Q&A With the Fluid's Rick Kulwicki

Rick Kulwicki was half of the two-guitar attack that drove the Fluid, whose June 20 reunion takes place at the Bluebird Theater (click here and here for more information). He's also an entertaining conversationalist, and his alternately witty and incisive commentary lights up the hefty Q&A that follows.

At the outset, Kulwicki talks about rock influences, drawing a connection between ax masters like Ted Nugent and the slam-bang of the Ramones and the Sex Pistols; reminisces about the Frantix, whose signature song was "My Dad's a Fuckin' Alcoholic"; discusses the genesis of the Fluid's once and future lineup - Kulwicki, James Clower, Garrett Shavlik, Matt Bischoff and John Robinson; looks back at the first Fluid long-player, cut in a cardboard box factory; delves into a deal with Sub Pop, the Pacific Northwest's love affair with the Fluid, and the establishment of a Seattle-Denver connection; knocks the efforts of a future Nirvana producer, Jack Endino, on one platter, and compliments another, Butch Vig, in respect to a different album; offers clear-eyed accounts of the Fluid's time on Hollywood Records and the inevitable break-up, the move to reunite and rehearsals that proved the players chemistry hasn't diminished with age; dreams aloud about Fluid reissues and remixes; presents his take on the term "grunge," which he first heard in a satirical context courtesy of the Dead Kennedy's Jello Biafra; and speaks with pride about his twin sons, who've started a band called the Purple Fluid.

Looks like Dad's got some competition.

Westword (Michael Roberts): Where are you from originally?

Rick Kulwicki: I'm a Denver native, born and raised.

WW: How did you first get into music?

RK: Been into music my whole life, since I was a very little child. We listened to the radio, and I got the music bug really early - when I was maybe two or three years old.

WW: What's the first song that you remember really connected with?

RK: That'd probably be something like the Ronettes or Chubby Checker. Things that were on the radio back then. My dad was a semi-rock and roll guy. He was more of a big band guy, but - let's put it this way: He was a little more flexible than most of the people his age.

WW: So he didn't forbid rock and roll radio...

RK: Not until he found out that the Beatles and the Stones did drugs. Then it was kind of there (laughs).

WW: When did you first begin playing?

RK: I was self-taught. I got my first guitar from a buddy and I just sat down and taught myself. I was about fifteen, and I decided to forego all the guitar lessons and just go for what I was trying to do, and that was what we ended up doing. Not the traditional here's-this-chord, here's-that-chord. I wanted to get right to the meat and potatoes, and hence the first Ramones record came out and it was off to the races.

WW: Did you learn how to play along with that first Ramones album?

RK: Yeah, I think pretty much everyone in our generation who likes that kind of music did. A lot of my friends hated that music, and that kind of alienated me from them. But definitely - I definitely tried to do all that. It was my own interpretation of what they were doing - until I actually saw them and saw what they were doing. Then it really clicked. And at the same time, we were listening to things like Mahogany Rush and Ted Nugent - stuff that was semi-underground until Ted Nugent really hit it big. There was no way we could play that stuff yet, so the Ramones were the perfect elixir for that.

WW: That's something that kind of gets lost in people's memories: The influence of hard rock on a lot of people in bands like yours was just as heavy as punk rock. People like you listened to both, not just one or the other.

RK: Absolutely. Before that, it was Alice Cooper - the early Alice Cooper stuff - and Deep Purple and Mountain. They weren't getting a lot of airplay; KFML would play them a little bit. You had to kind of look for that stuff back then, and it helped to have older friends who let us know about some of this stuff back then.

WW: What was your first band?

RK: The first one was the Frantix. I started that with my friend Dave Stewart. We met way back when we were little kids playing baseball and forged a friendship that's really lasted; it's as good as gold to this day. He had a drum set at his house, and I remembered that, and when I figured out a few things on guitar, we just decided to go to his basement and start playing, and just kept going and going from there.

WW: How did you meet John?

RK: He lived up in Boulder, and he knew Garrett. They all met in high school - so that's how I met him. I met him long after all this. I met him after we had another band called MadHouse with Augy Rocks singing. It wasn't working out how we wanted it to, and it was suggested that we talk to John. That's how I met him - probably around '85. Somewhere right in there.

