by Icepick Phil
Aurora's Frantix came out of Colorado in the early 80's. They lit the local punk scene on fire with their uncompromisingly raw and energized sound before burning out in a blaze of glory in '84. Their legacy is lasting -- a huge influence on local musicians, 2 important 7" EPs on Denver's Local Anesthetic label, and now from Australia's Afterburn Records the 16-song CD "My Dad's a Fuckin' Alchoholic". This great CD captures all of the band's studio recordings as well as songs from a great live set.
Poster from first Frantix show, Pirate Warehouse, Denver, September 198????
We caught Frantix members Davey and Rickey on a Fall '03 afternoon and they were generous enough to talk about the early days of the band and the Colorado scene.
1. Where was Frantix' first gig?
Davey: Our first gig was at a farm in Bennett, CO, playing to about twenty stoned hippies at a kegger in a field in front of a barn, the first real gig ever was at a pirate warehouse show headlining in front of a few hundred gassed up nut heads (thanks again Phil Bender).
We played late, loud and really fast, with our hero Jimmy West running sound and Bart Davies and his skate crew up front acting shitty and coming correct.
Ricky: Our first "Real Gig" was at the Pirate Warehouse location on 22nd & Lawrence in the hub of Bum Central. Not only was it the perfect room for music but the only person who could run the sound board was none other than the original, the "King of the Wall of Sound himself", Jimi West of the Rok-Tots. I initially was very unsure of what we were doing but at the same time, it was pretty much fuck you, here it is and we aren't going away." Jimi pushed the volume through the roof and it proved to be a very confrontational, high energy show.
These shows had lots of local musicians show up just to see what was up. We could tell from front stage view that many had this puzzled look on their faces. Other than some of our friends through the skateboarding/motorcycling worlds who were somewhat "Hip" to it, fights erupted with beer cans thrown about. Slam-dancing was something that most in the crowd hadn't experienced seeing before. Imagine 30-40 kids killing each other to wild-ass music so loud that you couldn't even think. To many, they had never seen stage-dives with combat boots coming heels first at their heads, punching someone in an act of "dancing" and throwing people to the ground with an energy level past everyone's previous experiences. I'm not saying that we were the first band to bring this about because it had been brewing for awhile, but that night it seemed as if to be the official "Green Light" for it to explode. Phil Bender of the Pirate Art Gallery put these shows on sold beers for a buck. Cheers to him! No I.D.? No problem. Gotta buck? You gotta beer. Needless to say, things could get out hand quickly and they did at our first show. We actually had our own bouncer/security guard who was always ready to defend our stage. No matter what was coming, it was dealt with immediately. This person was our dear friend Danny Einertson. Not only was he a "Punch first-ask questions later" kind of guy, he was the biggest sweetheart of a guy you could ever imagine. This night it happened fast and often. He didn't start fights, he finished them. Keep in mind, We were there to play our music knowing that it could spill into violence. I personally don't like fighting but love playing violent music with a passion.
Anyways back to our first show. After 2 songs and a very wild crowd, Phil jumps on stage and starts yelling, "No more fucking slam-dancing you motherfuckers!, the next fucker who does it is outta here!" Needless to say, that didn't stop anyone. I cut my index finger during our third song and there was blood everywhere. This only added to the atmosphere in front of the stage. The next thing you know, there were at least 10 people up on stage setting up their dives into a sea of punches coming right back at them. Holy shit, this is what the vice squad couldn't ever imagine if they stumbled on in. (They eventually found out about the Pirate shows and shut the venue down.) All in all it was such a confidence builder for us that we knew we were on our course. A lot of our pals were also in their early stages of their own bands and we all knew collectively that we were gonna make ourselves heard. Up until that point, the Denver scene was at a constant shift in original music. You had your choice of many different acts to see.
What was the Denver scene like when you started the band up?
Davey: The Denver scene up to that point was 24/7 cover bands with many clubs to play at, Rick and I started hitting Billy Jack's in Aurora for loud, live music several times a week from the age of 16. The underground punk/new wave scene was also happening by hook or by crook anywhere and everywhere at the time as well.
