Not so long ago I introduced a couple of reviews for DOPERUNNER to you guys and touched base a little on some of the history the band have shared individually, but there is so much more depth to what is involved with these guys that I couldn't wait for an opportunity to expound on that. I was given the recent opportunity to chat briefly with these grind giants, thus allowing the real picture to unfold here.
For those of you who are aware of the mega behemoth involved here, DOPERUNNER are an assault quartet that need no introduction among veteran circles. For those of you unfamiliar, you've made it just in time to be satiated with the power behind what these guys do!
I strongly suggest not taking my word for it though, and looking them up, checking out their music, and definitely finding them on tour, but here we are able to offer a little insight into the lives and minds behind one of the catchiest, riff-centric avenues ever to happen to power violence.
Gracing US with their presence today are Alton Aberrant, Bryan Wendzel, Keith Sanchez, and Jeff Malpezzi.
ThrashHead: I really appreciate you guys taking the time to hang out and answer some questions. I know I'm interested and curious as to what's happening with DOPERUNNER, as I'm sure there are others as well. So, first off, all you guys come from a pretty well versed playing field as far as musical veteranship, particularly in hardcore, grindcore, and punk, except I understand Jeff comes from a different arena. To me, this is tremendously profound because you bring something deeper into drumming here than some other drummers in this genre have. What is your history, musically? Who have you played with?
JM: Thanks, so much for the kind words. I'm just doing what I can. My musical upbringing was kind of all over the place. I started playing when I was 10 years old and started playing out in high school, mostly with hard rock and metal bands. My parents were into classic rock, folk and things like that and I lucked out by being shown bands like Dead Kennedys, Crass, Sick of it All, Bad Religion and all types of alternative rock, weird art rock, goth and stuff like that by my older brother. From there I started getting into a lot of European metal with my friends, and branched out on my other interests that were already there. Around 18 I pretty much locked myself in my parent's basement and did nothing but work part time and play drums. I had ambitions of session work and I tried to become as versatile as possible, learning about stuff like jazz, fusion, latin, dub, reggae, stuff like that. Session work didn't pan out and music took a backseat to college and the working world. Now, I'm back fully in love with playing while harboring a whole lot of resentment towards the education system and the 40 hour work week. I've pretty well fallen into the role of the weird guy that wears Aquabats T-shirts and raves about noise rock, pop punk and Ol' Dirty Bastard at grind shows. I'm like a hipster without the irony, or the tight pants. And I don't suck.
In the last few years have been when I was the most busy musically. I've been a long time member of the rock band Sublingual, recorded an album with the art rock group Vinny's Brown Bunny, done session work with the comedy group Snack Cakes and Beer, done some sit in shows with my brother's ska band The A-Oks and was a member of Aberrant with whom we got to do some cool stuff, like tour Mexico and play underground DIY shows as wells as big festivals like Obscene Extreme.
ThrashHead: How did you end up hooking up with this band of skalawags?
JM: A few years back, Aberrant was looking for a drummer and Alton happened to be long time friends with my singer in Sublingual. I expressed interest, not really knowing what grindcore was, and luckily got the part. I completely fell in love with it. After Aberrant disbanded, I pretty much became a ball of stress without my aggressive outlet. Alton and I started exchanging texts about missing playing and wanting to start something, so Alton got a hold of Keith, we all got together and in the first hour or two we had written "Seek Refuge" and "Bioengineering Disease".
BW: I've known Keith forever. Well, at least since the Jeno/Indy House days. Met Alton in the late '90s when he was doing Foreskin Stink (haha). Just one of those deals where you know guys forever. Jeff I just met, but our love is flowering beautifully.
ThrashHead: I think you guys have found something fresh and new with your sound together. How do you feel working together has been as a whole?
KS: For me it's been great! The level of experience and dedication is refreshing and makes getting shit done easy and fun instead of a struggle and feeling like you're dragging motherfuckers where they don't really want to go.
BW: Playing with these guys is fucking great. For one, I'm pretty much exposed to a whole different scene than I came up in. Second, I believe the fact that we have all been at it for so long in our individual projects through the years lends itself to a tremendous sense of not fucking around. We came out of the gate WFO and haven't backed off as far as I can tell. Motivation exists within this project that I've not witnessed in the past. In my past experience one guy usually ends up taking the reins while everyone else just kinda shows up. I've been that one guy and it sucks. That is not the case with our lovechild! It's a thing of beauty, I tell ya!
