From their humble yet impressive beginnings throwing parties in the basement of Wally Behnfield's house for a couple hundred folks to putting on shows at Cervantes drawing around 800 people, the members of Mile High Sound Movement have worked hard to create something unique and artistic and are making a name for themselves individually and collectively in the process.
Forging ahead into the new year with even more momentum, Mile High Sound Movement -- a growing family of DJs and musicians (Project Aspect, Unlimited Gravity, Kruzakid and the Contraband), fire performers, aerial dancers and live painters -- is throwing another party at Cervantes' tomorrow night. We recently caught up with a few members of the crew to find out more about their growing Movement, how it got its start and where it's headed.
Westword: Give me a rundown of who you are and what you do...
Zack Kruzas: I'm Zack Karuzas, the Kruzakid. I went to school in Jefferson County with Jay [Jaramillo]. We started doing a little bit of music stuff and tried to get some shows. We just kind of started a mock company, so that when we told someone we were a part of something they would be like, "Alright, we'll give you a shot." All it took was one show. We started a lot of side projects, too, Kruzakid and the Contraband. Jay plays guitar, as well, crazy guitarist; I MC it.
How many people are involved with MHSM collectively?
Jay Jaramillo: Oh man, there are so many people involved. We have tons of musicians, artists, friends, photographers, fire performers, just so many people that contribute. It's kind of what MHSM is all about; coming together as a family and just growing with the art that comes from every one. There is no limit to how many people are involved, but mainly Zack, Wally, Ronny, aka Unlimited Gravity, and myself. Ronny lives in Sioux Falls, though, but he's definitely a huge part of promoting.
What's up with this Christmas show and how did it come about?
Wally Behnfield: Last year, we threw a party, and no one was doing anything. I guess about 200 people were in the basement of my house, which is about 1500 square feet, and at that point, we just said, "We have to do this again." So we realized we had to get a venue and start setting it up.
JJ: Luckily, Christmas landed on a Saturday this year, so it was like, "BOOM!"
WB: And we threw a party in July that had around 800 people...on a Thursday!
JJ: We brought out NastyNasty for that show.
ZK: Which is sick, because I had never really heard of NastyNasty, and since we brought him out, he's just been blowing up.
WB: This is way bigger than just "dubstep." My grandmother will listen to this music. She is actually coming out to our Christmas show. It's not overly bassy. It's not monotone like a lot of dubstep is, and it's not offensive. It's not angry metal. It's just pleasant music.
JJ: IDM: Intelligent Dance Music.
So MHSM brought him out -- as in, you guys booked him and promoted?
JJ: Yes, that was the first national act we ever brought to Denver, and it was a huge success. So after that we just realized we need to keep bringing national acts in, and growing as a promotions company.
WB: Trying to make a name for ourselves.
JJ: The music speaks for itself, just the vibe alone, you know? It's so comforting.
WW: So, you said your first national booking was a success. What defines success to you in that aspect?
JJ: A great draw of people.
ZK: Everyone was just happy. The artists were satisfied with the pay; we were able to prove to ourselves we can do it; and the fans were happy with the show.
WB: We still hear good things about that show from people.
JJ: At first, Cervantes wasn't sure how many people would show up so they only hired one bartender.
WB: One! She was running around crazy all night.
Jay, what about your side gig, ProJect Aspect, as far as being a part of MHSM?
JJ: Well, I think it's always going to be about MHSM. That's where the roots came from, and that's where they are staying. I'm never going to grow away from it and it's not growing away from me. All the artists involved are just down and so am I.
WB: It's all these friends that came from the same places.
JJ: We just want to give everyone a shot. Fortunately we have so many friends we are happy to do it.
ZK: So, like, if we had a show and Jay couldn't make it, we have ten other artists who could step up, who are hungry to play, or to create. At all our shows, we have live artists, fire dancers, anyone who wants to come out and showcase their work.
JJ: I think Project Aspect and MHSM will always just grow together.
