The Rocks Off 200: Joe Ortiz, Clockpole's Master of Nonsense

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.

Photo by Nikki Machacek
Photos courtesy of Joe Ortiz/Clockpole

Who? One of my favorite quotes by a local musician of all time is by Joe Ortiz of Clockpole, the mad gathering of random musicians that never seems to be the same thing more than once. In an interview with Free Press Houston he once said, "The name doesn't make any sense and the band doesn't make any sense."

Ortiz was right. His journey began from watching Aerosmith videos on MTV in the '80s, and decided that such shenanigans were exactly what he wanted to do with his time. Many lawns mowed later, he bought a guitar. He started out in a loud rock outfit called Leatherpants in 2001, and moved onto the criminally underrated Novice in 2004. Being based in Texas City made making headway and building momentum difficult despite the group's inarguable talent, and they called it quits in 2007.

Two years off gave Ortiz the strength to try again, and he decided that Clockpole would be unlike anything else that he'd done before. There would be no rules, no safety net, hell, not even really any songs. Everything would be spontaneous, unplanned, and loud as hell.

At a typical Clockpole show, audience members are recruited to make noise, clothes come off at regular intervals, and the whole thing is a celebration of aural inhibitions dropped by the way side. It's a most excellent experiment.

Home Base: Understandly, Clockpole doesn't have one. Clockpole only exists in the moment it is happening, so there's no writing process aside from the basic ideas Ortiz occasionally sketches out at home. The band plays house parties, street corners, and traditional venues, without differentiating between the three. It all happens when it happens.

Why Do You Stay In Houston? We seem to be shouting it at the top of our lungs sometimes, but Houston has incredible musical variety. No genre goes unrepresented, and more than a few artists cannot accurately be described by normal terms in the first place. That's what Ortiz likes about being here: Houston has room to be weird.

Story continues on the next page.

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