Screw the mainstream if you really want to get your rocks off you have to go to the underground. That's just what we plan to do with this series, take some of the best emerging bands that are out blowing away hardcore fans on the underground music scene.
Detroit Rockers Invade the UK
By Rachael Rearden
Manchester University. The 4th February. 8:30pm and I’ve been told to wait up stairs for the tour manager of Electric Six, a band known in the UK for their much-hyped single “Danger! High Voltage”.
Without press access and having missed support punk-rock band Moko, I’m beginning to feel apprehensive about whether this interview is going to take place. Slumped on the floor in a sorry state at the prospect of not interviewing one of my favourite new rock and roll bands, I heave myself up, ready to scamper off to the bar to console myself.
Not disappointing the cliché lovers among you, I was paralyzed to the spot when Surge, Disco and M walk up the stairs in front of me. Opting not to use my rehearsed line of “Do you know where the tour manager is?”, I instead spit out the cool and impressive “You’re Electric Six”.
After stating the obvious and registering I may have a chance here I say “Hi can I interview you guys for antimusic.com?”.
Blessing my ears and producing a cheeky grin on my face, Disco replies “Yeah sure come in”.
A bit anxious of what to expect from Electric Six, until now having heard only three songs, when the band come on stage the audience feel an amazing presence. Complete with aviator shades, a cigarette hanging from their lips and Dick Valentines slicked back hair, Electric Six are the ultimate sleazy rock n roll band we’ve all been waiting for.
Previously known as “The Wildbunch”, the band (excluding keyboardist Tait who joined recently) has been around since 1996. Opting to change their name, rather than pay to share “The Wildbunch” with a band from Bristol, Electric Six have been to Manchester once before, however this is their first time around Europe.
After such a great response from ‘Danger! High Voltage’ I asked Surge and Disco whether they were pissed that after working for over 6 years, its after just one song that they get so much feedback.
Surge: “No, not at all. I mean it’s good that its done well, I’d prefer this to releasing 30 songs and achieving nothing, you know”.
New Single “Danger! High Voltage” released through Octane Grande is notoriously known for its moose and flashing “body parts” - “Yeah Dick thought it up, the idea was about his ex-girlfriend, um and she had this big moose. But we got the moose in the end.” Disco tells me.
So I venture on with another semi-controversial question, “What about the Jack White rumours? Who sings with Dick Valentine in the song?” Surge responds, “ No, no it’s a fan. We put a competition out, um and he won, he’s a mechanic, it wasn’t Jack White”. Disco adds, “Yeah he was probably the only person that entered!”
As a prime example of what will get you hooked to Electric Six, welcome “Remote Control”, B-side to ‘Danger! High Voltage’. This model song reveals the raw factors of what this band are capable. Provoking us to groove along with this unmistakably bitchin’ song, hopefully to be included in the forthcoming album, my mind forms images of strutting confidently down the street, listening to ‘Remote Control’. I presently rule the world. I feel like one of the Bee Gees in ‘Stayin’ Alive’ only better (is that possible?)
When the Hi-Hat breaks mid ‘Remote Control’, guitarist Surge passes the time with a short anecdote. “You know, our drummer, he comes from a family full of drummers, and when he was younger, if he missed one beat his father would use his belt on him.” He says, the audience laughing and clapping as we recall the controversial Michael Jackson documentary shown on T.V. a couple of days back. As the song finishes with a powering shriek from Valentine, the audience are on an incomparable high.
Having not finished their album, set to be released on May 19th, the audience aren’t familiar with a lot of songs Electric Six play tonight. Unlike this situation with other bands, it doesn’t matter here as the band get inside your bloodstream as the first song begins. Its not a case of picking up on the riffs and how to dance to the right beats, as soon as you hear Electric Six, your body goes with the rhythm. You can’t stop it happening and you don’t want to, because grooving along to the sounds of this band feels like the most natural thing in the world.
After impulsively dancing to some brand new songs, out comes the sublime “Gay Bar”, next single to be released and a song many heard when Electric Six performed on channel 4’s Born Sloppy. “It was great on Born Sloppy, its like this big house” says Disco “we saw the 80’s matchbox b-line disaster, they were good and we saw Liam Gallagher”.