JM: Yeah, fantastic. The writing happens so naturally and almost every time we pop out a new song, it becomes everyone's favorite song. I think we're all pretty surprised with how diverse the music ends up being. After we wrote "The Beginning", I remembered thinking, "Holy Shit, we just put a DK riff in a grind song". It keeps me really motivated to bring as much creativity as I can, especially being the first time I've been in a band where the crowd likes the songs just as much as we do. So Rad.
ThrashHead: Bryan, you've been playing around Denver for a long time. What is your history in that scene?
BW: I started my first band All But One in Boulder, 1989. Pretty short lived, I think 4 shows. We got to open up for Neurosis in Ft. Collins and played live on the air on KGNU's punk show "Smash It Up".
In 1990 or '91 I was drafted into the Acid Pigs. This was huge, as those guys were legendary and I was a total fucking greenhorn. They played regularly with the likes of Poison Idea, The Accused, Verbal Abuse, etc. My mind was blown; killer gigs, studio, tour. My fate was sealed. We played our last gig in '94.
At that time I formed Hell's 1/2 Acre. Wholly different from the pigs. Straight up Jim Beam and crank fueled tardcore. Lots of singers, studio, tours. Tons of epic shows. So much damn fun! New years eve '98 we played our last gig.
Pretty much the next day I had Mudstack put together. A very heavy duty band that didnt stick around long, but we knocked out several EPs and like 5 tours in a little over a year. We broke up at SouthwestFest 2000.
I took Derek from Mudstack and Mark from Hells 1/2 Acre and started Crimson Haybailer immediately. Fuckin' awesome band! Ruthless power trio. We recorded several times but never managed to get out on the road. One EP, songs on several comps. I quit in 2004.
In 2005 (i think) I joined up with Lyin' Bitch & The Restraining Orders. Super rowdy drunk ass skate rock. Lots of blood and mayhem. Tons of fun. Lots of tours and 2 albums. That died out in 2010 or '11.
About that time I was in Holley 750 for a year or so. East & west coast tours, one album.
L.B.R.O. reformed late 2012 for a year(ish) but we were going nowhere fast, so I bowed out.
Summer 2013 I ran into Alton at a show and we talked the talk. About a month later we walked the walk and the monstrosity known as DOPERUNNER was born.
I could list a hundred killer bands I've played with. Suffice to say from The Accused and Agnostic Front to Zeke and Zen Guerilla and everyone in between. With DOPERUNNER I'm playing with tons of killer bands outside of that punk/hardcore world I've been a part of for so long, hopefully to fill up another aplhabet soon. New territory is the shit!
ThrashHead: And Keith, you have some history with Catheter. What else might we not know, or should know about your story?
I'm from Pueblo, CO and have been playing in bands (mostly metal, or metal oriented) since' 89. I did my first 7"/tour with a band called Opposite The Green in' 92. That tour didn't go very well, but I learned a lot and was infected with the bug, and music has dominated my mental processes since. At the end of the OTG tour I moved into the Indy House (underground punk house that hosted some of the most ass kicking bands of the day), and eventually got lucky enough to hook up with Joe and Tom Vigil (not related) and formed the band Jeño in late' 95. We put out a demo, a 7", and a full length and did west coast tour.
By '99 I decided I had to get out of Pueblo, so I talked with Joe and Tom. Joe was down to move to Denver. Tim couldn't, but said he understood. So Joe, my wife, and myself moved to Denver. I started playing bass in Catheter and Jefe started playing bass in Jeño.
After Catheter, Jefe, Alton, myself and some other cats had an old school metal band called Smaug. I also currently play with Tim and some other cats in a hard rock/metal band called Black Lamb.
ThrashHead: And Alton, you have a pretty deep history too. What do you think helped you guys develop best for this current project?
AA: I've always been into punk and grind. I idolized Jello Biafra when I was a kid. Always wanted to front a band. One Halloween night in New Mexico I saw a Misfits cover band, I was very drunk and I took the mic. Sang the songs. They ended up asking me to do "We Are 138" with them at a few shows and I was hooked. Wasn't until years later and back in Denver that I finally hooked up with Forced Instinct and later Aberrant. I think the thing that prepped me the best was putting out releases myself for Aberrant and the touring we did. It helped me to form a plan of attack for DOPERUNNER. My band mates said it right. We use so many different influences coming together that's its hard not to get excited over the outcome.
