Warlock Pinchers: An extensive oral history straight from the jokers' mouth
Few bands in the annals of underground music in Denver have garnered as much notoriety as Warlock Pinchers. Beginning in 1987, the Pinchers made a name for themselves early on as a charmingly obnoxious outfit of musical pranksters whose legacy of creative mischief is as memorable as its shows and its music.
In the name of having fun and entertaining themselves, the Pinchers pulled off some of the most ridiculous, silliest, even dumbest stunts of all time. Anyone who came in contact with the band never forgot it, and underneath the mayhem was intelligent, imaginative people who found ways to push their project into the limelight. What follows are the reminiscences of band members about the history of Warlock Pinchers and its legacy.
Courtesy of Andrew Novick
THE BAND'S ORIGINS
Dan Wanush: Me and Mark Brooks started the band in high school - we went to Heritage. There were five other people in the band, too, at the time -- all vocalists. One guitar, a drum machine and six or seven vocalists. The only times we'd really play, Mark had this little portable speaker, and we'd go to that boat park down there on Broadway and play for friends from school. We were originally called "Warlock Pinchers Or-kee-stra."
Mark Brooks: I started the band with Dan. I met Dan probably in 1981, in junior high, our first semester. We might have had home room, but we had some class together, and we became friends before he moved to New Orleans and I didn't see him again for three years or more. We didn't hang out a lot, but we had a class together and the same fucked-up sense of humor.
Then he moved back ,and we became friends all throughout high school. We both went to Heritage, and that's when I met his brother, who would kind of roadie for us sometimes. His name is Mike, but we called him The Happy Buddha, and he would do spoken word for us at shows.
I played guitar and programmed the drums. Originally it was just me and Dan, 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. We pissed people off.
We kept doing that at different places because nobody would let us have a show. Back then, we were kind of weird and we didn't quite fit in. We weren't really punk music, and back then, '86 or '87, not many people got rap records. It was a little bit before that took over. Big Black was a huge influence and so were Swans, Run DMC and Schoolly D. I can hear Big Black in Warlock Pinchers in the drums and guitar.
Anyone who would hang out with us, we'd give them lyrics, and it would change every week, but it was always Dan and I and whatever Dan told them what to say. We could just never find anyone that could really rap. Dan could really rap. Now it would be easy to find, but back then, it was nearly impossible.
Dan is a peculiar dude, and he'll probably kill me for saying this: I think that guy was hipper than anyone knew he was. He was into dancehall and rap in the early '80s. That dude knew shit before anybody. My first memories of hearing Whodini or any dancehall stuff like The Pinchers was through him. I was more of a punk rock kid, and he turned me on to that stuff.
DW: We made thirty copies of our first cassette; then we moved up to Boulder to go to school. Me and Mark moved there, and we lost the rest of the members of the band, because, I think, they were all younger than us. We did the same thing on Pearl Street Mall. Brian Murphy started playing with us then, too. He was already going to school up there. He was in a band with Mark called Minus Bill.
Andrew Novick: It was a two-piece, keyboards and guitar, I think. Mark would sit on the floor with this big kind of organ/keyboard.
DW: Brian joined, and eventually all of his strings started breaking, so he'd play one-string bass. Andrew joined soon after that. We all lived in the same dorm.
MB: My vague memory is that The Cobbler came up with it. He was this guy named Jeremy, but we called him "The Cobbler" because we all had wrestling names then. Dan was really into wrestling, the Iron Sheik and all that shit. The Cobbler was a pal of ours, and we were in Wax Trax as kids walking around, and I have a memory of looking at an Axe Witch record and going, "That's the dumbest fucking name." And he said, "No, Warlock Pinchers would be dumber." Then we kept thinking about that name, and Dan liked The Pinchers, because he was a dancehall guy, and it kind of came from there. I don't know where the "Or-kee-stra" came from, but I do remember The Cobbler was ground zero for the name.
Courtesy of Andrew Novick
THE EARLY DAYS OF WARLOCK PINCHERS
AN: Before joining, I think maybe I saw a Pearl Street Mall show. I joined as a percussionist, if you can believe that. I played the Freon can. It was like a big propane tank I hit with a drum stick.
DW: We went on one tour, and he kept playing that Freon can. I think we all know Andrew has no rhythm. We used to play the drums from a cassette tape through a boom box. Andrew was always louder than the boom box. So we told him he couldn't play the Freon can anymore except for on "I Think We're Tiffany," because then it didn't matter.
AN: I was doing background vocals, kind of shouting out stuff. As we started writing songs from that point on, we wrote them for two vocalists, back and forth vocals, and it changed my role. Which is good, because I never would have made it as a percussionist.
Eric Erickson: I used to help a friend book a club on campus called Quigley's. They played there, but the first time I saw them was at a house party. I was working there, and Mark came in with their first 7-inch single, "James Dean is an Overrated Asshole," and he gave us some of those. After a show at Quigley's, I asked them what they thought about having two bass players, because I always wanted to be in a band with two bass players. So I went to a practice, and I was in.
Before that, I was in an old punk rock band called UTI -- "Urinary Tract Infection." We used to play around Denver at places like The Packinghouse and Christian's. We opened for some good bands like Samhain and The Subhumans.
I went to CU to try to go to film school, but they didn't have a degree program for that until the semester after I graduated. I had been acquainted with Mark before that in the music scene because he was in a band before that, Minus Bill, and we had mutual friends. He was in that band with Brian Murphy. Pinch A Loaf has two bass players on it.
Derek van Westrum: I first saw the Warlock Pinchers in 1987, and it was at some art gallery, right before Christmas, and they handed out pancakes with red and green sprinkles. I remember thinking they were super tight, but only because they had a drum machine. I think we had similar kinds of things in doing ridiculous stuff on stage, but the pancakes was taking it to another level. I could either try to beat that or join that.
