Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Unnatural Sex Acts: A Candid conversation with Nate Butler

One night when my dad was driving me home from a show, he asked the names of the bands I saw and quickly shuffled the name U.S.A. past him, hoping he wouldn’t ask what it stood for. At the age of fourteen in the pre-internet era, the band’s name had many implications I wasn’t quite aware of yet. I honestly didn’t know what came to mind upon hearing the words Unnatural Sex Acts. My dossier of sexual experiences in 1983 amounted to some leftover Playboy magazines stuffed in a drawer my bother left behind when he enlisted in the Navy.

The first time I saw U.S.A. was when they opened for Kraut and G.B.H. at the Aztlan. The size of the vocalist and bassist along with their brand of angular music was intimidating. Their serious demeanor certainly emitted the vibe that these were the type of dudes you wouldn’t wish to agitate, much less been be caught in a dark alley with.

Over the past six months, bassist Nate Butler and have had a series of conversations. I’ve arrived at the conclusion that he is a no frills kind of guy when it comes to his music. What I admire most about him is his candidness and openness when it came to answering the tough questions I threw his way. Frankly, his responses have been all meat. My sincerest gratitude to Nate for taking the time to be a part of this project.       

In memory of Scott “Deathy” Ray

Nate Butler. Original photo unknown. Brush and ink drawing by Bob Rob (Medina). 
Several years ago Razer gave me a file with fliers of your former bands. The interesting part of that collection was the notes on the reverse side regarding the shows you played: members in the band, the bands you played with, how much money you made, and a short summary of the show. Tell me about your obsession for this sort of note taking.
I dunno really. All I ever wanted to be when I grew up was a rock star and I suppose in some perverse sort of way I thought it was meaningful at the time. As humorous and heartbreaking as some of those notes were it was a very exciting time for me, as was chronicling it.

Nate's notes. Collection of Nate Butler.
When did you realize that you wanted to play music? And how did you end up playing in a punk band?
I've always been into playing music, the School band, yada yada… I remembered my 3rd grade teacher Mrs. Henry would meet me an hour before class started in the mornings so I could learn the cello. I was officially too young to join the official school band; I had to be a 4th grader. Funny thing was she was not a musician or a music teacher. She was a wonderful woman and teacher and left a lifelong impression.

What got me into punk was attending a show at the old Pirate Art Space on 23rd and Lawrence St. where the Rok Tots and Broadcasters were playing. Not only was the music raw and cool unlike Van Halen and AC/DC who were the go to rock bands at the time. In the middle of one of the songs an audience member, Louie was fucking with the Tots and the band dropped their instruments mid-song, jumped off the stage and pounded him. Afterwards they went back on-stage and finished the song. I thought that was the coolest Rock'n'Roll thing I had ever seen. I was hooked from then on.

Dave Saull was my neighbor at the time and was taking piano lessons with my sister. He was a cool little guy and I asked him if he wanted to start a Punk band. We recruited my best friend Scott "Death" Ray and U.S.A. was born.

U.S.A. stands for Unnatural Sex Acts, right? Was the band a fan of The Rocky Mountain Oyster, Denver’s classified ad sex newspapers found on the counter of liquor stores in the metro area? Who came up with the name? And for the record, did anyone in the band practice U.S.A.?
Scott Ray and I used to eat a shit ton of LSD and go dancing at the Gay bars. It was the only place we could be all fucked-up on drugs, act weird, and be totally accepted. One night driving home from the bars I just came up with the name Unnatural Sex Acts while we were having an acid fueled conversation. Seemed like a good name for a band.

Yes, both Scott and I were bisexual, practiced any and all forms of kink. I've had HIV for 25+ years to show for my battle scars and reckless sexuality.

Did you find punk accepting of alternative sexual lifestyles? Did you find it easy to be open about your sexuality in the scene? Members of the band A.S.F. were open about their sexuality, is/was it different for males?
No not at all, quite the opposite for males. I think only a couple of people in the scene even knew about our orientation, I could be wrong though. We even wrote a couple of songs aimed at homophobes, and queer bashers (Girls Get Cumfarts Too, and My Blue Dog). Upon the Skins arrival it became even more uptight and homophobic.

