James Wellensiek may be one of the scene's elder statesmen, but you'd never know it. Granted, today he hardly resembles the lean, sneering punk heartthrob on the inside of Pinhead Circus's Fall in Love All Over Again (he has, ahem, more facial hair now), but the guy's got the vigor and tenacity of kids half his age.
For more than a decade, Wellensiek (or Scooter, as he's best known) fronted Pinhead Circus, the revered Golden-based outfit that anchored the Mile High City's nascent punk scene and led it through the '90s. After embarking on countless tours across the country and producing a seemingly endless stream of music (including three full-lengths on the lauded BYO Records imprint), the band finally came to rest during the summer of 2002.
After tearing down the Circus, Wellensiek and his mates formed Love Me Destroyer with Chip Dziedzic from Arizona's Jedi 5. Taking its name from the title of an album by Electric Summer (a spastic local quartet formed by Japanese exchange students from Teikyo Loretto Heights University), the new act had a slightly more menacing sound and despondent outlook that made the work of Pinhead seem like kid stuff. But not long after Destroyer issued its debut, Black Heart Affair, Dziedzic bowed out. A series of personnel changes ensued, leaving Wellensiek the only original member. The lineup solidified with the addition of bassist Taylor Harris (who wins an award for having the most menacingly intense presence on stage and most genteel persona off), guitarist Ryan Welter and drummer Cody Hull.
Love Me Destroyer
CD-release party, with Fear Before the March of Flames, Signal to Noise and Kemper, 7:30 p.m. Saturday, February 17, Marquis Theater, 2009 Larimer Street, $8-$10, 1-866-468-7621.
As the group prepared to release The Things Around Us Burn -- hands-down its finest, most accessible work to date -- we caught up with Wellensiek to talk about the disc and give him shit about "You'll Never Take Me Alive," which sounds like it was ripped right outta the Revlon era.
Westword: Without question, The Things Around Us Burn is your most mature-sounding recording yet. After hearing the disc, it's hard to believe that you're the same snot-nosed punk who used to front Pinhead Circus. Have you finally grown up? I mean, I couldn't help but notice that you're listed as "James" rather than "Scooter" in the liner notes.
James "Scooter" Wellensiek: Hell, no. I really don't know how that came about. I think that was my screwup, like a clerical error on my part. It was probably just out of habit, dealing with probation and all that. I actually tried to get it changed, but they had already sent the artwork out. I don't want to confuse anybody or anything, but now it's Scooter James, so it's even worse. Party Boy is in full effect.
Uh-huh, I bet. Dude, I've seen you guys party -- y'all are some crazy fuckers. Is your tomfoolery more measured now that you're older?
Yeah, that seems to be the whole issue, you know? It's definitely a little more calculated. When we go out, it's definitely business first. But there's still, like, even on this past tour...I try to explain it to people, but they just don't get it...we drink like most people drink on New Year's -- every night. If we start getting sick or something, we may back off a little bit, because we're definitely out there to perform. But let's face it: We leave a trail of destruction everywhere we go.
Right, Party Boy. In terms of your music, though, it seems like you're taking a much more serious approach these days. Is that the case?
Yeah, definitely. I think it just kind of comes with time, especially with all the bands out there competing. You really want to do the best you can do. With Pinhead Circus, we started from zero. We didn't know shit about shit. We just, like, threw together our own songs and kind of learned as we went along. Now we're definitely more focused on being better artists as opposed to "Hey, we're in a band with our friends having fun."
Although the new material is as brooding lyrically, Burn sounds considerably brighter and more melodic than Black Heart Affair. Why is that?
A lot of it had to do with Ryan coming into the band. He didn't have a lot of freedom in his last band, as far as writing; the other guitar player kind of held the reins. So when he joined up with us, it was like he let loose all this stuff that had been locked up inside him forever. It was like turning on the faucet and letting it all flow out. On the last one, I was doing a majority of the writing, and Chip was throwing in his two cents and molding things here and there. So it definitely had a different undertone, because, you know, I'm just a depressed, gloomy fucker. When we were writing this one, though, Ryan was coming in with the bulk of the music, but I still came in with the bulk of the lyrics.
Brandon Proff, who used to play drums in Fear Before the March of Flames, is listed as the album's producer. How did you end up working with him, and what did he bring to the sessions?
He brought a lot, man, actually. I really don't think the record would have turned out a fraction as good as it did if it wasn't for him. Taylor's really good friends with all the Fear Before guys. I guess he noticed that Brandon kind of had that kind of role with Fear Before, with molding things, and he had a really good knowledge of aesthetics, as far as being in the studio, equipment, sounds and that kind of stuff. So Taylor talked to him about working with us, and he was already working with Suburban Home, doing graphic design.
On top of that, it was really good to have an outside opinion. Like if there's a part that's not working, there's always someone in the band who's going to try to push it. So it's always nice to have someone else take the edge off of things. And he's the kind of guy who's going to be straight with you. If something's not working, he'll tell you it's not working. If something sounds like shit, he's gonna say it sounds like shit. And then, when he was still living with a couple of the dudes from Fear Before -- while they were taking a break or whatever -- they let him use all their gear for the sessions. They really helped us out a lot.
So one last thing: Warrant called and said it wants its power ballad back.
Heh, heh. I can't wait to start playing that. I don't know when we're planning on busting that thing out, but when we do, God save us all.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.