Hello magical friends, especially my magical patron friends, whose generous support lets me do these interviews!
I’m hostwitch Bess, and today you’re going to hear from a very cool guest—The Cruciatus Curse!
We’ll get into his history with wizard rock in a little but you know the music comes first.
Here’s “Flyin’ My Broom” by A Couple of Harrys.
That was “Flyin’ My Broom” by A Couple of Harrys, “When The Darkness Comes” by Slytherin, and “Fighting” by Amy Snow [lyrics].
Here’s my interview with Denni from The Cruciatus Curse.
Welcome to the show, Denni of the Cruciatus Curse.
I am so stoked to talk with you. Just the little bits while we were chatting beforehand made it sound like your wizard rock career has been very exciting.
Denni: Yeah. It’s, it’s been long and adventurous. Met a lot of cool people. I mean, there’s, there’s no better family than the entire community. Like, they’ve always stuck together. It’s been, it’s been a good ride.
That is where I always like to start, with your history with wizard rock. You were saying you were coming up on 20 years.
Denni: Yeah. Um, so I put out my first album, the Dark–Dark Mark in, uh, 2004. And I didn’t know what wizard rock was at the time at all, but I was listening to MuggleCast and they happened to, uh, play a Harry Potter inspired song from a band called The Remus Lupins—and I know we did, there’s bad stuff that happened if we don’t talk about them—but that’s how I became aware of it. Um, so that got my attention. I went to found them on MySpace. Yeah, that’s way back then. Um, and I found it wasn’t just him, it was a handful of people. Uh, the Switchblade Kittens—and I love you guys—Drama, get ahold of me. Uh, and then the, the Whomping Willows and I learned a lot from Matt. So, much love. Um, pretty sure The Parselmouths were in there, um, at that time. And, um, the very best band, uh, Draco and the Malfoys. Um, shout to Brian and Brad. We need to, uh, make Hogwarts evil again. Yep. Nope, I’m totally putting that on T-shirt. But yeah, so I, I put my music up on MySpace and then the, the rest is a long, long, long story history after that. But, uh, so now I’m coming up on my 14th album, so that kind of history.
That’s amazing. You said you put out your first album before you ever heard of wizard rock.
So how did that happen? What inspired that?
Denni: Um, just, I love the books. I love reading. Um, that’s, that’s just always what I did. And I enjoyed doing music, so I’m like “you know what?” And I did a lot of parody, so I’m like, so I, I, I wrote some stuff. My, I didn’t start doing parodies on my actual albums, I think till like the third or fourth one, but… Harry Potter, well, the entire Potterverse like completely inspired me. Like I, I could just get immersed in it and people are like “you know that’s a kid’s book.” And I’m like “I don’t give a shit. <laugh> You know, it’s a good book.” I mean, people feel, and they get into whatever they want to get into. People shouldn’t be judged by anything. Straight up.
So I think most wizard rockers were high school, college at the time. Was that about where you were as well?
Denni: No, um, I was, oh man, 21? Yeah, I, so I was 21. Uh, I, I was trying to do college, but nope, I actually had a son already and I was married. So I was just working, living life, doing music at 21 <laugh>.
So you were doing music other than Harry Potter as well?
Denni: Oh, yeah. Um, I, I still do, I still have other projects that I do. Most of my time is spent with Cruciatus Curse. But yeah, no, I’ve always done, you know, outside stuff, just regular things that I didn’t think would work, you know, with a wizard rock crowd and, you know, just having fun. I mean, music is all about that, you know? It’s expressionism. You make the music and if people like it, people like it. If they don’t, they don’t. I mean, you know, move on to the next thing.
So how did the name Cruciatus Curse come to you? I’ve noticed that your themeing tends to be very dark, “make Hogwarts Evil Again”…
Denni: Yeah. Um, well, when Draco and the Malfoys, when they did their stuff, they, they do it all from that perspective. And I figured, you know, with my name, I can do from all different perspectives, but yeah, I do tend to go more dark. But the, the original reason that I had named myself that is because I was basically poking fun at myself. Uh, because I, when I started, I didn’t think anybody was gonna listen to it. So I picked the coolest name in the entire book. It was the Cruciatus Curse. AKA The Torture Curse. So, because I didn’t think my music was any good, so it was gonna be torturous to people. And well, I keep making it.
