Keep the Engine Running

Motorsoule make a clean getaway from mundane rock & roll

It's hard to believe that a band that sent their biggest fan to the hospital could still retain a devout following, but that little incident hasn't seemed to slow down Motorsoule. A few years ago, they were playing one of their bombastic shows to a packed house when their friend got pressed up against one of their many stage accoutrements: pointy, wooden cut-out flames. The decoration jabbed her in the ribs so hard that she had to get stitches. The bandmember say she now wears her tiny scar with pride.

Despite the near impalement, Motorsoule have weathered relatively few onstage mishaps—surprising, since their live show is equal parts apocalyptic theater, combustible riffs and over-the-top action. With vocalist Ricky Menace, guitarists Dan-O-Might and Shane, bassist Jen-e-rator and drummer Murdock—all veterans of the OC rock scene—the band has burned quite a reputation for itself over the past three years.

What they play is rock & roll, pure, driven and dirty. If Motorsoule were in a three-way drag race with punk rock and heavy metal, the band would take a switchblade to metal's white walls and a Molotov cocktail to punk's gas tank. They took their name from their love of cars, but it's also an apt description of their sound.

"It was what the music was starting to sound like," explains Dan.

"It came from a motor movement," Ricky adds. "The sound of the music, something that drives people. In all reality, this band has a very dark, carnivalesque sound to it. I think that it's music for souls out there that don't have a place."

The music is the fuel, but their live show is the souped-up hot rod where Motorsoule's reputation melts rubber off the rims. In addition to those formidable flames, the band brings a customized lighting rig, costumes, air raid sirens, Ricky's chain-link steering-wheel mic stand and a giant silver "M," outlined with controllable Christmas lights. "It's like the Kiss sign," laughs Dan, "only scaled down."

The costumes, another integral part of the Motorsoule experience, have evolved over the years. "I've always worn ruffled shirts," says Ricky. "My friends used to call me Drunk Elvis. I always felt that, coming from a visual point of view, I needed to actually dress up the show, so we incorporated that into the band."

In addition to the loungy "Tux-evils," the Motorsoule fashion arsenal includes "Rock-evils" (biker chic with lots of leather) and "Evil Knievels" (polyester jump suits with matching capes). Some costume ideas have worked better than others. Dan once bought 100 marching band uniforms from eBay simply because they had the letter M on them. The idea was to outfit their legion of fans—lovingly referred to as Motorsoldiers—but when the band went to pick them up from a freight company in San Pedro, they discovered the uniforms were sized for fifth-graders.

"We had great plans for a society," Ricky laments.

Each Motorsoule set boasts three different costume changes. "We've mastered the Velcro wardrobe," says Dan. "Those costumes can get pretty hot."

Jen agrees. "If you want to lose weight, put on an 'Evil Knievel' and jump around for 35 minutes."

"I think that's what makes the show, more than anything," Ricky says. "We're taking you through the scene, so the music, it doesn't stay still. It travels from one scene to another with sirens, lights and costumes."

The ringleader of this rock & roll circus may well be Motorsoule's honorary sixth member, Leo, the Minister of Special Effects. The engineer behind the band's light show, he comes to most practices to make sure he's in sync with every note and emotion. "He plays the light board as hard as anybody playing a keyboard or an instrument," Dan says.

But wait—we know what you're thinking right about now, and we want to make something clear: Motorsoule is no novelty act. "The visual part is definitely a side of it, but we have to balance that," says Dan. "You can't be all visuals, you can't be all sound. I think that's why people like to book us—because club owners know they're going to get their money's worth."

Love 'em or hate 'em, they're an undeniably tough act to follow. The band's manager, Ski, warns that unless they've got a good visual presence, other bands may get washed out. "Musically, they could be great, but visually? It's like staring into a light bulb and then turning around and looking at a blank wall. You don't see anything except a little white spot in front of you."

"Our shows aren't the kind you go to and just sit in the back with your friend and talk while there's a band on stage," Dan says. "Whether you like us or you don't like us . . . well, you can't not like us."

Breasts are a concept all humans can rally behind, and the fine men (and woman) in Motorsoule are no exception. The band will join several other local rockers Sunday for the afternoon-into-evening Save the Boobies benefit concert at the Galaxy Theatre (which will also feature the ink-slinging skills of some of OC's best tattoo artists). The whole day benefits the Healing Art Foundation, a charity dedicated to the research, awareness and prevention of breast cancer.

"What drew us to this benefit," Dan says, "is that it's a well-known charity, it's with other bands that we're friends with, and it's Christmastime."

Not surprisingly, Motorsoule are a popular choice for benefit organizers. The band can afford to be somewhat choosy about which events they participate in.

"We always bring the whole act with us," says Dan. "If you put on one of these shows, you know you're going to have a band everybody is going to remember afterwards."

The Save the Boobies Benefit featuring Motorsoule, The Cadillac Tramps, Texas Terri, Boobie Trap, Lisafer, Brass Taxx and "a very special surprise band" at the Galaxy Concert Theatre, 3503 S. Harbor Blvd., Santa Ana, (714) 957-0600. Sun., 2 p.m. $15.
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