Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Big Bad Bob Ferbrache is all you need to know.

For many people out there Bob Ferbrache is sort of an enigma in the Denver underground music scene. He has pretty much covered all the genres from punk, to noise, to industrial, to Goth, and has been involved with a hybrid of neofolk/sound collaging/Celtic group for the past 20 years. It’s a safe bet that he has tried just about anything once music or recording wise. After my conversations with Bob, I found him to be more of a music enthusiast with an incessant thirst to explore and experiment with sound.

Bob is often credited for discovering and fine tuning the so-called Denver sound where some might argue started with the Frantix-My Dad’s a Fuckin’ Alcoholic EP (his first attempt at recording music that wasn’t his own). Following his punk start he moved on to capture and help influence the recorded outputs by: Human Head Transplant, Warlock Pinchers, 16 Horsepower, Slim Cessna's Auto Club, and the controversial Blood Axis-The Gospel Of Inhumanity LP (Michael Moynihan’s band and co-author of Lords of Chaos: The Bloody Rise of the Satanic Metal Underground)-the above is merely a splash of his accomplishments.

Bob, Big Bad Bob, Robert or any combination thereof is no stranger to controversy. He’s been threatened and labeled all sorts things, from a maniacal Carpenters fan (as in Karen Carpenter), to a Satanist, to a neo-Nazi, just to name a few that have been thrown out there. “Also if you were looking for more notorious accusations leveled at me I was accused of the JonBenét Ramsey murder by CBS news. It's a funny story that was perpetrated by Andrew of the Warlock Pinchers. It even got me questioned by Boulder’s District Attorney.” Although he has been self-employed for the past 30 years recording, producing, and playing in bands, he has quite a list of other experiences that have taken him around the globe. He doesn’t play up his achievements; he matter-of-factly describes his work as if he is walking to his favorite sandwich shop down the street. 

On a short trip back to Denver I headed over to Bob’s house in Federal Heights. In my conversations with Davey of the Frantix, he had mentioned that Bob turned him on to Trappist beer from Belgium, specifically Chimay. I arrived prepared with a couple bottles of Belgium brews in a brown paper sack; a tripel and a gueuze in case you're wondering. We chatted a little and thought we should go grab sandwiches and a couple more bottles of Belgium beers to continue our education. The evening even included summoning Davey on the telephone.

Living in Egypt was another topic that popped up; an experience we both had in common. Bob was amazed how American soap opera stars past their prime were not only still relevant, but all the rage and treated like royalty over there. Former president Mubarak even invited the cast from one of the more popular stories to his palace. “They also showed western movies on TV when I lived there with all this gang violence and the dialogue is like, "I'm going to shoot your motherfucker…" but then they would cut out parts where people are kissing or about to walk into a brothel.” I relayed back to Bob the one night my wife and I were watching a cooking show and the word “pork” was bleeped out. The Egypt conversation ended when he told the story about asking a visiting friend to bring him a hit of LSD. “The calls to prayer are so dense, it has a psychedelic edge…by design I wanted to try out acid at the City of the Dead. I hung out there all night long by myself. Lots of people live in there inside the tombs. Family members of the people that have died surfaced at night.” It was his last time taking acid.

The conversation turned to touring Europe with his band Blood Axis and how music and the arts are more revered compared with the states. According to Bob, sales wise the band’s The Gospel Of Inhumanity LP was as successful as all of his other projects put together.

After all this chatting I finally hit the record button.

UNX at the Packinghouse in 1983. Original photograph courtesy of
Jill Razer's Denver Punk Scene page. Brush and ink drawing by Bob Rob (Medina). 
…In recording The Itchy-O Marching Band LP, Jello Biafra is always going to shows looking for new bands. He was genuinely interested in putting out their record. A year later after he signed the band and released the album he called me up to tell me the Itchy-O record was the best I ever made, ever. I was like, "Do you remember when...” I'm grateful he put it out. He didn't put it out because he's my friend and did it gratuitously; he released it because he heard something he liked. At the release show I must have had a dozen people get into my face telling me “nobody can record them” or “nobody can do them justice” and not a single one of them had listened to the fucking record.

I admit I was surprised when I heard the album. I was in Denver for a couple of days and saw the album by chance at Wax Tax. I had seen the band a couple of times and always thought, "How could someone capture that?" I shot video with my camera and showed it to my students in Egypt several years ago. They were dumbfounded by the onslaught of imagery: the size of the group, the flames, the hearse, the flags, and the overall procession. So I had my doubts when I saw the record. I took a chance and bought it. I was surprised on how clean, clear and organized the music is. You layered it quite well. And to be honest, I didn't know you recorded it.

