On The Line with Tait Nucleus? of Electric Six

Electric Six is one of the most creative and eclectic bands of this generation. And such a band deserves a great keyboardist. That’s where the great Tait Nucleus? comes in. Having been a member of the Detroit band since 2002, I was excited to talk all things Electric Six with him. And a good time too, the band has a lot of exciting projects at the moment, including the release of Human Zoo on October 14th.

Alex Obert: So where are you most looking forward to playing on the one week US leg of this tour?

Tait Nucleus?: The Black Cat, definitely. It’s in Washington D.C. An old friend of mine did sound there for years, so it feels a little bit like a home away from home. Plus I have friends and family in the D.C. area.

Alex Obert: I understand that Electric Six won’t be going to the Middle East in Cambridge this time around, rather the Brighton Music Hall in Allston.

Tait Nucleus?: No, we’re not going to the Middle East. I love the Middle East, I love the people that work there, I love the food especially. But it’s a welcome break because we have been playing there literally for twelve years every year, sometimes twice a year. I’m curious to see what the Brighton Music Hall has to offer and what the difference is. We played in Akron this week, first time we’ve ever done that. And it’s not because we dislike the Grog Shop, which is a place in Cleveland, it was something new for a change. We’ve been doing this for a long, long time, so any change is refreshing.

Alex Obert: What are your thoughts on playing in New York City this week?

Tait Nucleus?: I go to New York City pretty often. I have another project with a friend there. New York City’s just fine with me. I’m looking forward to playing Brooklyn and Manhattan, that doesn’t always happen.

Alex Obert: On these tour dates, are you planning any songs off of Human Zoo?

Tait Nucleus?: Aw yeah! We come prepared. We’ve already got Horseshit in the setlist. We’ve got Karate Lips and we’ve got a surprise in the middle of Improper Dancing. People are just gonna have to show up to figure out what that is.

Alex Obert: What did you guys decide to take off on the setlist this year to make room for the new songs?

Tait Nucleus?: Well the set list is ever rotating, so songs come and go. Some nights we don’t play Witchy Women, some nights we don’t play Show Me What Your Lights Mean, some nights we don’t play Synthesizer or Dance Commander. Shit comes and goes, so there’s always room for new stuff on the setlist.

Alex Obert: How did it come about that band performs Gay Bar Part 2 after Gay Bar at shows?

Tait Nucleus?: A long time ago at a festival far, far away, it was the summer after Gay Bar came out. I believe it was 2004. An interviewer asked us, “So you’ve had all this success with Gay Bar, what’s next?” And it was like, “Well, Gay Bar Part 2 because if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And with the setlist, people come to hear Gay Bar, but they deserve an extra treat, don’t they? They’ve trailed from their homes, so give them an extra treat and that’s Gay Bar Part 2.

Alex Obert: What is your favorite track off of the live Electric Six album from 2012, Absolute Pleasure?

Tait Nucleus?: My favorite off of that album is Future Is in the Future because I love Dick Valentine’s rant in the middle. But also, it’s a little self-indulgent, and that part which is the middle of the song, we usually like to dick around and pay tribute to other people. And so currently while he’s doing his rant, we’re doing a song by Herbie Hancock, we’re doing Cruel Summer by Bananarama, and we’re doing Popcorn by Hot Butter. And so that during that particular recording, we were doing the Herbie Hancock song and I was also doing a Smiths song which is one of my favorites. It’s called There Is a Light That Never Goes Out, it’s a little juxtaposition there, but it was a tribute to one of my favorite bands that has been sealed and recorded forever. It’s all thanks to Bill Kozy and First Avenue in Minneapolis.

Alex Obert: You mention playing covers, but what is your opinion on the Electric Six cover of Queen’s Radio Ga Ga? I was surprised that the music video turned out to be so controversial.

Tait Nucleus?: Queen is a band that the British hold near and dear to their heart, kind of overdramatically, as they often do. All I can say is we had a good time on it. I loved playing it, people loved it over there. And whoever hated it so much certainly wasn’t at the shows because people went crazy for it. And their guitarist loved it too. I know Roger Taylor was not a fan, the drummer from Queen. But Brian May said a print that he thought our cover was great. So there ya go.

Alex Obert: Would you ever consider re-recording Fire? I know a lot of bands like to revisit their classic work and re-record it sometimes for whatever the reason may be.