Flier collection of Nate Butler.
I only saw U.S.A. a couple of times, the first when you opened for GBH at the Aztlan. You and the vocalist, Scott really stood out mainly because you were big dudes with shaved heads playing something that wasn't quite hardcore thrash. The combo of the two was an intimidating factor nonetheless. What sort of sound was the band going for and what were you listening to at the time?
Dave and I were the main music writers, and I wrote 99% of the lyrics. Mostly what happened with the musical styling’s of U.S.A. was, Dave and I were both strident Zappa listeners and intuitively we'd write this mish-mash of cuisenart sort of genre mixed music. We never really set out to have a "sound" it just happened that way. Pretty sure Mike Patton would have appreciated what we were doing back then.

The GBH show made us seem really aggressive. The more drugs Scott would take, the worse he would sing, and the more the aggression in the act would ramp up to make up for bad singing and forgetting lyrics-my lyrics were pretty wordy and complicated, he always had a hard time with delivery.

With rock star aspirations and careful documentation, I’m surprised you didn’t record and release anything with U.S.A. You did play on the first Happy World EP.
U.S.A. never made it into the studio mostly because of drug use/abuse. I don't think we ever honestly thought we'd record because the audiences didn't care for our music too much so therefore it probably wouldn't have sold. Maybe that's how we perceived it/them at least. Dave and I wanted to record but could never find the time to get everyone with a somewhat sober Scott Ray into the studio. Kinda sad because two of my favorite bands I played with, U.S.A. and FAEX never made a recording. I always felt them musically worthy of recording and releasing some great records.

First Happy World EP 1984. Garage punk from Colorado. The drummer seems to be incredibly young (judging from the cover pic) and the guitar lead in the title number is so lame it's cool, but the songs have entertaining lyrics and plenty of primitive drive and spunk. For fans of unprofessionalism (like me). -Jeff Bale (from Maximum Rocknroll #16, August 1984). Cover courtesy of Trash Is Truth.
Scott had the nickname, Deathy. How did he get that? In talking with a couple of people, they mentioned that they were a little afraid of him. Rumor had it that he often packed a gun. I read about one incident at Flash Flood Art Space in an issue of Nada. The article was titled: The Day Hardcore Died and it described a show your band, Sisters of Sodom played. It sounded like the night involved you, Scott, skinheads, cops, mace, a knife, and a gun. What went down?
Scott was a dyed-in-the-wool bad ass for sure. Also one of the sweetest most giving guys I've ever met. He named himself Death Ray as a stage name. The girls called him Deathy, maybe to piss him off or make him laugh. They named me Nay Nay thinking it'd piss me off. I just thought it was stupid. Jill still calls me Ne Ne (in French accent) because I sew and design patterns etc.

The Flash Flood incident went like this. The Denver Skins were ruining yet again another otherwise friendly show. Dan had some poor scrawny kid in a headlock and was dancing around the pit beating his face. I finally snapped, looked over my shoulder and asked Scott if he had my back. He replied, "Did you even have to ask?” I turned to a couple of other musicians who were standing there and asked the same thing only to be met with blank scared stares. Next time Dan came around I grabbed his victim, threw him out of the way and planted one square in Dan's face. Squared up with him knowing I was gonna essentially get my ass beat because Dan was 6" taller than me (Dan was a towering 6’ 8”) and considerably more muscular. He took a couple of steps back and reached behind his back to grab something. I'm of course thinking it's a gun. Meanwhile the rest of the skins are surrounding me wolf pack style like they always did. That's when my knife came out. Well Danny didn't pull a gun he pulled out a can of mace and sprayed it at me. I ducked and ran out of the way of the mace and into Larimer Street figuring the brawl would ensue in the street. As I turned around I saw Scott pistol whip Dan in the head as he came out the door followed by the rest of the skins. Scott backed-up next to me in the street and leveled his gun at them, which forced them up against the wall still spraying their mace at us, which inevitably blew back in their faces. Scott said something to the effect of, "I have 14 shots in the gun, there are 9 of you, and I don't miss!" This essentially ended the fracas right then and there. One of the skins, Jeff walked up to us and said, "Are we good, is this over?" to which we replied, "Yes.” We left at that time, ditched the firearm, and went home. Apparently Dan walked back into Flashflood and passed out from the pistol whipping. The Cops and an ambulance came and pretty soon the cops were at our house and arrested us on, Brandishing A Weapon charges. So much for it being "good and over." We bonded out that night, set it for trial knowing the skins would never show. The cops never found the weapon in question.

