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"What I'm trying to do is just play music and keep it as fun as possible," says Boulder's Ted Thacker. "And if I glean some artistic depth from that, that's great. But that's not what I'm aiming for--because I can't."
Lest you think Thacker's underselling himself, consider a recent performance he delivered at the Lion's Lair. Throughout his thirty-minute set, a plethora of relentlessly percolating prerecorded rhythm tracks provided an ideal complement to Thacker's own boundless energy. In a tune entitled "Kawasaki Dirt Bike," for example, the singer/guitarist alternated between buzz-saw-like instrumental breaks and a dizzying series of pirouettes for which the venue's modest stage definitely was not designed. Other Thacker compositions showcased the singer's many vocal gears, which include a sultry falsetto, a Bowie-type purr and a primal scream that might wake Wendy O. Williams from the dead.
"It's hard to describe my exact style, because it doesn't really fit into any particular genre at this point," admits Thacker, whose influences range from Seventies-era punk to the hip-hop of Master P. "I don't fit in with the techno people, even though I'm using the same drum sets, oscillators and stuff they're using. But I also don't fit in with punk rockers, because I don't have a band. And I definitely don't fit in the country category. So I get to play with everybody."
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To date, performers for whom Thacker has warmed up include former Minuteman Mike Watt, Slim Cessna's Auto Club and Munly. Such gigs are quickly making Thacker--who's now known professionally by his first name only--a fixture at the Fox Theater and other haunts. But he's probably best known as a founding member of not one, but two, of the finest rock acts to come out of the Mile High area in the past decade or so. The first was Baldo Rex, a cheeky foursome in which Thacker played lead guitar and served as singer Phil Wronski's primary collaborator. The second was Veronica, a Baldo offshoot conceived as a vehicle for Thacker's own songwriting.
True to the no-holds-barred ethos of these two acts, Thacker is fairly candid in discussing some of the forces that eventually drove the combos to the scrap heap around two years ago. "It happens so often; your band moves away, or somebody starts doing something stupid--like, for instance, drugs." Hence, Thacker says, being in a group "can be pretty much a full-time babysitting job if you're not careful." In Baldo's case, he concedes, "Everybody had to do it with everybody at some point. So I'm not saying I never got babysat." But according to Thacker, the member of Baldo Rex who most often needed supervision was drummer John Call. Typical was a performance in Indianapolis, when the percussionist removed his trademark overalls to bare more than his soul to the crowd. "He was completely buck naked," Thacker reveals. "And before you knew it, the cops had stormed the place. Without a word, they dragged him outside, slapped him in handcuffs and threw him in the paddy wagon." Call spent the next four days in a 150-man holding pen, a situation that cost Baldo a week's worth of tour dates.
In addition to brushes with the law, the boys from Baldo got the opportunity to rub elbows, however indirectly, with a handful of big-label stars. During a memorable stopover in San Diego, Thacker and his cohorts wound up staying in the same house as the girlfriend of one of the Stone Temple Pilots, who thoughtfully broke up with her in plain view of everyone. The Pilot in question didn't turn out to be a complete jerk, though: Thacker says the gal got a 1956 Ford Fairlane as a special parting gift.
And as Thacker knows all too well, breaking up is hard to do. Although the guitarist claims he is still on good terms with Wronski, the only other Baldo alumnus still in the Denver area, he admits that the two speak only rarely these days. "Now that we don't have a band, the relationship is different," he notes. "I can't make him call me. And that's sort of hard because we've been friends as musicians working together for a very long time."
Luckily for local listeners, Thacker's hardly the type to sit by the phone. Over the past year and a half, he's been purveying his material accompanied only by a weathered acoustic guitar and his trusty boom box ("a piece of shit from the Eighties," he calls it) whose portability allows him to perform virtually anywhere and anytime he chooses.
But just because Thacker's sporting a new sound doesn't mean he's turned over an entirely new leaf. "One time, I was playing on the streets in Tulsa as part of an art festival," he says. "And I was actually under the influence of some drugs. So a big train went by as I was playing, and my audience kept watching me--but the train mesmerized me. So I stopped playing and just watched it because it had almost the same rhythm going by as my boom box did, but I thought it was a much cooler, more pure beat than I was playing to."
Thacker finds plenty of non-musical distractions closer to home, as well. In recent years, he's done everything from publishing his own comic books to building himself a solar-powered home on land that formerly served as the Ward town dump. He's a year away from earning a bachelor's degree in English literature at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and when he's not toiling as a restaurant-delivery driver or dabbling in freelance journalism, he's working on his first solo CD, which he plans to release in October.
"Basically, I'm just a creative spaz," Thacker admits. "And I'm too creative for my own good most of the time. Focus is something I need to learn how to do. But with music, I never have to worry about that, because that's what I love to do."
Cirque de Stupide, with the Reejers, Munly, Fishkake, DeVotchKa and Ted Thacker. 9 p.m. Friday, August 7, Boulder Theater, 2030 14th Street, free, 786-7030.