Most songs have over 100 tracks on it...When I recorded the Foreskin 500 album that was on a 16-track and an early 2-track digital thing. I would record two tracks at a time, mix it and dump it on the reel tracks. It was one of the first albums ever done that way; it became standard practice. For Denver and music in general, the Foreskin 500 album was groundbreaking.

It seemed like a lot creative endeavors from the early 80's Denver music scene was fueled by the process to problem solve, survival, and the need for expression. In my opinion, it seems like a lot of us just thought up stuff and did it. You got into recording because you wanted to do it yourself?

I can't get a job at all-I've been self-employed for 30 years. Technology has changed that quite a bit. Everybody is doing what I did now with their laptops or IPhones. People are making whole albums with Garage Band.

That's a pretty significant change. Most of the bands I was in as a teen couldn't afford to go into a studio-at best we had ghettobaster recordings. Think of all those bands that never had a chance to make a proper recording or to have their songs documented. Nowadays everything is over-documented…people pulling out their phones and snapping pictures and shooting video of the most mundane shit possible. 

It gives a lot of bands that didn't have the ability to do it now, but it also gives a lot of idiots that shouldn't have that ability, the ability to do it. During that punk rock era, that was sort of my legacy-documenting some of the Denver bands during that time.

How did you get involved in recording?

I wanted to do it myself. That is about as basic as it can be.

Because you had a band and you wanted to record the music yourself?

I always had bands here and there during that time. D.I.Y. started happening. I had cassette tape recorders and started bouncing tracks off each other. I initially did that on a 4-track cassette recorder. By the time I recorded the Warlock Pinchers-Pinch a Loaf, I was using an 8-track reel to reel.

 It only seemed natural for the Warlock Pinchers to be in cahoots with Bob.
Flier courtesy of trashistruth.com
How did you find yourself getting interested in underground music?

Jello Biafra and I were friends before he was in the Dead Kennedys. He turned me on to D.I.Y. stuff. I moved to San Francisco for awhile and when I came back I started meeting like-minded people...bands that were doing original music, politically motivated, thrashing...and a lot of that ended up being done by 15 year-old kids. People my age were dressing up in spandex and playing cover songs.

How did you meet Jello?

We were rival record collectors. We would go to the record stores at the same time and would fight over the same record. I wasn't competing that much because Boulder was their turf. Jello, this guy Sam and Joe were competing. I'd pop by for a little bout. I owned Wax Trax (laughter).

When you literally have one day to advertise a show...2 nite, Mon 13, 8 pm.
Flier courtesy of trashistruth.com
The UNX?

That was an interesting project-we took elements of hardcore. I hooked up with the rhythm section, the Swank brothers. Miguel was 11 and Chris was 15 at the time. Their ages added up together equaled mine. People my age weren't into playing that sort of stuff, they weren't even interested in playing Sabbath-they just wanted to play that strummy Eagle's shit.

The UNX played a show, maybe with DOA (?) at Taste of Denver. They wouldn't let our drummer into the show because he was 11. When we were loading in I carried in the drums, emptied the bass drum case then went back out to put him in it and carried him in to the show. Once we got on stage, we played and it was done.

Larry from Trash Is Truth gave me the UNX recordings; it has the hardcore crunch sounds that you captured with other bands at the time. It sounded like you wanted to experiment with a nosier direction guitar wise. Were you looking to expand beyond a punk sound?

The obvious transcription would be metal at that point. The guitar sound got heavier and noisier. With Human Head Transplant and The Soul Merchants, that was very heavy stuff. That was the next phase right there. It's way heavier than the punk shit that I was doing despite the melody, harmony and the rhythm of that. It had a very Beatle-esque romance to it as opposed to one chord dissonance. UNX was really fun for a year.

Why did the band end?

There were many different circumstance-they were little kids.

Were they in a different place than you were?

No, not really. I was immature, still am (laughter). I could play in a band with an 11 year-old if they were as good as Miguel. No problem.

How did you meet up with those two kid and go, "Hey let's start a punk band?"

