Johnny Falstaff, who releases his new album Live in Köln Germany this Thursday at Blanco's, has been a fixture on the Houston roots-music scene for 15 years.
His original cowpunk band, The Sundowners, played all the hip joints back in the day — the Blue Iguana, Mary Jane's, the Fabulous Satellite Lounge — and was often paired with Houston alt-country hellraisers Horseshoe.
While his performing persona has always been the hairy-ass hillbilly thrash-metal cowpunk from Alvin, Falstaff spends about half of each year living in the tiny village of Leverkussen outside Köln (known to us Yanks as Cologne), and plays gigs in Germany, Austria and Scandinavia.
Chatter: You were in the Army in Germany?
Johnny Falstaff: I was there 1984 through '87 with the 10th Mountain Division, the guys who are in Afghanistan. Now that was hard-chargin' rock and roll. I mustered out in '89, just before the Gulf War.
C: How did Live in Köln Germany come about?
JF: A local promoter named Olaf Otten caught on to me early on and has booked me quite a bit, particularly at one club in Köln. Because our shows there are always so rockin', I told him I was thinking of doing a live album and he made it happen.
C: Describe the scene you encounter over there.
JF: Köln has a huge rockabilly scene, so those shows there tend to be more rockin' and less bent towards the country side of things. The album is more up-tempo than our average U.S. show.
But the beauty of what we've got going is that one night we're playing to these greased-up guys and hoop-skirt gals, the next night we may play someplace where everyone is in cowboy costume and line dancing. It's a very varied scene, which I personally like. It keeps it interesting.
C: So there's a traditional scene, too?
JF: Some of it is so traditional it's almost like those Civil War re-enactment things. Austria is especially heavy with organized dance clubs with people who go into complete Western costume. And some of the kids, they really research the old country classic stuff. They're like the Japanese — they're so into the history that they often know more about our music than we do.
C: We've noticed a new generation of Inner Loopers coming back to country music right now. What's your take on that phenomenon?
JF: Man, it's all good. I went down to Mango's and caught Robert [Ellis] and his band the last time I was in town. They got me up to sing with them, everybody was totally cool. That scene is nothing but good for the overall scene in Houston.
C: What's the weirdest thing that's happened to you in Europe?
JF: We played a festival in Denmark several years ago and it was filled with cowboyed-up guys who had it down so well they even had scabbards and cap-and-ball Colt revolvers. There weren't any bullets, just powder, but when a song would end, everyone [would] pull out their six-shooter and fire into the air. It was insane.
Make a child happy this holiday season and enjoy some first-class live music at the same time. Tuesday, December 7, McGonigel's Mucky Duck (2425 Norfolk) hosts "Noise for Toys," featuring Jack Saunders, Lisa Morales, Robert Ellis, Clandestine, The Mighty Orq, Kimberly McCarver, Ken Gaines & Wayne Wilkerson, Lizzy Dannemiller, U of H's Moores School Singers and more. Admission is a new, unwrapped toy for a child ages 1 to 12, which will be donated to the U.S. Marine Corps' Toys for Tots program. Showtime is 7 p.m.; see www.mcgonigels.com for more information.
Then Sunday, December 12, Houston Celtic rockers the Blaggards host their annual "Rock the Shelter" benefit from 2-6 p.m. at the Continental Club (3700 Main), featuring Harbor Light Choir, Patrick Fleming, Dog Party and Come See My Dead Person. Cover is $10 or one item from the lists at www.blaggards.com/toydrive2010. Items will be donated to Houston's Salvation Army Residence Shelter.
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1. Stereolab, Not Music
2. Avey Tare, Down There
3. Jimi Hendrix, West Coast Seattle Boy
4. Metallica, Live at Grimey's
5. The Orb & David Gilmour, Metallic Sphere
6. The Queers, Back to the Basement
7. Snowy Red, The Right to Die
8. Octopus Project, Hexadecagon
9. Warpaint, The Fool
10. Killing Joke, Absolute Dissent
1. Edward Maya feat. Vika Jigulina, "Stereo Love"
2. Rihanna, "Only Girl (In the World)"
3. Trey Songz feat. Nicki Minaj, "Bottoms Up"
4. Nelly, "Just a Dream"
5. Far East Movement feat. The Cataracs & Dec, "Like a G6"
6. Ke$ha, "We Are Who We Are"
7. Bruno Mars, "Just the Way You Are"
8. Pink, "Raise Your Glass"
9. David Guetta feat. Kid Cudi, "Memories"
10. Neon Trees, "Animal"
(lists compiled by Chris Gray)
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