There can’t be many people of a certain age that don’t love the drama of ‘Danger, Danger, High Voltage!’ and the fun that is involved in the music of Electric Six, but this is a band that has been releasing albums since 1995, fifteen to date with another on the way. Live performance is part of their DNA and like most bands that are brilliant live, like Skunk Anansie for instance, they are still around because of how stunning they are live. Seeing this band strut their stuff on stage is a bucket list must and happily for us we have the chance to do that in Cornwall in the Summer at ‘The Great Estate’ festival. Lots of bands sound good live but this band look good and guarantee enjoyment, something we all desperately need after the tumult of the last few years.
The Great Estate will be happening across the weekend of 2-5th June and Electric Six will be there singing songs from their new album and hits from over 25 years of music making. The festival boasts that it is the most rambunctious garden fete and will feature E6, of course, The Manic Street Preachers, Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Melle Mel’s Furious 5 along with Scorpio, Craig Charles, DJ Yoda and much more. Set within the grounds of Scorrier Estate in Cornwall, this is an award winning boutique family festival which is now in its glorious fifth year. 2022 will see it bigger than ever with an increased capacity of 10,000 guests across the 4-day jubilee weekend. Bursting at the seams with live music, quality entertainment and lots of fun fringe things to do, The Great Estate promises to be a festival for all ages and the presence of Electric Six can only make it a more exciting affair. Danger! Danger! High Voltage!
I was lucky enough to chat with Tyler Spencer, the lead singer of Electric Six who talked with me about the music, his style and being inspired by some surprising eighties icons as well as Duran Duran. The world of music would be a much more boring place without bands like Electric Six and surely that can only make them super cool. Read the interview and let me know what you think.
EP: Hi Tyler, how you doing?
TS: I’m great, where you at?
EP: I’m in Kent, England. Not that far from London…
TS: I’m trying to think where we played in Kent….Ramsgate?
EP: Yes…down on the coast. It’s cool.
TS: It was amazing. Yeah, it was a lot of fun. It was one of the smallest venues we’ve played in a long time. I mean, that’s just great. You just want to pack a bunch of people into a really small room and see what happens.
EP: There are some really cool iconic venues down there with a lot of history. There’s a good one in Hastings called the Crypt which should suit you guys; so many bands played it back in the day. Snow Patrol, Coldplay, Kasabian….
TS: Oh yeah, we are very familiar with that one too.
EP: So the new album is the first material for four years. What can fans expect from ‘Born to be Ridiculed’?
TS: First of all, we’re not a hundred percent sure that’s the title of the album; that’s the name of the tour, but might not be the title of the album. It could be the title of the album; it’s a finalist but we’ll see. We’re trying to work all that out. As far as the album goes, I mean, I love it. It’s so poppy. It’s really catchy. It’s got like three or four numbers that, you know, if there was the proper juice and funding behind us, could be worldwide number ones, I think, but you’ve got to have money and NFTs, NTFs and crypto and Saudis and the Chinese. Everyone has to make that happen and right now we’re pretty far down on the list, on the pecking order in all that.
EP: The way that music is consumed now has really changed. Even in the time since your last new music, it’s a completely different animal. It must be a really weird world to release new music into?
TS: I know. We’re used to it because we never stop releasing material or touring and the reason it’s taken four years for us to do a studio album has less to do with COVID or anything and more to do with us all having kids. So, we’re slowing down, we’re working at a slower pace. We were go go go; you make album after album, tour after tour and then you look back and you realize we don’t have to do this like this anymore, we’ve proved our point so we’ll just release albums when they’re ready and when it’s time. I think we’re done doing an album a year. But, we stay on the road quite a bit because we enjoy it and love travelling and getting out there and all of us have friends all over the world now; the best part of touring is catching up with people that you made friends with.
EP: Do you take your families on tour these days or do you leave those guys behind?
TS: They come sometimes. A lot of them come in for surgical strikes; if there’s a festival or something, I guess. But, they’re not gonna get on the road for two weeks through Omaha, Des Moines, you know, Indianapolis. They’re not gonna do that.
EP: So, the festival that you’re playing this year, ‘The Great Estate’ in June, is going to be perfect for you guys because it’s a really family oriented festival, good music, good food, lots going on apart from the music. I bet you guys can’t wait to start to play festivals again?
