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Lycia interview may 17, 1997
Lycia is our main band here at QRD, & QRD is the main zine at Lycia Central (check out the t-shirt at right).  I did this interview shortly after going on tour with them for a month as their roadie.  I guess there music is often referred to as darkwave or ethereal.
QRD – do you really believe in aliens?

Mike – I think I do believe in aliens, but do I believe in aliens in what the movies & the media & all that present? no.  I think it's gotten out of hand.  I think the whole mystery of all the secrets of area 51 & stuff like that is rooted in some kind of military experiment.  & do I think that aliens have visited earth? I don't think so.  I don't know.  I do believe that there are other life forms out there traveling around & sooner or later stumble upon us.  when they do come across us I think it will be very obvious.  I do enjoy the mystery & intrigue of it all, whether it's aliens or the secret government stuff.

Tara – I think it's possible, but a lot of the stuff going on is some type of government thing.  it's not like they'd have any trouble pulling it off.

QRD – do you think ghosts are better than aliens?

Tara – yeah, I like ghosts better than aliens.  if I see a ghost I know what to do, but if you see an alien there's nothing you can do.  if you see a ghost it's no big deal, but an alien's an intelligent being that could probably really hurt you or something.

QRD – I know you're mad to be referred to as a "goth" band, so what label would you rather be put under?

Mike – music.  if you want to really label Lycia, I think there are terms that are a lot better for Lycia.  I think ambient.  there are a lot of forms of ambient music whether it's dance ambient or tribal ambient & I think Lycia's just an electronic ambient band more than anything.  people always come up to us after shows & say, "your stuff sounds so spacey & soundtrackish."  I find those descriptions as more comparable to what I think.

Tara – I think progressive rock would be less insulting than gothic.

Mike – yeah, I think Lycia has as many roots in 70's progressive rock as the so called gothic movement.  I'm not going to deny that a lot of the early stuff that people now call gothic were influences on me.  I don't know if there is a gothic music scene.  I know there is a gothic culture scene based around fashion & art forms like writing & movies & music is part of the whole thing, but I don't thing there was a gothic scene until the past few years a bunch of bands say they're gothic & play it up.  but as far as the important bands, I don't think any single one of them, with the exception of Christian Death who started the whole thing, none of those bands fit in the realms of what's gothic now.  even the Sisters of Mercy, we used to call them a biker rock band when they came out & I don't know if they ever thought they were gothic.

Tara – I can understand why people might think I'm gothic at times because I guess I kind of look like it sometimes, but I'm not.  it's just how I put make-up on.  I don't sit in the dark & drink blood & stuff.

Mike – with me it's fairly obvious.  your family's more gothic than me.  I'm not gothic, it's just some hokey pokey classification that was put on me to sell cd's & it has nothing to do with what I'm about.  you were on tour with me for a month, do you think I share a lot of the gothic philosophies?

QRD – no.

Tara – do you think I do?

QRD – you're more gothic than Mike, but more punk than gothic.

Tara – I'm more punk than he is too.

Mike – I probably have more in common with truck drivers at the truck stops than the people who come to see our shows & that's not a joke, it's probably true.

QRD – how do you like the sound of your live stuff?

Mike – I think for the first time I'm relatively content with it.  even though on this tour I am a bit disappointed that I had to make some alterations to it early on.  primarily to pacify people.  I won't name any names, but there were a lot of people I sensed I needed to pacify & I'm really sad I had to do that.  we put a lot of preparation into doing what I thought was the strongest possible set.  & now that the tour's ended & I saw the video of the first show that caused all this problem & seeing the sound that came out & seeing the presentation that came out I see that all the goals I had shot for were met at the first show with the exception of some problems with my guitar.  I think if we would've stuck with that set the entire tour we would've done exactly what we'd set out to do.  re-adding the vocals to the set I think still pretty much kept the aura to the set, though I don't feel I had as much control over the vocals as I did the music, so I think it could've been a little bit better if we could've had more control of the effects on the vocals & the over all presentation since we didn't prep for it that way.  I'd say I'm 90% content with what we did on this tour, though I think it easily could've been 100% content.  one side note to add, I will never let myself be manipulated like that again.

