Filthy McNasty is one of those performers you can't keep to yourself. Hell, you're kinda pissed no one has told you about him sooner.
McNasty, also known as Brian Michael McManus, hasn't been around quite long enough to be considered the city's dirty little secret. McNasty has been around for only eight months and has performed only a few shows. But with each show he performs, he begins to attract a following as an electric, charismatic singer, which you may find odd when you first lay eyes on him. As McManus, not yet in character, mingles with the No tsu oH audience in T-shirt and jeans, the 27-year-old resembles a paunchy Gary Busey. When a bevy of ladies (which includes his girlfriend) begin to swear up and down that McNasty is "Houston's answer to Ginuwine," you can't help but be skeptical. But voilà! When McManus transforms into McNasty and takes the stage in an olive-green suit, you soon realize there may be something to these claims.
It's just insane; that's all you can say about it -- essentially, basically insane. The audience gathers around the stage as McNasty, after igniting a flash of fire he probably got at a magic shop, takes the mike and launches an all-out musical assault. "Cuz I'm filthy!" he screams into the mike between profane R&B-tinged verses. Right off the bat you think he's completely based his act around Beck's unflinchingly ironic performance of his soul number "Debra" from the 1999 VH1 Fashion Awards. (McManus contends he's never seen that performance.) In fact, he reminds you of several people when he performs: Aaron Neville, David Clayton Thomas, Tenacious D's Jack Black. But mostly you hear Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett and Al Green in his voice.
McNasty, unlike the aforementioned soulsters, certainly doesn't mind getting in people's faces. There's a little Denis Leary mixed in there with the Solomon Burke. In fact, this vicious humor is what most people come to see. His audience interaction borders on harassment. He grinds up on women, often serenading their more enticing physical aspects. On the evening of the No tsu oH performance, he roughs up a dude who -- unaccountably -- is dressed like a state trooper. "Why can't you fuckin' pigs leave me alone?" he demands. After the show, the faux trooper asked McManus to perform at a party. "I had some pretty choice lines," he says. "If he was offended by it, he was offended in a way that made him wanna see it again."
It's this sheer unpredictable ballsiness McManus exudes when he's on stage that is such an anarchic, refreshing treat to watch. Here is this crazy white boy acting like he's the baddest, coolest, sexiest muthafucka in all the land. Instead of scoffing at the premise, his fans roll with it. They're part of the joke, and they're just as jazzed about it as McManus is. "I don't really see it as being, like, completely removed from Brian McManus," he says of his alter ego. "Because I feel like it's something I've genuinely been interested in -- singing like that and having samples to sing over. And I'm considered a funny guy, I guess. And I'm in the Guilloteens, and we're all about accosting people. So that's kinda second nature by now."
Oh yes, the Fatal Flying Guilloteens, the four-year-old rock outfit McManus created with his brother Sean. "I know of the reputation we have," he says, "and I think that's maybe what has brought some people [to say], 'What, he sings soul songs, but he's in the Guilloteens -- what the fuck?' They don't know what to make of it, so that's probably brought a couple of people out to the show "
But even if you've haven't heard of McManus or McNasty, there's a good chance you might've eaten something he had his hands all over. (How's that for a scary thought?) The randy, raunchy, boisterous McManus is also a professional chef who has landed culinary gigs at such landmark restaurants as Brennan's and Zula. In fact Brennan's was where McManus got his McNasty alias. McManus was given the name by his superior for not keeping his station squeaky-clean.
But even though cookery has paid most of his bills, music -- that harsh mistress -- is enticing him out of the kitchen. He says, "You have to choose, 'cause you're always there at night and it makes it really hard to play shows out of town. So I just decided I was gonna do something else to make money."
McNasty the persona was born one night when the McManus brothers performed a karaoke version of the Isley Brothers' "Twist and Shout" to an encouraging reception. "I've always thought, like, I could sing well enough to do something like it," he says. "I've always been a fan of soul. And even more modern stuff like Ginuwine and D'Angelo I'll buy those CDs and try to sing along with it and see if I can match voices and stuff."
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McNasty debuted at the Oven last December -- and man, did he go all out. He recalls, "A friend of mine named Larry has a really, really hot car. He dressed up like a chauffeur and drove me up to the front door, and my brother dressed up like a cop and escorted me in. I had fire and shit, and just turned on my sampler and just sang for 20 minutes. It was awesome."
As for his music, he likes to meld his soulful yelps with hard-core hip-hop samples. Working mostly with a BOSS SP-202 Mr. Sample, he often acquires beats produced by Wu-Tang Clan overlord RZA, and creates hooks and verses to go along with them. A die-hard Wu disciple, McManus delves for the different. "Some of them are lifted from [lesser-known]Wu-Tang records," he says. "It's not so bouncy. It's dark[er], and that's what I'm more interested in. Dude, nobody brought the U-God record. But I have it, and there's some awesome songs on it."
While McManus doesn't take the whole Filthy McNasty thing too seriously, he would like to see where he could go with it. And he certainly doesn't want people to think he's another Michael Bolton ripping off righteous soul music. "I know it's not really my forte or whatever," he says. "I don't wanna come out like somebody that says, like, he's listened to this kind of shit all his life. It's something I enjoy, but I know that I'm part of a completely different rock realm. If I tried to play it completely straight, people would think it's a joke."
Whether performing with a poker face or an eyebrow snarkily arched, McManus does turn it out whenever he puts on the Filthy McNasty face. While he hopes one day to release a full-length Filthy McNasty album, for now he's content to entertain club audiences with his humor and, he stresses, his musicianship. "I want people to come away with, 'That was pretty funny, but it fuckin' kicked my ass!' " he says. "It's like, 'The dude's funny, but he's also got some fuckin' pipes!' I don't want them to go away completely thinking, 'He should do that at the Laff Stop -- that shit's hysterical!' "