Playing in beloved bygone bands like Only Thunder and the Blackout Pact, Justin Hackl has been a pillar in the Denver music scene for over two decades. Nowadays he is the owner and operator of Hackl Guitars, in addition to playing with the beautifully brutal Native Daughters and raising a daughter of his own, who has influenced his taste as much as he has hers.
Justin Hackl: I don't know that I'm embarrassed by much, to be honest with you. I guess when you're in your twenties, you do that stuff more. At least I did.
Westword: Is there something that you used to be embarrassed about that you now shamelessly love?
Well, I have a five-year-old daughter. A while back I was in the process of getting a new car. I was borrowing my mom's car, and I never listen to the radio, but there wasn't anything else. So I'm with my daughter and Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off" came on. I had never heard it. I knew who she was, but didn't care. And my daughter knew all the lyrics because of her mom. I was like, "You like this?" And she was like, "Yeah! 'Shake it off! Shake it off!'" So I found it on vinyl for her since she has her own little record player.
That's so cool! I didn't know Taylor Swift had vinyl.
Most of them do now. It's a big deal again.
Are you becoming a Taylor Swift fan via your daughter?
I learned every single lyric on that entire record. At first I was just doing it to sing along with her and just to be a good dad, but eventually I was like, "You know? I actually kinda like this record." I didn't realize I liked the record until Ryan Adams did his cover version of  and I was like, "This fucking sucks! This is terrible! You don't touch Taylor's songs!" Then I was like, "Why are you getting defensive about a pop record?" If it wasn't for my kid, that never would have happened.
Is it hard being a rock dad when your kid sways you into pop music?
It's weird. I would have never thought that would happen, but then again I never thought I'd be a dad, either. When I was a kid I liked Michael Jackson and Tears for Fears, so you find waves of things to get into. I've gone through punk phases, hip-hop phases, metal phases. I guess that's why I say I don't really have guilty pleasures anymore. Especially because I work [from home], I'm by myself most of the time, and I don't have to make anyone happy, so I'll listen to whatever I want.
I would imagine having your own instrument repair shop exposes you to a lot of different types of musicians. Do you feel clients have opened up your taste, like your daughter?
Yeah, to an extent. I definitely get recommendations for a lot of things, but I'm the first to admit I'm a total fucking music snob. If you tell me I'm gonna like a band...it's pretty rare that's true. Every once in a while it will happen, and I'm thankful for it, but for the most part I'm like, "Meh."
Except for you daughter. You won't be a snob when she is recommending something.
No! I want her to be excited about music like I'm excited about music. If it's catchy pop stuff that makes her get into music, then awesome. Right now it's Katy Perry. She switched from Taylor Swift to Katy Perry, and I have to censor some of that stuff. It can be a little much.
Is there a trade-off between you two now that you like Taylor Swift?
She likes Minus the Bear. I found an old burned CD in the car, and that's all I had, so she would hear it all the time. Usually when she wants to listen to something and I'm not up for it, I'll say, "How ’bout Minus the Bear?" "Okay." So she actually likes them. Deftones, she likes.
Awesome! Have you played her any Native Daughters?
When she was first born, I joined the band. When we recorded our first record about a year later, she wouldn't go to bed without it. If we couldn't get her to fall asleep, I'd put on the record and she'd fall asleep. We had a DVD made of us at the Bluebird Theater that same year, so then I had to watch my fucking band play every night for six months. "Dada's band! Dada's band!"
Most kid's want the Wiggles at that age.
She just wanted to watch Daddy play music.
So you're creating a future music snob?
Maybe. Who knows? I'm the first to say you shouldn't force a kid to do anything. Expose them to stuff and let them make up their own mind, and she does. She is very opinionated and smart for her age. I mean, every parent will say that about their kid.
You'd hope so.
She's my life. That's my world — my kid. So I'm happy to go over to the pop side of things. Sia is another one that I've learned to respect. Also, all three of these artists I've named write their own stuff. Sia wrote Britney Spears songs, and I would never know that if it wasn't for my kid. I think that's why it's a little easier for me to get into it with her. And I know there are producers involved, of course. I mean, there are producers with my band.
Who produced the new Native Daughters album?
Dave Otero. He recorded it, too. He's produced a lot of metal stuff with some big names: Cattle Decapitation, Khemis, Cephalic Carnage. He's really becoming a household name when it comes to metal.
Native Daughters has become a household name locally. Are you hoping this new record will lead to a bigger following nationally?
No. We take writing seriously. We take our shows fairly seriously. But every single one of us except Eddie [Maestas] has a kid. The possibility of us touring, which is what you have to do to get a major label to pick you up, is pretty slim. If the right tour came at us, then we would try to make it work.
So if Taylor Swift wanted Native Daughters to open for her?
Sure! Absolutely. That's my point: The chances of something like that happening are slim. Plus, we are all closer to forty now, and none of us care anymore. I stopped caring ten years ago, to be honest. Stopping caring has led to more people paying attention to what I've done. I wish I would have known that when I was younger. The less you care and the more you focus on just writing songs with your friends, things are actually gonna happen. I told all the guys in Native Daughters that we don't have to just go-go-go, tour-tour-tour. If people see that we're just having fun, they're going to enjoy it, too.
Native Daughters play the Larimer Lounge with Muscle Beach on Thursday, October 20, at 8 p.m. Hackl Guitars' hours are typically noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, by appointment at Hacklguitars.com.
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