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Gangcharger creates beauty from harsh noise

Starting out as the musical equivalent of an interlude from the Boulder-based noise-rock band Mansfield Ghost, Gangcharger is helmed by its lyricist and primary songwriter, Ethan Ward. Upon first hearing the band, comparisons to Sonic Youth, Mission of Burma and Set and Setting-era Bardo Pond might seem obvious. Even as far back as Mansfield Ghost, Ward had intended the music he made to be experimental rock grounded in the aesthetics of harsh noise — something akin to power electronics, but with guitar, alongside whatever was necessary to make the appropriately eruptive, textured sounds.

Gangcharger brought Ward's original vision closer to realization, and anyone who has seen the act can attest to its abrasive yet oddly melodic songs. That sound has been accurately captured on the debut EP Metal Sun. Beyond having clear structures, the songs on that disc sound like they were actually welded together as the title suggests. We recently spoke with Ward about the new EP and his absolute and equal love for '90s hip-hop and underground music from Denver.

Westword: Why are you calling your album Metal Sun?

Ethan Ward: It's from the song "Apparition." It's kind of a reference to harsh cubicle lighting and the effect it has on people. In the song, it says "Metal sun is currency." Like virtually all of my songs, the lyrics are from a dream I had. It fit really well with the imagery, as well, and it ties back into the concept of Gangcharger, the name, as a commentary on the hidden waste and corruption that permeates certain sectors of our society.

You're known for being outspokenly picky about music. Is there anything you've been really into of late?

I'm bad about listening to new music in general, but I pretty much just listen to '90s hip-hop at my house: old Wu-Tang stuff, all their solo projects, Mobb Deep, Ghostface, Capone and Noriega, New York City, '90s rap stuff. The point being is that I just listen to that on Pandora or to Denver bands.

The most important music, what made me want to play music, is all those Denver bands that were around between 2002 and 2004: Bright Channel, Tarmints, Hot IQs, Nightingale, Matson Jones, Monofog. I saw Bright Channel play at Bender's with Matson Jones in front of like fifteen people, and everyone left after Matson Jones played.

I started going to shows, and I didn't care if people were there, because I was so far removed from whether or not a band was "doing well." Instead it was just like, "Whoa, there are bands this good around here." It just blew my mind, and I thought, "I'm going to get a fucking guitar. I always wanted to do this, and I'm going to play in a band!" If I hadn't been influenced by them, I would probably be playing rap now. I'm just really into Denver music so fucking much. I listen to Rabbit Is a Sphere more than I try to find out what hot music is on Pitchfork right now.

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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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