I had a friend Steve Lobdell; I think he played guitar in Problem Youth...though later he ended up playing in Faust for a while. He was 16 and he was really advanced at playing. I gravitated to him a little because of his talent. He introduced me to the Swank brothers. He told me they were looking for a guitar player so we started playing together just like that. By that time I had already knew the Frantix because I recorded the first record for them.

As opposed to seen and not heard.
 Flier courtesy of trashistruth.com
I've seen those Frantix living room recording pictures.

The Frantix recording was the first thing I did other than my own material.

How did you get involved in recording the Frantix?

What did Davey say?

We didn't talk about any of the recording sessions.

I think it was Matt or Ricky who brought it up, so we had a party Davey’s mom’s house and set-up and recorded the songs and did the vocals right there. It was done in one afternoon.

Was there a secret sound to Ricky's guitar sound?

The real secret was that it was done then and forever blown in the wind. He had a little amp that was blown up to start with. He had a bunch of small Peaveys at one time that were painted pink and blue psychedelic colors. He got the acoustic amp later that blew-up and burned down the Fluid, maybe it was technically the Madhouse practice space. (Laughter) He got the amp because it was the loudest he ever heard. It came from me. Somehow it caught on fire and burned the space up.

We should call Davey! (After a quick exchange of greetings, Bob tells Davey why we’re calling.)

Ferbrache: He’s basically calling you because I can't answer the questions properly and I have to defer to you.

Davey: If you bring Chimay ale you've got every answer.

Ferbrache: We’ve gone beyond the Chimay.

Davey: Did you ask Bob Ferbrache about the whole experience recording the Alcoholic record?

Ferbrache: That's why we are calling you because I can't remember anything. (Laughter)

Davey: Bob, that was the greatest.

Ferbrache: That was awesome, that was one of the greatest times in my life.

Davey:  So Bob shows up to my house driving a Pacer or Gremlin.

Ferbrache: A Datsun B210.

Davey: He shows up and says he's got a little this and this, 3 microphones and we're like. “Yeah, man, fuck yeah.” My mom's upstairs drinking a cup of coffee at the kitchen table. What Bob witnessed was with a real football, not a Nerf. We're standing around in a circle throwing it as hard as we can at each other's face while Bob is taking his shit in. We don't even stop; we're like, "Yeah, take it downstairs to the family room." Ok, we had challenged a whole rival pack of young adults to a tackle unpadded football game. And this is the whole truth. Early in the morning we've been playing tackle football in the park with a bunch of young thugs and we beat the fuck out of each other. We were bruised and everything else. Bob shows up and we're 3-4 hours into this thing and he goes, "We gotta record this thing today!" We're like, "Yeah, that's cool' and we all high-five each other and get back to business. So Bob brings in the three microphones, a Fender amplifier while we're trying to see who can throw a football the hardest and knock out or bandmates. Bob steps outside in the middle of all of this and says "Are you guys ready to go?" We went in, and did it on one take. It was one sound check. Bob brought in his own amplifier. Ricky plugged into Bob's amp and went, “Nope.” So Ricky used his Peavey pacer amplifier and it had caught on fire a couple of nights before at the Packinghouse. We got into a situation loading out and grabbed drums and amplifier and threw over our heads into a back of a pick-up truck. Anyhow, Bob goes, "I don't think this is good." Rick fucks around with the amp a little bit and goes, "This is good Bob." and Bob goes, "I guess we'll do a take." That was the deal. One take.

Wait, what was the situation you got into at the Packinghouse where you had to get out of there throwing your equipment over your head?

Davey: No, no we did that every time we played. (Laughter) It wasn't a situation, it was, "Let's get the fuck outta here." Bob, do you remember some cat where the Highlands is now right off of 23rd street and I-25? 

Ferbrache: There was a viaduct there at one time.

Davey: I think Bart the skater had a hand in a house destruction party there. Bob Rob, somebody had an old house that was going to be torn down in a few weeks, and put up a flier for a home destruction party and invited every miscreant deviant; we didn't give a shit. It was a show with no PA and the whole point of the show was to destroy this fucking house and all these people did.

Here's the most important thing, you know how Pete Best was the fifth Beatle? Well, Bob Ferbrache is the fifth Frantix. There was one point before the Madhouse thing where we got out of the Frantix and didn't know what we were going to do and ended up being the Fluid and the Fluid ended up being the Frantix and Rick died. Bob was always right there. (End of phone call)

Was the music you were making and recording on your own more experimental?