Ricky: Personally, my favorite bands at the time were the Rok-Tots (my heroes and I still listen to their music), Dogmeat (completely kick-ass), White Trash (who were our dear friends, very gifted musically and wrote amazing songs.) The Denim Zits cuz they had Bart Davie on bass (remember him anyone?), Rich from the Violators on guitar, and this cat named Tony singing who was hilarious. Other bands that rocked at that time were the Broadcasters, Zebra 123, the Demos, the Gluons. By that time, many of the earlier bands had broken up (Defex, Transistors etc...) or moved away. Leroy X started a dance band, the Young Weasels were veering towards dance music and tons of new influences such as goth, ska, and mod etc... splintered the "core" of the original "Wax Trax punk/new wave scene" into diverse sects.
2. What was the band's original lineup? Who wrote the music and who wrote the lyrics?
Davey: The original lineup was me and Rick with Danny hanging out, doing our thing making noise and having fun in my bedroom after school, then when we got a few songs together we needed a bass player. Rick said that he knew a dude that hung out in a neighborhood park that smoked a "little" weed and knew how to play guitar. Lady's and Gentlemen, we bring you Paul Dog on bass guitar, he sucked musically but was a really cool dude so we bought a flea market suitcase amp and a pawnshop mosrite copy bass and like the Frank Zappa song "Joe's Garage" we were off to the race's jamming about four nights a week in my Mom's laundry room with Rick pointing to the right notes on the neck of Paul bass guitar before every song! We then played a few shows that were real cool, but the new songs that Rick and I were coming up with were way over the top for Paul. About that time we found ourselves in Boulder playing a show with the Dancing Assholes and White Trash. After the show I told Rick that I had not only found our new bass player but had just witnessed the third greatest RnR bass player in the world Matt Bischoff! We stole him from his band of course and round 'O bout these times as well was the time that Rick said he was sick and tired of singing and playing guitar at the same time, too much bother.
His vocal solution was to ask my neighbor Marc Deaton if he wanted to front the band, he lived next door and would come to every rehearsal to hang out in the bean bag chair and just chill with the noise! He also had just turned 15 and was the younger brother of my best friends Kyle and Kim, Marc said okay when asked to sing, heck he would not have known the Buzzcocks from Van Halen then or now to save his life? Then he proceeded to scream into the microphone without any mercy from the first song out. I was thinking "what the mother fuck over" then Rick sat with me and said this is cool dude he's crazier than Henry Rollins.
Ricky: The original line-up was Paul Katopodes on bass, Dave Stewart on drums, and me on guitar/singer. In '82 we took time off so I could graduate from art school and when we got it back together, we got the ultimate ingredient that we had always wanted. Matt Bischoff joined as bass player. You want to talk about great players? Me and Dave always thought that it was McCartney, Entwistle,& Matt! Paul filled a need but Matt cemented the bottom end as no other could. We added Marc Deaton on vocals cuz we were listening to Black Flag 100% of the time. We didn't add him to gain popularity but further our assault on the public. Not only was he the "anti rock star", he was and is a menacing figure to be sure. It wasn't unusual to find him during a show missing entire verses/chorus' into the crowd mixing it up with anyone in the way. Not withstanding, Danny was right there making sure things went our way. They always did and I still laugh about that till this day. Enjoy the music, just stay off the fucking stage and away from the singer. (Keep in mind that we didn't invite this confrontation as if we were some jock-hillbilly-rednecks...it was our music that threatened even the most open-minded folks who just couldn't get with it.) I pretty much wrote the music and lyrics although I always gave everyone creative input.
Where did the band rehearse?
Davey: The Frantix were blessed from the get-go by playing in my moms basement for four years without interruption, we would play loud and hard night in and night out with every window in the house open, then later on we found out about Syd Barret and would throw the occasional two hour jam into the mix as well. You would think that the police would respond at some point but they didn't, the only cop we ever saw was my Mom coming downstairs from time to time demanding that we play wipe out and that was it! A couple of months ago I was at my Mom's for a visit when the next door neighbors mariachi music was blasting from their house at about 110dB's she was ready to go over and put a 357 slug through their boom box with the gun sitting on the kitchen table when I brought up all of the Frantix nights that the neighbors had enjoyed from her house in the past, well the suckass neighbors were evicted 30 days later end of story....
