By Gina Tron
By Jon Solomon
By Drew Ailes
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They were always the band I thought should have been really big," declares Dale Crover of the Warlock Pinchers. "Certainly they were doing metal mixed with rap before it became popular, and they were also a lot better than a lot of those later bands. More like if rap was really good, mixed with a heavy-metal version of the Butthole Surfers."
Crover has a basis for his opinion. Twenty or so years ago, his band, the Melvins, played with the Pinchers at Ground Zero in Boulder, and it was then that he offered to play drums for them sometime. Last fall, Andrew Novick, aka K.C. Kasum, phoned Crover up and asked him to make good on his offer, and thus he agreed to be the "drummer machine" for the then secret reunion shows.
Few Denver bands have garnered the same level of enduring notoriety, affection and loyalty as the Warlock Pinchers. Formed in 1987 under the name "Warlock Pinchers Or-kee-stra" by Dan Wanush and Mark Brooks, students at Heritage High School, the band began as a kind of rap group fueled by Run DMC, Schoolly D, Swans and Big Black. "Originally, it was just me and Dan," recalls Brooks. "So I would program drums and put them on a ghetto blaster, and I would play guitar, and he would rap. We would literally play in front of Wax Trax at three in the afternoon and make fun of people as they walked by."
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With a rotating cast of five vocalists plus Wanush, Warlock Pinchers Or-kee-stra performed in public places with the goal of having fun and pissing people off — pastimes that became the core of what the Pinchers were all about.
In the fall of '87, Wanush and Brooks moved to Boulder to attend CU and continued performing as a duo on the Pearl Street Mall. The two met Andrew Novick in the dorms. "I joined as a percussionist, if you can believe that," Novick recalls, but his lack of rhythm meant he ended up being a backing vocalist and lyricist alongside Wanush. "Which is good," he points out, "because I never would have made it as a percussionist."
Eric Erickson saw the early band at a house party, and soon after, he asked to join on second bass (Brian Murphy was already on board as the other bassist), because he had always wanted to be in a band with two bass players. By that time, the Pinchers had already recorded a seven-inch single with the song "James Dean Is an Overrated Asshole." But it was the lineup with Erickson that went on to record the outfit's debut album, Pinch a Loaf.
During recording sessions with Bob Ferbrache, Erickson was dubbed EERok. Wanush was already going by the name King Scratchie, Novick had the moniker Schoolly Bob, Brian Murphy was known as the Pope of Rock, and Brooks was called the Three Chord King. Like a gang of pranksters, each of the Pinchers had an absurd name to use on stage and on their records.
With youthful contempt for authority and for the dull cultural milieu that was the CU campus in the late 1980s, the Warlock Pinchers always had disappointing shows at Quigley's, the venue that became Club 156, in the basement of the UMC. So one day, the Pinchers set out to get banned from ever playing the club again.
"We just never had any fun there, as much as we tried," recalls Wanush, "so we did this show with the Haters." They told the Program Council that the Haters were a great experimental band from Stockholm, Sweden, but didn't reveal that its membership sometimes included Bob Ferbrache.
They also neglected to mention that the whole deal with the Haters was that they would come in and destroy furniture and set off smoke bombs while playing loud static. The resulting show was a chaotic fiasco. The Pinchers played their set as normal, but when the Haters started cutting up furniture and setting off smoke bombs, tables got knocked over and pitchers of beer were thrown. It was pure mayhem from which both bands escaped through the back door.
"Then we started this letter-writing campaign to the Colorado Daily," Wanush relates, "talking about how we did this show and the promoters wouldn't pay us."
"I wrote some letters," adds Novick, "complaining about how I couldn't believe they would let these kinds of things happen on our campus." This kind of creative pranking became part of the Warlock Pinchers legend. Not knowing how else to get press, the Pinchers set about creating imaginative controversy.
After Pinch a Loaf came out, a fabricated controversy over the song "I Think We're Tiffany" garnered local press before the threatened lawsuit by Tiffany's managers was revealed to be fraudulent. That same year, the band had a show opening for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, in which the crowd showed its disdain for the Pinchers by throwing change and spitting on them. Wanush relentlessly antagonized the audience, ensuring that no one there forgot the Warlock Pinchers.
"If you can gain 5 percent of a crowd by pissing off 95 percent of the crowd, those are pretty good odds," Novick points out. "As opposed to being some band that played when people are out in the lobby, not even watching." Part of the fun for the band was being obnoxious but memorable.