Murder Ranks plays a fantastic fun brand of dancehall and hard dub, welcomes the highly anticipated return of Denver’s beloved Warlock Pinchers
Well, Denver – It seems everything that’s old is new once again! And it’s happening here, too. Case in point: legendary front range provocateurs and pranksters Warlock Pinchers are getting back together for a show in August, and they’re determined to cash in on the nationwide – worldwide – “remake trend.” Of course, unlike much (most? all?) of the other remake grout that’s been piling up in our entertainment culture for lack of bricks, these guys promise to offer premium, relevant and fun entertainment, chock full of their characteristic DIY, punk rock/hip hop/scramble-wave hybrid mayhem.
Odds are they’ll be among the few projects that will deliver – and deliver over and above. And there will be plenty of merchandise to boot.
The show, scheduled for August 6th at the Gothic Theatre, promises to hold numerous surprises – from airborne meat (likely as not raw) to go-go dancers to cellophane-wrapped band members, in the vein of past extravaganzas. Those legendary shows featured shenanigans like all of the above, as well as various liquids and solids being dumped, sprayed or otherwise unleashed upon their audiences – all in front of pre-recorded (on cassette!) drums and live bass, guitars, screeching, rapping and scratching. In a word, unpredictable. In another word, unmatched – maybe unmatchable. This time, though, all instruments will be live, as the band has taken on Melvins drummer Dale Crover up on a decades-old offer to play with them.
The Pinchers are poised and ready to continue what started as a punk rock band, but soon transmogrified into more of a pop art project, or even a social experiment. Hell-bent on “selling out” as quickly as they could, the group – by the time they actually broke up – had created a veritable brand in itself, with seemingly endless merchandising options. Not just t-shirts, hoodies, posters, cassettes and CDs, but there were lighters, keychains, water bottles, yo-yos and almost any other takeaway – or buy-away – trinket imaginable either for sale or in the works. All, of course, sporting the band’s black & white, Satan’s pirate-meets-Raiders logo.
So this summer’s show – one of the events that will certainly define the season for local music – is a sort of coup de grace for the whole, decades-long gig. According to K.C. K-Sum (AKA Andrew Novick), one of the band’s frontmen, there are intricate and exciting plans for more merchandising, including some limited edition reproductions of early Pinchers’ t-shirts that he plans to make available for order at some point, and other surprises in the mix.
Members of the Pinchers hosted a party last Saturday night, May 15th, at the Oriental Theater to drop a new CD full of rarities and re-takes (sorry – no new material, for those of you panting for freshies) and to sell tickets to the Gothic show. After a well attended party – also a kind of reunion of old Denver/Boulder punks – Daniel Wanush (AKA King Scratchie) led his current dancehall/hard dub project Murder Ranks onstage, along with local deejay Bobby C., for an hour long set of some of the local scene’s newest and most challenging sounds.
Murder Ranks, a four-piece that features Wanush on vocals, Nate Weaver on drums, Ben Williams on that oh-so-important dub bass and Mike Buckley on guitar, have built a solid, fun and unique sound based on the early roots of Jamaican dancehall music and their own punk rock leanings. Wanush led the band with Jamaican-styled dub/rap, layered on “riddims” laid down by the bass and drum rhythm section and accompanied by Buckley’s wickedly reverbed, underwater-punk reggae guitar riffs. The genesis of each of the songs they played that night was provided by Deejay Bobby C.Sound T.V., as he would lay a few tracks to which the rest of the band linked their next composition, forming a smooth trail of hard dub and dancehall excellence.
As complex, and for many somewhat unfamiliar, as the style is, the audience was entranced. Wanush – thrusting from the helm as the band’s toaster – spouted out fast, sexy rhymes across the thickly reverbed distortion and sick drumming all night long. The mixture was intoxicating. Between original numbers like the infectious “Broadway” and “Soundboy Why,” Bobby C. Sound T.V. laid track after track in a seamless chain, and enhanced the vibe with great video mixtures behind the Oriental’s huge stage. The dancehall genre is sadly under-represented in American music, and Murder Ranks has done a brilliant job spreading the gospel – albeit a delightfully hard, new distorted and punky one – to many more-than-willing ears.
I spoke with Wanush briefly (over Facebook) about some of the magic behind Murder Ranks’ sound and vision, and what the band are doing with their music. Here’s what he had to say:
“ . . . the Jamaican music scene has way more singers and rappers (known as DJs in Jamaica) than musicians. So whenever a song gets popular, everybody wants to use the exact same instrumental track (known as a “riddim”) to lay down their own vocals/rapping or hybrid style. In some cases, there end up being over 100 different songs using the exact same music.
What Murder Ranks does is take those riddims and arrange them for bass/guitar/drums. We don’t use keyboards or horns, so usually we discard those parts. Sometimes, though, we have the guitar used to play those parts instead. And we usually speed the “riddims” up a little…or, sometimes a lot. We usually re-arrange the “riddims” into a more familiar verse/chorus/verse kind of structure. Sometimes we add our own completely new part, as the case may be, but generally almost all of our songs are based on a particular dancehall “riddim” . . . with all original lyrics, of course.”
” . . . we usually speed the “riddims” up a little…or, sometimes a lot. We usually re-arrange the “riddims” into a more familiar verse/chorus/verse kind of structure. Sometimes we add our own completely new part, as the case may be, but generally almost all of our songs are based on a particular dancehall “riddim” . . . with all original lyrics, of course.” – Daniel Wanush
Bobby C. Sound T.V. mixed and played two or three songs on a particular “riddim,” and Murder Ranks would come in directly upon those with their own compositions, based on those “riddims.” The mix, at times swathed in just the right amount of distortion and reverb, remained smooth and enticing, and the audience loved it.
Don’t miss the chance to see this incredibly relevant and fun-as-hell Denver band, along with the legendary Warlock Pinchers, at the Gothic on August 6th. Tickets are available at Wax Trax now, as well as online at the Pinchers’ website. Dressy Bessy and Cap’n Fresh and the Stay Fresh Seals will open the show along with Murder Ranks.
And there will be plenty of merchandise, collectibles and love to go around.