“Who I am today isn’t an act of bravery or rebellion, but a daily choice of total freedom,” says Chadd Curry, otherwise known as Dahc Dermur Vlll. The American-born DJ, performance artist, and “mother goth” has become a figurehead of London’s underground scene. Cloaked in swirling, hand-painted body art and facial armor, Curry’s aesthetic signatures follow a monochromatic code. “I always operate with black and white,” he says. “They are one and the same, and my language.” It’s a familiar dialect within the walls of the city’s clubs like Electrowerks, Wraith, and Kaos, where Curry’s social network includes next-gen conceptual artists and collaborators like Salvia, Parma Ham, and Lee Adams. “Lee Adams, the founder of Kaos London, they’ve greatly influenced the way I look at myself,” Curry says of the artist and fellow DJ who opened Balenciaga’s Fall/Winter 2020 afterparty earlier this year.
Now that he’s so deeply embedded in British nightlife, one might not anticipate that Curry originally hailed from a town called Normal, Illinois, and spent his teens at Baptist school in Dallas, Texas. “I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become,” is a Carl Jung quote that Curry considers his tagline. “Every single moment and experience in my life is deeply woven into all my states of becoming,” he explains. It was in a Dallas record store that he first spotted posters of iconic English dance-pop bands Culture Club and Dead or Alive. “I managed to shoplift them and put one in each pantleg, and I put it between my mattress, and just knowing it was there gave me so much life,” he admits. Soon, he started “breaking the dress code” with experimental punk styles and made his first appearance at a new wave club. Outside of the familiar “holy bubble,” suddenly “everything just started happening so fast.”
Eventually he moved to New York City, where the course of his life would change again after meeting Rick Owens in 2008. “The Rick store elevated me into a very visible position,” Curry says of opening Owens’s first American boutique. “My image became very known.” He counts Owens and wife Michèle Lamy as incredible sources of support. In New York’s “extraordinary scene” of fashion parties with The Misshapes, Ladyfag, and Amanda Lepore, Curry remembers it as, “an amazing time in my life, but I was also fading in and out of drug abuse.” After being brutally attacked the night before a flight to Europe, he spent months in Antwerp recovering. It marked another turning point in his life. When he ultimately stepped foot on London soil, Curry says, “I felt like I had arrived.” He learned to DJ, his “bread and butter,” and poured himself into performances. “I started pushing the envelope and doing different looks, and just started using bandages and connecting wires to my face or a lot of duct tape,” Curry shares of his technical evolution.
Today, he calls upon makeup artist Anastasija Potjomkina to help execute a Serge Lutens-inspired look that mirrors his self-proclaimed obsession with lines and symmetry. “I always say ‘in the line, it curves,’” Curry shares. “My vision with each look we execute is derived from an intricate personal space drawing on emotional life experiences which we develop together through an extended process. We share a hive mind and communicate telepathically and what has unearthed in our creative arena of trust and self-expression is nothing short of miraculous.”
Curry first shaves his head and eyebrows, and prep is kept simple. “I swear by extra virgin olive oil to cleanse the skin, and Preparation H hemorrhoid cream for under-the-eye baggage,” he notes. For coverage, he applies two tones of foundation to skin. “I use an off-white, which will be first, and then over the top will be a white white,” he explains before dousing himself in layers of powder. A bit of highlighting around the eyes and tonal contouring to emphasize bone structure creates a base for the inky black eyeliner used to create a “very warrior” shape before Potjmokina steps in to execute the swirls and lines that carry through Curry’s style and life perspectives. “Time for me is linear, and the past no longer exists,” he says with a wink when prompted to recall specific dates in his style evolution.
Applying a “blood stain” lip is the final step before Curry superglues pieces of armor directly to his face. Sourced from Islington Metal Works, Curry and Potjmokina cut the individual pieces of metal by hand before securing them to the face. For Curry, it represents a larger purpose. He considers armor “essential for daily living,” pointing out that it “promotes and protects positive mental health.” Removal is up to the wearer. “Olive oil can help, but it usually has to wear off,” he says of the power of superglue. “I like the sensation of peeling skin.”
Before floating, by bus, from The Mandrake Hotel to Southwark Cathedral, Curry completes his vision with a ceremonial dress by Rick Owens, thigh-high red boots, a posture collar, and layers of rosaries. “I just feel like it’s the arms of the universe embracing us,” he says of finding peace in sacred spaces. One of those spaces is the relationship with his mother, who he recently reunited with after a dozen years apart. “She loves and supports who I’ve become and wants nothing more than for me to be happy,” he shares.
“The message is essential,” he says. “To share my story of overcoming 20 years of drug abuse and now grateful to live healthy, clean and sober for over four years and make the best of each day… every moment is a gift.” While he focuses on living in the present, Curry hopes to educate the world on the importance of being an individual, to protect mental health, and to inspire others to find their voice. His advice to anyone struggling with finding happiness is direct: “Believe it or not, it gets better, I promise. Take it a day, an hour, or sometimes a minute at a time. Anything is possible. Everything is temporary. You are not alone… Reach out to someone. Get to the core of your pain, let it out. Discover your value, find your gifts, your art, your self-expression, your voice. You are beautiful and loved and have a profound function and purpose on this planet.”