The Rocks Off 200: John Alton, the Madness of Cosmic Bug Loaf

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 by Jessica Alton
Who? Every Cosmic Bug Loaf song sounds like your last brain cell committing suicide as the world burns around you, which is just about the nicest thing I've ever said about anyone. Much of that is due to John Alton, whose strange and intense guitar work feels like two different people alternately berating and coming on to you at the same time. Then there's that comes out of the speakers like Pennywise came out of the sewers in IT. There's just something insidious about it, even though it's all dressed up in bright colors.

When he was a boy Alton started learning the classical guitar from his father; you can hear a LOT of Bach in a Cosmic Bug Loaf song if you listen closely. His favorite game was to set his metronome faster and faster and see if he could play the pieces perfectly far in excess of the proper tempo.

Eventually he took to the electric guitar and teamed with childhood friend Chad Leibold (drums) to form first the June Bugs and eventually Cosmic Bug Loaf. Previously he's been signed to Esotype Records as part of a math-rock outfit called Eternal Life, and has contributed guitar to recordings by the Wheel Workers' own Steve Higginbotham. All in all, Alton keeps busy laying down strange and wonderful sounds, so keep an eye and ear out.

Home Base: Practice and writing sessions for Cosmic Bug Loaf usually tale place by rotating between the members' houses. Whenever Alton wants to work on solo projects, he prefers to take himself out into the woods with a guitar to write.

When it comes to playing live, he loves every venue for different reasons. Like a lot of local bands he praises the sound quality of Rudyard's, but also enjoys the atmosphere of AvantGarden and Notsuoh.

Good War Story: "I was abducted by aliens." Author's note: there is simply no way to know if he is joking on that or not.

Music Scene Pet Peeve: Though he doesn't cite any statistics or anything, Alton feels like the scene just isn't as big as it used to be.

Why Stay Do You Stay In Houston? "I stay in Houston because my family is close and also my bandmates are close," Alton says. "I get a little overwhelmed with industry and cities, so I hope to move to somewhere that has more nature than humans sometime in the future. Then again, it might be too late for that."

Five Desert Island Discs:

  • Radiohead, The King of Limbs
  • The Doors, Morrison Hotel
  • Elliott Smith, From a Basement on a Hill
  • Pink Floyd, Meddle
  • Converge, You Fail Me

Best Show You've Ever Seen: "Radiohead by far," he says. "I have seen them live three times, and every time it blows me away."

First Song You Ever Fell in Love With: Portishead, "Half Day Closing"

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.

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David Cook
David Cook

I've seen them twice. Great band

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