Emerald Siam has been running for nearly a decade in the Denvoid. The band was been lead by vocalist and guitarist Kurt Ottaway from the beginning but reflects a lifetime of influences and inspirations drawn from its collective membership. So the sound has a deep mood and melodies that are woven in with emotional expressions cast in poetic expressions in the lyrics and songwriting. To call it post-punk gives a potential listener a touchstone for what they’re in for with swarming and swimming atmospheres, fluid musical structures that burst in cathartic release orchestrated to dramatic effect minus pretense. Since the late 80s Ottaway has been part of some of Denver’s most vital rock bands beginning with Twice Wilted who were steeped in the creative energies of Killing Joke, Joy Division and the Jesus and Mary Chain as well as 60s psychedelic garage rock. Its colossal sounds and DIY ethos garnered a large following and the band had a brush with being signed to a major label before establishing its own Gift Records imprint with which it released the 1993 classic Ice Hex Fix. And the way of many of Denver’s best bands at the time, Twice Wilted split in 1996 with Ottaway headed to the Bay Area only to discover he didn’t quite belong there and he returned to the Denver area and founded Tarmints, a band stylistically drastically different from Twice Wilted but not in terms of intention to put together something of quality and originality. If you were fortunate enough to see Tarmints during its eleven years of existence you saw a band that defied easy classification and which demanded being taken on its own terms. Yes, blues, sure mutant punk Birthday Party and Gun Club sounds and attitude with some of the grizzled Laughing Hyenas-esque intensity and immediately enthralling songwriting with shows that lasted exactly as long as they needed to be meaning no drawn-out, self-indulgent sets. Tarmints hit the stage hard with incredibly energy and focus and left before you could ever be weary of being sonically grabbed by the throat and brought along for an irresistible emotional ride that felt like a mutual purge of the dark corners of the psyche where the anxiety and nightmare fuel of your mind dwell. During most of this musical journey Ottaway ran a number of DIY spaces going back to the 1980s in Upper Larimer, RINO, what is now the Santa Fe Arts District, downtown and Lower Colfax and encouraging people in the local scene to make something that could be mutually inspiring. In this interview we do not talk about Emerald Siam much at all but rather the early days from his youth in the 1970s up through about the early 90s when Twice Wilted was in high gear. Perhaps in future conversations to be shared in this podcast we will get into other stories of which Ottaway has hundreds and thousands.
Listen to our interview with Kurt Ottaway of Emerald Siam on Bandcamp linked below and go see the band at Down in Denver Fest on Sunday, 8/21/22 at 6:30 pm on the Further Stage. For more information on the festival and on Emerald Siam visit the links beneath the interview.
Who:Midge Ure and Paul Young w/Kayla Marque When: Thursday, 09.6, 7 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Midge Ure is perhaps know to most for his bright and ethereal vocals and guitar work for new wave/synth pop pioneers Ultravox. With hits like “Vienna” and “Dancing With Tears In My Eyes,” Ultravox was one of the defining bands of the era. But Ure’s career has been broad, varied, lengthy and distinguished as a participant in a particularly creative era of music with stints in Rich Kids with former Sex Pistol Glen Matlock and with influential but not oft-cited early synth pop band Visage. Ure was a touring guitarist and keyboard player with Thin Lizzy during its Black Rose era and his solo career has been quite respectable with collaborations with, among others, Kate Bush and Mick Ronson. For this tour, Ure is playing from across his discography including classic Ultravox cuts.
Friday | September 7, 2018
Who:Killing Joke and <PIG> When: Friday, 09.7, 8 p.m. Where: The Oriental Theater Why: Killing Joke’s stark apocalyptic death disco was basically the template for industrial rock. Its fervid and unblinking depiction of an international industrialized economy destroying the planet and our humanity in the process had a great deal of appeal when the band started in 1978 and seems even more relevant forty years hence when the proof of the destructive nature of late capitalism on the entire planet, including human society, is manifest. Depending on the era of the band in which you checked in or will check in, its live act is a tribal experience with frontman Jaz Coleman a figure channeling the fears and anxieties of the moment and transforming them into inspiration through a shamanic performance. The last time Killing Joke came to Denver in November 2003, Coleman took stage dressed in an outfit that looked like he’d crafted it after ekeing out a living on a remote tundra hunting wild bison with wooden spears, two large pieces of leather sewn together with thick thread made from sinew. He carried a wooden staff like some Celtic mystic, face smeared with dark ash to emphasize the whites of his eyes. When the music started it was like primeval human experiences and those borne of industrial civilization came together. Most bands can’t pull that off. This tour is likely to be just as gloriously weird and inspired.
