Category Archives: Interviews

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Gasoline Pops at the Soul Mine (Photo: John Spalvins)

Boulder’s Gasoline Lollipops is Ready to Douse Denver

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Gasoline Lollipops in Jamestown, CO (Photo: Laura Folden)

Gasoline Lollipops in Jamestown, CO (Photo: Laura Folden)

Boulder may be too small, too quiet to hold the Gas Pops any longer…

“The Gasoline Lollipops as it stands today – I feel like we’re at the beginning. I mean, we’re starting to pick up steam, and it’s my first experience of that with the Gas Pops,” Clay Rose, frontman of the quickly rising Boulder band told DenverThread.

Rose is a pleasant-looking young man, tall and lanky, and he appears unbeknownst just behind me in line in the front of a Boulder coffee shop as I order, pay, and head back to find a place to talk. He shows up shortly after I find a table, and somehow we know who each other is right away – maybe journalistic clairvoyance, or some communal tie to Naropa (my day job, and Rose’s one-time university).

“I had another band earlier that picked up pretty fast [The Widow’s Bane], but this has been, like, a really epic journey,” he continued. “So many fantastic stories of Gasoline Lollipops, beginning and ending, and the first one starts in, like… 2000… 2004.”

Catch the Gasoline Lollipops at the Lost Lake Lounge on Friday, October 20, and at the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park on Saturday, October 21

Gasoline Lollipops is picking up plenty of steam, and has been steadily climbing in notoriety and popularity for the past year or so – and now they’re ready to take on the Denver audience. Their new record – Soul Mine – is slated to drop on December 16, and they’re having a release party at the Fox Theater in Boulder to celebrate. This record might be the catalyst they need to break down the walls into Denver.

Gasoline Pops at Red Rocks in Morrison, CO (Photo: Michael Emanuele)

Gasoline Pops at Red Rocks in Morrison, CO (Photo: Michael Emanuele)

They’re well aware of Denver’s country alt-gothic punk indie imprint – known for some time as “The Denver Sound” and populated by bands like 16 Horsepower, Slim Cessna’s Auto Club, Munly Munly, The Denver Gentlemen, and more. But the Gas Pops feel they have a sound and fury that can overcome any pigeon-holing, and it’s true.

Gasoline Lollipops is more than Merle Haggard country, and so much more than a Slim Cessna knockoff. Their sound beats with a true, red-blooded American heart, melding country punk, folk, and searing rockabilly behind Rose’s often wild, guttural Tom Waits howl. They tell tails of troubled lives, of the ends of lives, of the hearts broken and stamped out of existence just about every day in this life. And they do it with a danceable – and, yes, moshable – folk-punk presence that leaves audiences exhausted and ecstatic every time.

Danceable – and moshable – country-punk folk with grit and heart

But Rose’s musical history didn’t start that way, necessarily. After spending a childhood dividing time with a truck-driving father and a Nashville mother, Rose found himself with a guitar in his hand at a truck stop one day, where a local asked him if he was playing the local open mic. He’d just learned a few chords, and had written out three songs – likely about the adolescent loves he’d pine over as he left one town and fell in love at another – so why not? One thing led to another, and his passion turned into an obsession by the early 2000s.

“I was just a crazy kid, and I had a big, liberty-spiked mohawk, combat boots, and I was living in this rental house in Lafayette,” he explained. “I’d been playing gigs around solo, under the name Clay Rose – like political acoustic folk/punk – kind of like like the young Billy Bragg, but way more edgy, super fast.”

“It was like Rage Against the Machine if it was only an acoustic guitar and a singer – super fast, me almost rapping, and, like, screaming a lot,” he explained. “I wore very bright clothes – checkered pants, and all.”

Young punk fury fell a little flat on Boulder at first

For a while, Rose tried to build a reputation on his own, playing open mics and scheduled gigs as much as he could, outside day jobs. He kept trying to get people to wake up a little, to look a little further than the Flatirons.

“I had just moved back [to Boulder] from Nashville in about 2002, and – I don’t know – I was trying to stir shit up,” he continued. “But, y’know, Boulder is not really the place – like, people don’t want to be stirred up here.”

Rose began to butt up against the unique activist nature of Boulder’s population – one certainly not known for embracing the more unsavory sides of things. But it didn’t phase him, or stop him from building a band around perhaps one of the strangely tastiest band names ever.

“It’s weird, because, from the outside, it looks like it’s populated by a bunch of hippies, and hippies are known for stirring shit up. But not these hippies.”

After battles with substances, Gasoline Lollipops proved to be the salve he needed

After a battle with alcohol and drugs that became almost too much for him, Rose became sober for a time but continued to make music. When his girlfriend – now wife – took a sabbatical out of the country to answer some of her own questions, rather than diving back into a drunken stupor, he formed The Widow’s Bane. Formed around songs that were to be composed and sung by men who’d been killed by the heartbreak from their earthly relationships, The Widow’s Bane became a sea-shanty, dead-looking staple at places like the annual Zombie Crawl in Denver, among other places. They became pretty popular, but just weren’t and aren’t – the band that Rose had his heart wrapped up in.

Now, in Gasoline Lollipops, he feels he’s found the one.

Gasoline Pops at the Soul Mine (Photo: John Spalvins)

Gasoline Pops at the Soul Mine (Photo: John Spalvins)

“There have been moments in time with the Gasoline Lollipops – quite a few,” he espoused,  “where I was like ‘This is a supergroup!’ There was a time period there where I felt like that – it was a very different band from what it is now. Y’know, we had this guy J.C. Thompson on bass, and he would play an upright, and he was one of the meanest upright players I’ve ever played with until he got deported to Canada.”

“At that point, we were just a four-piece” Rose added. “We had Jeb Bows on the fiddle, and he’s still with us – he’s the last original member other than myself. Things have just changed, and for better.”

As far as how the band reached its current, satisfying state, Rose explained that he’d been following a particular type of strategy – one that got him much of the band he was looking for, without burying him in the responsibility of making any bad decisions.

“I never auditioned anybody for the band, and it was just like, if we needed a player, I just put it in my mind that ‘we need this player,'” he explained, “and then I would casually bring it up in conversation, and someone would say ‘Oh – I know so & so,’ or ‘I play this,’ and that’s how we’d get new players.”

A bad experience with a record exec changed all that and left a record and loads of work on a shelf, unreleased.

“I guess I’ve always had a faith in… destiny? Which I’m starting to rethink a little late in the game,” said Rose.

Taking control of his fate

“I never wanted the responsibility of making my own fate, because what if I choose wrong? So I never chose anything, as far as a musical career goes,” he explained. “I fell into the camp of people who believe so much in destiny that ‘All I gotta do is keep playing, and sooner or later that record executive is gonna walk through the door, and the rest of my life is going to be peaches. Ha!”

“And then the record executive DID walk through the door, and he turned out to be a fuckin’ scumbag! It was bad…,” he added, “yeah…. It was a long time ago. The record I did with the label – we never released it. That’s what I got for letting destiny introduce me to my future, right? But it still took me a long time to learn any kind of a lesson from that, and I’m just now learning it.”

After caring for the wounds of a less-than-helpful executive, Rose persisted, and eventually came to the lineup and energy that is the Gasoline Pops today.

“That’s why I’m saying that we’re kind of at the beginning, because it’s the first time that I’m really kind of ‘taking charge,’ or taking responsibility for my own future, and making decisions – whether or not they’re the right ones, y’know?” he explained. “Just practicing making decisions, and moving forward at all costs, ’cause stagnation is the enemy. I’d rather be moving backward than not at all.”

Their first European tour

One of those decisions came out of the band’s upcoming first tour in Europe.

“We’re doing an upcoming tour in Belgium & The Netherlands November 15 – December 5,” he explained, “and Donny, our guitar player, can’t come, ’cause he’s gotta get hip replacement surgery. So – rather than picking the next person that came along with a guitar, like I normally would, I held open auditions. I auditioned 20 guitar players.”

“I had to say ‘No’ to 19 of them – which I’ve learned is something I’m not at all good at,” he added. “This is mainly why I always wanted destiny to figure it out for me.”

“But this feels good, and now I know that – out of 20 dudes – I’ve got the cream of the crop.”

 


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Do You Remember the Family Dog in Denver?

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“We were all teenagers, working on coming together – and you know what brought us all together? Music.”  This was how Tony Guillory, former cabaret manager and co-founder of The Family Dog in Denver – likely one of the city’s most significant, and most hidden, venues. Guillory and I were talking that night in the backyard of the Wanamaker family home, some of the Dog’s original staffers, where people from all over had gathered to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the short-lived but hugely influential venue.

The Family Dog Denver was the cowtown’s dream and nightmare

The Family Dog, which occupied the building that now holds PT’s Showclub Denver at 1601 West Evans from September of 1967 to July of 1968 – less than a year – hosted such legendary greats as Janis Joplin/Big Brother & the Holding Company, Jimi Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, Canned Heat, and The Doors and more, in short order (to get deeper into the history of The Family Dog, check out Westword‘s article). The Family Dog not only set the tone for Denver’s future music scene, and made an indelible dent in the world of Rock n’ roll (at least for a slow-growing cowtown on the eastern plains), the venue also effectively launched the career and promotional empire of Barry Fey.

