Mikelangelo is reclaiming the darkness of life through Spectres Of Love
“I’ve been thinking about this concept of the dark, and I think the dark has gotten off with a bad rap.
“I think it’s become a very easy term to use to refer to anything bad these days,” says guitarist, singer/songwriter and performer Mikel Simic — commonly known by his creative mononym Mikelangelo.
The context for Mikelangelo’s musings is the idea behind his latest band, the surf-garage-noir Spectres of Love, and its titular suggestion of darkness. “Things get slated as ‘dark’, whereas for me the dark is also night which is beautiful, it could be the subconscious or all of the unknown, all those mysteries, all of those things. So the name of the band for me, while it could be ominous, a spectre is also a vision. It could be a vision of beauty, or a vision of something fearful.”
Spectres of Love came about as a happy accident after Mikelangelo guested with Sydney surf band El Dinero, performing some songs from Mikelangelo and the Tin Star’s garage surf canon. Flushed with the success of the ad hoc collaboration, Mikelangelo floated the idea of a spin-off band. “I stole their bass player, Michaela, though she’s still playing with El Dinero, and we started jamming with another drummer, AJ True, who’s an old friend of mine. We tried out some songs and it felt incredibly good. I’ve never played in a three-piece before so it’s quite exciting.”
While Mikelangelo continues to enjoy his Black Sea Gentlemen and acoustic solo performances, Spectres of Love offers an opportunity to indulge the “electricity running through rock’n’roll.” Taking on lead guitar duties, a role Mikelangelo rarely performs, has been simultaneously “really exciting and slightly harrowing.”
“Whenever I get worried, I say ‘Mike, your favourite lead guitarists are guys like Ron Asheton from The Stooges. Remember, it’s less notes and good sounds,’ ” Mikelangelo says. “There’s something in the original ensemble of The Stooges that’s so gritty and mean and spare.”
The songs in the Spectres of Love catalogue are, in some respects, an attempt to reclaim the darkness of life. “I’ve always been interested in the mysteries of life,” Mikelangelo says. What about love? Where does that fit in?
“I think love is all encompassing. There’s obviously romantic love, and I’m a big fan of romantic love. Love can be within everything we do. It can be in how we treat ourselves, each other and everything around us,” he says. “We try to do it —it can be with music that’s beautiful and life affirming, or it can be with music that’s the very opposite — but ultimately we’re out there giving people options and things that are full of love in all its different facets. That’s a really broad spectrum of artists.”
Mikelangelo concedes that his songs may end up at a different place from where they’ve originated. The fact that Spectres of Love covers such a wide spectrum of the rock’n’roll genre, from hard-edged garage rock to more atmospheric noir, allows the band to explore a range of different emotions and stories. “I don’t necessarily sit down with a page and an idea that I’m going to explore, to achieve this different thing,” Mikelangelo says. “I think the songs have to have a life of their own, and I certainly discover more about what the conscious mind is trying to work out, which is actually coming from a more clandestine, instinctive place.”
As with all of Mikelangelo’s musical pursuits, there’s a thematic aspect to Spectres of Love, rather than a linear aggregation of songs. That common theme is rock’n’roll in all its weird and wonderful guises. “I was having a desire to play rock’n’roll again and the band is just a manifestation of that desire,” Mikelangelo says. “I’ve been throwing a lot of songs into our rehearsals to see what floats. We’ve got some songs that are in my gospel canon, and songs that are total dirty swamp that might fit in with The Cramps and grinding psychobilly. For me they actually work together. I don’t want to be limited to just one genre. I’m inspired by the pure energy of rock’n’roll and the songs can come out in different ways.”
By Patrick Emery