Funny thing. I was at a party a few years back and was talking to a guy who told me a story about this Nate Butler guy who basically saved his life from the skins one night at Flashflood, and how he wished he could go back and thank him. I introduced myself to him then.

Scott and I always carried guns and knives back then. Just stupid testosterone dummy fucks we were.

Nate and Deathy
What was it like walking around Denver with a shaved head, were people intimidate by you and Scott?
Yep, for sure. Which was really stupid because we were both really approachable nice guys as long as you didn't try to start a fight with us.

Scott recently pass away?
Yes, sadly he died on October 30th, 2013 of pancreatic cancer. So heartbreaking because he'd done hard time, was finally completely clean and sober, and had become a very humble and loving man. Death Ray was gone for good, or that's what he told me at least. I had the honor of being by his side through the entire cancer treatment, to death.

I have to put in a little side note here in Scott's and my defense. In the entire time we were involved in the Denver Scene I never saw Scott, or myself get into anything more than minor "pit skirmishes" here and there. The only thing that ever constituted a fight was Flash Flood. I think most of the reasons we seemed so violent/aggressive was Scott's stage act, which was an ACT. It was very verbally aggressive and confrontational for sure. He was also 6' 7" tall, which as you stated.

Aside from Flash Flood, any other wild incidents?
Not so many wild incidents really. Once I remember Anarchy Annie, who I was dating at the time threw some guy against the wall and choked him because he and I were going to square off and fight. I'm sure Annie would have gladly engaged in a fight with the guy, but she was definitely defending me. As she was choking the guy she was telling him, "Don't you fuck with my boyfriend!" It was very sweet and hilarious all at the same time. I think she caught us so off guard that we completely forgot why we wanted to fight in the first place.

Flier collection of Nate Butler.
I get the impression that you were at one point trying to make a go with your music. You even left Denver to go play music in California. What brought that on? What sort of frustrations were you feeling in Denver at the time in playing music?
As I said before, I wanted to be a rock star when I grew up. Denver was and still is the place where musicians come to die. It was hard to keep a cohesive scene intact. Lord knows all of us tried. Top 40 cover bands ruled the roost and still do to this day. I hear it's gotten a little better, but really who the fuck ever came out of Denver besides Firefall? I moved to San Fran thinking I'd be able to find a decent band to play with out there. Sadly, I went from being close to the top of the heap in Denver to just another musician out of millions in the Bay area. So that was pretty much unsuccessful.

After I returned the scene was different…long hairs, alternative metal, and so on. I just kept playing with different bands and different styles of music. I've recorded on 15 albums over my rather dubious career and covered about as many genres. Once I started the clothing company and had my daughter the music fell to the wayside until the late 90's when a buddy and I did a downtempo electronica project called The William Caslon Experience. Alas still no fame and fortune. Most recently I've been playing all sorts of Country, Alt Country, and Americana. I'd like to play some Sludge Metal in the near future. WTF I'm only 53 why the fuck not?

Like others in bands I've interviewed from your generation, you've stated that you dropped out of the punk scene. I have a problem with that statement and when people say that because it is almost dismissive of how the punk attitude, ideology or whatever you want to call it shaped your ideas about the world. I don't think you stopped playing punk, I think perhaps you and others were taking the music to another level and maybe it doesn't sound cookie-cutter punk per say, but the approach and sentiment are definitely there.
Yeah that's a good way to phrase it. I just stopped playing punk music. The ideology is still there and never left. But I always have to factor in that I would not be the person or musician I am today if it weren't for Frank Zappa and he didn't have anything to do with punk.