WW: Obviously, I jumped ahead. Let's get back to the Frantix. Your best known song - and it's a great one - was "My Dad's a Fuckin' Alcoholic." How did that song come together? Were you guys just playing and someone started free associating?

RK: I think pretty much like that. With the Frantix, we wrote a ton of songs. Back then, the first Black Flag record hadn't even come out, but we were playing music like that. We just kind of figured there's no way we'll ever have an audience for this, so we just did it for ourselves - and then when that record came out, it just exploded for us. And in our heads, we were like, "Oh my God, we're not alone here." That's still really abrasive music to people. But that song just came out of my head one day. We thought it was funny. But even though it's kind of a joke song, it's kind of not, because it hit so many people. It was just one of those weird things, and seemingly everybody in the whole world said, "Your dad's a fuckin' alcoholic? Wow, so is mine." (Laughs.) It's kind of sad, but at the same time, there's a little bit of humor in it, hopefully. Not ever trying to hurt anybody's feelings. That wasn't our intent.

WW: Where did the Frantix play back then?

RK: There weren't a whole lot of places to play back then, but there were a lot of really excellent people who helped us along back then. Marilyn [Megenity], who runs the Mercury Café, was very, very cool with us. We even got on her bad side for a while and then got back on her good side. We were young and had a couple of wild people who hung out with us. They did a few things we weren't too proud of at the old Mercury Café. And there were also a few warehouses where we'd play. There was a packing house, out on Packing House Road, and there used to be a Slovenian hall off of I-70 and Washington, and we did shows there. We pretty much did shows wherever we could. It was very much do it yourself.

WW: How would you describe the scene of that period?

RK: I'd say it was fairly small - anywhere from fifty to a hundred people at times would show up. It brought out a wild element, I'll tell you that. Once word got out, a lot of rowdy people showed up at those things, and no matter what, there was at least one or two or three fights a night. It wasn't what we were there for, but it happened. That's kind of what it was. The musicians and the rowdies who came in from wherever and wanted a piece of the action. But it was a good outlet for kids like us at the time, because we were too young to go to a lot of places. They used to have Walabi's and bars like that where you had to be 21, and there was no way we could get in there. So we just had to make our own places.

WW: Did you have the feeling that there was a lot of pent-up need for the kind of outlet you're talking about? Did people just need to cut loose?

RK: It seems so in hindsight. I know it all seems so cliché now, because it's been said a million times, but for us, it was our way to just play music and feel like we could go and do this. We were actually pretty surprised that anyone even liked us. The first place we ever played, Phil Bender from the Pirate art gallery used to do shows at this place by the Jesus Saves building at 22nd and Lawrence, and that's where we played our first show, and we were really nervous, because we weren't sure if we were worthy enough to play. And our first gig was crazy. We were received really well, and people almost tore that place apart - the audience. From there on, we knew we were on our way. It wasn't so much us needing to get our aggression out, but I think a lot of other people did.

WW: So you were the conduit...

RK: One of them. Another thing is, a band we really, really loved was the Rok Tots. They were playing then, the original lineup, and they were absolutely unbelievable. I don't know if you've ever seen them...

WW: I have.

RK: ...but the original lineup was just crazy. We were almost like their little brother band at that stage. Almost like the Stooges and the MC5 is how I'd put it, because we were really raw and rough, and they were a polished kill machine. Jimmy [West] is a longtime friend. He took us under his wing and ran sound for us that night, and I think that really helped our sound, too. We were playing out of little small amps. We were just starting out.

WW: Remind me: Aside from you and Dave, who else was in the Frantix?

RK: We had a bass player named Paul Katopodes, but he only lasted for a little while. And then we got Matt from the band White Trash. They were like a brother band to us. They were just really loose and not very organized, so we approached Matt and said, "Are you interested in playing with us?" Because they just couldn't ever seem to sustain their practices or keep an interest. They were always loose-knit, so Matt jumped on the chance to play with us. And the singer was this guy named Marc Deaton. He was a neighborhood friend. He was a nut - still a nut, I'd say (laughs).

WW: Are you still in touch with him?

RK: Dave is, and I talk to him probably every five or six years. Love him to death, but I don't see him much. I think he lives somewhere up north.

WW: How did the evolution from the Frantix to MadHouse to the Fluid take place?

