A Conversation With Texas Punk Icon Gary Floyd

This photo by David Ensminger/Others courtesy of Gary Floyd
Gary Floyd today
Gary Floyd is a long-loved underground music icon entangled in fiery black music, queer outrage, punk vendettas, barbed-wire politics, and Eastern spiritual bliss-outs. Whereas the homegrown Texas musical tornadoes the Dicks (later reinvented in San Francisco) were ribald and cantankerous, Sister Double Happiness were rootsy purveyors of sweeping, mesmerizing alt-rock that helped initiate the Nirvana generation.

By the mid-1990s, his Gary Floyd Band buried themselves deep in East Texas saggy porch-howling blues, while Black Kali Ma soon followed by unleashing Shiva as a devouring rock and roll entity. Now, Floyd effortlessly evokes wisdom, transcendence, and transience in his latest guise, Buddha Brothers.

Floyd recently spoke with Rocks Off before heading down for Friday afternoon's meet-and-greet at Cactus Music, his first Houston appearance in the last half-decade. (Note: David Ensminger is also co-author of Floyd's forthcoming autobiography and featured the singer in his book Left of the Dial: Conversations with Punk Icons.)

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The Five Best Punk Supergroups of All Time

Categories: 1-2-3-4!

Punk rock is known for bands breaking up just as quickly as they form. So many seminal groups across its history have only one record to their name that critics talk a lot more about bands breaking up than forming for that reason. But every now and then we get the rare punk supergroup, and it always kicks ass.

Recently a lot of them have been re-forming and playing festivals, which we here at Rocks Off are super-psyched about. So in honor of the recent reunions, here are five of the best of all time, including a few you can catch on tour this year.

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The Cro-Mags at Walters, 7/10/2014

Photos by Jack Gorman
The Cro-Mags, Die Young, Black Coffee, BLUNT, H.R.A.
Walters Downtown
July 10, 2014

When the Cro-Mags arose from the streets of New York City in the mid-'80s, punk and heavy metal were hardly the best of friends. If there's one thing that singer John Joseph and company have proved over their tumultuous career wrecking stages together, though, it's that the tight bonds of friendship aren't necessarily a prerequisite to do some groundbreaking damage.

After more makeups, breakups and lineup changes than anyone cares to count at this point, the 'Mags have reemerged as proud hardcore elder statesmen in the 21st century, recognized far and wide for their thrashing, crossover sound's indelible influence on both sides of the once-deep punk/metal divide.

On a rare stop in Houston on Thursday night, the band drew a crowd ready to show out for the scene legends who wielded such a heavy hand in crafting the modern underground's sound and aesthetic.

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Today's Houston Punk-Rock Women Still Rewriting the Rules

This photo by Lana McBride/Others courtesy of David Ensminger
London Girl
As the mid-late 1990s bloomed in the much-hyped "alternative" era, a whole new crop of dual-gender-fueled bands arose in Houston, including the brazen New Wave leanings of Japanic and Modulator, arthouse traditionalists Vulgarians, guitar heroes Gun Crazy, Lucky Motors' limber indie-rock, the Oi! street mayhem of UTA, the taut pop clatter of London Girl, the boiling first-wave punk redux of the Suffragettes, and the manic garage-rock of Junior Varsity.

"No one was really helping me understand what it was like to be a girl like me," recalls Vicky Satterwhite, singer for both London Girl and the Gigi's. "We were all reduced to [being] pretty boring, docile, sex symbols. It's important to remember when it was truly a rarity to see a strong woman rocking the fuck out in front of you."

"Growing up, I was obsessed with finding a common language with the pop singers of the
1980s, like Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Belinda Carlisle. They were fun," continues the Corpus Christi native. Such women could could project themselves "in such strong ways, which was my own personal breakthrough into feminism," Satterwhite says. "As the decade progressed, I finally started going to shows and was energized by all the women of all genres singing to me, playing for me."

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Let's Hear It for the Ladies of Houston Punk

Categories: 1-2-3-4!

Artwork courtesy of David Ensminger
The Kimonos
Though often under-recognized by society at large, with its overweening narrative of punk rock being a bastion of disenchanted white males, women of all stripes have been intimate and ingrained members of Houston's local scene scene since its very genesis. Yet, few books have extolled the efforts of any punk women; hence, much of the legacy has been left to scattershot digital archives on the Web that fail to cohere and document their full sense of presence.

That's why I chose to create the blog Visual History of Punk, Hardcore, and Indie Women, not to speak on their behalf, but simply to amass the truth beyond the din of musical desperadoes. The entries, spanning more than 1,000 pieces of photography, ephemera, record art, and fanzine clippings, map in a matter-of-fact form the sheer breadth of females in punk over a 40-year period.

This is one way to give thanks to my sister, who spun LPs by the Motels, B-52's, Patti Smith, and Rachel Sweet every day at dawn as high school beckoned nearby. In our ranch home sitting squat in a flat Midwestern former farm patch, the piano refrains and thudding drums of "Pissing In the River" shook the walls as neighbors spat wearily into CB radios and let anxious dogs stumble across knee-deep snow.

