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Stewed, Screwed and Tattooed

Getting Down and Dirty with a quintet of Houston rock purists

Although the Down and Dirties didn't intend to live up to their moniker off-stage, it's certainly turned out that way. "The band is more like a gang," says guitar player/vocalist Bill Greer. "We don't say we want to get into fights, but there seems to be like a biker-gang mentality when we're all hanging out together."

In our interview at local rehearsal space Francisco Studios, one story in particular stands out. It seems that drummer Stevie Sims once got caught with his pants down in Los Angeles, and the scene ended up a gory melee. "He had hooked up with this chick and her boyfriend was there and caught up with the whole thing," says Greer, who goes by the name Bill Fool on stage. "The guy got really ticked off, but we convinced him to calm down and he left."

Or so they thought. "Then we heard a pounding on the door and he kicked in the door…The guy wanted to kill Stevie. Chad Hawkins -- our bass player at the time -- was asleep in the back room. He comes out, he's like five-three, five-four -- the smallest guy in the room. The guy looks around, and instead of going after [the larger] Stevie, he goes after Chad, and starts punching him… Stevie's just sitting there the whole time. I grabbed a candelabra and started beating the crap out of the guy, just to get him off of Chad, and blood is going everywhere."

The Down and Dirties want to take back the rock from the Scandinavian bands that stole it.
The Down and Dirties want to take back the rock from the Scandinavian bands that stole it.

Details

The Down and Dirties release Stewed, Screwed and Tattooed Wednesday, February 19, at Fitzgerald's, 2706 White Oak Drive. Focusyn and F for Fake open. For more information, call 713-862-3838. The Down and Dirties also play Thursday, February 20, at the Hard Rock Washateria, 9406 Spencer Highway, La Porte. For more information on that gig, call 832-687-7407.

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Luckily, Greer and his band ascribe to the "any pub is good pub" school. "So we get this little following in L.A. that knows we fight," he says. "We don't really want to be known as a band that fights a lot, but I guess it's good for publicity reasons."

On stage, the band hopes to match that aggressive spirit with their rough-and-ready, rock-edge-of-punk sound. In contrast to the legion of young, Hives-aping garage punk bands of the day, the Down and Dirties name the Finnish band Hanoi Rocks as their biggest influence, along with a few others -- Turbonegro, the Backyard Babies and the Hellacopters -- from the first (and superior) wave of Scandinavian hard rock bands. And now that the second wave of Scandi hard rock -- the Hives, Division of Laura Lee, the (International) Noise Conspiracy -- is lapping at our shores, the Down and Dirties hope they're poised for a breakthrough. "Those Scandinavian bands are really bringing back rock real strong, and we wanted to do it American-style," says Greer. "If you look in a magazine it's Scandinavia this and Scandinavia that, but you don't see that many American bands that rock really good. We want to be the American band that takes it farther."

Norway's Turbonegro was especially crucial to their early development. "I had a band with the kids in Pure Rubbish called Denim Demons doing Turbonegro covers, and strongly wanted to do another band like that," says Greer. He met some like minds in Sims (a.k.a. Stevie Hangover), bassist Hawkins, guitarist/singer Christian Best (a.k.a. Christian GFN) and bassist Jared Tarver, and about 18 months ago the side-project cover band started evolving into a full-time original outfit. Their first gig was at the second anniversary party for the Montrose record store Rockpile, whose owner, Kevin Forbes, asked them to play the party before they even had a name for the band. Having a gig thrust upon them prompted them to write songs and get a set together. In the ensuing months, Tarver was asked to leave (according to the band's Web site, www.dirtrockers.iwarp.com/ about.html, his drinking got out of control) to be replaced first by Hawkins, who lost interest, and second by current bassist Gilbert Lira (a.k.a. Gilboracho), formerly of the band Speed 90. Meanwhile, former Spunk front man Tod Waters had been drafted in to take over lead vocals from Best.

While the current members of the Down and Dirties look like they walked off the set of a low-budget biker flick, the fact is that they're all gainfully employed -- albeit some by more conventional standards of "gainfulness" than others. Stevie and Christian are tattoo artists -- they ply their trade at Scorpio's, a nationally acclaimed Montrose studio -- and Waters is an artist, actor and fashion designer in Hollywood. As for the boys a woman could -- at least sight unseen -- consider bringing home to meet her father, Greer is a structural engineer and Lira works for a NASA subcontractor.

The Down and Dirties admit to having had dreams of rock stardom when they were younger, but now in their thirties, they keep at it for other reasons. "To be able to play music and for people to listen to it, that's what we really want the most," says Greer. "We've all had band experiences, but this is the very first time we're really happy being together. We hang out with each other all the time, we do everything together. [But] it'd be great to see the band accomplish something besides being here in Francisco Studios."

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