TS: Yeah, never been to Cornwall before so that’ll be exciting. I’ve heard great things. I see the Cornwall Pasty Company everywhere; outside of every services, like on the M4 or whatever. So I’m really interested in trying the actual pasties. With festivals, we will maybe do one a year, two a year, maybe three a year tops. I think we’re doing three this year. So when you’re at the festival, you just take it all in; you enjoy it because a week later we might be at The Crypt in Hastings or something like it (laughing). So, actually, you have to just enjoy it while you’re there.
EP: It’s obvious that enjoying the music and the whole package of where you’re playing is important to you. How have you kept in touch with your fan base during the pandemic; obviously with families and things, I guess you guys would have been locked down, so how have you kept in touch with each other, as a band and how have you kept the music alive in the last couple years?
TS: The easy one, as a band via cell phone. That’s the easy one. As far as fans go, obviously social media; we did three or four streaming shows based out of Detroit, where you could buy an online ticket and that’s a lot of fun. It was unique; we talked about that. We thought we’ll keep doing these after we can actually properly tour again. But, as of now, there’s no plans to do another one, but it was fun. The one we did for Halloween 2020 was one of my favourite shows ever.
EP: It really was a completely different way to access your fans and for fans to access your music, but I’m not sure how many artists will actually end up continuing to do that…
TS: Yeah, this is not necessarily E6, but I personally discovered a website called stage.com where I can just play acoustic sets out of my bedroom and, you know, charge a ticket price for that and I’m gonna do it as long as I can because it’s so much fun and you can just be sitting on your couch thinking yeah, I’m gonna play a show right now, you could do it; to me, that’s awesome and I would never have had access to that before the pandemic.
EP: I guess a lot of people don’t realise that you guys have been playing since ‘95. Early on you took the decision to have pseudonyms, stage names if you like. Was that just a bit of fun or do you all have alter egos?
TS: It’s a bit of fun. Like a lot of things, it was just a whim. It was let’s have stage names because they’re slightly cooler than your real name. Most people get it. But, every now and then people do think that there’s some great psychological shift going on and when you go on stage, you become a different person. To some degree, maybe you do but nothing that this band has ever done has really been thought through.
ES: That’s surely one of the things that is attractive about E6, isn’t it? It’s such a fun band as well. The music’s great, but it’s a lot of fun.
TS: It’s funny. I went down the YouTube rabbit hole, as you do, and I came across one of the first known Duran Duran interviews from, like, 1980 and they’re so young and everything. And they asked them “what do you hope to achieve as a band?” and they say “it’s like almost all the bands right now are political aren’t they? They stand up on the soapbox? It’s all a bit boring, isn’t it? We just want to have fun!” and that’s exactly where we’re at, you know, same thing. Everything’s a cycle. When you emerge as a band that kind of sets the tone for how you’re gonna be your whole career.
EP: That’s why the Duran Duran videos are always on a yacht in the Caribbean (laughing)
TS: I know, the epitome of the 80s, these lads from Birmingham….I’ve always been a big fan so I agree with what they do.
EP: With that in mind, ‘Streets of Gold’, the covers album was a hugely eclectic mix of songs. How on earth did you choose the songs and just out of curiosity, who came up with the idea of covering the James Ingram classic ‘Yah Mo Be There’?
TS: I think there are 12 tracks on the record and everyone in the band picked two. The thing was that this was proposed to us by the record company. It wasn’t our idea. They were just like “we’d like you to do a covers record because what we do is we place these songs into movies and television” and so there’s a whole economic formula behind it. They came to us and they presented us with an offer we couldn’t refuse and each person picked two songs. You know, there was no rhyme or reason to it, it’s a collection of songs and our bass player Rob Lower picked ‘Yah Mo Be There’ and essentially they then said they wanted us to do a video and nobody had a concept. I had this loose concept laying around; it didn’t have anything to do with ‘Yah Mo Be There’ but I was looking through thinking what song does this work with the least, what is the most juxtaposition musically, and with ‘Yah Mo Be There’, it’s so stupid, it’s so ridiculous and that’s why we did that.
EP: It’s interesting you should say that about the concept of the video because your videos kind of always fly in the face of what people would expect. Has the increasing need to be politically correct made it more difficult to be creative, more avant-garde? Or as E6, do you laugh in the face of political correctness?
