The Rocks Off 200: John Cramer, Guitar Apostle of Project Grimm
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.
Who? Jeez, where to begin... ever since his family moved to Houston in 1979, John Cramer has been in and out of more rock and metal bands than most of us can even count. He started out as a drummer, the rhythmical sidekick to a well-to-do neighbor whose parents indulged his guitar-god dreams. When those dreams fizzled, Cramer found himself the owner of top-end guitar gear, and has been putting it to use ever since.
His main vehicle today is Project Grimm, the latest in a long, long line of collaborations, team-ups, and defunct acts. It arose from the ashes of The Mike Gunn, a heavy psych act that achieved significant underground success in the early '90s and is still somewhat popular with the more out-there DJs looking for obscure cuts.
Sadly, their reign ended as the drummer rode off into the sunset on a motorcycle with a huge bag of weed.
Cramer called up Ricky Costello of Bleachbath to replace the midnight rider, and added Drew Calhoun and Jim Otto from Cramer's side project, the noise collective Schlong Weasel. They recorded and released their first CD, Lying Down, in 1996; shortly thereafter, Otto quit.
The band went power-trio, got better, and wrote and recorded their second album, Huge Beings. It came out on the night of their farewell show in 2003, but they reformed for a one-off show in 2008 around Christmas and then again permanently in 2010. These days, of you want your guitar rock straight and heavy, Cramer and the PG boys can give it to you in spades. 2014 should see the release of their third LP.
Home Base: For 15 years Project Grimm has called space at Sterrett Street Studios home. Songwriting is done organically as a group, allowing a natural vibe to guide the direction of the compositions. The band prefers to play Rudyard's above all others, having known the staff for two decades and enjoying a home-away-from-home feeling as a result.
Photo by Robert Castillo
Good War Story: "There's so many," he says. "Okay."
Back in the Mike Gunn days, we had a show at the Ritz in Austin. Our drummer was stuck in a rainstorm in Cleveland, so I played drums, which was ridiculous in and of itself. The opener was supposed to be Houston's own Rusted Shut, but only one guy showed up.
The entire crowd that night was rich Austin straight-edge kids in very expensive cars all parked out back. The Rusted Shut guy and I decided to go on, and spent our entire show verbally abusing the kids in attendance and daring them to do something about it. As payback, they keyed the MG bassist's car.
Story continues on the next page.