“The Tale of the Dog: the Untold Story of Denver’s Greatest Rock Club” is trying to raise the necessary funds to keep production going – editing the film, distribution, promotion, rights & permissions, and more – and if you give, your donation will be 100% tax-deductible. You can find more information and donate online.

The party Guillory and I were in the middle of was almost a family reunion of old band members, promoters, artists, and personalities all associated with – and very much in love with – the Family Dog. Guillory managed the events at the Denver Dog during its short lifetime,  and then went on to a lifelong career in entertainment, but is by his own account truly a painter. In fact, he got his start in show business by painting set backdrops and helping set up events for many entertainers who turned later out to be legendary stars – including Johnny Mathis. He also managed the band Allmen Joy, about whom he said: “We were going to call the band ‘Snickers,’ but it was too close a rhyme with the sadly popular vernacular of the time.”

His incredibly interesting history includes time spent with the Hell’s Angels and the Rolling Stones in the historic Altamont show, chronicled by the 1970 film “Gimme Shelter,” and booking and managing bands and shows all over the world.

Local family members worked late hours for the bands and the venue

Among the guests were Melody Duggan, and Marilyn and Roy Wanamaker, who all worked at The Dog during its short existence. Roy, who started at the Dog when he was “… 15 or 16 – it’s hard to remember a lot of specifics from back then,” as he put it, used to run the psychedelic light shows that covered the bands as they played.

“I used to hang out on the balcony above the dance floor – and that balcony is still there – with an overhead projector, water, oil, and food coloring, splashing trippy colors all over the bands,” remembered Wanamaker, “among other things. I don’t remember all of them, but I have a lot of good feelings about what I do remember.” Wanamaker also regaled us with some stories about now-legendary rock stars that visited the Dog – including Jim Morrison (“My mother – who everyone just called mom, always said Morrison smelled awful!”), Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and more throughout the night.

The other reason all of these beautiful ex-hippies gathered at the Big House that night was to help move a very special film project forward – “The Tale of the Dog: the Untold  Story of Denver’s Greatest Rock Club” – which is being made and produced by Dan Obarski and University of Denver Medieval and Renaissance Art professor Scott Montgomery. A labor of love, the film has nearly reached critical mass as far as content, but is falling short of funds to get fully completed, and the pair are using the nostalgia for an era to generate awareness, and to raise some of that necessary money.

Montgomery and Obarski have been collecting verbal histories, memories, snippets of conversation, and just about anything they can find about the “Denver Dog,” which, regrettably, really isn’t much. They both met at a Family Dog concert poster exhibit in early 2015, and have been hot on the trail to unearth the venue’s true history ever since.

There’s not much proof left of the Family Dog Denver – except posters, and memories

“Aside from some pretty bad videos on YouTube, and the posters in the original exhibit and hanging in the parlor here at the house,” said Montgomery, “there really isn’t much proof the Denver Dog existed, outside of memories.” Part of the cool thing about being at the 50th anniversary was the fact that one room of the house was set aside, cleared out, and dedicated to another exhibit of Denver Dog poster art, only the second ever to . Aging hippies spent a lot of time strolling through, looking at the posters, remembering adventures, sharing war stories – and laughing, smiling, and sometimes tearing up, too.

Among the celebrities at the party was Paul Conley, the keyboardist from the seminal psychedelic band Lothar and the Hand People, who brought with him a veritable archive of magazine and newspaper clippings, photos, and artwork from the band’s early days. Among other revelations about the Hand People’s history that Conley revealed was the fact that they were “…the first band to ever tour and perform live with a synthesizer,” given to them by Bob Moog. He also confirmed that The Beach Boys’  Brian Wilson was inspired by his band’s use of Lothar – their theremin – which he eventually used in the hit “Good Vibrations.”

Every story, every memory, every reunion hug, every gut-bucketful of familiar laughter – all of these added up to the undeniable proof that The Family Dog was – and still is – the seed of Denver’s long rock n’ roll history and its constantly growing music and art scene. The fact that the Denver Dog attracted such a number and stature of celebrities in such a short time – in a desolate area of a small cowtown with nothing, really, more than aspirations to be a big city – as well as a pretty strong hippy scene so far away from Haight/Ashbury, speaks volumes of both the vibe of the place, and its loving, tireless staff.

“Growing up – surviving, there was no money – which supposedly runs things,” waxed Guillory, as the night wrapped up. “But that wasn’t true then. It’s friendship that runs things.”


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Everybody Can Pussy Riot

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A night with Maria Alyokhina and Alexandra Bogino of Pussy Riot

By Isobel Thieme

“Don’t you know that a wall has two sides and nobody is free?” – Pussy Riot in their EP xxx

Members of Pussy Riot spoke on a panel at the Oriental Theater, moderated by local journalists Bree Davies and Ru Johnson.

Pussy is a word I’ve seen and heard quite a lot lately, how it is “grabbed” and how it “grabs back,” for example. And now, Pussy Riots.

While I walked around the block-long line of people on Tennyson on my way into the Pussy Riot panel held at the Oriental Theater recently, I was happy to see so many women lining up – I don’t know about you, but I could use some girl power these days.

Truly, they could not have come to the US at a better time.

The inside of The Oriental seemed to ring with a certain sense of desperation–but not the kind we feel when we’re simply waiting in the crowd for the lights to dim, the band to come on stage, and the music to start. It was heavier, characterized by a need, a cry for help. The last few weeks in the US have opened up the floodgates for so many questions and uncertainties about our country’s government–in my case, anyway–and here we were presented with the chance to hear from two women who have helped to start a vital conversation around the government in their own country of Russia. Truly, they could not have come to the US at a better time. What could we learn from these women who have dedicated their lives to activism? To changing an outdated patriarchal, corrupt system – through music, nonetheless? I, and I think many others, took Masha and Sasha’s visit as an opportunity to listen and learn how best to move forward in our own situation.

Feminist Punk Rock Protest – and more

Photo: Mike McGrath (mcgphotos.com)

The female warriors who are Pussy Riot are often armed with bright neon dresses, tights, and balaclavas, their loud musical instruments, and their refusal to be quiet. Pussy Riot is a Russian feminist punk rock protest group based in Moscow, known for their intentionally disruptive performances in public spaces. Specifically, they broke through US media for their performance at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, for which two original members were arrested for “hooliganism” and imprisoned for two years afterward.

In every way, Pussy Riot demands to be recognized.

As a band, Pussy Riot is inspired by other punk, thought-provoking, music makers, like Angelic Upstarts and Bikini Kill. But, in truth, there is no band out there quite like Pussy Riot. Their creation stems from an oppressive and patriarchal dictatorship which violently condemns any form of political resistance. Sasha told us that those who live in Russia can easily be put into prison for political opinions they might post on Facebook (imagine how many more new babies, kittens, and reports of bagel-eating we would see if that was the case in the US).

As we know, social media is an incredible platform for activism and social justice, albeit an easy, incomplete platform – as one can be an ‘activist’ anywhere from an airplane to their own toilet. But Pussy Riot saw the dormancy of social media for social justice. Beyond that, Sasha talked to us about the fact that the authorities in Russia don’t see sanctioned rallies as a threat to their power, so they simply ignore them. Any voices that come out of those kinds of rallies or protests go more or less unheard by the government. So, the rallies and performances which are not sanctioned are an essential piece to the Pussy Riot movement.

They’re disruptive, unsolicited, and absolutely demand attention

Photo: Mike McGrath (mcgphotos.com)

Pussy Riot knows how to be heard by the audiences they are targeting, simply because they don’t have any other choice but to be loud. The kind of performance art they participate in is intrinsically disruptive, it’s unsolicited, and it absolutely demands attention. Not only that, but it’s provocative. The name of their movement was inspired by wanting to make those who heard, spoke, or wrote about them feel uncomfortable, just by having to use the word “pussy.” These warriors are fearless – they are constantly pushing beyond the boundaries which are built around them with feminism, activism, and progression in mind.

It was amazing to hear these women talk about how they have actively participated in developing a cultural shift in their country that could allow for sexual equality, the proper treatment of LGBTQ+ people and women in Russia, how they have redefined protest for themselves, how they have learned about the power of community. Pussy Riot is a special example of not just talking the talk but walking the walk. They don’t simply talk or argue about the ways in which they are oppressed by their culture and government, but they are actually doing something about it. Something real and something tangible.

“Every person has a choice, every choice is important, and if you choose to stay aside, you’re giving away an opportunity for action. So ACT.” – Maria Alyokhina

It’s easy to sit aside and watch, to scroll, like, comment, share, and retweet in this electronic bubble we’ve blown for ourselves, that is a given (like I said, you can be an activist from the comfort of your own toilet), but what choice are we really making when we do only that? Masha and Sasha both encourage the use of protest and street riots because “you see the eyes of people who are with you,” which can only work to fuel the fires of progression when and where we feel it is needed.

