All Murder Photography by ePARILLA PHOTOGRAPHY
Accomplices: FILM: Smith&Shearer (Smith&Shearer), Aaron Saye, Jimmy Weber. MAKE UP: Jeremy Atkins, Killa Kassie and Aaryn McPhetres. ZOMBIES:Trent Jacobs (also did the King Rat logo), Bo Burbank, Andrew Rodriquez, Phil Sudberry, Scott Seidl, Dani Chavez, Matt Barclay, Aaron Mendoza, James Lebel, LaRissa Vienna Wolff, Brad Lopez, Matt Need, Kristen Conroy Harding, Elaine Jordan, Devin Hand, Cassie Kelso, Patrick Call, John Bollack, Mike Theif River, Adam Chiznar, Sean Coon, Scotty Giglio, Austin Southern, Ryan Chrys, Josh Work, Ross Moormeier, Jaymes Nelson, Levi Sprstad, Donovan Welsh, and Jerry Harper
How long have you mortals actually been together?
Luke: 21 years, 4 months and 13 days exactly, until you murdered us.
Most acceptable! What was the music scene like back then?
Luke: It was disjointed and sparse. A hodgepodge of bumbling fuckups, cool weirdos and hair-farming douchnozzles.
What is a Hair Farming Douchnozzle?
Luke: A self-aggrandizing butt rocker, with an overblown ego, fueled by corpulent self-delusion.
Speaking of butts...have you ever had anything inserted in yours?
Luke: Yes. My mother in law is a colon hydrotherapist. I go to her clinic on a semi-regular basis for flushings.
That's not what I meant! But...now that you brought it up, what does such a procedure involve?
Luke: Many gallons of temperate water treated with herbal additives that are flushed into your colon via a plastic tube attached to a large "colonic" contraption. The water is then forced back out by physical limitation of space in the small intestine and with it comes lots of waste that your body was unable to expel for any number of reasons. I would highly recommend this to practice to anyone and everyone.
That's gross! What venues were there to play in the beginning? Or were there any?
Luke: Cricket on the Hill, Lions Lair, Iliff Park Saloon in Aurora and 7 South were it really, with the exception of what is now the closed down Beauty Bar that kept changing hands and names
Were you in any mortal bands prior to King Rat?
Luke: Yeah, when I was in high school, a bunch of dudes that had already graduated, recruited me to sing in a punk rock band called Nothing Wonderful. I was 17 years old, awkward as hell and tone deaf. Those guys were absolutely fantastic musicians and one guy in particular, Ian Parks, was an incredible songwriter. They made me take singing lessons but were patient, because I flopped around and flung myself all over the place when we played live. They all thought I was crazy, which might have been true, or maybe I was just scared. I consider that band proto King Rat - the genesis. Ian even engineered our first two albums just cuz he is a swell guy.
How did that eventually morph into King Rat?
Luke: Once those dudes all went their separate ways, I vowed to replicate the awesome experience of playing in a good, tight, punk rock band, with clawlike melodies and heart for miles. I tried out for other bands as I moved around, but it was never worth a shit. They all sucked and I suppose I did too. When I landed in Denver in 1992 and decided to stay, I vowed to form my own band and stop trying to will lightning to strike me twice. I forced myself to learn the rudiments of the guitar, taught myself how to play and sing and then started going to open mic night at Cricket on the Hill. I went to play and meet musicians.
What bands were happening in Denver at that point?
Luke: Chaos Theory, Tribal Tongue, The Jones, Hippie Werewolves, Warlock Pincers, Baldo Rex, Babihed, Wanker and a lot of other shit I simply can't conjure up at this point
What was the first King Rat show like?
Luke: OK, the first King Rat gig was a house party we played on the fly on Halloween weekend in 1994. We were by no means ready, but they were. Our original drummer (Tony Luke) had a friend that assured me that everyone would be so drunk, that they wouldn't give a shit what we sounded like as long as there was noise.
Did you go over well?
Luke: Sure did. It was validation that we were ready for Cricket On The Hill and Lions Lair. From there,I systematically set goals to try and go from open mic nights to real "gig" nights at the Cricket. Our first club gig was on a Tuesday night at Cricket on the Hill. Big time shit, buddy
It was an affirmation that in this mortal realm, that you were heading in the right direction?
King Rat: I suppose so ... this band has led me to experience the time of my life with a bunch of the best brothers a man could ever ask for. I consider myself to be a very lucky guy.
In the beginning, were you trying to make King Rat's music be something specific? Was there someone you were trying to emulate?
Luke: No. Not in the punk realm at least. It was pretty obvious who my influences were from the start, but my secret fixation was always on the lyrical excellence laid down by Shel Silverstein. I decided to try and be lyrically superior to the obscure blatherings and the juvenile crotch grabbing of the day. Matter of fact, I played an acoustic set at Herman's a couple weeks ago for the memorial of a fallen friend (Don Messina RIP) and someone there said to me that I am the Shel Silverstein of punk rock. I was floored, man.
