By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
All in all, California is a good place for Sims. It’s relatively liberal: definitely better than the solidly Christian Midwest. But the electroclash scene in the U.S. is focused on the East Coast, and it has taken its sweet time migrating westward. In that light, it seems odd that Sims is shacked up just off Sunset. But there’s a difference from what is going on in New York, says Sims, who thinks this makes for a higher ceiling. “Like Prince, in Minneapolis, he was into stuff like new wave and all that was happening on the West Coast and the East Coast. But he was in Minnesota, so far removed that his music became its own kind of sound. It’s the same thing with L.A.”
So what is electroclash, here or in New York? Nobody seems to know. There are the techno nerds who would scoff even at the use of the term. For others it means only KangaROOS, ’80s haircuts, trashy fishnets and knee-highs. Is it just brain-dead regurgitation of ’80s crap?
“If using an 808 is ’80s,” Sims replies, “then yeah, I guess I’m ’80s, because I’ll use one forever. If you remorph their sounds, and re-sculpt their waves, you can make them sound way different. Whatever. Good art is always going to have some haters. To me, the more haters the better. It has to have some kind of polar acceptance. If it’s in the middle, who cares?”
The Sound of Waves The Tyde: Forward into the ’80s (Photo by Sasha Eisenman)
Darren Rademaker knows what he likes. Given the choice between good songs or flashy musical trends, the leader of the Tyde will always take the tunes.
“It’s like, are you a style band or a substance band?” he muses over a cold bottle of Miller High Life. “Are you really into music, or do you just want to be famous and have sex with a lot of random girls? Being famous and having sex with a lot of random girls is totally fun, but after you’re 29 or 30, are you still gonna care about music?”
Rademaker’s 41st birthday is already receding in the rearview mirror, and he, for one, still cares about music. The audible proof is Twice, the Tyde’s new record for Rough Trade America; a veritable feast of crystalline guitars, rollicking keyboards, catchy melodies and wry lyrics, Twice more than fulfills the promise of Once, the L.A. band’s acclaimed 2001 debut.
As with Once, the 11 tracks on Twice — Rademaker categorically denies that the next Tyde album will be called Three Times a Lady — offer up a tart mixture of human frailty and California sunshine. But this time out the mid-’60s Dylanisms and “cosmic country” vibes of the first album have been jettisoned in favor of the ringing pop sounds of such ’80s cult faves as Felt, Galaxie 500 and Television Personalities.
“I had the idea to go back and explore our indie roots, whatever they were,” Rademaker explains. “Kind of like, ‘Let’s move it out of the ’60s and ’70s and into the early ’80s.’ But not into the cheesy ’80s that everybody’s into; no punk-funk or electroclash!”
Though much of Twice’s music is quite chipper, Rademaker’s lyrics — which he delivers in a plain but pleasing voice somewhere between Lou Reed and Echo and the Bunnymen’s Ian McCullough — are considerably darker than on the last album. “A Loner,” “Best Intentions” and the KCRW semi-hit “Blood Brothers” all reek of disappointment and abdicated responsibility, while “Crystal Canyons” and “Breaking Up the Band” deal with the less-than-glamorous results of sustained drug abuse.
“I know so many idiots who used to be so brilliant, and then they got involved with crystal meth,” Rademaker says. “People that were really good friends of mine that died. Or they’re writing good songs, but they’ll never be able to do anything with them because they’ll never be able to get it together from one thought to the next.”
Not that Rademaker’s own habits are exempt from scrutiny. “Henry VIII” examines his love-hate relationship with marijuana. “Yeah, it’s a song about trying to quit smoking pot,” he laughs. “When I go surfing in Dana Point, I drive down PCH and go, ‘There’s no way I’ll ever be able to afford any of these houses.’ But maybe if I wasn’t such a dope-smoker I’d have become just a regular guy.”
Regrets? Rademaker has a few. But when your music has earned you raves from your well-respected peers — Jason Pierce of Spiritualized and Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake among them — and your band is getting ready to mount a summer tour that will encompass the U.S., the U.K. and much of Europe, life as an irregular guy doesn’t seem so bad.
“My secret is that I’ve never given in to regular society, that ‘Why don’t you give up that stupid music?’ thing,” he says. “I love doing music, and I don’t care if I have to live in a shitty one-bedroom apartment for the rest of my life to do what I want. You have to look around and say, ‘Am I happy? Am I listening to some good tunes?’ You can always get by if you want to.”