Truly, We all should Pussy Riot

As a young woman, it felt inspiring and rejuvenating for me to watch the way these women have taken control of their country’s situation in their own way—how they have harnessed the power inside themselves and from their community to call for change. Masha and Sasha’s story–and their presence–offered us incredible advice while we take our turn to call for our own change. We ought to refuse to be quiet about the things we believe in, we all ought to Pussy Riot.


Editor’s Note: While the reporting, photography, and writing for this report was done in a timely manner, Editorial staff experienced a set of circumstances that made production and publication impossible until now. The story and the event, however, as well as the prescient and vital opinions and observations of our author are no less valid and important today as they were when they were first produced–in fact, they may be more so, and becoming more and more relevant and true every day. DenverThread apologizes for the timing of publication. Check out another review of this important event.


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Pussy Riot–A Wake Up Call for American Women

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By Molly McGrath

Let me start off by saying that American women just can’t relate to Pussy Riot.

Most American women have never served time in brutal Russian prisons or Serbian workcamps. Most American women don’t have to worry about the police coming into their house and quite literally stealing their belongings. Most American women are not being denied their rights by both the head of their country and the leader of their nation’s supposed religion.

What do we really know about Russian women?

I usually try not to jump to conclusions but would say that most of the women lined up to see original member Maria Alyokhina and more recent member (and journalist) Alexandra Bogino of the Russian punk rock protest group were not members of the Orthodox Church. Chances are, they were probably not even Russian. Ever since the cold war, Russia and America have been extremely disconnected. Before Pusssy Riot, American women were hardly aware of the situation for women in Russia. Knowing this is extremely important, because these activist women opened up a new window, allowing people all over the world to see what’s really happening to women in Russia.

My best friend, a 16-year-old daughter of a Russian Immigrant, has been raised in the Russian Orthodox Church, and we’ve discussed thoughts about Russian protest art several times. A huge fan of Pussy Riot, she says that the act is more influential in America than in Russia and that it actually created fear for many people in the Orthodox community. Russia has undergone two major revolutions in the last century (the Bolshevik Revolution at the beginning, and the falling of the Soviet Union towards the end) and the idea of another revolution is terrifying.

“Think about if you, a white woman, entered a Mosque and disrupted someone’s worship–that would make you a bad person,” she once said to me. Although that is true, I, as a white woman, am not forced into a Mosque the same way that Women in Russia are forced in the church. I am also not directly affected by the actions of Islam, whereas in Russia the leader of the Orthodox Church, Patriarch Kirill, is petitioning to ban all forms of abortion throughout the entire country.

The 2016 American Election

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

In the provocative panel discussion, held at the Oriental Theater and moderated by Denver-based journalists Ru Johnson and Bree Davies, there was plenty of talk about the recent American election. Many American women are in fear after Donald Trump was elected, a man with bigoted ideals and allegations of sexual assault piling up in the double digits. One of the members of Pussy Riot even apologized for the results of our election. They also pointed out that the difference between Russia and America, however, is that Americans are still protected under the constitution and its checks and balances, a document which allows people to take serious political action, and cause serious political change. 

When asked for tips to deal with a bigot for a president, both women stated how important it is to exercise all of your constitutional rights. They added that if you are not exercising those rights–if you stay silent and sulk or don’t vote–you are ruining the country for the rest of the people who are ready to take action.

Pussy Riot held court and schooled us all

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

Photo by Michael McGrath: http://mcgphotos.com/.

Pussy Riot has essentially shocked some American women into a deeper understanding of their own privilege–thankfully. After the show, I spoke panel moderator Bree Davies, and she told me that, as a journalist, her pay over the past several years had been cut nearly in half. She added that her struggle–as a woman in America working a job she loves for a low wage–is comparatively nothing when held next to the struggle of women in Russia. So many of them aren’t able to work jobs they love at all, and are often paid far less than their counterparts in America.

What all of the American women present that night (hopefully) learned is how important it is to take action when you have the ability. And how important it is to stand up for people who enjoy less rights than themselves. Hopefully they all learned how important it is that–across the globe–people continue to fight for their civil rights, no matter the costs.

If Pussy Riot members can serve in Serbian work camps as a sacrifice for the rights of women in Russia, what is stopping American women from rioting and creating political art hers, daily? There is a lot that American women can learn from Pussy Riot–the big thing is to take action.


Editor’s Note: While the reporting, photography, and writing for this report was done in a timely manner, Editorial staff experienced a set of circumstances that made production and publication impossible until now. The story and the event, however, as well as the prescient and vital opinions and observations of our author are no less valid and important today as they were when they were first produced–in fact, they may be more so, and becoming more and more relevant and true every day. DenverThread apologizes for the timing of publication. Check out another review of this important event.


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Hypnotic Turtle Radio presents “Mothersbaugh/Still,” a Web-Radio Simulcast, TONIGHT!

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If you haven’t had enough of Mark Mothersbaugh – and, really, who can say they have? – be sure and tune into Radio 1190 at 9:00 PM tonight, Thursday, May 21, to catch a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get even more! Local wonder-star and rock legend Arlo White will host an interactive event showing off the collaboration Mothersbaugh led with the Clifford Still Museum that just recently left town, complete with music created just for the event.

White got together with Mothersbaugh before the DEVO founder and all around brilliant genius pulled his circus out of Denver, and the two formed a show that only Hypnotic Turtle could produce. The plan is to spin music inspired by the Myopia show that dominated Denver’s Museum of Contemporary Art for the past year, and simultaneously post images on Hypnotic Turtle’s  web and Facebook sites.

If you’re familiar with White’s projects – the legendary Deadbubbles, The Pretty Sure, Diablo Montalban and his most recent activity, Sparkle Jetts – you already know there’s a lot to look forward to. It’s not too far out of reality to say that White probably holds the reigns of Stooges-style rock n’ roll in Denver.

 

Just Tune in… For your own good….

 

In the meantime, here’s some classic Deadbubbles, covered by the inimitable Sparkle Jets. Enjoy!


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Shonen Knife Ready to Destroy Denver, with a Little Help from Denver

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Shonen Knife will attack Denver - and win - Thursday night, October 16, starting at the Oriental Theater.

Shonen Knife will attack Denver – and win – Thursday night, October 16, starting at the Oriental Theater.

“Just the idea of a trio of Ramones worshiping Japanese girls roaming the earth playing their own brand of J-Rock, J-Pop, Pop/Punk Fun Time Soup, was good enough for us,” recalled local musician Arlo White, of Denver’s Sparkle Jetts. “When we finally heard them it was exactly like what it sounded like in our heads: Pure Innocence, Straight forward Rock and Roll Fun!”

It’s a pretty perfect way to describe Shonen Knife,  one of the ’80s and ’90s more obscure, but most delicious, Japanese exports. You may think that bands like Guitar Wolf hold the J-Punk torch (and they do, handily – but not completely), but it’s Shonen Knife that made the first real stab (pun fully intended) of Ramones-powered pop from Japan into America. Shonen Knife – and particularly Naoko Yamano – have enjoyed 32+ years of existence, and haven’t wavered once from their original happy, poppy, cat-, food- and youth-loving brand of punk rock. And they’re not about to slow down.

The latest incarnation of the trio, featuring Yamano on guitar and vocals, Ritsuko Taneda on bass and Emi Morimoto on drums, is touring in support of the band’s 20th release, “Overdrive,” and they’re appearing at the Oriental Theater in North Denver this Thursday night. Not a show you want find out too late that you missed! Tickets.

“Overdrive” is solid, just like it sounds, focusing on ’70s rock a la Kiss, Deep Purple or Thin Lizzy, but with the same naive, happy charm that the Knife has always been known for. Kittens, noodles, green tea win out over heartbreak, overdose, alcohol or endless groupie groping on this record – but the charm we’ve all come to love far outshines the gritty, grimy shortcomings (after all, we get plenty of ’70s lubed-up glam porn from all the Kimye crap, don’t we?).

We had a chance to reach out and touch Yamano while she was on the road, between nearly 7-day-a-week gigging, to ask her a few questions. She was kind enough to reply – and we love her and the band all that much more for it. Read on:

DenverThread: Wow – nearly 33 years, and 20 albums, all amped full of consistently catchy, unavoidably addictive Ramones-y power punk. Any end in sight? Do you plan to retire, or keep kicking ass until you just can’t anymore?

Naoko: Keep kicking ass is ROCK! But if there will be no Shonen Knife fans, I have to retire.

DT: Many of your dates on this US tour are back-to-back. Is it exhausting – just how you like to roll?

Naoko: Actually, long drive makes me exhausted but once I see our fans at our show, I get power.

DT: Since the happy, positive power behind your output hasn’t, how has your world view changed over the past 30+ years?

Naoko: My world view hasn’t changed. I just get well experienced.

DT: So much rock n’ roll is heavy, emotional, overbearing (especially in the US), yet you are constantly able to maintain a light, carefree feeling in the subject matter and feel behind your songs. Do you think that comes from your own personal outlook, or your upbringing in Japanese culture?

Naoko: It comes from my personal character. Many bands are singing about love in Japan and US and  sometimes about social problems in US. I don’t want to be the same with others. I like to make one and only unique music.

