Throwaway Style is a monthly column dedicated to examining all aspects of the Northwest music scene. Whether it’s a new artist making waves, headlines affecting local talent, or reflecting on some of the music that’s been a foundation in our region; this space celebrates everything happening in the Northwest region, the first Thursday of every new month on KEXP.org.
In 2020, after about a year and a half of expressing interest to British Columbia-based professional wrestler and musician Daniel Makabe in profiling him for this website, he sent me a Word document cataloging every concert he’s ever attended. Sent about six weeks before the first Shelter in Place order in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic, the file was an exhaustive 35 pages long, with early highlights such as Radiohead (with the Beta Band; June 24, 2001) and the Strokes (with Rooney; October 20, 2002). 607 shows were listed in total.
Over the course of the 21 years Makabe’s list covers (not including the 2020 Flaming Lips show he planned on attending but was ultimately — obviously — canceled), the overlap of bands we’ve seen is substantial. We’ve seen no fewer than two dozen of the same groups, sometimes on consecutive tour stops. (Among others, we’ve seen Vivian Girls, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, My Bloody Valentine, and Beach House within 24 hours of each other. We were at the same Royal Headache show four years before meeting for the first time.)
“I just like the idea of cataloging things in general,” Makabe told me during a recent visit to the KEXP studios. “You know, now that I’m wrestling as much as I am and all over the place, I love cataloging results for matches that I have and for cards I have been on. It’s a way to spark memories, spark conversation; it’s a bit of a humblebrag to be like, ‘I was there when…’” Makabe had already attended over 100 concerts before he started keeping a log, having to Google search many dates and file through a lot of old ticket stubs.
“I got [the list] not only on my laptop, but I’ve got it backed up on Google Docs. I’ve got it on my phone. I’m not losing that list anywhere.” When I mentioned to him about forgetting more shows than I remember going to, we shared a laugh and he replied, “There are times I go through it. I’m like, ‘I went to this? I have no memory of this.”
For a person with a few different artistic pursuits and many intellectual interests, it’s no surprise Makabe keeps a log of things he’s seen and places he’s been. Over the past decade-plus he’s played in bands — most recently as a guitarist for post-hardcore septet Griefwalker, who recently had their first practice in almost two years. As a pro wrestler, he is not only well-traveled — venturing as far as Germany for hard-hitting promotion WXW — he’s well-regarded as one of the most gifted technical wrestlers in North America as the style embarks on a renaissance of sorts. He’s tangled with stylistic peers like Jonathan Gresham, Lee Moriarty, and Fred Yehi. He’s a valued member of one of the most talented regional scenes in the world, the embarrassment of riches that is British Columbia’s wrestling contingent, facing off against veteran luminaries such as Nicole Matthews and Artemis Spencer. He's competed in WXW's grueling 16 Carat Gold Tournament. He won the prestigious Scenic City Invitational tournament in 2019 and followed it up by being the final man eliminated in the 2021 finals.
In other words, he’s becoming a very big deal in the world of independent wrestling.
Makabe, who takes his surname from Japanese wrestling legend Togi Makabe, has a wrestling style that is tough, wrenching, and profoundly brainy; full of interlocking transitions and grace notes of unexpected brilliance. In a recent match against the immensely talented Judas Icarus, a quickly ascendant star in Western Canada and the American Pacific Northwest, Makabe attempted to elbow his way out of an Icarus waistlock. Once, twice. Then, Makabe quickly snatched Icarus’ arm, forcing him into the mat while wrenching an armbar. The exchange was downright musical.
Daniel Makabe grew up in Surrey, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver which he says currently has the fastest-growing population in all of Canada and may one day even surpass its sister city in that category. As a kid, he took the SkyTrain (built for Expo 86, Vancouver’s installment of the World’s Fair) into the city for sporting events and special family outings. At six years old, his father took him to a closed circuit airing of WrestleMania VII — this was before the advent of pay-per-view made it to household cable systems — where he fell in love with pro wrestling.
“But you know,” he says, “it’s funny that I came up in an era that was so over-the-top — gimmicks — and eventually ended up being drawn to the complete opposite.” On The Life of Daniel Makabe, Makabe ventures to a storage unit where he keeps a treasure trove of VHS cassettes from his days as a tape trader.