KS: Just knowing Alton's work ethic and knowing he can handle the rigors of the road is a comforting thing, and it helps in the writing process to know your hard work will be reciprocated and the results will get out there for people to hear.
As for what helped me develop best for this project, it would be the endless cycle of bullshit that happens in the world and fuels my undying anger, which I then release in the form of angry, break-neck paced rhythms. Alton fluently understands this process, as do Jeff and Wendzel.
ThrashHead: I know Alton is pretty serious about taking things out on the road and overseas, and I imagine that during your time with Catheter you toured a bit, Keith, is that true?
KS: Yeah, we toured quite a bit, and I love it! I love writing and playing music for people. To me, playing to a good audience night after night is one of the greatest things in life. A good live show is one of the last ways people got to be in touch with their primal selves. I think this is very important. It balances people out and helps them deal with the more negative emotions we all have in a positive way. The rise of the Internet Age has people too isolated, both from each other and from their primitive self. Next thing, they're shooting up the place. Go to more shows, people. Get crazy and have fun. It will save your sanity.
ThrashHead: Between all of you, how many countries would you say you've seen already?
AA: I've toured in Japan (3 dates), Brazil (12 dates) and Mexico (4dates, one being Obscene Extreme America). Been to a few more during travels with the wife but would most definitely like to play in Europe, Austrailia and SE Asia.
JM: Only US and Mexico for me.
KS: I've been all over the US, and played the best towns in Mexico and Canada.
ThrashHead: So, is everyone ready to take DOPERUNNER around the globe?
KS: That's a definite yes for me.
AA: Totally ready. Label support would be good, but I've already done Japan, Brazil and Mexico DIY, so you better believe I mean business.
ThrashHead: How soon are talks of tour considered to be a reality?
AA: Weekend trips for fests are already being confirmed. As soon as reliable transport is locked down the touring will commence.
KS: And once the album comes out, the radius of attacks will begin. We've really got to be strategic since we're old fuckers with responsibilities and all. And we already have done some extended weekends with more coming up in the next few months, like Alton says. Depending on what we can make happen kinda dictates timeliness, but support always does things up as well.
ThrashHead: So, you guys got together what, a year ago?
AA: Yea man. Talks began in July. A full group was formed in August I believe.
KS: Like the middle of July, so almost a year.
JM: It'll be a year in August.
ThrashHead: Already you have a demo released, and have completed your first full length album. That's pretty serious commitment! When do you have time for yourselves?
AA: Music is time for myself. It soothes the savage beast. Also in the works is a split tape with Chetwrecker (live tracks from us), and split 7"s with Buried at Birth and Chetwrecker (all new studio material from us).
JM: Same here. DOPERUNNER is time for myself. Music is one of the only things that gets me going in the morning. Progress in art is progress in the self.
KS: There's plenty of time when you don't waste it on dumb shit lime TV and the latest shiny distraction the powers that be are pumping.
ThrashHead: Now, this is also available in digital format, but you are also releasing it on vinyl, CD, and cassette, correct?
AA: We made sure to cover all formats to make sure everyone interested could get a copy. We wanna thank all of the labels that came together to make that happen. There is even a limited SE Asian 8-track release....super limited.
ThrashHead: That's just awesome! How soon will these all become available?
AA: Tape is out now from Ale Wülf Tapes. CD version will release on August 12th from Blast Head and, the LP will be out mid August from Give Praise, Karasu Killer, Equivokke, Fuck Your Life, Disgusting Noise, Get Up And Kill, What's Left and One Scene Unity.
All feature different cover layouts and the tape version comes with a download code, 3 bonus live tracks and a silk screened patch.
ThrashHead: And is this the first time you've ever worked with Give Praise Records?
AA: I have worked with Paul over at Give Praise before and we love the way that he handles his business and distribution. We know he will get the DOPERUNNER name out there.
ThrashHead: You guys are all pretty committed artists. Where do you see DOPERUNNER taking you?
AA: Wherever we set our sights. I wanna play MDF and OEF. Tour Europe.
KS: I'd love to tour the US, Europe, Japan, Brazil, Mexico.....basically, insert your country here _____. I'd also love to do one of the big fests in Europe and MDF and such.
JM: World wide. I want to play with the best bands, to the best crowds so I can be the best I can be. With the response we've gotten, I can see this making DOPERUNNER a household name in the grind and metal communities, but I don't want to put the cart before the horse. No matter if we crash or rise, it's all hard work and I'm going to focus on the process and let the good things come. Also, if this could get me set up with a collaboration with David Yow, that'd be sweet too.