DT: There are so many to choose from – and they’re all great – do you each have favorite Shonen Knife songs/albums?

Naoko: I always prefer the latest album. Thus “Overdrive” is the best so far. I especially like “Black Crow”, “Shopping”, “Like a Cat” and “Jet Shot”.

DT: Your songs often have a food focus – and the USA spreads a giant table of wonderful, tasty – and sometime just plain weird – food choices. Anything in your travels that fits in the “weird,” “super-weird” or “just plain crazy” category?

Naoko:  “Weird” — “chicken cutlet waffles and hazelnut chocolate cream on the side”. I like the taste of both chicken cutlet and waffles but the combination is a little odd. Waffles should be separated from chicken. “Super-weird” — too colorful artificial colored sweets and cakes.

DT: Is there any American food you just couldn’t do without?

Naoko:  I don’t have any particular food but American Rock.

DT: You seem to be cat lovers – why is that? Are they more preferable than other animals in your opinion? More preferable pets than dogs? (Full disclosure: I love both, but prefer cats).

Naoko:  I love both two but for dogs, I have to take them outside for walk. Cats are more free and independent.

DT: Your sister Atsuko used to design and make all of your costumes – does she still influence the onstage costumes?

Naoko:  She made our new costumes. Her design and sewing is the best!

DT: Did you know any of the opening bands for the Denver show – Sparkle Jetts, Sonic Archers 0r 9 Volt Fatale – before hearing they were opening for you?

Naoko:  I don’t know them but I’m looking forward to play with them.

DT: Do you often find bands on tour that you end up really liking, or following? Any that stick out from other sites on this tour?

Naoko:  I like [The] Mallard that they opened up for our US tour in 2012 in the west coast.

Don’t miss this one, presented by local promoter Girl Wreck Presents, at one of Denver’s classic, beautiful venues – the historic Oriental Theater. Besides the headliners, there will be an impressive collection of Denver local bands warming up and filling out the lineup, including glam rockers Sparkle Jetts, Mod-Brits The Sonic Archers and noise merchants 9 Volt Fatale.

Continuing from above, Sparkle Jetts’ Arlo White – also the host of Radio 1190‘s Hypnotic Turtle Radio, and a Denver celebrity in his own right, had a few things to say:

Sparkle Jetts are… “Whitney Rehr (guitar/vocals), vocal/guitar goddess and one of Denver’s most underrated performers, also plays in Gata Negra, I’m A Boy, and Meta Lark. Arlo White (lead vocals), flat-footed, rock and roll mephisto, formed DEADBUBBLES and The Pretty Sure, and currently hosts Radio 1190’s Hypnotic Turtle Radio. Hope Bertsch (drums), crazed, primal powerhouse, also plays in The BlackoutsChris Keift (bass), lays down the low end with post-punk devotion, was the bassist for The Dirty Lookers.”

“We’ve all been around the Denver music scene for a long time, playing in various bands, and the stars finally aligned,” White went on to explain. “Our uniting of superpowers came about almost a year ago, and we’re now ready to use our powers for good!”

“SPARKLE JETTS are currently playing a mixture of songs from my previous bands DEADBUBBLES and THE PRETTY SURE, plus SPARKLE JETTS originals,” he continues. “I want SPARKLE JETTS to be Denver Rock City’s go to band for the pure Rock and Roll experience!”

Once again – you don’t want to miss this one. We’ve been fans of Deadbubbles and The Pretty Sure since their get-go. We know what you’re going to like.

 


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Beware of Darkness – Orthodox, the DenverThread Record Inter/Review

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Beware of Darkness is on the upswing - and just appeared in Denver last week. (Photo: Rebecca Joelson)

Beware of Darkness is on the upswing – and just appeared in Denver last week. (Photo: Rebecca Joelson)

LA’s Beware of Darkness played the Larimer Lounge a few days ago, and those of you who were there no doubt saw a hi-energy performance that will likely be relegated to many “Were you there when…” threads of conversation soon enough.  If you haven’t heard of them yet, it’s probably just a matter of time before you will. Beware of Darkness is on an upswing – and that’s a good thing.

Their hometown pedigree notwithstanding, this power trio has a lot going for it that actually sets them apart from the usual LA fare. Remember Mother Love Bone – the proto-grunge glam-metal outfit fronted by Andrew Wood that spawned most of Pearl Jam (and arguably the Seattle explosion itself)? Beware follows in those pretty large footsteps, and adds some Black Crowes swagger, and  almost Beatles-esque songwriting on their debut record. “Orthodox.” Heavy in guitar, this record is a solid, straight up rock ‘n roll record. Sure, there are debut record shortcomings, but the overall feeling of this one is that it’ll lead to more good stuff from the band.

The first single, “Howl,” bleeds Billy Corgan with it’s central riff, but quickly evolves into a raucus scream, not self-conscious at all. Other tracks like “Sweet Girl” smack of pop, while others wax anthemic – like “Amen Amen” or “All Who Remain” – and don’t carry the swagger through, but the balance of this record makes for a strong debut. 

I got the change recently to speak with an erudite and delightful Kyle Nicolaides – frontman/guitarist from  – as he re-strung his guitar for the Denver show, and learned a few things about the beautifuyl women in Denver and the power of the Used Record Bin.

Read on, to get a taste, below the link to the strong “Holy Men” (not on the new record):

DenverThread: How’s the tour going?

Kyle Nicolaides: “Great  – Denver is one of our favorite places to play…. Everything seems so healthy here – Denver has the most beautiful women in any of the places we’ve played…”

DT: Coming from an LA native, that means a lot.

KN: “But it’s a different kind of beauty – it’s a natural beauty. It feels organic here. It’s nice. Walking down the street, it seems everyone is just leaving their yoga class or something.”

DT: Tell me about the band name – any relation to George Harrison’s tune from 1970?

KN: “It has everything to do with it- I got that record at Amoeba. An y’know when I was growing up in Santan Barbara, all the CDs were like $20 – that’s why people are pirating music, by the way – and when I got to LA,  I went to Amoeba records, and found the used bins. They’re a musical lifesaver – and when you’re broke, the used record bins are beautiful. You can lay down a few bucks for a cd – or less – and learn about so much music. That’s where I got the record, and it just stayed with me – especially that song. That record really stuck with me – it was like the first one I’d found that actually tried to express someone’s belief system with pop music – tried to make someone’s life a little better.”

KN: “It’s so important – y’know – I remember I was on Wilshire in LA one day when we were thinking of a band name, and I saw the record and the title “Beware of Darkness,” and I thought – hey, that could be a cool name. And it means so much, too – about watching out for negativity & all that.

DT: And George Harrison has always been that way – always so deep, spiritual, and so often so underrated…

KN: “Yeah! And the title of that song is so much like our music, my attitude. I mean, it’s “BE AWARE” of the darkness. Y’know, you can choose not to fall into the darkness. I just feel like there are so many people who don’t realize they have that choice, y’know? Life is like that – you can meet a challenge, or deal with something by choosing to take it on, or you can react in a programmed, reactionary way. Life is like that, and so is our music.”

DT: Does the name get a few heads to turn? It seems like such a typical Doom/Metal/sludge sounding name – which your band decidedly is not.

 I like Smashing Pumpkins, but I’m not the biggest fan of Nirvana. I mean, when these bands were playing, I wasn’t even conscious! 

KN: “Yeah – everyone always thinks we’re going to be some thrash metal band – and obviously we’re not. Every time we go to the UK, as soon as they hear our name they laugh. And – even now – the sound guy here is blasting metal out there while I’m re-stringing. I had to tell them they had to get this guy to stop playing metal. It’s like he’s warming up the crowd…and we’re not that band.”

DT: How about influences? You’re definitely rocking a ‘90s sound – full of Smashing Pumpkins, a little Alice in Chains, Primal Scream, maybe even a little Black Crowes swagger?

KN: “That’s so funny, ‘cause i never listened to them [all those ’90s bands]. I mean, I like Smashing Pumpkins, but I’m not the biggest fan of Nirvana. I mean, when these bands were playing, I wasn’t even conscious! I liked some of the Alice in Chains from then, but just the acoustic stuff, and a little Soundgarden – but everyone hears that sound in us.”

DT: It’s not a bad thing, necessarily – I think it might be your huge guitar sound – and you have an almost Black Crowes or Mick Jagger swagger in your voice and guitar – so there’s a’60s base and a ‘90s cover, maybe.

KN: “When we recorded this album, I was listening to Fiona Apple and David Bowie more than anything else. But we do get the ’90s comparison a lot.”

DT: You sound a lot older than your media kit makes you look – you’re obviously a thoughtful person. How old are you?

KN: “Thanks! I just turned 23, actually.”

DT: Well – you’re a man wise beyond his years – both musically and phiolosophically (as much as I can get from a 10- minute chat, anyway).

KN: “I hope – I believe that’ll serve me well  – that it’ll turn out good for me, and help me through a lot of things. I think so. I’m a pretty positive person.”

DT: I do, too. Just keep digging through the used record bins, and you’ll never really get old.

 

 


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Suicide Girls in Repose (Photo: Suicide Girls Press)

Suicide Girls: Blackheart Burlesque – Inked Punk Rock Pin-Ups Take Over Lodo!

