Punk Rock Karaoke invites you to sing along to Bikini Kill and Jawbreaker for a good cause
Rebel girls and rude boys, this one's for you: tonight's Punk Rock Karaoke invites everyone to sing along with his or her favorite songs for a good cause, as the Denver Health Collective hosts a traveling repertoire of punk hits. The karaoke project makes its first stop in Denver -- which also acts as a benefit for the Collective -- bringing with it a 500-plus song catalog of songs by Fugazi, Bratmobile, The Clash and more.
In advance of the gathering tonight, June 20, co-organizer Patrick Tyrrell spoke with Westword about the Punk Rock Karaoke Collective's formation, the importance of collaborating with grassroots organizations and why he geeks out over seeing Bikini Kill and Jawbreaker duke it out for the most requested karaoke spot.
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Westword: How did Punk Rock Karaoke start?
Patrick Tyrrell: So, there was a pretty small group of us in Chicago -- and each of us was organizing or involved in various campaigns and community groups. A lot of us were musicians, too, or at least musically inclined. We had been batting around this idea of doing a more fun fundraising project that involved karaoke. One of our organizers had the idea for a punk rock flavor, because it was the kind of music we were all into.
Because a lot of us were musicians, we thought, hey, whatever songs we can't find that are already out there, we can make ourselves. That initial idea in 2011 is what spurred forth this project, two years later. What started in Chicago has now expanded to the Northeast and also become this nationwide tour.
When we first started (making karaoke tracks) we were recording in a recording studio and it was a fun project. To make so many of the songs ourselves and then see people perform them -- it was just a good way to combine our love of music and performing with making sure a good cause gets supported, and to let people know about what is going on in their community.
It is a great concept, because when you look at the majority of karaoke catalogs, it is very Top 40-heavy -- but there is definitely a nationwide audience out there for punk-inspired performances.
I've seen lots of themed karaokes, and even punk rock karaoke itself -- we didn't invent that specific concept at all. I don't think anyone else has done it as a fundraiser or as a not-for-profit venture, but there is definitely similar versions of this karaoke. A lot of times it is a live band karaoke. But to my knowledge and from what I've seen, we have the largest custom catalog of punk rock songs that are prerecorded and more like regular karaoke. I think we also have the largest catalog in general -- we have over 500 songs that are all tailored to a punk rock flavor, with classic punk songs and modern stuff, too.
How do you pick the songs that will be made into tracks and used for Punk Rock Karaoke?
A lot of it is from our audience -- and we have a sense from being fans of the genre what the kind of standards are. We know we need certain bands, like The Clash or Ramones. People love Jawbreaker and all of those bands. But we get a lot of feedback from people so, one thing we tried to do was have a good representation of female-fronted bands. Aside from what we knew, we heavily solicited people that we know that were in Riot Grrrl bands or that performed in punk bands and got recommendations like L7, Bratmobile and Sleater-Kinney.
We collect them in a giant list and go with how much time we have to record, how complicated the songs are and then also, just a general sense of what people are requesting -- we let our audience guide us.
As a musician, I see it being a fun challenge to sort of become a catalog of songs that you love.
Oh yeah. I know so many stupid punk songs. (Laughs) I know them by heart. We've been doing this for a long time, and I really don't remember recording a lot of the first tracks -- but it's funny because sometimes we'll be doing an event and I'll realize, oh, that's me playing the guitar solo. I don't remember even doing it, but I know at one point I had committed it to memory.
The fact that you go in and record the tracks seems so integral to this working -- live music is one thing, but knowing every guitar tone or hearing a pedal being pushed in an actual recording is so key to knowing the whole song.
Our producer, his name is Joe Tessone -- who runs Mystery Street Recording Company, the studio we worked out of originally -- would spend hours just tweaking the tone of everything. He'd line up the original recording and our track and he's such a great producer, he would get it so it (sounded) indistinguishable. He would play a song side by side, and I couldn't tell if it was the original or ours.