from MK ULTRA Issue #6 The One Year Anniversary Issue 1996
No other band that graced the pages of M.K. Ultra better deserves this title. We saw
them countless times. We listen to their music endlessly. And, when I hired my new
staff, each member loved the music of these Wisconsinites.
The Electric Hellfire Club even made a cameo in our Demon Dancer comic strip twice.
The interview with singer Thomas Thorn was the longest interview ever to run within our
pages. It incidentally created the most controversy as well (which we welcomed, by the
Formed in 1992, after Thomas Thorn left My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, a fact that
really doesn’t matter as of late, Thorn recorded a project called Slave State and met up
with Shane Lassen and company and formed the Electric Hellfire Club.
They were subsequently signed to Cleopatra Records, and began a string of club
shows, playing with the likes of Christian Death and others.
I found their debut, “Burn Baby Burn,” very exciting, since I’m a big fan of psychedelic
music. Although, at the time, I was very ignorant about the seriousness of the message
the band conveyed.
Before long, I received two more EHC releases, “Satan’s Little Helpers” and “Kiss The
Goat.” The latter made me a diehard fan. It wasn’t long after that I met the band and began to travel to Chicago on a regular basis to check out their live sets. No two were the same. Not once could I not get Shane Lassen’s keyboard groove out of my head, nor did I mind being hit with Mr. Thorn’s whip when I’d rush the stage with other eager show goers.
Sooner than later the Electric Hellfire Club were to perform shows with Type -O Negative
(one sold out on Halloween), and release on limited edition orange vinyl a medley called
“Trick or Treat.” which included John Carpenter’s “Halloween Theme.” EHC’s own
“Incubus,” a cover of the Bauhaus classic, “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” and Type O’s “Black
#1.” Also on the platter was a cover of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell.” The tour ended up
taking the band across the United States and out to California and back again before
heading home to Kenosha. The boys were taking a little time off before heading back into the studio to record the much anticipated follow-up to “Kiss the Goat” when tragedy struck.
Early the morning of January 22nd, 1996, keyboardist Shane Lassen, who was known to fans as the Rev. Dr. Luv, died of injuries sustained in a fatal car crash. I received a call informing me of the sad news early the next morning and spent that week in shock. Our cover story to the band we loved so much in our first year of existence, would now be a tribute.
As stated before, his keyboard sound would stick in our heads long after each show. In
Keyboard Magazine had compared his playing to that of Ray Manzarek of the
Doors. Shane was always very friendly to our staff as well as many of his fans. He
always seemed more concerned with what we were up to as opposed to talking about
himself and the incredibly talented band he was part of.
When I called Thomas Thorn to talk about Hellfire Club’s recent losses as well as new
found success, he wanted to assure us as well as you that they were going on with the
band. The band will go into Chicago Trax in April and are calling the new album “Calling
Dr. Luv.” The follow-up to last year’s milestone, “Kiss the Goat.”
Alex: I guess the first thing I should have you do is reflect on Shane for a moment. How
has this affected you and the band?
Thomas: Obviously it’s easily the most tragic thing that has ever occurred in my life.
This is somebody I’ve spent the last five years of my life usually not more than six feet
away from. In every part of my life, as a roommate, and working on the band
together, every part of my life has been linked to him in some way, shape or form.
So, it wasn’t a business partnership, it’s that we were really, really good friends. It’s the most
tremendous loss in all different ways. It hasn’t just hit the band really hard. It’s destroyed
my life in all ways that I knew it.
The situation we’re in we have to rebuild everything, from square one. At the same
time we want everyone to know and understand that we worked incredibly hard to bring
this band to the point it is now. It would be like running the ball all the way down the field
and dropping it at the goal line. If we stopped right now, it would be a disgrace to his
memory, if we were to stop going at this point. This is what he would’ve wanted. It’s
what we need to do to keep him and his memory alive.
Alex: His play style remains one that has been very unique. Are you still going to keep
the same psychedelic sound?
Thomas: The thing is that the Electric Hellfire Club definitely developed as a group
effort. It was something where the sound grew out of a love for music like Iron Butterfly
and the Doors as much as the hard and heavy electro, or heavy metal. Everybody in the
band plays keyboards, and everybody has that sort of musical learning as far as their
interests, and their playing style. So, at this point, we’re not really looking at replacing
him. On April 10th, we started recording a new album, and he was certainly the
more skilled of all of us. But, it’s a sound and feel that we’ll be able to carry on, because
it’s a part of us. We’ll record it with the current line up as is. Then, we’ll start putting
ourselves together as a live band. The project is called “Calling Dr. Luv.”
Alex: What do you think you’ll do live?
Thomas: We’ll have live keyboards on stage. Go-Go Partridge, who was dancing for us
on the last tour, is probably going to take over the keyboard duties. We talked to her,
and she was here a few weeks after the funeral and she tried it out and it worked. But
as far as the album is concerned, it’ll be us. Most of it’s written at this point, and I feel
more comfortable with us now than trying to bring somebody new in.
Alex: Any idea how many copies have sold of “Kiss the Goat?”
Thomas: It’s way up there, I know that. I really don’t know what the numbers are at this
point, but if the last check I got is any sign of what’s going on out there, it’s going quite
Alex: With the success that you’ve had in the past year, has the negative press on your
message diminished to inflated?
