2006_06_Dick_Valentine.jpgI found out about Electric Six in 2003 from the last place one would expect to learn anything about music: MTV. It was the video for Dance Commander . A man in short shorts was cavorting about his house, wreaking havoc and fueled solely by the urge to rock. Then came the mustachioed Dance Commander, giving out the order for fun. This was no ordinary man. The voice. The moves. The fire in his eyes. This man was rock incarnate! That man was Dick Valentine.

KMFDM, Front 242, Front Line Assembly, and Electric Six. How did Senor Smoke find a home with Metropolis Records ?
The label head Dave Heckman came to our show in San Francisco and I didn't know that he had a label. I had never even heard of Metropolis. He came up and asked me what I think our situation was, and I said, "I think we're going to be free agents again." He gave us his card, we went to his website, and thought, "Wow, this is kind of unusual." He's in a situation where he's been that goth/industrial label for a long time and he just wants to expand. He signed us and Mindless Self Indulgence . He hasn't said no to anything that we want to do for this record, including making videos.

Has Switzerland already been recorded?
Yep. It's been done for a while now. We did it in November.

What can you tell me about the album?
We think it's the best thing we've ever done. It's a bit subtler than the other two records. There's no Gay Bar, Dance Epidemic, or anything that's going to make people want to dance. If you're looking for dancing, this may not be your record, but there are some rockers on there. Summer anthem kind of things. One of them has a Journey feel and there's a Latin Salsa number. I think when people hear it, they'll wonder what it is, but it'll grow on you and it might be your favorite record that we've done.

Should people seeing you before September 12th expect to hear some songs off the new album?
We're hoping to do a few of them this summer. We're officially done touring for Senor Smoke. We'll bust out a few of them and then, when we go out in the fall, we'll hopefully do them all.

How did your approach to this album compare to Fire and Senor Smoke?
This was the first time that we didn't have an expectation of a big radio hit. When we did Fire they were expecting five or six, and when we went to Warner for Senor Smoke they expected another Gay Bar. With Senor Smoke, we weren't in the position where we could make the record we wanted to make. We had to put Radio Ga-Ga on Senor Smoke; it was a condition of the record deal. With Metropolis, we got to do the thirteen songs we wanted to do, turned it in, and they're putting it out. Hopefully we'll continue to do that.

Was this album more collaborative with the other band members?
All of the other musicians, with the exception of Mike, our drummer, wrote the music for a song and I wrote the rest. Tait's got a song, Nash has got a song, and the other two guys have a song.

Were there any line up changes in the past year?
No, I think this is it. They've all been in the band for close to three years now and Mike's been in the band since February 2005. We're already talking about doing a fourth record. Everything is solid and we're all into it. I talked with the other guys one the phone and we've had five weeks off and no one knows what to do with their time. We're all so acclimated to being on the road that having so much time off is weird.

What is the origin of the name Switzerland?
The idea was that we wanted to name the record after a county we've never been to before hoping that that would get us to that country, which is why we didn't call it Afghanistan. We have a release date in Australia with Inertia on the same date. We're trying to put together other territories right now. We're definitely becoming more of an indie band.

Should we expect to see a song released in the same way Vibrator was?
Because we didn't do any videos for Senor Smoke, other than Radio Ga Ga, our plan is to make up for it on this record by doing a video for each song. I'm sure a lot of them will be low budget. We're shooting the first video in a couple of weeks, so I'm sure that'll appear online before September 12th. We have a couple scheduled now and we've been talking with animators. We don't even have to be there. We can be on the road and then have a video for one of the songs. The whole Vibrator download thing was just an act of desperation.

You just announced a lot of tour dates on your website. It seems like you're almost always touring. What's the longest stretch of time that you've been off the road since Fire?
This summer's going to be it. Other than the two weeks in July, it's the whole summer off. We've never had anything like that before. The longest since 2003 was maybe a month. It's nice, but also weird.

What do you call home?
I'm in Brooklyn. I moved here two years ago and I'm starting to look at buying a place. I plan on staying in New York for a long time.