RK: At the time, I was going to art school when we did the Frantix, and we did a last show - we played with the Dead Kennedys out at the Regis Fieldhouse. That was the last show, because I had to take a hiatus from music. I had to finish up art school and get my portfolio intact and everything else. And during that stoppage, we didn't play for a while, but I kept in contact with Matt and everybody. And then we decided to get Garrett to play some drums for us. He used to be with White Trash, and he's a longtime friend, too. And we just started doing songs, and it went along really well. And then we recruited Augy Rocks to sing for us and did MadHouse for a short stint.

WW: And when John came into the fold, it became the Fluid.

RK: Exactly. When it didn't work out so well with Augy Rocks - it was a hard thing to tell Augy Rocks, but it just wasn't working. So we kept doing it, tried some other things. We got another guy to sing for us, and that didn't work out, and then we got John, and from then on, it was, "Here's what we're going to do," and it worked out really well.

WW: Was the chemistry with John there from the first moment?

RK: Oh yeah. John is one of those guys where, if you can't get along with him, you've got a problem. He's so cool, really easy to get along with and really, really easy to get along with, and a really positive thinker. Instead of "This can't be done," everything with John is, "This can be done, and we'll do it." That clicked automatically. We actually did a few shows with me singing, but that was really hard to do. The need for a singer came, and he was the guy.

WW: How would you describe the band's sound to someone who didn't hear you back then? What was the dynamic like?

RK: There are so many things that go into this. We always kind of looked at it as Rolling Stones meets the Stooges meets the MC5. We used to jokingly call ourselves the Rolling Stooges. It's a meld of a lot of influences. But just a driving rock band, two guitar attack - and I literally mean attack; not soft stuff - with a melody line over it, backing vocals and really solid drumming. It's somewhere right in that vicinity.

WW: Does it surprise you that so many people remember the shows you guys did in the second half of the '80s as vividly as if they just happened yesterday?

RK: Not at all, because - and I humbly say this - we had some really, really great shows. They were really wild. Lots of energy. Just so much energy coming off the stage and coming back from the audience. Our live show was our strength. It wasn't in recording or anything like that. We were very much a live band. We rehearsed three times a week and played at least once a week, it seems like, back then. We were extremely tight and knew what we were doing. I still remember those shows like they were yesterday myself.

WW: In talking to James just a few minutes ago, he expressed some frustration at you guys never really being able to capture that live sound on any of your recordings. Do you feel that's the case?

RK: Absolutely. As hard as we tried to do that stuff, and bless all the people who did the recordings for us, I hate all of our records (laughs). They don't really sound like what we did. They're close; it's the same material. But it's almost like we should have recorded all our material live and put it out that way. That's the kind of band we were and are. Very frustrating. That was one of the hard parts of being in that band, was going to record. We were up against it. We had too many chefs in the kitchen. Everybody had to have a say, and if you do that, the mixes suffer. At the end of each mix, it'd be, "I can't hear this part" and "I can't hear that part." Very frustrating. Not fisticuffs frustrating, but damn near (laughs).

WW: The first recording was Punch n Judy. How did that come together?

RK: A good friend of ours, a guy named Brian Nelson, approached us. He wanted to do a single. We weren't going to say "no." We were all talking about it and decided, "Look, Brian, we've got about twelve songs. Instead of doing a single, why don't we do a full-length LP." He thought about it for about half-a-second and then said, "That's a better idea. Let's do it." So he financed the whole thing. That's how that got rolling. And we knew Bob Ferbrache from back in the Frantix days, and we got Bob to do it. We went to record it in this old box factory - a cardboard box factory off 6th Avenue and Broadway. We recorded in this big, giant echo chamber with these super-loud amps. From what we know now, that was really wild, but we didn't know any better back then.

WW: So did the space kind of conspired against you?

RK: Yeah, and also the fact that we really didn't know what the hell we were doing (laughs). We put a lot of effort into the music, but none of us were studio wizards. Let's put it that way.

WW: Although Bob has developed into one.

RK: Oh, Bob's a genius. He's a witch. He really is.

WW: How did that wind up getting released in Europe.