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The Rocks Off 200: Stacy Hartoon, Rudz's Punk-Rock Heir Apparent

Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.

Photos courtesy of Stacy Hartoon
We've wanted Stacy Hartoon in the Rocks Off 200 ever since she took over for Mike Sims, who left his post booking bands at Rudyard's in mid-April after a decade of steering hundreds (maybe thousands) of bands into a room many fans consider to have the best live sound in the city. Rudz is beloved among local musicians no matter their style (though punk, garage, glam, metal, hard rock and roots seem to be most common) for its unpretentious attitude and commitment to putting the bands first.

Hartoon has big shoes to fill, but she seems up to the challenge. Her email box starts with "Punk Rock Stacy" -- how cool is that?

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Steve Olson Has Come a Long Way From Appearing In Devo Videos

Photos courtesy of Steve Olson
"Smoking Americans," by Steve Olson
To be sure, Steve Olson is the modern equivalent of a renaissance man with a street edge: he is a man of action, not bulky proclamations, weak dribbling philosophy or crimped visions. He steadfastly helped revolutionize skateboarding in the late 1970s, brainstormed the clothing line SOS, was cast in movies (Thrashin') and music videos (Devo's "Freedom of Choice"), showed up in adverts from Chevy to Reebok, has made penetrating art with the likes of Yaniv Evan (Powerplant Choppers) and music with bands like the Joneses, written a screenplay and contributed to Juicemagazine, and much more.

Since Olson is in Houston briefly making art and showing his work, Rocks Off caught up with the restless soul before he is inducted into the International Skateboarding Hall of Fame on May 15.

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New Doc Explores the Clash's Dismal End Times

The Clash's last lineup: Vince White, Paul Simonon, Joe Strummer, Nick Sheppard and Pete Howard.
The Rise and Fall of the Clash
Directed by Danny Garcia
Shout! Factory, 90 mins., $13.98

In the interest of truth in titling, the "Rise" in this DVD could have been eliminated, as this rock doc details the ramshackle demise of "the only band that mattered." And to that end, makes for a more interesting dissection on the least-looked at period of the Clash story, the wayward final years.

Director Garcia assumes viewers already know about the band, so (thankfully) eschews regurgitating their origins and development and starts with the Clash at their commercial peak. It was the heady days of 1982 and Combat Rock, the "Rock the Casbah" video, headlining the US Festival and opening stadium shows for the Who. But it was the beginning of the end.

Fearing that the band had gone complacent, and with the sacking of drug-addled drummer Topper Headon -- no trips to rehab or time off for healing in those days -- singer/guitarist Joe Strummer instigated two events that would kill the band.

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Can't Knock Me Down: Vex Singer Returns for One Last Howl

Photos courtesy of Vex
In a time before Houston was overly infested with sprawl, when portions of downtown were dripping with decay, mechanical bull-riding mesmerized crowds at Gilley's, and police violence regularly marred neighborhoods, bands like Vex, peppered with heavy duty politics, the "plague" of punk, and bruising live sets, set themselves far apart from wafer-thin New Wave and moronic glam-metal that held sway in the 1980s.

They sided with a slightly older set of witty, spirited outcasts like Really Red, Orgasm, Mydolls, Anarchitex and the Hates, whose music -- rank with disaffection and disarray -- served as a countercultural beacon in the Reagan era.

Singer Mike May (who also later joined Keelhaul and Crust), now suffering from Stage-4 melanoma, was the band's center of gravity.

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The Rocks Off 200: Punk-Rock "Newcomers" Screech of Death

Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too. See the original Rocks Off 100 at this link.

Photos courtesy of J.R. Delgado/Screech of Death
Screech of Death (L-R): J.R. Delgado, Lisafer, Arthur Hayes
Who? The annual Sk8 & Rock concert series at Fourth Ward's Lee & Joe Jamail Skate Park circles some of the biggest red-letter days on Houston's punk-rock calendar. For five years now, local bands have cranked out their rowdiest tunes while skaters from all over -- a number that can reach into the hundreds -- practice their craft at a facility that "reinvented vertical pipe-ramp skateboarding," as one of the event's organizers, Barry Blumenthal, told Rocks Off last year.

Dedicated to late Devo guitarist/keyboardist Bob Casale, the series' 2014 season begins this Saturday, and playing one of their first shows (alongside Austin's Biscuit Bombs and Houston vets Talk Sick Brats) will be the righteously named Screech of Death, a relatively new "midtempo old-school punk" combination of two Texas punk warriors and one L.A. import. The Californian is Lisafer, Screech of Death's lead singer and bassist, whose impressive rap sheet includes hitches with storied goth-punks 45 Grave, D.I., Nina Hagen and most recently Snapper, which also featured Rikk Agnew of the Adolescents.

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