Cheyenne, Wyoming, isn't the most ideal place to grow up as a punk — "It was an uphill battle," says Mark Masters, who eventually moved south and with three friends formed Negative Degree, part of a new wave of hardcore bands in Denver. Masters and fellow record nerd Johnny Mather shared a love for early-'80s hardcore punk, and recruited drummer Alex Dominguez and vocalist C.J. Quiñones.
The band released a demo tape that had a microscopic run of 200 copies, but punks on computers — including a writer for Maximumrocknroll — characterized it as an addictive release that you listened to a few times in a row (and not just because it clocks in at less than ten minutes).
Negative Degree will release that demo on a vinyl EP this weekend at Old Curtis Street Bar and tour the country in a van in March. We spoke with Masters, who plays bass, over a pizza the day after a sweat-soaked house show in Five Points.
Negative Degree EP-release show, with Dark Ages, No Class, Conjugal Visits, Cadaver Dog and Apex, 8 p.m. Saturday, February 4, Old Curtis Street Bar, 2100 Curtis Street, $7, 303-292-2083.
Westword: How does being from the West shape your band?
Mark Masters: It gives us an insular quality. We're somewhat ignorant of the happenings in the rest of the country.
Why did Negative Degree press its demo on vinyl instead of recording new songs?
Usually I really hate it when bands do that; I think it smacks of egotism. But then these French guys [Offsides Records] came along.
What can people expect to see at your record-release show?
Curtis Street seems to have a pretty rowdy audience, usually, and it'll be a Saturday night, so you'll get some townies. You can expect a lot from the KC rippers [Kansas City's Dark Ages and No Class], too.
Many people saw your band for the first time at the Speedwolf record-release show at the Marquis Theater. What do you remember about that?
I didn't know what to expect. We're a band that's not really used to the finer things, and we're not used to "load-in" times. Johnny and I were working late at UPS because it was mid-December, and they wanted us to load in at 5 p.m. on a Friday.
You and your band seem to book a lot of touring bands.
We're trying to get hardcore in Denver off the ground. We're not leaders of a scene or anything, but we book and play shows and try to keep things on a street level.
Are you a revival band?
I don't think so. We're not singing songs about Reagan, the arms race or Apartheid.
Punk seems to be in a time warp where door prices max out at $8. How is touring viable on that scale?
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Would you ever cover an old Denver punk band?
We want to cover a Bum Kon song, but we don't have the lyric sheet, so please send me one directly if you're reading this. I'll also take your White Trash — this old Colorado punk band — seven-inch.
This is the print edition of the interview. Read the full version in Backbeat: "Negative Degree is trying to keep Denver's hardcore scene on a 'street level'"