Interview with Mike Vanportfleet of Lycia, conducted by telephone 12/14/96 by Peter Marks


Peter: With the new Dust project that you are involved with can we expect a full length album?

Mike: It was sort of a one time only affair. Those tracks were written about eighteen months ago when John Fair and I got back together and recorded some other material. I might like to possibly explore more of it in the future but nothing in planned currently.

Peter: Will the entire Dust project only be those two song that you released on various compilations?

Mike: There are a few more Dust tracks that will be released on some other compilations as well. One will be out of Australia and another out of France that should have already been released. There should be a total of four tracks on four different compilations. There are about 5-6 other Dust tracks that will probably never be released because they were a little more raw than the other material.

Peter: Would those tracks be similar in sound to tracks off the Wake in rawness?

Mike: Yes. The Dust songs that ending up being released were tracks that came out of recording sessions that were a little more lively and organized.

Peter: When will "Bleak" be releasing their second album?

Mike: I really don't know actually. My partner in "Bleak", David Galas, is no longer part of Lycia. He left the band and is now back in Arizona somewhere. I actually have about thirty minutes of "Bleak" style material I had written in preparation for a second "Bleak" album, but since he is gone I think I will probably incorporate that into a future Lycia release.

Peter: What were David's reason for leaving?

Mike: To be honest with you I don't really know. I do know that he wasn't very happy with relocating from Arizona to Ohio. He also was no longer interested in the live portion of the band and had dropped out of it about a year ago. As far as the studio side was concerned, on the surface he seemed interested, but he never really involved himself fully in the process. Then he decided to move back to Arizona and I haven't really heard much from him since then.

Peter: Will the two songs that you wrote for David's band Snowblind ever be released?

Mike: I don't know if he is planning on ever releasing any Snowblind material. I know a lot of people have been asking about it, but I don't know if he is going to do anything with that material. I know that he has a lot of Snowblind material that I think is really good, but he always seemed to lack a great deal of confidence in his own work, so I really don't know what is going to happen with that project.

Peter: So musically speaking Lycia is now just you?

Mike: Yes.

Peter: Is there going to be a tour to promote the release of the new Lycia album?

Mike: We will be touring in the spring. It will be kind of a delayed "Cold" tour. I might even have a new EP of material out at the time as well. There is currently a rather extensive tour of the US confirmed for April.

Peter: You might actually tour out west again?

Mike: I'd like to really tour again on the west coast and play a lot of cities that we really never had a chance to play at before.

Peter: I've tried to get you out in the Portland area before but it has always fallen through.

Mike: We have wanted to play the Northwest but last year we did a lot of shows in the East and Midwest and only a single show on the West Coast. So the idea of going up into the Northwest for a single show wasn't very economically feasible. To really do a good tour of the Northwest we would have to play a large number of dates in that portion of the country.

Peter: On "Cold", there seems to be a continuing lightening of mood. Is there any reason for that?

Mike: Really I think it is a random thing, it was never planned. Much of the newer material just happens to be in the "Bleak" style and as a result is very dark. I think you will see a roller coaster of different moods in the long run. Right now I seem to be interested in creating a lot of noise and tension. Whereas on "Cold", I really wanted to create a sedate, mature mellow feeling.

Peter: How long did it take you to record the "Cold" album?

Mike: We recorded it over a couple of months last winter.

Peter: That album really surprised me because it was released so soon after that double album that had gotten so much flack from the press.

Mike: The sound of the earlier Lycia albums have seemed to become the defining style of our music in the eyes of our fans. So a lot of people have really seemed to resist the change in our current music. A lot of people have felt really akin to the rawness of the older material that has gone away with the advent of better technology and recording techniques.

Peter: I also noticed that you have started printing all your lyrics in the liner notes of your albums. Have you grown more comfortable with printing your lyrics now?

Mike: I have always been very uncomfortable with both singing and writing the lyrics in a project. If there is one thing that I do lack confidence in, it is that. It took a lot of people to convince me to publish the lyrics. I have always felt that the music should come first and the singing came along because I felt the need for a vocal aspect in the music. I could never really trust anyone else to sing because of problems with other vocalist in the past, so I did it myself. So I made myself sing and make it passable over the years but I still really haven't grown totally accustomed to performing. I do like how the use of vocals allows me to express myself and the extra aspect it adds to the music, but it is also very intimidating at times.

Peter: What made you decide to finally play live after saying for all those years that Lycia would never play live?

Mike: What happened was that we did play a few shows and we saw how important of a tool it was to spread our music to more people. Playing live is something that has always helped expand our music to new people.

Peter: How well did your performance go at the Projekt Festival this summer?

Mike: It went well mostly because it was our only show in 1996. Tara and I were really unused to being in front of a crowd but the set went off really well. I think the whole festival was fantastic and Projekt did an excellent job of arranging the whole event.

Peter: Do you have any plans to replace David Galas in the band?

Mike: For now Lycia is going to stay a two person project. I don't really have any other interest in adding new people. I always seem to have bad luck when I add new people to a project. Where I stand right now I feel very comfortable with Lycia. When David left, it took a lot of pressure off me, because I always felt that I had to motivate him to contribute to the project. It is sad that he is gone and the elements what he did add to the band had to leave as well, but honestly I do think it is all for the best.