Tara – the only thing that really irritated me, besides the feedback we had sometimes, was no place hardly ever turned it up loud enough.  to me the music is much more effective very loud & how many places had it up that loud? not very many.  you miss part of the sound if it's not loud.

Mike – that's one of the things I prepped for with the instrumental set was that I knew it could be cranked up loud.

Tara – even when you didn't sing they didn't crank it up loud.

Mike – columbia, south carolina, columbus, & pittsburgh were the three instrumental shows & columbia & pittsburgh were both very loud & I made a point to tell the sound man to pump it very loud.  the columbus show might've been a little quieter, but it was the first show & I might've been pre-occupied.  but the other shows I never told them to turn it up because we were on the verge of feedback a lot of times already & I knew with the extra volume the feedback would be out of control.  at two of the last three shows, detroit & grand rapids, feedback became a problem again because of the volume threshold, with the instrumental set we could've had people's ears bleeding at those places.

QRD – what are you doing with your acoustic project?

Mike – first of all as a side note my plans often change as you can attest to reading different interviews.  as of right now this is the plan & will probably be the plan for quite awhile because we thought of it well before the tour.  we both kind of decided with the exception of any solo thing that Tara may do that every other side project will be re-absorbed into Lycia.  instead of having four projects & busting our asses on it all the time, we'll be concentrating just on Lycia & having the acoustic stuff that was going to be Estraya back within Lycia & have the noisier stuff that was Bleak back within Lycia & have the collaborations that I did with John Fair back into Lycia – who knows, the next album may have a couple songs that I did with John again – & keep Lycia a really open thing that could really explore a lot of different styles.  I think the main reason is so I don't continue to overwork myself & so each & every release doesn't get undermined by a side project release.  sort of like with Cold, the Cold album came out & then we went on the Cold tour.  one thing at a time, we worked on the album & then the tour was just the tour only.  I wasn't thinking I need to get back & work on the new album.

Tara – wasn't before Lycia a specific thing & other things didn't fit in in a way, but now you're just like it's all Lycia.

Mike – I said that as an excuse/justification for the side projects & maybe to a certain degree I felt that, but I always from day one with all the side projects saw them as veiled Lycia releases.  I saw it as a way to get more Lycia music out there, more so than perhaps people wanted out there & I figured well I'll put it out under different names.  but it's still the same.  a name is a name is a name is a name.  Lycia is the main project so that's what I want to concentrate on.  though who knows, a few months from now we may be working on two solo albums.

QRD – what's your favorite type of shoes?

Tara – for wearing I prefer my hiking boots because they're comfortable & soft & squishy.  I think my favorite ones now are my blue ones.  I don't know how to describe them... pearly shiny rave-ish clogs with big rubber heels on them, they're cool.

Mike – my favorite shoes, I love my hiking boots.  I brought my Doc's on tour which I'll probably never wear again.  I don't like the way they look, I don't like what they stand for, & they hurt my feet.  also I like my cowboy boots, but I didn't bring them along because they're comfortable for wearing but uncomfortable for loading equipment around because they're slippery & a little tight in the feet.  I figured with all the up & down stairs I'd just use my hiking boots because they're comfortable.  by the way, these hiking boots are five years old & they still look brand spanking new.

QRD – is there anyone you'd like to talk crap about?

Mike – there are a lot of people I'd like to talk crap about, but some of it would get me in big trouble, so I'll leave it at that.  let me try to find someone....

Tara – Marilyn Manson, I don't like them.

Mike – I'll talk more specifically about this promoter down in columbus who sort of screwed us over to a certain degree.  his name is Gary Thrasher or whatever.  he's trying to be friends with us again now, but he really stabbed me in the back & I won't forget it.  there's a dick in jacksonville, florida who stiffed us some money & I forgot his name, but someday somebody's going to kick his ska loving ass & I'll be happy about it.  besides that we get along with basically everybody.  we're pretty accessible & pretty friendly & we do take more crap than we should take.