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Suicide Girls will take on Lodo Saturday night, October 19 (Photo: Suicide Girls Press)

Suicide Girls will take on Lodo Saturday night, October 19 (Photo: Suicide Girls Press)

Tomorrow night the Summit Music Hall in Lodo will host some of the most raucous, sensual, smart,  inked and shapely punk rock you’re likely to see anywhere. Suicide Girls – the “… online community that celebrates alternative beauty and indie culture,” will be presenting Suicide Girls: Blackheart Burlesque to an undoubtedly hip Denver crowd.  If  you don’t already have tickets, you might as well pack up the car and head for Salt Lake City for Sunday night’s show, or to Seattle for Tuesday’s – the Denver show has been sold out for a while. To get a taste of what you’ll be seeing on stage, take a gander at the slideshow below (WARNING: While none of the images are full-on NSFW, they’re damned close! Gaze accordingly – you’ve been warned…).

That tour created what the troupe claims is a community with “…tens of thousands of models who have submitted MILLIONS of photos  to [their] website hoping to earn official SuicideGirl status.”

When Suicide Girls put together their first burlesque tour in the early ‘aughts, they knew they were offering their audiences something new, refreshing and fun. They also knew they were putting something new, fresh and strong  on stage every night. This interpretation of  burlesque was based in the same vitriol and vehemence that spawned Punk Rock (yeah, with capitals!) in the mid-’70s, with a newfound venom and oodles of sexy defiance. What they may not have known was how deeply their desire to bring back to life the then-staid American Burlesque genre – lethargically kicking and screaming to the worn down tune of “The Stripper” – might affect the members of those audiences, and the power of the ripple effect the tour produced on the genre as a whole.

That tour created what the troupe claims is a community with “…tens of thousands of models who have submitted MILLIONS of photos  to [their] website hoping to earn official SuicideGirl status.” It popularized a community that “…carefully chooses the most unique, beautiful women from those submissions and invites them to join our sorority of badass bombshells and geek goddesses,” and gave all of those millions of people the 21st-century version of the circus that every kid, at one time or another, dreams desperately of running away with.

Missy Suicide  (Photo: Suicide Girls Press)

Missy Suicide (Photo: Suicide Girls Press)

This year’s tour – which started in Cleveland,OH on October 11 – stops in a different city nearly every night (consecutively and with very few nights off) until it wraps up the US leg in New Orleans on December 5. DenverThread had a chance to talk with Suicide Girls co-founder Missy Suicide about the new production, and a little about the mark the SG Community has made on pop culture. Read on to get a taste of the intelligent, enlightened world of the Blackheart Burlesque ….

 DenverThread: Tell us about the reasoning behind re-opening the Blackheart Burlesque after six years of quietly growing the Suicide Girls Community. Any chance this tour is a recruiting tool for erstwhile hidden – maybe unaware – future Suicide Girls to join the movement/army?


Missy Suicide: We did a mini book tour last spring for a book we put out called Hard Girls, Soft Light and even with just listing the book signings as Facebook events the word got around so quickly – and the turn out was so incredible -we were just blown away by the enthusiasm for seeing  and meeting the girls live in person. With 500-750 people showing up to have a few of the girls sign a book in a comic shop, we knew we had an opportunity to create a better experience than just a signing for our fans, and so we decided to re-imagine and re-create our Burlesque show from the ground up and put it back on tour.  We are always looking for new girls and the girls are passing out cards to recruit the lovely ladies who come to the shows.


DT: What’s the reaction been, overall, over the first portion of the tour?


MS: Really positive!  People have been posting pics to Instagram and really enjoying the show.  It is a lot of fun.
DT: Over the last decade or so, burlesque in general (as opposed to stripping and punk rock shows – which, on their own, certainly provide a service, but certainly not one as grounded and complete as Suicide Girls)  seems to have been enjoying a resurgence – which could be a result of the number of hip, indie tattooed kids reaching drinking age and attending. Thoughts?


MS: When we first put out our SuicideGirls Burlesque tour in 2003, we were the only people who were doing non-traditional, non-old fashioned burlesque on a large scale. We were excited to put on a sexy performance that didn’t involve feather boas and songs like “Hey Big Spender.” We wanted to use modern music and references to modern pop-culture but still put on a show in the spirit of old time burlesque. Now, ten years later, there are a lot more non-traditional burlesque acts around, and some of them are doing really fun and different kinds of shows. Devil’s Playground and their Star Wars Burlesque is a great example of just how diverse and non traditional the Burlesque scene has become.


Also – look at the spectacle performers like Lady Gaga put on at live shows. People have seen a lot and it’s much harder to show them something that really feels new and original.


We really had to take the spirit of pop-culture modern burlesque that we pioneered ten years ago and up the production values, sexiness and performances by a factor of ten. It’s the same kind of Burlesque show we used to do, but this time I think we have executed at a much higher level in almost every respect: dancer abilities, costumes, choreography, everything.


DT: It seems pretty obvious (to me, anyway) that Suicide Girls – both the movement and the individuals – is likely largely responsible for the resurgence of club-level burlesque over that period of time, starting with its start in 2001. Would you agree? Are you happy to take credit for that development (of course, considering the power and influence the whole concept/group/community has had on all of us)?


MS: I do believe that we helped to pioneer punk rock burlesque but we haven’t been on tour in 6 years – and there have certainly been lots of other people that have been working hard to keep it going while we have been at home.   I hope that people are blown away by the show that they see today.  I hope as we have gotten older and more mature as a company our main evolution has been in upping our game every year. I think we learn how to do what we do better, we listen carefully to our large audience and take what they say into consideration and improve the quality and artistry of what we produce. I hope that people who came to our show 6 years ago see that and people who are seeing it for the first time just enjoy a great show.


DT: I’ve long been impressed by the punk rock aspect of suicide girls, which, as a distinguishing characteristic, seems to put this show into a different arena altogether than either old-time burlesque, ink culture or punk rock – but the mix of all of them have certainly changed each individual phenomena – and all of them for the better. What do you think?


MS: Thanks!  We wanted to create a show that our audience would want to see.  A show that included a variety of music and pop culture references,  embodied the sexy spirit of the girls on the site and would exude the confidence of the women who call themselves Suicide Girls.  It is an eclectic mashup for sure but we hope that it works and that people enjoy the show.  We think we have created the right mix to make one hell of a good night.  We hope you agree.


DT: An underlying theme behind the Suicide Girls is the concept that this community is a haven for real women (and men?), away from the often overwhelming pressure to meet some sort of idealized “American Beauty,” and to embrace one’s natural beauty. Its continued popularity and consistent growth attests to the power of that message. How much of that growth and influence do you attribute to SG’s existence itself, and how much is a coincidental convergence with some natural. generational (and, some might say, inevitable) improvement in self-esteem  – if only in reaction to the overwhelming resistance to – and repudiation of – that bullshit ideal?


MS: I think Suicide Girls is a place that celebrates a wide range of beauty.  In 2001, we started Suicide Girls we built it as a community for alternative culture people to discover each other, have discussions and post and look at photos of alternative pin-up girls. And in the 12 years since we launched, we have had hundreds of thousands of people post tens of millions of comments and millions of photos on our website. Over the years we have made 6 movies for Showtime, 3 books, a magazine, a series of comics and countless other creative endeavors, all of which have contributed to our place in pop culture.  It’s been an amazing adventure.  I am not sure how much of our popularity can be attributed to the fact that we do exist vs. the improved self esteem of the youth of today.  It’s kind of a chicken and egg type of question.


DT: Is there – in your opinion/observation/experience – any truth to what I just pointed out above (that self-esteem in upcoming generationals is improving overall), or do you find even more reason to sound even more alarm (is Miley a product more than a symptom?)? In other words, does the future look bright, or bleak, for the younger, heavily inked and (seemingly) more jaded kids of today?



MS: I think for sure growing up in the internet age has allowed this generation both access to an incredibly diverse amount of information and a thicker skin to cyber haters – because of all the anti bullying campaigns and simply growing accustomed to the trolls. The more diverse the population the harder it is to narrowly define beauty or desirable characteristics.  Since pretty much the whole world has access to the internet and we all carry it around in our pockets now, it is really hard to live in a super categorized John Hughes real world anymore.   I think the internet has been a win for self esteem and more informed people all around.

DT:  How receptive is the Suicide Girls community to likeminded folks that want to “runaway and join the SG circus?” Any advice for the hopeful youth as far as getting to be one?


MS: Do it! 🙂  Have confidence, persistence and apply:  http://suicidegirls.com/model/


The SuicideGirls are the most bad ass sorority of awesome women in the world!  They are constantly having shootfests around the world where girls hang out, meet up and shoot photo sets. The girls pretty universally will tell you that they have gained confidence met some of their best friends through the site.


Anyone who is interested in applying should submit an application to http://suicidegirls.com/model/  One of our model coordinators will help them navigate the process of shooting a set and figuring out all the paperwork.  Once a set is submitted our members take it from there and if the set is well received the girl will become an SG.  If your first set isn’t accepted, keep trying!  SuicideGirls don’t give up so easily.