If you had to give someone a definitive King Rat album, which one would it be...and why?
Luke: It's a toss up between Buy the Ticket Take the Ride and 20 Years and a Million Beers. The first represents us at our songwriting best and has studio polish but the second really gives it to you hard, wet and nasty cuz it's live. OK -- 20 Years and a Million Beers it is!!
Yes! That's your new one. Is it a greatest hits?
Luke: Yep. Recorded live at 3 Kings Tavern last summer. It's a double live vinyl release with us on sides one and two and a gaggle of 12 Denver bands covering King Rat songs on sides three and four. It is being pressed as we speak and as soon as we are sure it is in the mail, we will book a release show - hopefully by the end of 2015, but it may stretch into next year
Do you have a signature song?
Luke: It's a bit unoriginally named - but it's called "King Rat" and we end just about every show with it. People get onstage and sing with us and general mayhem is about. We also close our forthcoming live album with it
You used to cover "The Gambler" a lot. That seemed to always go over really well
Luke: Yeah, aside from an occasional Youth Brigade song, "The Gambler" is the only cover we ever consistently did. Mainly because of the sheer absurdity of a punk band playing a song written for mainstream country music lovers from the 1970s
How long did it take King Rat to build a following?
Luke: It took a couple years. There was not much of a punk scene in Denver in 1994. We played with anyone and everyone and were kind of the odd band out. I managed to make friends with guys in bigger bands so we landed a few weekend opening gigs and gigs in rooms that were a rung or two above dive bar status. We just kept playing and recruiting people into our fan base who were into the life of slugging booze and behaving like idiots. Most of them just considered us a simple rock band with a fast tempo proclivity -- which is essentially what a punk band is anyways.
I've always known you as hard-partying mortal. What is your personal history of substance abuse?
Luke: My first drink was at age eight or nine. I smoked weed for the first time at age 12. Took shrooms for the first time at 16. LSD at 17. Extacy in late 20's. Nowadays I stick to wine and the occasional psilocybic binge.
Have you ever received oral pleasure from a guy, while you were high?
Luke: Negative. I'm about as straight as they come.
Your answer is a good way to lose your gay undead following!
Luke: Our fan base systematically turns over every year anyway, so we gain a few here and lose a few there, ya know? But, there are some long timers, yet they are getting fewer and further between
The mid 90s were big years for Punk. Bands like The Offspring and Greenday were big. Were you inspired by any of them?
Luke: Yes, Rancid for sure, Face To Face and yes, even Green Day to a minor degree. Not any of the pop punk stuff, though. Just ain't into bubble gum.
What bands were the most meaningful to you originally?
Luke: Ramones, Minor Threat, Subhumans, The Clash, Youth Brigade, 7 Seconds, Replacements, Descendents, Adolescents, The Adicts, Misfits, Social Distortion and New Model Army
Did you want King Rat to become national and mainstream?
Luke: Anyone in a punk band at that time who says they didn't want that, is a liar. Of course we did. The strange thing about us and most other punk bands and lots of punk fans is this: Most of them begrudge us for some unknown reason -- especially during that time. We didn't have the right combination of melodies, leather, spikes, ripped shirts, bratty attitudes and eyeliner. Who me? No I'm not bitter. Those damn cocksuckers!! (laughs) We always find favor with the true outcasts of the time and place we are at. Most of them are socially awkward girls with bad skin and body issues or kooky-eyed super smart dudes with a touch of autism or just plain crazy ass motherfuckers you don't want to be left alone with.
If you were starting now, what kind of band would you form? Would it be King Rat all over again?
Luke: No. It would be a country band a-la 1970s obscurity, like Townes Van Zant and Ry Cooder
You definitely have that vibe.
Luke:It just seems more legit for a middle-aged guy to be using an older form of storytelling to get his music across. That's pretty much what my solo stuff is all about, but the hook of playing loud, aggressive music is deep and I'll do it until I drop, ya know?
Do you have any solo stuff out? Recordings?
Yeah I put out an album in 2013 called Hell Can Wait. It's a play on words based on a Warren Beatty movie from way back when called Heaven can Wait. It was a milestone for sure in the sense that I was forced to learn how to perform on a stage alone. After years of being in a noisy band with great player who covered all my mistakes, it was nerve wracking and ultimately an evolutionary experience.
What did you learn about yourself as a result of doing it?
Luke: I learned that clumsy playing habits can be corrected with deliberate and frequent practice. I also discovered how to shut down that voice of self-doubt that liked to try and convince me that I should shut up, get of the stage and go home.
Did creating your own music change how you do King Rat?
