A night in room 14D at New York’s Carlton Arms Hotel is like being submerged in an oceanic abyss. A jellyfish-like chandelier dangles from the ceiling, while a 24-hour ambient soundtrack sucks you in even deeper. It’s a representation of Johnny Mackay aka Fascinator’s subconscious mind – and you can sleep in it for around $100 a night.
Mackay – a former short-term resident at the Carlton Arms – was given free reign to design a room by the hotel’s art-obsessed owners. So he did what any self-respecting New York creative would: he turned to his therapist.
“I wanted to try and find the place where ideas come from. So in a semi-hypnotic state we'd dive in and I’d always end up in the ocean, in a place between two lands.”
Between two lands is kinda the perfect description of where Mackay has been situated for the past few years, both in a subconscious and physical sense. After the dissolution of his ARIA chart-topping rock band Children Collide, the singer moved to New York from Melbourne in 2012 in a self-described moment of masochism. But he soon found himself partnerless, cashless, and bouncing from couch to couch. And that’s when Water Sign – Fascinator’s triumphant album – began taking shape.
“I was basically homeless for six months, sleeping on floors and couches around New York. That's where I started writing the record, in this really shit rehearsal studio I'd rented to store my stuff in. I was surrounded by boxes of displaced belongings and depressed as fuck.”
Over the next four years, Mackay would chip away at the record in planes, trains, automobiles and, er, a barn in Nantucket for a song writing workshop. It was there that the genre-hopping sitar jam ‘Midnight Rainbow’ began taking shape. “I wanted to write a late night meditation that could work as a soundtrack for getting stoned and cooking,” he says.