Before YouTube was a twinkle in a budding programmer’s eye, studious pro wrestling fans would record televised wrestling events and weekly shows, engaging in a mail exchange of sorts with someone from a different area. For instance, if you lived in West Texas, you could trade a recording of your local wrestling program that may have Terry Funk featured in the main event with someone who lives in Japan, who may have an All Japan Pro Wrestling event with Funk in the main event there. Tape trading existed all the way up to the point where VHS became an obsolete piece of technology, and was a crucial tool for anyone interested in viewing a wrestling program their area wasn’t capable of broadcasting. This was a huge part of Makabe becoming a lover, and eventually a practitioner, of the art form of pro wrestling.
Makabe started playing guitar when he was 11, inspired to learn Green Day and Nirvana songs. A band he was in during seventh grade played their school dance, exclusively playing covers of Silverchair and Bush — ”who had to be called Bush X in Canada because there was already a Canadian band called Bush who Cease and Desisted them.” Well, they sort of played their school dance.
With a laugh, he noted, “The teacher who was the chaperone made everyone sit down to watch us because he didn’t want a quote-unquote ‘mosh pit or slam-dancing’ with all these 12 and 13 year olds. So everyone sat down and lifelessly watched us play, and then the dance got to kick off afterwards.”
Makabe stopped playing guitar after being kicked out of his early-teenage band but picked it up in his twenties, like many people who play guitar, to impress a young woman. Which led to eventually getting involved in his local hardcore scene and, in his words, “getting to play with musicians who were so much better and so much more skilled than I was.” Eventually learning his instrument and gaining more skill led him to join Hanging Heart — a shoegaze indie band that sounds like what would happen if you retroactively put one part Broken Water, one part Snail Mail, and two parts Slowdive in a blender.
“There was this band in Vancouver that I loved called Damages, who were a post-hardcore band,” Makabe says. “I would go to the most random suburbs [to see them play]; people’s basements, community halls, wherever. And they told me many years after that they used to call me Damages Fan.”
Band member Andrew Morrison ran a label called Clue #2, which put out a couple Damages releases. Morrison ran into Makabe at a show and asked him if he played music. Makabe answered yes but added that he wasn’t very good. Morrison asked what type of band Makabe would love to play in. He replied he’d love to play in a band that sounds like Tacoma post-hardcore heroes Botch (who would break up and splinter off to form Minus the Bear and These Arms are Snakes), as well as influential Japanese hardcore band Envy. Morrison told Makabe he’s not in any bands doing what Botch was doing, but invited the fledgling guitarist to play in a shoegaze band with some elements of Envy’s style.
In 2016, Hanging Heart released Flood, a six-song EP about the length of many punk LPs; gorgeous in its stately melancholy and use of varied textures.
Makabe compares Griefwalker’s style to Swans or Godspeed You! Black Emperor — whose song “Providence” serves as his wrestling entrance music — and says the band gets compared a lot to avant-metal band Neurosis. The seven-piece, mostly instrumental post-hardcore band has three songs on their Bandcamp page with a cumuluative running time of about 26½ minutes (again, longer than many straight-ahead punk and hardcore LPs). Makabe says about this sprawling group, “You know, we’ve got a rule when we write a Griefwalker song that if you’re playing a part and it feels like you’ve played it enough, play it for eight more bars.”
Makabe’s presence on Twitter is ultimately a huge part of how we became familiar with each other, bonding over a shared love of DIY/punk/indie rock music. Every morning, he posts a song recommendation on the social media platform, and one day his rec was No Age’s “Eraser” — from Nouns, my favorite album of the 21st Century thus far. The first time we met in person, after an event for Everett-based independent wrestling promotion Without a Cause, he enthusiastically chatted with me about finding a record from a Louisville hardcore band that predated Slint called Squirrel Bait.
During our interview, Makabe revealed his journey as a music fan had a very surprising jumpoff point — or at least surprising to people who revel in him posting tracks from bands like Sonic Youth, the Pastels, Sunny Day Real Estate, Jawbox, and Animal Collective.
“My first favorite band when I was like eight or nine years old, that I just became obsessed with, was Aerosmith of all things,” he told me. “And it was seeing advertisements in a local record store for Get a Grip, which had a cow with an Aerosmith tattoo and a pierced udder, and I remember thinking that was the most punk rock thing I had ever seen in my life.” After an eruption of laughter from both artist and interviewer, he notes that out of the 500 CDs he owns gathering dust somewhere in the vast expanse of British Columbia, he’s willing to wager that the band he owns the most CDs by is Aerosmith.
