Start with a generous helping of garage rock. Add in a bit of punk and metal, plus a dash of disco. Top it off with a heaping spoonful of unrelenting masculinity and the end result is Electric Six, a six-piece band hailing from Detroit, Michigan that rose to fame in 2003 with the success of singles such as “Gay Bar” and “Danger! High Voltage,” which reached number two on the British charts.
Led by singer Dick Valentine, the band has recorded nine full-length albums, including their most recent release, Mustang, from October of 2013, and they are currently working on their tenth. In addition, they’ve also released a rarities album, Sexy Trash, and a live album, Absolute Pleasure.
With a lineup currently consisting of Valentine (vocals), Da Ve (guitar), Johnny Na$hinal (Guitar), Smorgasbord (Bass), Tait Nucleus? (Keyboard) and Percussion World (Drums), Electric Six will be bringing their high-energy live shows to cities throughout the United States in June and Europe in November and December.
Readers can learn more at www.electricsix.com.
We’re all more or less self-taught suburban white guys who grew up listening to a lot of shit. I don’t think any of us took formal lessons for our instruments. I certainly didn’t. That said, the musicians in Electric Six are all incredible and they make the process of recording and touring easy and enjoyable enough that we’ve been doing this for over ten years now. Our drummer is so quietly great at what he does. He figures he’s been in over 40 bands at this point in his life, but we’ve been lucky enough to have him since 2005.
Was there a particular song or album that made you want to become a musician?
I’m not sure about a song or album, but I do remember the moment I knew I wanted to be on stage in a musical capacity. I got a job working at the summer outdoor amphitheatre concert venue outside of Detroit and had the pleasure of working there when Depeche Mode came through for their Violator tour. I had never seen so many hot girls dressed in black in one place. I knew I right then that I needed to get in there.
What is your songwriting process?
It can start with a riff, start with a lyric, start with a title. Basically when I write a song, it can just be assembled one line at a time over months, years. However, the band has become more and more of a collaborative songwriting experience over the last several albums. Everyone in the band has home recording capabilities so we share our ideas with each other online and it’s very collaborative.
In your opinion, what separates a great song from a mediocre one?
Simple. If I hear a song and wish to hear it again immediately.
You guys dealt with a few issues with your cover of Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga.” Why was your label so insistent on that song being included on Senor Smoke, and were you taken aback by the backlash you faced from Queen fans when the video was released?
I think at that time in the UK, when we had put out our first album and our two radio hits firmly cemented us in the “novelty band” category (whatever that means), our label just wasn’t interested in doing anything to change that perception. We had covered “Radio Ga Ga” at some of our shows back then, and it went over big and the crowd always did the hand claps from the video so it was just too easy for them to push our next single as a cover of a Queen song versus trying to sell us a band that had more to offer than just “Gay Bar.” I had more than a few conversations expressing my dislike for this approach, so I spoke my mind, and then when I saw that it was basically going to be a situation where the record wouldn’t even come out unless “Radio Ga Ga” was on it and was the single, then the writing was on the wall. In many ways, I’m glad we went ahead with it because that album, though not commercially successful at all, was the bridge to our current record label Metropolis and they’ve put out our last seven records and built us into what we are today… a constantly touring band with a cult following.
As for being taken aback by backlash from Queen fans, it wasn’t that bad, but it was also not surprising that there was a little. It was to be expected.
What do you enjoy most about being on tour?
I like that touring allows me to see all my friends that live all over the world. It’s allowed me to be really good at keeping in touch.
What has been your most memorable live show?
I think it always has to be the first time we played in Russia in 2003. We were invited to play a private X-Mas party for a Russian mafia guy and some of his buddies. Aside from being our first time in Russia, which was mind-blowing, the show itself was incredible because we weren’t playing to that many people, but they pulled out a lot of stops….bubbles, foam, naked ladies all over the place, fake blood.
Towards the end of your 2013 tour, you announced that a new album would be coming in 2014. How is that album coming?
The new album is sounding great. I think it’s one-half beauty, one-half beast. Our guitar player, John Nash, is producing it. Many of the songs are unlike anything we’ve done before, but there are a few that we keep in the E6 wheelhouse just so we don’t totally go all Kid A on anyone.