Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Happy World and Hippies: Shane's world.


*Please help support this project in becoming a book though my Kickstarter campaign. Please visit: 
https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/802254760/denvoid-and-the-cowtown-punks

The word, the term, the very idea of anything associated with “hippy” has always been the anti-Christ, the kryptonite, the Ebola of punk rock. As punk rockers we all steered clear of that word and immediately quashed any notions that punks and hippies shared any common ground, much less belonged in the same room together. The H word suggests visions of brightly decorated VW vans, love-ins and sitting around a campfire passing a joint talking about peace-a far cry from punk.

Certainly the Sex Pistols resented the movement with their slogan, Never Trust a Hippy. Black Flag/SST artist, Raymond Pettibon dedicated many of his drawings and even released one of his chapbooks with the call-to-action title: O.D. a Hippy, Legalize Heroin, Ban Hippies. Hippies couldn’t even catch a break from one of Hardcore’s most forgiving and open-minded bands, 7 Seconds who sang the line “succeeding where the hippies failed.” Lets face it, punk was anti-hippy even though members of both counter-culture groups shared similar sentiments about non-violence, non-conformity, anti-system, and unity.

Courtesy of the internet.
Not all punks passionately hated hippies; most were probably indifferent. But the association with long hair versus the buzz cut look lead to profiling and harassment within the Denver scene. Punks had the notion of embracing the concept of tolerance but even that idea proved to have limitations when it came to certain aesthetics and groups of people. Perhaps punks were only barely tolerant of each other.  

Happy World versus Hippy World.

Denver’s Happy World was NOT a hippy band even though some people in the scene referred to them as Hippy World. Members of the group did flirt with drugs, psychedelic imagery and aesthetics, rightfully branding the group somewhat. However the band’s music paints another story, one that doesn’t summon images flower power. I think of crunchy, driving, snappy guitar lines interplayed by breaks of tuneful bass notes topped with sudden and unexpected tempo changes only begins to describe the band. Had the group stuck around longer, the music would have been the ideal soundtrack had Atari released a punk rock video arcade game.

Yeah, Happy World was definitely a 100% punk band in both sound and attitude. They were a product of the suburbs and all the boredom which led to experimentation with sounds, drugs, or otherwise. The band came at the tail end of the fading hardcore thrash sound and took all those sensibilities and individual musical influences and put it the blender to inch out their unique groove.

Happy World was somewhat of a loveable oddity that was part of the hodgepodge Denver sound. By the mid-80’s the Denver sound meant most bands were off forging their own styles and the only common thread was geographical location.

Although Nate Butler was a critical equation in forming the band in 1983, he departed shortly after in search of new musical horizons on the west coast. I’ve always considered Happy World as Shane, Dave, and Gant. The unit put out a handful of great albums and when they played live, especially in the later years, they transcended punk and were on to something much bigger. Watching the trio at their best was like capturing a glimpse of people lost in their own world locked into a channel trapped in a collective mindset seducing the audience with their infectious synergy. 

The harsh eventuality for Happy World was the all too common rock-and-roll story of addiction and substance abuse. Drugs destroyed the band. Sadly, there’s no other way to sugarcoat that statement. The good news is that Shane is a fighter. He is someone who wants to overcome his challenges and move forward with his life. We chatted several times on the phone and through e-mail about what lies ahead for him. I’m hopeful about his musical aspirations and art-making endeavors. I appreciate and admire Shane for being open and honest about his time in Happy World. 
             
