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With Code Red Riot, Las Vegan Corky Gainsford takes the next step in a long musical career

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Code Red Riot
Photo: Miranda Alam / Courtesy

“Ten years ago I put together a list of bands that I’d been in, and I was over 25 or 30 bands,” Code Red Riot’s Corky Gainsford says. As if that wasn’t impressive enough, he rattles off another eye-opening accomplishment: “I had played music 23 years before signing my first record deal.”

Gainsford’s career is like a tour through the history of the Vegas music scene. For starters, he moved to town from San Francisco in 2001 to work as a drummer for Blue Man Group. His band Red Means Go regularly shared gigs with The Killers in their earliest days. He played drums in pop-punk band The Utmost alongside future Five Finger Death Punch bassist Chris Kael. And from 2011-2015, he was the drummer for hard rock band Otherwise, whose radio hit “Soldiers” was written and demoed in Gainsford’s garage.

After leaving Otherwise, Gainsford went back to that garage and started working on songs of his own, sending them out to industry contacts for feedback. That led to a deal with Sony’s Red Music label, and Gainsford unexpectedly found himself as the frontman of a nationally touring hard rock group. “In very short order, what I thought was a bit of a vanity project became a band, and became me getting members and putting this thing together, and that became Code Red Riot,” he explains.

CRR’s debut album, Mask—on which Gainsford sang and played every instrument aside from a few guitar leads—was released in June 2018, and the band recently wrapped a tour opening for Smile Empty Soul. For Gainsford, who’s spent most of his musical career behind a drum kit, singing his own songs onstage every night has been a transformative experience. “I feel like it has to be me up front, exposing myself that way, or it’s not going to mean the same thing translated to the audience,” he says.

Gainsford is busy writing new material and planning for CRR’s next step, but he’s also playing drums around town in various shows (including Blue Man Group) and with various other performers, just happy to be a working musician. Throughout his career, that’s what he’s done best.

Kilpop Awards After Party with Code Red Riot, State to State, Hyro the Hero, Franky Perez. February 1, 10 p.m., $12-$25. Fremont Country Club, 702-382-6601.

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