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Mike VanPortfleet interview July 2000

As some of you may or may not know Mike VanPortfleet essentially was Lycia, but he recently ended the band.  This is probably one of the last interviews he’ll do on the project.  [Editor's Note: In the end more Lycia material did follow.]

QRD – You recently broke up Lycia & ended your career as a musician, would you like to continue as a producer/engineer for Tara VanFlower &/or anyone else?

Mike – Well, by default I’ll continue with Tara.  I’ve tried to encourage her to learn as much as she can about the equipment, but she sometimes lacks patience so I don’t think she’d learn more than the basics, so it’s probably easier just for me to do it.  But I think as time passes I’ll try to get her more & more independent so she can take care of her situation a little bit more.  On the first Tara record I put in some creative whatevers now & then helping to create some of the songs, but I think on the next Tara release I’ll act strictly as an engineer & let her do whatever she wants.  I think on the first album the stronger songs are the songs that she just created on her own anyway so it’s best to go in that direction.  As far as working with other people, where I’m at right now is I’m not really looking to create anything at all.  I think if I come back, I would probably come back & do something by myself first & I don’t plan to do that, so working with other people would be way down the list.  Right now I’m just sort of staying away, which is just something I just feel I need to do.

QRD – What was the main reason for ending Lycia, your health problems or lack of creative control as Lycia reached a higher profile?

Mike – I think it was a combination of both.  The thing that really kicked it into gear was my health.  We were working on the last Lycia album Empty Space & I really became quite ill & it made it very difficult to work on & not much fun & then when there was a little bit of creative struggle it all just made me say it wasn’t worth it.  It was all inter-related.  If only one of the things had happened I might’ve continued on with it, but with it all combined it was just too much it wasn’t worth my while.  It just seemed easier to just walk away than to continue to fight & struggle not only with my health but to create honestly.  That’s really about all I have to say about that.

QRD – What would you like Lycia to be remembered for or as?

Mike – I just hope that Lycia is remembered.  I hope that the regular studio albums that we did are remembered as being honest & not really categorized as anything more than experimental music trying to be as creative & honest as possible.  Unfortunately, I think it will be remembered as a genre type band.  I hope people will just remember us as an honest band that just did their own thing.

QRD – You released the finished tracks from your last & unreleased record on MP3.com, would you like to eventually see these released commercially?

Mike – Yeah, I think I would.  I think eventually I’d like to take some time in the studio & remix the five songs I put up as well as four out takes that don’t have vocals but I personally think sound like good instrumentals & then there’s one additional song from around the same time frame that I think fits in well.  If I ever have the time & desire to give it a proper mixing, I think I’d like it to come out.  But I don’t think the time is right now.  I like having it free on MP3.com & I think it’s best just to leave it as that.  There’s a lot of politics to it all & since I am retired from music I don’t really want to get into it.

QRD – There’s been talk of Lycia compilation discs, possibilities include early Lycia, comp appearances & rarities, & greatest hits.  Would you like to see any of these made?

Mike – Not really.  I think in terms of greatest hits, we don’t have a greatest hit.  We don’t have hits.  It depends on who you’re talking to & what circles you’re mixing in, different groups of people have different preferences on what songs they like & what songs they think are popular.  That’s just a lose/lose situation all around.  First of all I never thought of that idea & the people that thought of it were motivated by money & nothing else.  Rarities might be interesting.  I think I could probably dig up some rarities.  I have piles & piles of four track tapes.  That’s something that may happen.  In regard to the comp tracks, that may happen too, though I have mixed feelings about that.  One of the number of things I’ve been frustrated with myself with over the years is with a lot of the comp tracks I didn’t give the same kind of attention as I did with the studio albums.  When you listen to the studio albums I think there is a real professionalism to it all, as opposed to fifty percent of the comp tracks which sound a bit raw & a bit ragged & I guess at the time when I was paring a lot of songs out to comps I just sort of had a good enough mentality & in retrospect I wish a lot of those comp songs I never had let out.

QRD – Do you still consider yourself spastic?

Mike – No.  I’m so anti-spastic now & just sluggish.

QRD – What’s your favorite kind of meat?

Mike – I guess probably a nice piece of prime rib.

QRD – What’s your favorite disease to have?

Mike – None of the above.

QRD – What do you think were the best & worst decisions of your musical career?

Mike – I tend to remember almost all my musical career decisions as being bad decisions.  When I look back I see how I’ve been manipulated almost from day one by almost everyone around me.  From the very first days when I would let hired hand musicians dictate what would go on or let new members come in & determine the flow or agree to mixes that I didn’t really like or not fix things because people say it’s okay & the list goes on & on & on & on.  It’s funny because I think towards the end of Lycia there was this perception to people close to Lycia that I was a hard ass & I was always riding people & I think a lot of former Lycia members may even view me as a tyrant.  The way I view it is over the years I never really stood up for what I wanted as fully as I think I should’ve & because of this I think a good portion of Lycia’s career the vision has been watered down or compromised from what I consider to be the pure vision of Lycia.  I’m not saying that I think any of the albums were sell outs by any means, but I think that the vision that I had for the band in the early days was never fulfilled.  I think the closest it came to being fulfilled was in the early days prior to Ionia & prior to Wake when me & John Fair would just write music & it seemed very on line to what my & his thinking were.  That was one of my main goals with Empty Space.  I really wanted Empty Space to be a return to that kind of thinking.  I thought that having a jump-start like that would be such an important thing for me to get me enthused about music again.  Then when I started working on the album instead of it being a jump-start, every bad compromising aspect of my entire career was snowballed into one thing & that’s why I had to quit & why I had to walk away, because there was no way in the world that I was going to take some of the suggestions that were floated in my direction about that album.  I would’ve considered myself for the first time a complete sell out, so I thought it was just better to quit & walk away than to sell out.  Perhaps the best decision I ever made was to do just that, to walk away at a time when I still had dignity with what I had done.  I think a lot of compromise was had, like on the tours having to strip the show down to the bare minimum & not being able to present things in a proper way.  I think “compromise” is a keyword in the career of Lycia.  From my vantagepoint it was always compromising.  If I could do it again I think I would be a true hard ass from day one & just say, “This is what I want to do & this is what I’m going to do & that’s just the way it’s gonna be,” because I think in the long run I would’ve been much more content with my musical career, as opposed to now when I’m happy with what I accomplished but I think it could’ve gone way farther & I think a lot more creative success could’ve been had if I’d just stuck to my guns.

QRD – Anything else you want people to know?

Mike – Thank you to all the hardcore supporters over the years who understood the direction I was coming from.  I just want all those people to know that when they occasionally hear me ripping on certain groups of people, they’re excluded.  When I’m being negative about certain aspects of my music career & the reactions we’ve had over the years, I want those people to know that they’re not include in my angry tirades.  & I don’t mean to seem bitter, I’m sure eventually I’ll look back on Lycia as having accomplished more than I ever planned it to.

Other QRD interviews with Lycia:
Interview with Mike VanPortfleet of Lycia (September 2013)
Couples Band Interview with Lycia (February 2008)
Interview with Tara VanFlower of Lycia (July 2006)
Interview with Mike VanPortfleet of Lycia (July 2004)
Interview with Lycia (September 2002)
Interview with Tara VanFlower of Lycia (July 2000)
i heart fx - Mike VanPortfleet (June 1998)
Interview with Lycia (May 1997)
Interview with Lycia (November 1994)