Under the influence with Mike Wiebe from art-punks Drakulas
Thursday, May 28, 2020 - 13:55
- by Tom Dumarey
Drakulas, the art-rock quartet from Austin, TX, have recently released ‘Terminal Amusements,’ their sophomore album. A sonic marriage of proto-punk, garage, 1980’s synth and new wave, the album tells a story that centers around a video game arcade in a fictional 1970’s metropolis.
Formed by Mike Wiebe and Rob Marchant of the Riverboat Gamblers and Zach Blair of Rise Against as a fully formed art project to explore new, dark avenues and be set apart from other projects, there is a lot more to Drakulas than meets the eye. So we caught up with Mike Wiebe to talk about some of the things that influenced the album.
Night Flight was, I don't know what to call it, a variety show? It came on after Saturday Night Live when I was kid. Sometimes it was music videos, sometimes the short films of Devo or Church of the Subgenius, sometimes animation by Brothers Quay. All random underground stuff that was rarely explained and just presented. This was long before the Internet and I didn't have any older friends to introduce me to this kind of strangeness. Also, I was just excited to be up that late. My parents were asleep and this thing would come on and it opened my mind without spoon-feeding me anything. There are pieces and nuggets of things that I don't even consciously remember that pop up from these shows. With Drakulas, I always wanted it to feel a little like watching Night Flight when I was kid; the idea that there was a world not explained behind what I was watching at the moment. The animated intro is a plane flying into L.A. and it always gives me sweet, sweet nostalgia when I'm flying into LAX at night. Night Flight has a great streaming service that has a bunch of their episodes and much, much more.
New Wave Theater was a show that I would get to see snippets of on Night Flight. New Wave Theater was kind of a cable access-style hodge-podge music show that had lots of L.A. punk bands from the Eighties. Lots of otherwise unheard-of punk that wasn't mentioned in We've Got the Neutron Bomb. Stuff that either didn't ever get a release or just remains out of my radar (which, to be honest, isn't the widest-sweeping radar like the kind they have on nuclear submarines). I didn't actually see this performance of Suburban Lawns on Night Flight back in the day; it's something I was hipped to a few years ago. The song is amazing and their stage presence & look of the band is incomparable. Peter Ivers, the host of New Wave Theater, had a fascinating story of his own. There is a book about his life and murder called In Heaven Everything Is Fine. The intro is bonkers and the edit is fairly bizarre. We were so obsessed with the video we did an almost shot-for-shot recreation for our song "VHS."
The Warriors (with Honorable Mention to 80 Blocks from Tiffany's and Renegades)
The Warriors, in my mind, is pretty obvious. The overall concept of the band sprung from a world not unlike the Warriors' world with the Drakulas being a gang that existed and was just never onscreen. Maybe the gang started a band ... And then the idea of the question as to what is going on in the rest of the city outside of the gang stuff. 80 blocks from Tiffany's is a documentary about the real gangs and seems to be the source material for The Warriors. When digging into the ether before the first album, I found this and it helped solidify the idea of subcultures that don't, and can't, exist anymore. Renegades was a one-season network TV show that was a very PG version of The Warriors. It's very dumb but it was the only thing I could watch before I was able to see quick glimpses of the R-rated violence of The Warriors.
This is the model of how you make a band that's more than a band. They are a fully realized malleable piece that exists in their own world. Short films, stage pieces, costumes, videos, and just some of the best songs of all-time that hit in the sweet spot between punk and New Wave. They started their own genre. Art in the coolest sense.
Psychedelic short films, Erotica, a Manson collection. I think I maybe first heard of him when Murder City Devils gave him a name drop in the song "Lemuria Rising." When I got hipped to his short films, it started a germ about the idea of what the occult might be like if it combined pop art with old world esoterica. Something about the aesthetic of Day-Glo Satanism started a germ in my brain that keeps spreading. My youth ministers would've talked to my parents.
This obviously ties in with the last one. I remember asking my mother who he was when I was very young because he was on random TV shows and chat shows (I think he was on The Love Boat once). She would just say, "Ooooh, he's just this crazy artist." She said it in a dismissive way but there was something edgy about her tone that made me wonder what more there was. Then later realizing that a pretentious art scene co-existed with a punk scene full of animals in the most dirty dangerous city (at that time) drew me.
Repo Man is one of my favorite films. The tone and the soundtrack helped connect lots of the tissue between my love of punk music, film, comedy and general esoterica. Harry Dean Stanton is my favorite actor and I always see him existing as a character in the City where Drakulas live... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3nPEM5d-MtQ
This was a big sonic starting point for the band. We have a Dickies poster up in the practice space. We referenced them a lot especially on our first record, Raw Wave.
The Rialto Report
The Rialto Report is a podcast with longform interviews with mostly Golden Age porn stars. Fascinating lives from fascinating people from a really fascinating time period. Many of them lived through an area where pornography was shot on film and was shown in theatres.