Detroit’s Electric Six plays Southgate House Revival
By Leo DeLuca
Photo: Electric Six perform on June 6 at Southgate House Revival in Newport, Ky.
“Detroit has always been a fantastic place to be an artist or a musician because of the economic ruin,” said Dick Valentine, the front-man and founder of Electric Six, a Motor City-based band known for marrying rock music with elements of garage, disco, punk rock, new wave and more. “Rent is cheap, rehearsal spaces are cheap, studios and galleries are cheap. Musicians and artists don’t usually make a lot of money, so a city like Detroit is tailor-made for such people.”
Of course, Valentine speaks from his own personal experience in Detroit over the past four decades.
“All members of our band grew up in the Detroit suburbs and most of us moved into the city itself at one point or another,” Valentine said. “I am not sure we looked to any local bands to help shape our sound or our ethos, but I have to say Detroit is such a supportive local music city; the fact we had so much support there in the years before we got a record deal made it possible for us to be here today.”
Throughout E6’s near 20-year journey, it’s become evident they are not interested in being corralled. In the press release for Mustang (2013), the group’s most recent album, it is noted: “This is Electric Six, mind you… they are a band that will never be tied to just one sound.”
Electric Six’s encyclopedic approach to music landed them a record deal and a huge hit in the United Kingdom with “Danger! High Voltage.” The single reached No. 2 on the UK charts, was named Single of the Week by NME and was listed as one of the Best songs of the 2000s by Pitchfork Media.
Since their 2003 debut, E6 has released nine full-length records – that’s nearly one record per year. It’s a dizzying, prolific and impressive run.
Dayton City Paper had the opportunity to catch up at further length with Dick Valentine in anticipation of Electric Six’s upcoming performance at Southgate House Revival in Newport, Ky.
Akin to Detroit, Dayton is an “underdog city” in its own right – a great city that has fallen on tough economic times. Who are some of your favorite musicians from Dayton?
Dayton’s own Guided By Voices is easily a huge influence on many of us in the band. We’re kind of following in their footsteps in a way, being older guys who have a good thing going. – Dick Valentine
Who are some of your favorite bands from Ohio?
I love Ohio music; always have. Many of my favorite bands growing up are from Ohio – Devo, Pere Ubu and Afghan Whigs. – DV
E6 formed in 1996, but the first record was not released until 2003. What happened in the interim?
Well, we were more or less a local Detroit band, doing home recording, playing locally. We all had jobs and didn’t have a touring vehicle, so we could only take out-of-town gigs within like four hours of us, which actually worked out because that radius includes Cleveland, Toronto and Chicago. We had some great weekend tours and that was how we operated for like six years. In 2001, The White Stripes became massive and there was a whole lot of attention paid to the Detroit scene they came up in; we were lucky enough to get a record deal in the UK off the back of that. – DV
The track “Danger! High Voltage” garnered the band critical acclaim in the early aughts, especially in the UK. Has the fanbase continued to grow over there? Any insight as to why it hit so big in that one particular area?
Our label, XL Recordings, is a big player in the UK music world. With them, we had radio-pluggers, video-pluggers, people to grease the wheels and get us in the ears of fans. That really is how it works. When you don’t have that machine behind you, it doesn’t really matter how good your song is. This same song got released over here, but we didn’t have that kind of outfit working for us in the United States, so it didn’t catch on. – DV
You released Mustang at the end of last year and you already have a new album in the works. Could you speak on the new album: the creative process and what fans might be able to expect?
Everyone in the band writes music and we generally each try to come up with fully-fleshed musical ideas that we might compose in GarageBand or Logic at home and then I just see if I can write lyrics to the ideas. Our guitar player John Nash takes the lead on production duties and kind of makes sense of it all. He’s been at the helm for our last three records now. This next record will be called Human Zoo. It’s all over the map in terms of how it sounds; there are some up-tempo pop numbers, there’s a faux Motown kind of song that we all love and a couple songs that are hard to define… throw in a few rockers for good measure and that’s an Electric Six album. – DV
Electric Six perform on Friday, June 6 at Southgate House Revival, 111 E. Sixth St., Newport, Ky. Also on the bill are Andy D and Magic Jackson. Doors at 7:30 p.m. Ages 18 and up. For more information, please visit electricsix.com.
Reach DCP freelance writer Leo DeLuca at LeoDeLuca@DaytonCityPaper.com.