Ricky: We gave birth to this project in the basement of Dave's mother's house affectionately known as "Davey's Drum Hut." A non-assuming house in old school Aurora with an outstanding supporting cast, i.e. The neighbors. We could jam anytime we wanted till any time. No one ever called the cops on us as were cool with all the neighbors. "Nice boys who have manners."
3. What bands were a musical influence on Frantix?
Davey: The Rok-Tots, Circle Jerks, Black Flag in that order, Hell we were a bunch of young RnR kids that couldn't have figured out what Ted Nugent or Mahogany Rush were doing to save our souls.
Ricky: Musical influences go off the map. To be sure it starts off at the top: Beatles, Who, Stones, Kinks, Pebbles & Nuggets compilations, MC5, Stooges, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Alice Cooper, Black Flag, Sex Pistols, Ramones, Circles Jerks, Flipper and believe it or not, Pink Floyd. Also Motorhead.
What local bands?
Davey: Local Bands you say! well now that would have to be the Rok-Tots, Jonny III, and Dogmeat in that order, you surely should have known!
Ricky: Local bands that have influenced: Rok Tots, Dogmeat, The Demos, The Defex, The Violators, Jonny III, Zebra 123, Transistors, Gluons, Young Weasels and Bad Bunnies. Local Aesthetic Records was an experiment by Duane Davis for artists who otherwise would not have an outlet. Thanks to Duane for getting our music on vinyl (a dream of mine since the age of five) not to make money but to realize the dream. How cool is Duane for making this happen?
Were you involved with Denver's Wax Trax Records at all?
Davey: WaxTrax was the hub of the whole scene except that we didn't care or know what the scene was anyway. Duane Davis, Steve Knutson, Jeff Paxton and the like were very cool to us from the get-go when we would show up to shoot the breeze, or purchase such 7' 45rpm gems as "ZIP NOLAN, by the cult figures", We felt at home and then when Duane started playing our tunes on his KFML radio show right next to George Thouroughgood's "right on Josephine" in 1980 we knew our star on the Local Anesthetic record label walk of fame was secure.
Ricky: The scene ran directly through Wax Trax and the genius of Duane Davis and Dave Steadman as the heart and soul of musical creativity and acceptance. Duane had a radio show called RockPile on KFML AM on Sundays from 12 to 1p.m. that featured everything from punk, new wave, ska, funk, rock, soul, etc...A virtual education of what else was out there for the open-eared and open minded to hear. We gave Duane a tape we recorded and he played it on his show. That really encouraged us. Duane also started his own label called Local Anesthetic that put singles out by Denver bands. Steve Knutson (the coolest cat ever) also shared duties on RockPile and proved a great representative of what made Wax Trax work. Always aware of what was fresh and new, he gave us confidence and respect that is heart-felt to this day. Thanks a ton Steve! With Duane's support and Steve's encouragement, we got the blessing to record for the Local Anesthetic label. At this time, Denver had only a few venues consistently available for punk bands. Walabis was still open, The Broadway, but the Mercury Cafe at 13th & Pearl was the jewel waiting to be polished. It had a great room for both bands and listeners. You never know how good you have it until they are gone but those were very special times. Other venues at that time were the German House (16th & Downing), Slovenian Hall (I-70 & Washington), 4 Mile House (Quebec & Leetsdale). Malfunction Junction was closed by then but you could always see cool music somewhere every weekend.
4. How did you feel about the 'hardcore punk' label then (or was it even being used then)?
Davey, HARD-CORE my fucking ass what is that? a bunch of lost trendy souls or a group of fragmented jocks with shaved heads or mohawks calling themselves the Denver skins or whatever, pushing and punching a bunch of RnR fans smaller than them around at shows to build some ridiculous rep? Bullshit to you motherfuckers, hard-core at that time was all of the people like Nancy Kennedy, or Marilyn from the Mercury Cafe, etc., that would book these bands on a weekly basis once the Jeannie was out of the bottle and put up with the damage or reward that followed. Hell we never copped to hard-core anything we just played RnR loud and fast from Aurora, Colorado!