It was, but I also like the discipline of working with other people. My major band during that time was the Soul Merchants. It was still in the underground realm, we played with Bum Kon, the Fluid and all those bands. We were more textured and for a lack of a better description, we were a Goth band. We dressed in black and greased our hair. 

How did you get involved with the Soul Merchants?

I saw them as a three piece, I really liked them, and they had a lot of good songs-I like good songs. The guitar player was a long time friend of mine and I didn't even know he was in the band. I told him, “If you had one more instrument in the group, you’d be incredible.” He said, "I know what you mean." So I started playing with them the next day. (Laughter).

That’s a way to get into a band, point out their weakness and offer a suggestion on how to fix it, preferably affixing yourself into the equation.

We recorded and the band had so much material. In a period of 3 years time, we had close to 80 songs recorded. We released two cassettes, and an album...the album was only made because I stumbled across a pressing plant in Canada that was reasonable and would press a 1000 copies. Three records were made because I found that plant: The Fluid's Punch in Judy, Bum Kon's Ground Round and our record. Smooch (Andrew Murphy) reissued a Soul Merchants double CD and the entire 4- track cassette Bum Kon Recordings.

Rumor was that nobody knew about all those other songs on the Bum Kon recording session, was that tape was lying around on a shelf? 

I knew about it, I'm sure Bob McDonald knew about it. I mixed it once and sent it to him; in fact I sent it to him a couple of times.

It's hard for me to comprehend that people have albums worth of material sitting around; I guess they had other priorities.

I remember going through all my four-track cassettes and I had a few things and found an incredible Jux County recording. There was a Peace Core recording that was never done. I took all the Jux material and gave it to Mike Serviolo.  He has them so if he ever wants to mix them... That's where the Bum Kon recordings was; they just sat there.

Gotta love sexy punk-goth illustrations.
Flier courtesy of trashistruth.com
You joined Human Head Transplant while playing with the Soul Merchants?

It was concurrent. We did shows together. I worked with HHT and started recording, it evolved into that. I phased out of Soul Merchants and phased into HHT. Initially, I had a producer role in HHT; we were always trying different things. We were doing pop music and industrial. One week we would play a sadomasochistic industrial show, which was a wall of sound of noise protesting the Supreme Court actions on the sodomy ruling in 86 and a month later we would come back and play computerized pop music.

Did you like the freedom of experimenting with different sounds with HHT?

Definitely. I drifted from band to band; I was never one that was much interested in the wide aspect of it. I liked doing it because I liked to have a good time playing parties, getting fucked-up, and carrying a gun. To be the rock star...that wasn't my interests in it. I worked with all those other bands and recording them. I was more interested in that realm of it.

Did you help bands find their sound when you recorded them?

The role in that is, a lot of band never heard themselves before and they realize good or bad... a lot times someone hears themselves after being recorded and say, "We sound like that, Oh my God, we need to do something about that." Even to this day I do records with bands for what they want.

You’ve also help bands solve problems on the go?

I remember a situation once were the Fluid were playing in Boulder at the Depot. The Soul Merchants played up there quite a bit. During one show Matt's on the mic yelling at me and I go, "What the fuck do you want?" He was trying to get me to come up on stage because his amp was fucked up, I realized it was a fuse in his amplifier and I didn't any fuses left. What I had was a pack of gum in my pocket when gum was wrapped in aluminum foil. So I wrapped the fuse in the foil and stuck it back in and it worked. Since he saw me do this before, maybe they tried to fix Ricky's amp the same way and that's how it caught on fire burned down the Madhouse practice space.

I fixed may fuses with foil, even a HHT show in the Netherlands where we blew out transformers. We blew all this shit up; we took our own transformers there and fixed them on stage with foil for all three people that were in the audience. We had great shows in Europe except that night. We were playing an art galley and it would have been great if 50 people showed up, but Fugazi was playing next door. The sound guy came in and did a sound check for us and left it up to us because he wanted to go see Fugazi, he didn't even want to stay at the show he was being paid to do sound at. 

I was talking with Davey not to long ago and he told me that I turned on to good beer. He said that I was drinking a bottle of Chimay beer at a Husker Du show at Kennedy’s standing in the front watching the band. I don't have one recollection of that whatsoever. That’s why he brought it up in our phone call.  