DW: We played with this band Smedley's Van a lot with Derek, Scott and Rowdy. We'd play with those guys because two of them lived in the dorm from us, and we ended up stealing Derek from Smedley's Van. I think his first show was Brian Murphy's last show. He was getting married, and he quit the band because his wife hated us. Eric joined us after he saw us at Quigley's, also known as Club 156. We already had a bass player, but we were like, "Sure, you can be in the band. You've been in bands before, so you must know what you're doing."
AN: He said, "You guys could use two bass players." There was a time when Eric was in, Derek was in and Brian was in so there were like six people.
THE EARLY SHOWS
DW: A show at Penny Lane was Derek's first and Brian's last. Derek didn't know how to play "Morrissey Rides a Cock Horse" -- I don't think he ever learned it until recently. He'd just dance around. At that first show he played, he had a spray bottle full of acetone and a lighter. We're playing Penny Lane coffee house, and he's spraying flames.
Then the spray bottle started leaking, and the flames started going up his arm, and he got scared and dropped the bottle on the floor. It was still flaming, so he got the bright idea to step on it to put it out, and it went everywhere. There's a fire about three feet in diameter in the middle of the floor. We had to grab Again's drum carpet on the fire. They've hated us ever since.
AN: Again was Dave Clifford, Jared Polley -- who was in The Slaves and other bands.
DW: We were playing a show one night, and we played at some art gallery in Boulder with Human Head Transplant. We handed out muffins, and they were really dry, and no one had any water to wash it down with. I think we served them during the show, and we had to wait ten minutes to properly swallow them before we could play.
AN: We did another show in Boulder that was kind of a Christmas show, and we played "Chestnuts Roasting Over an Open Fire," and we served pancakes at that show. We did chants between songs. There were so many boring bands with boring shows. Our whole point was to have a show fun for us.
DW: We mainly started out trying to piss people off. We didn't really have a clue. We just wanted people to remember us. Our biggest goal was to open for a local hardcore band and play...
AN: Like a Madonna song. We played with Dead Silence and stuff like that. We played Soulside. We played whatever show, different audiences all the time. People are so aggro or apathetic, so if you do something to piss people off, at least they got something out of it. They got fueled up about something. We didn't gain anything from it directly. We got them off their ass to get up in arms about something. We made fun of bands -- any band in town.
DW: People liked the shit we were doing -- the gimmicks. The stuff we were doing trying to get people to hate us got people to like us because we were something memorable to see.
Courtesy of Andrew Novick
BANNED AT QUIGLEY'S
DW: We just never had any fun there, as much as we tried. So we did this show with the Haters. We set it up, and we'd heard about their plans about what they were going to do -- ripping apart furniture and playing a tape of static or something. They had smoke bombs. We thought it would be a really good one to play and get banned.
AN: Our whole goal was to never play there again.
DW: We played first, and then the Haters went on. I think the promoter thought we were the Haters.
Andrews: The Haters wore hoods with eye holes.
DW: One of them was Bob Ferbrache, at the time. Then they started ripping stuff up, playing static and people got confused; then they started letting off powerful smoke bombs. We were in the crowd, and we started throwing pitchers of beer, knocking tables over. Nobody could see what was going on, and it just turned into mayhem; shit was flying everywhere.
AN: It was totally trashed.
MB: Basically, we told the Program Council that there was this awesome band from Stockholm, Sweden, called the Haters. The Haters are performance artists that destroy shit and wreck shit, doing crazy performances. We played our show as normal, and the Haters came on and fucking destroyed the place. We joined in on the destruction and we got kicked off campus and got banned forever.
DvW: I was living with those guys at the time, but I was in the audience. I remember the Haters cutting up couches with chainsaws or something. I remember at the end of "Curious George and the Anti-christ" there's a chant that went, "Steal, Kill, Destroy." I remember running around, tables were being smashed and there was smoke everywhere.
I don't remember the aftermath because I had gone out the back door by then. For a long time, the Program Council people thought we were the Haters. I ran into Pablo Kjolseth recently and gave him a couple of tickets for the reunion show for his troubles.
DW: We snuck out the back door, and so did the Haters. Then we started this letter writing campaign to the Colorado Daily talking about how we did this show, and the promoters wouldn't pay us. So they would write back saying how we had destroyed the place, and they had to load up dumpsters full of trash and the smoke alarm went off.
AN: I wrote some letters complaining about how I couldn't believe they would let these kinds of things happen on our campus. I was writing both sides, and they were also writing, so we had this big argument going on.
DW: Half the letters were just made up. We'd write letters from people we know like Michelle Clifford, Dave Clifford's sister, and she wrote back, saying it wasn't her who wrote the letter. We really didn't know how the media worked in regards to music back then. We thought writers just went to shows and wrote about them. We wondered how we got people to write about us, so we did all this crazy shit trying to get people to come check us out.
AN: Then we wrote songs about it, and that's a rich part of the history. "We Got the Beast" is about getting banned from campus. "Electric Hoedown" is about Dave Starr who -- after that show, and after we didn't get paid, and after complaining about us and banning us -- went so far as to call future venues where we were playing and telling them we were going to trash the place, and that we were horrible, and that would steal from them. He was really malicious, so that garnered a whole other song.
DW: "The star of David's falling, falling down low." We called him Pope David Almighty Shithead.
AN: We actually threatened to kill him in that song.
DW: The funny thing is that I'd never even met the guy. After we broke up, I met him at Ground Zero, where I was working in Boulder. He was friends with Michelle Clifford, and they were always hanging out. I met him there, and he said, "Hi, I'm David Starr." I ended up getting along really well with him. I don't even know if he even knows that we wrote a song about him.
AN: Pablo, who does the film program at CU now, he and Dave were the guys that ran Program Council. I see him all the time, and he thinks everything's really funny now. There are two different ways you can go in the end. After all is said and done, you can look back and laugh and think it's funny, or you can still be mad about it.
