Live in Portland July 6, 2018 | Dantes
With a lot of energy and a lot of antics, Detroit’s Electric Six are a band that obviously plays hard, but they work harder. Since their inception in 2001, they have released 13 albums, as well as a couple of cover albums and a live album, and an upcoming Christmas record. After last year’s Fresh Blood For Tired Vampyres, they return to Portland with their latest work How Dare You on Friday, July 6.
In Electric Six fashion, How Dare You doesn’t surrender to genre. The heavy guitars and power vocals from crass bard Dick Valentine are mainstay, but the album combines elements of funk, hard rock, new wave, country and even chiptunes into one record. Among the tracks are a farce song called “Chicken Wine,” a more poignant “Dark Politics” and a song that could satirically be the Space Force anthem, “Arrive Alive.” It’s trashy. It’s sexy. It’s comedy.
We got to chat with front-man Dick Valentine about the Detroit music scene, collaborating with Jack White and writing and publishing erotic fiction on the side.
ELEVEN: How did Electric Six get started?
Dick Valentine: We started as a band called The Wild Bunch in 1996. There were five of us and we had all gone to high school together. Those days were fun, it was a really good time. But we have a way more professional approach now.
11: What was it like for a band coming up in Detroit?
DV: It is a very supportive town in terms of local music. It’s a musical city, and when we were coming up as a band there rent was insanely cheap. That always bodes well for musicians that don’t have a lot of money. In our case we were unsigned for the first six years, but we kept going because at a local level we had a lot of support and felt like we were doing something. We weren’t really trying to be a good band or a bad band, but more of a fun band. That’s how we approach it.
11: How has E6 kept up the energy to tour and release so much material?
DV: We enjoy working hard and have a lot of creative energy. We’re very product oriented. We’re kind of at the mind of “if you can do it-do it.” We’ve got kids now. I’ve got a couple of kids, and Nash just had a kid, so we might have to scale down from four albums a year to maybe two albums a year.
11: But you also kind of do your own thing? Aside from Electric 6?
DV: I do solo records–they are kind of acoustic based–and tour the UK and Ireland about once a year. I just grab a train with my guitar and go from town to town, like outside of Glasgow, which is fun to do after touring with the band all year.
And then I do the pornographic thrillers, which I really enjoy doing, because it’s something different than music. It’s literature, even though it’s completely ridiculous. Most of my stories are about a hard-living, hard-drinking private detective that finds himself in sexy situations among the mystery and intrigue. And of course I narrate the audio books myself. We have a pretty loyal fanbase that enjoys the books, so I’m going to keep writing them.
(If curious about Dick Valentine’s writings you can browse them here)
11: Is it true that’s an un-credited Jack White singing on “Danger! High Voltage?”
DV: Yes, it’s true. On “High Voltage,” he was definitely a big part of getting a record deal with XL, The White Stripes were with XL at the time. So I owe the guy. But yeah, that’s kind of what Detroit was back then. Everyone knew each other and it was a pretty small scene in a medium-sized city. You knew everyone in every band that played in the same bands on the weekends.
When You Realize that those are Jack White’s vocals:
11: How do you like playing Portland?
DV: We’ve been to Portland many times and we always look forward to it. We have a lot of friends there. We always enjoy playing Dante’s because it’s just a weird, fun venue. It’s not the biggest show we play but it’s always one of the funnest. There’s always a great crowd that’s really fun and seem to know our catalog and all of our deep cuts.
When you’re from Detroit, it’s such a dismal industrial town, and you come to Portland it’s the exact opposite. You’ve got scenery. Seattle and Bellingham and Portland are kind of the highlight of our tours.