Electric Six: Detroit’s best kept and sweatiest secret

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Does the name Electric Six mean anything to you? If it doesn’t immediately come to mind, take four shots of Jameson and type ‘Danger! High Voltage!’ into your YouTube search bar (or just watch it at the bottom of the page). I’m confident the memories (as well as the dance moves) will come rushing back. Since forming in Detroit in 1996, the six-piece rock band has released nine full-length albums, a live album and DVD, and a rarities collection, and has been spreading their unique brand of irreverent garage-punk-dance-metal across the big blue planet.

I was lucky enough to catch the band for a phone interview as they crossed into Vancouver to start the Canadian leg of their latest tour before looping back around for a homecoming show at The Blind Pig in Ann Arbor. It turns out that there’s an unwritten rule about the person who holds the microphone also being responsible for holding the wheel – a fact that synth player Tait Nucleus wasted no time in apologizing for.

Electric SixNobody likes to talk to the bass or synth player. We’re the unexciting members of the band, and we’ve got all of this pent-up aggression to unleash. Hold up a second – I’m halfway through this box of donuts that we picked up in Portland, and there’s a Captain Crunch donut calling my name.

I think we just became best friends. Let’s get it all out there, then: what’s the hardest part of playing synth in a band like Electric Six?

Fargo, North Dakota. I know that sounds crazy, but we have to lug all of this heavy equipment up a couple flights of stairs, and there’s never enough room for us on the stage. After eleven years in the band, I’ve just learned to get used to it. I tried my hand at my own side-project, and ended up crawling back on all fours when it fell flat on its face. It’s funny – my parents always wanted me to go to college, and I always told them that college could wait while I tried the professional musician thing. Here we are eleven years later, and it’s probably too late for that – so you could say it was a success.

Hopefully Canada treats you right and gets you into party mode before your homecoming show at The Blind Pig in a few weeks. After touring the world, how important is being from Detroit to the band?

Did you know that Nirvana played at The Blind Pig before they made it big? When you walk into that bar, they’ll make sure they remind you. But that’s not what’s important here. We started out at a time where there were all of these three-piece garage-rock bands making a lot of noise, and so we decided to flip the script and make a band with double the members. We started out trying to make that dirty Detroit racket, and we’ve just evolved to where we are now – after putting out as many albums as we have, it’s kind of necessary. We’ve never shied away from our roots, and we love name-dropping our favourite places in Detroit. We’ve had some member shuffles along the way too – but our only criteria, other than having to be able to play your instrument, is that you’re from Detroit.

Obviously, being on the road so often means you’re also watching the city from a distance. Is it hard to see the decline of Detroit, and do you think there’s a quick fix?

I think that people in the city need a fresh start. We can probably blame Thom Yorke’s late-90s bashing of Detroit for a big chunk of why people aren’t flocking to the city – and we can hope that Dan Gilbert’s incentives for businesses to move back into the downtown core will help. It just seems like everyone inside the city wants the change to happen faster than it is, and everyone outside of the city is painting it like a Mad Max movie.

I’ve been spinning your newest record Mustang for the past few weeks – and I’ve noticed there’s a pretty significant hate-fest going on for Adam Levine. What’s up with that?

Mustang is one of my favourite records that we’ve done, just because it has that heavier edge to it. The funny thing with ‘Adam Levine’ is that we’ve done a couple of different drafts; first it was ‘Guy Fieri’ and then ‘Avril Lavigne’, but Adam’s name just fit better. It was more of a device than anything – so you could say that he’s just a tool in the long run.

Amazing. All of my suspicions have just been confirmed. So what’s next for the band?

In the next year, there are exactly three things that you can count on: death, taxes, and a new Electric Six record by the fall. We’ve been working on the record while we’re on tour – just throwing demos and ideas back and forth so that when we finally get to go record, we’ve at least got an exoskeleton to work with. We also just put out our live DVD through Kickstarter – you can buy it online if you want, but screw it. Come get it at a show and kill two birds with one stone.

And here a guy named Tait Nucleus thought he’d bore me. Theory, disproven.

– Andrew Bell