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Phil Gammage
"Adventures in Bluesland"
Phil Gammage: Adventures in Bluesland

Phil Gammage
"Kneel to the Rising Sun"
20th Anniversary Edition

originally released on New Rose (France)
Phil Gammage: Kneel to the Rising Sun

The Scarlet Dukes
"Rogue Escapade" Jump blues/swing
The Scarlet Dukes: Rogue Escapades
The Scarlet Dukes - Rogue Escapades

Certain General
"November's Heat" 1985's classic NYC post-punk LP November's Heat

Phil Gammage
"Tracks of Sound"
Edgy downtown jazz Phil Gammage - Tracks of Sound


by Icepick Phil

The Violators emerged from Denver around '76/'77 playing one of the rawest, loundest, and most brazen style of rock ever to emerge from Colorado. Like Boulder's Defex their legend continues to grow as the years go by.

Colorado New Wave/Punk Rock caught up with guitarist and band founder Shawn McNarry in Denver recently and asked him to recall the heyday of the band for us.

shawn 1. Are you a native of Colorado? Were you around live music and musicians a lot as a kid? .

My family moved to Colorado from Nebraska when I was 12, I'm the only musician in my family.

2. When did you start to get into performing music and playing guitar?

My first gig as a bass player was when I was thirteen, at a teen dance.

Did you ever take guitar lessons?

I learned to play guitar in High school. I am self taught, I jammed a lot and learned lots of songs from records. Played gigs in ice rinks, drive in theaters, teen clubs, church and school. and I got paid.

I had to go in to the Army, I was lucky and ended up playing in an Army band in Europe touring for 2 1/2 years, playing in military/USO/Tascom show case gigs. After the Army I toured with traveling bands.

What was your guitar setup (guitar, amp, pedals) in the Violators?

Guitar wise, I had a couple of Fender Strats and a Les Paul. Amp wise I think I was playing through a Ampeg V4. I used a variety of effects pedals, echoplexes, flangers ect, so many that, The Defex had song that had a line in it, " Shawn's on his Knees, changing his batteries" thanks guys, yes I still remember.

Where did the band rehearse?

I broke the ring finger on my left hand that stopped me from touring, and needing a job, I got a job cooking at a Ground Round Restaurant and they let me use the basement which was huge. A great place. We could play as loud as we wanted. They had a bar and that is where the Violators first played, by playing in the bar is how we paid for the space. I have an old picture of the original members under the restaurants sign with "Tonight! The Violators" spelled out. The Ground Round was a family Restaurant.

Where did the musicians live at that time -- any on Capitol Hill?

Rich, who played bass, Steve Dryer, drummer, and I lived in the Denver area. Our first singer, lived on Capital Hill. He was an Illegal alien from England by the name of Michael. He got busted by the INS and deported back to England. I wonder what ever happened to him. What a way to lose a singer, a great manic singer. But nothing compared to what was coming. Our Second singer was Tom Pop. When we first meet him he was living in an abandoned apartment on capital hill. He gave The Violators, the Image that we wanted, total gaga. Tom now goes by the name AUGY, and has a band in LA. We went through a couple temp drummers till we got Boulderite, Bill Van Dusen. We had been playing out for about 16 months by then.

violators live
Violators live 1979 at Tulagi's, Boulder, Colorado
3. What bands were you in before the Violators?

I was in tons of bands before the Violators. I would audition and play for working/touring bands, before the finger situation.

4. Why did you want to play in a punk rock band at that time (instead of a 70's longhair band)? Who came up with the name "Violators"?

I've always loved loud aggressive Rock, and I had to let my finger mend, it took two years to be able to loosely close my left hand.

Rich came up with the name, little did we know that there were about a dozen other "Violator" bands. We tried once to contact as many of the bands as we could to have them come to Denver and play a gig with us and bill it as a big "Viol" fest.

5. Looking at a set list from a show in '79 I see it includes some NY Doll and Stooges covers. What other influences were there on the bands musical direction?

The Ramones, the Dead Boys, The Depressions, the Dictators were all influences that we used for the energy factor.