How did you get into punk, what was your first show?
I lived by Wax Trax until the sixth grade before moving to the suburbs. I would save up my allowance to buy records there. I went from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones type of stuff to Bowie. I graduated to Bowie early on. I was going to buy the KISS album Destroyer and they gave me the first Ramones record. That was in 1976, I was 10 and that was pre-Sex Pistols. I embarrassingly went through a progrock phase listening to Rush and Yes. During that time, I was listening to punk, but not all the time. I was into the English punk. I didn’t know about the Germs or any of the American punk bands except the Ramones and Devo. In 1982 I saw a flier for a show on Washington Street. I figured out the address and I had a couple of friends with a car drove us to it. The show was the Frantix, White Trash, and Bum Kon. It had to be an early Bum Kon show. I thought it was fucking awesome. The venue was a little fucked-up place; it was definitely ready to be torn down. I also met Headbanger at the show. I was blown away-I did not know American punk rock existed. That was my first show and I loved it to the max and I even slammed around to it a bit. The bands were kick ass. I kept going to shows after that.

Maybe it was Slovenian Hall?
It very well may have been Slovenian Hall. But it didn't look like a hall in my memory. Anyhow, when I was in my San Fran band; The Boy Explodes I wrote a song called Slovenian Hall. The lyrics are: In the halls, Slovenian Hall, The Frantix, White Trash and Bun Kon... A wild sound a dangerous crowd that's where we found the underground.

Happy World. Oil, ink on paper. Bob Rob (Medina)
What made you want to start a band?
Happy World was my first punk band. I had been in a band during junior high with some friends. We only had a couple of new wavey songs. Happy World was the first real band. What made me want to start was that other people our age were playing shows like Peace Core, Bum Kon…it made us less scared to do it.

I played with my brother, Gant who only had a snare drum. By then I was going to Mountain Open High, an alternative school. Gant played the snare and I played around with him. He started getting pretty good and I thought, wow, we could start a band because I was already inspired from other punk rock kids playing.

How did you hook-up with Nate Butler to play bass for Happy World?
I saw him at shows and I knew him from the neighborhood. Nate, Davey, and I lived within a few blocks of each other. Nate was older and I remember him when I was a younger kid, getting into skating way back when Skateboarding magazine came out. There was a big paved hill that the older kids would go down. Nate was a part of that older group plus he had a quarter pipe ramp. This was back before anyone had those.

Nate was a skater?
Oh yeah, he was a wicked skateboarder. I saw that guy zipping down that fucking hill standing up and I'm like, “Who the fuck is that?” Some one said, “Those kids are the crazy kids.” We went to Nate’s house where the ramp was and watched people skate. That’s where I first met him. He was playing in U.S.A. in 1983 and Happy World started playing at the end of ’83. We needed a bass player, so I just asked him. Nate played on our first record. He was an important part of Happy Would and we wouldn’t have existed had he not started Gant and I off. We originally played our first show with a new wave kid named Ken. Ken lost interest because he had a new wave band that played parties. Davey took over seven months later after Nate left Denver. Davey and I went to the same school and we were best friends.

The name Happy World?
I remember having a list of names and the phrase happy world was an ironic name with hippy sensibilities. I was a hippy and a stoner and had seen the Grateful Dead nine times by the time I was 15-years old.

You were a stoner?
I smoked weed from the time I woke-up until I went to bed from the age of 14 until I got into hard drugs. Pot sucks now.

Happy World sort of rejected the typical hardcore sound and in lieu of forging your own direction. What vision did you have for the band?
A lot of it was Davey on the first record for sure. He was into Zappa and the Minutemen, I was a huge Sonic Youth fan. When we first recorded, we brought in Social Distortion’s 1945 single to reference because we wanted our record to sound like it production wise. The engineer misunderstood, he thought we meant our sound. I'm not really sure why we sounded like we did. I was a Deadhead into the Sex Pistols, KISS, Beatles and Bowie. All that was influential on the way I played guitar in Happy World. All hardcore is basically minor pentatonic scales…the Rolling Stones kind of shit, but speeded up. I took playing serious since junior high school.  My training was in notes, scales, and chords. I learned what to play on top of other notes. We weren’t afraid to experiment. In many ways I feel the band conformed too much towards the hardcore sound.