Courtesy of Andrew Novick
THE INFAMOUS RED HOT CHILI PEPPERS SHOW
MB: When we opened for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, it was one of the best shows ever. It was when we were still a shitty little band. Dan started talking some shit about Bono, and it was such a frat audience. This was before the Chili Peppers were huge. They were a party band for jocks, or whatever.
Dan started pissing them off, and he made fun of everyone. The entire audience turned on us and pelted us with change and beer cups. A couple thousand people throwing stuff at us. Then we collected all the money off the stage afterward, and it was a lot of money, too!
DW: First that year we ended up playing Glen Miller Ballroom with Butthole Surfers. I don't even know how the hell we got that show.
AN: I got it. I have it all on tape. I'm calling up Bill Bass from Feyline, and I was like, "Hey, we'd love to play this show." He'd heard of us, and he knew we were the obnoxious band that might light stuff on fire. I have this funny recording of him saying, "You can't shoot anything; you can't light anything on fire."
So I was like, "What if we just throw out stickers." "No throwing! Just because of the name of this band, I have to get double insurance." He said, "The last thing I need is you guys messing up my show. Just come, play your instruments and have a good time." I was trying to hedge on the kind of pranks we could do. But the show ended up being awesome.
DW: A lot of the crowd liked it.
AN: Butthole Surfers liked it, and we ended up being friends and playing with them multiple times here and other places. A month later was the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and I called up Feyline and said, "Hey, Bill, that show went great. What about this Chili Peppers thing?" He said we could play, but that one didn't go quite as good.
DW: The crowd hated us. They threw coins at us, so we ended up playing thirty minutes of a forty minute set allotted. We spent ten minutes picking up the change off the stage.
AN: People were spitting on us; we were spitting back.
DW: And we said, "Thanks for paying us!"
AN: It was funny because after that harsh crowd, they made us charge the same amount for our shirts as the Chili Peppers, and they were fifteen or twenty dollars when we normally charged five. People ended up buying our shirts and liking us. A thin margin of people liked us, but we actually got fans out of that show. Even now people say, "I remember when you played with the Chili Peppers and everyone hated it!"
DW: Antagonizing the crowd -- the more they hated us, the more we hated them. We got off on it.
AN: If you can gain five percent of a crowd by pissing off ninety-five percent of the crowd, those are pretty good odds. As opposed to being some band that played when people are out in the lobby not even watching. It was a memorable show.
That was kind of our thing -- not to be a boring band, especially in Boulder. I think that's another reason we wanted to piss people off: We we're pissed off because there's a bunch of shitty music in Boulder. Boring shows, just the worst. So we wanted to do something obnoxious and memorable.
Courtesy of Andrew Novick
THE PINCHERS' EARLY RELEASES
AN: Pinch a Loaf was '88, but we did a 7-inch in '87. We went to school in Boulder in the fall of '87 and did the 7-inch and the video for "James Dean is An Overrated Asshole." It was all about making muffins.
MB: On our first record, we had two basses with really heavy Big Black fuzzed out bass sound. By the time of our second record, it was two guitars, the way people know it now. Before then, we were a really noisy, sloppy band. We were a pretty crazy live band then.
Me and Dan would set up anywhere just to piss people off. Our original drum machine was a 606, which are still pretty badass drum machines. I think after the 606, I had a Yamaha of some kind, but it kind of sucked, and I had had a sequential circuit tom. But we had an Alesis later on.
EE: The title was a reference to Pinchers. On the original vinyl we made "Loaf" really big so it looked more like it just said "Loaf" with "Pinch a" in smaller font. So it read like, "Warlock Pinchers Loaf."
DW: "James Dean is an Overrated Asshole," "Billy the Scab," which was about a guy we went to high school with. We feel like dicks thinking back on it now. He was a scab during one of those King Soopers strikes, and we were just picking on him, basically.
"Ladies and Gentlemen, Master Magician Doug Henning and his Beautiful Wife Wendy, Let's Kill Them." We had songs about stuff we liked, like Jolt Cola and Fruit Stripe gum, and stuff we hated, like Doug Henning, James Dean, Jerry Garcia, mimes and people we met. Like "My Guru," which is about a guy living in the dorms who wore a Viking cap that he called his "Stinking Cap."
AN: He was a junior but he still lived in the dorms.
DW: He was one of those guys who had one of those bumper stickers in his window that said, "If this rig's a rockin' don't bother knockin'." It became one of our chants between songs.
AN: He was the flagman for the band on campus. We had a song where the chorus was like, "Flagman! Guru!" It was stuff that was easy to pick up on. We took our own microcosm of pop culture and wrote songs about it.
DW: And inside jokes and things other people wouldn't understand. I think the original title of that album was going to be "Morrissey Sucks" -- we hadn't even written the song yet. At one point, we had a band meeting, and we had everyone sit down and come up with a new offensive song title.
We all had two names for songs we wanted to use, and we voted on them, and it came down to "Bomb the Franklin Mint" and "Morrissey Rides a Cockhorse," because we still wanted to make fun of Morrissey. So we got the song title, and the next day at work, I spent ten minutes and wrote the song.
AN: It just flowed. At that UMS Pinchers show, Dan said, "This is the most blasphemous song we've ever written," and everyone started cheering. So I knew most people thought it was going to be "Morrissey Rides a Cockhorse" [the actual song played was "Jesus on the Urinal Cake]. That was blasphemous, but that was easy. We had other stuff too like stickers with "Alan Alda" crossed out.
DW: "Alan Alda Must Die," "Marcel Marceau, Just Another Pasty-Faced Limp Dick Motherfucker."
AN: There was one for Andreas Wollenweider that said, "Is he another weasel dick motherfucker?" We would put up these fliers not for a show. People would have no idea what was going on.
DW: It wasn't even so much that we hated Morrissey, just the devotion of his fans. It just got ludicrous. We found him boring and just could not understand the devotion of his fans. It was more to piss off his fans than anything else.