Also on the bill is <PIG>, the project fronted by Raymond Watts. The latter’s résumé reads like a who’s who of industrial music history. Sure, he’s been an essential member/collaborator of KMFDM since that band’s easliest days. For example, he also worked with Psychic TV in the 80s, he was a touring soundman for Einstürzende Neubauten in the 80s, and he’s worked with Foetus. Watrs’ own music has explored realms of industrial music that expands what it is and what it can sound like. Watts somehow makes music that contains elements of ambient, noise, industrial beats and guitar without sounding like he’s trying to fit in with a trend or “genre” industrial music of any kind. As an artist he’s consistently explored different avenues of sound including Japanese experimental rock band Schwein. In recent years, Watts composed music for the fashion world, perhaps most notably for Alexander McQueen. In 2018 <PIG> released the “That’s The Way (I Like It)” EP which is a small collection of remixes and the cover of the K.C. And the Sunshine Band classic in collaboration with Sasha Grey who has been making a bit of a name for herself as a maker of music and an actress beyond the adult film world. Because of the latter, the song’s video debuted on Pornhub, a first for Watts.
Who:Option4 and Friends w/The Juan Maclean When: Friday, 09.7, 9 p.m. Where: Bar Standard Why: Brennen Bryarly became one of the biggest independent promoters of electronic dance music in the country in the past decade. But when he’s had time to indulge making music of his own under the Option4 moniker it’s always been worth a listen. This night he shares the stage with associates as well as The Juan Maclean, the influential neo acid house/nü disco project started by John Maclean, the former guitarist for noise rock legends Six Finger Satellite. These days Maclean does his sets with collaborators Nancy Whang of LCD Soundsystem fame and Nicholas Millhiser of synth pop band Holy Ghost!
Who:Dead Kennedys w/T.S.O.L., The Dwarves, Runaway Kids and Reno Divorce When: Friday, 09.7, 7 p.m. Where: The Ogden Theatre Why: Don’t go expecting Jello Biafra fronting Dead Kennedys. Ron “Skip” Greer, formerly of East Bay punk and Wynona Riders, has been in the frontman role since 2008. Do go expecting to hear plenty Dead Kennedys classics performed by the classic lineup minus Biafra. Also on the bill are other punk greats like T.S.O.L., the band that refused to just stick with punk musical and sartorial orthodoxy when it dropped the usual hardcore imagery and sound and adopted glam and drag and moody post-punk. And whatever T.S.O.L. wanted, which is pretty punk.
The Dwarves spent a lot of years on the intentionally offensive tip in the vein of G.G. Allin minus the more unsanitary performance stunts. In 1993 the band announced that its guitarist HeWhoCannotBeNamed had been stabbed to death with a hoax that went so far as to list the HWCBN as The Dwarves’ “late” guitarist on the 1993 release of Sugarfix. That stunt lost the band its label signing with Sub Pop. Four years later the group reconvened and proved it was always more than a campaign to alienate everyone with pushing the extreme stunts envelope and has produced a solid body of garage punk including its 2018 album Take Back The Night on Burger Records. Not for everyone but if you have a wicked and irreverent sense of humor you have to appreciate a band willing to call its 1999 compilation Free Cocaine.
Who:Venus Cruz & Friends When: Friday, 09.7, 9:30 p.m. Where: Lost Lake Why: Venus Cruz is a multifaceted talent and multi-instrumentalist who on her own or in collaboration with other musicians or in an ensemble finds the sweet spot at the intersection of soulfulness, innovation and accessibility. As the host of Jazz Odyssey on KVUO on Wednesday nights 10 p.m. to 12 a.m., Cruz champions the most forward thinking artists under a broad umbrella of what jazz can be conceived of being.