Flier collection of Nate Butler.
After U.S.A. did you start focusing on Happy World? What made you want to leave that band? Even in Sisters of Sodom, you didn't quite get away form the Shane.
I quit Happy World/Sisters of Sodom to move to the Bay. I loved Shaney and always will. He did not have the heroin problem when I was with the band. Shane and Gant grew up in the same neighborhood as Dave Saull and myself, so it only made sense that Dave would join up with them after I left. They were like our little brothers when we were doing U.S.A. and they needed a bassist so I joined. Gant was maybe 13? I felt like the old dude that scored beer and weed for the little kids when I went to practice. The Sisters was just a fun mutant project with all the brothas and Mark Fucking Thorpe was a fantastic guy to have as a drummer. And there ya go again another highly sexualized band name with a great shtick of a stage story-mostly the Sisters fucking Mike Ness.

The Sisters fucking Mike Ness?
So the back story/stage shtick behind The Sisters (made up by Shane mostly) was: We were a bunch of lesbian sex goddess's sent down from our planet by our ruler Beef Cake to fuck and suck and spread our disease throughout planet earth, and universe. Mike Ness was definitely a topic of our fucking in many rants and songs. I think mostly because he was such a politically conservative guy, and he was short. We all liked Social D's music just fine BTW. In the beginning of every show Shane would tell the story (to music) of The Sister's quest and then we'd all do an improv rap about each band member. That band had kind of an all-star line up of the Denver Punk Scene. We had Shane and Dave from Happy World, and U.S.A. respectively. Mark Thorpe from Bum Kon. Aron Arnold and I ended up doing a couple of bands, XEQ and FAEX.

Shane was always so fun and funny to play with I really loved the time I spent in Happy World and The Sisters of Sodom. He was so raw and spur of the moment in his songwriting and performing, almost a childlike exuberance and enthusiasm. I just heard from him via FaceBook. He's clean and sober and attending college in CA. GO Shaney!!!

In the mid-80's, during your post-punk years, what were you hoping to accomplish musically? It seemed that you started one band after another, did you find it difficult to keep something steady going?
I just wanted to make a career out of music so I was essentially a band whore, meaning I'd play with anyone for any reason. I have the bad hair 80's glam rock videos to prove it. The last band before my kids were born was called FAEX. FAEX was a bunch of fantastically talented musicians from UNC school of jazz, playing John Zorn/Mr. Bungle-esque trash/pop/musical A.D.D. They actually got Westword awards, were packing clubs like 23 Parish and Rock Island and looked like they might have gotten signed until that project imploded for a number of reasons.

Did you feel that U.S.A. was overlooked in the scene? I'm looking through old fanzines and I never really saw an interview and barley any gig reviews.
Well, I think our songwriting approach was too artsy for the punk scene. Razer told me once, "You guys are great but you play too many notes." I think we were also too capitalistic for the punk scene; we wanted to get paid money to play gigs. I also think that Scott would get into drugged out asshole mode and alienate a lot of people. I remember one review Duane Davis wrote about us where he referred to us as, "A band of dubious pedigree." which I thought was a hilarious statement considering punk was supposed to be about freedom of expression not pedigree or fitting into molds.

Special thanks to Ana Medina for proofreading.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Anti-Scrunti Faction (A.S.F.) Part 2: A chat with Sarah

The meaning of “Scrunti” Scrun-ti = A young female, usually but not necessarily. A virgin. Usually considered good looking & accessible. Origin: Dean/Don Lipke and the Kenosha Punks. It’s stupid labeling, but not necessarily sexist (scrunt-guys too). Those who use “scrunti” to mean “slut” are entitled to their (mis)interpretations, but it is & never was slut in it’s original meaning in K-town. -Arche-Type Morality Issue 10, c. 1984     

Sarah Bibb was A.S.F.’s original drummer and Eric Van Leuven was essentially her stunt double. While Sarah appeared on some of the early recordings, Eric appeared on the LP and played most of the live shows. The running joke was that A.S.F. was an all girl band except for the drummer. The band even recruited Denver Skin, Dan B. for one of their last tours before they relocated to California.       

Below, Sarah recalls her years in A.S.F. and thoughts about the scene.   

