The Mystechs define everything that is great about pop. Think Roxy Music, Adam Ant, Bowie and all the great purveyors of trashy glam pop. Add a record collection where you're as likely to find drum and bass and hip-hop sitting beside country music and polka. Then mix in lyrics with the sort of political doctrines you expect Marilyn Manson or Rage Against The Machine to spit out in ready-made sound bites. Welcome to the greatest pop band of 2003!!!
Q: The world of the Mystechs - a world where you can
be anything you want and can do anything you want. What was the original
concept when you formed the band?
A: When the Mystechs first started, I was simply trying to incorporate electronica sounds into pop/rock songs. Since then, we've gotten a bit too ambitious for our own good, and the project has become our pathetic attempt to create epic, Beatles/Floyd/Flaming Lips-style high-production pop, using synthesizers and samplers to make up for the fact that we have zero recording budget. Unfortunately, the results often sound like The Little Casio That Could coming to the painful realization that, no matter how hard it tries, it just can't.
Nonetheless, I believe – or I hope – that there's something
amusing about our delusions - how we try to be the pop music equivalent
of Cecil B. Demille, but end up more like Ed Wood.
Q: Most bands don't even have an idea what makes a
truly great pop group. But I can imagine you spent as much time preparing
the make-up and sound bites as you did on the music. Was this the case
- pop theorizing on a grand scale?
A: Guilty as charged. Prior to forming the Mystechs, I was making really bizarre instrumental music intended more to fuddle the minds of druggies than to entertain the masses. But after cranking out six cassettes’ worth, I got bored and thought "Why not take a stab at pop, just for the hell of it?"
Approaching the subject as an outsider, it was obvious that more went into a pop phenomenon than just good music. The myths and legends surrounding Led Zeppelin, Tupac, and Nirvana are wonderfully entertaining even when taken apart from their actual body of work. Prince and Bowie would be fascinating as fashion icons, even if they weren't incredibly talented musicians. And don't get me started on Pink Floyd and Miles Davis’ cover art.
More recently, bands like Psychic TV, the KLF, and the
Sex Pistols (well, Malcolm McLaren) have shown how all aspects of an artists
"package" can be manipulated to subversive effect. What I wanted to do
was create a mythos around the Mystechs that could be appreciated on both
levels: one that would be sincere and compelling at face value, but also
have a knowing, post-modern layer to it. Have our cake and eat it, too
Q: Were you always attracted to bands that looked as
good as they sounded?
A: If you're asking whether I've ever harboured a secret thing for David Bowie, then… yes, always.
Q: The one thing we have to stress about the Mystechs
is it's not just frivolity and throwaway pop. There are political doctrines
masquerading as lyrics and you add an intelligence to the world of pop.
Were you sick of relying on rock stars such as Rage and Marilyn Manson
for your political message and wanted to put political messages with, for
want of a better phrase, tunes the milkman can whistle?
A: I guess it's just a matter of personal interests. Politics gets my brain cells sparking in ways that romance doesn't. Don't get me wrong… sex is fun, and love is fulfilling, but not so much as to justify how over-represented those subjects are in popular – and, to some extent, underground - music.
Call me a party-pooper, but you'd think the fact that tens of millions of people are dying of AIDS in Africa for want of medicine that Europe and the US could provide for free if not for corporate greed might merit a note or two's consideration. Ditto the fact that American-equipped and –trained soldiers slaughter thousands of people every year just so Exxon can its hands on a few more oil fields to keep our SUVs’ tanks topped off. That people in the first world, particularly Americans, can just sit around and fixate on who's sleeping with Jennifer Lopez or the adventures of Joe Millionaire while billions suffer and die to keep us comfortable is – well – terrifying.
But that's just my worthless opinion.
While I have this soapbox, big ups to The Coup, Anti-Flag, Ani DiFranco, Corporate Avenger, Ember Swift, One Minute Silence… and, yes, Rage for creating intelligent, political music. And, for the record, I think Marilyn Manson’s a genius.
Q: "Showtime At The Apocalypse" is the bands 4th album.
For most of us guys over in the UK who won't have heard the first 3 albums
how have you progressed and what did you want to do on this album which
hadn't been done before?
A: Since the Mystechs began, the band has evolved almost beyond recognition, so check out previous albums at your own risk. As for Showtime at the Apocalypse, one of my goals was to make "electronic arena rock". I figured that, if we make music that sounds like it belongs in an arena, then who knows? Maybe we'll magically find ourselves playing one… Of course, given this is a no-budget operation, the whole thing wound up sounding more appropriate for a fishbowl than a stadium.
Q: The last electro pop band to make an impact in the
UK were Fischerspooner. What do you think of the whole electroclash scene?
A: I love Fischerspooner, though more as an art stunt / Broadway musical than as a band. As much as I tried to get into it, their music has never interested me much on its own (Giorgio Moroder and the Sparks did the same thing better 20 years ago). But the whole audio-visual spectacle that Fischerspooner have built around their music is mind-blowing. They've taken a subversive, post-punk/queer aesthetic that you usually only encounter in music and comic books and applied it to everything from fashion design to choreography. Hopefully they'll inspire others artists to start taking a more "punk" approach to stagnant art forms. In the meantime, Fischerspooner shouldn't even bother releasing CDs, just DVDs.
As for "electroclash" in general… That fad/scene did bring
much-deserved attention to some worthy bands (props to Soviet, I Am The
World Trade Center, and Peaches) and raised interest in electronic pop
in general. On the downside it nearly set the whole cause of advancing
electronic music as an art form back twenty years. Too many of the bands
involved played up to Reagan/Thatcher-era stereotypes about electronic
music (vapid, superficial, mechanistic, materialistic) giving the whole
thing the feel of a Gary Numan minstrel show. It's probably for the best
that that the scene has generally remained quarantined in New York, London,
Paris, Berlin, and LA.
Q: When can we expect a visit over from the Mystechs
in the UK and could you tell us a little about the bands live shows?
A: The live shows are insane, if I do say so myself. We come out in full costume and makeup, but by the end of the night we're usually half-stripped, with most of the makeup sweated off. I climb on things, Nick goes out into the audience and sometimes brings people back to the stage with him. If we see something at a gas station or grocery store on our way to a show, like a toy spark gun or a bubble machine, we'll work it into the act - whatever we can do to hold people's attention, short of humiliating ourselves. Once we brought a grill onstage, cooked hamburgers, and handed them out to people in the crowd (we were lucky enough to have a crowd that night). Sometimes the audience catches the spirit, other times they recoil in fear or disgust - we generally fare better with teenagers than "adults". But what's most gratifying is when, at the end of the show, someone walks up and says "You know what - even without all the theatrics, you guys have some really great songs!"
As for playing overseas, we'll hit the UK the instant
we can afford to - well, maybe right after we do Japan and Korea. Part
of me would love to hop on a jet with my synthesizer under one arm, our
laptop in the other, and two costume changes in our carry-on bags and go
do a European tour, finances be damned. However, plane tickets and Eurorail
passes cost money that we don't have, as do motel rooms and meals. But
if anyone on your side of the pond could help us out with some bookings,
accommodations, and a guarantee sufficient to cover travel expenses, we'll
drop whatever were doing and fly out immediately.
Q: Finally, the world should embrace the Mystechs because...?
A: Because if the whole world literally embraced us, we'd all get in the Guinness Book for Biggest Group Hug. And wouldn't that be nice?
"Showtime At The Apocalypse" is out now on Omega Records
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