How did you fit into the scene since you considered yourself a Deadhead and had the Bowie influence?  
I was into punk right away because punks are individuals. I initially gravitated towards that. Denver was behind the times because punk was already dead in a lot of places like San Francisco and L.A.. By 1984 the original punk bands had all changed and were growing out their hair. Then came Grunge, that shit was all made up by the press, those guys all had long hair because punk had become lame.

Do you think the Frantix and later the Fluid was the original, quote unquote grunge band?
Definitely, Happy World was sounding that way to towards the end. We were way more rock and roll. We grew our hair because that’s what was going on in Denver. The suburban jocks got into punk rock and that is when the violence started. Punk was originally about non-conformity and I got that right away. Unfortunately hardcore became a conformist scene. You had to look a certain way to be accepted and Happy World got caught up in that. We played with Agnostic Front and the Cro Mags at CBGBs 1985 or 86. I was thinking that we were going to get beat up because we had long hair and there were 100's of punk rockers and skinheads in the Bowery and at that show. Of course we didn't get beat up because we were a punk rock band. The point was punk rock was conformists at that time; mohawks, shaved heads, leather jackets… People took hold of the negative aspects of punk rock. That attitude came to Denver and people were beat-up and killed. The irony is punks were hurting outcasts. Some factions became the right-wing of punk rock.

Punx Unite, Assholes Die, did you get shit for writing that song?
It was about violence at shows. I went to a lot of punk shows, knew a lot of people and hung out at places like Kennedy's. I would watch people at shows throw the new people around. People would get punched because they were new and they just wanted to check out the bands maybe because they had never been to a punk show. And people would get hurt for no fucking reason because some dickhead didn't like him because of his hair or not looking punk enough or whatever fucking reason. There's no reason for doing that to some for just watching a band or maybe dancing around a little bit. They weren't thrashing around or running into people or anything that would warrant that. The song was about seeing that violence time and time again. And it sucked. We never got shit for playing that song. The people that were at the shows didn't know what the song was about. The assholes didn't understand they were being assholes.

Collection of Tom Headbanger.
Do you think the people who were being assholes in you opinion were part of a weeding out process to see if people belonged at our shows or not?
In a sense maybe, depends what it’s about. That's where the conformist jock mentality came into hardcore. Why would you have to make people belong at a show? Especially with a place like Kennedy's Warehouse; they needed people to go and support the shows. I saw so many fucking empty shows at that place. I'm talking about Discharge and bands like that. Empty. Maybe 50 people most was considered a good show at Kennedy's. And you wonder the person who got punched for no fucking reason except that he didn't look the part. I think shows would have been way more crowded had there not been the "bullying" and conformist violence against new peeps checking out the gigs. The song isn't specifically about anyone in particular; it's about the consistent violence I saw.

People always make a comment of how young Gant looks on the first EP, How old was he when it was released?
When it was recorded he might have been 13, but he was 14 when it was released.

The first tour?
It was Oklahoma and maybe Kansas City. It wasn't easy getting shows unless you were somewhat hooked -up. We went to the east coast twice and did really well. However, when we wanted to play the south, most of the shows were cancelled, except Texas, it was always kick-ass playing down there. 

When I would see the band, especially during the later years, it seemed like you guys really locked into a groove. Did you feel that way? It seemed like you got lost in playing and that the songs just naturally flowed?   
It was a lot fun and much of that was being a 3-piece. We practiced two-three times a week. Almost every practice started with jamming. Dave would come up with something and I would play on top of that and Gant would have an idea for the beat. Plus everyone listened to different music and that brought a lot to our sound as well. Gant got into metal like all drummers do. That was a time when metal didn't leave such a bad taste on my mouth.

How did you hook up with Rabid Cat Records?
We were looking for a label. Rabid Cat signed different bands. We played with Scratch Acid often and they were on Rabid Cat. Many of label’s bands were different sounding.