QRD – what's the worse food for on tour?

Mike – I guess this would vary for individuals, but it seemed like for me with my diabetes they always had beer which I can't drink because of my medicine & a lot of places were more concerned with beer than something to eat.  when people did supply us with food it was pretty good.  for me the worst thing would be the greasy fast foods that we ate a lot.  it tastes damn good, but it's not too good for my condition.

Tara – the worse food for me was a greasy pizza we got in providence, rhode island.  & the cranberry juice, syrupy cranberry juice, oh my god.  I had stomach problems twice.

Mike – I'll make a note that I had no stomach or bowel problems, whatever on the tour.  the food was tasty, some of it affected my diabetes mildly.  for the most part it was a health success tour.

QRD – what do you think is your maximum sales potential?

Mike – I think Lycia as is right now could make the twenty thousand level.  I really truly do.  I think if exposed to the right people.

QRD – is that with the new ADA distribution?

Mike – yeah, with the new distribution, maybe a little more even.  we seem to always win over people at shows, soundmen/doormen whatever who probably listen to rock & roll or other forms of music & there's no need for them to come up after the show.  like the mexican security guy in denver he came up after the show & is like "I really liked your show.  it was really spacey & really relaxing. I like the music, where can I buy your cd's?"  I think if you exposed our music to besides our typical target audience which seems to now be the goth crowd & maybe to a certain extent the ambient crowd, those people are already aware of us so you win over only a few more people.  but I think if you exposed it to normal everyday americans we could sell a hell of a lot more than that even.

Tara – look at Cocteau Twins, their music's all spacey & they're huge.

Mike – I think the key to it all is exposing it to as many people as possible because there's nothing really abrasive about Lycia.  the voice is a little rough, but it's still melodic.  I think the sales potential is way out there, though I tend to be optimistic.  I think with the new distribution deal you'll see sales go up at least to 10,000.

Tara – considering my mom sold discs to people at her job & these are older normal people & they liked it, there's nothing threatening about it.

Mike – just think about the Lexicon Club in grand rapids, michigan how some of the locals stuck their heads in there & they weren't like "what the hell is this crap?" but were like "ooh-wow spacey."

QRD – is there anything in particular you'd like people to know?

Mike – for the past few years we've been exceptionally open & I don't know if I've tried to hide anything.  in the early days of Lycia I tried to hide certain aspects, but we're pretty open now, maybe a little too open.  I think it's maybe damaged certain parts of the mystique of Lycia because it's taken in the wrong context in some fanzine.  very gothic fanzines will print a very open quotes from us presented in the gothic format & we end up looking like idiots.  but if people just take us for what we are things can't be taken out of context & I think the mystique can still be there.  maybe even more mystique that such moody music can come out of two fun-loving kids like us.

Tara – it might not be important for people to know because it's totally not relevant, but we have absolutely nothing to do with the degenerate aspects of rock & roll.  I don't know if that's even worth anybody knowing about, but I just get tired of people having the perception of if you're in a band you're into certain things & we have nothing to with drinking, drugs, or illicit sex or whatever.

Mike --  at this stage in our career we're pretty much just a straight arrow band.  I really am looking forward to presenting our live material in a very different way in the future in a format that's more accessible to the non-club-going population.  maybe out door venues, not gigantic places, there's a lot of small little places.  so people can come earlier.  they won't have to be like "we don't have a baby-sitter for the kids" just bring them along. don't have to feel threatened about bad neighborhoods or somebody spilling a beer on them.  a place that's more accessible for anybody & I think more appropriate for the music.

QRD – if I was just a normal person who happened to like Lycia, there's no way I'd walk into a goth club.

