Cursed, on stage, take musical intimidation to a new level. The pulsing of their punk/metal hybrid disrupts heart rates and pushes bowels to the brink of release without warning. Singer Chris Colohan flails about with fiery eyes, neck veins bulging to the point of bursting. Bassist Dan Dunham shakes the foundations of the building, and while guitarist Christian McMaster’s feet are firmly planted, his head flails about like an Exorcist outtake, all while Mike Maxymuik pounds his drums like he caught them cheating. The sonic intensity — and sheer volume — puts levels into the red, and threatens permanent damage to speaker cabinets and eardrums alike.
It’s a common stereotype that extreme, menacing music must come from extreme, menacing people; in this case, nothing could be further from the truth. Sitting down with Colohan and Maxymuik (the Toronto half of Cursed; Dunham and McMaster reside in Hamilton) for sushi in Toronto’s Annex neighbourhood, the duo are disarmingly affable.
Since their inception in 2001, Cursed have become standard-bearers for extreme music in Canada and abroad, celebrated for their consistent and challenging material, hailed for their untouchable live performances, and admired for their down-to-earth self-image. In the last five years, they’ve enjoyed opening stints for scene heavyweights like Converge and Bane and toured the world for months on end. They’ve also suffered through some of the worst luck, well beyond the dues-paying inevitabilities of being an independent band playing niche music in a huge but sparsely populated country. Their challenges have included the relatively typical (member changes, financial setbacks), the unusual (van doors flying open on the highway) and the nearly tragic (guitarist McMaster’s bout with carpel tunnel syndrome). It’s a wonder they haven’t changed their name, just in case they’ve angered the gods of good luck, turning their moniker into its own prophecy.
"All the shit we went through over the past few years — the good and the bad — was instrumental,” Chris Colohan says. "As a band, you’re defined by the adversities you have to deal with and overcome. Being able to survive and prevail, well, you come out the other side and that’s who you are.”
For Cursed, the "other side” of that musical wringer has taken some two decades to reach. Trolling through the band’s past and present members is like a family tree for independent Canadian hardcore punk. Over the course of almost 20 years, Colohan, Dunham, McMaster and Maxymuik have worked in D.I.Y. acts including Left For Dead, the Black Hand, Shallow, North Dakota, Haymaker, the Swarm and more. Each made a contribution to the evolution of Canadian hardcore/metal, yet wider recognition eluded them all.
The members of Cursed acknowledge the importance of those earlier efforts, personally and professionally, but have no interest in covering the same ground, musically speaking. But even though many of those bands ventured no further than a day’s drive from home, some fans can’t let it go.
"Some people obviously have a special place in their heart for some of those bands,” Maxymuik says. "That’s great but we’re still hearing people say they want us to sound like Left For Dead, or at least play a Left For Dead song. Those people are really few and far between though. Cursed is reputable enough that we have our own identity but some people just want to hold onto the past.”Colohan in particular is intent on maintaining a personal evolution, with little or no regard to his own past, or for that matter, his future. "We’ve never thought further ahead than the song we’re working on at the moment. We don’t consider the implications of changing anything. We’ve had that mentality since we started in the winter following 9/11. The kids listening back then are grown up and gone and probably don’t have an opinion at all anymore. You have to do this for yourself. It’s not a job — it’s your interest, your life.”
The Swarm, a key force in Canadian hardcore punk, with a personal, straightedge focus, immediately preceded the formation of Cursed. After their end in 2000, Swarm band-mates Colohan, Maxymuik and bassist Radwan Moumneh made up the initial Cursed line-up. To find a guitarist, Colohan and Maxymuik turned to their old Left For Dead band-mate, Christian McMaster, who completed the line-up in late 2001.
In 2002, Cursed entered a studio to record their debut album, One (commonly written as I), with bassist Tom Piraino subbing for Moumneh and an assist from Dan Dunham, whom they knew from his work in another seminal heavy Canadian band, Shallow, North Dakota. The album made an immediate impact in the scene, garnering critical respect and fan support, and Cursed quickly surpassed the notoriety and success of any of their previous efforts.
October 06, 2012chris150091 Reply