Music News

Making Trouble

"I guess you could call us a garage-punk band," says Mike Maker, vocalist and spokesman for Spokane, Washington's Makers. "I could see why some people would think that, because of the way we look and the way we sound. But I hate to call ourselves that, because I hate most garage-punk bands. They're all just so cute. They don't have any balls. We try to put some attitude into our music."

They do--in spades. In fact, Maker and his mates (guitarist Jamie Maker, bassist Don Maker and drummer Jay Maker) pack more wild-eyed chutzpah into a single number than most bands can muster in an entire career. Dressed in swanky secondhand suits, wraparound shades and scuffed-up Beatle boots, these febrile lads play an unruly strain of switchblade soul that would sound right at home at a back-alley rumble. Imagine the Stones without money or the Stooges without heroin, and you'll get a pretty accurate picture of these snot-nosed rogues.

According to Mike, he and his bandmates were once pleasant youths who brushed their teeth and said their prayers, just as their mothers wished. But things began to go south during their adolescent years, when they discovered the primitive garage-rock sounds of groups like the Sonics and the Kingsmen and decided to form a combo of their own to try to capture them. "We were all just stupid kids who were just totally into music," Mike remembers. "We used to pick up all sorts of old albums at the thrift stores, and then we'd learn how to play them on these instruments that we picked up at junk stores. We played really simple stuff, like 'Hang Up,' by the Wailers. You know, stuff you could do in your sleep. Of course, it sounded like the worst fucking shit you've ever heard. But we eventually got better."

Local audiences didn't agree--not at first, anyway. Spokane scenesters, apparently put off by the Makers' stylish wardrobe, raw musical sensibilities and arrogant in-concert presence, booed the blokes off the stage every chance they got, and the musicians responded in kind. Rarely a night went by when they didn't smash a piece of equipment, blacken a belligerent spectator's eye, or worse. Before long the four were blacklisted from virtually every venue in or around Spokane, forcing them to take their act to nearby Seattle. Unfortunately, they didn't fare much better in their new environs: After a particularly bawdy 1993 performance at Seattle's trendy Crocodile Cafe, the club's sound man pulled the plug on the players, and they have not been invited back since.

Today Mike chalks up such overzealous behavior to youth. "We got off to a pretty rough start," he admits. "We were only sixteen or seventeen when we started out, and we managed to rub everybody the wrong way. I mean, we never really started too much shit. But we weren't very good at walking away from anything either. So we made a lot of enemies. But that stuff doesn't happen too often anymore. We try to focus on our music now. We just try to put on a good show and make good albums."

If Hunger, the Makers' new album on the Estrus label, is any indication, this philosophy is paying off. The act's fifth disc is also arguably its strongest to date, in part because it finds the outfit ditching the dirty, monophonic crackle of its early long-players for a leaner, meaner sound that Mike believes "better encompasses our entire attitude as a band. I think our playing has gotten a lot better. Also, I think our songs have gotten a lot tougher. They have more of an edge."

A major contributor on this score is Tim Kerr, the guitarist for Lord High Fixers who recorded Hunger and several of the Makers' other efforts. A former member of the Big Boys, Poison 13 and Jack O' Fire, as well as the founder of the Young Lions Conspiracy (a left-wing activist group dedicated to promoting revolution through music), Kerr has been a staple on the garage-rock scene for more than fifteen years. He's also become an intimate of the various Makers, although not without some extra effort on his part. "We got off to a pretty rocky start with Tim," Mike concedes, laughing. "It's just a good thing that he's more civilized than we are, because the first time I ran into him was back in our glory days. He was passing out these fliers that he had written, and not knowing who he was or what he was about, I thought, 'Man, that guy's got a bull's-eye on his forehead.' So I went over and started being a super fucking dick to him. I'm surprised he didn't hit me or something. But, of course, being the nicest guy on earth, he just kind of put his arm around me and started telling me about all this Young Lions shit he was distributing and making me feel like a total asshole. Ever since then, we've been about as close with him as people can be. Which is amazing--especially since he's such an old guy."

Kerr isn't the only one who's warmed up to the Makers. Over the years the quartet has managed to develop a small but staunch following in the U.S., Europe and Japan, where the Makers toured last year. "It was funny," Mike notes about their visit to the land of the rising sun. "They really like us over there. But it took a while for them to get used to us. After the first couple of shows, we would have people come up to us and say"--he affects his best Japanese accent--"'You boys are much too aggressive. You should calm down.' I think they were kind of frightened because we were so crazy. But after the first couple of shows, the word got out, and I swear, everybody went nuts. It totally turned around. By the time we got to Osaka, the crowds were going insane. They were crawling up the walls, hanging off the ceilings. It was great. Those were some of the best shows we've ever played."

Not that a good performance is a rarity for the Makers. "I can't remember one show when everybody in the band didn't totally get into it and have a really good time," he says. "We like to jump out in the audience and get everybody going. So if you're out there and you're on the floor, you're going to have a lot of fun--guaranteed."

The Makers, with Boss 302 and the Hectics. 8 p.m. Sunday, May 18, Bluebird Theater, 3317 East Colfax, $7-$8, 322-2308 or 830-

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Brad Jones