Editor’s Note: We have learned that Aaron Howell MF Ruckus is a jack of all trades and that he is simply a go-getter in life. I can tell that he always seems to have his creative juices flowing whether it be his music, his podcast, or his work in the comic world. We love getting to know people like Aaron Howell MF Ruckus as he converses with William of Madness To Creation. Fans can find MF Ruckus at the following locations:
William: For those unfamiliar, can you please give us a bit of a background on MF Ruckus and the name?
Aaron: I’ll try to be brief, because it is a damn long story. MF Ruckus is the international power-rock combo from Denver and Chicago, respectively. We are the present form of an amorphous and fluid process which has changed names and elemental compositions over the last 20+ years. Around 2011, after years of touring, lineup and stylistic changes, we had spiraled into a state of rapidly destabilizing entropy. It was at this crucial bifurcation point we decided it was time to enter a chrysalis stage and re-emerge in a new, prime form. After several hours of debate through the vast salt desert of Utah, a clan of wise elders delivered a message through the van stereo. This sagely, high council was none other than the ancient and mystical clan of Wu-Tang. Their message was clear: Bring the Motherfucking Ruckus.
William: You’re launching a new comic book and “motion comic.” What can you tell us about that?
Aaron: It has been something of a sisyphean endeavor, but we have been working over the past several years to develop and release a Rock-a-Lyptic, serialized graphic novel and concept album series which we have named The Front Lines of Good Times. The original plan had been to release a monthly comic, then develop that comic into a motion comic for which we would provide all the voices and of course, the soundtrack. Due to budget constraints, personnel changes – and, well, life – we have thus far only managed to produce a book a year. It’s kind of like push-starting an old Buick. We’re finally starting to get the wheels turning, though and momentum is gradually beginning to do it’s part. Our new illustrator, Jake Fairly, is born to make comics. His style is a perfect fit for what we’re doing. He’s brilliant and I say that with all sincerity. We have also teamed up with an unbelievable animator by the name of Macy Lytle who has exceeded all our expectations. The 8 songs we have recorded over the last few years are being mixed by Brad Smalling at Evergroove studio and our soundscape producer Alex Tyler has put the finishing touches on the voiceovers and sound effects. I just watched the rough cut and I’m blown away by how it turned out. Jake Fairly is also very nearly finished with Chapter 3, the print edition of which will be released at the Chapter 2 motion comic premier. It’s a ton of work and a complex set of moving parts, but we really believe that once we get a few of these out, it will take on a life of its own. The story’s thesis is really an attempt to answer a question which I believe is held by many, if not most people: are we going to be ok? We attempt to explore that question through a post-apocalyptic, sci-fi comedy, chock-full of boner jokes and van talk.
William: How did you hook up with Jake Fairly from This is Heavy Metal for this project?
Aaron: Interestingly enough, I first came across Jake’s work while browsing reference material at Mutiny Information Cafe with the artist Joshua Finley who drew the first book and helped me in the early stages of developing the project. I saw This is Heavy Metal next to a stack of Heavy Metal Magazines and just assumed it was some kind of limited edition, one-off indie comic they were doing. I flipped through the pages and pored over the deranged, satanic, heavy metal absurdism contained within. I told Josh “This is what I want”. A couple years later, Josh and I had decided the partnership wasn’t a fit and I was in the process of chasing down a new artist. It just so happened that Jake frequented the bar Streets of London where our bass player Logan worked. “The coke back king of Denver” is how Logan referred to Jake, haha! Logan happened to mention we were looking for someone and Jake just happened to be completely stoked on the idea. We hit it off immediately and began work on FLOGT #2.
William: Your press release states that you are “comprised of pieces from Denver and Chicago’s most legendary unknown bands.” What bands are we talking about here?
