Marky Ramone Gabba Gabbas Away in New Memoir

Ventura Mendoza via Flickr
Marky Ramone in 2008
In his Band of Bruddahs, Marky Ramone's primary role was that of drummer, the pounding heartbeat and engine of so many of the legendary punk-rock group's numbers. But over many years in meetings, rehearsals, recording studios, concert stages and countless miles on the road in their trustworthy van, he also had another occupation: constant mediator between his lead singer and guitarist.

Acrimony had always been thick between Joey and Johnny Ramone, a pair that was on opposite of ends of the spectrum in politics, temperament, hygiene and punctuality. Not to mention musical direction. Oh, and Joey's girlfriend also left him for Johnny; the couple later married.

So Joey and Johnny Ramone had not spoken a word directly to each other in nearly 15 years. And when they needed to communicate with each other, they did it through Marky.

More »

Mikey and the Drags Come Roaring Out of the Garage

Photo by Mars Valera
Mikey and the Drags are: Austin Sepulvado (organ), Chris Oddo (bass), Andrew Lee (drums), and Mikey Drag (vocals/guitar)

A couple of months ago at downtown's Discovery Green, Mikey Drag sat behind a merchandise table near the big lawn.

This was after his band, Mikey and the Drags, had played a blistering set of garage rock as part of a Thursday night concert series to listeners whose mode of personal transportation ran the gamut from baby strollers to Medicaid-issued walkers.

Among the offerings spread out for sale were the usual suspects of CDs and T-shirts, but also copies of the band's 2013 EP, On the Loose!, in...cassette.

Cassette? Vinyl may have made a huge comeback, and Sony just introduced a new version of the Walkman. But how many music fans are clamoring for the return of a media format that can be munched up by a tiny roller or recorded over? Actually, more than you think.

"Yeah, it's something that we had to think about doing, but we were surprised to find out that a lot of bands are doing [new] cassettes today. And they sell!" Drag offers with a laugh. "Plus, they're really cheap to make!"

More »

Sauce Twinz Blowing Up, But Don't Call Them Rappers

Sauce Walka (left) & Drake / Tumblr

There's a large Christmas tree in the lobby of 24 Greenway Plaza. It seems artificial, adorned with numerous ornaments spanning from crown to base and faux gifts surrounding it. As colorful as it seems, it's not truly festive, not on this frigid November day.

To get into the lobby, first you need to ride an elevator up from a parking garage. Your prime destination is any of the radio stations, in particular the one on the upper floors, the one where 97.9 The Box is located. Today, all of the artists with local ties but without a vetted kind of establishment are receiving packets for the Los Magnificos Custom Car & Bike Show. It's almost like the first day of school where the teacher is giving out seat assignments. The constant question upstairs however is a simple one, "Have you seen the Sauce Twinz?"

Minutes later, the Twinz, Sancho Saucy and Sauce Walka, walk through the doors, quiet and seemingly down for a second. The night before, they partied like they normally do. Days after this, they'll be in a studio with Boosie, inducting him like they had done so many others into the wave of the Sauce.

More »

Mineral Learns the Power of Un-Failing

Photo by Courtney Chavanell/Courtesy of
One of Mineral's early champions was a zine writer and Strake Jesuit student at the time.
Note: this article was written by Eric Grubbs of our sister paper, the Dallas Observer.

Come Friday night, this might be your only chance to see Mineral play in Houston.

Winding down a reunion tour that began last August, the Austin four-piece plays here and then Dallas, but after that, all scheduled tourdates are outside of the United States. Having never toured outside of the country during their original incarnation, the band will play Europe, Japan, and Australia next.

What comes after that remains up in the air. They might play some more festivals leading up to the summer, but don't place a large bet they're coming back for a victory lap. "It might end all there or we might pick away at it, do shows here and there," front man/guitarist Chris Simpson says from his home in Austin. "It's tough to say. We didn't want to overstay our welcome, but we want to play for people who are interested and play internationally."

More »

EARTH ARMY Recalls the Golden Age of Free-Form Houston Punk

Photos & other artwork courtesy of EARTH ARMY/Spike Jacobs
EARTH ARMY at the Westheimer Street Festival, undated
As the 1980s waned, the steadfast idea of "genre" loosened its grip on American underground music. No doubt some bands like Butthole Surfers had always remained unruly. By and large, though, punk, ska, hardcore, rockabilly and industrial music thrived in subcultures dedicated to preserving authenticity.

This meant a commitment to distinct, unwavering styles, but as college, community and pirate radio proved, more and more listeners craved not stasis and cookie-cutter templates but a wider field of hybrid pleasures. Mainstream-leaning rompers Fishbone and Red Hot Chili Peppers rollicked local venues like Fitzgerald's, while regional rulebreakers the Flaming Lips, Pain Teens, Bad Mutha Goose and Hickoids held forth at clubs like the Axiom. Though almost lost in the recesses of history, locals EARTH ARMY also forged a singularly impure sound during those salad days. In fact, their five-song 7" single from 1989, aptly titled "Experiment!" highlighted a restless vision of music without bounds.

On their 1991 Stravinsky Rides Again LP, songs like "Godzilla '91" effortlessly melded the pithy politics of Consolidated with the Beastie Boys' flavorful hip-hop ploys while also honoring Blue Ă–ster Cult's original, by no means an easy task. In contrast, "Crack Cocaine," from the single, paid witness to the rampant drug scourge inundating communities by unleashing stripped-down, lo-fi punk that could have been on Dischord earlier in the decade (think the Untouchables and Red C).

