<<back to the archive

 


The five men who formed Electric Six met in high school, but came together as a band through the Detroit bar scene in 1996. Originally known as the Wildbunch, lead singer Dick Valentine, guitarist Rock n' Roll Indian, drummer M, bassist Disco and guitarist Surge Joebot were forced to choose between changing their name (which was owned by another performer in London) or paying six figures to keep it. They changed their name. The group recently became a true half dozen with the addition of mysterious and seldom-photographed synthist Tait Nucleus.

Disco and M have agreed to meet with thedetroiter.com at Third Street Saloon to talk about the band's history, Detroit's influence on the group and what's up next for the band and their hometown. They're running late. Precisely one hour late. In the last 5 weeks alone, Electric Six have put on 32 shows and traveled 9700 miles. In the wake of the recent UK chart success of their single "Danger High Voltage" the group has been performing across the country and throughout Europe - so it's understandable that they are having trouble with that pesky daylight savings time.

M: Detroit made the band possible. It's the only major metropolis in the country where you can actually afford to have a band, where you can buy or rent a nice enough place that can accommodate band practices.

Disco: One night that sparks a real Detroit memory for me, I went to Alvin's to the Godzuki record release party. They had every band in Detroit cover one of their songs for the record release… so many different bands-and the scene!? It was my first experience seeing Detroit rock and roll and I saw all of these great bands. You definitely felt right then and there, there was a thing going on. Obviously, we were right in thinking there was something going on …

M: The community was so vibrant. It was like pre-garage, which is something that Detroit is very noted for. Pre-garage was the most eclectic scene in the country, easily. We get a lot of stuff written about us now about how we "Struggled for five years just trying to make it and then finally!" That's bullshit. We were so happy to be in this musical culture of Detroit. We were putting on pretty extravagant shows … We were doing our own thing, just as every other Detroit band was, and just having an amazing time. I think that's one thing outsiders could never comprehend - we were so content just doing that here. Bands would challenge each other and it was amazing, it was great.

Disco: When you say you are from Detroit, I guess there is kind of a ring to it that people acknowledge - maybe its from all those years of being a the murder capital or whatever. I notice like people in Chicago say, "Oh, are you from Detroit?"

M: For me, it's like, Wow this is a little dude and he grew up in Detroit and he's still alive. He must know something that I don't. (For the record, M is not a very large man, but somehow you can tell you wouldn't like him when he was angry.)

Disco: Of course, in the current musical climate over in England and Europe, there is a big Detroit sensation going on. People expect a certain thing from Detroit. Right now, you have Eminem, Kid Rock, the White Stripes and a lot of other rock and roll bands from Detroit emerging. There is a certain expectation. That's been happening since the 50s, with Motown, then Punk and then Funk and of course Blues way back when and Techno.

At the same time though, after shows I have had people come up to me and say "what's in the water in Detroit?" you hear that all over the place.

M: They don't specifically know what to think of Detroit, other than that there is something heavy going on there.

Disco: Definitely one of the more peculiar things about Detroit is that it is such a great musical community it's incredible … yet you still can't buy guitar strings in the city. You can't even see a movie.

The band has been through nine countries thus far, including: Canada, Scotland, Sweden, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Wales, and England. Scotland rates as their favorite. At one of their shows blood was running down the speakers. It seems in Scotland, "People don't throw beer bottles, they throw each other."

M: (In Europe) the great thing in general is that you get to meet people and work with people that actually belong (in the music business) - unlike America, which is just a bunch of shit heads in the Industry. The American music industry is just pathetic, it's disgusting. Over there they are much more impassioned… We'll see what happens. If (Europeans) are sold on the idea of us being one hit wonders, they will burn us at the stake. But if they like the album - which I think is going to happen, I'm pretty proud of the record - then they are going to be totally into it for totally the right reasons.

Disco: They'll wait for the next record to fail so they can burn us at the stake.

M: Radio in certain cities (in the US), really picked up on the song. In those cities we come in and do two or three radio shows and then we will play that night and the place will be sold out. So it's just a few pockets in the US that have picked up on it - really bizarre places, like Oklahoma City, those kids are fucking amazing there. But then we'll be in Lawrence, Kansas and we will play for 16 people there. Getting the exposure in Europe has worked immensely in certain pockets and by no means everywhere and not in Detroit.

Disco: Outside of Detroit, in the rest of the states, it's definitely different. While doing well across the seas doesn't mean anything here.

M: As we've found bigger audiences elsewhere, the entire Detroit scene has also. So coming back was kind of a culture shock, because we are seeing kind of double the turnout we expect. Pretty much any Detroit show, at like Lager House or the Magic Stick, is filled with all these people we haven't seen before. It's obvious what's happening: Detroit is being (regarded) differently. Suburban kids are taking note that they might be missing out on something here, which is great. And our shows are the same way, there are a lot of people we don't know there. But our experience is not any different than other Detroit bands, right now. I think other Detroit bands are feeling the same thing.

So what comes next for the band formerly known as the Wildbunch?

Disco: We hope over the next few years to have at least three records out - three is the magic number.

M: Three good records!

Disco: Three good records. And after that I really don't think anyone cares. We will probably just go home. We've been hanging out with each other for so long now, we probably will never talk to each other again. Unless we get together and have a barbecue and get the children and grandchildren over. I think the three records is our goal then, simple and easy.

M: If we do three really good albums, I don't know, call me crazy, I have always wanted to be an archer.

If you guys could make any predictions or wishes for your hometown what might those be?

Disco: I imagine Detroit will grow with more buildings, more parks and more stores. I just hope the city really embraces the art community that it has here more than anything else. I remember when they put up the casinos, all the great musicians and artists they have around, went completely ignored. I believe they could have invested in the city through art rather than through gambling. I hope the city council embraces the arts and uses it to their advantage. I think then we will have not only a new modern city but also an interesting, creative city.

M: I see this focus on the Detroit Music scene being a trend that will pass for all the crummy reasons that all things pass. But I don't think that the integrity (of the scene) is going to cease. The arts will continue here the same as they have the last 30-40 years, and who knows in 8 or 18 years people will focus in on the city again and see what Detroit's up to.

Disco: I know this city in the process of becoming more modernized. The one scary thing about modernization for Detroit, for decades, it has been like a working man's town. It's not like LA or New York where there's an entertainment industry. I am not saying that Detroit will become an entertainment industry by any means. I am saying that when there are too many distractions, too much to do, people lose focus on their art. That's one worry of mine, about making the city all brand new and shiny and nice - if it doesn't change at all I will be happy about that too. - by Nick Sousanis

 

After another European adventure, Electric Six returns to Detroit for the record-release party for Fire at the Magic Stick, May 31. The album hits stores everywhere June 30. For more information (and misinformation) about the band go to www.electricsix.com .



<<back to the archive

all contents © 2003 thedetroiter.com