The sound


By Michael Swanger


Superchief bands together to preserve hard rock music, lifestyle


Superchief is on the warpath to save classic, guitar-driven hard rock and its ensuing debauchery.

You can hear it in their amped-up, guitar driven sound influenced by Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy.

You can see it in their tattoos and empty beer bottles on stage.

And you can feel it when this tribe of Des Moines rockers boldly proclaims that Superchief is about two things — rock and roll, and emulating the rock and roll lifestyle as taught by Lemmy of Motorhead.

“When we played GDP [Gross Domestic Product] last week we exploded on stage,” said rhythm guitarist and Superchief co-founder Jason Monroe. “The first thing we wondered was, ‘Where are we gonna put all of our stuff?’ Then we wanted to know if there was a discount on booze. There wasn’t, so we started drinking in the parking lot. That’s rock and roll. We take what we do seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously.”

Monroe, who used to play drums in the local heavy metal band Angry Gods of the Radio, planted the seeds for Superchief with guitarist Riccardo Terranova in the fall of 2008. In search of a new sound, they posted an online ad seeking musicians, eventually landing bassist Jason Boten and drummer Ryan Marcum. Later, when singer JT Strang joined the fold, Superchief was born.

“Ricc and I wanted to do a classic rock band that played originals, but we had a hard time finding the right guys,” said Monroe. “When we found Jason, Ryan and JT, things started happening.”

In April 2009, the band recorded an EP, “Rock Music,” at Sound Farm Studio. The EP not only helped them gain fans, it helped them land opening gigs with like-minded regional acts like The Parlor Mob, Droids Attack, The Giraffes, Bloodcow and Township.

“I can’t identify with some of the younger metal bands that I call ‘affliction bands.’ I like straight-up, dirty rock,” said Monroe, 38. “So we have tried to hook up with regional bands that also play what you might call ‘stoner rock’ or ‘heavy metal’ to help bring that style back to Des Moines. The last thing we want to do is sound like Nickelback.”

Monroe admits that Superchief might not be re-inventing the wheel when it comes to their sound, but he says that there still is a place for classic, guitar-driven rock in the marketplace.

“It’s a smaller scene, but everyone works hard to make it work,” he said. “When Des Moines succumbs to a trend, they beat it to death. Look what happened after Slipknot and the Envy Corps broke out. Now the trend is indie-rock and jam bands. But what makes a band successful is that they don’t follow trends; that they play what they like because it comes out in the music.”

For Superchief that means playing music that sounds like “Led Zeppelin using new instruments,” said Monroe. And properly billing shows with bands that attract similar audiences to venues like the Vaudeville Mews, House of Bricks and People’s Court to further expand their fan base and the local scene for their brand of music.

“We’re all veterans of the music industry, and we know what we’re doing,” Monroe said. “It seems like the hard-rock and metal scene seems to be suffering a little bit, and we want to help bring it back.”

Monroe said playing live shows is the best way to keep fans interested in the music Superchief plays and loves. The band performed about 30 shows last year and hopes to expand upon that in the future, though he admits it can be tricky juggling family and career responsibilities with band duties.

“Some of us are a little older and some of us are spring chickens, but we’ll play as much as we can to get our name out there,” he said. “When we’re onstage we want to give people a show, maybe not like KISS, but to make sure that people have a good time because we’re damn happy to be onstage.” CV


Caption: Superchief performs Saturday, April 10 at 10 p.m. at the Vaudeville Mews. Admission is $5.


Round Kick Gym

Best of Des Moines 2011

Fall Relish

Coupon Guide