ThrashHead: Are you guys just as down to play backyard BBQs as you are larger arenas?
KS: If the BBQ's good, maybe.
JM: The more personal the better. If it's an arena it better be packed. Who needs a stage?
AA: I'm down to jam wherever and whenever. We might show up at your next show in the parking lot with a generator. Who knows?
ThrashHead: Where have each of you played that you would consider to be your favorite, or most memorable show?
KS: A place called The Smell in LA when I was in Catheter with Unholy Grave, Nausea, and others.
JM: Oaxaca, Mexico. Aberrant played in an squatter house that they...kind of turned into a venue.
AA: I was at Jeff's most memorable show. It was unbelievably rad. I would say the show in Nagoya, Japan at Huck Finn with Unholy Grave would rank up there. Pick any show in Brazil. They all ruled.
ThrashHead: What made it so timeless?
KS: It was fucking insane!
AA: The crowd. The interaction.
JM: The floor was tile, the drum set was a pile of shit and set on a bed spread, our guitar player broke two guitars and had to play seated on the floor, but the whole place when absolutely nuts. It turned into a room of violence, while kids tripped over the weird split level in the middle of the floor. The feeling was unbelievable. One of those shows that you thought would suck due to the circumstances but just held the best energy to be let out violently. Best show of the tour and probably the best show I've ever played.
ThrashHead: What is the craziest thing you guys have ever experienced out on tour?
KS: We were supposed to play this gig in North Dakota called the Testicle Fest. There were FBI motherfuckers everywhere with surveillance shit and it was really fucking creepy. The show got moved to Grand Forks, Minnesota and it was cool, but 2 days later, on the other side of fucking Montana, there were sensationalized stories about it in the newspapers.
JM: Probably getting pulled out of the van by Federales in Mexico at 4 am at the end of an assault rifle.
AA: I was there for both of Keith and Jeff's crazy experiences while on tour. The gun issue at 4am with Jeff was unnerving. Not cool. Blowouts in Mexico and Brazil while on tour weren't cool. I remember while touring the west coast a guy named Bob in Seattle ran head first into a fence and knocked himself out. That was pretty cool. Does that count. Haha
ThrashHead: Shit yeah, of course that counts! And what is the main message behind DOPERUNNER? What is the overall vibe being presented here?
JM: To me, the name does not have a drug connotation, it's more about defiant behavior for moral ends. It's a way of airing our grievances with the world, shouting out our frustrations. Vibe is intense and defiant. I want to make people better, smarter, more inspired and happier at the end of the day, but they may have to punch their fist through a few walls first to get there.
AA: Nothing about drugs....more so about how the government and religion is always pushing lies and deceit. They are the doperunners... The smutpeddlers. The world is on a very destructive path.
KS: Enjoy life, but pay attention. To our corporate slave masters we're just a number as relates to profitability. You need to take your life back. Quit being force fed bullshit and poison. Quit being scared to do what makes you happy. Quit hiding and get out there. There's a lot of cool shit in the world. It would be a shame not to experience as much of it as you can before you die. It's why you're here.
ThrashHead: I know Bryan bowls, and Alton is involved with Martial Arts. What do you guys enjoy doing, Jeff and Keith?
JM: Olympic lifting, extremely amateur painting, and dick jokes. Plus I have the coolest dog ever.
KS: For me music is what I do. I used to build models and read, but since I have kids now hanging with them dominates my time.
ThrashHead: Do you guys go out as a group outside of shows and hang out?
KS: Sometimes. I'm usually too broke to go out much.
JM: It's been known to happen on occasion.
AA: We drywall and go to foreign films. Sometimes volunteer work. Occasional bootlegging.
ThrashHead: Who is the designated driver?
AA: What's that?
JM: Probably me. I don't drink much. Huge lightweight.
ThrashHead: Okay, as we wrap things up here, what are your parting messages for the world?
JM: Thanks, Fish for all the support you've given us so far, it means a lot. Thanks to all the people that come to the shows, listen to our music, buy merch and all that good stuff; you guys rule. Share the music, come to more shows and let's all have a good time, build a solid scene. Be a good person, don't be a fuckhead. Be better than you were yesterday.
AA: The world, wherever you are DOPERUNNER is gonna get ya, no matter how far.
KS: Turn the TV off. Go out and live your life.
ThrashHead: Thanks so much for taking the time with me, guys. I sure look forward to seeing you out on the road!
KS: We can't wait!