Music Showcase, Take Three

Turn the page for Michael Roberts's profiles of all the nominated bands, as well as a complete Showcase schedule. But you've been warned: Times and locations are subject to change.

Apostle was born Jeff Campbell in Decatur, Alabama, but at age three, he moved to Boulder. So how on earth did he get into rap? "There was a show on KGNU back around 1979 called 'Eclipse' that featured a lot of hip-hop and R&B--urban music in general," he says. "There was KDKO, too, which was a lot more in tune with things then than it is now. And I had a friend who had a little basement setup, with drum machines and some turntables. I made my first demo there when I was about fifteen. So, believe it or not, Boulder had hip-hop going on even back then." A few years later, his involvement in one of the city's best breakdancing crews, Captain Crunch and the Breakin' Bunch, helped him realize that hip-hop and showmanship go hand in hand. He pursued a musical career for a few years in California before returning to Colorado in 1994 and christening himself Apostle, a moniker he describes as "a challenge to myself, to bring knowledge with the lyrics." His debut release--Apostle: The Chosen One, on the Kut-N-Kru imprint--hit the streets later that year; it was followed in late 1996 by a CD, Days of Darkness, made for Apostle's own 7 Soldiers Entertainment firm. Recently, Apostle has branched out, signing on to manage the Arapahoe Trues, a veteran Latin hip-hop outfit, and Second Generation Mafia, which he describes as "straight-up hardcore gangsta rap heavily influenced by the West Coast." But that doesn't mean he's given up on his own music. "Break the Silence," a new Apostle single, is due to drop by year's end, and he promises that the lyrics "let some people have it--people who've dissed me." However, he doesn't see this message as a contradiction to his generally positive image. "I have to address the issue, because it's reality," he claims. "It's my way of saying that if we stop all of the exclusion and the player-hating and unify the hip-hop community within Colorado, we can all reap the benefits."

Nominated in Hip-Hop/Funk
7:30 p.m. Skybox at Jackson's Sports Rock

Keeping up with the Apples is virtually impossible. Band leader Robert Schneider--he of the boundless energy and fastest speech pattern in the Western world--has spent most of the summer holed up in his studio, Pet Sounds, tweaking the latest album by Georgia's Neutral Milk Hotel (see page 80). But the focus soon will be back on his own band. Tone Soul Evolution, the latest Apples CD to be released by spinART, is due this month, precipitating another round of national touring for the city's premier dabblers in psychedelic pop. (At press time, the combo was already on the road.) As Schneider told Westword in July, he's exceedingly pleased with the new disc, which was recorded in a converted munitions factory in Hartford, Connecticut, earlier this year. "Most modern records have a certain gloss to them, but not this one," he explained. "It's very warm and natural: modern minus the gloss. There's a lot of piano, horns, percussion and stuff on it, but there are also tons of guitars; it's a much more guitar-oriented record than we've made before. And best of all, it sounds really hi-fi. I wanted it to sound like a real record so that nobody could say, 'Well, it's good for the kind of record it is,' or 'It's good enough.' I wanted it just to be great--and I think it is." Capturing the excitement of the new songs live has been uppermost in Schneider's mind, and because of a series of concerts that found the Apples opening up for heavy-hitters like Pavement and Sebadoh--along with an ambitious regimen of practices that have tightened the act's musicianship and vocal harmonies--he's confident that this goal will be accomplished. Ask anyone who's seen the band lately, and they'll agree he should be.

Nominated in Rock/Pop

"We've been traveling," says drummer Brian Nevin, the musical backbone of Big Head Todd and the Monsters, from somewhere north of America's midsection. "We recorded our latest album [Beautiful World, produced by (Talking) Heads' Jerry Harrison and issued by Revolution Records] last summer, and then we went out and played in the fall and for most of this year. And we're not done yet. We're going to be out all of September, the back half of October and all of November. It's all about traveling for us." That's no understatement. The Monsters now have three major-label discs under their belts--Sister Sweetly and Strategem are the others--and all of them have sold briskly. But, as Nevin points out, "We've never gotten too much major media attention. So we have to take it to the people, which is what we've always done. We come from the live performance end of things, and we have that blue-collar work ethic. That's our mindset, and I wouldn't know any other way. And people seem to be really receptive to bands that can play. There's a lot of the business that is contrived, but they know you're for real when they see you up there doing it." He contends that he and his longtime bandmates, guitarist/vocalist Todd Park Mohr and bassist Rob Squires, have received a renewed burst of energy from the latest additions to the Monsters lineup: Corey Mauser, the former keyboardist for the Ugly Americans, and vocalist Hazel Miller, herself a Westword Music Award Showcase nominee. As Nevin puts it, "We all feel uplifted. We had been a three-piece for ten years, and I still love that format. But we all felt that it was a natural progression to bring in keyboards; it gave Todd a break, because he didn't have to carry lead and rhythm at the same time. And Hazel's given us another dimension, too. So we feel that it's the beginning of a new era for us in terms of what we can do musically." At present, the Monsters hope that a new single, "Please Don't Tell Her," will receive the airplay they feel it deserves (it's making some progress at stations with an adult-contemporary format). But even if it fails to break, Nevin isn't concerned. "We can still play--and that's what we love. We've had such a wonderful opportunity with this band. It's been so nice and fulfilling for us--and we'll continue doing it as long as it feels that way."

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