Interview: Mystechs

posted June 1, 2004

by Corinne

MystechsCare to introduce yourselves?

Nick: Greetings, my name is Nicholas P. Dye III a.k.a “The Wretched Wrangler” a.k.a “Sergeant Rock” a.k.a. “The Kizzard Ling – I can’t do anything, but that doesn’t keep me from trying!”

Emil: And I’m Emil Hyde, and together we are Wyld Sta… I’m sorry, together we are the Mystechs.

Aside from the fact that the Mystechs have released five albums, can you give some background on the band?

Emil: Yes, we do have five albums, but the first three don’t count. The Mystechs began as a nice, normal, female-fronted trip-hop group like Portishead or Esthero. However, I had all these bizarre musical impulses that I just couldn’t contain. I’d be sitting there, working on a track that sounded like early Bjork, and would get an urge to drop in a Slayer guitar riff, for absolutely no reason. From there, the Mystechs gradually devolved into the freakish musical Frankenstein it is today.

I read Nick wasn't an original member; how'd he join?

Emil: Well, one day I was –

Nick: [coughs] I’m sure Emil has a great story, but I can assure you that it’s not the truth. Honestly, a few years ago I was working at a downtown Chicago area print shop, just minding my own business, when all of a sudden this strange guy walks in with an up-to-no-good look on his face, all dressed in his corporate-slave, white-collar-button-up-and-polyester-pants. He’s just standing there in the doorway when I look up from the service counter, and he points at me and shouts “Hey you!” I look up with slight alarm. “Yeah, you punk! Can you sing?” I start to chuckle at this guy’s obnoxious behavior, and the absurdity of his question. He was straight up acting like some villain from a classic kung-fu movie. Out of sheer curiosity, I had to find out what this guy’s deal was. I replied, “Yeah, I guess I can sing.” The next thing I know, I’m running all around the country with this maniac, visiting some of the least-visited cities of America and wreaking havoc on unsuspecting, entertainment-deprived adolescents. I got hooked, myself, and now I can’t get free. It’s cool.

"City Folk" is good album, it really keeps your interest. And, having heard your fourth album, "Showtime at the Apocalypse," I can say you have a "new" sound but, at the soul, it's still the Mystechs. Having released multiple albums, do you consciously try to sound different each album or do you just let what happens happen?

Emil: It’s all a matter of garbage in / garbage out. While recording Showtime, I was listening to a lot of Velvet Underground and early Madonna. For City Folk it was Neil Young, Mekons, and Ice-T. All I can say about the upcoming album is that I’ve been on a Jay-Z/Pere Ubu kick, lately.

Nick: Songwriting is Emil’s territory. It’s not in my job description to write the Mystechs material, though occasionally I might inspire a lyric or two. I am working towards a promotion and a raise, “ahem, ahem”.

Album 6 is already in the works! How's it coming? What can fans expect? The preview of "The South Dakota Gluebag Connection" you have posted on your website is definitely interesting.

Emil: It’s actually very near completion. We’re recording drums tomorrow, the vocals next weekend, and our horn section will be coming into the studio sometime during the week. There’s a lot more ‘live’ instrumentation on this album, mainly because we’ve befriended a lot more ‘live’ instrumentalists in our travels.

Your website also mentions an upcoming DVD. What will it contain and when can we expect that?

Emil: The Mystechs is definitely one of those bands you need to see live to get the full experience. Onstage, the music ferments, losing some of its artsy aspects and gaining a lot of psychotic, physical intensity. Which isn’t to say the studio recordings are inferior – they’re just half the story.

Hopefully this DVD release will allow fans in place where we can’t afford to tour just yet - like the West Coast, Europe, and Asia - to feel the sleaze of the live show. It’ll be a 2 DVD set. The first disc will feature 10 of the best clips from our 2003 tour plus 2 television appearances. The second will feature one show, the New York City stop on the tour, in its entirety.

As for when it’ll be ready for purchase… let’s just say that between our two bands (Mystechs, Corporate MF), our day jobs, and the label we run, Omega Point Records, we’re two extremely busy people. The DVD will get done when it gets done. But it’s already more than halfway there.

Omega Point Records releases the Mystechs albums as well as a number of other bands including Corporate MF, Nick's other project. Omega Point releases a wide variety of really quirky, interesting stuff. How do you decide what to release?

Nick: Well first, the music has to be interesting enough for it to even catch our attention. One major question running through my mind is “Do I like it?” The prerequisites for Omega Point artists are that there must be some kind of electronic element involved in their music, and they should have a total commitment to entertainment. Does the music have any sort of presentational edge? Is it innovative or does it at least offer a fresh new twist on an otherwise old idea? All these are very important factors when we decide what to release and they can appear in any number of different mixtures.

