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Chuck E. Cheese messed up Pinkish Black's childhood.
Chuck E. Cheese messed up Pinkish Black's childhood.
Naomi Vaughan

Metal Band Pinkish Black Wrote Album Inspired by Traumatic Chuck E. Cheese’s Rebranding

For nearly a decade, Fort Worth duo Pinkish Black’s music has been hard to categorize. Some have called it “doom rock.” (We labeled it heavy metal.) Kerrang! referred to it as “sci-fi synth doom,” like a collaboration between John Carpenter and Rush. Their latest album, Concept Unification, sounds like a soundtrack for a David Lynch movie starring Rob Zombie, Marilyn Manson and Maynard from Tool.

Released via Relapse Records last week, Concept Unification is keyboardist/vocalist Daron Beck and drummer Jon Teague’s fourth full-length album. Wrapped in melancholy and dark ambiance, the six tracks (two bonus ones are digital) touches upon themes of anxiety, futility and emptiness.

“Me and Jon have experienced a lot of loss,” Beck says. “Like (the song) ‘Dial Tone’ is the lost phone technology and when you hear it now, it is like a dead family member. There is so much dying, dead technologies that have been forgotten, and a lot of things are disappearing, and we noticed that they were going away and becoming inconsequential like a dial tone.”

Concept Unification is an idea that comes from Beck’s childhood, when Showbiz Pizza rebranded as Chuck E. Cheese's. Like other kids from the South in the ’80s, Beck, now 42, was a fan of Showbiz’s Rock-afire Explosion animatronic band. Led by keyboardist Fatz Geronimo, a gorilla, the Rock-afire Explosion was made up of characters from Sesame Street's dark alleys.

There was bassist Billy Bob Brockali, a Tennessee brown bear known for cover songs; followed by drummer Dook LaRue, a mongrel in a spacesuit; and vocalists Mitzi Mozzarella, a mouse, and Looney Bird, who spent most of her time in an oil drum. Beach Bear was a guitar-slinging polar bear voiced by Aaron Fechter, the band’s creator. Rolfe DeWolfe, a big bad wolf, and his possessed puppet Earl Schemerie were a favorite comedy act.

After ShowBiz Pizza rebranded as Chuck E. Cheese in the mid-1980s, the Rock-afire Explosion was stripped of their skins, given new ones and christened the “Munch’s Make Believe Band band.” Dook LaRue was now known as “Pasqually The Chef,” followed by Looney Bird as “PizzaCam,” Beach Bear as “Jasper T Jowls” and Fatz Geronimo and Mitzi Mozzarella as “Mr. Munch” and “Helen Henny.”

The Munch band was led by Rolfe DeWolfe, who was turned into a gray mouse with a perma-grin known as Chuck E. Cheese.

“I saw this place turned into a nightmare,” says Beck, who was 10 at the time. “I was a kid watching them tear apart this thing from my childhood that I loved and slap a new coat of paint on it.”

ShowBiz Pizza referred to this process as “Concept Unification.”

A few years ago, Beck was surfing YouTube and came across the Rock-afire Explosion documentary, which chronicles the rise and fall of ShowBiz Pizza and its animatronic band and one fan’s journey to keep the Rock-afire show alive. It offered a behind-the-scenes look at what happened and inspired Black.

“It is fucked up watching my childhood being ripped away from me,” Beck says. “We took that and used that as a metaphor as how life is being used today.”

Beck compares “concept unification” to corporate speak. He uses Sigmund Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays, the father of modern public relations who branded cigarettes as "Torches of Freedom” to promote smoking among women, as an example of how we’re being sold a better tomorrow when the reality is far worse.

“Everything is so fake now,” he says. “It is almost that we expect it to be fake. Common phrases like influencers and industry plants, everyone is talking corporate speech now. We’ve been sold too much, and we’ve adapted that way of speaking to each other. And we’re all sold out and buy in or die.”

Be sure to catch Pinkish Black’s quick album release party on Saturday afternoon at Panther City Records or their official album release party on Saturday, June 22 at Main at South Side in Fort Worth.

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