So MHSM takes care of all the booking for artists, performers and talent?
JJ: Absolutely. And typically some other shows will have painters, but I don't see fire used too much anymore, that's why we have it.
WB: There are a lot of people that do this stuff at shows, but may not be related to one, sole company. That's why people come to us, because we have everything and it's all good.
JJ: We are always accepting of anyone who wants to step up and be a part of it.
WB: Like in July, we let this kid Addison perform, who hadn't even graduated high school yet, and we let him beat box at our show. We actually let him open the show! He got the first half hour, and just killed it.
What's on deck for the Christmas show?
WB: I think we are going to have a little bit of everything.
JJ: A lot of vending. New MHSM merchandise. There's even a raffle. If you donate $5, some clothes or ten food items, we are raffling off some jewelry valued at $150 as well as some other stuff.
ZK: We have a lot of family too, so bringing them out here will be great.
Did everyone grow up in Denver?
WB: Yea, that's the great thing about doing this Christmas show. Since we are all from here, we can make it work. Christmas will bring everyone together.
What kind of support do you guys get from the community and family?
JJ: My parents completely support it. My dad was a musician, and my mom grew up a singer, so they totally understand. They couldn't be happier for me.
ZK: My mom loves it. She is an artist herself. At that one show, she was there with all her art and she was dancing. My grandpa will be out there cutting it up, too. Just a big reunion.
What about 2011, what can be expected from MHSM?
ZK: I'll tell you, we would like to be hitting a lot of festivals.
JJ: Or at least a bi-monthly thing...
WB: Hopefully with this Christmas show we can generate some publicity and really do it up.
JJ: I have already some shows lined up for January and February...and hopefully something going on in Chicago as well.
WB: Maybe something in SF in the spring.
JJ: We would love to hit a few states and just get out there.
ZK: We have a live band too, Kruzakid and the Contraband, which is dope. We got a bass player, Smeez, and our drummer Scott and our drummer Dan. It's like live hip-hop, but with a rock sound. And the thing is, we can play some electronic music if it's not working, or open and close with it -- whatever we need and feel the need to do.
What do you think music is evolving too with all the DJs, bands and technology?
ZK: I don't know, man, but it is evolving for sure. I'm just evolving with it, going with the flow and changing with it. I am evolving as an artist for sure, from an MC to playing congas, a jam band rocking together... and we're just playing off the top of the head. I really can see live music and electronic music just coming together even more.
JJ: My ultimate goal for ProJect Aspect is to incorporate all these organic instruments and just loop it and tweak it on the fly. It's really versatile, too, though, because it's drawing in such a different crowd of people. I think if the music is good, it doesn't matter who is there and people are just going to have fun and just be amongst friends and family.
What about your musical influences? It's a pretty open category, but what kind of music do you attribute your passion to?
JJ: I grew up influenced by classic rock. My dad hammered stuff into my brain like Bob Dylan, Beatles, Rolling Stones, and just all that stuff. I still love all that to this day to; it will always be what I love. I got really into punk rock, NOFX, the Offspring and a lot of fast alternative music, and then after high school more electronic music.
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I started listening to STS9, and they were like my first big electronic music influence. Then I saw an STS9 show, and the after party was Bassnectar, Glitch Mob, Vibesquad and Spork, which is like a dream show these days.
But that was two years ago and it was my first real bass show. My first glitch hop, bass, dubstep show ever. It just opened my eyes to electronic music, and since then I've just picked up a lot more influences.
ZK: I love some good rap. I grew up on classic rock, too, but the first chance I had, I got my first Wu-Tang CD. Even with Jay, we would just sit and listen to Big L. Two of the last kids you'd think who'd be jamming out, smoking, listening to rap. Dre, OutKast, really diggin B.o.B. lately. The MTHDS are big around here. I look up to them a lot. Live band wise, they are where I'd like to be someday. Seeing them open up for Method Man -- that's what I want to do for them.