 Zozobra is one of Bob's lesser known bands.
Flier courtesy of trashistruth.com
That's funny because he was telling me about going to Albertsons and picking up a cheap 12-pack of whatever is on sale like Miller or MGD. I'm thinking, "Why would you do that, there are so many good beers out there?" I brew; I've made several trips to Belgium and rode bikes to breweries. I'm a fan of Belgium beers.

We played (Slim Cessna’s Auto Club) Belgium in the town where Duvel is made. It was a youth center where they had a concert hall; it was literally next door to the brewery. We go backstage and the promoter tells us, "We have a whole refrigerator full of beer for you, your kind of beer." He had imported American Budweiser. I go. "I don't drink that shit, even when I'm in America." He was, "Oh...do you want some Duval?" I was, "Yeah," He leaves and comes back with 10 cases. (Laughter). I drank like 8 bottles.

You must have been pretty messed up, it's like close to 9% alcohol.

We revived HHT one last time to make a CD in 91. Bert and I moved to Seattle at the end of 89 for a couple of years then I came back here. I hooked up with the Haters and did a tour. HHT did a tour in Europe and everyone was all into it. We were like, "How did everyone hear about us." That's how strong the underground cassette culture was.    

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Patrick Barber talks about Ante Bellum, Expatriate, and Colorado Springs punk.

60 miles south of Denver sits a wet dream of one of America’s highest profile industrial military complex and what my parents referred to a town full of holy rollers know as Colorado Springs. In layman’s terms, “The Springs” is sandwiched between the Air Force Academy to the north, Fort Carson Army base to the south, with Peterson Air Force base guarding the east and Pikes Peak as a natural buffer to the west. As a child driving through The Springs meant the hopes of catching gliders in the sky, billboards for the North Pole: Santa’s Workshop, Garden of the Gods, Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame, and army tanks on maneuvers rolling over hills. My impression from a car window view was the town equaled one huge playground I was continually denied of. The only time my family indulged me a little was when they pulled off the interstate for a quick bite at Denny’s. Other than playing a handful of shows down there in my late teens and early 20’s the place still remains a mystery to me.  

During the early 80’s, what intrigued most of my friends and I about Colorado Springs was NORAD, short for North American Aerospace Defense Command-a bunker type fortress tucked inside the Cheyenne Mountain Complex made famous in the 1983 movie, WarGames. The film plays up America’s cold war obsession of being on the constant brink of World War III with loosely thrown phrases such as M.A.D.-Mutually Assured Destruction. Nuclear war paranoia was a pasture for where a great number of punk anthems were written on.

I supposed I was flabbergasted when I learned there was punk rock in Colorado Springs. The town seemed like a breeding ground for acid rocker dropout types tearing up the streets in muscle cars. Of course I imagined these types of kids coming from postwar ranch styled homes with manicured lawns looking to piss off their retired military fathers.

Ante Bellum was the first punk band I knew of from The Springs, mainly because I remember making a flier for a show where my band was set to be the opener. As mostly intact as my memory is, it is suspect if the band actually played that particular night. However I do recall seeing them a handful of times and thought their set was a solid mix of punk and hardcore with emerging metal licks, a trend many bands were flirting with at the time. In Ante Bellum’s case, they were a cut above the rest at playing it.  

The band eventually folded leaving guitarist Dennis and bassist Patrick to form Expatriate. This is about the time I became friendly with Patrick and asked them to contribute a song to one of my Colorado Krew compilations. Live, Expatriate raged beating listeners to a pulp. Had they been from either coast, more accessible, the band had the chops to be huge. They often played with their sibling, Dead Silence and proved to be an ideal combo on any given night.

Patrick was a prominent figure in the Colorado Springs music scene helping mold Mosh Pit Records with his business partner Wendy and later their fanzine, The Pit—a staple in the underground metal scene. One thing I could vouch for Patrick on was his commitment to helping out other bands and tirelessly working on getting his label out there. He always came across as half-full sort of guy and brought a positive can-do energy to the scene at large.

It has been decades since we last chatted. I felt it was essential that he be included in this project so us non-believers could get the real scoop on what it was like to be a punk rocker from Colorado Springs.

In loving memory of Dennis McPherson.         

Ante Bellum. Original photograph Danny Stewart.
Brush and ink drawing by Bob Rob (Medina)
I read that Ante Bellum started out as No Truce, a high school band? Did you play any sort of battle of the bands losing to a classmate’s lame version of Hotel California?

No Truce was a band I started with two friends from school and a young woman I knew named Bonnie Ramsey who was a punk rock DJ at a local college station. I would hang out with her at her punk rock radio show.