Tell me about the rumor that you were trying to get signed with SST.
I tried SST. Greg was always nice to me. I knew Greg from promoting shows. I worked with the guy Jordan Schwartz from SST’s booking agency; Global Network. In the end, getting signed with SST didn’t work out.

You had a fanzine at one time didn’t you, what made you want to start one?
 I can't even remember the name of it. It was fun and easy to do because I had access to a copy machine. I started it because I was a fan and wanted to be more involved in the scene. I looked-up to Flipside and MRR. I figured if other people did it… It was similar to being in band. I eventually ran out of time and interests in continuing it. If I had other people that were into it, that would have totally been a different story, I would have kept it going. 

How did you get into promoting shows? What sort of problems did you encounter booking shows with bands or audiences?
That happened because I knew Headbanger and knew that sometimes he needed help with shows. I started scouting out places to put them on. I helped Headbanger find the Eagles Lodge up in Thornton. I liked doing shows, it was similar to booking a tour in many ways. A show Headbanger and I pulled off…Tom had an idea and I ran with it. It had to do with the SST booking agency. They called and said the Swans want to come to Denver, but they wanted way too much money. But the Swans were ONLY going to play Denver and L.A. period. Nowhere else would do it. At the most, 1% of the people that saw that show knew what they were seeing. It was history. I didn't even like the Swans in that era. I knew their music a little bit, but it was an undertaking and we pulled it off. I had my ears stuff with toilet paper standing there while they played. It was so loud and I wasn't that close to the stage and my ribs were vibrating because the bass. And they destroyed Mark Thorpe’s drums.

Promoting helped me with my people skills especially because I had to tell bands they weren't getting the money they were guaranteed. (Laughter) The only reason why the Swans made any money that night is because the DC 3 van broke down. People actually went to the show to see DC 3 only because Dez was in Black Flag. No one would have gone if they knew what DC 3 sounded like.

I was there and it was a crazy show for sure especially when the little skirmish in front of the stage broke out. Michael Gira started screaming at the people fighting; DON'T STOP! KILL EACH OTHER over and over. It was vey confrontational, but funny. Most of the time bands try to stop fighting at shows instead of encouraging it.  
The band was gracious at the end of the night when I told them, "You know we went through fucking hell to give you this money, and yeah, it's a few hundred dollars short, but here it is. It was a bold thing to do. In retrospect I would have not done that show alone. Headbanger made it happen. I knew it would be cool to bring a band like the Swans, they were a very heavy band.

Other crazy shows?
The Lady's Choice was all me, all by myself. That place had the best set-up for the shows. It was jazz club, Denver was had a serious jazz culture in the 30's or 40's. Famous jazz musicians played there and that place was a kick-ass club. I brought D.R.I., Agent Orange, D.O.A., JFA...and those bands sounded really good in there. The Lady’s Choice was located down in Five Points, it was hardcore part of town. The neighbors pretty much left people alone. I believe the punks and the skins knew better than to fuck with anyone that lived around there. It was amazing that we did shows there without anyone actually ever getting hurt. People didn't fuck with my shows because they liked me and because I sold fucking weed and had parties. And if you fucked-up at my shows you were barred from the shows and barred from my parties. People behaved for the most part.

A Denver police captain’s daughter had been going to shows there and his wife calls him at work and asks, “Do you know where our daughter is?” The cops raided the club and that was it.

Look out Michael Jackson, here comes Happy World. Collection of Tom Headbanger.
At some point you started to get heavy into drugs.
I had a drug problem from the gate. Waking up and smoking weed until the time you go to bed at the age of 14 is a fucking problem, a serious problem. I got into heavy drugs because I tried them. I got into opium; I don't even say the name of the drug because a lot of my friends died using it. If you shoot it it's dangerous. At best it's 5% pure. The only reason why I'm even alive is because in NYC I forgot to bring my needle with me. I can say this about drugs, I learned everything there is to learn about drugs really fucking early on. Addiction runs in my family. I believe it is a genetic thing. I knew I had a problem with drugs, but I didn't really accept it on such a deep level on what a hardcore addict I am. I can't use a little. I tried. My biggest regret in life is selling LSD. I didn't know what people did with it. I don't know if someone took a couple of hits and never came back and is fried forever or....Drugs cost me everything band wise, music wise, life wise…it wasn’t worth it.  