Label from A Sure Fuck EP. Image courtesy of Roger Morgan.
How did you find your way into A.S.F.?
I met Leslie first...when I was 13 or 14. She and Kevin (Dead Silence) drove me to a Dead Kennedy's concert in Denver. A guy I knew from Trade-a-Tape hooked me up with the ride because I didn't know anyone with a car and was desperate to see the DK’s. Later that year I was hanging around Leslie and Tracie and heard them talking about wanting A.S.F. to be all girls and all they needed was a girl drummer. I shyly raised my hand and said, "I have a drum set".  That was pretty much it. I think within days we moved my drums and started practicing. Kathy probably found her way into the band much the same way around the same time. All of a sudden we were an all girl band and instant BFFs.  

I think Tracie coined the word SCRUNTI back in Kenosha. She had a lot of funny made up words for things. 
Notebook drawing. Image courtesy of Kat Parker. 
The band had a unique approach compared with other Denver area bands at the time in that it wasn’t simply reactionary to the mainstream politics of the day; i.e. pointing fingers at the Regan administration. The issues the band wrote and sang about came from a personal angle, issues of feminism. Did the band have an agenda or was A.S.F. simply commenting on what it was like to exist in the context of the college town of Boulder?
Leslie and Kathy seemed more interested in politics and thoughtful discourse about that stuff. I wasn't involved in any of the song writing unless we were drunk, riffing on things like farting and Loni Anderson. I was a kid and so happy to feel like I belonged somewhere that the rest was gravy.  But I think any female in Boulder at that time felt harassed constantly by frat boys. I had lots of uncomfortable times waiting for the bus near campus. It was relentless and I think they were pretty out of control. Big campus. Big jocks. Scary stuff. 

Constant Harassment?
Yes, constant harassment. Boulder was a very safe place except all girls pretty much expected to get raped or harassed by boys and the FRATS were relentless, entitled dicks. 

Damsels In Distress LP cover. Artwork by Leslie Mah. Collection of the author.
Big Women?
It was a reaction to the GBH song, as I recall. After the record came out they came to Denver to play and we were all so excited to see them and I think they told Tracie they liked our song. Pretty cool...they were huge. There was lots of sexism, but that was surely not unique to Denver or any scene. In the early days at Kennedy's Warehouse we were welcome to slam with the boys and it was all one great little happy family of punks. As the scene grew, it was harder to feel welcome as a girl.

I always thought A.S.F. embodied the punk spirit of just getting up on stage and belting out the tunes any which way. I recall people being critical of that approach. Some said that the band was sloppy and they didn’t play their instruments well. Did you ever face such criticisms? What was the band’s reaction?
Well...we did practice! If I had more than one sip of alcohol I lost what little ability to play drums I had, so Tracie would play drums and then Kat wanted to sing so I would "play" guitar. It was so fun but no one ever showed me a single chord! But I was drunk so it didn't matter. BUT THEN when we played our big show at Kennedys I was NOT drunk and when we switched instruments and I suddenly had a guitar in my hands I realized, OH SHIT, I have no idea how to play this!! I look absolutely terrified in those pictures...I just sawed on it. I'm sure it sounded terrible. 

How did you hook-up to do your first EP with Roger of Unclean Records?
I don't remember exactly, but I think Roger might have been a roomie of Leslie. Roger was around a lot and such a great guy.

Lyric sheet insert for Damsels In Distress LP. Collection of the author.
How was it when you first got into the scene and when you left?
It was a great little scene when I started going to shows. We had so much fun slamming with the boys. If I got knocked down someone would help me up. It was really fun and not scary. I remember my last show in ’85 or ‘86; it was in that weird room at the CU Stadium-a locker room or something. I watched a group of young skinheads swarm on a guy I knew and beat him on the dance floor. It was terrible and I just walked out. That was it for me. I never put myself in a crowd like that again. I still have crowd phobia and only go to shows where I know the venue and know I can watch safely from a distance.

Did you feel a difference between the Denver and Boulder scene?
Sarah: I always thought of it as one scene. There were so many great bands! We went to shows every weekend in Denver and sometimes in Boulder. Same bands... only the venue determined if it was a Boulder show or a Denver show.  I never felt there was any difference. 

When did you leave the band and why?
I think I left the band because I didn't want to play any more shows.  Eric played the shows even while I was still in the band. Also, I couldn't go on tour with the girls. I was in Jr. High! I did go into the studio with them for the 45. That was hilarious and fun.  

