Interview with Musketeer Gripweed
At a Musketeer Gripweed show it’s nearly impossible to avoid a double dose of love and what front man Jason Downing calls the “ass-shake-stomp-holler.”
After six years together, the Fort Collins band—heavily influenced by blues, soul and Southern rock—has developed a special interaction with its audience, an interaction that makes each show less of a concert and more of a revival.
“My drive is to have this event mean more than just an hour of us rocking out. And everyone in the band knows that that’s what we’re there for,” Downing says.
The idea is to change people’s consciousness by injecting the audience with a whole lot of love—a bit hippy-dippy for a rock band, but the ultimate goal isn’t just to make great music. Though Downing admits it sounds kind of silly, he also says “people come back because of that positive experience.”
“When people go to our show they’re like ‘Holy Cow, my day was horrible and you just turned it around with your message,’” he says. ”Music is a big part of it, but my question is how come you get 20,000 people at Red Rocks to see Panic or something and they don’t take 30 seconds to treat each other better? Our mission is love, is telling people they can change the world for free.”
On stage, Downing transforms into his alter ego, the Reverend Monkey Paw Patterson. But don’t expect a Bible reading. And if you ever stop Downing on the street (he’s a sociology professor at CSU), don’t expect him to know what you’re talking about: he claims not to know the energetic, passionate and wild Monkey Paw you see under the lights.
“We sort of play it up, like it’s not me, it’s this other guy and he’s a little bit dangerous with the straight razor business and the moonshine and the preaching about being conscious,” Downing says. “Because trying to be conscious, live your life and look at the world running and not just go through the motions, is challenging. So he’s all these different things.”
In the spirit of being conscious, the band puts out albums that make the listener question what’s going on in society. The first album, Dyin’ Day, is a concept album about a place called Parchment Farm, a plantation in the South with no walls—a metaphor that extends into the lyrics and the album as a whole.
As Downing puts it: “So they had a fucking prison where you could go there and you knew you could escape on foot, but there was nothing for miles. Then, instead of the people that worked there, they had the slaves hunt down and kill the other slaves. So it was really mentally oppressive. Imagine being in a prison with no walls. Your mind would tell you you could escape, but you can’t. And I think that’s really a great metaphor for what’s going on in history in regards to our past.”
The band has fun with the plantation imagery at its shows, with Downing and the other members dressing like settlers or pioneers, a concept that started with a photo shoot.
“People were saying forever ‘You’re preaching up there, you’re preaching love and the vibe of the good people.’ The shout and the holler and the stomp. To let loose for that amount of time and to let go. So when we did the first round of pictures we wanted to do that old preacher vibe, and something from that first one just clicked,” Downing says.
Riding on the success of Dyin’ Day, the band released their follow up album, Straight Razor Revival, in April. The album is like a sequel, “But we’re talking about what’s going on right now in America,” Downing explains. “What’s going on with free speech, what’s going on with love, what’s going on with fucking the rich and the poor and the dynamic between that. … issues of equality and diversity and things of those nature are very important to me, so getting those things across in a way that tells a story I think is even better.”
Check out more Musketeer Gripweed at www.musketeergripweed.com.