Hard-core to us began way before any music scene in our lives, before this band, I was into my third year racing the local pro motocross race's all spring and summer, Rick, Matt, Marc, and Danny were riding skateboards almost daily doing shit that would make a grown man cry. It also seems that now as then for us it is the fellowship and energy of being close to almost everyone you grew up with doing all kinds of stupid stuff together and getting over more often than not.
Ricky: As far as the hardcore punk label goes, it suits me just fine. It is what is and seems accurate in its description. To me it seems that The Yardbirds, Seeds, Sonics, Pistols, Ramones, Dead Boys, Circle Jerks, etc. fit the term. If you listen to the first Flipper album or Dead Kennedy's records, you can easily decipher hard core from anything else. Check out the Angry Samoans first records and then we'll talk about the merits of hard core. You are what you are and if it comes with a label, so be it. I used to hate being labeled, but as time goes by... fuck-it. A band can only be judged, in my opinion, by the way they play live. On stage...live! That's where it's at and where it is left.
5. Where did you record your first session (cassette release only) in '80? Where did you record your two records for them?
Davey, We recorded our stuff every time but one at any nameless low budget shithole you could find, guess what? We fucked up, big time as the music we were really playing never got put on tape! The best thing we did was probably "my dads a fucking alcoholic" that was recorded in my Mom's family room in one take by Bad Bob Ferberache with a four track cassette deck and about five microphones...
6. Whose Dad was a "fuckin' alcoholic"?
Davey, Whose wasn't? Does this man exist? If so we have not met him.
Ricky: I agree with that and have to say also, "You mean there is actually someone out there whose Dad isn't?" As soon as we wrote and did that song live, it seemed to be somewhat of a generational vibe that everyone from every background could feel. To us it was the same as singing "The sun's coming up tomorrow." I dunno...some things are so obvious that you don't even think about making a point of it, that's what the Blues have always done, make a song about life. We wrote it going with experiences that most have. It's real and funny at the same time. If that song is still popular it is only because of the fact that most parents ARE alcoholics. What's changed?
What was the reception of that record when it was released in '83?
Davey: Of course the reception to this song was positive from the start, 20 years later it still ranks about 9th on any set list we care to play!
How did you get that guitar sound?
Davey: The guitar sound was due to not having money for Marshall amps and not liking anything else at hand better than the speakers that had caught fire at the previous show!
Ricky: Regarding the guitar sound, this can only be answered by the phrase, "Ancient Chinese Secret." Only the people who were there can give that secret up but I'll refer that question to my main man...none other than Bad Bob Ferbrache. And if he gives it up, I'll have his kneecaps broken!
7. As the band became more popular how did the Colorado scene begin to change?
Davey: the local scene was the same to us whether big or small we would unload and play to 1,000+ people the same as we would for 10, during this time we did play about every place going at the time as well.
Ricky: The Denver scene became a touring bands pit stop between Salt Lake and Lawrence, Kansas for hard core acts. A lot more venues became available but as soon as we played them, they wouldn't have us back. Phil Bender quit having shows at 22nd and Lawrence but that didn't stop the movement. For awhile, we played at houses, warehouses, anytime and anywhere. This wasn't your typical bar/babe scene, it was definitely about the music. Also, no bars would have anything to do with it. The crowd was too young anyway.
Did Frantix play out of state much (ever tour)?
Davey: We played out of state a few times yes and we also had a short tour through the West coast with many local and big name Nat'l acts as well, in the end we liked the "FRIGHTWIG" from San Francisco real fine.
Ricky: We played shows in Salt Lake City and went on a West Coast tour. Five people plus our gear loaded into a Ford Ranchero! Played in "Frisco, Sacramento and hung out in L.A. with our bros in Dogmeat.
Did the band ever have professional management?
Davey: Local management was me one the phone, anything more than that was big help from Jello, Tim Yohannon @ maximumRnR, or Mike Vraney, who managed TSOL, and the DK's.
8. How did the shows go when you opened for national touring bands like the Dead Kennedys?
Davey: We loved to open for Nat'l acts real fine as the only thing we had in mind was to blow them right out of the fucking house! we learned early on that the rep they carried or their top of the line equipment etc. would put us behind the eight ball from time to time but fuck it we played hard and had a good time........yawn.
