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By Mary Willson
By Brian Turk
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Given sentiments like these, it's doubtful that Franklin and his bandmates (guitarists Russ Fahnestock and Jeff Miller, bassist Mike Molnor and ex-Acid Pigs drummer Dave McGew) will be dueting with Duritz on a Van Morrison cover anytime soon. But then again, the members of Old Bull's Needle have never been recognized for their congeniality. The group's corrosive, nitro-burning punk rock is as intrusive and unforgiving as a red-hot poker. Chances are that if Duritz (whom Franklin affectionately refers to as "the short, fat Judd Nelson impersonator") did happen by a Bull's show, his Vanilla Ice dreadlocks would turn gray with fright before these guys could even think about ripping them out.
When Franklin and Molnor first formed the band with Fahnestock and Miller in the Western Slope town of Grand Junction circa early 1992, their main objective was simple--to fight off boredom. Nevertheless, the musical by-product of this quest impressed friends and fans. So did their live appearances at beer-soaked jamfests. "We rule in Grand Junction," Franklin enthuses. "I get all the fourteen-year-old girls when we go back there."
Unfortunately, OBN's noisome performances weren't quite as popular with neighbors and local authorities, and the band was soon evicted from their home. A subsequent move to Glenwood Springs proved even more disastrous. "Let's just put it this way," Franklin says. "In a period of two weeks, a guy we were hanging out with wrote three grand in bad checks to buy booze. He went to the insane asylum. I went to jail. Then we left."
"Yeah, we thought we'd make it big in Glenwood Springs," adds Molnor, laughing. "We were only there for a month and a half."
"We did make it big there," Fahnestock interjects. "We made it big on the warrants list."
With a grand total of $30 in their collective pockets, Franklin and associates packed up their instruments and migrated to Denver in the summer of 1992, and they've been creating a noticeable disturbance on the local club scene ever since. Much of the notoriety they've earned can be attributed to the vitriolic nature of the band's music. Unlike many of today's kinder, gentler punk-rock aficionados, Old Bull's Needle still adheres to the stringent hardcore standards set by such thrash pioneers as Minor Threat and the Misfits. Throughout compositions such as "Kill the Sun," "Late for Work" and "Indian American," Fahnestock and Miller deliver punishing walls of metallic guitar noise, while Molnor and McGew (who replaced original drummer Jason Dunn) accelerate the pace with all the subtlety of a volley of Scuds. Adding a touch of grim comic relief to the mixture are the band's wry, blue-collar lyrics, which guitarist Miller describes as being "about life in general."
"Most of our songs are about being depressed," elaborates Molnor, one of the band's chief songwriters. "When you listen to most [punk rockers], they sing about overcoming their problems and getting past all the shit. Whereas our songs usually seem to be about when you're just kind of stuck in it. I guess we haven't gotten to that point yet, or something."
"Garbage Man"--one of the tracks from Pun Crock, a fourteen-song compilation of Denver artists issued by Warped Records--best exemplifies the band's chemically skewed viewpoint. Featuring an unforgettably raunchy trumpet solo by Franklin ("I was a band fag in high school," the singer confesses), the song tells the tale of a sanitation worker who spies on people by sifting through their trash. "It's about how the garbage man can learn everything in your life," he notes. "What you throw away tells a lot about you, man."
"It started out being about tabloid journalism," Molnor continues, "but somewhere along the line, the third verse just got dropped. Now it's just about a garbage man."
The band's musical philosophy, as expressed by Miller, is equally trashy. "Pills, speed, hot sex and greed," he says with a smile.
"Our music is loud and fast and slow and heavy," Franklin adds. "If it's not loud and fast, it better be fucking heavy. None of these scratchy guitar chords and singing `Sha-la-la-la-la/We all wanna be a spud/Mr. Jones.' You know what I mean?"
Be afraid, Mr. Duritz. Be very afraid...