“Are you feeling OK?” asks Electric 6’s front man Dick Valentine as I sit dribbling into my deep fried prawns at Wagamama’s in Camden.
“Just a wee bit hungover,” I mutter back forcing down some green tea that Dick has promised is de-toxifying.
Not the best of situations to be in when you are expected to interview one of the most surreal bands around but Electric 6 have been most friendly and helpful in nursing me out of my evil headache. They have also been taking silly photographs of themselves with my digital camera.
Electric 6 have been on a whirlwind trip of Europe (“a smorgasbord of culture”, as Dick describes) covering major cities such as Amsterdam, Stockholm and Paris.
“The experience of Paris was what I imagined being in a band would be like when I was a kid.” guitarist Surge Joebot recalls. “A lot of action, a lot of violence, basically rock and roll.”
It’s the last night of the tour and the band will be gracing the stage at the appropriately named Electric Ballroom in a few hours. After playing a fistful of sold out dates across Europe why haven’t this Detroit sextet caught our attention before?
“We’ve been a band for about five years but I guess it’s taken ‘Danger! High Voltage!’ to get us noticed,” says Surge.
Ah, yes that song. ‘Danger! High Voltage!’ has been the surprise smash hit of 2003 reaching a prestigious chart placing of No. 2 in the UK due to excessive playing of that video. Unless you have been living in a coal bunker for the last six months you couldn’t have failed to notice the Chris Morris look-alike, Dick Valentine, with his impressive lit up crotch and passionate clinch with a woman old enough to be his mother. But how on earth do you come up with such an odd concept?
“I wouldn’t say the video was inspired by anything as such, we just wanted an element of sex,” says Valentine. “But not the type of sex anyone would enjoy!”
“I wouldn’t show it to my parents,” laughs Surge Joebot.
And the lighting up private parts?
“It was pretty basic, just a cup and wires running up my thigh. It got pretty hot and during the first take the wires burnt a hole through the cup and I heard this panicked voice shouting ‘He’s smoking!’”
On the strength of the trashy nu-disco hit, Electric 6 appeared on mainstream television shows such as CD:UK and Top of the Pops but being an underground band thrust so quickly into the limelight you might assume that they felt out of their depth.
“If we could do TV shows every night in lieu of touring I would be a happy man. You get to meet genuine celebrities, everybody is good at what they do and everything is so organised.”
“I had candlewax on my suit and these women just took it into a room and when they brought it out there was no more wax on it. How the hell do you do that?” wonders Surge, clearly impressed.
For a band that have a clearly schizophrenic sound ranging from punk rock to Village People style disco, it’s intriguing to hear the band discuss who they would most like to collaborate with and it’s clear that their roots remain firmly in pop.
“Definitely Sophie Ellis-Bextor – she’s great,” says Dick. “It would be great to cover that t.A.T.u song though, or maybe even Kylie.”
“Kylie has been done to death though, who else could we cover?”
‘Bootylicious’ by Destiny’s Child?
“Yeah! That would be great – watch this space!”
It would be easy to presume that the phenomenonal success of ‘Danger! High Voltage’ is just a one-off. A one hit wonder. But after seeing this band live and the crowd’s reaction to every song played your opinion may well change. The raw energy on-stage, the manic feeling that the performance could go either way is magical. It is, in short, rock ‘n roll at it’s best.
Along with Queen cover, ‘Radio Ga Ga’, new single ‘Gay Bar’ is a particular crowd favourite which bodes well for Electric 6. Do the band worry about not hitting the high mark with this single?
“I’m just hoping it gets released!” jokes Surge.
“In terms of chart position, I’m not bothered,” says Dick.
So what does 2003 hold for the band?
“Touring. We will be touring constantly around the world doing all the festivals as well as extensive tours in the UK and America.”
So, as my hangover receded and I played our conversations over in my head I concluded that the Electric 6 are in no way as surreal and difficult to interview as I had presumed. They are welcoming, down to Earth individuals enjoying their new- found fame and by the time the interview was over I felt as if I had made a whole bunch of friends.
“Look – Heather Graham is coming to our aftershow party, man!” says Surge to a backstage loiterer, pointing at me.
I, however, do not see the resemblance but decide ‘what the hell’ as Surge continues to praise my recent performance in ‘From Hell’ as we walk to the aftershow party.