Tait Nucleus?: When I was growing up, some of my favorite artists were Ricky Nelson and Roy Orbison. And those guys had songs that you just couldn’t create the sound from in the late fifties and early sixties. They managed to ruin their own songs by re-recording them in the seventies and eighties. And as a result, I had to bust my ass as a kid looking for those original recordings amidst a sea of terrible covers of artists’ own songs. It was awful, it was a mess. If it didn’t have a Rhino sticker on it, I couldn’t trust it to be purchased. Rhino was the only label that actually released the original good recordings. So, no, the plan is not to defile any of the classics that people have come to love.

Alex Obert: With the Kickstarter for Mimicry And Memories, how do you feel it all went?

Tait Nucleus?: My take is it went swimmingly and I’ll tell you why, Alex. Our manager has a real knack for organizing data, coming up with crafty packages and ideas, and presenting them in a very professional fashion on Kickstarter. As a result, it makes us look that much better. And as a result of that, it makes people want to buy it that much more. That’s the whole point to begin with. I’m certainly pleased.

Alex Obert: Did you have input in any of the pledge prizes? Was any particular one your idea?

Tait Nucleus?: Yeah, actually. I am a music programmer during the day, that’s my day job. This is my night job. And so the manager and I came together and decided to present a package where I would lay out playlists for people depending upon what mood they are in, what activities they were doing, if they wanted a mixed bag, whatever their pleasure. And we sold quite a few of ’em. I think we sold like fifteen of them, so I’m looking forward to making those.

Alex Obert: Upon joining Electric Six in 2002, how did you come up with your stage name?

Tait Nucleus?: The stage name was put together by our old guitarist and a band named Peelander-Z. Peelander-Z is a Japanese punk band and every time they would address me, they would end the sentence with a question. So it would be like, “Hey, you look really good today, Tait?” It was kinda broken English, but our guitarist thought it was amazing. He came up with the Nucleus idea in mind and so it all kind of came together. The question mark was because of Peelander-Z, who again is a fantastic Japanese punk band. You have to check them out. There’s humans bowling on stage.

Alex Obert: With your history in the band from 2002 to now, which songs you consider to be your proudest achievements?

Tait Nucleus?: Well, I wrote the music to Vibrator and that was a digital single. So I guess that was a proud moment. I’ll tell you what one of my favorite songs is, which doesn’t really get a mention, it’s the last song on Flashy. It’s called Making Progress. To me, the lyrics and the robotic vocal delivery, everything on that song is spot on. It’s one of my absolute faves.

Alex Obert: With the release of Mustang last year, what’s the story behind the album cover and the jacket?

Tait Nucleus?: You could ask six different people and get six different answers. But the popular story, as far as I know, is that the jacket showed up at Small’s, which is a bar that Da Ve and his wife and some friends own in Hamtramck, which is kind of the E6 headquarters in Detroit. We have a lot of townies in Hamtramck, these are people who just hang out. Some of them are hobos, some of them are just drifters. And the girl on the album cover, her nickname is Shake It Fast. She kind of does her thing around town, whether she’s got earbuds in or whether the call to prayer is going through the air in the middle of the day, she’s dancin’. So she was dancing down the street when we were taking those photos. We brought her into the photoshoot and there ya go. It was just that simple.

Alex Obert: Continuing on with the discussion of Gay Bar, what are your thoughts on the George W. Bush video that went viral?

Tait Nucleus?: I thought that video was a work of genius. There were a lot of videos that came out around the time of that song being released. That was one of them. There was another one with cats flying in the air and singing the song. The more videos people wanna make for our songs, the happier I am.


Alex Obert: Favorite Electric Six song title?

Tait Nucleus?: I’m On A Diet.

Alex Obert: Favorite pledge prize?

Tait Nucleus?: John Nash’s pants.

Alex Obert: Favorite Electric Six music video?

Tait Nucleus?: Making Progress.

Alex Obert: Electric Six song you recommend readers start with?

Tait Nucleus?: Down At McDonnelzzz.

Alex Obert: Favorite Detroit band other than Electric Six?

Tait Nucleus?: R.U.R.

Alex Obert: Album you wish to play in its entirety at a live show aside from Fire?

Tait Nucleus?: Exterminate.

Alex Obert: Celebrity you wish would be in attendance for an Electric Six show?

Tait Nucleus?: Robert Smith.

Alex Obert: Before we wrap up, do you have anything you’d like for readers to check out?

Tait Nucleus?: My other band, Belle Ghoul, is putting out an album in November. Be sure to visit the site for info on the upcoming record.

Alex Obert: In closing, what you have to say to those about to see Electric Six for the first time on this tour?

Tait Nucleus?: Wear a heavy jacket because it’s supposed to get cold by the weekend.

Alex Obert: I would love to thank you so much for your time and I really appreciate it.

Tait Nucleus?: No problem, man!

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Tait Nucleus? (left) with Dick Valentine (right)

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