6. Did you always perform original material? What were some of the band's best liked songs?

We always had originals. Rich and I wrote a lot and when Tom came in the Band, he had great words so it took the pressure off of Rich and me. We would work an original until it was killer, it had to rock and not sound like we ripped off some other song. We would rather play a good cover than a lesser original. We just wanted to always rock as hard as we could. We had a lot of songs that never made it out.

"Epileptic Seizure" was the most popular song, that song always ended with the stage and us destroyed, total insanity.

tulagis's poster 5/29/79
Violators 5/29/79 Tulagi's, Boulder, Colorado poster designed by Kenmore
7. What was your perception of the local scene and how it evolved? How did you feel about the Wax Trax crowd? Any characters from that scene you care to share any memories or anecdotes about?

It was fun because it was small, we knew everyone. In Denver it started with the Front, the Johnny three and the Wax Traks people. Great parties, lotta debauchery. As to the list of characters, Kenmore was the artist that created a lot of the Violator posters. He even did a poster for us that even the Wax Trak people thought was in poor taste.

The Littleton contingent, Dooly, the US Mel, Todd, Poo, Krisine, she would make great clothes, Randy "Legs" the best dancer, all the crazies at haunted the Hill street house, and the Prince street shack, both homes of the Johnny Three.

The funniest memory is, the police were called during a party because Rich and I were holding Tom by his ankles out a 13th street window, three stories up. He would wait and scream at the cars passing by, hanging out the window. We had to leave the apartment, and the look of horror on the faces of the cops as we filled down the stairs, everyone dressed to the hilt. They didn't know what or who we were.

8. What was your association then with other Colorado bands like the Defex, Front, Johnny III and the Guys (or any other of the local bands)?

We would open for each others gigs, cause trouble at each others partys.

9. What were some of the more memorable gigs the band played? What was the most forgettable gig ever played?

The gigs that stand out were playing parties that would get so crowded that the people dancing would crash into the Band. Because of one party we played, the structural integrity of a house was destroyed because of all the people dancing. It was condemned after that.

We had a bad luck poster, every time we used it the gig got canceled, it was great drawing of a scene from the movie, Children of the Dammed.

10. Did the band ever perform out of state or out of the Denver/Boulder area? Were there ever any plans for the Violators to relocate like many of the other Colorado groups from that era? (Ravers, Corvairs, Varve, etc.)

No, we never played out side of the area. We were thinking of moving to LA at one time but nixed that idea after seeing all of the other bands that left, come back with their tails between their legs.

11. What brought about the split up of the Violators? When and where was the last show?

The scene had run its course, there was no place new to play, no new people coming to see the bands and the old people with "seen it, done it" attitudes. It got to a point where if you could get a gig in a place, it was because the place was ready to close down. Not a way to build a following.

12. Did you play in any other punk or new wave groups immediately after that (in the 80s)? If so, what was that like for you?

I did a series of "Hobby bands" bands just to go out and play, like Leroy X and the Xcitations, and the Denim Zits, they were put together just for the fun of it. We just played songs that we liked.

After that I became a hired gun, and made my living playing anything and everything for whoever paid. I've played and toured all over. For the down time between gigs/tours, I started a music school, that grew to have 23 teachers and over 400 students. I retired from that in 2000.

13. What are you up to now Shawn ? musically and otherwise?

I have a little studio, all by myself, where I write, record music, and sound design for DVD projects. I also record song writer's demos. I take a writer's song and flesh it out, by playing anything it needs.

14. How do you feel about that scene now looking back 25 years and how do you now feel about the current interest in the Violators and their music?

Enough time has passed, so all I remember is that it was fun. So what, because I had to take the equipment back to the practice room, that the beer usally had run out by the time I got to the after gig party. I wonder about some of the people, that played in the bands back then, what did they end up doing, anything musical? How many are still playing? I wonder what some of the new young punk bands town would think if they saw any of us play, back then. Some of the young bands know me and know that I can still out rock most of them. " Lads, it's in the genes". I also wonder If there are any of the other old guys that can do the same. Another hobby band?