More »

The Blues Magoos Are Ready for a Psychedelic Resurrection!

Kayos Productions
The Blues Magoos in 2014: Mike Ciliberto, Geoff Daking, Ralph Scala, Peter Stuart and Peppy Castro.

"Hello! This is Peppy Castro! Psychedelic pioneer!"

This is how the man born Emil Thielhelm answers the phone at his home and studio in New York, in a rat-a-tat energetic voice whose pace he will keep up for more than 20 minutes of conversation.

And he's got reason to be excited, with the re-formation of his '60s psychedelic/garage rock band The Blues Magoos, and their first new album in more than 40 years, Psychedelic Resurrection (Kayos Productions).

Featuring both re-recordings of their classic songs (including biggest hit "[We Ain't Got] Nothin' Yet") and new material, the current lineup features original members Castro (guitar, vocals), Ralph Scala (lead vocals, organ), classic lineup drummer Geoff Daking, and new members Mike Ciliberto (guitar) and Peter Stuart (bass).

Classic lineup members Ron Gilbert (bass) and Mike Esposito (drums) also make guest appearances, making it a full reunion, at least on record. And it's a much more guitar heavy work than their earlier records, which were dominated by Scala's Vox Continental organ.

The 65-year-old Castro says the reformation of the Blues Magoos came about directly as a result of fan interest, as well as their own creeping mortality.

More »

A Few Words With Spoon's Britt Daniel

Categories: Inquiring Minds

Photo by Tom Hines/Courtesy of Nasty Little Man
Spoon, 2014 (clockwise from lower left): Britt Daniel, Alex Fischel, Eric Harvey, Jim Eno and Rob Pope
Not long ago, a photo appeared on Spoon's Instagram page of front man Britt Daniel appearing to share a laugh with none other than spiky-haired "Cradle of Love" rocker Billy Idol. It was taken backstage at a recent radio show, Daniel explains, adding, "it was not a great show, but the fact that we got to meet Billy Idol..." Asked what sort of caption he might tack on, he manages, "uhhh...Britt Daniel confers with Billy Idol about longevity and bangers and mash? I don't know."

The longevity part is indisputable. When Daniel founded Spoon in Austin more than 20 years ago with drummer/human metronome Jim Eno, they seemed totally out of step with the times: Onstage they preferred dress shirts, tight tees and slacks to flannel and ripped jeans; Spoon's songs struggled to break the two-minute mark when alternative radio was coming under the thrall of the Smashing Pumpkins' sprawling epics; and Daniel's hyperspecific lyrics cut straight to the point when the order of the day was Stone Temple Pilots' sullen, vague mook-rock.

More »

Robert Earl Keen's "Merry Christmas" Miracle

Photo by Darren Carroll/Courtesy of Shore Fire Media
Never mind the Love Boat, Robert Earl Keen will now be your "party captain."
Dubbing himself "the party captain of the holidays," Robert Earl Keen figures he's feeling pretty jolly this year.

"You know, it comes and it goes," reflects the Houston-born singer-songwriter, who will turn 59 next month. "Sometimes I feel kind of overwhelmed. I think that might be in all of our natures. This year I'm having a great time. I feel real peace on Earth, goodwill towards men. And women."

Whether he was joking or not (it's a little hard to tell), when we reached Keen by phone a couple of weeks ago, he said he was "just sobering up." He was in the early stages of the "Merry Christmas From the Family" tour, his annual trek built around the song that affectionately if sarcastically celebrates those trailer-dwelling, Salem Light-puffing, fake-snow-spewing Christmas lovers from coast to coast.

"These Christmas shows, they take a lot out of you, so you have to put a lot back in," Keen says by way of hair-of-the-dog advice.

More »

Whiskey Shivers Enlist Familiar Face for Further Hijinks

Categories: Inquiring Minds

Photos by Sandy Carson
Whiskey Shivers shows have been known to get a little out of hand.
"I was on a trip to Ireland with my family when I fell in love with the fiddle," recalls Bobby Fitzgerald. "It just seemed so fucking cool!"

The Whiskey Shivers front man began playing the instrument at 12 years old, honing the skill while growing up in the tiny upstate New York town of Dundee, where his high school's graduating class had just 53 students. In 2009, the singer relocated south, settling into Austin.

"There was no plan," he reflects. "I just had to go somewhere."

More »

Rosanne Cash's Golden Thread of an Album

Categories: Inquiring Minds

Photo by Clay Patrick McBride
Rosanne Cash had a long string of No. 1 country hits in the 1980s, including "My Baby Thinks He's a Train" and "Blue Moon WIth Heartache."
Brazoria County is in for a real treat this evening, because Rosanne Cash is bringing a whole lot more than "Seven Year Ache" to Brazosport College's Clarion Theater. Her calling card this time is The River and the Thread, her cinematic, deeply soulful album-length account of the relatively recent trips she made to the region where Cash was born and partially raised, as well as the characters she encountered. Among them was Marshall Grant, the now-deceased bassist in her father Johnny's Tennessee Three, and a seamstress in Alabama who told Cash "you have to learn to love the thread."

The album, she allows, "didn't come from the outside in."

More »