Mike – I think it scares a lot of people away.  you can see at some shows when we get on the stage the goth kids, the club kids, are crammed in the front cause it's the place to be, but they quickly get bored with the slowness of the music & suddenly a wave of more normal looking people ease to the front.  they're the true Lycia fans.  they're very sincere & into what we're doing & that's the people that we're playing for.  some nights when we play I literally find myself getting pissed off on stage because we rip into a song like "grey clouds" & I literally say on stage "fuck all of you people" because I look out & I see bored club kids physically yawning.  then I look around & I see the real fans intermingled amongst them.  I can see them each & every night & say "this person, this person, this person, this person you guys are the real fans.  you guys stand here. the rest of you stand in the back, drink your alcohol, do your coke, & then when we finish playing you can come back out & dance to the dance music that you happen to call gothic for some strange reason & I don't know why."

QRD – who would you like to tour with opening for you or you opening for?

Mike – we talked about the Legendary Pink Dots would be a natural fit.  I don't know them, but I somehow suspect they go through a lot of the same problems we do except they've been around a lot longer & they're more established so they're probably three, four, five years along the line & have a more established crowd with them.  I think they could appreciate what we're going through.  or the new Swans project, I know they're headed in more ambient directions, & likewise I'm sure they know the same frustrations that we do.  I'm a big fan of a lot of ambient stuff like Steve Roach or Lifegarden, any of the bands in that genre would be good.

Tara – I think Cindytalk would be good.

Mike – in terms of bigger name bands, I think Cocteau Twins or Cranes might work even though Cranes might be too rock & rolly.  the only band we ever opened up for is Type O Negative & they were very nice to us, but I don't think it was a good fit for us.  we won over a lot of fans, but I don't know if I'm really interested in catching the rock & roll crowd.  there's a lot of bands that I do like that would work well at the clubs, but I don't know about venturing to club-land anymore.  as far as opening for us, there are a lot of people we've met that are newer bands that would be cool just for personality reasons & music.  there's a band from austin, texas Numeralia that was pretty cool.

Tara – Garden of Dreams is good.

Mike – Unquiet Void, your project, the Danimal.

QRD – what do you think about the internet's effect to underground culture, do you think it's positive or negative?

Mike – I think it's both.  I think it's positive from my vantage point in that once I actually get out of my cave & get on the internet & start controlling our website it gives me much more control over how we're presented & enables me to find out perhaps what people really think by spying on chat rooms as oppose to getting the usual b.s. "you guys are so great" that you tend to get on a nightly basis.

Tara – because people aren't going to rip you right to your face.

Mike – I think that's good about it.  I think the negative thing about it is it's making a scene that's already immensely clickish even more clickish.

Tara – another thing is it makes some kid who might never even leave their house so they can get on the internet & dog people & spread rumors & people will believe it because they don't know the truth or whatever.  I know there's a lot of stuff on the internet like "Sam said..." or "whoever said..." & they might not even be true, but all the kids are reading it & believing it based on something that could be made up.

Mike – also one of the bad things about the internet is you really have to watch what you say.  you may finish a show & somebody comes up & says "what do you think about this or what do you think about that?"  you answer him & he goes home & pops it on the internet for all to read.  it may not be taken in the proper context even though it may be what you said.  I know when we got to chicago Sam & Lisa asked me several questions about things I did say but taken out of context to the point they were actually concerned & I was shocked that information I said in a casual way to a stranger got back to our record label in a matter of days.  that's kind of scary.  I guess the bottom line is I think it does a lot more damage than good, though I like everyone else will be on there because it's going to be there & there's nothing you can do about it & I want to control at least the presentation of the official Lycia page.  I'd also like to be there to perhaps correct people when they're spreading false information about us.

QRD – how do you feel about the bootlegged Lycia live stuff?

Mike – I don't particularly care about it.  I know our record label might not dig it too much.  I do something that a lot of bands don't do.  when people come up & ask if they can videotape the shows I say, "go ahead." I don't consider our live album as an album, but an official bootleg.  live is live & you can record a live show, but it's not the same as seeing a live show.  I'm not gonna say somebody can plug in off the board or can take in a portable DAT, but am I going to find people to search those people out & destroy the tapes? no.  if they're going to do it, they're going to do it & I'm not going to lose any sleep over it.  it's going to happen, shows are bootlegged.  as far as the videos, go ahead.

