Music News

Singer Brian Hagman on the story behind Il Cattivo's "Damages"

Il Cattivo is a band that's made up of various veterans of the punk and hard-rock scene in Denver. When Matthew Bellinger got back to Denver after a stint in Phoenix spent reassessing his life, he hit up one of his favorite lyricists and frontmen, Brian Hagman of Black Lamb, to start making music again. Bellinger also discovered that his former bandmate in Ghost Buffalo, the versatile and powerful drummer Jed Kopp, was available to play.

The three then got together with bassist Matty Clark and guitarist Holland Rock-Garden, and the result was an outfit that managed to be punk, metal and psychedelic without any of those restrictive genre trappings.

At the end of 2011, Clark and Rock-Garden left the band, and former Burn Sand Burn bassist Matthew Cavanaugh stepped in, alongside gifted Black Acid Devil guitarist Arj Narayan. The band's second, and latest, album, the exhilarating and harrowing How to Assess Your Damages, came out in a digital version earlier this year but will be available on vinyl for this show. We recently spoke with the guys about the new record.

Westword: The title of your new album and the song "Damages" have an interesting story. Would you mind sharing that with us?

Brian Hagman: The working title of the song was "How to Assess Your Damages." In 1996, I was outside of Kurt Ottaway's warehouse on Eighth and Santa Fe, and this guy was upset. He felt disrespected in some way. Not to put too fine a point on it, but he was the kind of guy who couldn't have his ego bruised in any way, so he got his car and drove up on the sidewalk and ran me over outside of the party. Then he came around the block again to try to finish the job. [The song is] kind of a vague representation of that kind of guy.

It's a metaphor, as well. Don't get bruised physically or otherwise in life. That was the first song we wrote when Matty Clark and Holland Rock-Garden left the band. How to assess your damages? Put it right back together again. Stitch yourself up and keep on strolling. The guy in question had got into a fight, and I helped him up and said, "You're basically kicking your own ass by doing this." Somehow it embarrassed him, and he waited all night for the party to get out. He was focused not on the people he was in an altercation with earlier, but on my words.

He drove over me a couple of times with a Volkswagen hippie van. It was a lotta grill! I thought, "This can't be happening. Is he really driving down the sidewalk?" He was originally from Oregon, and he had come out here, and he was trying to make friends too fast, and I guess it hurt his ego. Now he's a forest ranger up there. No hard feelings at all.

KEEP WESTWORD FREE... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
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.

Latest Stories