Queen City Sounds Podcast S2E36: The CBDs

The CBDs, photo by Tom Murphy

The CBDs are a Power Folk Trio formed in the Boulder area in 2013 when the members of the band more or less met each other through their wives and via the world of CU Boulder. Burt Rashbaum (keyboards, vocals), Evan Cantor (acoustic guitar, harmonica, bass, vocals) and Roland LaForge (electric guitars, vocals) all grew up on the East Coast of America and were electrified by the counterculture of the 60s and 70s and all witnessed that great wave of music and art as it was happening before they separately found themselves moving to Colorado in the mid and late 70s. Rashbaum has a background in writing and has been a published author for decades, Roland LaForge was a geologist who spent times in volcanoes around the world gathering data for analysis among his other duties and Evan Cantor in addition to more mundane jobs was a part of Colorado’s avant-garde as a member of Walls of Genius with Little Fyodor (aka Dave Lichtenberg) who blurred the lines between punk, tape collage and noise and Cantor experienced the rich and great underground scene of 1980s Denver and Boulder including witnessing shows at The Packing House and The Junkyard including the legendary 1986 show with Einstürzende Neubauten the tickets for which were painted bones one had to purchase at Wax Trax. Cantor was also in various other left field punk and experimental rock bands over the years but upon befriending his current bandmates he reconnected with some of his own roots in that genuinely cool end up hippie subculture and its own musical leanings.

The CBDs have been playing shows along the front range for the past decade and are now finally releasing a double album conceived of as representing the kind of set list one would hear at one of the band’s performances. Two Sets is the kind of record that could have come out fifty years ago, a decade ago or now and its refreshing and spontaneous energy draws you in immediately into its stories of life, love, bemusement at some of the situations one finds oneself navigating through life. In moments it recalls the off the cuff brilliance of the Grateful Dead or The Band and in others of Frank Zappa in his mode of thoughtful storytelling. It’s a varied record that flows so well it’s like listening to the kind of movie one would hope someone would make of a Tom Robbins novel but one more rooted in instantly relatable and evergreen themes of human connection that bypass sectarian political and cultural divides. It’s a gentle yet potent reminder of an era of idealism and open humanity that never needed to get tarnished and one that seems accessible, practical and nurturing.

Listen to out interview with The CBDs on Bandcamp give a listen to Two Sets on Bandcamp as well (linked below) and witness the easy and creative connection of the band for yourself live. For more information on the band and their future exploits visit thecbds.com.

Upcoming Live Dates for The CBDs:

3/5/23: Very Nice Brewing Company, 4-6 pm, 20 Lakeview Dr., Nederland, CO
3/18/23: BOCO Cider, 6-8 pm, 1501 Lee Hill Dr., Boulder, CO
5/5/23: The Rock Garden, 6-9 pm, 338 W. Main St., Lyons, CO
6/6/23” The Local, 7-9 pm, 2731 Iris Ave., Boulder, CO

Interview: Mic Jogwer of Pink Turns Blue

Mic Jogwer of Pink Turns Blue, photo by Daniela Vorndran

Pink Turns Blue is one of the foundational bands of modern darkwave. When the group formed in Berlin, Germany in 1985 its blend of then New Wave and dark, moodier post-punk was in line with the fusion of those elements one heard in The Cure, The Chameleons, Comsat Angels and The Sound. The group’s first two albums If Two Worlds Kiss (1987) and Meta (1988) had a spacious and dusky vibe with undertones of emotional urgency giving expression to the on the brink tensions of that decade when the world seemed in a tenuous and conflicted state. Pink Turns Blue split in 1995 for several years before coming back together in 2003 after the post-punk revival was well under way and ahead of the darkwave resurgence of the 2010s and in some ways benefited from both as a cult band that had influenced connoisseurs of adjacent styles of music. In 2019 respected experimental and more or less darkwave label Dais reissued If Two Worlds Kiss and Meta and introduced a new generation to one of the still extant legends of German post-punk. In 2021 Pink Turns Blue released its latest record TAINTED with its decidedly political content as a critique of a human civilization bringing to bear a completely and utterly inadequate response to anthropogenic climate change and the political and economic systems in place that ensure future destruction to the world we took for granted in a kind of feedback loop of escalating devastation. The future climate scientists have warned about for decades is now here. But it’s not all doom and gloom and the music of Pink Turns Blue isn’t a nihilistic analysis of world events, the new record, as with previous efforts, offers poignant personal portraits of love and loss and the life experiences and connections to others that give our existence its essential meaning beyond our utility in some economic context.

Pink Turns Blue performs at the Hi-Dive on Thursday, September 15, 2002 with Radio Scarlet and Redwing Blackbird (doors 8 p.m.) and ahead of that date we were able to pose some questions to founding vocalist/bassist/synth player Mic Jogwer via email about the band’s origins, background, the content of its music and the challenges of operation as a band from Europe in the USA.