Luke: I think it made me into a more lyrically efficient and effective songwriter. It also gave me a new found appreciation for my band mates and what patient cats they all are. I bring partially written chord and word messes to the band and they have to help me muddle through a quagmire of crap to carve out the song I set out to write. That's not always the case, mind you, but there have been some doozies.
When you look back over the years, what are you the most proud of? And what are your biggest mistakes as a band?
Like: I am most proud of keeping the band together all this time in spite of a relatively obscure status. That's not for a lack of self-promotion and gigging activity. Just seems to be the way of things. Biggest mistakes? Not touring enough. Traveling is easy in your 20s and 30s. Once wives and mortgages enter the picture it gets trickier. BUUUUT - we plan to tour in 2016. Got a booking agent, a driver and a plan.
What did you learn about the music business over the years?
Luke: I have learned that 80% of what 90% of the people involved in music have to say is pure hoseshit. This world attracts a lot of pathological liars, warped dreamers and mean-spirited exagerraters. Paul Westerberg of The Replacements once said in an interview something to this effect: "When someone comes up to you after a show and opens with "You know what you should do?' -- walk away immediately." That advice has served me well. Also, technology advances every couple of years so there's a constant learning curve to mitigate. What was relevant for recording and marketing your band a few years ago is now obsolete. We also learned that it is important to run the finances of the band like a business, and with some luck and responsibility, the gigging effort can pay for recording, merchandise and vehicle maintenance, so nobody in the band has to come out of pocket to create more shit to sell.
Was there ever a time (or times) when you thought the band was over?
Luke: Yeah, when we would lose a member every few years it would look shitty for a minute but then someone would materialize that would make the band even better than it was before. Everyone in now improved the band with their presence.
What got you excited in the beginning...and what gets you excited now?
Luke: In the beginning I was excited by the simple idea of getting to occupy the space that I spent so many nights fixated upon in awe of the performers. The idea that I got to entertain others rather than just sit there and watch. I still love doing that. Now, the idea of going onstage and playing as flawlessly as possible -- putting on a display of the highest caliber that we can muster -- that's a compelling scenario.
What advice would you have for a young band, just starting out?
Luke: Set a goal to make it together past the two year mark. The shelf life of the average band is about that: two years or so. Bands break up because everyone is an egocentric idealist and people can't manage to see eye to eye. Unless you are a solo artist with a stable of hired guns who are paid to play but not to think, you have to learn about compromise. Also, don't blatantly imitate your influences. Make an effort to take risks and try different things. Nobody want to watch a stage full of fakers and impressionists.
I seem to always remember you playing benefits and helping mortals. Is that true?
JLuke: Well I have a soft spot for those in need. Maybe one of the few positive results of being raised Catholic. I couldn't tell you how many benefits we have done over the years. Dozens. Tons of them. I was at Benders Tavern for eight years - 2004 through 2012 -- during the recession 2008 through 2012 a lot of people were hit really hard and I was blessed with the fact that I had a club and solid relationships with a lot of bands, so putting together an event that could raise money and make a difference was really just a matter of hunkering down, networking with like-minded people and making a commitment to promote the living shit out of it. We helped a lot of folks. Still doing benefits for friends - my job at Merchants Mile High Saloon and my relationship with Reverend Jim Norris of 3 Kings Tavern makes it possible to make a difference.
What is your opinion on the local music scene in Denver? How has it changed for the better and worse over the years.
Luke: The Denver music scene has evolved from fledgling to post-adolescence. Right now it is scattered because of the sheer number of musical genres out there influencing people. I like that hardworking bands like In The Whale are making a decent association for Denver music as opposed to being stuck with "The Fray" stigma: "Oh you're from Denver? Do you like The Fray?"It's unfortunate that the corporate entities out there are controlling the three best big rooms in town. Ogden Theater, Bluebird Theater and Gothic Theater. Those rooms might as well be located on the moon as far as local bands are concerned.
Who is controlling those venues now?
Luke: AEG Live controls Ogden, Bluebird and Gothic as well as Moe's, Larimer Lounge and Lost Lake. Their biggest rival in town is Soda Jerk Presents, who control the Marquis Theater, Summit Muisc Hall and Black Sheep. Both entities are corporate and sworn enemies.
But is it all bad?
Luke: It's not all bad. They do hook up local bands with opening slots from time to time - us included, but the disparity between us and them is like going into K Mart with a bunch of handmade knick knacks and asking them for shelf space.
What about the smaller clubs?
Luke: The small clubs are still cool and by their nature, a lot clickier than they were in 1999. It's nice to have options like Lions lair, 3 Kings Tavern, Hi-Dive and Herman's Hideaway
Final question!Why do you call your drummer Pockets?
Luke: We call him Pockets cuz his drumming is always "in the pocket" of the song
He's hot. He has some mighty kissable lips. In fact, all I want to do is kiss those lips. Tell him my name for him is Hot Lips.
Luke: OK I'll let him know. He might be calling you Fat Lips, though (Laughs).