Music: Fantastic Voyage

Turn off the TV and radio -- there's something spectacular and fantastic in your own backyard

Dale M. Johnson

From one-man-band to full-on group project, The Spectacular Fantastic continues to grow.

Mike Detmer, local songwriter and musician extraordinaire, heads up The Spectacular Fantastic. The former trio features Detmer on lead vocals/guitar, Jon Sheperd on vocals and guitar, Doug Baum on drums and new addition to the now quartet, Roger Pott, on bass. I spoke to Mike, Doug and Jon at Mike's farm in West Harrison, Ind.

CityBeat: Tell me the history of The Spectacular Fantastic.

Mike Detmer: When I was 21, I moved to Colorado for three years and recorded all these songs. I just kept recording, and I had a drum machine, and I eventually got a keyboard. I wanted to play live, and the people out there were, like, hippies, and I couldn't find the people I wanted to play with there. I kind of got tired of the cost of living being so high and such in Colorado, so I moved back here in 2001 and started playing with Bill, the mandolin guy in (the local band) "folk?" I had so many songs backed up that I wanted to play. At first, a lot of them were like this Country stuff. Doug had lived in Covington, then he moved back here (to West Harrison), about two miles away, and it was obvious that we should play together again.

When Doug came on, everybody else kind of fell away (in folk?) except for Bill and I. Then, last year, 2002, (folk?) just had to expand and then Jon (Sheperd) came on. But then eventually, Bill graduated school and then he had to get a night job.

CB: Tell me about the band's name, "The Spectacular Fantastic."

MD: I didn't want to release what I was doing as "Mike Detmer," because that's kind of boring. I had "The Spectacular Fantastic" written in this little address book that I had forever. At some point, when I was in Colorado, I was on top of this mountain by myself, taking it all in ... it sounds screwed up (laughs). But, on this mountaintop, I just felt like, "This is spectacular. This is fantastic." And I just thought, "OK, I'm going to have a band that's called that."

CB: It's so "not you" that it fits. You don't walk around saying, "Yeah baby, I'm spectacular and fantastic."

Doug Baum: Mike is probably the least conceited person that I know in the whole world.

CB: What do you think of the local music scene?

MD: I think the Cincinnati music scene is as strong now as it's ever been. There are so many bands right now that are doing stuff that's different. There's not one sound, because everybody's so diverse. You can probably draw some kind of line from every band around here to a major band. I've been asking people to draw that line with this band, because I want to see where the line goes for us. And they draw it to Wilco every time.

CB: I wouldn't draw a line from you to Wilco. I relate what you do to The Beatles.

MD: (Some people) hear a lot of Nirvana. The Beatles mixed with Nirvana would be a great compliment for me, but (the music) hasn't gotten there yet. And maybe it never will.

CB: It's the melodies more than anything else.

MB: That's awesome because that's what makes a good song. You can't have a good song without a good melody, in my opinion. A good Pop song. And that's all that they are, ultimately, is Pop songs. Maybe not what Top 40 Pop is supposed to be, but, that's what I think they are.

CB: Do you think it's easy or hard to get people to come to shows here in town?

MD: It's hard to get people to come see you in this town because people watch too much television.

DB: I think it's that people in general aren't in touch with the local music scene. They like what WEBN tells them to like. They're "radio people" and they don't know what's going on locally. I think a lot of those people — if they knew about it, if they were aware of it, if they actually saw it — would be interested in (the music scene) a lot more.

THE SPECTACULAR FANTASTIC ( hosts a release show for the new CD, Vortex Of Vacancy, at the Southgate House on Friday with SwissFarlo and The 13s.

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