For instance, Ming & Ping is an amazing act that has a very retro new wave feel to their music coupled with a great personal image and professional presentation. Burton L. on the other hand, comes from a more modern dance club dj background and fuses that element with rock characteristics in the vein of perhaps Moby or Jon Spencer. Then there’s Avenpitch which is total electro-punk with guitars offering what could be described as a pissed-off Notwist. Monster-0 is another phenomenal artist that is straight up electro-pop, kind of a Nintendo version of Faith No More. All these artists are very different from one another but what ‘s shared is their passion for electronics and a total commitment to entertainment. We are also big fans of all our artist’s work.

You have a fact sheet on your website that says you played a cover of Bad Religion's "21st Century Digital Boy" at a concert that was attended Bad Religion guitarist Greg Hetson. That had to be an interesting situation. Did he approach the band after the concert?

Emil: Not exactly. Basically, the situation was that the Circle Jerks – whom Greg also plays guitar for – were doing a show at the big venue across the street. Greg had slipped into the bar we were playing, which of course was relatively deserted, to relax and get focused before the Circle Jerks went on. Not knowing he was in the audience (frankly, he was just a regular-looking guy in regular-looking clothes), we did “21st Century Digital Boy”, that being one of our “go to” covers that we’ll whip out whenever a punk crowd seems undecided about whether or not our music is punk-kosher.

Anyhow, after the set, one of the kids whom Greg was chatting with runs up and says, “Hey, you guys played his song!” They drag Greg over, drag me over, and it was all a little awkward, to be honest. Greg said he liked how we re-interpreted it, and told me to mail him a CD-R. Which, naturally, I completely forgot to do when we got back home.

Chicago's well known for its music scene, especially electronic music. Do you consider yourselves a part of the local scene? Or any scene in particular?

Nick: I like to think of the Mystechs as “Scene Busters”. We’ve spent so much time as outsiders that we never got hooked to the idea of belonging to a particular scene. This has kind of given us an edge that many indie rockers or emo-tronic, or death metal artists may never experience. We have always been slightly out of our element, which in a way has become our element. Because of our eclectic style of music and our passion for nearly every genre, between the two of us, we can fit in with gutter punks and death metal maniacs just as easily as we could with indie rockers, rappers or country singers. I like people as artists and individuals for who they are and what they do, rather than what group they try so hard to associate themselves with. In my eyes, scenes are another form of segregation and that’s just something I’m not willing to entertain.

Emil: Part of the problem with Chicago is that there’s too much of a scene mentality. To me, a scene means that you have a (relatively) small clique of hipsters who party together, go out drinking together, sleep around with each other, share needles, and attend each other’s shows. It’s very easy for a band to get lost in a situation like that and think, just because they have 150 people turning up at their local gigs and get recognized by members of their preferred sex at parties, then they must be succeeding, despite the fact that nobody outside their local circle knows or cares about their band. The Mystechs have always been exiles within Chicago because we’re too busy crafting our music and promoting nationally to go out and guzzle Pabst with the “in” crowd every night. But that’s okay, because while the scenesters play to the same 150 people over and over again, we’ll play for 2,000+ people a year touring, 25-50 at a time. And if that makes us “no rock and roll fun”, to quote Sleater-Kinney, so be it.

Name an underrated band you think deserves more attention.

Emil: Everyone on our label, plus The Show Is The Rainbow, Bobby Conn, Flutter, Momus, and I Am Spoonbender.

Nick: Men Without Hats. They have been running their band on a completely independent level for over a decade now and they just released a new album “No Hat’s Beyond This Point” that is only available through their site. They have extraordinary talents as musicians and song writers that extend light years beyond their hits from the 80’s.

What have you been listening to recently?

Nick: Well, I’m on the verge of writing a new Corporate MF album, so I’ve been cleansing my mind by listening to radio static in the car and the humming of copiers and fax machines at work. My favorite sound at the moment comes from the dehumidifier in my basement. I love that brittle hum and the comfortably high-pitched slither it makes at night while I’m going to sleep. Fan motors are pretty enjoyable to listen to as well. After a couple more weeks of environmental noise to clear my mind, I should be ready to start choosing new music to start listening to and perhaps pull some influence from.

Emil: Lately I’ve been raiding my wife’s record collection – Joni Mitchell, Cat Power, Sinead O’Connor, Tori Amos. My musical tastes are too male-chauvinist, overall, and I’m attempting to correct that. Up until now, the only female artists I’ve been a hardcore fan of are Suzanne Vega, Laurie Anderson, and Diamanda Galas. Plus Candida Doyle of Pulp, and Gillian Gilbert of New Order, if you want to count instrumentalists. And Kim Deal and Missy Elliot, and Margo TImmons, and Diana Ross, and Tina Weymouth, and Toni Halliday and…

Okay – I admit - the real reason that I’m raiding my wife’s record collection is because I’m too piss broke to buy new CDs of my own.

If you could have written any song, what song do you wish you had written and why?

Nick: “My Pal Foot Foot” by The Shaggs. Look it up and you’ll know why. Lyrically, It’s better than most of what you get on the radio today. Musically, it’s better than anything on TRL. In short, It’s pure genius compared with today’s standards.

Emil: My automatic response is “Happy Birthday”, for the royalty money.