Peter: How exactly did Tara Van Flower become involved with Lycia originally?

Mike: She started sending me demo tapes of her band. The initial demo tapes were really raw but I liked what she was doing with her vocals. She really did a lot of experimentation with her voice that was very unique. I had been telling her for quite some time that I wanted her to come out to Arizona to do some vocals so when she finally did come, she ended up staying on permanently.

Peter: Does she have any solo material of her own, or is Lycia her only musical focus?

Mike: Lycia is the only project she is in currently. She has talked in the past about a solo project and we even recorded a few songs that she did all by herself. She did a lot of work with experimental instruments and multi-layered vocals. Maybe in the next few years she will appear on a few compilations but it will be a few years before she would probably release anything like an entire album. Right now we have really committed ourselves completely to Lycia and have put all other projects on hold.

Peter: I once read that you said, if you really concentrated on it you could put out an entire album every week.

Mike: I think that was a very ambitious claim that I made even though we do write a lot of material. If we did set our minds to it we could probably release 4-5 albums a year if we stayed busy. I'd probably learn to hate music at that point though.

Peter: What do you do with all of the unreleased material that people never hear?

Mike: The older material is filed away forever. Most of it was never recorded properly so there really isn't anything that can ever be done with it. Since the "A Day In The Stark Corner" period, I pretty much release everything that I write. I just don't work non-stop like I used to. I spend maybe 50% of my time now practicing for live sets which is odd because we don't really play live that much.

Peter: Is there any type of visual aspect to your live performances?

Mike: There is a type of visual equivalent that could be compared to how the music really sounds live. There isn't a lot of movement but we do fill the stage up with smoke and special effects lighting. The music is just slow and there is a spacey look to the stage. It is very surreal.

Peter: Do you just play Lycia material when you play live?

Mike: We play live material from all of the projects we have been involved with. The set that I am prepping right now probably has just as much Lycia material as it does "Bleak" and Dust material. I think the Dust material is better suited for a live performance and the "Bleak" material sounds really nice through a lot of distortion and a big PA. The stuff I am doing right now will probably be used on the upcoming tour and will have a nice cross section of material.

Peter: Do you ever write new music while on the road?

Mike: I don't write on the road because I always tend to be so overworked with all the other aspects of touring. I play roles from tour manager to roadie because we always travel so sparse. However, I do like playing things live that people haven't heard before. We have a show coming up on December 29th in Cleveland that will have a very different set. We are going to play an entirely instrumental set that has maybe 1-2 songs that have never been heard before.

Peter: Will you be doing a lot of improvisation like on the live album you released?

Mike: That album was actually from the very first live Lycia performance. It was for a festival that we played in the Phoenix area called "Night of Beautiful Noise." One of the reasons why Lycia started performing live was because several of my friends were instrumental in the planning of that festival and they kept insisting that I should take part. After them berating me many times I finally consented to play live.

At that time all of the music I had written was suited for the studio and I was unprepared to really play live. As a result I had never taken any notes about what effects or patches I used to create my studio material. So to recreate that music in a live setting was a difficult thing. In the end I wrote a new piece that was live oriented for the twenty minute set. That show was the very first time that David was involved in the band. He was playing keyboards and electronic drums, I was playing guitars and doing vocals. Some of the basic rhythms and synthesizers were also on tape. We went up on stage and filled this club up with smoke and used all the lights and it went immensely well. From that point on we approached all our live material from a very different manner.

Peter: Because you are seen as Projekt's premiere band do you ever feel any pressure to not be involved with something daring or new?

Mike: Actually, Projekt doesn't really view us as their flagship band. I think they see Love Spirals Downward and Black Tape For Blue A Girl as their premire bands. I know we get more press, but there really isn't any pressure to meet all sorts of preconceived expectations. My philosophy has always been to do whatever I want at any given time. If people don't accept that, I still have to do what I am setting my mind to at the current time.

Peter: Do you still have a P.O. Box and e-mail address for fan responses?

Mike: Due to a monetary issue we no longer have the post office box in Arizona. As for e-mail, since David left it lapsed rather quickly. In 1997, I think I want save up my money and get a new computer and move myself into the modern age. Hopefully I'll get an e-mail address and have a greater control of Lycia's promotion over the Internet.

Peter: There are definitely a lot of misinterpretations about you online.

Mike: It is very frustrating to me for that type of thing to occur but it does come with the territory and I have to accept it as an artist. It is funny that people label us as a Gothic band. If you ever meet me in person or saw us live you would really be shocked. We don't fit anywhere into the whole Gothic genre at all.

Peter: Well, in all of your press photos you do look like normal people.

Mike: I think a large portion of it is due to the initial fanbase being composed of mostly Gothic people. There are a lot of bands that don't really fit the look that a lot of the Gothic crowd seem to have. Death in June is a good example of a 'legendary' Gothic band that doesn't look the part. The Swans are also like that. I would really hope that people would except our music at face value and would not pigeon hole us a some kind of Gothic band. The music is the important thing, the image is not.


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Last Modified: Monday, 24-Sep-2012 16:44:14 MST