Aaron Saye of Seventh Circle Music Collective on making the transition from Blast-O-Mat

Seventh Circle Music Collective is the new name for the former Blast-O-Mat space, which, until its recent closing, had been one of the longest-running DIY spaces in Denver. Originally a host to heavier and more extreme music, in the last couple of years, Blast-O-Mat became home to numerous other branches of underground music as well. This past summer, Ethan McCarthy, the long-running lease-holder and former proprietor of Monkey Mania and Kingdom of Doom, announced he would be leaving his involvement with the venue and opening a new place called Aqualung's Community Music Space. That announcement left the future of the space up in the air. Fortunately, one of Blast-O-Mat's volunteers, Aaron Saye, had the resources, drive and compatible ideas to take over the space and keep it running.

Saye is known to many as the guy who is constantly filming metal, hardcore and ska shows. He's also one of the most dedicated fans of music in general in Denver. Those who know him can tell you that he's a standup guy who is always friendly, cordial and willing to help out -- exactly the kind of guy who should be running a volunteer-driven DIY venue. In advance of Seventh Circle's opening show tomorrow night, we spoke at length with Saye about how the transition happened and the importance of this sort of place to the local community.

Westword: How does the lineup for the first show reflect the organization of Seventh Circle itself?

Aaron Saye: The way I structured the opening show is that every band except for the touring band has at least one member that is part of the new volunteer collective. I just basically said, "For grand opening show, I want to be all of us." Everybody that came out of the woodwork and wanted to be involved in helping me run this new space, I wanted them to have first crack and being the first ones to play that. This guy Riley [Rukavina], from Fall in the Ride, knows a lot about sound engineering, and he's been helping me immensely with getting this PA built and structured.

With the Mouth House guys, I wanted them involved because I know they're inundated with shows over there, and they're having to turn them down because they have six shows in a week sometimes. So I was thinking, "Well, if you guys want to be involved here at Seventh Circle, we could have two venues, and you guys could totally book your own shows here, and I would just give you keys that night or something like that."

They were talking about how they were trying to structure that kind of camaraderie with Rhinoceropolis, to do the same sort of thing, where if they had two things going on the same night, combine them or schedule them differently so people can do both and there's no competition going on. I guess it didn't pan out due to communication or something with RiNo.

So I just went to a show over at Mouth House after the decision was finalized that I could take over the Blast-O-Mat space and do a new thing with it. I told them I wanted to work with them. I said, "I want this to be a venue that you have just as much access to book as I do, because I know you're inundated over here, and I don't want to see you guys burn out. Mouth House is way too important, just like Blast-O-Mat is. Both venues are just so important to the DIY scene that if either of them goes down, then it's going to be a huge hole in everything."

How did the opportunity come about that you could take over the space that used to be Blast-O-Mat?

Ethan McCarthy moved into Blast-O-Mat after Monkey Mania [or Kingdom of Doom] got shut down. That was right around the same time that Kate Spencer, who was the original person that started Blast-O-Mat, basically, announced that she wanted to move to L.A., which is where she now lives. I don't remember exactly when that was, but there was a meeting about it, and it was like, "If nobody wants to put your name on the lease to rent Blast-O-Mat, then it's going to go under."

Nobody really in the room stepped up, and I said, "I'll do it." But that was right after I started volunteering with them, and I think a lot of people -- and no insult to them at all -- in the original Blast-O-Mat collective weren't exactly thrilled about the fact that I was starting to book shows that weren't musically their cup of tea.

So everybody said, "We'll think about it. We'll see what's up." I didn't really hear anything back about it for a couple of weeks, and then Ethan said he was moving in. And I thought, "Great, it'll be the same as it ever was. Same scene, same everything, it'll be awesome."

So I just started volunteering, and then, through no conscious effort of everyone, it morphed a little. When it started, as far as I'm aware, it was a spot where the grindcore bands and crust bands comprised of people that lived there could play. I remember the first time I went there, there was a 'fridge and a stove in the show space. I think that was the summer of 2006. I really started going there more in later '06 or early '07.

In 2010, that's when I started volunteering, and I started booking shows I was interested in, just like everybody else did there, and it didn't seem like a big deal. It was all fine and good, and then it evolved into this thing where people knew about Blast-O-Mat because they were in the hardcore scene and that's where hardcore bands played. Or when I started booking ska shows, the ska scene found out about it. There are so many people now that know of Blast-O-Mat than the people who created it may have seen it. So it just changed into through no conscious effort of anybody to encompass all different types of music.

In July, Ethan announced that he was moving out, and he had found a space with cheaper rent, a place he could kind of start over and just throw only the shows he wanted to throw. He was getting way burned out, and I think he came back from tour at the beginning of July, and he had to run sound eleven out of the first sixteen days that he was back in town or something like that.

Part of it was that our Blast-O-Mat collective had dwindled so much that there were only a few of us left that could do sound. And I was out at other shows all eleven of those nights. I felt bad, but I was just another volunteer, and I did as much as I could, and I couldn't be at every single show. Not to say that he had to shoulder that burden, but he lived there and kind of got defaulted into that position of having to do sound or cancel the shows. So, obviously, he didn't cancel the shows.

The fact that he had found the new place was, like, "Yes, that's exactly what he needs." That's awesome, because he could reopen it, new name, no reputation of being somewhere where all these types of music that he doesn't care for play at. And he can book whatever he wants and not overbook himself. Blast-O-Mat had gotten to the point where it was overbooked all the time, and it was way too stressful on all of us that were the regular volunteers.

He announced that he was moving out and opening a new space and that Blast-O-Mat was closing down at the end of August. I wasn't at the meeting because I couldn't be there, because I was at a show at Red Rocks that night that I had tickets to all summer. The show was Yanni with my mom, actually. Second row center! It was so much fun. Anyway, Ethan said there was an emergency Blast-O-Mat meeting on Friday the 13th, 7 p.m., and Yanni was on stage at 7:15. I told him I couldn't make it, and he said, "Well that sucks, because it's kind of an important meeting."

I kind of felt the death knell coming on, because that was right after he had gotten off tour with Death of Self, and I think their van ended up getting totaled. A wheel bearing locked up and the wheel caught on fire, and they had to get it towed to Boise. Then they had to reach out to all their record label stuff to get people to buy their merch online, so they would have money coming in to get home. And they did get home pretty much on schedule, but they were broke. I think that was the straw that broke the camel's back, and he was probably like, "I'm done with this place. I'm done being stressed out. I'm done having money problems."

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Tom Murphy is a writer, visual artist and musician from Aurora, Colorado. He was a prolific music writer for Westword and a documenter of the Denver music scene.

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