To Rock Is My Role

August 23rd, 2017

Mike Makkay plays lead guitar in King Rat and has for the last 17 years. We first crossed paths in 1997. He was working as a DJ for 93.3 KTCL -- “Denver’s Rock Alternative.”

One of Mike’s jobs at KTCL was to host the Locals Only show that aired late on Sunday nights, the time when the least amount of listeners would be subjected to the superbly unpolished caterwauling noise coming out of Denver at the time. Granted, there were a few slick acts around in those days but King Rat was certainly not among them.

Someone at KTCL passed our first CD The Towne Liar on to Mike, who perhaps heard a glimmer of promise in my two minute tantrums about love, confusion, loss and barking “fuck you” at any situation that didn’t go my way. He called me about doing an interview for the Locals Only show, to which I reacted with feigned nonchalance while dancing about -- barely containing my glee.

We arrived at Mike’s place and were met at the door by a guy with waist-length reddish-brown hair wearing a tie-dyed shirt and smoking a joint. He had a firm handshake and a kindly demeanor. “Typical fukkin hippie” I thought.

I soon discovered that Mike was anything but typical. Instead of the two-dimensional tongue-in cheek run-of-the-mill radio guy smarminess, Mike’s interview questions were poised, intelligent, and obviously planned out in advance. On either side of me sat my band mates, Tony Luke (drummer and co-founding member) and Todd Daigle -- bass player. They both clammed up, apparently suffering from a case of instantaneous radio fright, so it was just Mike and I talking. I can’t recall any exact exchanges but I distinctly remember not ever wanting to punch him in the nose even once for asking me something patently stupid.      

Four years later we had evolved into a four piece. Tony had left and was replaced by drummer Zeth Pedulla, meanwhile we had recruited hardcore kid / Dallas transplant Todd Schlueter to play lead guitar. When Todd left to follow his hardcore calling, we began the search for a new lead guitar player. One night Zeth ran into Mike at the long-since-bulldozed 15th Street Tavern. Mike explained that he had quit the radio station, was recently divorced and looking to get into a band playing guitar.

Zeth told me that Mike Makkay wanted to try out for King Rat. “What? That long haired bastard plays guitar? Pfffftt … whatever!” I grudgingly met with Mike at our practice space and barely recognized the guy. He pulled up on a motorcycle wearing a black leather jacket and combat boots sporting spiked, bleach-blonde hair. I was far from convinced. I handed him a copy of our current album Beautiful Songs for Ugly Children and said “learn this from start to finish and come back ready to play it tomorrow.”

By that time we had tried out numerous potential guitarists, and my patience for people who were all talk and no rock had been eroded to a detached air of cynicism. The next night, Mike arrived undaunted and plugged in his Les Paul -- ready to jam. I began calling out songs from the album I’d given him the night before. I was eager to get the audition over with, assured that someone who once made a living in mainstream radio did not have what it took to believably conjure and release musical mojo. I was dead wrong. Mike was nailing the songs with stunning accuracy, even though he’d had only a day to listen to the music and figure out the movements.  

He went on tour with us a month later and had the time of his life, rapidly realizing an idea that had gone from a far-fetched proposition to a blaring reality in the span of a couple of months.  

Mike soon began contributing songs to the band, preferring to concentrate on the arrangement and structure -- allowing me to craft lyrics around his music in whichever way I was compelled. Through this process, we discovered an invaluable dynamic. Mike’s riff-heavy attack and unorthodox arrangements added a welcome change to my inevitable pattern of two-and-a-half minute storytelling that -- by effective default -- ended up in the verse, chorus, verse format.

This approach rendered King Rat classics and crowd favorites such as Out the Door, Peeler, Gin Fight, Sacred Things, Last of the Bad, Wrong Mind and of course -- To Rock Is My Role -- among many others.

Mike's skill and innovation added new dimensions of credibility and intensity to the band. To this day, when writing songs, we sometimes (not always) deliberately write parts for MIke to break loose and wail -- to unleash a sonic tirade of phrases filled with mojo and swagger.   

In mid 2016 we signed with Unable Records. We wrote an album in six weeks and quickly scooted over to Green Door Recordings to capture the fresh material under the watchful ear of engineer Felipe Patino. Mike and I collaborated on several tracks as usual. Upon hearing the new material, Unable Records label head Mike Ransom exclaimed: “To say I dig it is a vast understatement. It’s punk rock gold, man!”

No Apologies No Regrets is King Rat’s 10th album set for release on September 29th, 2017 and is available for pre order on September 1st through Unable Records.

Play it loud, mofos!

Luke Schmaltz

King Rat Songer / Singwriter


P.S. If you’d like to hear To Rock Is My Role, it’s the first song on this Bandcamp page -- here’s the link: Purchase the download and you’ll be supporting a long-standing musical outfit founded on shameless self-promotion in efforts like this blog. Thanks for making it this far, Congratulations; you're a Rodent Reader. 


Here’s the lyrics too -- so you can even sing along!


Can’t force a smile and walk a mile in your shoes

Can’t hang myself with the blue collar noose

Breaking my way back out of the blues

Banking on coming back and paying more dues


I know to rock is my role

I ain’t selling my soul

Diamonds from coal

If there’s one thing I know


Can’t sell my mind to the media machine

Got two ears and all the grey in between

Can’t change into who you want me to be

I ain’t one of you I’m one of me