Queen City Sounds: Before forming bands what kinds of things did you see or experience that prompted you to pursue making music? Was Rockpalast a part of your youth in getting exposed to some of the more adventurous music as well as more mainstream faire?

Mic Jogwer: I have to honest and say that my love for music began very early when I was 8 years old. And also that my first heroes were The Rubettes, Sweet, Abba and the likes.

I started with trumpet at 9 and changed to guitar at 12 (Genesis, Pink Floyd), then bass with 14 (Santana). And so on. Blues, Rock and then Punk. It wasn’t before I started Pink Turns Blue when we got compared to The Chameleons and The Sound and we got listen to those bands a lot. On Rockpalast you would not find up to date bands very often. Rather the classics. Still watched and liked it a lot.

QCS: When Pink Turns Blue was starting out in Köln you won an award from WDR. As a fledgling band in what ways do you feel that the German government and local arts groups supported music?

MJ: Definitely not. At that time, if you were a German band you had to sing and sound German. Ideally not too serious. The WDR in Cologne was a rare exemption. The was this one guy who was very much into new music and was excited to find bands that were daring enough to reach an international audience.

QCS: Early in your career you toured with Laibach. How did that come about? How did you smuggle Western studio equipment across the border?

MJ: We were lucky that our label FunFactory! released an Laibach album in Germany and also booked a tour for them. Also, we were lucky that we were the only band in its roster that Laibach were ready to take on tour with them. They didn’t like our name or our appearance but very much loved our music. Also, because were quite intrepid bigmouths they offered to produce our next 3 albums if we smuggled studio gear across the iron curtain. We nearly got caught but were lucky again and they were really impressed and started to like and support us.

QCS: I read Burning Down the Haus by Tim Mohr a few years ago and as you may know it’s an account of the punk and underground music scene in East Berlin. Did you have interactions with and/or were you familiar with artists from that scene in the early days of Pink Turns Blue? If so how did you facilitate perhaps bringing those bands over or play shows there if that was even possible before the fall of the Berlin Wall?

MJ: No, sorry. Until 1989 it was impossible to get in touch with any of this East Germany bands. The first contacts were made in the late 90s. Some of them became famous in different formations (Rammstein) others vanished. And yes, we know some of them but there never was a common scene.

QCS: People who weren’t there might assume you were part of a scene and friendly with the likes of Xmal Deutschland, Malaria! and Einstürzende Neubauten. Did you feel like you had a sense of community with other German bands? How did that look for you in terms of operating and touring and supporting one another? If not, why do you think not?

MJ: We had a strong bond with Einstürzende Neubauten, because they were daring and innovative. We also had a loose relationship to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (then living in Hamburg and Berlin) and Gun Club, The Sisters Of Mercy, again because they were based and working in Hamburg and Berlin were spent a lot of our time. The relationship was more like: we are the kids and they were the grown-ups.

QCS: Pink Turns Blue split in about 1995 and reunited in 2003 before the resurgence of a fairly widespread interest in post-punk and “darkwave.” Did the “post-punk revival” of around the turn of the century play a role in helping to relaunch the band?

MJ: The relaunch was more like a short romance with your ex-wife. The post-punk revival brought a lot of fresh and very talented musicians and many of them liked Pink Turns Blue very much. Then we became the “originals” (the old guys), and they were happy to have us around. So we got invited to many festivals and tours where we met quite a few of them and were both impressed and encouraged to write new songs that were our version of the post post-punk.

QCS: Dais Records reissued If Two Worlds Kiss and Meta. How did it come about that you connected with Dais and what ideas were presented to you to approve making those records available again for potential new fans?

MJ: Drab Majesty was supporting us in Barcelona and mentioned that their label surely would be interested in signing us. So we got in touch with Gibby [Miller] and proposed that they released our first two albums as vinyl to support our US tour in 2019. We also planned to co-release TAINTED but Covid and the vinyl production disaster made everything too difficult. Hopefully, when everything kind of has come back to normal we can follow up on this.

QCS: Some people may be surprised by some of the very direct political content of Tainted but that’s been part of your music since early on. But in those lyrics there is both a challenge and a personal touch. Why do you feel it is important to address issues of climate change, inequality, global conflict in terms that seem so immediate and grounded?

MJ: Well, I think that topics like climate change and equality have become a really important issue for everyone. The last 5 years and especially the Covid years have put most of us in a state of disarray. And if you write songs that describe the world as you see and feel it it is only natural that those topics find their way into your songs. I guess – at least for us – those times where you were singing about your first drug experiences and feeling like an outsider as a young white male university student are over. Well, hopefully.

QCS: German artists have had a tough time touring for a variety of reasons. What might be helpful in facilitating this in the future other than imponderables like the world coming to its collective senses and addressing the aforementioned with reason and compassion? Are there practical things that maybe people can do to ease your journey touring North America?