I think you’ve proven that wrong. Does that mean you have to change the name?
Denni: No. Nope. It’s, it’s, it’s still, I think, the coolest name in there.
You don’t feel the need to become Essence of Dignity. I know we already have one of those…
But something similar? Episkey?
Denni: Yeah. Um, yeah, no, it, I… Branded. Almost 20 years. So, yeah, no, I, I I think I’ll keep it.
You said you have 20 years worth of stories. Do you have any, any fun ones you wanna share?
Denni: Well, the first time I met, uh, Brian from Draco and the Malfoys was actually… they played a show in Wisconsin and I was on my way back from Wisconsin Dells and I was watching the show and happened to have to go to the bathroom. So go to the bathroom and there’s Brian. And so we started talking in the bathroom and, uh, I had my, uh, Cruciatus Curse, uh, “Read Books or I’ll Curse You,” uh, bracelets. So I gave him one of those and we talked for a while and he was probably the coolest person I’ve, I’ve ever met. I mean, his brother is definitely a close second. But yeah, I mean, those two are probably the, the coolest people and I haven’t ever done a song with them, and I’m a little disappointed in that.
Well, I know you’re just finishing up an album, but it sounds like you’ve got a good start for the next one.
Denni: Yeah, I think we’re gonna go a little controversial on that one, so it should be fun. <laugh>
You mentioned that, uh, you’ve done a lot of parodies. Is that how you would summarize your, your wizard rock style or…
Denni: Well, I started out like industrial grunge and then moved on to pop and rock and rap and metal, and I think I even touched on country there. So I, everything, uh, big melting pot. But yeah, I mean, whatever you’re feeling in the moment when you’re writing the music. Sometimes you can, you know, hear a song and it just, it… That’s, that’s how I get all my stuff. It just writes itself. Like, and then sometimes I even laugh at myself because my brain’s parodying a song and then I’m like, <laugh>. And I’m like “okay, maybe that one’s good.” But I honestly have to say that writing parodies is so much harder than writing original music, cuz you have, you have rules that you have to stay in and you have to match up stuff. So it, it can get really complicated trying to fit everything in there with, when you’re doing it original, it’s however you make it sound.
Would you say you do 50-50 parody and original?
Denni: Um, lately it’s been a lot more parodies than original. Um, but on the, the album after, I do have, um, quite a few of those original ones on there. So…
Your name has come up in several of my other interviews as someone who’s really fun to collaborate with. What does that process look like for you?
Denni: Um, well, first of all, that’s awesome to hear. Uh, but yeah, no, collaborations are so much fun because… Well, you get, you get it from both ends. Like if you’re the one that like “I have this song I need, I, I would like to work on it with some people,” then it’s basically, you know, you’re giving direction to people and you know, they’re doing their part and then being on the opposite end where you’re just like, they tell you like “you need to do something inside here.” And that’s really cool. So I’ve, uh, done that a a lot. Almost every single album I’ve tried to have at least one collaboration. Um, I think my first one was with the Sectum Sempra and I was kind of hooked after that. Um, the Curse Breakers, um, did with them. Um, Marked As His Equal. We did like an entire album collaboration, so that one was pretty cool.
But I was gone out of wizard rock from 2011 until 2020. And during the Wizard Rock CD Sampler of 2020 is when I put out my first song, you know, in 10 years and kind of sprialed after that. But, uh, Sagan is the one that, uh, talked me into doing a song after asking me some questions, you know, trying to get, you know, history and all that stuff. And I’m like, “you know what? I’ll do it.” And the outpouring of love and support that I had got when people like found out that I was on there and cause I was reading the discord, it was just unbelievable. So that, that made, that reminded me of what I was missing in my life. And so then the next year, um, I worked with Dream Quaffle on, uh, “Rockstar” and I honestly probably one of my best songs. I, I was trying to write that, uh, write a parody of that song for probably a good three or four months and then I contacted Geoff and I was like “would you like to do this?” And he actually wrote and recorded his part first and that completely inspired me to write the rest of the song like around that. And that was really cool. Like he completely stole the show on that one.