Tara – as long as you're not selling them.

Mike – as long as you're not selling them, we're fine.  I know some people probably are, but as long as I don't know it we're fine.  somebody was selling a videotape of our last atlanta show, which is probably the worst show of our career ever.  that upset us & we took care of the problem & the person thought we were capitalist pigs even though we didn't try to make money at all & just didn't want a bad show bootlegged.  but I think on this last tour I can't think of one show that was bad as far as what we did, there were a couple of bad sound men, but we presented a good show night in & night out so if someone wants to tape it & make copies for their friends we're totally for that.

QRD – how's the Geo Storm doing?

Mike – the Geo Storm has a little over 100,000 miles.  besides a little bit of cosmetic damage, the dashboard cracking from the arizona sun & a couple dents from a hit & run driver, it's in excellent condition.  it runs great.  it's my pal.  it will never do music stuff again because it's time for the old dog to rest, but it's running great, amazingly so.

QRD – how do you feel about first generation fans versus second generation fans?

Mike – I don't particularly see a difference.  when somebody comes up & they're a big time Lycia fan I assume they're a first generation fan.  then when they say, "I've only heard The Burning Circle & Cold" it seems sort of strange.  it seems like the new generation fans are really in to the two new albums & the old school fans are really into Ionia & Day in the Stark Corner.  there seems to be a big division even though they really are the same type of people.  they've just come on at different times.  the thing is when the new kids listen to the old stuff, they still like the new stuff best & vice-versa.  I think whatever you hear first you tend to like best.

Tara – the only thing I have is that with the old school fans is it's kind of irritating when they come up & go "your show was really good, but I wish you'd played such & such off of Ionia."  that was how many years ago?

Mike – yeah, I'm always critical of people & like "get with it, this is what we're doing now."  but by the same token I go to see a band play live & I have certain expectations.  that's one of the reasons why over the next year or so I really want to re-invent a certain aspect of Lycia so that it will justify how we present ourselves in the future & make people understand where we're coming from now.  maybe try to make a break from the past into the direction I want to take Lycia so that when we play live people know where we are coming from as oppose to playing the old hits.  I can't think of any off of the top of my head, but I know other bands have done that.

Tara – Swans.

QRD – there's nothing punk about punk these days, what do you think is punk?

Mike – when we went on tour we saw a lot of punk & a lot of ska & it's really mainstream & commercial now; it's not punk at all.  punk is what we did.  we just went on a punk tour.  we had a booking agent & a little support initially from the label, but for the most part it was a self-financed tour.  we went out & did everything ourselves & dealt with what came along.  that's the punk attitude.  that's what punk was originally about, driving around listening to the Germs & old Iggy & the Stooges.  as far as music, I don't know that there is punk anymore.  maybe punk is something that came along once & can never be done again.  original punk came along & said, "anything goes now" & anything does go now, so can anything create that same energy & explosion?  everybody's pretty jaded now about everything that comes along & no one's shocked by anything anymore.

QRD – what's the most rock & roll thing you've ever done & the most goth thing you've ever done?

Mike – the most rock & roll thing I ever did was thank the opening band for the tour.  it's not that that's bad.  Chainsuck are really cool people & I enjoyed touring with them, but I don't like to talk a lot because I think it disrupts the mood.  I think saying, "I'd like to thank Chainsuck for opening up the tour, let's give them a hand," that was sort of rock & roll.  in terms of old school rock & roll in the early Lycia & pre-Lycia days I use to drink whiskey out of the bottle & get zonked out of my head on drugs & walk around.  that was the most rock & roll thing.  I could've hung out with Guns 'N' Roses at that stage in my career.  the most goth thing I've ever done... I don't know, allow Lycia to be called a goth band in the early days though I knew it wasn't.  hell, I watch football & mow the lawn, neither of those are very gothic.

