High Plains Underground Archive

Denver Reunion Shows, Part 3: Warlock Pinchers

The third and final installment of High Plains Underground Archives' series on Denver music reunion shows, features Warlock Pinchers. These days it is very easy to find out about local bands if you make even a small amount of effort. But back in the late '80s and early '90s, this was not the case, especially for bands that didn't do a lot of touring. And yet somehow Warlock Pinchers were known far and wide — even London, where you could find graffiti in its honors. The band's iconic logo, a reworking of the Oakland Raiders' logo combined with a pirate flag — a simultaneous thumbing of the nose and embrace of Denver Broncos fandom in one gesture — is something you could see around Denver and beyond for long after the group's 1992 split.

Founded in 1987 in Littleton, Colorado, Warlock Pinchers became an active entity in Boulder where it had a base of operations. From the beginning the band didn't have a drummer but used recordings prepared by guitarist Mark “3 Kord Scissor King” Brooks, and later used electronic percussion. That aesthetic suggested a sound that was really unlike much of anything going on at the time somewhere between a weird hip-hop group and incredibly irreverent punk rock. The music was amateurish but sophisticated enough it got under your skin; it was clearly the product of smart people having fun with an absurd band. Frontman Daniel “King Scratchie” Wanush came off not unlike a secret wayward member of Fishbone. Co-frontman Andrew “K.C. K-Sum” Novick told surreal stories and sent up media figures like singer Tiffany, James Dean and actor Crispin Glover as a weird fandom or genius-level pop-culture appropriation.

The Pinchers became notorious for several shows, including a gig at Quigley's on the CU-Boulder campus in which noise group The Haters set off smoke bombs, and the Pinchers joined in on the ensuing mayhem, resulting in a lifelong ban from performing at the venue. Naturally Novick got back in when his later band Scramblehead performed in the same room, the band members brandishing rifles like members of some '60s radical group.

Following that Haters show, the Pinchers entered into a media campaign against themselves by writing letters to the editor of the Boulder Daily Camera. Prior to that the Pinchers manufactured a beef with Tiffany's management through letter-writing and using false letterhead, an inspired bit of self-promotion that garnered the band attention from Westword and the now defunct Rocky Mountain News. Actions such as this and the outrageousness of the shows made the Pinchers legends, because who doesn't appreciate that kind of rebellion coupled with a healthy does of humor? This ensured the Pinchers an enduring legacy as well as friends among bands like the Butthole Surfers and Melvins—both of whom the Pinchers shared stages as the '80s turned into the '90s.

But the fun couldn't last forever: The Pinchers broke up in 1992 with a relatively small body of work including the 1991 album, Circusized Peanuts. There was a bit of a falling out among various members of the band though Brooks went on to form Foreskin 500, another theatrical band with a legendary status of its own. But Derek “DDROK” Van Westrum, Erik “EEROK” Erickson and Wanush weren't as involved with music for several years, though the latter formed The Jirds in the early 2000s and later, the dancehall-style band, Murder Ranks.

In 2009 there were hints that some reconciliation was going on in the Pinchers camp. The end result was a “Murder Pinchers” show at 3 Kings Tavern on September 6, 2009 in which, at a Caroliner Rainbow show, Novick joined Wanush on stage to do a handful of Warlock Pinchers songs with Murder Ranks. For fans of the Pinchers it was a monumental moment. Out of that collaboration, the idea of a Warlock Pinchers reunion spawned and, in true fashion, the Pinchers decided they had to do one bigger and better than The Fluid had two years before.

The Warlock Pinchers reunion shows, booked for two dates, August 6 and 7, at The Gothic Theatre, was upping the ante on one date at the Bluebird Theater with the Fluid in 2008. Prior to the big reunion shows at the Gothic, the Pinchers played at Lion's Lair with Melvins Lite, a two-piece version of Melvins with just Buzz Osbourne and Dale Crover. There was also new merch including a specially-produced flash drive containing every single Pinchers release, including the tribute album, Imposters! and Bomb The Franklin Mint, a collection of unreleased materials. Given that the Pinchers had more merch than any other band ever other than perhaps Kiss, it seemed like the perfect update of its legacy.

Those who got to see the spectacle of the two reunion shows at the Gothic probably came away thinking the Pinchers was one of the best live bands of all time. Local openers included Taun Taun, Magic Cyclops, Dressy Bessy, Hot White, Itchy-O Marching Band, of course Melvins Lite, and Cap'n Fresh and the Stay Fresh Seals. Many people that saw the band in its heyday even said that these reunion shows were better than the Pinchers during its initial run. The reunion shows were truly what you would hope a Warlock Pinchers show would be.

There was one last Pinchers show on New Year's Eve of 2010 at the Gothic. Some might say the Pinchers weren't a musical band per se because a lot of their project was based on trying to piss off anyone that took themselves too seriously. But in terms of entertainment there was little to equal the Pinchers, and they never really seemed to suffer as musicians because they played with the aim of making themselves laugh and puncture some pomposity. In that respect the Pinchers were incredibly successful. What follows are some images from that “Murder Pinchers” show and the shows at The Gothic Theatre.

*Author's Note on the High Plains Underground Archive: In the late 1990s, I started going to local shows on a regular basis. Growing up in the '70s and '80s, I didn't know there was such a thing as local music worth checking out. But I was drawn in after seeing a band called Rainbow Sugar (an all-female punk/hip-hop/experimental guitar rock extravaganza) opening for Sleater-Kinney's first show in Colorado at The Fox Theatre in October 1998. Next, I learned about a show at the now-defunct Rebis Galleries. From there I went to the first Monkey Mania show, and there was no looking back.

Rainbow Sugar was the first local band I photographed at Herman's Hideaway in 1999. But it was in 2005 when I got my first digital camera that my extensive photo archive started. In this series, called High Plains Underground Archive, I will share a small fraction of the tens of thousands of those photos, focusing on specific venues, bands, time periods, movements and whatever else seems to make sense. The title of this series comes from the working title of my book on the history of underground music in Denver 1975 to the present.