Tracing his love of punk rock to later in his childhood, he found bands like Nirvana and Green Day by watching MuchMusic (the Canadian equivalent of MTV, for the uninitiated). An important component of developing his music tastes were specialty shows like The Punk Show (“It was literally called The Punk Show”) and The Wedge, MuchMusic’s answer to 120 Minutes — the latter having a notable reboot in the early 2010s when it was hosted by Fucked Up frontman Damian Abraham.
We spoke about Canadian content laws — colloquially known as CanCon — which required all media in the country to have a minimum of 35% of what was aired to be Canadian-produced. For Makabe personally, the pride of representing his home elsewhere has been far more essential than any sort of governmental support for the arts. In The Life of Daniel Makabe, his installment of the IWTV series where independent wrestlers are given a camera and asked to film their everyday lives, he mentioned the desire to be a representative of British Columbia, and more particularly his home of over 13 years, New Westminster.
The relatively small suburb of Vancouver contains a sense of culture Makabe appreciates, giving himself the moniker “The Wizard of Queens Park,” a local-specific reference to Thomas Edison (“The Wizard of Menlo Park”) and his primary nickname of “The Wrestling Genius.” He described his home of New Westminster pretty close in comparison to Ballard or Fremont, but in watching him tour his city on IWTV, it reminded me a lot of the home I recently moved away from, Tacoma — by way of its gorgeous parks and public places, as well as cool coffee and record shops. New Westminster even has a section called Antique Alley, mirroring the brief stretch of Broadway in Tacoma referred to as Antique Row.
Being mistaken as someone based in Seattle has lightly hounded Makabe — due to his star-making run in now-defunct promotion 3-2-1 Battle — but he’s doing his best to remedy that misperception.
Makabe started training for professional wrestling in Surrey around 2003, deeply influenced by Aberdeen native Bryan Danielson, who earlier in his career made a few trips to wrestle in Vancouver due to the dearth of local wrestling in Washington State. Makabe wrestled small shows in Western Canada for years before being approached by a fledgling Seattle promotion called SSP (Seattle Semi-Pro Wrestling), who were putting on shows at Re-Bar. “But they were on Wednesday nights and they didn’t have a ring. It was just gym mats on a stage,” he said, “and my friends and I were like, ‘I think that’s a little beneath me.’”
“[I’m not a big star,] I’m not main eventing Ring of Honor, but I think I need a ring. I think that’s the barrier of entry for me at this point.” After sharing another laugh, Makabe and I were quick to note wrestling shows in bars with no ring, like Southern California-based Suburban Fight, are doing very well for themselves from both a creative and popularity standpoint.
Eventually 3-2-1 Battle started running shows in a Capitol Hill basement; they had a ring, so Makabe agreed to wrestle for them and had a lot of fun. By his next 3-2-1 Battle booking, the group found the home they were most known for, a combat sports gym named EVOLV Fitness in South Lake Union, lovingly known as the Battle Palace.
Makabe would end up wrestling 105 matches for 3-2-1 Battle and making a name for himself against some of the most beloved names in independent wrestling. Supreme talents like B-Boy, Shotzi Blackheart, Negro Navarro, and the name that would put him on the national radar: Timothy Thatcher.
Being a huge fan of Thatcher and the punishing, grinding style of professional wrestling he emblematizes, I’m one of the many wrestling enthusiasts who became aware of Daniel Makabe’s wrestling through the trilogy of matches he and Thatcher shared. As raw as they are smart, the Makabe-Thatcher trilogy is as good a series as any in displaying pro wrestling as a gritty, realistic art form as opposed to the theatrical and silly entertainment property it’s perceived as. (And don’t get me wrong, pro wrestling is silly as fuck, that’s part of what makes it so fun — but there is room for gravelly auteurist realism.) The fact that these matches happened in 3-2-1 Battle — a promotion known for punk rock irreverence and leaning into pro wrestling’s inherent silliness — makes them all the more impressive.
