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issue no.
  january 29
c o n t e n t s
Back in Black: Denver Band Black Black Ocean Rocks Again
RED Reviews

Man Destroyed by This Issue of RED

Back in Black
Denver Band Black Black Ocean Rocks Again
by Jamie Gadette
The RED Interview

ere’s what is known about Denver’s Black Black Ocean: Its members are fond of fake pseudonyms, enjoy hanging from rafters and are not politically motivated. Oh, and describing the band’s sound is not their responsibility. “Isn’t that your job?” Ryan (aka Zach) asks.

The singer-guitarist is calling from the road, one week before hitting Salt Lake City for a two-date concert with Tolchock Trio. Last time his group came to town, Ryan lit up the stage—and then the crowd when he confronted various attendees on the dance floor. One woman was particularly surprised when the wiry musician wrapped his microphone around her neck, inviting her to sing along. Live, Black Black Ocean is magnetic, a quality that highlights its overriding purpose—to rock.

  Black Black Ocean’s Ryan (or rather Zach) exercises controlled chaos during one of the Denver scream-punk-core band’s typical performances. Ryan is not a neo-con.

That said, the band members are not numb to other issues. In fact, Ryan’s insistence that they are “not Rage Against the Machine” doesn’t negate their involvement in Bands Against Bush (BAB), an international resistance movement that utilizes art to enact change. The organization initially began as Rock Against Reagan, but has since evolved to accommodate an equally (if not more) imposing administration. Black Black Ocean tuned into the cause after a trip to New York City. “It’s mainly a lot of anti-Bush commotion used to keep Bush out of office—or at least raise awareness of issues Bush doesn’t support,” Ryan says. The band’s role took place at the Knitting Factory’s Old Office with a lineup featuring Man in Gray and Nimbus. Other groups affiliated with BAB include electropunks Le Tigre, Yuka Honda and The Ghost of Lester Bangs, among others.

Yet for all the high-profile artists performing along with Black Black Ocean, the band seems more impressed with upstart projects. Ryan cites Salt Lake City locals Tolchock Trio and Form of Rocket as current influences. The latter is undergoing a realignment of sorts as Curtis Jensen leaves to pursue an education. Ryan, like many other fans, isn’t sure how this will affect the local scream-core group. “I heard the guy who’s replacing him (Eric Bliss) was the original drummer,” he says. “But I guess he plays a mean guitar, so…”

In his downtime, or at least over phone interviews, Ryan is fairly laid back. However, his more legendary influences include Tom Jones and The Jackson 5, both artists known for being charismatic performers. It’s not surprising to discover how energetic the casual conversationalist can be once the spotlight casts its compelling spell.
His behavior is fitting for a band that Tolchock’s Dan Thomas credits as one of the hardest-working bands at this level. “I think they’re doing it right,” he says. “Plus [Ryan] is really good-looking, so they’re destined for greatness.” Thomas was first introduced to the band after it submitted an album to Red Triangle Records. At the time, the local label was little more than a flashy Web site, but the glitzy facade was sufficient for reeling in the unassuming Denver boys.

“It’s actually the only submission of a record that we’ve ever gotten,” Thomas says. Red Triangle’s Jeremy Smith was impressed with the singular entry, but couldn’t offer any lucrative contracts. Smith instead convinced the group to perform with his band Alchemy, an invitation which led to Ryan’s now-infamous Urban Lounge performance. “It spawned a really good relationship,“ Thomas says. Thanks to their patience—and Red Triangle’s persistence—the strengthened label has released Black Black Ocean’s second EP, Vultures for Permanent Fix. The deal, however, is noncommittal, thus allowing the group to shop around (Action Driver Records will be putting out its next album). This way, Quentin (Mitch), Jared (Winifred), Steven (Tyler) and Ryan can still rock out with their Salt Lake City friends without fear of selling out.

Come see Black Black Ocean when the group performs Feb. 4 at Kilby Court and Feb. 5 at the Urban Lounge.

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