Interview: Electric Six
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Detroit-based six-piece band Electric Six are probably best remembered for their 2003 singles Gay Bar and Danger! High Voltage. Far from being a one-hit-wonder, however, the garage/disco/punk new-wavers have been touring and releasing their own distinctive and uncategorizable albums for over a decade. Caught somewhere between fire, fantasy and flat-out parody, James Harle converses with lead singer Dick Valentine, on the road for his current solo-tour. Wikipedia says that your songs are about ‘Macho flippancy, hypersexuality, fire and fast food’. You, on the other hand, have been quoted as saying ‘90% of our songs are about nothing at all’. What are the other 10% about? The other 10% is just process of elimination… I don’t analyse what they’re about. This is how I figure it: I couldn’t write 100% about anything, even if it’s nothing, so that 10% is just a margin of error. I don’t know what that 10% is about, any more than the 90%. I don’t want to look at my work, I don’t want to analyse it, I’m just doing my best to shirk all the responsibility for that… shit. Oh dear. And how’s that working out? It is difficult, it follows you. You’ve got to work, and your job is playing those damn songs, they’re everywhere. You try to run, you try to hide… you can’t. It follows you. You say that your lyrics don’t have any particular meaning, but what about all the references? I mean in Jimmy Carter you quote WB Yeats. Yes sir. … It’s still not about anything? You’ve got to ask Yeats that, he wrote it. I just copied and pasted. I’m not gonna be on the hook over that, I can’t be held responsible… I just did control-c, control-v, and that’s as far as it went. Ask Yeats. Actually, I don’t know whether he’s still with us or not… but if he is, you could probably google him. There are recurrent images in the music, though, persistent themes. The album Fire is named for the fact that most of the songs feature it in some way. What’s with the pyromania? I think the concept of fire, fire burning, being on fire… all that is just a way to make you, the listener, think that we’re more exciting than we really are. It’s all about painting a picture which will make people believe that you’re something which you’re not. I’ve been letting people down for an entire decade- people come to our concerts, they meet the band, and then they actually talk to me. It’s always a big letdown. You know, you say you’re not cool, that the six of you are very shy and looking to divert attention- but I don’t believe you. I do think you’re cool. [Laughs] Yeah? I haven’t felt cool in a really long time. But I’m still here… so I guess it’s not really that important. And that’s the crux of music: the listeners, the culture even, want to believe that they’re cool. So when you’re making the music, and you start off knowing you’re not cool, and not close to being cool, and not caring that you’re not cool… I don’t know, I guess that’s where the politicians come in. To save us from ourselves. It doesn’t sound like you enjoy being in a band very much at all. What do you like? I like… animals. I enjoy animals, I’m a big animal person. I think that if I wasn’t in a band I’d probably be a veterinarian. Yeah. Yeah? That’s a pretty serious undertaking, I have a cousin who wants to go into veterinary medicine- it’s taking her years. Yeah, well, it’s never too late. Maybe I could go back to school and take some chemistry classes or… well, I’m not good at that. But probably, if I wasn’t in the band, I’d want to be a veterinarian or a navy seal, one of the two. They are fairly similar career paths, as far as I know. You must have enjoyed working with animals in some of your videos then- there were a lot of poodles in Radio Gaga, if I remember.
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