Negative Degree is trying to keep Denver's hardcore scene on a "street level"
Negative Degree, one of the more active hardcore bands in the Denver punk scene for the past year or so, is part of a small wave of new local bands playing hardcore punk music, which first sprang up in basements in the '80s and has been romanticized and gold-plated in more than a few books and documentaries in the past few years. We spoke with bass player Mark Masters over a pizza the day after a sweat-soaked house show in Five Points about the band, which releases a vinyl version of its demo tape on Saturday at Old Curtis Street (2100 Curtis Street) and the band's upcoming tour.
Tiana Matsuko Bernard Negative Degree is sweating to the oldies.
Westword: Why do you want to play house shows? Those shows always feel like everything's about to fall apart with cops and beer and too many people cramped in a small house, plus a very loud band.
Mark Masters: Yeah, between not knowing anyone at the house, and the cops across the street serving a warrant on the coke dealers, there's a little bit an of element of "what's going to happen next?" And only at a house show would someone dump a half-bottle of champagne on your head.
How does being from Denver and the West shape your band?
I think it gives us an insular quality where we're somewhat ignorant of the happenings in the rest of the country because we're so far removed from it.
Even with the internet and Facebook and music blogs?
That definitely provides a window, but if you can't be there to experience it first-hand, how can you feel like you have a handle on it? We get out of Denver, go on shows and travel and stuff. But this isn't really a band that's toured extensively yet. It's hard to say how that's going to affect things in the long-run I suppose.
How has the latest era of the Denver punk/hardcore scene changed over the last decade or so?
Denver's a lot better than it used to be in terms of punk, absolutely. When I moved here six years ago, there wasn't much. If you didn't like tough-guy Bridge 9 style hardcore, you were fucked.
Any remarks on coming into that scene?
When Guns N Rosa Parks first moved down here, we could either play shows at Sox Place with bad mosh bands from the coasts, or play bar shows with bar bands from in-town. There wasn't anything else. Eventually we were like, "Fuck this! We're not going to do either of these." We started doing Blast-O-Mat shows. It sounds pretentious, but i think that [Guns N Rosa Parks] did a lot to start that scene. I think Negative Degree and the other bands we like to play with in town are reaping the benefit of [Guns N Rosa Parks], and Crawl and Dethbox and Scott Baio Army before us.
What's it like being in a band where you, as the second-oldest member, are eighteen years younger than the oldest member?
[Guitarist Johnny Mather] is going on 47 this year. He's not shy.
But this is a kid's game, most people are long over punk by then.
I think that might be a misconception. It's not completely unfounded, but here are you and I on the brink of thirty.
It was more common a few years ago for punk and hardcore bands to repress their demo tapes onto vinyl. Why did Negative Degree do it?
Usually I really hate it when bands do that. I think it smacks of egotism, but we had multiple offers from labels to do it and it seemed like a it good a good response. We only did 200 tapes. When these French guys [Offside Records] came along and offered to do it. It was cool because we could get distribution in Europe and something a little more substantial than a tape. They just wrote me out the blue one day asking for ten tapes. They took those and sold out of them immediately. If we ever want to tour in Europe, we could I guess.
What's the story behind the the Teen Idles Minor Disturbance cover?
We didn't actually; it was the French guys who came up with that. They emailed us a really basic mock-up of it, and we were like, "Alright." It's only the limited cover version. I'm not even sure what the regular cover looks like. Johnny is doing that, I'm kind of just hoping for the best on that one.
How many original songs has your band written since forming about a year and a half ago? Who have you covered?
Would you ever write a song about Denver? Where is the blatant regionalism?
Maybe not with Negative Degree.
What can people expect to see at your record release show on February 4?
Curtis Street seems to have a pretty rowdy audience usually, and it'll be a Saturday night, so you'll get some townies out on the town. You can expect a lot from the KC rippers [Dark Ages and No Class], and it will be Cadaver Dog's first proper show, so if for nothing else they will be worth it.