The way I remember it, Dennis, Sean, and Dave, who I had not met before the talent show or whatever it was, were looking for a bass player. They heard about my band through a friend of theirs who had talked to Bonnie. This was in 1984; I was 16 and a sophomore in high school.

So Dennis and Sean came to my school’s talent show to see my band. It all sounds very after-school-special except you gotta remember we were really terrible and could barely play our instruments. We did Louie Louie and possibly an original punk song or two.

Dennis and Sean said they were looking for a bass player and a drummer and we may have had a practice session or two. Then it came out they already had a drummer or maybe Bonnie had quit and we got Dave. It went something like that.

So Ante Bellum was a completely different band from No Truce: I played bass, Sean MacDonough on vocals, Dennis McPherson on guitar, and Dave Fruh on drums. It took us a while to settle on the name.

Colorado Springs is a hotbed for conservatism, what sort of reactions did punks face living there. What was it like to going to shows there?

You know, it wasn’t much different from everything else in Colorado Springs. It was fun to act like we were oppressed punk rockers fighting against the system. In reality we were having a great time and the resistance we faced as a band (or as a punk rocker) were the same we’d faced doing any other kind of art—there isn’t much place for it in a town like Colorado Springs. You mostly work with people in a small group who also have similar interests. In your interview with Headbanger, he summarized the way it was back then: when you met anyone who shared your interest in underground music, you suddenly had an awful lot in common.

We weren’t really threatened. There were drunks copping attitude late night at Denny’s or people hollering at you from their cars because they noticed your fluorescent high tops. At least, I didn’t feel threatened. The most threatened I ever felt was not from jocks or rednecks, but from skins in Denver. Even that wasn’t so much, but the skins were more hazardous than the general populace for sure.

In retrospect and in light of what it’s like to be a young black man in this country right now it is easy for me to see how much privilege I had as a young white man in a Colorado town in the 1980s and how easy and fun it was to do whatever the hell we wanted. We started fanzines, rented clubs, put on shows, operated tiny businesses with no experience…we were teenagers. Of course it was difficult! But we got away with it, which in retrospect seems more like a gift than a struggle. Sure it was a lot of work, but I loved every scrap of it.  

Courtesy of Jill Razer.
The scene in the Springs always seemed to have a good relationship with Denver’s. Our bands would go down there and you guys would come up here. What places were there to play down there? How big was the scene in the early to mid-80’s besides Ante bellum and the Creeps?   

There were several other bands around. We shared a practice space with Willy the Disk, who fashioned themselves as an agri-(as in agricultural)core band; mostly guys from the Midwest, from small farm towns who went to Colorado College. I don't remember a lot of the other bands’ names, though there were some cover bands of note that we sometimes would play with. The Auto No in particular.

As for places to play, Bennys Basement was a 3.2 bar on the Colorado College campus. They would sometimes have all ages shows and other times they would just let kids in even though they were underage. You could even drink watered down beer.

Climax Cavern was a bar in another basement, across the street from the campus. We did a couple of shows there including at least one all ages show. Corrosion of Conformity played there in the summer of 1984 and that must have been all ages. I think we did another big all ages show in fall of that year because I remember getting a lot of kids from my school to show up and it was packed.

Jeepers Creepers was this old country bar, formerly the Wagon Wheel? out on East Platte. Dennis managed to talk some club manager guy into funding it as an all-ages club, and we pulled it off for a few months, though it didn't last long. I can’t remember why…it was probably tough to pay the bills without selling alcohol. It was a great place though, big empty box with a huge dance floor and decent sound. We played there a lot. Bum Kon played there as well; I remember bumping into Mark as he was coming in for his set.

We also played and put on shows at DJ’s Nightclub, the place where we met Wendy, our future manager and collaborator on Mosh Pit et al. And at a goth-y 3.2 bar called the Annex, which was a regular hangout even when there weren’t shows going on. We managed some all-ages shows at both venues, as well.

Later in the 80s, when Dennis and I were playing as Expatriate, we played a wider range of venues. When I was working with Mosh Pit, Wendy and I would put on all ages shows at rented spaces, private clubs, Elks Lodges, and the like. The venues varied more. We were really pushing the all ages thing so we played in fewer bars. There were so many kids looking for something to do and this was when metal and punk were starting to mix more, which really increased the number of bands in town and expanded the musical conversation.