DT: What’s your tour mix for this leg of the tour?


MS: We made a handy playlist from the show here:  http://www.youtube.com/playlist?feature=edit_ok&list=PL-FC-XO5Mm6Jhv_KBpf-UjdT_IVp00aOn



The Denver version of the Blackheart Burlesque is sold-out, but that shouldn’t prevent you from seeking out some of these badass inked punk rock women online. Check out their Pinterest page, for a start (is is just me, or does the fact Suicide Girls has their own Pinterest seem just the right kind of iconoclastic?)! If you’re not at work, you can also go to the Suicide Girls Tumblr (this one – not surprisingly – is DEFINITELY NSFW!).

If you have tickets to tomorrow’s show, we hope you’re ready. Here’s the slideshow:

 

 


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Buildings hit Lost Lake Lounge on Colfax tonight. You may need protection.

Buildings Coming to Lost Lake – Maybe Bring a Helmet (Brian may need one)

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In response to my (admittedly) short-shrift email interview questions, Buildings drummer Travis Kuhlman returned a few short answers. I deserved it (see the whole thing, below) – lugging around a day job doesn’t bode well for blogs (especially when said job requires enough sleep to warrant missing more of the late night than I’ve been used to for a while). At least his answers came back as quickly as they were quick – and smarter.

The most revealing – or poignant (trust me, not a word I’d ever anticipated using in relation to this trio)? In response to my query: “Bigger influence: Scratch Acid/Jesus Lizard or Big Black? Thoughts? Others?” Kuhlman replied: “They’re all great. Although we sound more like Jesus Lizard, not a terrible band to sound like eh?”

Of course he’s right on all counts – but particularly in his description of Buildings’ sound. They do sound most like The Jesus Lizard (thankfully so), but they also wrap in a pound or so of Pissed Jeans, METZ and some unmistakable Steve Albini noise, to boot. The Minneapolis trio do a wonderful job of not only recharging the sound and chaos of these bands, they also push it just a little further. Not too much yet, but they’re still young – their debut album “Braille Animal” only appeared in 2008, followed in early 2012 with the current “Melt, Cry, Sleep.”

This latest offering (yeah, it’s almost 2 years old – so?) is a consistent, soggy sledgehammer, and it’s a perfect rendition of the play on book/movie titles in its moniker After a listen, I have no doubt that Singer Brian Lake – much like David Yow – is much more prone to follow the record title’s path than to get anywhere near an “Eat, Pray, Love” situation (or anywhere near Julia Roberts, either, though I could be wrong about that).

The latest record - "Melt, Cry, Sleep" - is not a romantic memoir. Not at all.

The latest record – “Melt, Cry, Sleep” – is not a romantic memoir. Not at all.

“Born On A Bomb” slaps you around a little, maybe with a stoneware coffee mug in its large hand, after which “Invocation” solidifies the Jesus Lizard comparison (bass player Sayer Payne – who has since left the band to be replaced by Ryan Harding – is the spittin’ sonic image of David Wm. Sims all over this record, and maybe nowhere as much as here). “Mishaped Head” drives the nail further into your forehead, and then “Night Cop” pours on the concrete.

Buildings will be at the Lost Lake Lounge tonight (Wednesday, August 21), and you may want to wear a hard hat. Based on what we’ve heard, the trio is aptly named – since they tend towards destroying buildings from the inside with a chaotic act. It’s almost a little miracle they are planning to play this show, considering the tour they’ve had. The van was broken into in San Francisco (personal items and more were stolen – you can donate at PayPal using the buildingsisaband@gmail.com email to help them recoup, if you so desire), Lake somehow damaged his head at the band’s performance at Total Fest in Montana, and tourmates Hawks’ Mike Keenan injured an ankle in Seatlle. Needless to say, the bands feel a little spooked, but more than happy to soldier on.

Go out and support them – and Glass Hits, too – at  Lost Lake tonight.

Here’s the interview, as promised:

DenverThread – Bigger influence: Scratch Acid/Jesus Lizard or Big Black? Thoughts? Others?

Travis Kuhlman – They’re all great. Although we sound more like The Jesus Lizard, not a terrible band to sound like eh?

DT – This tour seems to have been a royal pain in the ass – but sometimes these circumstances turn into great epics. Would you say this tour is going in that direction? Or are y’all about ready to crawl into a bed for a week and shut out the world?

TK – It’s been a very rough tour. I honestly think that if Hawks didn’t join us halfway through we might be at home right now. People have been very generous to us and supportive, there’s still people who care about independent bands after all!

DT – Can you give us a quick rundown of tour life this time around?

TK – Hot, very long drives, very nice folk

DT – What happened to Brian’s head, and is it ok?

TK – Something happened at Total Fest in missoula, not quite sure what’s wrong with it but it doesn’t work at all. Just pile it on the “bad let’s blow more money shit pile.”

DT – What’s your assessment – as a band – of the genre in which you find yourselves, related to (maybe annoyingly) Pissed Jeans, METZ and the like? Obviously you make the music that you love – but what are your thoughts on that sludge/punk/noise “genre” that seems to be gaining some traction (and do you agree it is)?

TK – I think its great, sub pop better fucking sign us, like, sooner than later.

DT – What’s on the van cd player on this tour? What’s on your car stereo when you’re home?

TK – We listen to all kinds of stuff. Its best to not listen to loud music all the time in the van, kinda drives you a little mental. At home its the same. It’s good to chill out to some The Band or Neil Young every now and then. There’s been a lot of No Means No and Pygmy Shrews lately.

Welcome to “Rainboat” –


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Firestarters del Desmadre : a Molotov Cocktail

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Somewhere in the middle of the hot desert between Tucson, Arizona and San Diego, California, a tour bus carries a band of explosive cocktails to another kick ass tour destination.  To the untrained eye and ear, these guys look like a bunch of rockers who just like to party, and sing about girls and sex. And yes, they do love to party and sing about the sexy ladies, but listen to their politically charged songs and you might start to understand the social commentary behind their sucker punch lyrics.

These self-denominated “fire starters del desmadre” (fire starters of chaos), most commonly known as the Mexican rap/punk/rock band Molotov, are coming to Denver as part of the Jägermeister Music Tour. Red and Jerry’s on Santa Fe & Oxford will host their debauchery in our Mile High City on Wednesday, August 21, 2013.

It’s not only enticing that Molotov is (finally!) coming back to Denver, but that they are the first Latin group to headline the Jägermeister Music Tour. DenverThread contributor MissReported dared to interrupt the shenanigans on said tour bus for quickie interview sesh with Mr. Tito Fuentes (singer/guitar), which resulted in a lot of laughter, slang, and heated discussions, roughly, as follows:

DenverThread: What does it mean for you guys to be the first Latin group to headline the Jägermeister Music Tour?

 Tito Fuentes: “‘Chido’. We knew the brand since the 90’s when Metallica used it a lot and they have a sticker of it on their guitars. We also drank it a lot in Europe. It’s a pure rock and roll brand and they support us in what we say.”

DT: Up until this leg of the tour, which city has been your favorite to play in?

Tito: “Each city has its own peculiarity. Dallas was a ‘reventón’ (chaos/raving/awesome). It was so cool because there was a big fan group and ‘gringos’ who didn’t know what to expect of our show, but love the music. Wherever there’s more people screaming, that’s where it’s the best. We are the fire starters ‘del desmadre’.”

DT: What do you expect of the concert goers in Denver?

Tito: “Denver has a lot of our ‘paisanos’. It’s ‘chido’ and it’s been a long time since we have played this city. We have a lot of fans and we’re counting on them to start the party. ¡Caíganle al concierto! (Drop-in to the concert!).”

DT: You’re super famous in México and Latin America. Would you say that you have managed to cross over entirely to the English-speaking market and how have you managed that transition to the US musical stage?

Tito: “It hasn’t been easy. We have worked very hard to get to where we are and I think it still hasn’t been a complete transition. You see that when you go to our shows and you see a lot of Latin fans and some ‘gringos’. And even though our lyrics sometimes attack the US government, the ‘gringos’ that go to our concerts might not agree with their government, so they can relate to our songs. You can never generalize (about our audience).” *There’s a ruckus on the bus and I can hear the other band members talking to each other about this question.*

“There’s also a big nostalgia movement right now. So you will get a lot of the 90’s bands coming back to play concerts and the fans that are a little bit older coming out to see us. But for example, in Germany, half of the fans were local and there were very few Latinos. We still haven’t seen that here. They still see us as Mexicans.”

DT: We love your tributes to Queen, José José, and other artists. Are there other artists that you would like to collaborate with or do a tribute?

Tito: “Whenever we are playing covers, it’s because they are specific projects, and we have to ask the label’s permission, pick the songs, and go through a complicated process to be able to do it. We avoid doing stuff like the Beatles because they will never give us the rights to ‘re-imagine’ their songs. But now, everyone does everything… We would love to collaborate with Jimmy Page (Led Zeppelin) or Glenn Danzig (Misfits, Samhain, Danzig)… but we are not killing ourselves over collaborations.” *Laughs*.