There are a lot of people who could enjoy that we made fun of somebody they liked. My friend Jesse in Boulder, he had the Morrissey cut and listened to him all the time, and at one point, we were going to bring him on stage at a show and let him be the butt of the song, but that never happened.
AN: Plus the song, as much as it was a string of obscenities about Morrissey, it was way more than that, because if you listen to the lyrics, it's obvious we know a lot about Morrissey.
DW: He has a James Dean obsession, and once I was in Wax Trax and see this book he wrote about James Dean, and we already had the song, "James Dean is an Overrated Asshole." So when I saw the book, I thought, "Oh my god! And this book is written by Morrissey! That's it, we have to write this song!" Andrew got a copy of a Morrissey interview album.
AN: There's a part where he says, "It's not all about computers." And we had a drum machine.
DW: I started out as Johnny Batman Muffin. When we moved to Boulder, I became King Scratch -- kind of a devil thing, Old Scratch of the Forest, from a book I had to read in school, and from Lee "Scratch" Perry, of whom I was a fan. When we did the recording, I stretched it out to King Scratchie.
AN: On one of the albums the official name was "King Scratchie Lord High Ruler of the Primitive World Crown Prince of Ragamuffins." I was "Schooly Bob" because somebody, I think Mark, used to call me School Bob.
DW: It was kind of a reference to Schooly D.
AN: Mark was Three Chord King.
DW: Then Three Chord Salad King.
AN: Later he got a tattoo of scissors on his back and became Three Chord Scissor King.
DW: Brian Murphy was first Pope of Rock and later, Pontifical Scratchie Salad?
EE: Bob Ferbrache coined the name EERok for me when we were recording Pinch A Loaf. I added the other "E" because those were my initials. D-Rok evolved out of my name -- Eric and Derek.
THE TROUBLE WITH TIFFANY
DW: I think it was '88 or '89.
AN: For Pinch A Loaf, we had "I Think We're Tiffany," and that was what we were supposedly getting sued for.
DW: I'm not sure if it was clear to all of us at that point it was a cover. We just liked Tiffany's version or hated it or something.
AN: I know I heard her version before the Tommy James and the Shondells version. And that one's totally lame, but I guess you like whichever one you hear first. We wrote a letter from Tiffany's management to ourselves for that song, because we were slanderous in hurting Tiffany's feelings. So we sent out a press release with a copy of the letter.
DW: From our manager "Will Wheaton." Now he does those video game reviews.
AN: Little does he know, he used to be our manager by name. The media just freaked out about it. We thought it would be funny to get these rumors out. They came over to my house and took pictures of my Tiffany wall -- all articles and stuff.
DW: We did an interview with campus press that ended up getting printed. That was a friend of mine, Brian, and he said I had to let him write about it, but we thought, "Should we tell him we're lying? He's a friend of ours?" He was the one person that got his stuff printed. Then it came out a few days later that it was a scam.
AN: Gil Asakawa of Westword finally got a hold of Tiffany's management and found out it wasn't their letterhead. All these articles are supposed to come out, so they're freaking out, calling for Will Wheaton at our house. We were like, "We don't know where he is. We haven't seen him for days." They were the ones who told us it was a scam, and we said, "Really? We're not getting sued? No way!" In the end people figured out we weren't getting sued but the media hated us for a long time.
DW: But it got our names in Westword and Rocky Mountain News.
MB: That happened around the time we played with The Butthole Surfers at Glen Miller. It was when Theresa was in the band, and she thought I looked like Will Wheaton, which probably wasn't far off the mark.
We were inspired by Steel Pole Bathtub and the Negativland controversies. Steel Pole was really into that and turned us on to that. We would read that RESearch book Pranks! religiously. We made a fake letterhead of Tiffany's manager giving us a cease and desist order to our manager, Will Wheaton.
We sent that to the Rocky Mountain News, the Program Council and everywhere, and someone ran the article without fact checking it. Some journalist thought he should check it and found out it was all made up. We generated all this fake paperwork back and forth between them and us.
More bands need to be doing that shit because it's so entertaining. Negativland had that whole Helter Stupid album. Some kid either killed himself or a bunch of people, and Negativland took the whole article and said the kid had been listening to Negativland. It got picked up all over the news, and they recorded parts of all those news programs and released it as Helter Stupid and it was hilarious. Anything we can do like that would be good.
MERCHANDISING AND BRANDING
DW: I think it started with all the stickers. Andrew did screen printing, so we'd always have different shirts.
AN: It probably started with shirts. We made everything ourselves, so we'd make tons of different shirts. We probably had five or six shirt designs by the time our first album was released. Once we started doing more, we thought, "Oh, wait, we can have our name on golf tees? They cost five dollars for a hundred golf tees!"
We'd sell some of that stuff and put that money back into other merchandise, like lighters, glow-in-the-dark keychains, water bottles. The money from merchandise we always put back into other merchandise, because it was always separate from money from shows. Stuff like the watches, "The Official Time of Satan" watch. It ended up being what people would talk about.
DW: Then you'd end up seeing our logos everywhere, and people would be curious about it and assume we must be big or good.
AN: Jim Compton got kicked out of his house for having this watch. He had to go stay at his friend's apartment for two weeks. Some of this stuff we're re-doing. The original golf tees are boring because they'd just stamp your name into them now there's custom printing with silver and black.
DW: My dad actually used the golf tees golfing.
AN: I started getting catalogs. I actually became an ad specialty rep, and then I get the commission on the stuff instead of my rep. He said, "You order so much stuff, you should just become a rep." So now I just get the actual prices for stuff and get it cheaper. That was when bands weren't mass marketing much until the New Kids On the Block came out with water bottles and stupid stuff that had nothing to do with music.
DW: The Official Board of Satan.