Aaron: At the time that bio was written, we had Tay Hamilton from The STDs (now Hot Apostles, Love Stallion and Decatur), Jerry Cass from White Fudge, Logan and Ty were in Home of the Brave as well as Forth Yeer Freshman with me. Later, we were joined by Tony Lee from Chicago and the bands Road Crew and The Blind Staggers among others. Much later, we brought on Parker Clark Meehan from The OuttaControllers, The Allergies, Rosary and a bunch of others. All obscure in a broad sense, but certainly legendary, if not infamous in some circles.
William: Who do you cite as your main influences?
Aaron: It’s cool to be in a band with a group of guys who have similar interests, but not to the point of homogeneity. Each member brings a vast circle of influence and the nexus point of those circles sort of makes MF Ruckus. Tony spent much of his early years performing at blues festivals as a young prodigy while at the same time learning about classic rock and country from his Dad and punk and metal from his brother. Buddy Guy, ZZ Top, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Ted Nugent, Willie Nelson, Frank Zappa, Chet Atkins, Naked Raygun, Metallica and so many more. Ty’s has been heavily influenced by a mix of classic rock, hip hop and early hardcore: Guns n Roses, Led Zeppelin, Beastie Boys, Bad Brains and Cro-Mags, to name a few. Logan and I have known each other our whole lives, so much of our influences came from his older brother’s record collection which included Black Sabbath, Primus, Dead Kennedys, Black Flag, Quincy Punx, Dead Milkmen, a ton of Ska, Punk, Metal, Oi, Classic Rock and of course the music of the time: Weezer, Offspring, Green Day, etc.. Independently, I’m very heavily influenced by Ween, Faith No More, Oingo Boingo, Shel Silverstein and throughout the years, we’ve become big fans of Thin Lizzy, Iron Maiden, Murphy’s Law, Dio, Dwarves, Valient Thorr, Turbonegro and so many more.
William: You’ve moved on despite a two member departure. Will you continue as a duo or are you planning to add/have you added replacements?
Aaron: To be clear, Tony has not left the band. This is actually the second time he has moved back home to Chicago. Without Tony, there is no band. We just plain refuse to let him go. We work plane tickets into our budget and limit ourselves to only the top quality opportunities we get offered. We meet up once a week via Facebook Portal to do our podcast and then work on songs via GarageBand and the cloud. We tend to actually do our most productive work when we are not living in the same state. The limitations end up creating desirable parameters for focused creative work. We make the most of the limited time we have. As for Parker, it was just time for us to part ways. We’re grateful for everything he brought to the band, but I think ultimately everyone will benefit from the split. We intend to continue as a four piece, though there are certainly challenges associated with this drastic change in our sonic composition. Frankly, I’m excited to see what is born from this somewhat cathartic change.
William: Talk a little bit about your web series and MF Podcast if you don’t mind.
Aaron: Our web series, MF Monday just came from a desire to build our YouTube presence. Evergroove Studio, where we are doing our album, does a regular livestream series on their studio channel. We figured they already have the set-up, why not go in and do a batch of live performances we can release on a weekly basis. We play new stuff, old stuff, covers and even a few songs from our friends’ bands. We’ve done 32 episodes so far, but logistically speaking, it’s probably going to have to change to MF Monthly, haha!
The MF Podcast started out as a piece of content on Soundcloud I was doing just to have more out there for the 20 or so die-hard fans. I would do commentary on songs using GarageBand and my girlfriend’s closet as a recording studio. Eventually, Tony made the suggestion of expanding it into a podcast. We’re both fans of the medium and thought we could produce a pretty entertaining show which would include band news, commentary, shout-outs to other bands, etc.. When we started, it was Tony and me, sitting in a room with my phone on the table. It was a ton of fun experimenting. Eventually, the studio I work for, The Nug Nation, built a vocal booth and began purchasing quality mics. It wasn’t long before we started having guests and putting some real production value behind it. Now, The MF Podcast has passed 60 episodes and has become something of a musician/artist lifestyle, comedy and educational resource show. It’s a lot of fun. It gives us a reason to meet up every week, it gives us the opportunity to have deep discussions with friends and acquaintances from the world of art and music and it helps us give back to the community by promoting bands and providing useful information to independent creators. We plan to hit 100 episodes by March 2020. It’s been a very rewarding project.