And then last year I did, uh, “Death Eater Vibes,” which is a Limp Bizkit parody. uh, Limp Bizkit, my all-time favorite band. I know a lot of people hate them, but yeah. I, I thought that “Death Theater Vibes” was my best song before the new one that’s coming out. <laugh>, the stuff that’s that’s coming out, I am dying for people to hear. I collaborated with, uh, Dream Quaffle again and Bisexual Harry to do, uh, “Snoop Dobby Dobb.” And it’s, it, it came together. I I couldn’t ask for a more perfect song cuz it’s, it’s amazing. So I, I think that one’s gonna be a lot of fun. Uh, we think that it’s probably going to probably be spread out a lot because, well, it’s Snoop and with, when he had shared that picture, we’re we’re hoping that maybe he’ll hear it. That’d be pretty cool, you know, say something. But, you know, all it’s gonna do is just bring more attention to wizard rock, which, you know, you know, attention like that never hurts as long as people don’t try to tear it down.
How do… how did the collaborations occur? Do you reach out to people? Do people come to you? Do you have someone in mind?
Denni: Normally, uh, you hear the song and you’re like “you know what? This would, this person would be perfect for this.” Or you just reach out and be like “Hey, who wants to do a collaboration?” And usually people respond. Um, that’s how I started working with Dream Quaffle so… And it’s, it’s pretty cool. I use, uh, I use an app called BandLab and I, I think I introduced, like, a few people to that, but it’s a lot easier to collaborate cuz you can do all of your music tracks on there and then saves and then the other person gets the update right away and then they can record their part and you can work together like that. So basically the people would just, you know, do their parts and then I would take it and then add the effects and you know, put it in the right spot and all that. Um, but yeah, so I mean, it’s not as difficult as people think and I actually find it a lot easier to do it like that. So you’re not standing in a studio trying to do this all in one day. You can take your time and all that.
That sounds like a really useful tool. I’m not sure anyone’s mentioned it before.
Denni: Oh yeah, no, I love it. It’s my favorite.
You have a, uh, a bit of a penchant for working with people. I’m realizing with your, uh, collabs and you mentioned before we started recording that you briefly had a wizard rock label where you would help people with their music.
Denni: Mhm. Yeah. Yeah. That, that’s a whole, whole story. Um, but I, I didn’t have any complaints from the people that I work with. I, it was just, you know, basically advice and promotion. That’s, that’s all it was. But that’s, that’s how you make friends.
Do you find it easy to reach out, to do the promotion, to do all this connecting and putting things out into the universe?
Denni: Yeah. Um, I, I didn’t think I would be, but yeah, you know, it’s, it’s, it’s what I do. I enjoy talking to people. Uh, this is my first ever, uh, like face-to-face live interview. Um, I’ve done some prerecorded ones before, but it’s like the, the amping up to, it’s a little bit difficult, but once you, once you get going it’s just, you know, it feels right. It feels, you know, good. And so you’re just like “yeah.”
Let’s take a music break. This is The Parselmouths and “Life’s Unfair.”
That was “Life’s Unfair” by The Parselmouths [lyrics], “Sleep Tonight” by Obliviate!, and Insane Ian with “The Horcrux Song” [lyrics].
Changing tack ever so slightly from wizard rock to the magical world—and you can’t say cruciatus curse cuz I know what that effect is—but what is one spell that you would, you would wanna bring into the real world?
Denni: Ooh. Um, probably Incendio, honestly. I, I think I would like that one. Just be able to start fires like Hagrid.
You live up north where that would be useful in the winter, right?
Denni: Yes, yes. Yep.
Yeah, down here in Florida, not so, not so helpful.
Denni: Definitely make it warmer.
As someone who has been part of the community for 20 years in a variety of roles, working with so many different people, what kind of advice might you give a newcomer who’s just joining during this more online period?