MB: I used to always make our flyers, and that was in the heyday of NWA and that shit, and people were wearing Raiders shit. Andrew and I talked about having our own version of that. Fucking co-opt that shit. But we had Satan instead of some pirate. I made that and went to Kinko's on the Hill, and it became our logo.
I don't know if it's the same now necessarily because of the Internet, but back then, you could kind of judge people by the kind of things they liked. If somebody had a Pinchers shirt, you kind of knew what kind of person he or she was, and that you might get along to some degree, because it was such an underground weird kind of thing. If you knew about that, you probably had a good sense of humor and were kind of a weirdo. I don't know what people do now. It's kind of a lost thing.
DEADLY KUNG FU ACTION
DW: I was amassing a huge collection of kung fun movies I'd tape off TV. One of them, on the back cover of Deadly Kung Fu Action, said "There's no second chance when kung fu used for evil." In the description it said, "Deadly kung fu action." We sampled a bunch of stuff from a different movie called The Incredible Kung Fu Mission.
MB: Deadly Kung Fu was my favorite record. It was really rough then, because we couldn't get a booking agent, so I would book all the shows. This was before you could get a cell phone, so we would get phone cards to call from pay phones. You know, calling someone in Seattle to convince them to give you a show.
I think we just kind of imploded. Looking back at it, the stress of all that shit? We were really young. When Dan and I started the band, we were seventeen. We were kids. We achieved a lot by the time we were twenty. We were gung ho, got in a van and sweated it out to play to no one.
When I was seventeen, I would pick up Maximum Rock N Roll and say, "I'll play there." It was scary. You don't know shit, and your van breaks down, which happened to us every fucking tour. It's a rough existence but it's what you gotta do.
THE OFFICIAL SOUND OF SATAN
AN: After Pinch A Loaf came out, we declared ourselves "The Official Sound of Satan." I remember Roxanna Alday asked us on Teletunes, I think, "How do you become The Official Sound of Satan?"
I don't know if we made up some story about how we called up Satan or, "We just said we were The Official Sound of Satan and no one's refuted it yet." So we made logos saying "Official Sound of Satan," and we had a song about how we're the Official Sound of Satan, and we get people to sign away their souls.
WW: What about TV program from Oklahoma?
AN: Fire by Night. Those guys came to Denver, and they went to Wax Trax, and EERok was working there, and the guy was kind of coy asking about Satanism. He might have been asking if anything was going on and EERok told him, "This band is playing tonight," and he pulls out our Deadly Kung Fu Action album. The guy bought it, read the lyrics and came to the show and interviewed us.
DW: "The 'S' the 'A' the 'Tan.' Power, evil and destruction, Satan, Satan, Satan."
AN: He asked us what we thought about Satan.
DW: I think it was clear to him that we were joking about it, but it was something you shouldn't joke about.
AN: Yeah, because we were so flippant. He's interviewing kids outside our show and this kid said, "If they were really Satanic, they'd be sacrificing chickens and stuff." And then the guy says, "Oh, you haven't seen that yet?" He thought maybe we were going to rope them in with this kind of joke. They never said they were from some religious thing, they never sent it to us. Luckily someone from Oklahoma sent us a tape.
Courtesy of Andrew Novick
MEET THE MELVINS
Dale Crover: I probably heard about Warlock Pinchers when they put out the Deadly Kung Fun Action record. They were on the same label as us, Boner Records in San Francisco. I think the first, and possibly only, time I got to see them was at Ground Zero in Boulder. I can't remember who headlined, but probably those guys because they were more popular.
They were gracious enough to play with us, so there would be an audience there. This was 1990 or 1991. I remember walking down the street with Andrew, and girls would follow him. At that show, I think I got up on stage and played along with them and mentioning that if they ever wanted to do a show with a drummer I'd do it. One day I get a call, and it's Andrew and he says, "Hey, you remember a long time ago that you'd play with us, and we're thinking of doing a big reunion show." So they've managed to pull it off. At first I thought I would try and play like a drum machine but decided I should just play like me.
MB: There was a period for a couple of years where they were at every show. Obviously they were douchebags. I never got on board with the whole racism thing. I don't know if they believed it or not, but either way, they were dumb. But it really incensed Dan, so he would try to piss them off again and again. I think they came to our shows because it was fun for them. Where else could they go and be hated that much? The irony of all of that is that all their girlfriends really loved the Warlock Pinchers so they had to come.
DvW: Sean White and all those guys. They would come to our shows because they thought we were punk rock. Dan would shave his head a bunch, Mark would shave his head, and I would. Back then not a lot of people shaved their heads unless they were a skinhead. Dan was devoutly anti-racist. That totally freaked them out. They would come and spit on us, but as far as I know, it never came to some kind of physical confrontation, but it was always tense, I guess, whenever they showed up. "Island Of Misfit Toyboys" is about that stuff.
DW: At our last show, during the opening band, Rhythmic Insurrection or Static Incision, the crowd finally turned on the skinheads and chased them all out. I think Jerko helped them. He knew a lot of the skinheads, and he might have been an ex-skinhead, and he told them, "If you touch any of these people, I'm going to beat your ass." So the skinheads threw punches, and he started the ball rolling, and from what I heard, I was back stage, all the skinheads got chased from The Gothic, and they never came back.
AN: Since we were in school, we'd tour in summer and on Christmas break. Traditionally we played on December 26 in Denver and then start a tour that would end before school started in January.
DW: Once, we took a semester off because we had a big two month tour planned and we got screwed over by a tour manager. She was booking an Ed Hall tour at the same time, and they got screwed over, as well. But we went down to play with them in Austin, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. We played mainly the West Coast, and some of the midwest like Kansas City, Omaha.
AN: We never went to Chicago or New York. Our albums were pretty well distributed and people found it in other countries. We had the Morrissey Rides a Cockhorse EP out in the UK. It got in Melody Maker and NME.