MJ: I guess I have no idea. I guess we Europeans have our own insanity to get on top of. Not a good position to give advice to others. What I find encouraging is that many Americans and Europeans are able to make jokes about themselves. Wish it would be more of them. Still hoping that we all can inspire each other to try harder.

G.U.N.’s Single “Fucker” Rages Against Internalized Elitism

G.U.N., photo courtesy the artists

The level of rage in G.U.N.’s single “Fucker” is palpable but also directed and not generalized, which is what makes it seem so focused and thrilling. The layers of distorted drones, pulsing tones, caustic guitar washes, Killing Joke-esque dub bass and desperate but controlled vocals have more in common with bands like Preoccupations, Protomartyr and Pop. 1280 than a darkwave industrial band yet the sonic elements here will appeal to anyone whose tastes have developed beyond obvious big names and perhaps taken in a bit of Test Dept. and Einstürzende Neubauen. The lyrics seem aimed at the very foundation of the cognitive framing of internalized elitism with the chorus of “There’s only one degree of separation between you and everything else and that’s the idea that you’re separate.” It’s not a brutal take down so much as a critique of a mindset that perpetuates systems of inequality from a very root level perspective making the song fascinating for its ideas as well as its creative musical composition. Listen to “Fucker” on Bandcamp and follow Australian, industrial post-punk band G.U.N. at the links provided.

G.U.N. on Instagram

Queen City Sounds Podcast Ep. 16: hackedepicciotto on The Silver Threshold

hackedepicciotto at Mutiny Information Cafe in 2015, photo by Tom Murphy

Daniel de Picciotto and Alexander Hacke have been pivotal figures in experimental music in their home city of Berlin going back decades. Hacke has long been a member of pioneering industrial band Einstürzende Neubauten and de Picciotto was a co-founder of traveling electronic music festival the Love Parade. Both have also been members of influential post-punk band Crime & the City Solution. These creative endeavors would be enough to secure their place in music history but anyone involved in the world of art and creative work knows you cannot rest on your laurels forever and de Picciotto and Hacke have both worked in film scoring, various musical projects and in the case of de Picciotto a writer of both a memoir (The Beauty of Transgression published in 2011 about de Picciotto’s early years in Berlin) and graphic novels (We Are Gypsies Now: A Graphic Diary from 2015 about the travails of trying to find a place to settle as artists when Berlin seemed to begin to be unaffordable; Die heitere Kunst der Rebellion – in English The Cheerful Art of Rebellion published in German in 2021 covering her Berlin years 1987-1995). Hacke and Picciotto have also released solo albums all worth exploring including de Picciotto’s affecting 2021 LP The Element of Love.

Several years back Hacke and de Picciotto established hackedepicciotto as a vehicle for their musical collaboration and their multimedia shows as touring artists has consistently brought fascinating narratives and visceral performances to cities around the world. In 2021 the respected Mute Records label released the latest hackedepicciotto album The Silver Threshold. The album is a showcase for what the project has been steeped in for years while also a fine example of pushing aesthetics and exploring sonic and thematic possibilities across eleven tracks, each a marvel of expanding stylistic experiments while commenting on having lived and traveled across continents and truly conjuring a sense of place and time while using sense memory and psychological states and sharp cultural observations as raw material for composition.

I recently had a chance to discuss The Silver Threshold with hackedepicciotto in depth through the use of modern technology to bridge the gap between Berlin and Colorado. Our conversation about symbolism, themes, the challenges of modern culture for creative life and more with any luck flowed well even for the listener as much as it felt to on my end. And if fortune favors us further hackedepicciotto will get to tour more extensively in the year ahead to bring this unique album and their other work to life in their inimitable and always engaging manner. Listen to the interview on Bandcamp and check out The Silver Threshold and other hackedepicciotto also on Bandcamp linked directly below as is the project’s website.


Kamil Kula and Wiesław Miernik Miernik Team Up For Hypnotic Tribal Industrial Sutra Track “Pieśń Wielkiej Pieczęci”

Kamil Kukla and Wiesław Miernik teamed up for a unique amalgam of their creative work with “Pieśń Wielkiej Pieczęci.” Wiesław Miernik is an outsider music representative from Suchedniow in Poland and he wrote words to Kukla’s song “Kto Umarl” from his latest album Gehenna. Though the song is in Polish and about Buddhism it is the mix of almost chanted poetry and tribal-industrial music that conveys a meaning that transcends specific context. The organic percussion and electronic beats with Miernik seeming to utter a kind of sutra brings together ancient ideas and contexts with modern avant-garde music in a way that few other artists synthesize so well. Maybe Einstürzende Neubauten and SWANS and other artists whose sonic palette embraces sounds outside strict genres and timeframes and even invents a few to create the proper emotional resonance. Listen to “Pieśń Wielkiej Pieczęci” on Soundcloud and connect with Kamil Kula at the links provided.