Electric Six frontman Tyler Spencer, aka Dick Valentine, will be the first to tell you that this wild and wacky experiment was never supposed to last. When the Detroit disco-rock troupe formed in 1996 as the Wildbunch, they were seen by many as a novelty at worst, a party band at best.
Many, many members and 22 years later, the band is arguably going stronger than ever. They have 16 albums in the arsenal, with a 17th on the way this year. And sure, the days of international hits singles such as “Danger! High Voltage” and “Gay Bar” might be behind them, but mainstream global adoration has been replaced with the sort of cool factor that comes with rock & roll longevity.
That they’ve never gone away, that artistically they’ve developed into a tight-knit, truly unique hard rock unit, speaks volumes for the under-appreciated talent behind Spencer’s deceptively sleepy eyes. The man has had his demons in the past, but in 2018 he’s a force of nature. In fact, for the past few years the Electric Six has been putting out two albums per year.
“The whole idea of spending many months on one album doesn’t work for us,” Spencer says. “With the first few records, we didn’t have access to the sort of home recording technology that we do now.”
That’s quite a thing to consider: The only thing stopping the Electric Six’s prolific nature in the early days was the fact that the technology wasn’t keeping up with them. Now that they can turn out one album after another, they do.
Here’s the thing though—an E6 album is always good and usually great. This isn’t some conveyor belt of garbage, churned out at regular intervals to keep their modest but still enviable fanbase happy and spending. Rather, this is an artist, working with a group of great musicians, creating awesome rock ‘n‘ roll.
Spencer’s charming in conversation; he speaks rapidly and articulately, like a drilled professional, but he’s simultaneously never anything less than polite, and witty. Still, the most noticeable thing when talking to him is how much he wants to talk about what he’s doing now, rather than dwelling on the past, When we ask him about the How Dare You album, released in October of last year (just six months ago), he takes a second to say that he’s happy with the reaction, but quickly moves onto the next project. Which happens to be called A Very Electric SiXmas & Chill Out.
“We’re running a Kickstarter campaign,” Spencer says. “The first half of the album is a Christmas record, the second is a live acoustic album. It’ll only be available to the people who back it. Making the acoustic record is actually some of the most fun I’ve had on a stage.”
2018 looks like being a busy year for the band, as usual. They’ll be headlining festivals in Europe during the summer, meaning that Spencer’s annual trip to the UK and Ireland for a solo tour will have to be postponed. Before that, they come to Tucson. Spencer says he always has a great time here, and that’s reflected in the set.
“We have to play ‘Danger! High Voltage,’ ‘Gay Bar,’ and ‘Dance Commander,” he says. “We’ll play a couple of new ones. It’ll be a great time in Tucson, as ever.”
Electric Six plays with Northern Faces at 8 p.m. on Monday, April 2 at the Rialto Theatre; 318 E. Congress St., Tucson; 520-740-1000; $9-$15; 21+.