‘Hold on!’ he exclaims when the Skype camera turns on. I can’t see much except some blond, spiky hair in the bottom of the screen. I’m skyping with Michael Wallace, drummer of among other Viet Cong and Women. ‘I got a sick move first’, he mumbles as his face suddenly appears on the screen fidgeting with something in his hand. Is it a… lamp? ‘I was gonna put this sick, red lamp on my face but it doesn’t seem to work anymore’. Michael looks bummed. I am too.
I get a hold of Michael just after a rehearsal/recording session with Viet Cong. When I ask if he’s tired he answers yes, but not because he’s been playing all day but because he’s hung-over from the day before drinking with his younger brother. ‘I was just out with a bunch of 18-year-olds, and we drank like 70 beers in the garage’. Yikes, if that wouldn’t make you somewhat tired I don’t know what would. He doesn’t seem tired, though. He’s smiling every two seconds and is full of energy. I’ve talked to Michael a few times before, and that never changes.
We find common ground in bitching about the cold, wet weather (Denmark and Canada is very similar on that front), Michael talks about driving to California in his mobile home and living on the beach, and we talk a bit about Viet Cong’s upcoming tour in November. Michael’s stoked – to say the least – and he wants to book more shows both before and after Viet Cong’s done with his other project, LA COPS.
‘So it all started with like me trying to go on this romance road trip with this girl, and I’d made some cd’s but I forgot them all at home, and for some reason I only had the Beverly Hills Cops-soundtrack. We listened to it sooo many times!’.
‘Directly after that trip I went on my first train hop across Canada from Calgary to Toronto, and that is intense. You have to hide the whole time, and do all these crazy action moves. And I just had that fucking theme song stuck in my head the entire time’.
After arriving in Toronto he hung out with his good friend and collaborator Marc Webber, and they just started messing around with sounds inspired by the theme and cops. ‘We got really into this whole cop-world, Webber became Capt’n Webber and his home studio became Headquarters. I took my dj name and became Officer Milk Jagger. I started talking to cops, doing photo shoots with them, showing them the music we were making about them and so on. It’s all just really about creating this dance-vibe that’s really action-inspired, these sort of episodes or theme songs for life, its such good driving music!”
All of the sudden a door opens, and Michael’s mom enters the room. ‘Oh, hi mom’ Michael says pretty relaxed. I wave and introduce myself. ‘I just brought him a chocolate dipped biscotti’ she explains me while giving Michael the Italian cookie. ‘We’re doing a professional interview, mom’ Michael utters ironically while laughing. And it is kind of funny, because it’s not really that professional or an interview for that matter. More like a chilled conversation with me as a slightly overexcited and interrogating part of the dialogue. Michael’s mom laughs as well, and politely says goodbye and leaves the room.
‘So this is a really standard question but how long have you been playing the drums?’’
‘Well, if you ask my mom she would say it started when I was in the womb. I think I was a thrasher’. Despite the obvious talent for drumming at a pretty early stage of life Michael didn’t get a drum kit before he was in the 8th grade. Before that he’d just played whatever was near him, and was able to make noise. ‘Why the drums?’ I ask. ‘It just appeals to me. I’ve always been very hyperactive as a person. Especially as a young kid drumming was really good for me because I had such high energy, and then I could get all my shit out on the drums. That would always make me feel good’. This statement makes us agree on one simple fact: The world would probably be a more peaceful place if everyone just played the drums.
Michael is pretty much self-taught. He explains to me how he would put on headphones and play along to Led Zeppelin, and go to shows and study the musicians very intensely. ‘I didn’t really get any proper training until I went to India and started studying the tabla (an Indian drum used in Hindustani classical music). It’s fucking hard’ he explains to me while gesticulating vividly with his hands. This surprises me. Michael was 20 when he went to India on his first trip, living with and studying from the guru Pandit Samar Saha and up until then he was completely without any – what you would call ‘proper’ – training. ‘I mean, some of the classic legends went to school and studied the shit, but most of my favourite ones are just innovative as fuck, or just crazy, or got in the right band, and somehow they’re legendary, i think that appeals to me a lot!’
THE PERFECT SONG?
The four guys from Women played together in a band called ‘Veritas’ when they were teenagers, and then that became Women. He has also played in Friendo, done live shows with Porcelain Raft, and now Viet Cong and LA COPS. In other words, he has kept himself busy throughout the years.
‘Have you ever written the perfect song?’
‘Because I’m not David Bowie. But we try very hard to rip him of. In every way possible.’
It’s about striving for the perfect song Michael tells me. What is the next thing you can do that would be the perfect move? ‘I feel like the day I write the perfect song is the day I quit writing’ Michael says determinately.
‘Okay, what’s the BEST song you’ve ever been a part of creating?’
‘Hmm. That’s depends on where you’re at at the time, and what you’re feeling. From the new upcoming Viet Cong record there’s a song called ‘March of Progress’ that I really feel nails down the last couple years and our influences, what we’ve been listening to, how we have been feeling etc. Matt had an idea on a drum machine pulling a lot from ‘Disintegration’ by The Cure combined with pummelling synth and organ drones. I don’t know, that song I’m just really excited about, I think it sounds like it’s from the future.’
There’s really no doubt about it. Michael loves to tour. Along side visiting friends from different parts of the world the lifestyle suits him as well. ‘I’ve been pretty based in Canada for a while now so I’m really excited to cross some oceans. Your life’s pretty much on track when you tour, I feel very focused; You just gotta stay alive, wake up in the morning, and then try to eat, get from point A to B, make sure everything sounds good, and then you just get pumped and play. You do that every day and it’s so much fun.’
He tells me that he likes Europeans because they’re so beautiful and friendly, and I have to admit to him that I’ve never heard someone say that.
‘Maybe it’s because we’re from Canada, I don’t know’. We both laugh. ‘You’ve never been to Denmark, though’, I say. ‘No, but I really want to go!’ Michael says. Alright then. Fingers crossed that he will soon.
Until then LA COPS will be playing Montreal and Quebec City Canada for Halloween. You can see Viet Cong in France, UK, Belgium and at Le Guess Who-festival in the Netherlands in mid-November. A full length debut from Viet Cong is just around the corner in the new year.