|Photo by: Provided|
It's easy to think that the band Electric Six is a joke. Their music is too over-the-top and goofy to be completely serious. Consequently, it's hard to be sure what kind of madman would front such an outrageous group.
Recently, ACRN talked to Tyler Spencer, a.k.a. Dick Valentine and the lead singer of the Detroit-based band, and it turns he's extremely intelligent and has a lot of funny things to say.
ACRN: Why does everybody in the band have a silly name?
Tyler Spencer: Well, that was something we did when we were 24 years old. You're asking me now; I'm about to turn 40. Do I regret it? Sure. But, the path of least resistance is to never question a decision that you've made. If you're digging a hole keep digging. If you keep digging, eventually you'll get to China and they have a better economy than us, anyway.
ACRN: So you were born in Detroit?
TS: No! I was not. Why did you make that assumption?
ACRN: That's what your Wikipedia said.
TS: You need to get in there and change it right now.
ACRN: But your band is based out of Detroit?
TS: That is correct.
ACRN: Do you know Eminem?
TS: No, but I know a guy who was his manager in the early days. I once saw him drive into a police car. The manager, not [Eminem].
ACRN: Do you know the Insane Clown Posse?
TS: I met Violent J a long time ago, once.
ACRN: Was he cool?
TS: He was very nice.
ACRN: I can imagine they would be.
TS: Yeah, they are. Everyone says so.
ACRN: What's your favorite place to play in Detroit?
TS: Lately we've been playing St. Andrew's Hall. I like the history of it. When I was a toddler, that's where I would go and see bands. Now you're up there, and you feel more professional.
ACRN: What's the crowd like at your shows?
TS: A lot of dipshits. We didn't set out to play to that many morons and meatheads. I guess when you have a band and there's an element of humor, even though they don't realize they're the ones being made fun of, they come to see your shows anyway.
ACRN: Do you have a lot of gay fans?
TS: There are some. They are generally well kept, respectful, and when you meet them after shows, they don't stick to you as much as some frat dude who tries to put you in a sleeper hold.
ACRN: What was the worst experience you've had at one of your own shows?
TS: I don't know that I've had a bad experience. That's why I've done this for 10 years now, professionally. The minute we have a bad experience, I'm quitting.
ACRN: Who came up with the idea for your "Gay Bar" music video?
TS: That would be Tom Kuntz, who directed the video. I just showed up. I didn't have anything to do with the idea at all.
ACRN: Was Abraham Lincoln gay?
TS: I learned that the day of the video shoot, since I was wondering what the concept was all about. My presidential history really begins and ends with Warren G. Harding. He's the one I'm most fascinated by. I don't really study any of the other presidents.
ACRN: What sort of debauchery have you seen in a gay bar?
TS: I don't know what kind of debauchery I've seen. I mean, I remember the first time I got taken to a gay district in San Francisco. I went with a co-worker friend, and I just didn't realize that everyone would have their shirts off. I was kind of naïve. I didn't understand why everyone had their shirts off.
Every bar I'd been to, people had their shirts on. That's not debauchery, that was just a shock. Since then, any time I've been in a gay bar it's just been regular conversation about the day's events. Then we all go home.
ACRN: No crazy stories?
TS: I think crazy stories are in the eye of the beholder. When I see something going on that might be "crazy" or "weird," I just compartmentalize it as normal and part of the human condition. Therefore, if it's being done by a human being it must be normal.
ACRN: Who would you say are your main musical influences?
TS: There are so many. When we started the band I was really into Depeche Mode and Captain Beefheart. I've heard so much music since then, I can't say. We're on our eighth album. We might do a ninth album next year, and when you've been around as long as we have you rack up the influences, that’s for sure.
ACRN: Did you ever see a live act growing up that blew your mind?
TS: Well, Depeche Mode did. I was working at the theater they played for their Violator tour. They did two shows and it blew my mind. I was 18 years old and the crowd was entirely comprised of 18-year-old girls dressed in black, you know, from the suburbs. My mind was blown by that. I knew I wanted to be in Depeche Mode at that time.
ACRN: I see that in your music.
TS: Yeah, I love Depeche Mode. On the surface, we don't sound like Depeche Mode, but we try real hard. One of these days we'll get there.
ACRN: Do you want to give a quick synopsis of the new album?
TS: I think it's our weirdest album. You look at the song "Psychic Visions," I don't think anyone including us thought we would ever do a song like that. It's an amazing song. I love it. It's definitely probably our synth-iest album. We just took some new approaches and got a different sounding record.
ACRN: Do you think it will attract people who have never heard your music before?
TS: Well, I think that if all you know is the first album and you listen to "Psychic Visions" or the last song, "Heartbeats & Brainwaves," you definitely see that we're capable of doing more than just sleazy guitars.
ACRN: Do you think drugs help or hinder a musician’s creative process?
TS: I wouldn't know. I've never done a drug in the pedestrian term of a "drug." For me, it probably hurts, because the one time I attempted to do it, it really freaked me out and I'd have no time for songwriting. It depends on the person.
ACRN: Did you go to college?
TS: Yes, I did.
ACRN: Do you think a college degree is important nowadays?
TS: Depends on the person. I think that if you study a discipline like engineering or if you're going to become a doctor, then yes, it's very important. For jobs that entail writing and/or socializing, it can be if you develop those skills in college.
As far as what you actually learn, in my case, getting an English degree and reading Jonathan Swift, I'm not sure. Unless you're going to teach that stuff, I'm not sure how it helps me directly. Having said that, it was a good time, and I was very happy to go there.
ACRN: Do you have any words of advice for budding musicians?
TS: Make music because you enjoy doing it. That's really it. As far as making a point to make a career out of it, some people are good at it, some people are not, but most people who consciously try to make a career out of music are annoying.
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