Houston's 10 Most Eccentric Musicians
Screencap from Hearts of Animals "Sea Babies"
Let's preface this with the fact that I was once one of Houston's premiere musical weirdoes, staging insane protests and inventing toilet-paper cannons for the Black Math Experiment's live shows. So when I say that the following ten H-town rockers are a little crazy, I mean that in the most complimentary manner possible.
Everyone else can go on with their belief that Austin is where you go for out-there musicians, but we proudly present these folks as counter-evidence.
10. MLEE MARIE The creative force behind Hearts of Animals is the one and only Mlee Marie, whose work I was recently reacquainted with through her "Sea Babies" music video. Director James Templeton let me in on some of the things that interest Marie musically, including abduction myths and the frightful costume covered in scales and teeth that she crafted for the work. She's as sweet as she can be, but also just a little scary.
Photo by Terry Suprean
9. BRADLEY MUNOZ For my money, the musician going by P.L.X.T.X. is one of the great deranged minds in the scene. His album Selective Mutism remains the only work I've ever seen that you should absolutely buy in both hard and digital forms in order to experience the hidden messages he Munoz crafts in backmasking and mirror-writing. All of this to express a period in his life when speech impediments left him unable to talk. His work is simply mindblowing.
8. FLETCHER STAFFORD Stafford appears every couple of years to fire a music video at me and every time he does it's like taking a stiff drink, whether he's with The Spirit Noise (formerly Orents Stirner) or his side gig Girly Eyes. He has a great penchant for creating visual fever dreams that match well with his manic music. He seems to do more visual art than music these days, but don't worry; it's still nuts.
Photo by Carol Standin Cooley
7. RICHARD RAMIREZ I hope he won't take this the wrong way, but Richard Ramirez is the Houston artist who most frightens me. When I was investigating the origin of his band's name, Black Leather Jesus, he told me a true story of kidnapping, rape and torture that left me shaking so hard I didn't write for two days. He remains one of the city's top noise acts under a variety of names and with different collaborators, but the mind behind that madness never changes.
Photo by Chris Gray
6. DON WALSH When I asked for suggestions for this column, honestly no name came up more than that of Rusted Shut's Walsh, who has been entertaining Houston audiences for a quarter of a century with his own very unique style. His stage presence is legendary, as his normally rambling offstage warmth gets replaced by nonstop expletives and beating his guitar as he cackles and screams "KILL! KILL!" over and over again. It's like watching a damned werewolf play a show.
Photo by Jake-Renny Rennaker
5. JESSE SENDEJAS For a group that seems to have a much bigger national following than many of Houston's better-known acts, Days N Daze doesn't seem to get the column inches they should. Allow me to rectify that. Though both Sendejas -- whose father is Rocks Off colleague Jesse Sendejas Jr. -- and partner Whitney Flynn are lovably out to lunch, I'm going to give Sendejas the edge.
Prone to playing barefoot and often naked, he's had his feet stepped on so many times at shows that he celebrates their perpetually broken state with tattoos of two broken toes on his feet. This on top of someone with the nuts to start a punk band and think, "You know what? Fuck amps. Who needs 'em?"
Story continues on the next page.
Photo by Nikki Machacek
4. JOE ORTIZ The oft-nude ringleader of Clockpole is like a mini-weird convention all on his own. No Clockpole show is the same, and rarely even features the same musicians aside from Ortiz. Nothing is planned, everything is improvised, and nothing makes sense by its very design. He's the only one of his kind.
Photo by Jim Bricker
3. JANDEK No list of off-kilter Houston musicians would be complete without referencing the one and only Jandek. Still going strong and even playing live on rare occasions, the reclusive, strange-sounding acoustic singer continues to put out his records year after year, leaving fans entranced and confused. He remains our own wonderful mystery, enriching the city with his vision.
Photo by Stephan Wyatt
2. MUZAK JOHN Still going strong after all these years the master of muzak and noise recently ushered in the new year at Super Happy Fun Land. Based on his performance, from which he drew strange sinister yet soothing sounds out of his custom-crafted Synthnoize Box, I am forced to conclude he is either an aspiring super villain or a wizard thrown back in time from a future dystopia. Even among our own renowned noise scene John is a Marvel.
1. POOPY LUNGSTUFFING Olivia Dvorak, better known by the best stage name of all time, is Houston's premier ukulele player. She was making weird YouTube videos and ironically funny songs long before the uke became a cherished indie instrument, and continues to produce her amusing, high-pitched weirdness. She's like everyone's favorite inappropriate aunt.
I'm sure we missed some other great acts that occasionally gnaw through their restraints to hit Houston stages. Let us know in the comments.