Electric 6 Interview

By Eric Schelkopf – Photo by Mark Wright

Innovative Detroit band Electric Six is fully plugged in on its new album, “Heartbeats and Brainwaves.”

On the band’s eighth studio album, enigmatic frontman Dick Valentine (real name Tyler Spencer) leads the band through an eclectic mix of new wave, dance pop and a host of other musical genres.

Electric Six will perform Nov. 4 at Double Door (http://www.doubledoor.com), 1572 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago. Kitten and Andy D also are on the bill. The show starts at 9 p.m., and tickets range from $12 to $15.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Valentine about the band and its new album.

Q – The band is touring from now until the end of the year. Is that how the band likes it? Is that where the band lives, on the road?

From September to December, yes. We’re a very cyclical band, that’s the way we kind of do it. We work real hard these four months, and kind of phone it in the rest of the year.

Q – Of course, you are touring with your new album, “Heartbeats and Brainwaves.” In sitting down to make the album, what specific goals did you have? What did you want to accomplish with the album?

We wanted it to be very synth-heavy. And we just wanted it to sound different from anything we’ve ever done. And we’ve done both.

Q – How long have you been working on it?

Well, we started it in January, and we turned it in at the end of June. You don’t work at it every day. You just kind of work on it at your own pace. But we usually get started around January, and have until the middle of the summer to finish it.

Q – How do you think the band’s sound has changed since you guys formed as The Wildbunch?

The songs are a bit more complex. We don’t rely on a two guitar attack as much, even though our live show generally tends to fall to that. There’s a lot of songs that we can’t play because it’s more complex. You take a song like, “We Use The Same Products.” I don’t know how we’re going to do that live, but it will be fun to try.

Q – And of course you guys have had a changing lineup over the years. What do you think of the current lineup? Does it compare favorably to previous lineups?

Musically and personality wise, it’s the best. The original lineup was not built to remain together for a long time, especially when we got busy. The lineup you see now pretty much originated in 2003 with a couple of exceptions. I just think we have very like-minded people in the band at this point.

Q – The band was trying to keep it secret the fact that Jack White put in an appearance on your song “Danger! High Voltage.” Why did you not want to bring that out in the open?

Well, it was kind of mutual. He didn’t want to necessarily be directly associated with us, and we didn’t want to look like we were milking it. But it wasn’t any big deal. I don’t think either of us denied it at the time.

Q – How did you meet Jack White?

Well, Detroit is a pretty small scene. All the bands knew each other, and played a lot of the same venues at that time.

I don’t even think our two bands played together at any point on the same bill, but we’d always see them around at our shows, and we’d go to his shows. I also thought of him more as an acquaintance and not so much a friend, but he was always a nice guy when I met him.

Q – Electric Six’s cover of the Queen song “Radio Ga Ga” caused a little stir. Did people not get what you guys were trying to do?

I think that any time you cover a song like that from a band that has such a rabid fan base, and you throw in a guy that’s deceased, I think every now and then a few feathers will be ruffled. But that was not the intention, and it was a long time ago. It’s not an issue any more.

Q – I know you have been involved in different side projects over the years, such as Evil Cowards. Does the band plan to release a second album any time soon?

It’s more or less tracked. He and I are both very busy with our main projects, so we’re not going to put it out until we each have some free time to promote it and do some shows around it, which we haven’t had yet.

Q – So do you think in the future you might drop Dick Valentine and just go with your real name?

Probably not.

Q – All of the band members use pseudonyms. Do they reflect your personalities at all?

No, not at all. There’s no deeper meaning to it, other than we were probably drunk one night and thought it would be interesting to have stage names. That’s all it was.

Q – And the name Dick Valentine has grown on you over the years?

It’s grown on people who are interested in the band. It hasn’t grown on me, let’s put it that way.

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