Tell me about your awesome handwriting? Was that part of the band’s aesthetics?
That's just how I write, I don't even do that on purpose. During 5th grade my teacher made me come in for hours every morning for more than half the year to work on handwriting. We went over and over all the letters. When we came back from Christmas break, the teacher finally said "Shane, you're really trying hard, aren't you?" I was, "Yeah, I've been trying, I've been trying the whole damn time!" I didn't really say damn, but she goes, "It’s ok, Shane, you don't have to do this anymore." That was it. I kind of like my handwriting. Maybe one day I'll show some of my art I make with it.

Happy World art. Photograph unknown. 
The song Cold River has the line, ‘Sexually abused in lost in the woods’
That was a movie, and not a very good one. I knew at the time no one had really seen it. It was on cable when cable was new and it had just come on one of the movie channels. The song Cold River is just about two kids and how their daddy died in the river. Plus they were sexually abused and lost in the woods. I don't even own that record anymore.

What prompted the band to move from Denver to San Francisco? 
We wanted to make it band-wise. We loved the city, we moved there at a great time, got a kick-ass practice space. Punk was dead. We weren't going to make it in San Francisco by being the type of band we were. We got some shows and continued to play.

The Sisters of Sodom?
I think Nate described it best. The band was just a lot of fun. It was a tongue and cheek joke band. We were supposed to be lesbians from outer space and we were screwing our way around the universe to spread cheer and good fun.

What were Happy World’s last shows?
I'm almost positive our last shows in Colorado were at the Mercury Cafe. We played our newer songs. We didn't know it would be our last shows. Gant and I recorded a 5-song cassette without Dave. My drug addiction was the end of the band. Gant and Dave started a new band, Hate Holiday. They were already playing shows after two months. It bummed me out, but hey, it was my fault. By that time I was living on the streets; a homeless drug addict. I spent 3 years of my life, not solid in a row, but 3 years, 3 x 365 in a county jail cell. I was in San Quentin for 18 days on a 90-day observation. Which, thank God, I was able to go back to the long-term Walden House. Going back there saved my life for sure. When I got out was when Happy World and Dave didn't want to do it anymore. Dave was getting ready to move away. It wasn't the same band without him.

Shave has some unreleased Happy World material. If you are interested in contacting him, click HERE

5 comments:

  1. Awesome to hear of Happy World, been a long time since I've thought about the band, and it is great to hear from Shane and some of the history (and the demise, although tragic) & what made HW tick. They were always sort of a mystery to me only getting to see them twice and living here in the springs.

    And thank you Bob Rob, for doing what you do. You were an admired figure back in the late 80s, (i brushed shoulders w(you a time or 2 at gigs (our bands played quigley's once - Again!, Rotoflo and Headcleaner (springs))I love reading your historical accounts of the old Denver area punkscene. I was only able to experience it a handful of times, but those experiences totally had an impact and a long lasting inpression on me...and it's a pleasure to re-visit them.

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  2. http://www.ebay.com/itm/HAPPY-WORLD-Vintage-1980s-COLORADO-PUNK-T-Shirt-/321717078650?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4ae7d50a7a

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  3. there are a few Happy World T-shirts listed on Ebay!!

    http://www.ebay.com/itm/HAPPY-WORLD-Vintage-1980s-COLORADO-PUNK-T-Shirt-/321717078650?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item4ae7d50a7a

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  4. Tell Shane to contact me please. Easy to find on Facebeast. Old friend here. Michael Dean from the band Bomb.

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  5. Cool article and cool blog too.
    Thank you for your service!

    ReplyDelete