It was almost exactly a year ago that UK radio stations started going mental over Electric Six’s Danger! High Voltage! single, an insanely catchy piece of sleazy funk rock that may or may not have had The White Stripes‘ Jack White yelping during the chorus.
Since then the Detroit sextet have gone beyond one-hit wonder status with Gay Bar and Dance Commander, and even managed to lose, then hastily replace, three band members.
musicOMH recently caught up with one of those who evaded the line-up changes, keyboardist Tait Nucleus, and somehow succeeded in teasing a few sensible answers out of him…
Tait Nucleus, aka Christopher Tait, is not a happy bunny. Rock stars don’t like getting woken up at 10 o’clock in the morning. What he doesn’t realise is that music journalists like it even less, particularly when they’ve got “male flu” (i.e. a cold). So, when I ask if it’s okay to keep the interview short so I can go back to my death-bed, he is only too happy to oblige.
We start by discussing the mid-year band reshuffle that saw the delightfully-named guitarists and bassist – The Rock ‘N’ Roll Indian, Surge Joebot and Disco – being replaced by the equally crazily-monickered Johnny Na$hional, The Colonel and Frank Lloyd Bonaventure.
“Things change, people change. One guy decided he didn’t like being on the road a year at a time. Another guy had a kid. The third guy was hanging in a perspex box off London Bridge!”
Ah, the famed Electric Six sense of humour. What else would we expect from a band sporting silly hairstyles and three-piece suits, and whose videos have boasted luminescent cod-pieces and caged, homo-erotic dancers? We suspect that the guy who was “hanging in a perspex box”, David Blaine, is far too up his own backside to have ever been a member of this band. But we do wonder if Mr Nucleus and friends went to see him.
“We did a show for The Face’s party. We saw him from far away. It was this box in the distance from the back of the warehouse we were in. I managed not to throw a cheeseburger at him… Unfortunately, I didn’t have the range!”
“I managed not to throw a cheeseburger at him… Unfortunately, I didn’t have the range!” – Electric Six’s Tait Nucleus bemoans his lack of projectile-throwing skills when he saw David Blaine.
Right, onto less serious matters. A while ago, frontman Dick Valentine claimed that Tait got the most female attention in the band. With that Howard Jones meets The Cure‘s Robert Smith hairdo, it’s got to be true, right?
“Dick’s a funny guy sometimes.”
“Okay, most of the time. Who have you seen on TV from this band lately? I’m not the one with the style, the slicked-back hair and the pin moustache.”
Fair enough. Is it true then that Mr Valentine not only gets all the girlies, but also writes all the songs?
“As it is now, it’s a collective effort. He’ll throw an idea on the table and then it gets arranged (by us), keys will change etc. It hasn’t always been like that. He WAS doing the majority of the writing…”
“I’m not the one with the style, the slicked-back hair and the pin moustache.” – Tait Nucleus refutes frontman Dick Valentine’s suggestion that he gets all the ladies.
One song Electric Six didn’t write but love performing at gigs is Queen‘s Radio Ga Ga. Surprisingly, given the high camp quality of this and other parts of the band’s output, their musical influences are on the slightly more earnest side.
“I know that Dick is into Devo, Talking Heads and Captain Beefheart… We both like Interpol and Joy Division. I like The Shins – they’re kind of in between The Beach Boys and The Smiths.
And then Tait reveals that he wasn’t always so laid-back and tongue-in-cheek.
“I was a really moody, sit-in-the-corner b*****d guy… I remember when we opened for Supergrass in Portland. I could barely play I was laughing so much. I was looking at 400 of myselves in college: snobby, suited kids who get all their info fed to them through the NME. They weren’t digging us. I mean I love Supergrass – I’m a US college-based music fan – but it’s good to see people who let loose and don’t think about what the person on the right is thinking and that’s where we (Electric Six) come in.”
Such talk implies that Dick Valentine & co’s ambitions for Electric Six may stretch beyond being rock’s equivalent of a Carry On film. Tait confirms this is the case.
“I realise I’m giving you real answers when I should be telling you something clever but it’s too early in the day
for me to switch into that mode.”
– Tait Nucleus apologises for sullying Electric Six’s whacky reputation.
“When we started getting successful, it was like somebody should be slapping us across the face. We were thinking, ‘Is this kind of thing really happening?’ We ended up playing to thousands of people… I was a big Wildbunch fan (Electric Six’s prior incarnation). I really believe in this stuff. Everyone who’s in place now is interested in raising the bar and taking things to another level. Going into it I was just a green moron. Now my outlook has changed. Everyone wants to take it forward… We want to keep the sense of humour but tighten everything up and work on the songwriting process.”
He stops himself, realising that for the past few minutes there have been no double entendres or silly answers. He feels the need to apologise, although I get the impression it’s more to Dick Valentine for sullying the band’s whacky persona than to me.
“I realise I’m giving you real answers when I should be telling you somthing clever but it’s too early in the day for me to switch into that mode.”
So there you have it. You want to get Electric Six to talk serious? Bother them at 10 o’clock in the morning! And with that, Tait Nucleus and yours truly return to our beds.