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January 29- February 4, 2009

• Rock ’n’ payroll
Mild-mannered office worker by day, super-rocker by night
by Adam Trask

• Beating around the Bush
Political indie rockers State Radio prepare for Obamanation
by Dave Kirby

Rock ’n’ payroll
Mild-mannered office worker by day, super-rocker by night
by Adam Trask

Success is an elusive bastard. It attacks suddenly and at random, like Kirstie Alley at a Las Vegas buffet. Desire, talent and determination, while notable ideals, do not always win the fight and take home the prize. A 9-to-5 gig is often the only prescription for a respectable bank account.

Nashville-bred Dualistics guitarist/vocalist Charley Hine understands. “I work for a company that sells a bazillion ringtones,” the lanky musician quips while taking a swig from a bottle of Heineken and shoveling in a forkful of chicken-covered salad. “Basically, if you need to beef up your phone, we can get you some wallpapers, some ringtones.” He laughs. “We have Dualistics tones, but that’s just because I work there.”

Laughter aside, Hine has it good. He gets to dress, in his own words, like Stephen Malkmus, and work in a music-related job with an office full of people that support his artistic pursuits. Life is far from miserable when he’s not playing prog-injected, distortion-riddled guitar rock. Many musicians cannot say the same.

“It’s great,” Hine emphasizes. “When I got out of college and I chose to go to the Denver scene, it was the closest [job] I could think of that allowed me to do programming — nerdy stuff mixed with the music industry. It was the best fit that I saw.”

Besides, opportunities for self-promotion can arise. “The company flew me to San Francisco for a party that we were throwing for the labels, and I started passing out a Dualistics disc and kind of got my wrist slapped.” Hine laughs again. “It was to a Sony exec. He was pumped on hearing it ’cause I was like, ‘It’s kinda ’90s-sounding,’ et cetera. Someone came over to me, and she was like, ‘Don’t do that again!’”

Hine still has a job, so it’s easy for him to chuckle at these little faux pas. And he has repented of his self-promotion sins. Sort of.

Hine still passes out free Dualistics discs. Not to record executives, mind you, but to the general public. It’s an inexpensive form of publicity and maybe, just maybe, a disc will wind up in the paws of a record executive who understands the music. Success has certainly not escaped his thoughts.

“I think that’s always the dream,” Hine confesses. “But right now, I don’t have a home I can live at for free, so I’ve got rent and car insurance, et cetera.”
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On the Bill
At their CD release party, the Dualistics perform with Mike Merchant, St. Elias and Corey Teruya on Saturday, Jan. 31, at the Larimer Lounge, 2721 Larimer St., Denver, 303-291-1007.

Beating around the Bush

Political indie rockers State Radio prepare for Obamanation
by Dave Kirby

We wanted to imagine Chad Stokes Urmston and State Radio down there at the inauguration last Tuesday, tearing up some side stage, breaking strings and spraying drumstick splinters in a frenzied, full-throttle high five, witnessing the very history their icy and acidic rips on Bush-era zeitgeist have demanded.

After playing out most of last fall in a Take Back The Country tour, leading up to the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Human Rights, the Boston-based dreadpunk trio wrapped up the year with a “welcome to the neighborhood” gig at the 9:30 Club the day after Christmas. Their travels included an anti-war gig at the DNC in Denver, sharing the bill with Rage Against the Machine, but for sheer musical synchronicity, the D.C. show would have been the perfect 2008 curtain call for the band’s summer and fall tour, as the venue is remembered as ground zero for proto-political hardcore icons Bad Brains a generation before, a band State Radio’s seething anarchismo channels effectively.

“Heh, we were in Reno,” Stokes says, with more than a little ironic resignation. “I’m not sure we had the forethought to route the tour through the Washington Mall. But it was great. We basically were glued to the TV, said a few things during the show. It was great. It was a great day.”

Hardly a newcomer to stirring the pot, Stokes deals in serrated and mercilessly targeted political rock/reggae, uncorking Year of the Crow on the public earlier in 2008. A sprawling tour de force of core and reggae poison pills, from the opening hammer of “Guantanamo” to the rattletrap burlesque of “Fall of the American Empire” and other toxic dissertations on Darfur and the CIA, the album lopes and growls with menacing rage.

So… the January tour the band is on now shouldn’t necessarily count as a victory lap?

Stokes laughs.

“I’m not sure we would take ourselves so seriously as to think we had a huge part in what’s going down. But we’re very happy.

“I think the thing is about holding Obama to his promises. I think he’s open to listening. [He’s] about ‘making me do it.’ I think he has his ear to the ground more than the last presidents we’ve had. It’s up to all of us at our end to speak up for what’s fair. I just hope he’s a good listener.

“To a certain extent, power always corrupts. I’m not sure human beings can be immune to that, unfortunately. And especially in this case, it’s such a powerful position. I don’t think everything’s going to turn around just like that.”

Political rock often bears a lamentably feeble shelf life, though, and we asked Stokes if the record, produced by Tchad Blake (Pearl Jam, Peter Gabriel, Gomez), is sounding old or… exhausted.

“It doesn’t feel too old because of the way Tchad mixed it or the way he did his thing. Hopefully, it will always feel pretty fresh. Some of the songs we play night after night, those get a little bit tired.

“I don’t think it’s the easiest listen, but that’s not really what Tchad’s about. In terms of the sounds, they’re organic but they’re harsh, and I think it’s sort of a slap in the face a little. Tchad’s like that — he likes it to be dangerous.”

Between the headline grabbers, some of Stokes’ allegorical side came across on the record as well, especially the lyrical and impressionistic “As With Gladness.” We found it an intriguing and gently compelling intermission from the rest of the album’s
socio-political hardball.

“Funny you should say that. One of our old friends who’s a producer and mixer came over because he was such a Tchad Blake fan, and we were recording ‘As With Gladness.’ And after listening to a few songs, and then listening to that, he said it was something new and different and, like, it was… going somewhere. We play that live quite a bit actually. It feels really good to play. It’s sort of an unsung hero and underdog a little bit on the record.”

And we’re not sure how many bands still do this — indie bands like State Radio can get away with it, not having the suits looking over their shoulders — but Stokes buried a gorgeous acoustic ballad (“Sybil II,” dedicated to his girlfriend) at the distant end of the albums’ closing track, “Fall of the America Empire.” We wondered if anyone else mentions it when they ask about the CD.

“No one ever does. Yeah, except for the, like, 20 or so hardcore fans all over our message board. I played it live for a benefit show for a foundation we started. No one ever talks about it, so I’m glad you listened through to hear it.”

Work has already started on the band’s third offering, as yet untitled but taking form.

“Some of the songs are older, and then some new ones… feels more organic. We play with all the amps in the room, with no isolation really. It’s more of an energy, less harsh than previous albums. And the songs range anywhere from laid back political reggae to, ah, Sabbath.”

And for all his political incisiveness, playing offense or defense, Stokes insists the music is really the point, a priority that sometimes gets lost when musicians try to change the world.

“No, the music and the songs are first and foremost. That’s gotta come first. Always.”

On the Bill
State Radio performs with Rebelution 9 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 30, and Saturday, Jan. 31, at the Fox Theatre, 1135 13th St., Boulder, 303-443-3399.

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