Tight Phantomz Interview

An Interview with Mike Lust from Tight Phantomz conducted April 25, 2004 by Justin Sinkovich.

"I couldn't stand to see any more of my friends on the covers of magazines and on Conan O'Brien. It feels amazing to be in a band again," slyly exclaimed Mike Lust in a café next door to The Empty Bottle, the club where he struck his last pose and flung his last high kick over five years ago, retiring Chicago's seminal instrumental math rock trio, Lustre King. One of the most colorful figures in Chicago's underground music scene, Lust turned his full attention to producing and building a studio until this year, when he unveiled his new trio, Tight Phantomz, with the "Nightfool" EP and a storm of live performances. "It started to drive me nuts not being in a band. There were things I loved about not being in a band. I wouldn't have been able to get the recording studio off of the ground without the free time to build it. I was working on music the whole time by myself, but there was something unfulfilling about it." Despite his extended stage absence, Mike Lust has continued to be one of the Chicago music scene's most active producers. "I'm proud to have done most of the Sweep The Leg Johnny records, all of the Ten Grand records, Will Whitmore's records, a majority of Sterling's records, a Check Engine record, Bible of the Devil record and mixed an Atombombpocketknife record. I liked working with Lying In States a lot as well. Hundreds are slipping from my memory and many never saw the light of day. I've recorded demos for people like Taking Pictures and We Ragazzi. I'm fortunate to have good friends who call on me and it's only going to get better as we incorporate better equipment into the studio."

Lust built his new studio, Phantom Manor, with Jay Danderan and Craig Ackerman, the same Lustre King band mates he left onstage over a half-decade ago. Tight Phantomz has Danderan behind the drum kit again, making it two-thirds of Lustre King. Why not just record a second album with Lustre King instead of forming a new band? " I just feel like the music we were playing in Lustre King was stifling and we were pigeonholed into math rock. If we wanted to do something different, like an acoustic song or to have lyrics, we had pigeon holed ourselves so much that it wouldn't have gone over very well. I wanted a change and thought I could do it without Jay and Craig. I tried to play with different people but I came back to Jay. Sometimes you find that person who already knows what beat to play after a couple of riffs. With Jay, it's always been very instinctual and very telepathic so the songwriting is really easy. Then Cale comes in on bass and puts a little paprika on the egg."

You will instantly recognize the same tightly wound spastic rock leads, technical breaks, and effervescent stage presence spilling over from the Lustre King days. But Tight Phantomz is a steady diet of classic rock swagger wafting straight from a black lit seventies shag carpeted van. "It's a very conscious thing. We had fun making the music very technical and flashy in Lustre King. It became a vehicle for us to be morons and be flashy. I knew I wanted to scale it back. I wanted to be in this band since junior high – a straight up rock band. Even though I loved being in Lustre King, we just hit a wall. Instrumental music only goes so far and appeals to a limited number of people. It's not like I wanted mass appeal, but I wasn't listening to the type of music I was playing. I want to make my own music, go home and put on my own record and love it. I hadn't been excited about guitar music in some time and then, four years ago, a friend taped me a copy of ZZ Top's Tejas. When I heard that record I got excited about music, excited about guitar playing and inspired to start a band by just listening to this album. I was listening, asking myself why people aren't playing like this anymore. I listened to a lot of seventies rock and the way it was produced. Everything is up front. Then I started to practice more of those twangy, bendy, honky riffs."

With a new studio and a new band signed to Lustre King's former label, Southern Records, what's next for Lust? "Now we're starting to incorporate pro tools and 24-track 2-inch tape into Phantom Manor. We're reconfiguring that now. It's hard when you're constantly recording, but we're putting that together in May. The band is touring the first two weeks of May and the middle two weeks of June and then we hope to go back out for a big one in August. I really had to think about recording over the years. When you mix the thing you love with commerce, you often do projects to keep bread on the table. I found myself embittered, wondering why I was working so hard on other people's music. So I've decided to make the band more of a priority to the point that if tours come up, I cancel the session if I have to. The new album is almost done. It's been sitting there staring at me, waiting for me to finish the vocals. It will be a nine song LP released in the fall. The album will be more diverse that the "Nightfool" EP, which doesn't really let up for the 15 minutes. The album will be more dynamic and versatile."

There was a noticeable void in Chicago's music scene when Mike Lust broke up Lustre King but he's finally returned to his natural habitat, the stage. Now Tight Phantomz seem poised to take the world by storm. "I'm an extrovert and I really like being in front of a couple of hundred people. It's my favorite thing in the whole world. "
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