A Conversation With Texas Punk Icon Gary Floyd
Gary Floyd today
This photo by David Ensminger/Others courtesy of Gary Floyd
Gary Floyd is a long-loved underground music icon entangled in fiery black music, queer outrage, punk vendettas, barbed-wire politics, and Eastern spiritual bliss-outs. Whereas the homegrown Texas musical tornadoes the Dicks (later reinvented in San Francisco) were ribald and cantankerous, Sister Double Happiness were rootsy purveyors of sweeping, mesmerizing alt-rock that helped initiate the Nirvana generation.
By the mid-1990s, his Gary Floyd Band buried themselves deep in East Texas saggy porch-howling blues, while Black Kali Ma soon followed by unleashing Shiva as a devouring rock and roll entity. Now, Floyd effortlessly evokes wisdom, transcendence, and transience in his latest guise, Buddha Brothers.
Floyd recently spoke with Rocks Off before heading down for Friday afternoon's meet-and-greet at Cactus Music, his first Houston appearance in the last half-decade. (Note: David Ensminger is also co-author of Floyd's forthcoming autobiography and featured the singer in his book Left of the Dial: Conversations with Punk Icons.)
Rocks Off: How would you describe the substance and spirit of your musical path to someone unfamiliar with your work? Gary Floyd: I hope I have always been true to what I wanted to do rather than what was expected of me. From the Dicks to Gary Floyd Band and the Buddha Brothers, I was always happy with the music I was doing at the time, and happy that music was the biggest part of my capability to express myself.
Sometimes it's "Rich Daddy," and other times it's a country sad song. It's all real. So, honesty is my feeling about what I've done.
Politically, America seems as divided as ever. What issues do you still feel adamant about; for instance, gay marriage? Of course. I know now trying to save the world will drive one crazy. At the risk of sounding silly, just working on changing yourself is enough work to take a lifetime. Gay marriage is so easy to figure out for me. To the other side of the fence, I guess they are just as fixed in their thinking -- no two gay people should ever get married.
Some of the ultra-crazy ones want to kill us, really have us killed, so when I hear of these nuts I just want to try and love them, only at a distance! It's hard, but possible to not hate them and hate and hate, cause that rots away at our own loving hearts. That will kill us without anyone else doing it. I try to support the realistic good causes and am against the bad stuff. I do the best I can.
Looking back over the last three decades, what has San Francisco offered to you that Austin was unable to? Ha! Cool weather in the summer, really nice cool summer breezes and foggy nights.
With the Dicks onstage in Austin
Photo by Dixon Coulbourn (R.I.P.)
The Dicks explored underground sexuality without hesitation or censorship. Do you feel you were at the forefront of sexual liberation? No, not at all. We just let it be known that we were part of it. I used to be very into sex across the board, do it lots, and with all. That was fun but didn't bring a lot of real happiness. Nothing lasted, which always left me wanting more and more, but I certainly feel the movement to have sex upfront and not be an issue of some uptight fanatics is a positive thing. The less mystery, the more safe and sane choices we can make.
Women's right to determine and rule their own bodies is part of the sexual revolution. Gay people not having to hide and sneak is part of it too. It took a lot of overdoing it to see how we were and where we were. Now, pulling back to a calmer outlook is natural. We had a blast, though, during that wild time.
Story continues on the next page.
Floyd with Sister Double Happiness at Houston's Axiom
Photo by Ben DeSoto
When merging your sense of style with your spiritual sensibilities, who were some of your rock and roll icons? I loved George Harrison and the ease with which he launched the introduction of eastern thought into his music and the music of the Beatles. Otherwise, I am thinking and wondering, who else?
I never separate much of what I'm doing at anytime from the music I'm doing. The new CD will also be the most "out there" spiritual and personal part of myself I've done, but I want that to come out. After all, if I can do some of the things I've done on stage, I can make a CD of spiritual music reflecting my own feelings, right?
Even your newest work, which evokes a Buddhist prayer, still feels very bluesy. Do you find the blues to be a spiritual music, and Buddhism to be bluesy? If I'm doing Buddha-influenced music, it'll most likely be bluesy. The whole CD is either my own music or some old Protestant tunes I've redone to make sense to me, some written by Vedantist and Hindu musicians...
I know recently you lost one of your religious mentors. What were some important lessons he taught you? God means strength. Inner strength is god -- within and without. Depend on your own mind and loving heart and get away from weakness. God or no God, be good. Simple is best.
This morning we discovered Tommy Ramone died, the last of the original Ramones. Do you feel such bands were important to music as, say, Chuck Berry? Oh hell yes! The Ramones were like the punk Beatles. They were the reason it all started. I am very sad they are all gone. Thank God we will always have that music, music of the punk rock soul!
Cactus Music (2110 Portsmouth) hosts a meet-and-greet/DJ session with Floyd this evening at 5:30 p.m. Free.
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