“Now to me, you can teach anyone,” Makabe says. “You can lead a horse to water. You can teach someone to appreciate a style. I think I’m indicative of that because I taught a sweaty room in South Lake Union to appreciate technical wrestling when they were there for characters and entertainment, you know?” Though Makabe has a strongly identifiable character — think Max Fischer of Rushmore if he were a part-time record store clerk who decided to become the most brilliant technical wrestler you’ve never heard of — it’s his skill between the ropes that is getting him eagerly anticipated matches like the one he had against independent wrestling legend Alex Shelley in November.
In a match that has been in the works since before the pandemic started, the friendly rivalry between Makabe and Shelley — the latter sporting a taste in music nearly as close to my own as Makabe’s — started with a Battle of the Bands-style volley on Twitter. On May 4th of every year (known to most as “May the fourth be with you,” where people engage in their Star Wars fandom), Jawbreaker fans celebrate their favorite songs from the Bay Area punk band — as well as Blake Schwarzenbach’s work with Jets to Brazil. May 4th is the parenthetical of the unfortunately-titled Jawbreaker song “Sluttering.” In the spirit of his daily music recommendations on Twitter, Makabe decided to post a video of himself playing “Boxcar.”
Shelley, who caught wind of Makabe’s music tastes through him mentioning he was in a Neutral Milk Hotel cover band — a No Age-style drums-and-guitar two-piece called No Comely — retweeted his Jawbreaker cover and later played a cover of Guided by Voices’ eternal jam “Game of Pricks” and dedicated the performance to his fellow wrestler/musician.
In the year and a half leading up to their clash, Shelley and Makabe respectively have covered “Way Too Much” by Wavves, “Jessica” by Adam Green, the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s “Not if You Were the Only Dandy on Earth,” Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man,” “Jumpy” by Electric Six, “Hybrid Moments” by the Misfits, and more. Makabe even recorded a No Comely-esque medley featuring bangers by the White Stripes, Neutral Milk Hotel (naturally), No Age, and Shelley’s own cover choice, “Game of Pricks.”
“In spring of 2020, when I went over [to WXW] for 16 Carat, he was supposed to be there as well,’ Makabe says of the original plans for his match with Shelley. “He pulled out because he works in the healthcare industry and he could see the writing on the wall as far as COVID was concerned — before the world shut down altogether.” There was discussion about having the match for Indiana promotion Black Label Pro, but the travel restrictions raged on as variants evolved. Finally, on November 28th, Daniel Makabe and Alex Shelley locked horns in the main event of Without a Cause’s AHH! Real Wrestlers! event in Downtown Everett.
By all accounts, the match was sensational. (Note: I bought a ticket to watch the match in person, but ultimately decided against going to an indoor wrestling event while the pandemic showed no signs of slowing down.) A titanic meshing of styles, with Shelley keeping pace with Makabe’s technical mastery (being a veteran with an immensely diverse set of skills) and ultimately winning the match.
“The match was good,” Makabe says, adding the sort of self-critical caveat a lot of artists can understand: “I still need to watch it back, but in the moment it was really good. He was really happy with it. He was telling me how he can’t wait until we can run it back again and where we could run it back again.”
Pro wrestling has seen a major explosion in widespread popularity and artistic respect, from the proliferation of All Elite Wrestling — World Wrestling Entertainment’s first major competitor in almost two decades — to the easy access of streaming which bolsters independent wrestling companies and regional wrestling scenes. As long as there is pro wrestling, there will be pro wrestlers who aspire to become a top star for a major company, to inspire kids to achieve their dreams and become wrestling superstars themselves. There will always be people who work toward holding the championship aloft in the final moments of WrestleMania, with pyrotechnics exploding all around the stadium they stand in the center of.
For Daniel Makabe—taking cues from many of the bands he’s found inspiration from, even bands he’s played in himself, who hopped in vans and logged in thousands of miles just to break even financially, the fame and the money is not quite as important as the body of work. Being able to inspire someone transfers just as easily in an intimate setting.
“You know, I think music has influenced me in that I’m much more drawn to smaller rooms,” he told me in the recording booth that day. “I’d much rather go see a band play a 200 cap room than I would see them in a 15,000 cap arena. As much as I loved seeing Bruce Springsteen 100 feet from where we’re sitting, if I could see Bruce Springsteen 100 feet in the other direction — at the Vera Project as opposed to Climate Pledge — how amazing would that be, right?”
