to make music, it was something I'd kind of suppressed while I was married and had put to the side.
"So that was the catalyst for starting to get back into songwriting and music creation. . . And then the pandemic hit, and there was no opportunity to get out there and perform anything anyway."
Free from the restrictions of having to re-create a studio sound live, DAMIEN explored different genres and ways of creating music, rather than standard acoustic guitar songwriting sessions.
"Being locked away in isolation suddenly gave me this almost permission to go, if I was to create music that I really wanted to listen to, what do I want to listen to?," DAMIEN laughs.
"I was like, I actually want to create something that's bigger and brasher and has a bit more of an industrial feel."
Initially inspired by the bands of their youth – guitar-driven bands like Green Day and Nirvana – DAMIEN decided to explore a more electronic sound that didn't require real-life bass players or drummers to create the sound.
"From there I started showing stuff to some people, and they were like 'that sounds like Nine Inch Nails' or 'it sounds like Depeche Mode'; bands I hadn't really gotten into when I was younger, but I thought I might go back and re-visit them now," they explain.
"So since then I've been listening to more industrial, dark wave and heavier kind of stuff.
"Also Marilyn Manson – I know personally he's probably on the nose a bit with people at the moment – but musically I really am connecting more with what Manson was doing particularly in the early 2000s."
Self-funded and self-produced, DAMIEN has long held a DIY approach to creating music, even studying at SAE to hone their production skills.
"I have to create; I've got these ideas, if they just sit in my head I'm going to explode. Literally, my head will just erupt somewhere," DAMIEN laughs.
"It was a case of, I need to develop skills to be able to get this out.
"You go through the process where everything you produce sounds like absolute crap, and you listen to it and go, 'yep, that sounds like something a five-year-old on Garage Band could have come up with'.
"But you keep working at it, and it's fun. One of the things I'm getting better at is just learning to enjoy the process of learning."
In some cases, that means re-releasing tracks like 'Melbourne Afternoon', which was released as a bonus track on DAMEIN's debut album, 'Girl'. "I was never really happy with it; it always just felt like a demo," they explain.
"Lyrically I really like that song, I think it's got a really strong message, and I like the fact it's referencing Australian icons and places, because there's so much music out there referencing London, New York, LA, whatever, and I really like the idea of taking a bit more pride in Australian culture.
"Melbourne itself is famous for having four seasons in a day, which I think was really reflective of my own emotional states – particularly having bipolar disorder.
"I thought, I can do something so much more with this. That's the beauty I guess of the digital age, I just suddenly made that one disappear into the abyss, went straight back to the drawing board with it and came up with something that was far more in alignment with where I am musically."
DAMIEN's debut album launch at Lefty's Music Hall (in Brisbane) last year was a roaring success, much to their own surprise. "To be honest I was absolutely sh.tting myself," DAMIEN laughs.
"An agent booked it for me – he was like, 'We'll do it at Lefty's', and I was like 'Lefty's is huge! I can't fill Lefty's!' But we did really well, it was an amazing night."
DAMIEN is prepared to do it all over again next week for the launch of their new album, 'Wrong Age. Wrong Race. Wrong Gender.'.
"I've definitely upped the game on my own performance since the last one," DAMIEN says.
"I've upgraded all of the equipment I'm using, because I was just using a guitar loop pedal initially to re-create a lot of the sounds and stuff that I was doing.
"Whereas now, I've gone out and got myself a tabletop looper which is designed specifically for the sort of music that I do, and it gives me so much more freedom to create interesting sounds and things live."
They are also keen to perform at a smaller venue this time around. "We've gone King Lear's Throne, because I wanted something really intimate," they explain.
"Now that we're on the post-COVID side and we can all get sweaty together in a room again, I really am looking forward to that kind of atmosphere."
After being told last year that "a male-presenting white middle-aged person really isn't very interesting in this current climate", the queer, non-binary artist ultimately wants to connect with people through music.
"I just want to perform in front of as many people as I can, and if that's doing it in dribs and drabs, and shows of 50-100 people or whatever, and that's what I'm doing for the rest of my life, great – I'm achieving that goal," DAMIEN says.
"If it somehow translates to performing in front of thousands then that's amazing too. But I think while I've got the freedom to write and create music and perform that music, I'm already achieving everything that I want to anyway."
DAMIEN launches 'Wrong Age. Wrong Race. Wrong Gender.' at King Lear's Throne (Brisbane) 9 June. DAMIEN also plays Golbey's Basement (Ipswich) 5 August.