Saturday | September 8, 2018
Who:The Verve Pipe w/The Hollow and Citra When: Saturday, 09.8, 6 p.m. Where: Levitt Pavilion Why: The Verve Pipe is most well-known for a handful of singles in the mid-90s with “Photograph” and “The Freshmen” and in 2001 with “Colorful,” which introduced them to an even wider audience on the soundtrack of Rock Star. Even though the band’s songs were uncommonly thoughtful and discussed topics like addiction, suicide, sexual abuse and issues of social justice in a sensitive way one might not expect from a rock band then with radio hits. But when The Verve Pipe didn’t score a big hit its excellent self-titled 1999 album and when its 2001 album Underneath, despite its having a hit song, didn’t move millions of units either the major label world lost interest. Fortunately, fan interest remained and when the possibility of crowdsourcing became an option for a band that had ably managed its own business affairs and marketing before ever signing to a big label, The Verve Pipe returned to having a viable music career again by simply picking up where it left off when the label was taking care of everything. The result has been a fruitful second, or even third, chapter for the band including its 2017 album Parachute, which is a fine example of how a band can reconcile the idealism of its early career with evolution into adulthood without getting boring.
Who:Wovenhand w/Echo Beds When: Saturday, 09.8, 8 p.m. Where: The Bluebird Theater Why: Wovenhand was a reincarnation of David Eugene Edwards as a songwriter from 16 Horsepower into originally more familiar, Gothic folk territory but in increasingly divergent directions including the adoption of Middle Eastern musical ideas with 2008’s Ten Stones and more immersion in Eastern European and Balkan musical forms. With 2012’s The Laughing Stalk, though, Wovenhand sound was harder, darker and more in the realm of fiery post-punk. Was it his new bandmates including former Planes Mistaken For Stars and current Git Some guitarist/vocalist Charles French bringing in that sensibility or a natural evolution of Edwards’s songwriting? Likely a combination as Edwards even covered the likes of Joy Division and The Gun Club while in 16 Horsepower. Whatever the catalyst for the change in sound, Wovenhand remains a haunting and powerful live band.
Denver’s Echo Beds came together out of the local punk and experimental music scene with principals Keith Curts and Tom Nelsen having put in their time make more conventional music and crafting music on the outer edge of accessibility. As Echo Beds the duo has worked with other collaborators over the years but the core of the band has been one to explore the possibilities of unconventional percussion (organic and electronic), harrowing textural noises as compositional elements and a charged emotional delivery it metes out in small, incredibly intense doses. This past summer the group released the nightmarishly beautiful full-length Buried Language through The Flenser.
Who:1476 w/Alterity, Oblivion Her Majesty, Feigning, No Roses When: Saturday, 09.8, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: 1476 from Salem, Massachusetts is fairly impossible to pin down to any narrow genre as its body of work encompasses neo-folk, post-punk and black metal without its music sounding like a song-to-song exercise in either. Fans of Neurosis, Coliseum and Wipers will find something to like about 1476, especially its 2017 album Our Season Draws Near.
Monday | September 10, 2018
Who:Mac DeMarco w/Noname, Free Nationals, DJ Jonathan Toubin When: Monday, 09.10, 6 p.m. Where: Red Rocks Amphitheatre Why: Mac DeMarco is a modern guitar hero to some, a retro indie punchline to others. What’s missed in the overblown fandom and uninspired dismissal of an artist one hasn’t taken the time to delve into is the fact that DeMarco has evolved significantly since his time in Makeout Videotape a decade ago. His songwriting has also been more than any easy genre designation, more sonically and emotionally rich than any movement with which he might be lumped. The songwriter has described his own music as “jizz jazz,” whatever that’s really supposed to men, but jazz is the underlying aesthetic and structure to his songwriting.
