The Price of Rebellion
Houston may have changed a lot since 1991, but the Poor Dumb Bastards haven't. Flashier bands have come and gone, but the band founded by Byron Dean and Mike Porterfield has remained true to their creed of "Texas Drunk Rock" — barroom blues and R-rated lyrics delivered at punk-rock speed — for 20 years, and besides the tragic 2007 death of guitarist Hunter Ward, always lived to drink again another day.
For a bunch of supposed slackers, the Bastards have been pretty busy. They're working on a follow-up CD to last year's The Price of Rebellion ("This Dick," "Same Old Hole"), just filmed a segment for the forthcoming documentary about Houston music in the '90s, When We Ruled H-Town, and have been tracking down former members (there are legion) for Saturday's 20th-anniversary show at Fitzgerald's. When Chatter reached him last week, Dean was trying to keep his dogs away from the children's toys in his yard.
"It's the punk-rock lifestyle, right?" he laughed.
Chatter: Will the new album be a radical departure, either in sound or subject matter?
Byron Dean (laughs): Absolutely not (laughs). We don't know anything different. There was a brief period of history in the band in the early '90s when we were kind of leaning toward a more metal sound, or I guess the whole Seattle grunge/metal thing, when we were trying to actually make it. But we didn't realize with the name Poor Dumb Bastards we probably never would, and everything rhyming with "truck" was going to limit radio play.
It was actually pretty horrible. We were fighting all the time, everybody trying to get their ideas out there. We kind of broke up for a little while. At that point Mike Porterfield, who started the band with me, left for a little while. When he came back we got back to our Texas drunk rock roots, and we've been doing the same thing ever since. So to answer your question, no. It'll still rhyme with "truck."
C: When you started the band, did you have any idea you'd be celebrating your 20th anniversary one day?
BD: Honestly, no. Mike and I had the garage/bedroom/make-music-after-school bands. We never played anywhere, we'd just get together and run the tape, record stuff and "make albums," and we had a lot of fun doing it.
We were big, big Judy's fans, and still are. They had their own kind of uncool cool, and that's what I strived for, because I didn't want to do the posturing and the posing and the whole rock-star thing. We just wanted to play music and make people laugh, and hope they got the joke. It's never gotten old, except for that short period.
C: What's the drunkest you or any of the other Bastards have ever been during a show?
BD: Drunkest? I've not remembered words before. The most inebriated I've been had nothing to do with alcohol. I was about to go on and I saw some guys doing some key bumps. God, I can't believe I'm about to tell you this.
I said, "Give me some of that! I need to get up for the show." They said, "Nah, you don't want any of this." I said, "Yeah I do." I did a couple of big snorts of it, and it was HGH horse tranquilizer (laughs). I was fine, got about halfway through the first song, and then it hit me and I just kept falling over and falling over and falling over. Broke the mike stand, fell back on the drums, broke the leg off the drum kit.
The band just got offstage and quit. I was completely incapacitated. About 20 minutes later, I was fine, but they were pissed and left.
C: How much do you miss Hunter?
BD: Every day. I actually have a picture of him in my office doing a rock-star pose with a cigarette hanging off of his lip. That little guy, man...we were probably getting pretty stale in 2000, 2001 when he joined, and his whole youthful exuberance and excitement — he just wanted to be there.
His idols weren't, you know, Led Zeppelin and big-time rock stars like that. His idols were us and Sugar Shack, local bands and people that he could communicate with. When he joined the band, to him, that was it. It was incredible how much enthusiasm he brought back to the band. There's not a day goes by that I don't think about him. Everybody misses him a tremendous amount. We still love him, and we still think about him, so we'll do a little tribute to him at the show, too.
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