What's normal?

Cybertrybe talks industrial slam, S&M and the National Guard

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Cybertrybe could well be the biggest band in Detroit that you've never heard of. In the 17-year existence of the band, it has led the way for industrial music in the metropolitan area, in the process winning a trashcan full of Detroit Music Awards which, though a dubious honor, at least highlight the fact that the band has been at the forefront of the scene for many years.

The anchors of the lineup are married couple Sean, 46, and Angela Mooer, 41 — the former is the only original member left. On stage, Sean, who is in the National Guard, intimidates with his long black coat, oversized boots, shaved head and, yup, eyeliner. He appears grounded; he's kind, a jovial dude you'd drink with and shoot the shit. Similarly, Angela, who works in real estate, is a kind of goth kitten on stage, slinking and purring while gape-faced fans and the curious cram to the front. 

Offstage, she's not as she appears. She has a professional, business-like commitment to the band, which she takes very seriously.

Cybertrybe is now completed by drummer Jeff Sankuer and bassist Jason Quartuccio, but most interesting is that the Mooers' son, Kegan Landicho, plays guitar in the band! Did you catch that? Young Landicho performs on stage in an S&M-styled industrial band with his fucking parents. That's gotta be, uh, a little Oedipal, maybe? You can be as pro about it as you want, but who wants to hear their mom purr? Kegan wasn't around for comment, but for Angela, the challenge lies in seeing her son as just another bandmate. "Our first gig with Kegan, one of the other female musicians from another band came up to me and said that our guitarist is really good-looking, and is he single?" she says. "I don't want to treat him different to any other band member, so I didn't know what to say. I just looked her straight in the eye and said, 'That's my son'. So I failed with a big F. I knew a little too much about her."

Cybertrybe originally formed back in '95 as Industrial Chaos. "About a year later we changed the name to Cybertrybe just because Static Records had a compilation of industrial bands put out called Industrial Chaos," Sean says. 

The core of the lineup back then was Sean and Bryant Bedwell, both of whom had just relocated to the city from Mississippi. Soon afterwards, Sean met Angela through an online musician's network. "Everybody hated Sean there because he's a very political person, a patriot, and he won't back down in an argument," Angela says. "I had just decided to get back into music. I liked a post of his, and I was in cover bands. He answered an ad I had for a bass player and keyboardist, and he's neither." 

In 2001, Sean split Cybertrybe, though the band carried on under the guidance of his former bandmate. "It's weird because after 9/11, we had just put out our first CD, Trust in Myths, and me and Bryant were getting more and more irritated with each other," he says. The tensions that flared onstage, Sean says, scuttled a Warner Bros. deal when an A&R man came to check them out. "I still feel that was our chance to break," he says. 

With the two of them at a loose end, Sean formed a cover band with Angela called Feed the Kitty, reimagining songs by the Cars and Led Zeppelin in an industrial style. "We started dating, then got married," Sean says. "A couple of years later, she encouraged me to get back together with Bryant as Cybertrybe."

The core lineup was now Bedwell and the two Mooers. Bedwell was soon fired when those tensions resurfaced. While Bedwell's influence on the band is in the techno side of the music, the songs are less reliant on keyboard tracks stacked one over the other. Rather, the music is heavier, cleaner, more melodic. 

Since Bedwell's departure, Cybertrybe has gone through band members like a fat dude through cake. "We have very strict standards," Angela says. "It's got to be business — it's not about partying. We're very professional. All of the money that we make goes back into the band, so you have to find a musician who is into the project enough to play for free. We've been called Nazis, and so be it because it's a machine."

Cybertrybe's sonic references run the industrial metal gamut of Ministry and Nine Inch Nails as it does the "purer" electronic-based industrial bands such as Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly. 

"There have been shows that we were not allowed to play in the late '90s because we had guitars," Sean says. "Industrial has lots of sub genres. I think we let Nine Inch Nails take the lead with [radio-friendly industrial]. We follow that path ... I've seen industrial with just machines and sounds, and also with the full-blown band. It's about being experimental."

This couple's relationship is dichotomous: They engage in S&M imagery and mix with City Club regulars in leashes, but their home life is the white picket fence Americana. ("We have a curiosity [about S&M] but we're very normal people.") Without going into bedroom detail, they're S&M curious, but say their on-stage attire's more superhero costume-y than anything. 

"We have a lot of friends who are really into it, Sean says. "We're a normal family, but for some reason, we're not comfortable around normal people, the kind of sit-com family who attend PTA meetings, play on a bowling league and have pizza and movie nights. We're comfortable around freaks — the goth kids, the sideshow and fetish people."

The Mooers claim to be "normal," but then dislike what they believe "normal" represents. So what is it? 

"It's the performance," Angela says. "We don't play too often, and I'll get to the point when I'm tired and don't want to do my hair, makeup and have people stare at me. Then I get on stage and feel that support and love, and it's like a drug. That's what keeps me going. I have rheumatoid arthritis and I hurt all the time, but when I'm playing with my bandmates, the pain goes away. I'll pay for it later though."

So how does stage life sit with Sean's National Guard buds? 

"The people in my unit joke about it all the time, and it's weird me going on stage with eyeliner on," he says. "I'm careful to watch what I say and I'm careful what I point fingers at. If I just go off on the government, I could get in trouble. In a year and a half when I retire, I won't have to worry." 

Cybertrybe's preparing for the release of the forthcoming Picnic in the Apocalypse album, only their second full-length, with a June 16 show a benefit for the Warrior Cry Music Project which provides musical therapy to war veterans. 

The evening could well present all of the different sides to the Cybertrybe peeps. There's nothing more "normal" or indeed civilized than charity work, and the patriot in Sean will be proud to be helping this cause. But once they get on stage, flanked by their son, let the black-clad debauchery begin.

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