Did you play and music after A.S.F.? You moved to LA then to Portland? What have you been up to these days?
I was a pretty terrible drummer and sold my drums at some point in High School. I left Boulder in 1987 and moved to LA to become an actress and clothing designer. In 2007 I moved to Portland and opened a store and small factory to manufacture my clothing line. I love music and entertain myself in private with a guitar. I made my girlfriend, Donna, teach me Iron Man recently; that was fun. 

A.S.F. always played with their friends bands. Flier courtesy of Pete Flye.
I have nothing but great memories and think it makes my life on paper sound even cooler. I don't really talk about it to anyone so most of the people in my life have no idea that I was in a band, but when it comes out it's a super fun factoid. I loved those girls with all my heart and they truly saved me in my most difficult teenage years. Leslie and Tracie were the best moms I could have hoped for and I really don't know what I would have done without them. I met a lot of cool people and saw a lot of great music and made some great memories. 

 Special thanks to Ana Medina for proofreading.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Anti-Scrunti Faction (A.S.F.) Part 1: A chat with Kat

I have to admit my first encounter seeing the members of Anti-Scrunti Faction (A.S.F.) amongst the audience at Kennedy’s Warehouse and on stage was quite conspicuous. In the context of 1984, sporting mohawks and wearing leather jackets with names of punk bands painted on them and mismatched thrift store clothes was indeed a bold statement. Mainstream Colorado culture wasn’t quite prepared for such fashion declarations. Witnessing the four teenaged girls of the band adorned in such attire reassured me that I was indeed hanging out with likeminded people. It was difficult not to be an instant fan and admire their commitment in challenging society’s predisposed perceptions of how young women should look and act.

Musically coupled with attitude, A.S.F. was Colorado’s version of a Crass-like band. They were the scene’s de facto voice of feminism years before other punk groups across America adopted a similar approach that branched off and created a sub genre within punk. In the scope of the national punk scene at the time, the band was an island. Collectively the members confronted issues related to the inequalities within both the scene and society as a whole sans apologies. With the help of appearing on a Flipside fanzine compilation album, their song ‘Big Women’ gained the group national attention. Their cut was a retort to the perceived sexism of a GBH song sharing the same title.   

While the band had no grand agenda in converting punks to feminism, their honest and raw emotions did evoke awareness. It could be argued that A.S.F. was ahead of its time in addressing gender inequalities that would be later give momentum to the Riot Grrrl movement and later the Queercore scene in the years ahead.

Kat Parker was one for the original members when the band formed in later part of 1983. Additionally, she documented the band’s beginning and the people at shows through her photographs and writing. She was kind enough to indulge me in a little A.S.F. history.    

Kat, Sarah, Tracie, and Leslie. Original photo by Roger Morgan. Brush and ink drawing by Bob Rob (Medina)
Friends, shows, and a camera?
I would take my camera when we'd go to shows to document that moment of time. I wanted to capture what people were doing and the spaces we were spending time in. It was mainly Kennedy's during that period.

Did you feel the need to capture the punk movement? 
Yeah, I did. Maybe, I didn't consider it a lot but it was what was going on in my life. When you’re a teenager, what you’re doing feels urgently important. It was important because there weren’t many of us. We just had a small group of friends who were interested in the same things. I think that was part of it.

How did Anti-Scrunti Faction come together?
Leslie had already started another band, a three piece with Janette playing guitar, Eric on drums and Leslie on bass and vocals. If I remember correctly it didn't work out because Janette was too busy with college or finishing high school and Leslie still wanted to be in a band. Tracie got pulled in at some point. When Janette left they still needed other members. We were sort of in the same social circle so Sarah Bibb and I got recruited; it was pretty sudden. Tracie and Leslie already came up with the name. I was about to get a guitar and Tracie and Leslie were like, you're in the band because you got own guitar. I think Sarah was brought in the same way because she had drums and knew how to play. I did not know how to play at all when we started.

Drawings from Kat's notebook.
Did everyone else in the band know how to play their instruments?
Leslie had not only done the project with the other two, she was doing some other stuff. I remember her playing and recording music by herself. She had a little more musicianship than the rest of us.