RK: Garrett was really involved in trying to market the effort. He was a little ahead of the rest of us in how to get that done. He networked with people - also with the help of Duane [Davis] from Wax Trax. So we get a distributorship with Dutch East. That's how that happened. And then we ended up hooking up with Glitterhouse. This is the craziest thing. I was shooting pool down one night at this place called the Broadway, and this guy walks in the bar and says, "I'm looking for somebody from the Fluid." And they said, "He's right over there and points to me." And this guy comes up to me - he's from Germany, his name is Jimmy, and he works with Glitterhouse. His band was called the Broken Jug. He introduces himself, and it was so surreal. I didn't know if he was joking or what. And he said they really wanted to put our records out. Naturally, we weren't going to say "no," so we ended up hooking up with Glitterhouse. And Glitterhouse pressed our stuff.

WW: And then Glitterhouse and Sub Pop did a trade with you guys and Green River...

RK: Yeah, that's how we looked at it. We had no idea what Sub Pop even was, but it turned out to be a pretty good deal for us.

WW: Today, Sub Pop conjures up a very specific image. But back then, to you guys, it was just an opportunity to connect with a little indie label somewhere...

RK: Yeah, that's how we looked at it. A buddy I went to art school with - and we're still in contact - lived up there; he ended up being in the band Blood Circus, which was a Sub Pop band. He was telling me about the label, and said it seemed right up our alley. And it turned out to be exactly what he said it was. We found out really quickly that those guys were on the same page as us. They called it the grunge movement, and everybody was in flannel and all that. Well, that's how we dressed anyway, without it being a fashion statement. Same with all the Sub Pop band. It was kind of like the whole thing we were doing, but it was going on in Seattle, without any of us knowing about it.

WW: Did anyone from Sub Pop come to Denver to see you play, or did you go to Seattle before you signed? Or was it all based on the recording?

RK: I think it was all based on the recording and hearsay. They told the guys at Sub Pop, "You guys are going to really love this band from Denver." Back then, there was a lot of mutual trust - just like it probably is now with some people, and the way it was back in the punk days. Like, "If you really like that, you'll really like this." A word of mouth thing, and it depends on who's telling you as to whether you believe them or not.

WW: When did you guys make your first trip up there and meet all the other bands?

RK: I want to say '87. Something like that. I didn't really calendar all that stuff, but we went up there and just had a monster show. We played with Mother Love Bone and Soundgarden. That's before Soundgarden blew up, obviously. But we just had a killer show. Right from the first chord of our set, that town fell in love with us.

WW: Was it interesting to find out how many bands up there that were on your wavelength?

RK: Oh yeah. It was surprising to me, obviously. But at the same time, it was like, I knew we weren't crazy. I knew we weren't the only ones doing this. And we were a little different. A lot of people up there were starting to go with fuzz boxes and all this stuff, and we'd done that years before, and we were more into songcraft and things like that. But still, it was very close. We'd fit into any bill just fine. We were surprised at how many bands were up there.

WW: Did you end up playing host for a lot of the Sub Pop bands when they came down to Denver?

RK: Oh yeah, all of us did. They'd stay with us and hang out and we'd be supportive. We'd help them and vice versa. We always had places to stay up there and they'd have places to stay here if they were on the road. That's how that whole networking thing happened. You just keep meeting folks, and they were all likeminded people. We're really close to this day with all those people.

WW: Which of the bands do you think you were closest with?

RK: I'd say Mudhoney. And we toured with the band Tad, and they're all really good people.

WW: And I understand that when Nirvana played in Denver for the first time, you guys were supposed to be the headliners, but you let them take the headlining slot.

RK: Absolutely. That's what you do. They were our guests, and that's exactly what we did. It's pretty funny, and it depends on who you ask. Memory serves different purposes, and I think James said, "Yeah, we wanted to blow them off the stage." (Laughs.) Which we probably did. I don't know. I don't say that bragging. I'm not doing that at all. But I think that might have gone into the thought process there. To us, it wasn't a super big deal for touring acts to open for them. We weren't super-tight with Nirvana, but they were friends. We knew them, and they were really good people, too.

WW: The first recording for Sub Pop was Roadmouth, right?

RK: Yes.

WW: Tell me about making that record and working with Jack Endino.

