Every musician has a story about gigs from hell, but few of these tales can compare with the one told by Michael Rains, bassist and vocalist for Denver's 1000 RPM. The band was booked to play a back-to-classes bash at the Colorado School of Mines, where 1000 RPM guitarist/ vocalist Bob Shepherd is a doctoral candidate. But the act that preceded Rains's group to the stage left something to be desired. "We followed a belching contest," he says. "So it was belching, then us, then Judge Roughneck."
Apparently, the students who attended this show enjoyed 1000 RPM's sonic contributions every bit as much as the earlier gastrointestinal ones; the outfit, which also includes drummer/vocalist Trevor Mills, has already been invited to play a November soiree at the institution. And even if the bill on that night is just as bizarre as it was for the band's first appearance, odds are good that 1000 RPM will be able to provide a seamless transition. After all, the players are open to just about any musical style. Mills defines the act's sound as "kind of a hard, progressive rock. As far as radio stations go, we'd be put under alternative." But he believes that the unit transcends typecasting: "We definitely have a metal edge. And we have a grunge edge. And we've got a punk edge. We wrote a ska tune, so we've got a little bit of that edge. And we've got the acoustic-folk edge. So we're kind of like music that takes you to the edge but doesn't push you over."
Mills's assessment is an apt one. During an average set, 1000 RPM veers between Seventies/ Eighties riff rock of the sort purveyed by Judas Priest and Nineties sensibilities influenced by the likes of Stone Temple Pilots and QueensrØche. But along the way, the band visits other territory; for example, the Rains-penned "Yell You Down" suggests the quirky new-wave domain once staked out by artists such as Joe Jackson. Rains admits that the song-to-song juxtapositions aren't "like going from Baltic folk songs to punk." But, he adds, "as far as the packaging or what the band is as a musical whole, there has all along been this idea that we want to have sets of music that are diverse and that will hopefully appeal to a variety of people in the audience."
This approach has made the task of explaining 1000 RPM's music a complicated one. According to Rains, "It certainly seems easier to market yourself if you can walk in and say, 'We sound exactly like John Hiatt.'" He admits that "we do have a song that sounds like John Hiatt, but that's not what we do."
Fortunately, the group's eclecticism has not prevented it from making an impact on the local club scene. Rather, its diversity has proven to be an asset. Since forming this past summer, 1000 RPM has played in venues as disparate as Cricket on the Hill and an Old Chicago in Westminster, where the musicians recently made their unplugged debut. "The three of us wanted to get out and gig immediately," Shepherd confirms. "It was kind of the rule of thumb that we wanted to learn each other's tunes and get out as fast as possible, because the three of us had been in bands before."
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The players don't crow about all of their past groups; they note that some of them never made it out of the garage, and others imploded immediately after their inaugural performances. An exception to the rule was the Undecided, a Breckenridge combo in which Mills pounded the skins for two years. But to hear Mills tell it, the combo was a musical divorce waiting to happen. "The Undecided broke everything," he claims. "We were kind of like a straight, hardcore metal band with a little bit of ska and funk mixed in. The music was really great, but we had some really negative vibes going. I got sick of my friends getting all beat up and shit at the shows. If there wasn't a major fight, a couple of broken bottles, some blood on the ground and half the bar trashed, it wasn't a show."
Thus far, 1000 RPM's following seems considerably more sedate, perhaps because the act has yet to be pigeonholed. To Mills, the band's resistance to categorization has its pros and cons. "The metal scene is almost purely covers," he observes. "And, you know, the hardcore punk scene's cool and everything, but you don't get paid." Once a show gets under way, he says, "everybody starts slamming around, the place gets trashed, and your equipment gets broken, you know? And no other kind of music exists in Denver that I know of except for country"--a genre for which Mills and company express universal disdain.
Because a lot of winter-sports enthusiasts don't like country either, Mills, an avid snowboarder, believes that 1000 RPM will find significant support in the resort communities where the players intend to showcase in the coming months. Plans to record and release a self-financed CD in January are also on the drawing board--not that anyone in the band knows what it will sound like.
"Words fail to describe our music," Mills asserts. "You've got to see us live...as long as there's no belching involved.