The Tyrants formed after a chance meeting by Michael J and Abbe Kanter in a Hollywood acting class. The tyranny began in local punk and new wave clubs with songs like “3 People Nude Below the Waist” and “In the Shadow of Hitler.”
But in 1986, they released “Too Tuff to Cry,” an ultra sincere disco track that blew up into a club smash from East L.A. to Mexico City. Propelled onto the national dance music scene, TIT released a steady stream of 12-inch records on various L.A. independent labels like Sheik, TSR, and JDC.
The late 80s found them keeping up a schizophrenic performance schedule of discos one night and rock clubs the next. The 90s brought the Tyrants to another plateau of national recognition: The slinky grooves of “Big Pink House” (written with Terry Shaddick of “Physical” fame) and “Boy,” a grrrl put-down rap received significant airplay on urban pop radio.
Acclaim from the Dance Music world was good, and national radio play was even better, but TIT still was still unsatisfied. “We had evolved beyond Dance into strange new territory… even for us,” says AbbeAbbe, the female Tyrant. “After shows, fans were asking where they could buy our new stuff, so it seemed natural to form a label and release a full length disc.”
They named the label Emotional Coathanger Records, and their new songs morphed into something they dubbed “Punk Cabaret,” a freewheeling style that gives full rein to the Tyrants’ multiple personalities. Released in 2000, their first full length CD “Meet The Tyrants In Therapy,” was a wild sonic safari full of evocative samples and rhythms from the 1940s to the present. It gleefully blended rock, dance, punk, blues and cabaret, while addressing topics like human rights, suicide, lesbianism, pedophilia, and cake.
A slew of originals included the glistening “Om Shanti Om,” written with Trans-X’s Pascal “Living on Video” Languirand, “Down In Flames Together,” the epic “Twisted Life,” and the fashionista cool of “Sex Is Back.” TIT also covered some of the songs they loved growing up. They had fun deconstructing Serge Gainsbourg’s heavy breathing classic “Je T’aime (Moi Non Plus),” bending the gender in Arthur Alexander’s “Anna,” and Rolfing Slade’s skinhead anthem “Them Kinda Monkeys Can’t Swing” into a Rocky Horror Show romp.
After a 9-year hiatus (during which they were creating and producing their TV series), The Tyrants came back in a really big way with “High Class Trash,” an ambitious 21-cut cd, that, at first listening might seem like the Beatles’ eclectic milestone, Sgt. Pepper, on steroids.
“If this was a book, it’d be a doorstop,” opines The Tyrant Michael “but hopefully it’s like a page-turner that you just can’t put down until you’ve finished it.”
“High Class Trash” touches on nearly every kind of music we like,” continues AbbeAbbe, the female half of TIT, “we’ve got country, blues, electronica, rock ‘n roll, disco, and plenty of those novelty songs that The Tyrants seem to get remembered for.”
The result is a cross between The Eurythmics and Mel Brooks, or maybe a New Yorker cartoon set to music. Which in itself is pretty strange since the Tyrants have always been based in L.A.
But who else besides TIT would (or could) mix influences like The Kinks, Flying Lizards, Dolly Parton, ABBA, scratching, house music, Leonard Cohen, Patti Smith, Giorgio Moroder, the Rolling Stones, Beethoven and klezmer?
To help out on there wildly ambitious musical excursions, the Tyrants enlisted some serious session talent including guitarist Bobby Robles (Thee Midniters), vocalist Duncan Faure (Rabbit, Bay City Rollers), vocalist/guitarist Marc Mann (Oingo Boingo, ELO), drummer Kevin Jarvis (John Wesley Harding, The Records), bassist Louie Ruiz (The John Corbett Band), keyboardist David Kafinetti (Rare Bird, Spinal Tap), writer/producer Pascal Languirand (Trans X), and guitarist Duane Jarvis (Divynls, Frank Black, Lucinda Williams).
Great reviews from around the world and international digital penetration were just fine…but it still wasn’t enough for the Tyrants. Since the summer of 2001, TIT began to infiltrate the TV airwaves with their deliciously subversive music and comedy. A growing legion of guerilla TV addicts tune in late for “Meet The Tyrants in Therapy,” where these glamorous gladiators confront, cajole, and seduce each other. (FYI, Most of their sketches and short films are also posted on popular video sites like YouTube, Vimeo, DailyMotion, and FunnyOrDie)
Drenched in sophistication, dripping with acerbic wit, tumble dried in absurdity, the TIT live show is a kaleidoscope of social commentary, dance beats, a lick of kick-ass country, a healthy dollop of New Wave, and a decadent dose of Cabaret. It’s a one-of a-kind performance so mind-bending you’ll forget how to get home, even if you’re sitting in your own living room. But what else would you expect from a couple who call themselves the Tyrants in Therapy?