What have you been doing with your month off?
I've been running a lot. Running in Prospect Park. I'm a total yuppie. I've been drinking wine. Tapas are very important to me now. Coffee. It's very exciting. I've been doing some Garage Band stuff on my laptop. I'm thinking of doing a little side project. I might call it Drunk Billionaire. It'll be all Garage Band laptop stuff.

Have you seen any concerts or comedy shows?
Last night I saw The Duke Spirit at the Mercury Lounge. They were pretty amazing.

Would comedy shows be something that you're interested in?
I went to some place on McDougal Street a year ago and it was awful. I enjoy comedy and enjoy comics, but sometimes those comics are hard to take and I feel really bad for a lot of them. One guy pointed me out because I was in the front row and looked like I wanted to kill myself, which made him look like he wanted to kill himself. I went to the bathroom and then Dave Chappell was doing an impromptu performance. That was pretty sweet.

Some bands have comedians open for them. What do you think of that and might Electric Six one day do the same?
It's possible. Neil Hamburger opens up for bands all the time and I think he's brilliant. I'd love to have him open. That would be an honor.

How was the American Troubadour tour?
That was great. It was everything I needed. I hopped on trains and showed up at gigs with just my guitar. I was a troubadour in every sense of the word. I was riding the rails and if I knew people in the town I'd crash on their couch. If I didn't know anyone, I'd drop two hundred quid on a very fancy hotel and take care of myself. It worked both ways.

How did you decide which songs you'd cover on the American Troubadour tour?

A lot of the songs I'd covered were my favorite songs by my favorite bands, like the Devo song and the Camper Van Beethoven song. Those are bands that never really got their due in the UK and it was an opportunity to give those songs an audience.

Does the phone number quoted in Telephone Conversation hold any significance for you?
Instead of saying 867-5309, I changed it to a two to get it to rhyme.

Is there a chance of any solo shows in America?
Probably. Maybe I'll do one in the city in August. I definitely got it out of my system. A month in the UK like that was good, but right now the focus is doing the video and doing the full on Electric Six thing.

When I saw you at Maxwell's, you took a nap onstage before the encore.

We call that the shutdown encore. We do that when we don't have easy access to the dressing room. We try to do a set without an encore, but it doesn't work. I think the audience needs the illusion of an encore before they go home.

I was quite impressed by your command of the stage. What are some bands that you've seen that have wowed you with their stage presence?

The Duke Spirit last night. That's a front woman right there. She knew was she was doing. That's the band to watch right now, for me. This band, Every Move a Picture that we played with in March, who will also be opening for us on the East Coast for the Switzerland tour, are a really great live band.

What sort of role did music play in your life growing up?
When I was a teenager, I don't know what I was into. I was really big into REM for a while, but I think a lot of people can say that about being in high school in the eighties. I didn't learn how to play the guitar until I was twenty. I didn't learn about a lot of the bands that would end up being my influences until I was about nineteen or twenty and got to university. I don't even know what I did my high school years. I remember I had panic attacks a lot and being a great proponent of Mexican food.

What were you like in school?
I was a good student. I didn't really stand out much on the social level, per se. I kind of blended in. My parents were obsessed with me getting into one of the schools on the top twenty colleges list. It was all about the best SAT scores. I ended up going to the University of Michigan anyway, which is a fine school. When you grow up in Detroit, that's the first course of action for most people. It was then that I finally learned to rock.

Before going to the University of Michigan, what sort of aspirations did you have?
Just to get to school. It was the 80's and everyone was like, "All you have to do is get a bachelor's degree from the University of Michigan and you can write your own ticket." I left U of M completely broke and was wondering where my ticket was. I ended up working at a bagel café for six months and figured that someone dropped the ball somewhere.

What did you study?
English. "Get an English degree from a university and you'll write your own ticket. Just study what you want to study and it'll all take care of itself."

Can you pinpoint the moment you knew you were going to be a musician?
The moment I knew I was going to start making money as a musician was probably around the time the Danger! High Voltage video took off and we saw it was going to work out on some level. We started playing music six years before that. Up until that moment I never thought that I'd make money doing it.