Tara – I think the most rock & roll thing I've done is have my face on a t-shirt.  the most gothic thing I've ever done... I drank blood a long long long long time ago.

Mike – let me re-do this.  "I deal with blood on a daily basis" (spooky voice).   though not in a gothic way & not in a sick demented way it has to do with my medical condition.

Tara – I saw Bram Stoker's Dracula three times in the theater.

Mike – I saw it once & I was pretty drunk.  I drank about a six pack of beer before I went in & half way through the movie I had to pee really bad.

QRD – what's your favorite love song?

Mike – that's a hard one.  I can't think of anything off the top of my head.  I don't know if this is a love song, but the Who's "Love Rain Over Me" is a real strong emotional song.  it's about loss of love, but that song always sort of sends chills down my spine.

Tara – one of them would have to be "Love Song" by the Cure & also "First Time Ever I Saw Your Face" when Gordon Sharp does it.

QRD – what's your favorite Swans' song & what Swans' song would you like to do if a tribute came out?

Tara – first of all picking a favorite Swans' song is next to impossible because they're all good so how do you choose.  currently I think my favorite is "I Remember Who You Are."  I guess that's the one I'd like to cover right now.  but picking a favorite Swans' song; it's like picking a favorite child.

Mike – I stand with Tara, it depends on my mood.  I think the burning world as an album is a great road album especially when you're driving in the plains in the west.  it has a real sensation of wide  open-ness that I think really works well.  some of my favorite stuff is the World of Skin stuff, especially the mid-eastern sounding things.  though to pick an individual song I like best or would cover would be difficult, but I know if I was forced to name one song I know it would be one of three or four of the mid-eastern sounding World of Skin songs.

QRD – what's going on about you starting your own label?

Mike – well, I need to talk to Projekt about it.  first of all, it's not going to be a label per se, in that it won't be a label for main Lycia releases or anyone else's material.  I'm primarily looking to restore some of the initial fun aspect in the music back.  I think about early Lycia when I would make demos & worked hard making the covers & getting excited about making Lycia stationary & Lycia propaganda, even Lycia rubber stamps.  that was so fun for me because I was so involved with every aspect of it.  Lycia has grown & our involvement with Projekt has become more & more of our main thing & I've lost some of the unique fun things, the demos.  I would be totally stupid to abandon being on other people's labels now like Projekt because we have a good situation right now where they take care of us good, they're willing to push us forward, & there's a new distribution deal coming through & they want to push Lycia.  they can do so much more for me than I can do for myself.  I don't want to change anything with the main releases every one to two years being on Projekt & having them push it.  but I also want to be able to do interesting little side things, stuff that I normally would have done under Bleak or Dust or Estraya or different collaborations I want to do with people or just oddball songs here & there.  I'd like to still be able to do something where I have control over every aspect.  have something where maybe once or twice a year I release a cassette, a mini-disc, a seven inch vinyl on Lycium Music.  have it limited edition of 500 copies & no more.  make it there for the real fans so that they have something special that's for them.  it also gives me something to fiddle around with.  I don't know if Projekt with the business side coming up & the contracts would be into it, but I suspect they might because it wouldn't hurt them at all.  it wouldn't compete with them either.  one of the reasons I'm doing this also is because in the past I would do tons of comps, talk about doing ep's & side projects & stuff & it would kind of hurt the sales of the main Lycia album of the time.  whereas this wouldn't compete with it at all.  it would be limited edition not available through stores, but mainly through people writing to me & maybe the web page if it's up in time & when it's done it's done.  I'm looking for no more than a limited edition thing where I'm really involved in all aspects of it too & keep it small scale.  maybe something like IPR where from top to bottom they control every aspect & make it for collectors & die hard fans & make sure everything sticks with my own personal philosophy & represents everything I want it to represent & restores some of the fun-ness of music back.
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 Mike Vanportfleet of Lycia (July 2000)
i heart fx - Mike VanPortfleet (June 1998)
Interview with Lycia (November 1994)