Richard Ramirez knows them well. It was 1996, and he needed a name for his local experimental/harsh-noise ensemble. "It was a time when all this stuff with the Roman Catholic priests was just starting to come out," he says. "I read this article about someone suing the church, where they actually said the priests were now 'in some real shit.' It kinda stuck with me." The moniker had its desired effect. Priest in Shit got hate mail and even some returned promo flyers, complete with the band's name scratched out. But people went to the shows. Some even left, Ramirez figures, a little educated. "I'd talk to people after the shows," he says. "They loved the performance, even though they were unaware this style of music even existed."
Maybe that's because there's perhaps no other genre that mystifies audiences and prompts a "what the hell is that?" response the way noise does. Its origins can be traced back to '60s sax legend Ornette Coleman, who invented what's now known as free jazz. Then came composer John Cage, who'd sometimes run a carrot through a blender onstage as his "performance." After that, a slew of '70s Japanese acts ushered in the modern sound of noise: shrill distortion, banging objects and electronic chaos.
Ramirez, a 14-year veteran of the scene and owner of the Deadline Recordings noise label, says Texas is at the epicenter of American noise acts. "You've got noise acts from San Antonio, even places like Vernon," he says.
Many Houstonians may not be too familiar with the scene, but our homegrown product is huge in Japan. "I sell about ten times the number of albums in Japan that I do in Texas," says Ramirez, who's producing a compilation CD of local noise just for Japanese fans. "They specifically ask for Texas noise. It's odd." Of course, time will tell how Japanese priests put up with his shit.