Thomas: I think it’s inflated. Monday I’m flying out to do Bob Larsen’s TV show again.
At this point, it’s funny because the more they pay attention, the more they promote you.
It’s like how MTV went through the huge thing about Marilyn Manson not being allowed to
play in Utah, so they came out and tore up a Bible on stage and it was this incredible
scandal. Man, I’ve torn up bibles on stage for years, and MTV has never put me on
there. So, that’s really funny, and as one’s notoriety grows, those things…The more
you’re made to be this big evil thing, the more popular it makes you.
Alex: Has this increased your fan base, or has the word of mouth been responsible?
Thomas: It’s a simultaneous thing. Each can be linked to the other because I think
there are people out there looking for this sort of thing, although we don’t have the
visibility that Marilyn Manson has. But, at the same time, we win over the rebellious kids
at that point where they’re acting out a political, social, and spiritual rebellion…It’s very
easy for them to embrace groups like us, that embrace that completely. So yeah, I think it’s
a matter of both.
Alex: Do you think you’ve finally shed the tag of being “formally of TKK?”
Thomas: Yeah, I don’t think anyone mentions or talks about it anymore. It was a tool that
Cleopatra used initially as a selling tool to increase interest in the band. But, by the time
we put out “Kiss the Goat,” it wasn’t used in any advertising. There are a lot of people
who don’t even know that unless they read the bio. So, I think we’re pretty much an
Alex: “Incubus” showed up on the A.P. dance charts, and you went to New York to film a
video. Whatever happened to that?
Thomas: We didn’t like the edit we got. It had weird things put in that were done without
our knowledge, like news clips of planes dropping bombs, O.J. Simpson and things that
had nothing to do with the song. It was cheesy, ridiculous and I have no idea why it was
included. So, we got all the master footage and David Glass of Mephisto Waltz and
Christian Death is re-editing it. I heard it was done, but haven’t seen it yet.
Alex: For you, what was it like to play a sold out show in New York City?
Thomas: It was remarkable. That was one of the greatest shows of my life. Maybe the
greatest show that I’ve done. I’ve played to crowds about that size with TKK when we
did the NMS at the Ritz in New York. But this was an amazing show, particularly
because when I was in TKK, we were the headline band and that was the band
everyone came to see. When we play with a band like Type O Negative for over a
week’s worth of shows, where people only know who Type O Negative was. So, it was a
completely different crowd than we were used to playing to. Lycia was opening and in a
lot of places people spit on them and were furious at what Lycia was doing. And even
those people, the guys cruising around in their Trans Ams, wish that Type O was
available on 8-track, were still responding to our music, too. So, as we opened with the
theme from “Halloween,” 5,000 people stood up and started screaming. so, it was really
a rush for us. And we sold over $1,000 worth of T-shirts that night. It was definitely a
reflection that people like what they saw, and that regardless of whether you create your
art for yourself or for other people it’s definitely a nice thing to know that it’s appreciated.
At least you’re communicating with some of these people.
Alex: That short tour grew into a lot more dates, didn’t it?
Thomas: Theoretically, what we were supposed to do was a week and a half with
them. Then, we went out with Spahn Ranch in New Jersey, did a little back tracking,
covered whatever we didn’t hit on the east coast. Then went around the country and
ended up in Seattle. Suddenly, part way through the tour, we were offered the
Genitorturers tour. So, we should’ve been done by December 7th, but it kept growing. We
had so much fun, we were asked to go to Florida and finish out the tour. And, it’s not like
the Christmas holidays mean that much to us, so we did that and spent the holidays
with our friends in Atlanta, Liars In Wait. We’re like the Addams Family on vacation. We have so much fun on tour.
Alex: On the new project, are you addressing any new themes?
Thomas: On one hand, I can say it’s more of the same but on the other, it’ll be different.
What I can say is different is that we’ve just about exhausted all the songs we wrote
prior to this recording. Like with “Kiss the Goat,” it was half new songs and half songs
that existed as far back as when “Burn Baby Burn” was done.
Alex: As you know, the staff of M.K. Ultra have seen EHC countless times and one
thing we really appreciate is that no two shows are alike.
Thomas: Yeah, we try to do that. We always, especially when we play Chicago, try to
play different songs along with the more traditional numbers.
Alex: I just can’t say how glad we are to know you’re going on. We’ve received more
letters regarding EHC than any other band we’ve covered and it’s all been positive.
Thomas: There was never any question. We talked to his parents about two days after.
They said it’s exactly what he would want. It was never a consideration in our minds that
the band was over. It’s a shattering blow. Every day we go into the band room to work
on new material. It’s a painful process, because the more you immerse into it, the more it
intensifies the sense of grief and loss. All the notes are written in his handwriting, it’s
one of those things you get an overwhelming sense of Shane not being there, that is
Alex: Did you have any closing comments you’d like to share with your supporters?
Thomas: Just thanks to everyone who expressed their condolences. The people who
came to the funeral or sent flowers, just sent cards and called. It’s been very helpful and
meant a lot to me. That’s what’s going to keep him alive. We have to keep his spirit in
our hearts. That tremendous love we felt from all the fans and friends has been
incredible. We really look forward to continuing on and to interact and give something
back to everyone that has given something to us. We look forward to forging ahead.
The new album should be out late July or early August, and we’ll be on tour with Type O
hopefully by the end of August.