What was it like being punk in Boulder at that time, in a college town with frat boys and college kids?
It was pretty bad in Boulder. I know a lot of our guy friends got beat up and we were messed with as well. There was a lot of harassment from frat types on the The Hill. Most of the time people would yell, "Get a haircut!" from their cars. Sometimes there would be other comments. There was more menacing stuff such as being chased by someone in a car. If we were our driving we'd have to look out for other people that would follow and chase us. I was with a boyfriend one time when we were getting chased and I don't think we were that radical looking at the time. Maybe his car was recognizable, I think they were from Fairview High School or something, but we got chased all the way to his house. When we got to the house he laid on the horn until they left. The jocks at Fairview would be relentless picking on the punks. The administration didn't do anything about it. Things didn’t get better until after high school. Fairview was particularly awful, I went to Boulder High and it wasn't quite as bad. I didn't get harassed as much, but I was known as the girl with "the" mohawk because at that time I was the only girl with that haircut.

What made you want to get a mohawk?
I don't remember. (Laughter) I had been playing around with my hair: cutting it, spiking it, dying it and I think the mowawk was just more of a bold statement. Having a baldhead was something unambiguous.

What did your parents think about it?
Well, I asked for permission to get the mohawk. My mom said, "Okay." She was fine with all of that. She wasn't happy when I shaved the rest of it off. Well, I didn't shave everything off, I left just a little bit of the tail part and the bangs. For some reason that bothered her.

Yeah, I get it. My parents were fairly conservative; they weren't down with me getting a mohawk. About the best I could get away with was having short hair and maybe spiking it with Knox gelatin.
You can do that and then wash it out. Right.

The band's debut show. Flier courtesy of S. Slater.
A.S.F.'s first show?
We played a show with four other new bands at Kennedy's in early 1984. I had only been playing for about a month and it was pretty mortifying. I wasn't embracing the not being good part, I wanted to be good, but I wasn't there yet. I was terrible. There was this thing we used to do where we'd switch instruments. I would sing, and I could sing and I was comfortable doing that. Sarah would play my guitar, Tracie played Sarah's drums and Leslie stayed on the bass.

When you switched instruments, were you improvising?
We did. We had the drum kit at my house and we practiced there, that's sort of a loose term. But we hung out a lot together and sometimes we'd play around with different songs and that is when we came up with those other songs that were non-official A.S.F. songs. We might have been playing around with them before I even had the guitar. There were songs I had written and I think those were the ones I was singing. Leslie was laying down a bass line that went with it.

I don't remember if I saw A.S.F. on your debut night, I might have. My friend Jimmy, Ken (Spike), and I were excited to see an all-girl band. I know for sure I saw A.S.F. at Kennedy’s at least once. I remember it being sort of a spectacle; the band looked and sounded punk as fuck on stage just going for it. The band definitely made a splash. I liked the spirit for sure. So after the debut show you weren't in the band anymore, did you leave?
I think I stopped playing with them. When the summer arrived I did my thing, I think Sarah went to Alabama for the summer and Tracie and Leslie wanted to do the Flipside tour. Sarah continued to play on the recordings but didn't want to play live. That was around that time we recorded a few songs for the Flipside compilation. They used our song Big Women. As for that song, we recorded the Flipside tracks around the same time as the show at Kennedy’s, maybe in March.  Sarah played on A Sure Fuck EP that was released later.

The band's debut EP. Image courtesy of Roger Morgan
I had sent questions to Tracy and Leslie and I don't think they wanted to answer them. I would have liked to get a better perspective on some ways they were influential on the Riot Grrrl and Queercore scene that later developed. I know that Leslie was in Tribe 8 later on.
With A.S.F. there wasn't any intent on that. Leslie got involved in that later. The band was more about feminism. Not necessarily in an overt way, but in the sense that we were female and we thought that our opinions mattered. Sometimes we were frustrated when we felt dismissed by people on the basis of our gender.  In some circles, that is still considered a radical point of view.