After “Gay Bar” its blatantly obvious to me that its Dick Valentines robust, distinctive voice and smooth onstage persona, that makes the bands sound stand out a mile off. Combine this with Surge, Disco, M, The rock n roll Indian and Tait giving us the healthy rock and roll fix we are all craving, plus hints of disco rhythm and hip swing inducing saxophone, and you’ve got a recipe for a hell of a lot of fans. This band has got IT ALL.
The only appropriate word to describe Electric Six would be original. There’s no gimmick, there’s no bulls***, these guys are genuine and they love their pure rock n roll.
What’s the music scene like where you come from, in Detroit?
Disco: “Its very much healthy rock n roll in Detroit, we have The White Stripes and stuff like that. Its very underground, there are gigs all the time, and bands can be well known even if they’re not commercial or signed to a record company. We listen to Esquire, he’s a rapper over in Detroit, umm and Paybacks, you gotta see them when they come to the UK, they’re great. Surge likes the Sugababes too”
Surge: “I love the Sugababes”
What sort of music did you grow up listening to?
Disco: “Soundgarden, Emporer”
Surge: “I listened to a lot of Movie Soundtracks. It was sort ofâ€¦ as soon as we heard guitar rhythms we were hooked.”
With regard to this new trend of “popular rock” bands, like The Strokes and The Vines, what do you think of that?
Surge: “Its like, whether it’s popular or not popular, you gotta try and have your own brain, its always been like that.”
Yeah, and what about people like Avril Lavinge? People in the UK tend to either love her or hate her.
Surge: Well I mean, if you got offered loads of money, I mean its not my type of music but, I guess you’d take an opportunity like that if one came along.”
Dick Valentine keeps his promise to us he made at the start of the gig “Don’t worry, we’ll do Tiny Little Men”. Available to download at www.electricsix.com, Tiny Little Men, a mellower track than ones we have heard before, remarks, “don’t ask, too many questions, my son, you might not like what you find”. It feels as if ‘Tiny Little Men’ lacks more in its sound than its lyrics compared to other songs, and I get the feeling this is a song with some important meaning, political or otherwise. A definite son song never the less, ‘Tiny Little Men’ sure gets the crowd going, and shows that Electric Six are worthy of achieving more than songs that fit in one genre of music.
Sensing a hint of political declaration in their music (“Fire in the disco, fire in the taco bell” - The Taco Bell being a major fast food franchise in the U.S.) I ask Disco and Surge who writes the songs, and are Electric Six a political band?
Disco: “ Dick writes all the songs. He works on it first, then he brings the idea to us and we work together on it. Yeah we are a political band”
Like Rage Against The Machine?
Surge: “No, we believe that you’ve gotta put your money where your mouth is”.
The start of ‘Danger! High Voltage’ is enough to make any ogre tingle all over with the first bass line. It is one of those songs, like Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills” or Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”, that when you hear the intro, your face instantly lights up with glee. With this song getting the greatest reaction, Dick Valentine plays the crowd up, a Mexican wave, flowing through the sea of bodies gets the audience hyped up.
The drumbeat kicks in, and the crowd is at its liveliest. Blissfully jumping and singing along “when we touch...when we kiss”, the crowd are loving this song, and who can blame them? It’s the catchiest most original song to appear since the 80’s, (you don’t have to search the 90’s to figure that out). OK, maybe that is a pretty bold statement, but hey it’s a f***ing great song.
Eventually it is time for Electric Six to leave us, but with the crowd going wild shouting for an encore, that’s exactly what we get. Electric Six swagger onstage and resume their positions. They’re not about to do an encore without a good reason, and as Dick Valentine hypes up the crowd again, we stamp our feet, jump, clap, shout - anything to hear more and feed the new addiction we’ve acquired in the last 30 minutes.
Opening with Kraftwork, an electro band from Germany, “She’s a Model” is our first encore song. Kraftwork, a band a lot haven’t heard of, goes down well with Electric Six’s cover.
Leaving us with “Fame”, instead of being reminded of Geri “I eat only one carrot a day” Halliwell, Electric Six have got the crowd on such a high, we are bouncing off the f***ing walls. This is the best atmosphere. This is no gig, this is just one big house party with loads of friends having a rockin’ good time. I’ve never known any band to create this feeling among the crowd. I guess it’s not about puking and s***ting on stage, hitting each other and twatting your head on sharp objects.
It’s about real, genuine, rock and f***ing roll.
Rachael Rearden is antiMUSIC's UK Correspondent.