Warlock Pinchers: An extensive oral history straight from the jokers' mouth

Few bands in the annals of underground music in Denver have garnered as much notoriety as Warlock Pinchers. Beginning in 1987, the Pinchers made a name for themselves early on as a charmingly obnoxious outfit of musical pranksters whose legacy of creative mischief is as memorable as its shows and its music.

In the name of having fun and entertaining themselves, the Pinchers pulled off some of the most ridiculous, silliest, even dumbest stunts of all time. Anyone who came in contact with the band never forgot it, and underneath the mayhem was intelligent, imaginative people who found ways to push their project into the limelight. What follows are the reminiscences of band members about the history of Warlock Pinchers and its legacy.


Dan Wanush: Me and Mark Brooks started the band in high school - we went to Heritage. There were five other people in the band, too, at the time -- all vocalists. One guitar, a drum machine and six or seven vocalists. The only times we'd really play, Mark had this little portable speaker, and we'd go to that boat park down there on Broadway and play for friends from school. We were originally called "Warlock Pinchers Or-kee-stra."

Mark Brooks: I started the band with Dan. I met Dan probably in 1981, in junior high, our first semester. We might have had home room, but we had some class together, and we became friends before he moved to New Orleans and I didn't see him again for three years or more. We didn't hang out a lot, but we had a class together and the same fucked-up sense of humor.

Then he moved back ,and we became friends all throughout high school. We both went to Heritage, and that's when I met his brother, who would kind of roadie for us sometimes. His name is Mike, but we called him The Happy Buddha, and he would do spoken word for us at shows.

I played guitar and programmed the drums. Originally it was just me and Dan, so I would program drums and put them on a ghetto blaster, and I would play guitar, and he would rap. We would literally play in front of Wax Trax at three in the afternoon and make fun of people as they walked by. We pissed people off.

We kept doing that at different places because nobody would let us have a show. Back then, we were kind of weird and we didn't quite fit in. We weren't really punk music, and back then, '86 or '87, not many people got rap records. It was a little bit before that took over. Big Black was a huge influence and so were Swans, Run DMC and Schoolly D. I can hear Big Black in Warlock Pinchers in the drums and guitar.

Anyone who would hang out with us, we'd give them lyrics, and it would change every week, but it was always Dan and I and whatever Dan told them what to say. We could just never find anyone that could really rap. Dan could really rap. Now it would be easy to find, but back then, it was nearly impossible.

Dan is a peculiar dude, and he'll probably kill me for saying this: I think that guy was hipper than anyone knew he was. He was into dancehall and rap in the early '80s. That dude knew shit before anybody. My first memories of hearing Whodini or any dancehall stuff like The Pinchers was through him. I was more of a punk rock kid, and he turned me on to that stuff.

DW: We made thirty copies of our first cassette; then we moved up to Boulder to go to school. Me and Mark moved there, and we lost the rest of the members of the band, because, I think, they were all younger than us. We did the same thing on Pearl Street Mall. Brian Murphy started playing with us then, too. He was already going to school up there. He was in a band with Mark called Minus Bill.

Andrew Novick: It was a two-piece, keyboards and guitar, I think. Mark would sit on the floor with this big kind of organ/keyboard.

DW: Brian joined, and eventually all of his strings started breaking, so he'd play one-string bass. Andrew joined soon after that. We all lived in the same dorm.


MB: My vague memory is that The Cobbler came up with it. He was this guy named Jeremy, but we called him "The Cobbler" because we all had wrestling names then. Dan was really into wrestling, the Iron Sheik and all that shit. The Cobbler was a pal of ours, and we were in Wax Trax as kids walking around, and I have a memory of looking at an Axe Witch record and going, "That's the dumbest fucking name." And he said, "No, Warlock Pinchers would be dumber." Then we kept thinking about that name, and Dan liked The Pinchers, because he was a dancehall guy, and it kind of came from there. I don't know where the "Or-kee-stra" came from, but I do remember The Cobbler was ground zero for the name.

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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.

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