Stating the obvious, your version of the song Big Women was a retort to GBH's song with the same title, but was it also geared towards anybody else? I had a suspicion that it was a comment on some of the testosterone within the Denver scene.
Leslie wrote the words to that song, if she had specific people in mind, I don’t remember who they were. Really, I think she was addressing inequities that still exist in how women are perceived and in general and how they are included and/or marginalized in social movements.  It was around that time when some of the Denver punks were really getting thuggish and it wasn't really fun going to shows anymore. For me, I didn’t really want to go to shows after I wasn't in the band because the violence was becoming more active. I think because we were living in Boulder and there was an excess of testosterone in the frats. You grow up in that environment and you see these crazy-ass pledge things going on. And you see that extreme versions of masculinity or femininity. We were in a town where we saw lots of “mating rituals” of college students such as guys strutting around, shoving, being noisy and girls strutting and preening and doing the coquettish thing. But you also saw some of that at the shows. In contrast, we were opinionated, loud, and foul-mouthed. We often wore boys’ clothes, drank too much, acted rude, and we had haircuts that people felt they had to comment on. We/I often felt additional jabs at our “failure” to fit into some tidy package of femininity, at not putting ourselves on display for male approval.  The song ‘Slave to my Estrogen’ was sort of about that pressure on women to doll-up and dumb down with lyrics like; “Vanity vanity, I'm losing my sanity. “I’m so pretty, I’m so dumb, come on baby, let’s have some fun.”

We saw a lot of weird rituals fraternity and sorority had their new pledges do. There was plenty of underage drinking and male posturing. There was a frat house with a red door and according to the stories, if a woman walked out of a party at that house and was still a virgin then the door would have to be whitewashed. Pledge week often involved public humiliation as people tried to prove their worth to the house. I once saw a group of girls walking around The Hill wearing diapers and chanting something about their sorority.

Leslie and Sarah at Kennedy's. Original photo from Katherine Parker's collection. Brush and ink drawing by Bob Rob (Medina)  
I thought the song ‘Slave to my Estrogen’ complimented the Canadian Subhumans song ‘Slave To My Dick.’
That was part of it. I'm looking at this book that people in the band wrote comments in during that time so there are lyrics in there, cartoons...I got it out this morning. A lot of the songs weren’t developed, we were just farting around and maybe I had a poem and I was singing along to it or we would say something and sometimes I would get that stuff on tape.

Since you still have that you must have felt at the time it was pretty important to document.
A.S.F. was my social unit for that period of time; we spent a lot of time together including all of our weekends and some of our weeknights. We were together constantly.

EP insert. Image courtesy of Roger Morgan.
What was it like in Denver compared with Boulder: shows and the scene in general seemed more centralized in Denver.
It was the Lepers and us, maybe one or two other projects people were doing or developing that weren’t on our radar. There were almost no shows in Boulder; we all pretty much went to Denver. It would be a big deal if there were a show in Boulder County. We had our own little group of people in our hangout houses. Mostly we would hang out at the house where Leslie and later Tracie lived. Or the four of us would be at my house. At the time Boulder was small enough where you knew a lot of people in the scene. If you went to The Hill you'd probably run into people who were a part of the scene. It was easy to run into somebody we’d all knew in common.

You mentioned that you had become disillusioned with the punk scene in Denver?
I think the violence was part of it. I first started going to shows at 15 and we'd slam dance. It wasn't called moshing. It was like riding a wave. There was physical contact, but it wasn't painful. I remember at some point I didn't even want to go out into the pit because people were using their elbows and I was really short. I guess the energy changed and became more violent. Early on the slamming felt like more of a release and you felt safe within your community, It started to turn into these people with uncontrollable energy and they didn't really care if they hurt people. I remember the Lords of The New Church at the Rainbow Music Hall, at the show something was going on near the front of the stage. Stiv Bators stopped singing and pulled a girl up on to the stage. I think she got her face smashed. He started yelling at people, "What the hell are you doing?" There was that mood for a lot of us, we felt like misfits, we didn't fit in with any particular group and here was this safe space where we didn't have to be cookie-cutter. When the violence was going on it felt like the scene has been infiltrated by people who didn't get what punk was supposed to be about.

Collection of the author.
Special thanks to Ana Medina for proofreading.