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Mass appeal

Opiate for the Masses has turned its renaissance image into a loyal following.

 by Emily Murphy
 published on Thursday, February 27, 2003

Ryan Head [from left, lead guitar], Elias Mallin [drums], Ron Underwood [vocals], Dustin Lyon [lead guitar], Jim Kaufman [guitar, keyboard, programming], from the band Opiate for the Masses play Bash On Ash on Friday./issues/ent/380707
Ryan Head [from left, lead guitar], Elias Mallin [drums], Ron Underwood [vocals], Dustin Lyon [lead guitar], Jim Kaufman [guitar, keyboard, programming], from the band Opiate for the Masses play Bash On Ash on Friday.


Local hard rock band Opiate for the Masses and the Betty Ford clinic have two things in common: They both cater to "all walks of life" and continuously deal with people heavily addicted to drugs and alcohol.

"We're a big hit in Betty Ford right now," says lead singer Ron Underwood, explaining that after a friend of his visited the center for treatment, the whole place exploded with OFM's modern rock beats. "We go over well with people in recovery."

"Anyone that heavily abuses drugs likes us," says Elias Mallin, OFM's drummer, smiling under the brim of his hat. "But we cater to all walks of life," he clarifies.

Although OFM has only been around for four years, its music is reaching the ears of many across the country, including Nine Inch Nails, A Perfect Circle and Linkin Park, just some of the band's biggest fans in the industry. "It's weird; people we grew up listening to are becoming fans of us," Mallin says. "We're kind of infecting people."

Opiate for the Masses with Blessedbethyname at Bash On Ash, 230 W. 5th St., Tempe. 8 p.m. Friday. All ages. 480-966-8200.

OFM has also infected the softcore-porn industry, as it appears on Playboy's Sex and Rock'n'Roll Web site. "Yeah, Hef and us - we go way back," Underwood says, grinning.

"Actually the guys from Playboy are big fans," Mallin quickly asserts.

The Phoenix-based group did not build its broad fan base through a typical turn of hard-rock events. Underwood, Mallin, and Jim Kaufman, the band's keyboardist and mixer, met at a local charter school, New School for the Arts, where they studied music theory and composition. The baby-grand piano in the corner of the band's studio in central Phoenix seems ironically placed for this dark group, but has actually been a part of Kaufman's life since he was young. "The thing is, we've all learned and grown a lot with each other."

The piano is not the only unexpected piece in the eclectic studio. A poster of Jane's Addiction opposes a wall of wine bottles and antiques. The band crowds onto a red couch under the light-pink hues of the track lighting and listens to the aggressive sounds of its newest songs. "It's a calming environment," Kaufman explains.

This setting is contrary to OFM's live experience, Mallin explains. "The mosh pits are so packed, you can't fall over if you try," he says. Mallin goes on to explain that the show is more than Opiate's music. "We do a stage show with things from human suspension to fire to dousing people with water or getting guys on stilts." The live shows also fire up the band mates when they're hanging out in their studio.

"We get our emotions out onstage, and I mean, when I get out there I just kind of go black," Kaufman says. "We just get to create this environment that is truly chaotic and awesome."

Because of its small venue OFM's Friday night show at the Bash On Ash won't include anything too flashy or demand an extra 20 cops to keep the crowd under control like at past venues. But the band promises to stand up to its name and rile the crowd. "Ryan ... can't help but whip his wiener out," Underwood says of the band's bass player, Ryan Head. But Mallin steps in to verify Head's role onstage. "He throws up a lot - he's the vomiter. Jim is more of the one to whip it out."

As his band mates comfortably talk about his genitalia, Kaufman sits back slouched in the couch.

"Yeah, OK," Underwood concedes, glancing over at Kaufman. "And I get naked, but not as naked as Jim. He's gotten naked a less number of times, but more fully nude. I don't think there's anything funnier then a half-naked or totally-naked guy jumping around."

Before the OFM can get up the nerve to bare all, they tend to kill the before-show jitters with a ritual.

"We get drunk," they say, laughing in unison. "No, but we don't really get nervous that much anymore," Kaufman says.

Mallin adds that even though they don't worry too much before a show, their crew does. "Well, it's because we're always tearing stuff down and breaking shit and they've got to really do their job well to keep up with us."

The band has also been known to break irreplaceables, but say they don't get much grief for it.

"This guy actually came up to me once and said, 'Dude! You broke my nose once!' and I said, 'Oh, I'm sorry,' and he's like, 'No, it was badass! Thank you!'" Underwood recounts. "I was like, 'Oh, OK.'re welcome."

Although a lot of people walk away from the show broken, bleeding or mangled, Mallin says they don't seem to mind. "People just go to our show and lose their minds," he says.

"We try to provide a fun environment," Kaufman says. "It's a good night."

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