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Culturcide's implosion at the tail end of the '80s might have been more of an event if the band hadn't been so uneventful in the first place. Rather than self-destructing in a fist-clenched blaze of glory, Houston's seminal underground deviants suffered an anonymous meltdown, their various personal, legal and financial woes slicing the group to ribbons with inconspicuous precision.
"We just sort of went out with a whimper," says Perry Webb, the band's good-natured, somewhat evasive lead vocalist.
Still, you get the feeling he wouldn't have had it any other way. A low-key eccentric, Webb has been engaged in a subtle and mysterious form of subversion for what seems like forever; only he knows what he's rebelling against -- and he'll never tell.
Chilling at his Montrose apartment with Culturcide guitarist and co-founder Dan Workman, the band's lyricist and self-appointed loon looks disheveled in ratty jeans and a worn T-shirt, the latter's silk-screened image faded beyond recognition. He's barefoot, and his brown hair has that snarled, just-out-of-bed quality. Webb doesn't own an answering machine, so reaching him directly can be an exercise in futility; usually it's best just to call one of Culturcide's more accessible band members and have him relay the message.
The sparsely furnished Webb homestead has the scattershot, oddly cozy aura of an artist's loft, but Webb is no artist, and you'd be a fool to contend otherwise in front of the man himself. Webb is vague when prodded about his work outside the realm of Culturcide's twisted noise/punk stratum, finally offering that he works as a curator at a prominent local art museum -- the name of which he'd rather not mention. But he now sees his on-and-off stint with Culturcide over the last 18 years as something less than aesthetically profound.
"It was too many years of being called an art rocker, I guess," cracks Webb with typically aloof sarcasm.
Webb's marginal appearance and rotund midriff speak to lifestyle habits he may or may not be endorsing on "A Day at My Job," one of the more bracing and succinct tracks from Culturcide's new CD, Home-Made Authority. "I've got to eat a lot of sugar and a big pile of grease," he blathers semi-coherently over Workman's reverbed metal leads, which suggest Eddie Van Halen on nitrous.
Webb is that rarest of lead vocalists who sings just as he speaks -- in a slurred delivery that implies either a state of semi-drunkenness or mild brain damage. But as the bluntly articulated disgust on Home-Made Authority attests, Webb is no bungling half-wit, and he's still as fed-up as he ever was; his current Culturcide output is downright lethal. With such unnerving titles as "Ten Orgasms a Day," "Feeling/Die" and "Tunnel of Blood," the 16 songs on Authority are not for the emotionally queasy or the easily offended. On the requisite hidden bonus track, Webb admonishes the weak-willed to find sympathy and understanding elsewhere: "Run away from your feelings / Run away from your problems / But don't come here." Throughout the droning diatribe, Webb sounds like a weary visitor from another dimension transmitting through a broken speaker phone.
From a musical standpoint, Culturcide's voracious appetite for disassembled noise and found sounds, not to mention its steadfast adherence to the punk ethos, is more pronounced than ever on Home-Made Authority, as is the band's erratic attention span. Authority tackles heavy metal, hard-core, keyed-up trucker country, white-trash psychedelia and more, contaminating the mix with random profanity and a sick undercurrent of self-parody.
Meanwhile, Culturcide's latest configuration is more kick-ass than ever, with Truth Decay's Scott Ayers, Ralf Armin and Frank Garymartin on guitar, bass and drums, respectively. In addition to Webb and Workman, early Culturcide bassist John Ramos has also returned to the fold (yep, that makes two bassists).
But will an outrageous new album and a solid lineup be enough to reclaim credibility within Texas's DIY underbelly? Workman thinks so. "We knew a lot of bands and we played with a lot of bands in their formative stages," he says. "I think that we influenced other bands."
"Like who?" Webb mockingly inquires, summing up Culturcide's appeal in this way: "They're freaks, we're freaks; they hear it."
On this muggy late-spring evening, Perry Webb's chosen stimulant is THC. At some point during our shoddy excuse for an interview, he fires up a half-smoked joint, periodically and halfheartedly drawing on its crumpled tip. Directly to his right is an ancient television, its screen caked in dust and looking like it hasn't been illuminated in months -- maybe years. A rickety antenna is perched atop the set; there's not a cable box or remote control in sight. More signs, one would assume, of Webb's unwillingness to conform to the norm -- or, at the very least, to the American consumer mentality.
Seated across the tiny living room from Webb in an old armchair, Dan Workman sips a soda and observes his band mate's antics with a bemused grin and the occasional cackle. Trim and immaculately (if casually) dressed, Workman seems the polar opposite of Webb, choosing his words carefully and addressing questions more directly -- though with far less color -- than his old pal. Workman has come a long way since Culturcide's original dissolution almost a decade ago. Today, he is a respected producer and co-owner of Houston's Sugar Hill Studios, which begs the question: Why dredge up the past?
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