DT: You guys are characterized by being a living incarnation of controversy – or you “can’t hold your tongue,” like my madre would say. You posted on @MolotovBanda that you were going to stop using the term “maricón” (a derogatory word for homosexual) in your song “Puto” supporting Esteban Navarro in Chile (attacked and almost killed for being LGBT). Some people claim that you have not done what you pledged to do. But then, how can you strike a balance between being supportive and auto-censoring yourselves?

Tito: “The intention is what’s very important with this word. (The word) is part of the song’s lyrics, the context, or that which we are referring to. When you don’t understand the language, there’s a problem. I didn’t get to live through the hate behind that word. It was just a slang phrase that kind of means ‘cowards’ and we would say that the government was ‘puto.’ We’re not interested in being politically correct. What happened in Chile is a tragedy, but the way that we use this word, it’s more of a natural expression. These are words that we use and represent relief or venting. When you try to explain this to another culture or another country, the word takes on a different meaning. It actually means ‘man-whore’ or ‘man-prostitute’ in other Spanish speaking countries.”

Catch Molotov on the 2013 Jagermeister Tour, which makes a stop at Red and Jerry’s in Denver on August 21st. Here’s a taste from this year’s SXSW:

 


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METZ - earning their capitalized moniker - play the Hi-Dive Tuesday, May 7. Be there - you'll regret otherwise. (Photo: Colin Medley, SubPop)

METZ to hit the Hi-Dive in Denver – You’ve Been Warned

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METZ - earning their capitalized moniker - play the Hi-Dive Tuesday, May 7. Be there - you'll regret otherwise. (Photo: Colin Medley, SubPop)

METZ – earning their capitalized moniker – play the Hi-Dive Tuesday, May 7. Be there – you’ll regret otherwise. (Photo: Colin Medley, SubPop)

The power of a trio probably comes from its simplicity. Probably (at least that’s my take, and I’m sticking with it). It’s been proven again, and again and again – Rush, The Minutemen, Nirvana, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Cream, ZZ Top, the Police – even Triumph (ferchrissakes) – all innovators, all brilliant (well – I’ll leave Triumph in the list regardless). Add METZ to the mix, too. Toronto’s best musical export to date, METZ more than earn their name’s all-caps each and every night. Slinging heavy, thick and chunky guitar noises, bass that sounds like a herd of bulldozers crushing through concrete and insanely loud drumming, these three gents make noise and powerpop mix in glorious ways – and they may be the hardest working band in the business right now (they’ve been touring non stop for close to a year – not even any time to record a new record).

They’re playing the Hi-Dive in Denver Tuesday night, May 7th, and you’d better be there – or have to deal with all the noise you’ll hear about it from those of us that are.

Each and every one of those days and nights, crammed in small stages or spread out across the gargantuan festival ones, they bring a strange sense  of order to their dissonance – their sound smells of The Jesus Lizard, A Place To Bury Strangers, Big Black, Black Flag  – all the noisy ones – but METZ has some uncanny way of making their sound constantly fresh, brisk, clean – even amidst all the punishment.

We got a chance to speak to METZ vocalist/guitarist Alex Edkins a few days ago, and have to say that the sound onstage and on record does not match the friendly, assured conversational tone that Edkins uses. Like all Canadians, he’s polite as fuck – but you can tell he’s focused, and knows exactly what he and his two bandmates (bassist Chris Slorach and drummer Hayden Menzies) are doing. You can also tell they’re loving every minute of it.

Read on to see for yourself – and then check out the treats at the end.

And then get your ass over to the Hi-Dive Tuesday night to catch METZ with No Joy (another Canadian wonder band – and another trio, BTW).

DenverThread: Where are you all now?

Alex Edkins: Were in atlanta – it’s really nice here. just played last night & we’re heading to Birmingham, AL.

DT: Awesome! I used to live in Montgomery, AL – went to a couple shows in Birmingham in my high school days.

DT: First question: Big Black or Black Flag?

AE: I would say – and the band would agree – Black Flag.

DT: I swear I thought you’d say Big Black! Both are obviously legitimate, but likewise, Black Flag kind of runs thick in my blood.

AE: Yeah – no totally – that’s where we come from as far as what got us into punk music and y’know, grabbed us when we were young. That kind of early hardcore, Minor Threat & all that kind of stuff – that’s near and dear to us for sure.

DT: You’re aware of the two competing versions of Black Flag touring right now – any chance METZ will cross paths with either of them?

EA: You know what – I think we’re actually going to be playing a festival with FLAG – and I have no bloody idea who’s in that band! ‘Cos there’s Flag, and then Black Flag and it’s very confusing, and I don’t know who’s playing in which group!

DT: Well – just to clarify – I read on Spin.com just this morning that Flag had a secret show in the Moose Lodge – where the original Black Flag played their first gig. From that article I know that Flag is the Keith Morris, Dez Cadena, Chuck Dukowski and Bill Stevenson (with – at least for this show – some Greg Ginn guitar-slinging by  Decendents’ Stephen Edgerton)  – all early members – and the other one’s the Greg GInn joint. I’m not sure which one I’m more excited to see.

AE: Oh my god – it’s terrible! I wanna see both – but at the same time I don’t want to see either of them, y’know? I mean – you can’t have Black Flag without Greg Ginn!

DT: Amen to that – it doesn’t seem right! But I also kinda hope – in my own weird fantasy – that they’ll meet up playing in some sort of “right across the street” venue situation and that they’ll end up meeting out in the street and having a knife fight – sort of a la “Beat It.”

AE: Oh my god – we can dream! Yeah – that would be insane.

DT: So you’re touring a while with No Joy – playing here in Denver with them. The reason I found out about METZ is because of No Joy – because I’ve followed Laura Lloyd on Twitter for a long time, and she mentioned how great you guys are – maybe a year ago? I take her recommendations seriously ‘cos No Joy is such a great band. Anyway – METZ, No Joy, Fucked Up – all are from Canada – and all of you are great. In fact, some of the best music not only to come out of Canada lately, but from anywhere. Who are some of your favorites from the Great White North right now, and what do you think of this sort of “Canadian Invasion?”

AE: First, we’re really pumped to be playing with those guys. We’ve played a few times with No Joy in the past, and we’re really pumped to be doing it again – Jasamine and Laura are just awesome. We always have a great time with them – and to be able to just play a bunch of shows with them is perfect. I can’t wait to hear their new record – I think it came out today, even! I’m gonna bug them about getting a copy.

AE:  Anyway – Toronto right now has got some really cool stuff going on. We played in New  York recently with a few of our favorite bands out of Toronto – Soupcans and Odonis odonis, who are on tour with us right now. And um – yeah – they’re a few examples of really killer stuff coming out of Toronto. Another favorite would be Teenanger, who we’ve toured with in the past. But yeah, I think there’s certainly no shortage of cool music coming out of Toronto,and out of Canada right now.

DT: I agree – it just seems fresh. I mean – you guys are a perfect example. METZ a great, strong sound, and  you seem to have a way of expressing it and controlling it in ways that I don’t see too much – it’s really fresh (and I’m not alone in saying that). Your sound owes a little to Big Black and hardcore – Black Flag and such – but you seem to somehow be able to control it in ways that many other bands considered in the same light just can’t. I mean, I love A Place to Bury Strangers, their sound is extreme, pretty unique. But where Oliver tends to lose sight – or control of the sound – METZ doesn’t. You keep it fresh, new – but it’s still extreme.

AE: Thank you – that’s really cool to hear. We try to make something that we can call our own, but there’s no doubt that some of our influences are y’know, on our sleeve. And we don’t have a problem with that, but you just, y’know, put everything into a pot and mix it around and you end up getting METZ music out.

DT: And we’re all the better for it – thanks for that.

DT: So – you three seem to have been on tour, literally, forever. You just came back from Europe, and were everywhere else before that for months – it’s like you’re the hardest working noise band in the business. Have you had any time off recently?

AE: We have had some time off – not very much though. We just went to Europe, then went to Austin for South by. After that we had about three weeks at home – but we ended up going into the studio.

DT: And that was exactly what I was going to follow up with – was there time in the studio for a new record?

AE: No – not yet – it’s more of a new single or something like that, maybe. We haven’t really had time to get in there and start working on the next LP. That’ll come after this stint.

DT: So after his stint meaning  – I think there are a few more weeks after Denver – and then there’s nothing else scheduled. Are you all going to get some time after that to record then?

AE: Well – actually, we’re doing this American leg, and then we go over to the UK and we’re touring with Fucked Up,  then we do Primavera [in Spain], then some shows with Mudhoney and the Meat Puppets for a week in the UK as well, and then we’re booked up almsost every weekend until the end of the summer. So – it’s not like we’re going to have any time to go home and really, y’know get into the studio to actually record. And we just can’t write it on the road the way we do it – it’s kinda tough.

DT: I can imagine. Even so, it really sounds – as busy as it is – like you guys are living a dream. I mean, you say you’re touring with Fucked Up (again, one of my favorites right now) and then the Meat Puppets and Mudhoney in the same sentence. I mean – holy crap. You must be waking up grinning from ear to ear every morning.