Early Ante Bellum show. Flier courtesy of Trashistruth.com 
Bum Kon enjoyed playing down there. Bob mentioned that one of the news channels ran an episode on the punk scene in the Springs and taped some bands at a show, what do you know about this?

I don’t remember the TV thing, but I remember two times that Bum Kon played in the Springs, once at Benny’s and once at the Germanic Hall with the Fluid and Ante Bellum.

I have a copy of the live Ante Bellum tape. I hear some strong metal influences, was the band more of a hybrid, maybe punk attitude and more thrash? What were you guys listening to at the time?

Listening to the Ante Bellum recordings I am struck by how unformed the music feels. Yes it’s influenced by metal. Dennis was into older British metal like Black Sabbath and really introduced me to that whole sound. Sean was listening to a lot of Dio and Iron Maiden. I liked faster metal too, along with hardcore punk. We were all listening to a lot of things. I liked hip hop and big band, Dave was really into the Police and Dennis listened to lots of stuff. Both Dennis and I were into all of the current music that was happening in punk, hardcore and metal. It seems like the late 80s/early 90s were something of a renaissance for underground music, in particular small punk rock bands. It was great to be a part of that whole effort and have all that new music to listen to.

Would you consider the band political because I see a theme in the line of names?

I remember Ante Bellum being sort of political. I definitely considered punk rock as a way to comment on political situations and events. Listening to the recordings I remember that our songs with lyrics by Sean were more personal with some political stuff, but not much.

Expatriate was more explicitly political and almost a protest band, if only anyone could have understood the words. There were some love songs in there too, though. I was doing a lot of the lyric writing at that point and I had a lot to say about the Space Defense Initiative, environmental justice, censorship, and other topics.

Really, in the mid-late 80s, how could you not be political? The Reagan/Bush years!


That was one of Sean’s songs, again a personal thing. I don't remember if there was a textual hook other than “Jocks are lame”, but probably someone got beat up in that song…

What sort of adversities did you faced as a band? I don’t know why, but I have Blues Brothers vision of you guys playing a bar behind chicken wire and a bunch of cowboys calling you guys’ faggots and throwing empty cans of Coors at you? Please tell me that happened.

Unfortunately, this never happened. When I was in Blowhole, a free-jazz/noise band a few years later it happened all the time…well, not literally, but we cleared many a room in Colorado Springs, later in Seattle, and all up and down the west coast. Free jazz was the new punk circa 1994.

Was Ante Bellum allergic to the studio or just plain poor like other punk bands?

We actually recorded two demo tapes in a real studio. It sounds weird to say it now, but I don’t think it ever occurred to us to release music ourselves on tape or otherwise.  A few years later I was swimming in self-released product of my own and many others, but even then it was a real departure from the status quo to create your own product, your own record label, etc. That didn’t stop people from doing it, but it sure was a different climate back then. Nowadays bands release their own stuff as a matter of course.

If I recall correctly, Ante Bellum’s approach was to make a demo or two and then in the style of the time we would shop it around to labels. We did send tapes to Metal Blade, SST, and probably some others. Nothing came of it.

When Dennis and I were performing as Expatriate we went into the studio with the intent of releasing our own record after scraping up cash and so forth. Again, it was a long time ago, but making records and recording in the studio was not cheap. We were all minimum-wage workers so it was a tough situation at best. The Expatriate record did pretty well and helped us start up the distribution network that I continued to work on for several years…which is a whole ’nother story.

Expatriate. Original photograph by Andy Spillane (R.I.P.)
Brush and ink drawing by Bob Rob (Medina) 
At what point did the band reach the point of no return, run out of fuel? You and Dennis continued playing together and went on to form Expatriate immediately after Ante Bellum. What made you want to go as a 3-piece this round?

I remember it was right when I was about to graduate high school. Spring 1986. You know, we got to the point where we had different goals. I had an email exchange with Dennis about six years ago that filled in some of the details. We had been sending out tapes to labels with no real interest coming back. Sean and Dave had real criticisms about how we weren’t getting paid and should be. There was disagreement about whether or not we should be aiming for labels or doing it ourselves, I don’t remember. I was young, naïve, and didn’t care about making money or making records-I just wanted to make music.