Ricky: The shows opening for touring acts were mostly cool. At that time in my life, I knew that was what I was going to eventually do. We'd get paid anywhere from 25 dollars to 100. Not much, but better than nothing. We didn't have many bills as we rehearsed for free at Davey's Drum Hut. All of the touring acts were very cool to us. Jello is still a friend and comes to visit his parents often. When I've seen him, he is exactly the same as ever. TSOL were great fun. Keith from the Circle Jerks is very cool. Black Flag would hang out with everyone and just talk about anything. All of these shows went really well. Huge crowds.
9. What led to Frantix splitting up?
Davey: Youth and "BIG TIME" girl trouble, same as every other band.
Ricky: Five people in a Ranchero + no money = Tension! We had an incident in Oceanside where we were sleeping on a beach, eating campfire burritos and enough gas money to get to San Diego. Somehow it was decided to spend that money on pot. Needless to the tension spilled over and the next thing I know, I'm on a bus with my wife heading to L.A. and then back to Denver. I figured out the hard way that traveling with 85 cents in your pocket sucked and that in the future there would have to at least be guarantees for food and gas. It all worked out in the end as we are all still friends. We played one last show with the Dead Kennedys at Regis Field House and that was that.
10. What have all of you been up to musically since then?
Davey: I played in the Trontils, my version of the very early "BLUE CHEER", just to show Matt and Rick that I missed them, I could still play, and that it was on. I had a cup of coffee with Jeff Rok-Tot in the fantastic power pop band the 180's, Matt and I jammed real hard in "57 Lesbian, I then replaced Garrett in the FLUID only to turn out the lights one last time with that fantastic band, and last of all Rick, Matt and myself found ourselves together as the best frantix ever for a short time until it was apparent that full time fatherhood would not give us the time to continue. We still have all of our gear and chops and could turn it on today, but RnR pales compared to hands on parenting........OUT!
Ricky: I went on to help form the Fluid and spent a ton of energy on that band. After years of touring and playing our asses off, we pretty much exhausted ourselves and watched as Nirvana hit it big. They deserved every bit of their fame and here we were traveling all the time... not making enough money to support wives, kids etc... I needed to stop with my wife still behind me 100%. Well, 12 years later and zero tours booked, I'm a happy music loving father who wouldn't change a thing. Been there, Done that,... Loved it! The punk scene here is stronger than ever before as now "Punk" has slowly won over the masses. Keep it up Phil, you are doing a great thing here. To anyone who reads this, you are not only getting older...Budweiser!!!
11. How did you hook up with Afterburn Records in Australia to release the new Frantix CD?
Davey: Scotti called us out of the blue via Melbourne Australia a few years ago and floated the balloon for this project, we got the basic photo and music layout together and left the rest up to him and a few years later it came out beautiful.
How do you feel about the CD and how do you feel about the punk rock scene now?
Davey: As for the punk rock scene now, well we just have to give props to Johnny Winter and RL Burnside of course. "See you at the race's, the FRANTIX".
PS, The Rok-Tots and the Jonny III, taught us everything local music can be at the highest level and have never let us down since we were young kids going to shows and still learning to play. The Rok-Tots are the baddest motherfucker that ever walked the earth regardless of the lineup. The Jonny III were the band that would just blow us away every time we saw them, it was like you were watching the Beatles or something very close at every show. My best Jonny III story was during a time that they had stopped playing and the frantix were on the go for sure, we were playing a show at the rainbow music hall with God knows who when I spotted Leroy X in the lobby and turned into a stuttering fool trying to explain to him that I had just saw a big chrome drum set at GI JOES pawnshop on Larimer ST. the week before that looked just like his machine. He said flippantly that it was in fact his kit and I spent the rest of the evening and our set thinking how that magical machine and it's past ended there? Leroy, play the new set with a mouth full of bubblegum looking out at Kenny's pink strat and bring this star cruiser in for a safe landing with the new Jonny III project, and rest assured the Rok-Tots will always be lurking in the shadows as well...