Before the Wildbunch, were you involved in any other bands?
No. I messed around. I played at U of M with some friends at some frat shows and things like that. I started writing a lot of the songs that would become The Wildbunch when I was twenty. Animal Attraction was one of the first songs I wrote. I'm on Acid was up there too.

What were you doing to support yourself financially during The Wildbunch period?
I wrote ad-copy, edited press releases, drove a bus, went back to working at a coffee house for a while, and went back to school for a while.

Were you ever a teacher?
No. I was looking into going back for teaching, got a year of pre-requests behind me, and then the XL deal came through.

Can you tell me about The Dirty Shame?
I took a year off from Detroit and The Wildbunch. The company I was working for at the time had a position in LA. I felt like I needed a change and that The Wildbunch had gone as far as it was going to go. I wanted to get out of Detroit because I lived there for so long. I took the job in LA and was looking to get out of music. I thought it wasn't going anywhere. Ironically, I worked a later shift for the news wire I was working at and would get home at night and write more songs. I had an abundance of these slower songs and when I got back to Detroit a year later I went back into the studio and recorded them. I put a band together with some friends and we played for a year.

Out of all of the releases that you've been involved in floating around, which would you be most surprised to see someone bring up to you to autograph?
If someone got a hold of one of those eight tracks. That would be impossible. We released ten eight tracks of our second live show as The Wildbunch. No one has those. That would be the most surprising.

What's the possibility of any of The Wildbunch catalogue being re-recorded as Electric Six?
It depends. I write so many songs and everyone does as well. Tait's a music machine. John Nash, although he's only written one song, is a genius. Everyone in the band is more interested in coming up with new stuff. I was thinking about the song Take me to Your Leader. If we were to do one, that would be it. That's a pretty cool song.

What role do you think critics should play in people's consumption of music?
It's hard to say. I've been burned so many times. One of my favorite bands is The Magnetic Fields and I read a review about how bad they were live. I took it to heart, didn't go, and my friends said it was the best show they'd ever seen. It's a good way to find out what's out there, but I don't think about it too much.

How do you feel about the popularity of the band world wide?
I consider our band to be in a very fortunate position. We don't sell a lot of records, but we're the sort of band that people stick with. We're on the road so much and it's not uncommon for us to see the same people at four or five shows. We're generating a cult following that way. I'm talking to you right now and the world's biggest Electric Six fan two years from now hasn't even heard of us yet.

Are there any stories of hell-gigs or adventures on the road that you can share?
The line up we have now, we're pretty milk and cookies people. The one I can think of is when we took a big money gig to play Carlton College in Minneapolis. It was a one-time deal. You do an entire five-week tour and everything's fine with your vehicle, but when we drove to Minnesota everything that could go wrong did. Our alternator ran out in the middle of a severe thunderstorm and we had to run through the treacherous waters for half an hour to the next town before the battery shop closed. We were covered in mud and shit. Then, the next day, the trailer fell apart on us. We still made it to play the show. The best part was when we made it to the show and there was no alcohol. It was an alcohol free zone. That was the only show I've played completely sober. That's the worst.

What do you and the band like to do after a performance?
We like to chill out for a second. A lot of time, we like to go out and party. In as much as we party.

In our previous interview, you mentioned that Electric Six was available to hire for weddings, birthday parties, and other gatherings. Is that still the case?
That is. We're actually playing an event in LA in the middle of the next tour. They made it worth our while. We're going to play our show in Boston, fly to LA to do the event, and then fly back to do our show in DC.

In the past, you've been the start of many a rumor. Would you like to start one now?
I look back at where I was and look at where I am now and I'm a very happy man. I don't need to go make those things up anymore. I'll let the rumors take care of themselves.

Are there any under appreciated albums that you'd like to recommend to the readers?
The Infoitainment Scan by The Fall.

Electric Six will be playing at The Warsaw in Brooklyn on July 13th, at the Bowery Ballroom on September 16th, and Maxwell's, of Hoboken on September 18th.