Some personal context for you: My lovely romantic/domestic partner is an Old Redmond Firehouse Teen Center kid from back in the day. Probably more than any other group playing music, MCD was practically the house band of her teenage years. So, when she came to me a couple weekends before our two-year anniversary and asked what we should do, I noted to her she already bought us tickets to the Murder City Devils show at the new Crocodile space. Along with one of her close friends — part of a social circle she’s kept since those aforementioned teenage years — we ventured to Belltown to check out the band and the new venue.
After unsuccessfully attempting to get a quick drink at the front bar (being as though this show was a part of the new Croc’s Opening Week festivities, the venue was naturally packed), we made our way to the main room — by my estimation, at least twice as big as the space at the 2nd and Blanchard location they left and four times as big as the original Crocodile Cafe. TERMINATor were in the thick of their opening set. A weird, occasionally pummeling, punk-adjacent all-femme rock trio prone to funneling flute parts through a looping pedal, which (as my girlfriend astutely pointed out during their set), covers all the bases on the questionnaire “Would Martin Douglas Love This Band?”
Of course, the main event did not disappoint. MCD plowed through a raucous 17-song set with their best foot forward, with frontman/Pacific Northwest punk icon Spencer Moody as clean-shaven as he was during the band’s 2018 Upstream reunion show. Unless you’re the type of completist starving for the band to play the deepest deep cuts, the quintet brought out pretty much every song you’d want to hear: They played the killer opening track from arguably their best album (“Press Gang”), they began their set with the song about suburban malaise and the existential drag of having to drive across the 520 Bridge (“I Want a Lot Now (So Come On)”), they played “Hey Sailor” and “Somebody Else’s Baby” and “Dancin’ Shoes” and “I Don’t Wanna Work for Scum Anymore.”
I know my bias is a little skewed, being in the target demographic for the band (hello, punk-identifying record collector rapidly pushing 40), but seeing Murder City Devils on a Sunday night while the pandemic still rages on was cathartic for the soul; a perfect balm for screaming along into the void during endless grey winters.
Since 2017, Crane City Music has been doing their best to bring Seattle’s hip-hop scene to the world. Now the limited-run vinyl label has some real muscle behind them to do so. In a big, big win for Pacific Northwest hip-hop, Fat Beats has agreed to promote and distribute the label’s releases; where Crane City will join such illustrious independent hip-hop institutions as Stones Throw, Madlib Invazion, Bastard Jazz, Lex Records, and nearly two dozen other imprints. In an Instagram post announcing the partnership, Crane City emphasized their modus operandi: Artists will still own their recordings, every album released will continue to issued on colored vinyl, and albums will still come with liner notes — some editions have been augmented by words from KEXP’s own Eva Walker, Larry Mizell Jr., and yours truly. Fat Beats seems to be just as excited for this great look for our region’s hip-hop scene as we are, so stay tuned on future releases.
You may recognize the name Khrist Koopa from his standout work on AJ Suede’s original Darth Sueder project — crafting the dreamlike beats for “Depression Nap” and “Microdose,” along with head nod-inducing closer “Cannibal (Can I Ball?)”. A couple weeks back, the Puget Sound producer released a thumper EP featuring the Suede God, Wishbaby, and Lord OLO dropping verses on his haunting brand of boom-bap. Named after an unfortunate incident where OLO took the bus from Ohio to join Suede, Astral Trap, psychedelic post-hardcore band Rainbow Coalition Death Cult (featuring Wolftone and Nicolle Swims of Black Ends), and others on a bill that was unceremoniously canceled — a situation which I found myself in the middle of, so I’m not at liberty to get specific publicly — the hilariously-titled Metal Detector Music finds Suede, Wish, and OLO unfurling knotty, whip-smart verses over Koopa’s excellently curated loops and drum programming, perfect for smoke filled cyphers (“The Future”) and late-night drives through a rainy South End (“Moonchild,” “Deku Tree”).
(Note: This month's list is intentionally a little light due to COVID infection rates scaling to unprecedented heights. If you choose to attend shows this month, please use extreme caution.)
The Vancouver punk quartet's debut album is 18 minutes of hysterical and endlessly catchy punk music with a sometimes blistering, sometimes melancholy feminist spirit.
Veterans of the Seattle rock 'n roll circuit, the reigning and defending Rock 'n Roll Champs invite Martin Douglas to their practice space for a peek into their world of blood, sweat, and beers.