AE: Well it’s true – I mean, those shows are like – we’re like “are you KIDDING me? Of course we would love to play with those bands!” So it’s definitely a treat when you get to play with bands you look up to.

DT: My last question – from my daughter (a budding music journalist) –  what’s your favorite song today?

AE: (Pauses) Wow! That’s tough. I would say something I was just listening to – but I don’t think I’ve heard anything today, honestly.

DT: Yeah – it’s a tough question, it puts you in the moment, and I think that’s interesting our readers.

AE: Yeah it does – um… Let’s say off the new Redd Kross record – there’s a tune, the second tune on the record, called “Stay Away from Downtown,” which is just a superb powerpop song, I have to say that one. I’s such a glorious pop  song from one of my favorite bands.

Here’s a video of Edkins’ favorite song from that morning – and maybe a clue to his headspace. Check out the video below that for a taste of METZ, too – and catch them at the Hi-Dive Tuesday, May 7th, too.

Redd Kross: “Stay Away from Downtown”

METZ: “Wasted”


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Heavy with Joy: An Inter/Review with Wovenhand’s David Eugene Edwards

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David Eugene Edwards leads Wovenhand Friday night, November 16, at the Oriental Theater, kicking off a new tour of Western cities. (Photo: Wovenhand)

Wovenhand released “The Laughing Stalk,” the Denver-based band’s seventh studio album, in September – so we may be a little late in reviewing. But then, so is Friday night’s CD Release Dance  at the Oriental Theater – November 16, 9:00 PM, with Reverend Deadeye – a little late in coming (and we’re happy to take advantage of the timing).

The reason for the separation between release and Dance Party, actually, is mostly the band’s recently (well, actually, consistently) busy schedule. Frontman – and Denver enigma – David Eugene Edwards is not only leading the newly re-formed four piece, but is also an intrinsic part of the re-genesis of legendary Australian band Crime and the City Solution, alongside some other musical heavy hitters like C&CS founder Simon Bonney, Alexander Hacke (most famously of Einstürzende Neubauten – and  this latest record’s producer) and his wife, artist & vocalist Danielle de Picciotto, Jim White (of Dirty Three) and more. The Bonney-led rebirth of the band is big news – on the supergroup scale for post punk – and it’s taken an understandable amount or Edwards’ time.

Still – Wovenhand is alive and strong, maybe stronger than ever. After 2010’s The Threshingfloor and some lengthy touring worldwide, longtime bassist – and longtime friend – Pascal Humbert quit to take on his family’s French vineyards and guitarist Peter van Laerhoven left as well, leaving Edwards and drummer Ordy Garrison alone with the keys. For The Laughing Stalk, the group added new bassist Gregory Garcia Jr and additional guitarist Chuck French (of Git Some, Planes Mistaken for Stars and more). The result has been called “… the most heavy incarnation” of Wovenhand, ever (which is saying something, considering the band’s characteristic gravity), but there’s more than a hint of levity in the mix now, too – and much joy.

We talked to Edwards recently about the C&CS project, touring, and some other things – but, most importantly, The Laughing Stalk. He had a lot to say about it, and so do we.

The Laughing Stalk jumps out of the gate immediately, almost joyous, with “Long Horn,” a rousing tune that envisages the beginning of a Western adventure, speeding across wide, sweeping landscapes – atop horses, motorcycles or landspeeders, it doesn’t matter – the feeling is one of conquest, maybe even victory. Wovenhand always combine unique instrumentation with old folk tendencies, and lay them atop strong, driving Native American rhythms – but never more excitingly than with this record.

It sounds live – the whole record does, really, which was by design. About working with Hacke – with whom Edwards became friends out of the C&CS project – the band has nothing but respect.

“Hacke is great – no complaints. Of course he’s brilliant at what he does,” said Edwards. “But he was happy to not have to change much after we recorded it.”

“It was recorded differently than our other records; Hacke didn’t have to change much – which he liked,” he explained. “He added his… ‘special sauce,’ of course – especially in the low end, cause that’s where he lives – but not much more.”

“We recorded this one basically live, because everyone has always asked for a live album,” Edwards added. “The live shows are so much different than the records, they have a different feel – everyone keeps asking for that. And I’ve never liked live recordings – so we put this together that way. We think it’s a good result.”

Edwards with Wovenhand in Greece, July 2012 (Photo: E. Patsialos)

Edwards with Wovenhand in Greece, July 2012 (Photo: E. Patsialos)

The Native American influence has long been a constant in Edwards’ compositions and performance – a mainstay. Is it born out of lineage, or upbringing, or both? According to Edwards, it’s a little of both; it’s as much a part of his internal makeup as it is a part of the landscape.

“There’s some Native American in my lineage, but more on the peripheral,” he explained. “It was something we grew up with, that was important in my life, in my parents’ lives and in family. It’s always been something they – we – were proud of. There’s no real spiritual significance to it, though. It comes in through the blood … but also from where we are.”

It’s no surprise to Edwards that this record emanates a lighter, more exuberant feel than previous Wovenhand material. It starts at the title.

“It’s [the title] meant to be light, to imply a little comedy,” he explained. “This record… reflects my current situation, where my life is right now. It’s joyful, filled with humor.”

“In The Temple” is a perfect case in point. This piece is anthemic – on a level with what bands like Coldplay might feel like they’re playing (instead of the sentimental and mostly vacuous treacle they really are). It lifts your heart rate from the first squalls of its almost church-organ base, and continues to build – tempting you to begin speaking in tongues in response to Edwards’ witnessing.

The feeling continues to rise with the onset of “King O King,” maybe the only tune on the record that reflects Wovenhand’s 2010 tour with Tool. With its force, this is the record’s most evident victory march – replete with biblical proclamations in its verses, and significant liberation in the chorus.

Chuck French with Wovenhand, Greece, July 2012 (Photo: E. Patsialos)

Chuck French with Wovenhand, Greece, July 2012 (Photo: E. Patsialos)

Wovenhand shares much of its personality with Joy Division – in fact, their ability to cover the legendary Manchester post punk icons without coming across disingenuously or awful (sadly, this is the case with too many other bands that attempt to cover JD’s material) is unmatched –  especially live. For a taste on record, look to “Truth” (actually a New Order song – but one written in the shadow of Ian Curtis’s suicide) on The Threshingfloor. For an even more intoxicating example, catch them live to see if they cover “Heart and Soul,” a semi-constant, fantastic piece.

That said, “Closer,” the fifth track on The Laughing Stalk, isn’t meant to relate to Joy Division’s last album of the same name. Rather, this song is a meditation on a Biblical verse: Proverbs 18:24 – “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin,/but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

“It’s something I’ve been singing/playing, between songs, for about the last two years,” Edwards pointed out. “We just put it together into a whole song.”

The result is an isolated, private treatise of gratitude, it seems, to someone in his life. Quiet, desperate; the song emotes a powerful mantra, anchored in Garrison’s incongruent drumming and whispy guitar, ending with a nod to early Echo and the Bunnymen, from a Dylan perspective.

“Maize” settles in next – a song that’s in itself a play on its title. Native American-influenced rhythms match feet running through a looping maze, lead by a beautifully creepy piano, while Edwards describes awe of the height and depth of the canyon through which the Philistines pursued Samson – in Judges 15 – before he turned on them and “… Finding a fresh jawbone of a donkey, he grabbed it and struck down a thousand men.” The sound inspires such a clear vision of the pursuit, the massacre, and the rage of the giant hero at the refusal of his Delilah – and the ultimate victory he feels after laying wast to a thousand men.

The official CD Release Dance poster – by Ryan Mowry. 40 of these glorious prints (2 color, 18×24, screen printed on speckletone oatmeal french paper, signed and numbered) will be on sale at the show. (Photo: Sounds Familyre)

And the song sits at the acme of the record – aptly named as the product of such a mirthful stalk.

A close second plateau is the punk/folk “As Wool,” a fun romp that promises to be memorable live. From the drums to the thick, faster chords and guitar lick of the song’s verses, to Edwards’ playful preaching, this one harkens back to a more aggressive, simpler – yet no less purpose-filled – time.

After the release party at The Oriental this Friday night, Wovenhand are off on a West Coast tour, and then get a well-deserved break for the Holidays. It’s been busy for Edwards.

“I just got back – and just had gotten back the last time we left again. I’m busy – unusually busy, for me – which is something I try not to be,” he said. “We’re touring the West coast after Friday night – San Diego, San Francisco, Tucson, Santa Fe, Los Angeles and other places out there.”

After the Holidays, it’s back on the road again for Edwards, along with Crime & the City Solution, followed by the release of the supergroup’s full album, slated to drop in the spring.

About his experience with Bonney and the rest of the Crime crew:

“The experience has been great. I mean, it’s a lot of big stuff, big people – it’s a pretty large project,” he said. “It’s going well – we like how it’s turning out.”

Need some proof? Listen to the album’s the epic “Maize,” below, and then head out to the Oriental Theater Friday night.

[ca_audio url=”http://www.denverthread.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/Maize.mp3″ width=”500″ height=”37″ css_class=”codeart-google-mp3-player”]


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