So after that meeting we split up. Dennis and I resolved to find a drummer and start a trio later that summer. I wanted to try singing and we thought a three-piece would be simpler and tighter. We found Pete Schroll playing in the band, No Fashion. We politely scooped him up and started Expatriate that summer. I loved Ante Bellum, for sure, but Expatriate was my baby. Dennis’s too, I mean we were locked in and we pushed that band as hard as we could. We had a great run of it, but not very long- late summer 1986 until spring of 1988. We did the record in 1987. Played a ton of shows all up and down the Front Range. Had some seriously fantastic shows, experiences, and played with a lot of amazing bands. We were fortunate to get on as the opener for a lot of "big" punk shows right at the time when Suicidal Tendencies, The Exploited, etc were headlining shows at places like Norman's. I still occasionally hear from people who saw us at one of those shows and remember it. 

Were you and Dead Silence blood brothers, did you all make a secret pact?

Nothing secret about it, we were really good friends and had great times playing shows together and hanging out. We traveled together to Rapid City for a show, and also once to Albuquerque. Good times at the gigs and in the towns and on the road. Albuquerque was in about 1985 with Ante Bellum…Rapid City was 1986 with Expatriate. Expatriate went to Rapid City again, but not with Dead Silence (or Dennis).

Courtesy of Todd Grow
In high school I accidently saw Megadeth at the Rainbow Music Hall, I think they opened for King Diamond. Anyhow, my not-old-enough-to-drive-yet crush bought me a gift that night for taking her: a Peace Sells…Who’s Buying t-shirt. Years later you wrote, Megadeath Sells…was that a nod to how awesomely cheesy they were?   

Oh, quite the opposite. I didn’t know much about Megadeth, but in my fiery teenage self-righteousness I took their “Peace Sells....but Who’s Buying” record title to be a cynical dismissal of working for peace. No idea if that’s what they actually meant, but it made me mad back then so I wrote a song about, and I quote, how they were “fucking sellout bullshit.”

In retrospect, I can’t support this message that I created so many years ago, because I don’t actually know what Megadeth meant by their album title. I never thought about it much. Just wrote a two-line song and kept going.

How did you get involved with The Pit and Mosh Pit Records? I thought it was cool that you and Wendy started something down there and had that crossover vibe. I have to admit, I was scared of that satanic shit when it became more her operation years later. What did you think about that change? Did you see it coming or was that more of a natural progression on her part?    

Expatriate was trying to release our record. We’d played at DJ’s Nightclub a few times or put on some shows there or something. Wendy was the booking agent there. She suggested she be our manager and help us put the record out. We didn’t want a manager, but she and I basically became business partners in order to release the Expatriate EP and then in order to sell it we decided we’d start an international underground mail order company, Mosh Pit Records. In order to promote that we’d create a catalog that was a fanzine, The Pit.

So we did all that starting in 1987 when the record came out. Expatriate broke up not too long after the record was released, but I stuck around till 1990, did seven or eight issues of the Pit, helped produce some records and a lot of other stuff. It amounted to graphic design school for me; Mosh Pit was where I started to learn to typeset, use digital layout programs, and create publications-getting them printed and distributed.

Just for the record, Expatriate also released a second 7-inch EP on Heart First records from Germany. The record was a live recording-six songs from a performance in January of 1987 at the Longhorn Saloon and sound was done by Jimmy of the Rok Tots. There were about three people in the audiences at the shows, I believe we played two nights. We gave it our all and got some good recordings.

Expatriate set list. Courtesy of Todd Grow.
At one point you were doing your own “documenting of the scene” project. Was that for school? It seemed that you had a good eye for photography. How far did you get on the project?   

It was a month-long project in senior year of high school. I created my own photography class documenting the Colorado punk and underground music scene. I photographed lots of bands, shows, and interviewed everyone. To present it, I had a photo-poster shop enlarge the final photos to huge paper posters, 2x3 feet, and arranged them all on a wall of butcher paper, which I then decorated with a collection of flyers torn from various walls and poles. I also spray painted various graffiti all over the place. The interviews or parts of them were tacked below each poster-photo.

The whole thing, rolled up, would barely fit under a bed. I didn’t keep it too long, but I wish I had.

Later I created another poster of a photo of Gibby from the Butthole Surfers from their Locust Abortion Technician tour show at Norman’s and gave it the same treatment. I pasted it to a board and plastered it with flyers and spray paint. I called it “Butthole Surfers Are God, part II” and got it into a juried photo show in Hays, Kansas. True story.

To hear Ante Bellum and Expatriate click on the links below.