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Summer of Hate

Is the season finally right for the Hate Fuck Trio?

Okay, it may be more than a leeetle hard for most people to believe that the forthcoming album by the Hate Fuck Trio represents a new level of maturity for its members.

After all, their latest is called Good Songs to Fuck To, even though, as singer/guitarist/provocateur Sam DeStefano concedes, anyone who actually tried to do the strange with the disc playing in the background would have to be "fucking crazy." Moreover, tunes on the platter include "Liverworks," a finger-poppin' tribute to peddling human organs whose first line is, "I think it's groovy that we found a corpse in your backyard"; the sunny, non-judgmental "Grandpa D. Was a Gangster," about a man reputed to have brutally slain a baseball team's worth of people; and "Uncle Tickles Me a Lot," a brassy portrait of a lascivious grab-ass artist that displays not the slightest hint of moral condemnation. Indeed, Sam feels the last ditty's protagonist has a lot in common with his band.

"'Uncle Tickles Me a Lot' is walking a fine line between doing something questionable and actually committing a crime," he says, "and in a way, that's kind of what we do, too. We relate."

Sign in, please: Bart Dahl, Sam DeStefano, Tim Reed and Jon DeStefano are the Hate Fuck Trio.
John Johnston
Sign in, please: Bart Dahl, Sam DeStefano, Tim Reed and Jon DeStefano are the Hate Fuck Trio.

Dig beneath the tracks' sensational aspects, though, and there are surprises aplenty -- not only more musical variety and production acumen than these guys have demonstrated in the past, but a thematic approach that's almost (gulp!) serious. "All these songs are about not judging a book by its cover, how not to be seduced by words, and looking beyond the superficial," declares Jon DeStefano, Sam's bass-playing, vocalizing brother and co-conspirator. "That's like the secret part of the Hate Fuck Trio that nobody knows about."

It's not the only one. The last couple years in the life of this four-man Trio (which also includes guitarist Bart Dahl and drummer Tim Reed, occasionally supplemented by official "band drunk" Tommy Simonich) have been dominated by the sort of close calls and near misses that many Denver combos experience when trying to expand their following beyond the city limits. But while most of these stories tend to turn sour, the Trio's tale has thus far avoided an unhappy ending. Depending upon who you ask, that is.

"Our girlfriends and our parents are like, 'Get a job, get a job, get a job!'" Sam notes. "But we're like, 'No way. We hate that shit.' We love music, and it's cool that we're still getting to spend our time making it."

Back in 1999, this pursuit seemed well on its way to becoming a profitable career. Thanks to its releases on Seattle's Shaky Records (namely the entertaining full-length You Know, For Kids and the Frank Sinatra-obsessed EP Ol' Blue Eyes, both issued in 1997), the Trio came to the attention of nationally known punk outfits such as NOFX, a pop-punk powerhouse whose leader, Fat Mike, just happens to run his own successful label, Fat Wreck Chords, as well as overseeing a spin-off imprint, Honest Don's. After the DeStefanos became snowboarding buddies with NOFX guitarist Eric Melvin, the Trio was invited to open for the group during a tour of Japan and to make a long-player for Honest Don's. But although the Japanese jaunt went well, the sessions for the album, conducted at San Francisco's Motor Studio, eventually ran out of steam.

A lack of pre-production time was partly responsible for this turn of events, but the main culprit in Sam's view was the collision of the Hate Fuck Trio's eccentricities with the fine-tuned, assembly-line Fat Wreck Chords style. In the hands of engineer Ryan Greene, who oversees most of the label's studio sessions, and producer Melvin, the band began sounding like practically every other horse in the stable, which Melvin and the players eventually agreed was not good for anyone; according to Sam, "It was like hammering a circular peg into a square hole." In the end, all concerned cordially chalked up the project to experience and walked away. But what happened to the recordings? Jon smiles: "There are $20,000 worth of tapes sitting in a trunk in our garage."

These days, that garage is much more than a place to park cars. Upon returning to Denver, the brothers DeStefano decided they needed to build a studio of their own -- and despite a decided lack of funds, they set out to do so. They eventually financed the purchase of such high-tech gear as a 64-track digital ProTools sound board (not to mention the construction of a skateboarding half-pipe out back) using the proceeds of weekly yard sales. Much of the merchandise consisted of old clothing raided from the closet of guitarist Dahl's mother. "She didn't mind," he insists. "She said she thought it was cute."

Even after the newly christened El Recordo Studio was completed, the Trio still had one more obstacle to overcome: The band had lost its drummer along the way, and was having a helluva time finding a replacement. Eventually Dahl and the DeStefanos recruited Reed, who also smashes the snare for Agent Minor, a punk act that's in the midst of putting down tunes of its own at El Recordo. (So, too, is a likeminded band, O'er the Ramparts.) But prior to bringing him aboard, they poured their creative energies into a hip-hop project with a distinctly Denver feel; most of the beats were lifted from local punk singles. The players were so pleased by the results that they've transformed this experiment into a side project dubbed the Headless Hobos. The name was partly inspired by decapitated homeless men found near Union Station last year, but for Sam, it also has a deeper meaning.

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