As if the title didn't tip you off, the recent Rocky Mountain Low compilation isn't a typical attempt at whitewashing a bygone era of music. Compiled by fan Dalton Rasmussen and Joseph Pope, a man whose old band the Instants appears on the comp, Rocky Mountain Low is an exhaustive and brutally honest overview of Colorado's punk and underground rock scene of the late '70s — including a rare recording of Jello Biafra's pre-Dead Kennedys Boulder-based band, the Healers, performing a deranged early version of "California Über Alles," a song that would go on to be a DK classic. (Note: You've got to buy the deluxe double-vinyl version of the comp to get that little treat.) In advance of Rasmussen and Pope's listening party for the release at 2 p.m. at Wax Trax Records on Saturday, August 22, the former spoke with us about the good (and not-so-good) ol' days.
Westword: As someone who didn't experience it firsthand, when did you become interested in the late-'70s Denver scene?
Dalton Rasmussen: I'd never heard of any of these bands when I started going to punk shows in Denver in the '80s. It wasn't until I moved back to Denver in 1995 and someone had dumped their whole record collection at Wax Trax that I found this record by the old Boulder band Defex. It was this bar-band kind of punk, but it wasn't that bad. I ended up tracking these guys down, and they ended up telling me about a lot of the other local bands around back then. From there, I just started contacting people.
Just out of curiosity?
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Yeah. The guys from Defex were mentioning a lot of names like the Guys and the Profalactics and the Corvairs, and I ended up getting in touch with them. I just wanted to see what they sounded like, see if they had any recordings. I got a hold of some, and I thought, "These aren't great." So I kept digging, and I wound up getting in touch with Joseph Pope in 1999. And then we decided to do this compilation.
What was behind the hefty booklet and liner notes you put together?
I find it irritating that when you go out and buy a compilation of old punk, there's no accompanying documentation. There's no band information, no recording information. Where is music without the proper historical context? That was important to Joseph, since he'd been in this scene from the beginning, and he had opinions. There were definitely bands back then that he liked and others that he didn't. But he set all those biases aside to make this portrait of the scene. And I think we accomplished that.
For more of our interview with Dalton Rasmussen, visit blogs.westword.com/backbeat.