TS: I don’t know that. You know there’s the morning shock jocks, the guys who base their whole shtick on being politically incorrect and they’re proud of it and every now and then I get pressed in with them and they just assume I’m a kindred spirit. I’m not at all like that; I actually f***ing loathe that sh*t. But I don’t get hung up on that or feel like I have to push back against anything. I mean I understand why political correctness and stuff exists; I don’t wake up to punch down on people at all. At the same time, I think if you can pursue it correctly and have a good time with it and make sure you’re not really offending anybody and make sure everybody’s in on the joke, then it can work. Again, I’d always just go back to the fact that we just don’t really think through a whole lot of stuff before we do it.
EP: I think you hit the nail on the head. I think that something I’ve noticed with the E6 music that I’ve followed over the years is that as a fan, you feel like you’re part of an exclusive fun club.
TS: Yeah. I mean, we’re unique. I’ve never been a cool rock and roller. I’ve never owned a jean jacket. That’s the thing, you get into the music scene in your 20’s and those people are kind of rebelling against being the jocks, but then like I got in the music scene and I was still the outsider because I’m not cool. I look like Tom Hanks, you know. I’ve never been cool ever and I think with Electric Six, there’s so many people who feel like they’ve never been cool and people start bands and think “I’m finally cool” and now you get to be cool because we’re off. But, we’re never gonna be cool and that’s just our own thing and nobody has aspired to be Electric Six ever. There’s never been a band that’s come up and said “oh, you’re just like us”, they don’t because we’re not cool, nobody wants to be us. So we’ve had that market cornered for 20 years.
EP: I think you guys have always been cool (laughing)
TS: Okay, so there you go (laughing along)
EP: So Tyler, you already mentioned that you’re a big fan of Duran Duran, were you influenced by the eighties UK music scene? Was that something that fired the E6 sound? Who were your main inspirations?
TS: I think ‘Rio’ was the first album I ever bought. I mean, I love that. That was a thing; we wear suits because I’ve just always found bands who wear suits are just the one extra level up, you know, it sounds like ‘Spinal Tap’ “it’s one more level, you know” (in an English accent). You put on a suit, you’re doing something; you’re not turning up in a t-shirt or something like that and so now we have to go on tour with suits because of that but it’s fun. I love that kind of super smooth 80s idea: Hoddle & Waddle, Duran Duran. That’s the look I’m going for.
EP: I can’t believe you came up with Hoddle & Waddle (laughing)
TS: I’m a Spurs fan, man.
EP: So am I, we can suffer the highs and lows together. So, apart from being inspired by the style of Hoddle and Waddle, what’s the direction now for E6. I know you said you don’t think things through very much, but with the new album coming out I guess there’s a tour going along with the album apart from the festivals?
TS: You know that we’re on tour so much and when we book tours I don’t personally look at the tour as being part of an album at this point. If there’s a new album, it will be on sale at this tour we’ve already booked but you know we have 15 albums so, it’s so many, you know, sometimes you go to our show and you won’t even find our albums because we just run out of them and we’re too lazy to buy more, or something like that. But, you know, you’re understanding that (laughing) I’m very beta, maybe theta, zeta, I just don’t care. So, just one day at a time. (English accent) “Put me trousers on, let’s have a go, let’s see if it works”. If it doesn’t, you know, I’ll go back to what I did 20 years ago, and I can’t remember what that was.
EP: Just to finish, it’s been an absolute pleasure talking to you Tyler. I’ve loved your music for many years and I hope it goes on for a long time to continue. Have you got any London dates lined up apart from the festival stuff?
TS: I believe we’re playing Nambucca in early June. Let’s say, June 2nd, I could be off by a couple days but that’s in that area.
EP: Okay, perfect. I’ll look you guys up and come to see that, great venue. The new album sounds great, so I’ll look forward to hearing that when it drops.
TS: Oh yeah, I feel pretty good about it. It’s sounding great.
EP: Any idea of a release date Tyler?
TS: (laughing) I don’t know, the album is 95% done, it’ll come out when it comes out and again I just don’t care! (laughing)
EP: …. and on that bombshell! Great to talk to you, man.
TS: Yeah, thank you.