RK: Oh man, Jack's going to kill me for saying this, but I hate that recording (laughs). I think Jack was used to all those bands up there, and they all played out of little amps - and we were running 100 watt Marshall stacks. Again, we didn't really know the recording process too well, and I think we took five years off his life, because we had a lot of ideas about what we wanted to do, and he wasn't equipped to process it all mentally, and that recording suffered because of that. Again, too many chefs. That record is mixed terribly. We'd like to get our hands on those tapes again and do it right. The process was all right, but the outcome, none of us are happy with it.

WW: And how about Glue and working with Butch Vig?

RK: We were the Sub Pop guinea pig band working with Butch Vig. They sent us up there to see what we could do with him, and that was a good one. He had a lot of experience, and he's really, really patient, and he's a total pro. He put up with our nonsense without even batting an eye. Because literally, we'd say, "Can we put this here? Can we put that here?" Most people would just roll their eyes and say, "Do you guys ever stop?" And he would just say, "Yep, let's do it." And after we were done, he'd stay there really late and get there really early and do all of his prep work and editing and everything. That was awesome. We did that in February up in Madison, Wisconsin, and the hottest it got, I think, was probably about two degrees or something like that. So we were kind of forced to stay in the studio and keep our focus.

WW: How long did it take to make that recording?

RK: I'm thinking probably like a week. It seemed like a year because it was so damn cold up there...

WW: And looking back on that one, James seems to feel it comes closest to capturing you. Do you feel that way, too?

RK: Absolutely, because Butch Vig knew how to record loud amps. He could get the mics positioned to record out of 100 watt Marshalls and make it sound like 100 watt Marshalls instead of a mess. He was really good. He had the set-up for that, and he was the best one. That was the one I think we're all most proud of. It came out as close as you can get to the wildness that comes with live shows. That was really good for us.

WW: Was there any frustration for you watching other Sub Pop bands take off and it not quite happening for you?

RK: Oh yeah, there was a little bit of that. I'd be lying if I said there wasn't. But at the same time, we always felt like we were a little bit different. We felt like our ship might come in, but maybe not, you know. And also, I have to say, it was more like way to go, we're really happy for you - because we really were. But like everything, it became too big, and then the backlash and all that. So we didn't want any part of that, either. It would have been nice to make some money, but at the same time, I'm really proud of what we did. We still soldiered on while everybody else was blowing up. It was a little frustrating, but not fatally or anything like that. It was like, "Oh well. More power to them."

WW: Were there label contacts and deals that almost but didn't quite happen before the Hollywood contract?

RK: Yeah, there was talk with Virgin Records, and at that time, there was a lot of turnover in record companies. I think everybody was mad-dashing to find the next Nirvana, and that was a really chaotic time. Everybody wanted the next Nirvana, that was for sure. I think we had something tentatively set with Virgin, but the rest of it I think was just talk, or wishful thinking. A lot of turnover in record companies at that time: A&R were getting fired and hired at the other record companies. And that's kind of what happened with us at Hollywood. As soon as we hooked up with them, everybody we were working with got fired. We never really had any support to speak of from that label.

WW: So once the album was ready to come out, the team that had been behind you guys was gone?

RK: Pretty much. That was frustrating, but at the same time, that's how this band is.

WW: Did you feel snake-bitten in a certain sense?

RK: Probably a little bit, but I was always proud of what we did, and I could always hold my head up high and say, "This is our lot in life." We were never supposed to make a ton of money. There was probably a reason for it.

WW: Tell me what you think of Purplemetalflakemusic.

RK: It was pretty good. The guy we had do it, Mike Bosley, was a really good guy. He said, "Let me do the first mix and then I'll let you guys come in and see what you think." That recording process was very agonizing. That took way too long to do. This whole major label thing about "This is going to take a month to do," and I was like, "Ahhh, that's not how we do it." But they insisted upon doing it, and his first mix, I swear to God, it sounded almost like a Boston record.

WW: A Boston record?

RK: Yeah. Our jaws bounced off the ground. We were like, "Are you kidding me?" I thought he was joking. Maybe we should have gone with that; maybe we could have moved records. But we just said, "No." Then we had to roll our sleeves up, and that was another teeth-gnasher. I think we spent almost three weeks to a month trying to mix that, too. It was awful. We were in Burbank doing that. It was me, Matt and John. Everybody else just left. James and Garrett through their hands up and said, "We're out of there." That was beginning to be the end of that band.

WW: So those were some of the first cracks to appear?

