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.
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.
Photos courtesy of J.R. Delgado/Screech of Death Screech of Death (L-R): J.R. Delgado, Lisafer, Arthur Hayes
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.
Joining her is drummer Arthur Hayes, an original member of notorious cornholers the Hickoids as well as The Next and Mystery Date, and a longtime San Antonio scenester who used to book bands at legendary Alamo City dive Tacoland. Although it's his first band playing guitar, J.R. Delgado's local punk credentials span notable names like Doomsday Massacre, the Party Owls, Anarchitex and Sugar Shack; he also owned and operated landmark punk/alternative club the Axiom long before east downtown's so-called "Warehouse District" was trendy. We could probably listen to Screech of Death's stories for days, or at least read their emails. Let's get to know them a little better, shall we?
Home Base: "Houston is headquarters and Texas is our playground," Delgado says.
Arthur: When I booked the first bands in Tacoland, I had to run the sound and set up the PA, which had to be done around 6 p.m. Tacoland was a biker bar, and at that time it had about five bikers there as I was setting up. When I had everything ready to check, I walked up to the mike and said, "PUSSY."
I saw Ram [late Tacoland owner Ayala] spew out a mist of whatever that was in the mystery bottle, and some biker yelled out, "WHO YOU CALL'N PUSSY?" and started to head towards me. Ram lunged over the bar and grabbed the biker by his ponytail, pulled him back to where he could speak loudly into his ear and said, "He's not talkin' to you...PUSSY!"
I finished what I was doing and wanted to defuse this misunderstanding, so I said, over the mike, "everyone that's here right now gets in free tonight." Ram yelled out, "NO! NO! EVERYBODY IS PAYING...PUSSY!"
Of course that caught a loud round of laughs. Every time I showed up at Tacoland after that, Ram would great me with," HEY PUSSY!" That's how it all went down the night the music started at Tacoland.
J.R.: We were driving to Austin to see the Plasmatics, [and] on the way there I ran over a spoke hubcap that punctured my gas tank. It took two tank refills to get there! The next morning, we were like, "What the hell are we going to do?"
Then a friend, Billy Pringle (aka Billy Problem of the Inserts) said, "Come on, I know what to do." He drove us to my van, not telling us what the plan was. When we got there, he went under the gas tank, pulled out the chewing gum outta his mouth and plugged the hole...and it worked! Off we went. It never leaked!
Lisafer: "My next show."
Why Do You Stay In Houston?
J.R: "No, we're not moving to Austin, because it's not weird enough."
Lisafer: "I don't want to grow old and die in Lost Angeles," she says. "My corpse would have a face that is stuck in a screaming-in-pain position. Perhaps in Houston I will not feel suicidal."
Arthur: "I was paroled here..."
Story continues on the next page.