WHAT: Electric Six, with Birthday Boys and Tommy Honest & the Liars
WHEN: Wednesday, March 23, 9 p.m.
Dick Valentine is a sucker for good melody. That's all that matters. And intelligent lyrics. Those help too. He's never been a sucker for "guitar tones" or "Fenders" or "Rickenbackers" or whatever the kids are talking about.
"I'm interested in if the song is entertaining and whether there is a cool melody going on," says Valentine.
"That's how I've always approached it."
So, yes, he treats songwriting like a blue collar worker might - get the job done, never mind the frills. So it's fitting that Valentine -vocalist and founder of the Detroit six-piece Electric Six -is speaking to Pique on a stroll through Madison, WI. It's a quiet Monday evening -a little too quiet in fact, in light of the Wisconsin Union Bill and the resulting civil unrests. He's a political junky of sorts.
It's been hard to be an American and not be glued to the political programming given the past decade, with George W. at the helm.
"It's a shit show," says Valentine. "Watching the way its been portrayed on television for the last decade, it's great fodder for writing music," he says.
At the time, he couldn't believe any of it was happening and his music dealt with this bewilderment head on. In "Rock and Roll Evacuation," from their 2005 album Senor Smoke, Valentine sings, "Mr. President make a little money sending people you don't know to Iraq, Mr. President I don't like you, you don't know how to rock."
That's about as political as Electric Six has ever been, possibly ever will be, for they have concerned themselves mostly with issues of fast food, fire and gay bars.
But there comes a time when every man must face the demons within and outside of themselves, and Bush seemed to Valentine, like a lot of Americans, exactly what had gone awry about the world.
Things are good for him now and his band. He's happy to have "a good job," which is an understatement. Travelling the world playing shows and making people dance, can be deemed a "damn good job."
Back home though, in Detroit, which has been on the steady decline for the better part of two decades, it's been depressing to witness.
But on the other hand, on the selfish hand, it's been great for the music and arts community.
"It's a very unique city. The fact that the rent is so cheap there and it keeps getting cheaper and cheaper, it bodes well for artists and musicians because they're not very good at making money a lot of the time. Selfishly, it's great, but it is frustrating watching people go three or four years without work."
Electric Six found success with their single "Danger! High Voltage!" particularly in the U.K. It garnered further attention when a rumour circulated that Jack White from the White Stripes sang backup on the track, which has still been neither confirmed nor denied.
"I've never figured it out. I can't say one way or the other. I don't know," says Valentine, and it's clear that he's asked that question by every reporter that interviews him.
What's clear is Electric Six have perfected the craft of writing three-minute high-energy, humour-afflicted glam-rock songs in a way that only the U.K. music press could have loved at first and reviled afterward.
Following the success of "Danger! High Voltage!" and its accompanying album, Fire, the band fell from favour with their second album, and eventually fell off the radar of hip kids everywhere. Instead, they became a regular touring band, roaming the Earth rather than the fame-inflicted stratosphere, packing clubs and making them dance with music guided by the spirit of Devo. Yes Devo. Valentine loves his Devo.
"Oh man, coming from Akron, Ohio in the mid-1970s and doing what they're doing with the synthesizers?" he laughs. "I'm really proud.
"I think the mid-West has produced some great music and there's something about growing up here that gives you a cynicism."
He says that when kids start bands in the mid-West, they grow up thinking "making it" in a rock band could never happen.
Devo, then the Flaming Lips, and later the White Stripes have been these weird exceptions to a rule made up by the locals themselves, who hold these bands as beacons from down in their rut.
Valentine was at the White Stripes's first show and no one in that room had any idea that they would become, well, the White Stripes.
But it happens.
Electric Six now make a living playing shows on a nightly basis that are more fun than you'll likely see in a month.