RK: Yep. We were on the road quite a bit, always with each other. We never took any time off. It seemed like all we did was the band, band, band, band. And when you're with everybody constantly, you're going to wear on each other. That was the beginning of it right there, that recording. Because it was really grueling.

WW: Did everything come to a head during the tour afterward?

RK: Yeah. We were doing a ton of dates, all with each other, and we'd wake up every day and see the same guy, go to sleep, see the same guy. That kept going and going and going. We couldn't wait to get off that tour, and right before we got back to Denver, we were invited to do a show with the Smashing Pumpkins back out in Chicago. I pretty much at that point said, "There's no way. I've got to stay home for a while." I think that's the one that snapped it. John was the one who really wanted to do that, and nobody else wanted to get back in a vehicle and drive out to Chicago and do a show. No matter how lucrative it might have been, it was like, "I have to say 'no' on this."

WW: Was there a band meeting where everyone said, "That's it"? Or was it more round robin phone calls or something like that?

RK: It was kind of like that - round-robin phone calls. We had a show booked at the Mercury, the new one down at 22nd and California, and I was up at Dave's house, from the Frantix, and I got a phone call from my girlfriend, and she said, "Garrett's quitting the band." I was literally like, "Oh my God." I went down to do the soundcheck, talked to Garrett, and he said, "I meant to tell you, but I figured I'd do it in person." And that was it. That was our last show that night.

WW: There was never thought of, "Let's get another drummer"? Was everyone else thinking along the same lines and Garrett just took the step first?

RK: Garrett took the first step, and we decided to keep going. We still had another record on our contract with Hollywood. So we asked Dave from the Frantix to play drums with us, and we did a few rehearsals. But John just wasn't feeling it, and he left, and James said, "I'm done." And then there was me, Matt and Dave looking at each other, going like, "What are we doing? Let's pack it up." And that's what we did.

WW: How long did all of that take to happen? Was it just a matter of a few weeks?

RK: I'd say. Right around a month after all that, we were like, "What's the point anymore?" And that's why, frankly, I haven't been in a band since then. As proud as I am of the Fluid, I never wanted to take a lateral move or even a step backwards and do it all over again. I had what I wanted in that band, and that's why I haven't done anything since.

WW: Was it hard not to just jump back into something? Or was it in some ways a relief?

RK: It was a piece of cake for me. I could actually hang out with my friends and realize that there's a whole different life out there instead of just playing music 24/7 and thinking about it and stressing about different things. It was sad, but at the same time, it was like, time to move on to the next phase in life. And I didn't even know what that was.

WW: What did it end up being?

RK: Working on my motorcycles, taking time to smell the roses. Just slow it down, and I ended up having a couple of kids and raised them. Everybody would ask me, "When are you going to start playing again?" And I'd tell them, "As soon as my kids are old enough to tell me to get the hell out of the house and go play again," and that's exactly what happened.

WW: How old are they?

RK: They're twelve and a half.

WW: Twins?

RK: Twin boys.

WW: And they told you, "Time to get out from underfoot"?

RK: Well, they've got their own band. I show them stuff and this and that, and they're like, "You should play," and all that. I thought it would never happen, but lo and behold, here we are.

WW: What's their band called?

RK: The Purple Fluid (laughs).

WW: Have the played out yet?

RK: Not yet. They've got a couple of clips on YouTube, and it's really funny. The very first time they ever practiced - the kids these days, I'll tell you - one of their buddies brought a camera, and they posted the damn thing on YouTube. And the bass player had never even picked a guitar up until that day. And it's all over the Internet. I'm like, "You guys are nuts." But they practice in my basement, and they're really good. They're getting there. It's funny: I didn't teach them all that stuff, but they have really good taste in music. The name is apt.

WW: When did you first hear about the idea of getting back together again?