Demarco’s new album This Old Dog sounds like he spent some years brushing up on his Steely Dan-isms without ripping off the band. There is an introspective lushness to several of the songs not to mention the chutzpah of a twenty-six-year old (at the time of the songwriting anyway) writing a record filled with songs written from the perspective of looking back on what feels like a long life. And to be fair, with as much touring, songwriting, life experience and hustling that DeMarco had to have packed into his life thus far it probably does feel warranted to take stock through one’s art. This Old Dog bears that out and it’s often languid pace feels like he’s felt that in a way that only someone who is a bit world weary would know. Not that DeMarco’s been beaten up by the hammer blows that life deals you as you get toward double his age now but he’s managed to articulate the feelings of wondering what this is all signifies, the self-doubt, the realization of mortality and trying to cope with the loss of key people in your life as well as someone with a decade or more hence on him. Will this translate to a large format performance? One can hope and that Red Rocks is a place where people can take in some of this material with the thoughtfulness that went into its making.
Tuesday | September 11, 2018
Who:Dark Tuesdays: Juliet Mission with DJs St. Evil and Fernando When: Tuesday, 09.11, 9 p.m. Where: Blue Ice Why: Juliet Mission was born out of the early days of Denver post-punk/alternative rock band Sympathy F when Andre Lucero, Anthony Morales and Doug Seaman were weaving threads of inspiration from the pall of gloom over Denver’s sprawl of urban decay and post oil industry bust decades into darkly beautiful melodies. In the 2000s the band finally released a collection of songs but has more or less remained dormant, playing occasional shows, for the past decade. Now on the cusp of releasing its latest albums, Juliet Mission has been playing live including this rare appearance at Blue Ice for the Dark Tuesdays event that brings together some of Denver’s better darkwave, industrial, Goth and post-punk DJs.
Who:Acid King w/Love Gang and Keef Duster When: Tuesday, 09.11, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Acid King emerged from San Francisco in the early 90s when its amalgam of heavy metal and psychedelic rock wasn’t exactly in vogue. That just meant the band could develop its sound and aesthetic without that being co-opted by any mainstream movement or corporate record labels looking to cash in on a then potentially commercial trend. The group, still fronted by guitarist Lori S., took its moniker from the nickname of a serial killer and its songs are not short on themes of the occult, and evil after the manner of a horror writer, of course, resulting in a body of work that would be a great companion to the comic art of Richard Corben and Erol Otus or a movie based on the story by Laird Barron. Long before “stoner rock” became a thing, Acid King was in there doing their own pioneering work in that realm alongside the likes of Sleep, Kyuss and St. Vitus. Yeah, all the creative descendents of Black Sabbath but also some of the best.
Wednesday | September 12, 2018
Who:Mike Krol (Merge) w/Shiii Whaaa and Super Bummer When: Wednesday, 09.12, 8 p.m. Where: Hi-Dive Why: Mike Krol’s new seven inch “An Ambulance” / “Never Know” out on Merge Records is an immediate no-brainer-love-it for fans of late 2000s lo-fi noise punk/pop stars like Times New Viking, The Reatards, No Age, Psychedelic Horseshit, Eat Skull and Pink Reason. The shitgazers, the bands that celebrated exuberance and coloring outside established lines even for punk and more consciously experimental rock with garbage distortion and pegging the needles on the recording console, the bands that found homes on forward thinking labels like, yes, Merge, and Siltbreeze. Mike Krol is from that lineage of sonics but charting his own flavor. More contemporaneously, if you’re a fan of Clarke & The Himselfs don’t sleep on Mike Krol.
Who:Warm Thoughts, Obtuse, Candy Apple, Old Haunts, Incontinuity When: Wednesday, 09.12, 7 p.m. Where: Seventh Circle Music Collective Why: Warm Thoughts from Los Angeles used to be called Dad Punchers and who doesn’t love a name like that? But Warm Thoughts is probably a better long term name for a band you want to take places where “Dad Punchers” might not read too well. Or, you know, you find yourself being a dad and you’re in the band. At any rate, the emo-inflected pop punk band recently released its latest album I Went Swimming Alone and is making a stop in Denver playing with like-minded bands including Obtuse whose anthemic lo-fi pop punk might be described as defiantly self-loathing underlined with a spirit of accepting that for many of us life isn’t exactly overflowing with glamour and validation.