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Rock and Roll Is the Question

With Pearlcopper, guitarist Mark Spiewak is already a legend in his own mind.

Mark Spiewak is hard of hearing. You might say he's half deaf, though no doctor has ever diagnosed him as such. He doesn't like doctors, he won't investigate the fancy new hearing aids on the market, and he's sure as hell not going to learn sign language. He just prefers to handle things in his own way.

"I'm kind of like Beethoven," he jokes, bringing his face in closer to pick up what he can of a conversation occurring in the middle of a crowded downtown restaurant.

Spiewak, a native of Kraków, Poland, has a lot to say -- about music, about people, about linear time and science and that special sphere inhabited only by the truly talented. But sometimes he has a hard time finding the correct English words to express his rather complex vision of the universe, which only worsens the communication problem.

Luckily, you don't need perfect grammar to be a new legend of rock and roll, and that is precisely what Spiewak intends to become.

By day, Spiewak is a hardworking, almost normal-looking guy, likely to sport a hand-cut Adidas headband, layers of flannel and boots with steel in the toes -- the unofficial uniform of his occasional vocation as a muscles-for-hire man at a temporary labor service. Most of the time, though, the thirty-year-old émigre is consumed by his duty -- his calling, even -- as the guitar-playing, philosophizing force behind Pearlcopper, a one-man band you've probably never heard of unless you've somehow stumbled onto one of its Web sites (www.geocities.com/pearlcopper/pearl001.html, or www.maxpages.com/pearlcopper_001). If you have navigated those dense digital spaces, you're well aware of Spiewak's self-purported accomplishments as an artist, a producer, a guitarist, an author and a filmmaker. Or, at the very least, his gifts for self-promotion. With an almost evangelistic tone, Spiewak's online manifestos read like scripts for the kind of quasi-religious programs one might find late at night on cable-access television.

"How would that be to watch another coming of a true legend, then watch and experience my original performance, like watching shaman swaggering about the stage with shocking and amazing Rock music filled with apocalyptic sound?" he asks readers of the site, a question referencing the power of Sabbath NesT, his first full-length CD, which he is currently recording and hopes to release by the end of the year and distribute to local record stores and "Internet stores." On NesT, Spiewak plays guitar and handles vocals, while drums and bass effects are supplied by his synthesizer. When completed, Sabbath NesTshould contain about sixteen songs -- including the cuts "Sabbath River," "Rage of the Deaf Magician" and "Absolute Clash," all of which include guitar parts and solos that are, as he describes them, among "the most creative of all guitar trips in the history of Rock and Roll."

The music is a trip, that's for certain -- a cartoonish addendum to the notorious noodling of players like Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck and Steve Vai. It isn't quite metal, not quite traditional rock -- rather, it strives for the grand sweeps and movements of an orchestra score, an ear-busting opera intended to simultaneously shock and stimulate its audience. Spiewak's attempts at Olympian guitar wanking make the members of Spinal Tap seem lazy and puts every former air guitarist to shame for not following through on their rock-and-roll dreams the way that he did.

Spiewak came to America to look for rock and roll. Whether he found it or it found him is impossible to say. In either case, it flows through him like xylem.

He left Kraków in 1986 for a self-guided and prolonged tour of Western Europe, where he busked on the immaculate and ancient streets of the continent before hopping the water for what's arguably the most American state of them all, Texas. There he continued playing streets and clubs in Austin, Houston and Dallas. He attended various community colleges and, briefly, the University of Houston, where he studied art, not music.

"My friends were always trying to teach me the common way to play music and pissing me off," he says. "I never listened to them. That's how I developed my own style. Electric guitar is my baby."

After Texas, Spiewak went to New Mexico and bounced back and forth between the Land of Enchantment and Europe, eventually making his way to Denver last March. His studio in Uptown -- in the recently closed Central High School, which now serves as work space for like-minded artists of the neighborhood -- contains samples of his old sketches and drawings. They're intricate works, mostly renderings of monstrous architectural structures. He still makes them, drawing inspiration from observing people and buildings and watching "downtown Denver give birth to life very early every morning." Lately, though, he's been focusing his inner artist's eye on visions of Pearlcopper live performances, a topic that elicits an unusual amount of enthusiasm, even from a believer like Spiewak.

He is currently in the process of choreographing a series of live rock music events -- "Mega-Rock Shows" -- to be staged in various natural environs around Colorado. If he can realize his vision, the first such concert, Sabbath River, will be held on a stage carved out of a chunk of the Rocky Mountains. While Spiewak rides a black stallion around the stage and plays his electric guitar, Native Americans will perform ritual dances while trying to avoid being stomped by Spiewak's Black Beauty. Sabbath River was originally slated for performance on December 31, 1999, but had to be postponed due to lack of funding. It's a small problem, Spiewak contends: He's got the set design sketched out, got the music ready to go, knows some Native Americans he can call up. And though he doesn't yet know how to ride one, he's even got his eye on a specific horse, a black rider that's a regular carriage-puller on the 16th Street Mall. ("I want that horse," he says. "I believe in animal/human spiritual connections. Maybe humans are animals. Anyway, I haven't met the horse's owner, but there's something between me and that horse.") So all he needs are a couple of financial sponsors to kick down $35,000, and the Sabbath River will run through rock's faithful.

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