Denni: Well basically put out what you feel is good music. It doesn’t have to be perfect, as long as you feel good about it, put it out there, who cares if anybody listens to it. If it comes out in this community, people are gonna listen to it either way. Um, they’re supportive. Probably 90% of my songs should have never been listened to by anybody, but there’s that 10% percent that I’m actually proud of. Um, but I put out music just because I enjoy doing music and, you know, I didn’t, I didn’t care if anybody listened or not. Um, I was still gonna do it.
What about practical advice, like how do you use BandLabs or what writing looks like or how to put together a tour?
Denni: Well, tours are… That, that’s when it can get tricky cuz you have to make sure… There’s sending emails, making sure that you can get dates correct as you’re going from either city to city or, like, state to state. That’s, it gets, it gets expensive. Um, so what I like to do is play the, the conventions and stuff like that, where you get more of a crowd that’s actually there for that kind of stuff and then you get to network off of that. But touring is definitely a lot of fun. Uh, probably one of the greatest experiences, especially when we were playing in libraries, that, that was a lot of fun. Um, I know the Orange County Library in Florida was huge. I loved that one. Uh, that was actually my first ever live show was back with, uh, The House of Black and Fred Lives and Witherwings and the Mirror of Erised. Which, uh, shout out to Bruce. Um, uh, Bruce was part of wizard rock for a long time. He’s a great guy. Uh, he fell ill just a while ago and, uh, he’s, uh, working on getting better so. love you Bruce!
So what are you working on now?
Denni: Well, I just finalized my new album, which is coming out on April 20th. It’s called Undesirable Number 420, and it’s gonna have I think four or five new songs. Brand new songs that nobody’s ever heard on there. And then there’s gonna be some of the ones that were never released on an actual album. And then radio edited versions for people that don’t like the swearing. And, uh, there’s also an acoustic version of, uh, “Gryffindor,” which is the one that you’re gonna be playing. And I, I think it’s probably one of my favorite ones on there, uh, just because it’s, it’s slowed down and it’s got a different sound and vibe to it. Like, the first one that I did when I first came back to wizard rock was “Gryffindor.” So it’s, it was a parody of “In This Moment.” And so it’s really hard-driving and the acoustic version is definitely, you know, it’s got a completely different feel to it.
That’s really exciting. You’ve been doing a great job of, uh, amping up interest as you’ve been working on it.
Denni: Oh, that’s good. Um, yeah, you just gotta, you gotta keep people interested until you finally do it. My trick is to get people interested enough so that way it stops me from procrastinating so bad and actually getting the album done so that, that worked.
That’s very clever. Some of that external pressure.
It sounds though like you’re not planning on taking a break or slowing down after this is out.
Denni: No, no. Um, I’m not gonna be as ambitious as I was one year and I put out four albums in one year and that that’s not gonna happen, but two is definitely doable. So yeah, I’ll put that pressure on myself.
All right, magical friends, you gotta hold ’em to it now.
This is our final music break, and it begins with The Bandon Banshees and “Magical Me 2.”
That was “Magical Me 2” by The Bandon Banshees, The Prefect Project with “Now That He is Gone” and “Wizard of Mine” by The Chinese Chomping Cabbages.
Thank you so much for talking with me today.
Denni: Oh, not a problem at all. Thank you for having me.
Where can WZRD listeners find you online?
Denni: Spotify, iTunes, um, all the streaming services, um, has a lot of it, but if you go to TheCruciatusCurse.bandcamp.com, you’ll find all of my musics on there, so… And I’m working on getting the new stuff up on there. But also Facebook… I’m pretty sure we’re on Instagram. I don’t really use Instagram too much, but yeah, Facebook is usually where I put—post most of my updates.
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Here’s The Cruciatus Curse!
Denni: All right. So you are listening to “Gryffindor,” the live acoustic version. I, I chose to use this song because it’s gonna show people, uh, a different musical style than normal for me. It’s, uh, it’s taking a chance, so I want to get that out there, rip the bandaid off.