Look at the those beautiful parents and their gorgeous child. Would you believe that daddy and mommy are also two of America’s most consistently productive and hard-touring underground performers? Or that they often perform in day-glo spandex? Or have a musical called “The Joys of Armageddon”?!
Meet the most creative American family making music today.
Mad Happy, aka Mike Ill and Rivka, are a futuristic electronic musical combo that throw everything (including baby) into their potent musical mix.
They’ve played many Sean Carnage Mondays before, but tonight they will be jamming the Tribal Cafe (presented by Lots O Crap, and also featuring Laco$te, Cyan Ides, and Kid Static) before my show (featuring Monolators, The Seizure and two rad new artists from Japan) kicks in at 10pm.
So go see Mad Happy and the other bands at Tribal and then walk around the corner and throw down with us at Pehr. (Historic Filipinotown is the place to be on Monday nights if you love new music.)
Now, take it away Mike Ill…
How did you and Rivka happen to form Mad Happy?
Well we fell in love at first sight in a Native American sweat lodge at Nature’s Friends farm in New Jersey. After we finally gave up on not being lovers we realized that for us to both be touring artists and make the relationship work, we needed to be in an act together. So even though Rivka’s influences tended toward Simon and Garfunkel and mine toward Public Enemy, we put Mad Happy together. We first played a “show” together New Year’s day, 2000.
Who is responsible for what when you make music and when you perform?
Well, we both do everything as far as lyrics, melodies, themes. I’m the geek that knows the rules and how to program beats, and Rivka has a very organic approach. I have a gazillion ideas and she sorts them out and makes sense of it.
What’s your number one source of inspiration lately?
We’ve really been working on our vocalizing, and actually watching and hearing Rinah (our daughter) learning how to use her own voice for the first time is mind-blowing. So pure and egoless. We’ve also been working with James Rado who co-wrote the musical Hair on our “Joys of Armageddon” musical and that’s been super-insightful as far as getting into the whole musical theater thing.
Tell us about what you’ll be playing in L.A. tonight…
It’s funny ’cause sometimes we’re playing 2.5 hours and sometimes like 20-30 minutes so which songs we play is constantly changing. We’ve really been getting into the Eastern European-influenced melodies and South American beats with the newest tracks and continue to simplify our work, while still keeping it rich. I’ve been calling it Interfusion—a combination of “Inspiration, Entertainment and Confusion.” In ways it’s really folk music—expressing the relationship between our inner selves and best aspects of the outside culture through the joyous noise. Punk mantras.
What’s it like having your kid on the road with you?
With us both being (so-called) bi-polar, the sleep deprivation is a little different than we’re used to ’cause Rinah’s usually ready to start partying at like 9 in the morning. It’s fucking awesome though, being around someone who’s still so tuned in with reality. We love watching her watch everything. She rocks these awesome pink headphone/ear protector things at the gigs.
Has Rinah made touring easier or harder?
We get less “work” done, but our philosophy is that anything the baby prevents you from doing, you don’t really need to do, and the baby won’t keep you from doing anything you really need to do. Philosophically speaking, of course. We’re faitheists. Even though god is a construct of humankind, our spiritual convictions are nonetheless usefull in navigating the 90% of reality that eludes science and the senses.
What’s the most important thing music can do?
It’s like gardening. Pull out the energies/spirits/feelings that aren’t usefull and cultivate/plant/attract the ones that are.
What has you amped for the rest of the year?
Well we’re excited about performing our musical again, and learning/recording the new Mad Happy songs, and we planted some awesome fruit trees, and we’re always excited for food and sex and ideas and communication, and the Yes Men and seeing what Obama can pull off, and the peace movement, and learning about eating more of the wild vegetation that grows in our yard. I’m learning how to do a walk-over, and our friends from Lucient Dossier that moved to Austin. And dancing around the house naked in the morning, and seeing all our friends. And watching Rivka’s mama body change by the day, and Rinah playing piano and tambourine. And watermelon.