DW: We were expecting to be savaged, but we got single of the week in both of them. In one, the guest reviewers were Blur. Damon Albarn liked it a lot. One of the others thought it was okay, and the other hated it, but Damon shouted them down. "It's got everything, it's loud, it's obnoxious, it's funny -- what's not to like about it?"
EE: I worked at Wax Trax for a long time, and I bought this Negativland shirt that said on the front, "Christianity is stupid, give up." It had a little green house or something. We were on tour after Deadly Kung Fu Action came out, and we were hardly making any money and giving ourselves five dollars a day allowance for food.
We were in L.A., playing at Al's Bar, which was downtown in the art's district. It's gone now. We got there early, and we were hanging out at some of the galleries, and this guy saw my shirt and he said, "That shirt is great! It would be great for my piece! Do you want to sell that?" I said, "Oh, no, I don't know if I'll be able to get another one."
But he let go, and then a little while later, he asked me again and offered forty dollars. I think I had paid ten for it. He reached into his pocket for a big wad of bills. So I go to the van and change my shirt and come back.
That night we drove to Vegas, but I don't think we had a show the first night, but we got a room at Circus Circus, and I went to play black jack and did really well, and I left with four hundred forty bucks at three in the morning. The next night we had a show, and after the show, I went to the same casino and won another hundred bucks. The next night we played Salt Lake and then back home. My Negativland t-shirt got me $540, which is about what I would have made, had I not gone on tour, earning minimum wage at Wax Trax.
DvW: We were all students so every Christmas, every spring break, and every summer for sure we went on tour for six weeks or so. We took one semester off to tour as well. We always played Salt Lake City, Boise, and the West Coast.
We played at this place called Paso Robles with a fantastic L.A. speed metal band called Adonis. We met them in Arizona. I think we were trying to get on the bill with Danzig and saw them out and about, and we ended up having some shows with them later. We played basketball with them, and they crushed us.
We always had horrible shows in Portland. It wasn't Portland's fault, it was always something like, "Soundgarden is playing across the street for free at some kind of benefit." Or "The club is closed so you can play at this restaurant."
Courtesy of Andrew Novick
DW: It was a play on "circumcised penis." We went with a whole circus motif.
AN: We'd get those marshmallow circus peanuts that are pretty gross. Sometimes they're called "circus peanuts," and sometimes "circus-sized peanuts," which doesn't even make any sense -- does that mean they were big? Small?
DW: As big as a circus?
AN: And we kind of circus-sized our show.
DW: We got rid of Satan's Cheerleaders from the Satan album and started with the clowns and got the clown bouncer. A lot of skinheads would come to our shows, and they would cause mayhem, and we were always very antagonistic toward them for a lot of reasons.
They hated us, but they paid money to come see us and beat up these poor, defenseless kids. At one show, one of the skinheads jumped up on stage and tried to punch me in the face and got just a glancing blow while I was singing. After that we hired this guy Grant Chitwood to dress up as a clown on stage and keep people off.
AN: Jerko the Clown.
DW: Also, these high school kids would come up on stage to stage dive, and he would throw them off and it became like an amusement park ride to them. They'd wait in line to get on stage to be thrown off by the clown.
AN: The other night, some guy mentioned a guy said he was proud to have been thrown of the stage by the clown. By the time of the album release, I think we had a couple of clowns, girls with baskets filled with circus peanuts.
DW: We had a cotton candy machine at the merch booth. We tried to make the shows more of an event than a normal, everyday concert.
AN: I don't know if we had opening bands, but we had Jerko the Clown read porn out loud. We had a girl clown come and beat him up. He had kind of created this persona where he'd do acrobatics, and the girl could flip him, and he'd go flying off. Then we had the spoken word with The Happy Buddha.
DW: It was my brother dressed just in a towel and he'd read Black Sabbath lyrics as poety.
AN: We made it a goofball show -- a circus with a bunch of different stuff. Then Britney Spears comes along with her circus album, totally ripping us off.
DW: Then the freaking Juggalos have to ruin everything for everyone.
AN: ICP talking about pop and evil clowns, throwing shit off stage.
DW: That just makes us look bad.
AN: "Meet Goatee Woatee" was a huge string of our inside jokes and things we saw on tour. We mentioned Griff the Clown from Griff's Burger Haven. We never even discussed it with anyone. Goatee Woatee was a dog we met.
DW: It started with us driving through Arizona, I believe, and we stopped where all these goats were running around and Eric said, "Oh, look at all the goatee woatees." We were making fun of him for that. When we got to Tempe of Phoenix, there was this dog hanging around outside the club, and we named him Goatee Woatee. He was our mascot.
Courtesy of Andrew Novick
DW: It was a rotating cast.
AN: I don't know how we got the original ones, but at shows some people would say, "Those cheerleaders suck; I can do better than that!" And we'd say, "Okay, then you get to be the cheerleader next time."
DW: It wasn't always women. Diggie Diamond was a cheerleader.
AN: It rotated, and we took the outfits on tour, probably thinking we could get some cute girls to cheerlead for us on tour. But I think Mark and Derek would wear them on tour sometimes during the shows. We actually bought a pattern at a fabric store, and we had our friend Theresa from the dorms made them.
I got a sports letter and went to the cheerleader shop and asked them if they could make the custom devil head guy. I was nervous for the skirt where it usually has the year. So I asked, "Is there any way I can get three digits for the year instead of two?" She said, "Yeah! What digits do you want?" I said, "A six, a six and a six." She said, "Oh, six, six, six? No problem." We actually had custom chenille, and we wanted it to be cool.
DW: Everyone's name was Sindy or Mindy, no matter who they were.
AN: We had songs that never got on anything like "My Guru."
DW: And "Fuck Ska," that Murder Ranks played at the UMS 2010. The verses are from the last Warlock Pinchers song that we never played called "Scenecrusher." We had this big plan that in pro wrestling terms we were going to turn heel on our audience. Do you remember this?
AN: That sounds vaguely familiar.
DW: We were going to try to get everyone who liked us to hate us. So we were going to act like the biggest rock stars that we possibly could. We were going to call our album "Scenecrusher" about how we hate all local bands and all this stuff. We were going to have an album release at The Gothic, and then we were going to rent a tour bus, no matter how much it cost us, and drive around the block with the destination reading "Scenecrusher." But we broke up before that ever happened. That was our big plan to really make everyone hate us but we couldn't do that. Maybe we'll do that this time.
THE FINAL SHOW AND THE BREAK-UP
DW: We already had the show booked and maybe a month and a half earlier, we decided we were going to break up, but we didn't announce it was going to be the last show. Some people knew but we didn't announce it. People showed up and we already shirts printed up that said, "I saw Warlock Pinchers' last show," and on the back, it said, "Now I'm going to kill myself."
EE: I think we played every song in alphabetical order, if I remember correctly. It was packed. We didn't tell anyone it was going to be our last show. We had that T-shirt that had the clown with a gun to his head that said on the front, "I saw the last Warlock Pinchers show," and on the back, "Now I'm going to kill myself."
Some kids saw that, and they asked us if it was true. I remember a girl freaking out and wanting to use the phone to call her friend who wasn't going to be at that show. We had the "Meat-a-pult" that night. It was made of PVC pipe, and it shot a meat-like substance into the audience. My bass speakers and my amp head still have dried on, red stains. They've been in storage for twenty years.
DW: I was quitting, basically, because Derek didn't want to practice. Any time we had practice scheduled, he said we didn't need because we knew the songs. I just wanted to write new songs and get better at playing them. It seemed like we were on the verge of taking that next step, and we couldn't do it if we weren't going to practice. A lot of people think I quit because of Andrew, which isn't the case. Although we didn't get along so much back then, we get along a lot better now, but that wasn't the case for me.
MB: Dan and Andrew weren't really getting along, and they weren't seeing eye to eye on a lot of things. It seems crazy, but back then, we'd sell out anywhere in Salt Lake City, Boise or Denver, and we had pretty big shows in our little pocket. We'd get to the West Coast, and nobody knew who the fuck we were. It was hard to go on tour, and we'd go and just lose fucking money. We'd be on tour for a month or two, and it would be depressing. It was tough with just five guys in a van, all trying to be on the same page.
DvW: Mark had already started Foreskin 500. Dan and Andrew weren't getting along super well at that point. But I don't remember what it was, really. We were all graduating from school, and we had to get jobs. For some reason, I decided to go to grad school, so I thought I was still going to be in Boulder and could do it on some level.
When we decided to break up, I thought it would be better for my grad schooling. I don't remember a big band meeting; it kind of happened organically. In the end, we were at a nice plateau and decided to quit while it was still cool and go out with a bang, before it gets ridiculous or too serious. It was either going to get really serious, which would have been a bummer, or just fizzled and not go anywhere. So instead of taking that risk, we went out with a bang.
DW: Someone was always pissed off after how we had a shitty tour, but I don't think anyone said they didn't want to tour. I remember at the band meeting where I said I was going to quit, and there was talk of doing a final tour, but I said, "If we're going to quit, let's just quit. I don't want to do a final tour."
AN: I remember it as being at that practice, and Derek, and maybe Eric, saying he didn't want to tour because it wasn't fun, that it was a nightmare, but somehow convinced everyone to do this last show. So if it was going to be our last show, let's make T-shirts and go out with a huge show at the Gothic. We were looking at other places to do shows because we had this huge history there. We'd played there with the Dead Milkmen and Mudhoney and The Fluid.
DW: I even still liked Derek, but I just didn't want to continue doing the band if we weren't going to practice. I liked Derek more than I liked Andrew.
AN: We wanted to write new songs, that's what being in a band is. Keep moving forward. We didn't want to have the same show all the time with the same songs.
DW: Things were moving so slowly, and I think we had five new songs from May 1991 to January 1992.
AN: Before that, things had gone really fast. It wasn't clear whether we were going to try to get on a label or whatever. That was the turning point and we had to decide.
DW: It was basically all or nothing.
AN: Also, not being in a band where we got new members, we added new members. I guess Brian Murphy left, but we decided that this is the band, and if it wasn't going to be this, then it's not the band.
MB: In hindsight I can see how we were sort of drifting apart. For the first three or four years, we were a unified front in being the king assholes, and we'd go out there and have fun and spread the faith. But that last year, I think stuff between Dan and Andrew not getting along, and we didn't want to deal with it.
In some ways I think we were just burned out a little bit. We had made three records and toured a lot. Even though we had great fans in Denver, we weren't loved in other places. We had some amazing career -- it didn't pay our rent. Not to mention, we were all in college, trying to graduate, while having this insane rock band. It's really hard to juggle.
We all dropped out of school and had this record deal -- I thought we had made a great record. It took years for it to catch on, but back then, I don't know if people knew what to do with us. We could play punk shows, because we weren't like 7 Seconds or DRI. We were unique. We were just this weird fucking band.
EE: I was pretty bummed. I didn't think we should break up. I think we had a good thing going. Maybe because I was a little older and had been in a couple of other bands or something. The only other band that I knew about that had any success was the Fluid, and I was friends with those guys. I had made videos for them early on. I made the video for "You."
An old girlfriend of mine was good friends with the guy Brian who put out Punch N Judy. I was going to film school, so I shot footage on 16 milimeter as a class project. I ended up doing another one for "Graveyard Tramps," from footage I shot at Rock Island. I went with them to South By Southwest in 1986.
If we had maybe taken time off on Pinchers, we probably wouldn't have broken up. The weird thing is we all get along. We've all gone on with our lives, and we have fond memories. I think it was just the pressure. You get stuck in a van, and it's like, "That guy picks his nose too much; that guy gets all the chicks" -- whatever is going to drive a wedge between people.
Doing these reunion shows, we're communicating more than ever. We're kind of the same people, it's bizarre. None of us ever really grew up. The Denver music scene in the '80s, there was weird cool shit going on. It didn't necessarily make it anywhere. Human Head Transplant, We Never Sleep. The Neubauten show, Psychic TV was living there -- like Tom Headbanger and all those guys. It was the who's who of underground noise.
Nurse With Wound played there. I know people in L.A. who didn't even know Nurse With Wound had ever put on a show in Denver. A big part of that was because Wax Trax was there. I remember being ten years old walking in there and buying weird ass records and being exposed to all this cool shit. Had I grown anywhere else, I never would have been exposed to that stuff, so that's why it's a landmark to me. I always thought Denver was underrated.
INTERVENING YEARS AND REUNION
DW: I talked to Mark for a while. We did a project after Warlock Pinchers called Space Mountain Soundsystem. Didn't release anything and only played a couple of shows. Some of those songs became Wild Canadians songs, Jirds songs and Murder Ranks songs. Derek, I lost touch with. EERok I'd see at Mark's place once in a while. Andrew I didn't see for a long time. We got on a good footing again around ten years ago with the Imposters thing, and then I wasn't invited to the release -- I wasn't told about it. I never even got a copy of it. That pissed me off again, so then I didn't talk to him for years after that.
AN: I had to keep in touch with everyone enough to have everybody's address because we were still getting royalties from Boner Records. So every so often I'd get a hold of Dan by email and ask where he was living.
DW: I just sent him my address, and that was it. Then last year, Murder Ranks had a show booked at 3 Kings. We were planning on a release show that never happened. Then I got drunk and talked to Mike McNutts and asked, "Wouldn't it blow people's fuckin' minds if I called up Andrew and asked if he wanted to do some songs with us? I don't think anyone would believe it."
AN: It blew my mind.
DW: A few days later, I called up Andrew and said, "I have to have a secret meeting with you." He agreed to it, and the plan was we weren't going to advertize it as such. That's a little bit too obvious. We wanted it to be more secretive. We'd spread rumors and if people asked us, we'd deny it. Based on that, the show was awesome. We had so much fun.
At that meeting we decided that depending on how the show went, on the interest, who knows what it could lead to? Maybe we could see about getting the whole band and do it for real. After so much time, there was no telling if anyone would even care? I didn't care. I had forgotten all the songs. I denied to people that I was in the Warlock Pinchers.
But people kept asking me about it, and I realized I'm never going to get away from it, and I'm going back to King Scratchie, and I'm just going to accept that that's part of my history and live with it. After the show last September, that was so awesome, I met with Andrew and said we needed to get everybody together and do it right next year.
AN: I talked to Mark and showed him the videos.
DW: People went nuts at the show, and we should do it, and we can make some money.
AN: All the years in the band, we never made money. We would get $5 a day for food.
DW: We were basically paying for the privilege of being in the band. The only time we really got paid was at the last show.
AN: We divided up the money, sold the van and that was the first time we made money from the band. Some people in bands think they're going to make money from the band. It's not even that you have to have money to make money.
DvW: Everyone was in town for Christmas, and we met up. Andrew had already contacted Dale, and that helped to convince Mark to come on board. Anything like this, the first condition is that it can't be lame. With Dale on board, it's value added and not just a bunch of old guys reliving their glory days.
Courtesy of Andrew Novick
CRISPIN GLOVER AND THE BAND'S LEGACY
DW: The obsession with him started when he was on David Letterman, and he almost kicked him in the head and got booted off the show. I didn't know who he was, but I thought that was the greatest thing ever. It was obviously a stunt, a performance and David Letterman never really got it. He never even admitted it was him. It was kind of the Andy Kaufman thing. Are people going to get it or not? Who cares?
AN: And don't fess up to it. When we played in L.A., Don Bolles came and saw us and he knew where Crispin Glover lived, and we went there and rang his bell. A voice said, "Hello," and we started talking but got no response. Then we pressed the button again and "Hello" -- it was like an answering machine for his door.
DW: Mutual acquaintances would tell us stories of meeting him and asking him about that song, and he said, "I've heard that song, and tell those guys that I make more than one movie a year."
AN: I've talked to him several times, and he's aware of the song. People harangue him constantly, and they always bring up that song when he does public appearances. Somebody said the guitar part of that song sounds like Donkey Kong. But it's somewhat different, but that's why I made the Donkey Kong music the background to that interview tape you hear on Imposters. It's kind of an homage to what someone else thought we sounded like. Just another inside joke to entertain ourselves.
AN: We all created the band we wanted to be in individually. Everyone created for our own purposes as much as anything else. It was never a set thing. I think if you try to do something you fail but if you try to just do anything...
DW: We failed too but in a good way. People called us punk, but we laughed about it, but in retrospect we were more punk than most punk bands because we didn't follow the rules. We did what we wanted to do. We did an interview with Maximum Rock N Roll, and they asked us, "What are your views on punk rock?" and EERok's quote was "That's stupid, give up." That got printed. We got a couple of hate letters from that one.
AN: That's one thing if you tell it to Spin, but you're telling it to the punk rock bible. That's part of not playing by whatever rules. EERok, the biggest punk rocker.
MB: I'm involved in comedy now, but when I look back on the Warlock Pinchers I realize I've been doing comedy for twenty-something years except the Pinchers were rock and roll comedy.
DC: I know quite a few people that like the Warlock Pinchers and quite a few are flying in for those shows. They were always the band I thought should have been really big. 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. I never liked the Beastie Boys, but the Warlock Pinchers were that kind of thing done a lot better.
DW: It was funny to us that we could barely play our instruments, couldn't remember our lyrics, couldn't keep in time even with a drum machine. People still loved us.
AN: No matter how good we got at practice, the shows were still a mess. You go and see some bands, and it's boring, but they're good musicians, but it's still boring. The talent is in the show.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Denver, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.