Punk poet Luke Schmaltz rose up from the wilds of Denver’s less than savory bar scene as the chief songwriter and master of the mic with the band King Rat, blending his gift for words with a love for substance abuse. Schmaltz, a contributor to Modern Drunkard and habitué for decades, has now written The Belcher, a book with the feel of an underground comic that will be released in paperback and audio book in September by Mutiny Press.
Schmaltz discusses the book and his life among Denver’s taverns and tattoo parlors as he answers the Colorado Creatives questionnaire.
Westword: What (or who) is your creative muse?
Which three people, dead or alive, would you like to invite to your next party, and why?
My next party is going to involve Frank Kelly Rich from Modern Drunkard magazine, because he can bring Czechoslovakian absinthe; Jeffrey Kopp, because he can draw like a man possessed and handle a harangue from Frank; and Christal Einspahr, because she can stop me from getting in the middle of it.
What’s the best thing about the local creative community in your field — and the worst?
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The best thing about the local creative community is an art partnership called Reznbohl. Rez and Chris Bohlin have intertwined their graphic gifts in an enduring effort to uplift anyone with perception. The worst is people stuck in the old paradigm of “People don’t know what they like…they like what they know.”
Denver (or Colorado), love it or leave it? What keeps you here — or makes you want to leave?
I helped build the music scene here through 26 years of knowing there was a populace hungry for original, non-corporate music. Corporate entertainment doesn’t give a damn, and that’s why I’ll stay. McPunk will never last. I won’t leave, because this is my community, my home. You don’t just work to build community for decades and then cut and run when things get tough.
Why did you decide to write a book, and how has it changed your perspective on things?
I was writing a novel called The Fractured Catholic about what happened to me as a child. I was raped by a priest when I was twelve. I realized I could not complete the book without therapy. Meanwhile, drinking beer one day with my wife, Christal Einspahr, I roared out a belch that shook the rafters. She said, “You know what, you should write a story about a superhero who drinks beer and blasts out guttural belches of sonic rage.”
I agreed. She was right, and so I did.
Why The Belcher? What's it about, exactly?
It’s a mashup of Victor Hugo, Charles Bukowski and Stan Lee — Quasimodo with a penchant for swill and a date with destiny.
What’s your dream project?
My dream project is to turn The Belcher into a graphic novel, to write the screenplay and to play the Soothsayer in the film.
If you died tomorrow, what or whom would you come back as?
If I died tomorrow, I would come back as Jim Thorpe — because rubbing success born of sheer determination in the faces of those who want to see you fail is the genesis of punk rock.
Who is your favorite Colorado Creative?
Jef Kopp is my favorite Colorado Creative. He is, in my opinion, the greatest artist of our time.
What's on your agenda now and in the coming year?
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My agenda is to introduce this universe of ragtag insurrectionists into the audience that holds the ideals of self-expression dearest to their personal karmic velocity.
Who do you think will (or should) get noticed in the local arts community in the coming year?
Rez and Chris Bohlin, and of course, Jef Kopp.
Mutiny Press will release The Belcher in paperback and audiobook on Saturday, September 5, at Mutiny Information Cafe, 2 South Broadway. The eBook version of The Belcher is already available for purchase online. Keep up with book-release details and learn more about Luke Schmaltz at his website.