William: How did you get featured as a voice actor in a Billy Ray Cyrus video? Have you done any other voice acting?
Aaron: As I mentioned, I work for a production studio called The Nug Nation. Our primary focus is a stop-motion animation series by the same name which features characters made of real Colorado cannabis. Our studio also does freelance commercial video production as well as podcasting. Mikey Peterson, the creator of the show, is an old friend and directed the DVD portion of our live album “The Dirty Half Dozen”. When he started The Nug Nation, he brought me on board to help write and do voice overs. It’s grown quite a bit. I’ve had the opportunity to work with Redman, Afro Man, Nappy Roots and now, Billy Ray Cyrus. Billy Ray was on quite a roll after Old Town Road put him at number one and one of his handlers just so happened to be a producer that had worked with the Nug Nation when we were shopping television networks. Billy Ray had a song called “Angel in my Pocket” about a joint he held onto for emergencies. The stars aligned and we made a video together. My job was easy. The production crew, however, had to get 2 months worth of work done in less than 2 weeks on a shoestring budget. I’m super proud of my Nug Nation family. They really went above and beyond. The video turned out great.
William: You had a pretty interesting situation occur at your first show in Germany. Care to enlighten the readers?
Aaron: Oh yeah! Man, we were out there for a big Turbojugend festival (that’s the international fan-club for the band Turbonegro). Our first gig was at this club in Essen and a bunch of Turbojugend chapters showed up as kind of a warm-up for the festival. There was a bunch of weird stuff that happened. There was a kid sitting on the floor at the front of the stage reading a book, people were spitting beer on us, grabbing us…usual rowdy crowd stuff. One guy, though, poured beer down my leotard and slurped it from my crotch. It was so weird. Then he pulled out his mom’s tits (Yes. His Mom’s tits) and shook them at us. It was surreal. We were wondering if that’s just how the Turbojugend operated in Germany. We were going “Oh man. What have we gotten ourselves into?” As it happens, those people were just particularly insane. The rest of the trip had it’s weird moments, for sure, but nothing that scared us quite like the wackadoos in Essen.
William: What further plans do you have in the foreseeable future?
Aaron: On the immediate horizon, we’ve got some solid gigs coming up. We’re having a release party for the motion comic and new print edition here in Denver, we’re playing a big cannabis dispensary party, we’re doing a gig and making a music video at an old 1800s brothel, we’re doing New Worst Fest in Fort Collins on the same day we open for Hank Von Hell and there’s another gig that just fell in our lap which can’t talk about yet. Other than that, it’s just following protocol: Get an album out and do a tour every year, do a new series of monthly videos, drop a quarterly comic, record a weekly podcast and document the ever-unfolding story every day on our social channels. Business as usual.
William: What’s most important to you with regard to how you want your music to be remembered?
Aaron: I personally wish to be remembered as a community celebrant, a bard, poet and heyoka who brought joy into the world and made it a better place. That’s what our band is all about. Find Joy, Bring Joy, Party the Planet. There’s an awful lot of fear-mongering in the world and many attempts to polarize and divide us into tiny, manageable little subcategories. In truth, as humans, we have more in common than we don’t. We want to be remembered as a band that brought people together regardless of background, politics or any other subcategory. What’s most important to us is to have fun, travel the world and make music with and for the people we love. It’s a pretty simple mission and we’re happy with the job we’re doing thus far.
On Friday, July 26th, MF Ruckus has a gig with Ceasefire, Hail Satan, and The Diffusers at the Lost Lake Lounge in Denver, Colorado. For tickets and further information on the gig, click here.
Check out the MF Ruckus podcast and blog here.