RK: This was probably last fall. John was in New York City for the CMJ festival, and he ran into Jonathan [Poneman] from Sub Pop, and Jonathan said, "Look, we'd really like you guys to do this," and John was like, "That's great, dude, but it's not going to happen," because everybody's so spread out. Me, James and Matt are here, but Garrett lives in Seattle and John's all over the place. But John always wanted to do it. We looked at it logistically and said, "That's not going to happen," but he just kept plugging away at it and we just figured, "What the hell." I called Garrett and asked him, and Garrett said, "Yeah, definitely. Let's do it." And that's how this all came about. We started playing in January, and been doing it since. Just getting this stuff back together. We've got John Call playing drums for us until we can get Garrett out here, and he's just been excellent. John Robinson is coming out here in a few weeks to do a couple of rehearsals, and then he'll go back down to Austin, and come back and do it again. As much as we can do it. It's hard to do it across country, but that's what we're doing. We always do it the hard way (laughs).

WW: When those January rehearsals started, did things click right away?

RK: Oh yeah, and it's funny. It's really easy to play air guitar to something, but even stuff that you wrote... We'll say, "Let's do this," and when you get to the part, you stop and say, "What the hell?"

WW: So there were some things you couldn't figure out?

RK: No, we did. We'd say, "Let's go consult the evidence" and put the record on and go, "Oh, that's what we did there." And we'd look at each other and laugh and go, "What the hell were we thinking?" But it all works. It took us a while to figure out our thought process again, but we've been able to do it. And that's another thing. We'll listen to our recordings and apply it live, and then we'd go, "You know what? It'd be better off if we took a live recording and try to work off that." And that's what we've been doing lately.

WW: You've used some old live recordings as templates?

RK: That's the best reference point for us. We did a recording up in Portland. We did a split single with Nirvana for Sub Pop, and they recorded a show for that express purpose, and that resurfaced. Garrett found it and sent it out, and when we listened to it, we were like, "Oh, that's what we should have been listening to." That's what we've been referencing, and we're pretty much there. We're about 98 percent ready on this end.

WW: What do you see in the future? Are you looking at this as a potential spark to do more?

RK: It's a distinct possibility. I'm one of those guys saying, "Never say never." This might be a one and done and I'm fine with that, too. It's fun to do again - present it the right way and say, "Here's the period at the end of the sentence that we never really got to put there." But if something came up and it worked for all of us to do another show, we'd definitely think about it. That's for sure.

WW: How about a compilation of the past recordings? Have you talked with Sub Pop about that at all?

RK: That's something we'd like to talk to them about. We've all talked about it. A lot of times, it's easier to talk about that stuff than getting it done, with time restraints and everything. But when we go up there, we'd really like to figure it out. That's been in the backs of our minds for quite a while - just so we can get our recordings done the way we think they should have been done. Eliminate the terrible mixes we had before. Some of those mixes, you can't even hear the damn guitar, and it's like, "This is a guitar band."

WW: When you get on the Bluebird stage, are you expecting to see some familiar faces with about fifteen more years on them? And do you expect to see some of the new generation of Denver musicians checking out what you guys were all about, too?

RK: Probably a little bit of both. I'm still in contact with a lot of people who used to come to our shows, so I know what fifteen years does to people. So I won't be shocked (laughs). But we expect a mixture of both. And our audiences weren't just confined to a certain group. We'd have older people come to see our shows who probably did see the MC5 and stuff. You'll probably see people there in their sixties, too.

WW: For you, what is the Fluid's legacy? Do you see it in your twins?

RK: Oh yeah. They're stealing some of our licks, which I think is fine, because we stole everybody's licks (laughs). Their friends' band started, and their friends' band is stealing their licks - and I told my son, "Hey, you stole that riff from me, and I stole it from the Alice Cooper band, so it's not anybody's riff. Anybody can do what they want." But they're on their way. And as for a legacy, I'd just like to be known for us giving it our all, and I think we represented Denver fairly well. We didn't run around flying the Denver, Colorado flag; I wouldn't say that. But we always made sure people knew we weren't a Seattle band. We were often lumped into that really carelessly - like, the next grunge movement thing. And we'd be like, "We're not part of the grunge movement. We are what we are." Here's a funny story. The first time I ever heard the word "grunge," the Fluid played with the Dead Kennedys up at the Blue Note in Boulder, and we know Jello [Biafra] fairly well, and he came up to us after the set and said - and here's my Jello voice - "Glaaad to seeee the legacy of Denver grunge continues!" And I was like, "Okay, man. Whatever." And that was the first time I'd ever heard that word applied to music, and that was like in 1986.

WW: So, as usually, you were ahead of your time.

RK: Yeah. Timing is everything, and we ain't got it.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts