Electric Six's Dick Valentine Invites You to Dance the Night Away
Having put out a dozen albums in as many years, the members of demented disco rock outfit Electric Six show no signs of slowing down.
Having released 12 albums in as many years, one would think Electric Six would by now be running out of ideas, stamina or things to sing about.
Instead, as anyone who listens to their new album Fresh Blood for Tired Vampyres will tell you, it's as if they discovered the fountain of youth. Their latest is a collection of electro-disco numbers that incorporate metal riffs, spoken bits, and sound effects that would seem welcome in an Ed Wood film. It's impossible to listen to the album without wanting to throw a block party, their mastery of dark themes with infectious beats a welcome antidote to a world that just keeps getting darker. What remains surprising is how they're able to inject life into situations that seem uninteresting, their ability to see magic in the mundane as always being their best asset.
When I spoke to founder Dick Valentine on the phone he was looking after his daughter at a playground ("daddy's answering some questions about his music" he exclaimed at one point) and I can imagine no one who saw him at the park would have imagined this was the same person who can command hundreds of people to lose it on the dancefloor. Even though Valentine might not agree, this might just be Electric Six's most accomplished album to date, a pastiche of genres, beats and feelings that are both eclectic and cohesive at once. I spoke to him about the ideas behind the album, their upcoming live record, and legacy.
* * *
In an interview you did a few years ago you said you thought 44 years old was the prime age to be. You're 44 now, do you feel the same way?
I was probably just parodying Being John Malkovich when I said that. I definitely feel like prime age beef in that regard, that's for sure.
I'm asking because with the whole vampire themes and immortality, it seems like the theme of the album is mortality. Is that something on your mind often?
Not at all, I'm not really concerned with legacy as much as I am with prolonging my career, we're in a situation where we just really love to tour, put out product, and not overthinking. We feel of we stop making music it will all be taken away from us. If anything as we get older we don't reflect as much.
Would you say then that this album was more fun to do than previous ones, since you're worried about stopping some day?
Yeah, I enjoy sitting down and writing the album, this one was definitely fun to make. We're obviously not trying to make Dark Side of the Moon or anything.
However the melodies are very haunting, besides how great your lyrics are, I liked the dichotomy between the witty lyrics and the darkness of the melodies.
We write the riffs, compose the music and the lyrics just kinda go over them as needed. I don't really spend a lot of time thinking if things are good or bad, I just do them.
I felt the album was a celebration of NYC too, is paying homage to the city a big part of why you wanted to do this album?
Yeah definitely, "Mood is Improving" for instance I set in the outer boroughs, it's something I'm familiar with having ridden the subways, having gone to Sheepshead Bay to buy a piece of furniture you can't help but understand what intersections look like. You invent a character and put him there. I knew I wanted to rhyme "Canarsie" with "Black Mr. Darcy", so it all went from there.
Can you talk about how you settle on the order of the songs? When I listen to the album and get to "Space Walkin'", I feel like it shouldn't be the closing number because I want more.
I think it feels like an Electric Six closer, we've consistently made sure the last song in the record is the most powerful. This one is about people having to leave the planet and repopulate elsewhere, to me it's an obvious last song.
The album came out and has a very Halloween-y vibe to it. I think there's something perverse about Halloween and Election Day being so close.
[laughs] I hadn't thought about it in those terms but I hear what you're saying. This particular Halloween you'll see a lot of Donald Trumps walking around which is funny. The US Election is just getting weirder and weirder, I was more active around 2004, I got into message boards, but now on my Facebook page I'm more quiet, so it's funny to me to see people get impassioned about it. I learned expressing your opinion online, even if you have good points and you have the right to do it, is not gonna get you anywhere. I've chilled out in that regard.
Does making music and touring help you get away from the craziness?
I've learned that some things about Red States and Blue States apply, but we toured in the Deep South, we've gone to Georgia and I've never seen anyone openly carrying an assault rifle. I don't agree with that, I'm not into guns at all, but all these things you hear sometimes the media makes things bigger than they are.
Would you say this album more than any other was made with fans in mind?
I don't know, I know fans are very passionate about our music, but we're just trying to write songs. We're not looking to make the world's most perfect album, we want it to be good, but I'm on the record about wanting to put music out there to tour. It's funny to me that every time we put out an album people rate it against other albums. I've never approached it that way, bands I've liked have put out weaker albums than others and I didn't let it affect me. I understand people are very passionate and that's great, but at the end of the day I enjoy making sketches of shows and seeing where they go.
Have you planned any different performances for this record? Things you've never tried live before?
We're doing a live record in the UK in April, we're in the middle of a Kickstarter campaign. We're going to switch the setlist a bit and play more songs from the new album. For us it's just an Electric Six show though, we do our hits, new songs and hope everyone has a great time!