The Rocks Off 100: Bill Fool, Punk Lifer, Dad, Good Guy to Know
Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too.
Photo by Mark C. Austin
"Bill Fool was born in Chicago, Illinois and spent his entire youth living near Wrigley Field and really never left that particular area as a kid, ever..." says local luminary and punk lifer Bill Fool in an email. What follows is a short primer on this beloved curmudgeon.
Mr. Fool has been a part of the Houston punk scene since before most of the kids playing Mango's were born. His early life in Chicago was full of strange goings-on at his home, courtesy of a father involved in less-than-legal activities. Somehow he made it to a taping The Oprah Winfrey Show to see then-First Lady Nancy Reagan remind kids everywhere to say no to drugs.
He counted next door neighbor Denise DeClue -- star of My Bodyguard and About Last Night fame -- as a friend, with DeClue bringing around the likes of Tim Kazurinsky and Michael Winslow to a Fool family 4th of July party.
Mr. Fool discovered punk in 1986. He would soon make friends with bands like Impulse Manslaughter, Sludgeworth, Snoopeez Tapeworm, Screeching Weasel and Life Sentence. In the summer of 1996, after years of drug abuse and troublemaking, Fool moved to Houston. Not knowing a soul in the fourth-largest city in the country, he went about working his way into an already close-knit music scene.
He did time in Bickley, the second-biggest punk band in Houston -- the first being 30footFALL. Bickley soon recorded two full-length records, two 7-inches and a live CD while occasionally touring. Mr. Fool says that he was starting to bring about a much crazier element to Bickley shows, sometimes going fully nude.
Courtesy of Alicia Jarvais Photography
In 2000, Fool and a bunch of other miscreants rented a house off Telephone Road, the Lawson House. 2001 saw Fool starting up a new band called the Down & Dirties, with The GFN, Mr. Christian Best. The popular band looked for bigger adventures and soon were in L.A. shooting videos, recording on spec for Hollywood Records and playing shows all over town while getting into major trouble at every turn.
Drugs and partying too much hit the band hard, and they had to call it quits before someone in the band would be put into a coffin. Fool and the GFN created the Houston stalwarts Hell City Kings soon after. In 2007, Fool joined the band Born Liars on bass. The Born Liars are still working as of today but on extremely slower rate.
Somewhere in here, Fool attempted to urinate on one Lars Ulrich.
Who Are You? "Well for those who don't know I'm the jack-of-all-trades punk rock and roll maestro of the Houston scene," replies Fool. "Some may know me as a co-vinyl pusher of Cutthroat Records, or the Bass Playing loudmouth of The Born Liars. It's quite possible some may recognize me as a guitar player from the Hell City Kings.
I've been known to DJ at various dives around town as DJ Fool. I will write something stupid for any local little zine if asked as another way of leading the kids astray.
Right now I'm really pushing my new vinyl only record label called Little T & A Records. The sad thing is I would imagine every person will recognize my name more for urination than anything else.
Why Do You Stay in Houston? "While it's easy to say the price of living, or maybe how the women are way better looking than most of the world, the real reason is the arts," he says. "The art scene is so badass here and very open-minded. The art of music is great too.
"You can play or do anything you want and more than likely you will find a kindred spirit that will be totally into what you are doing," he adds. "The noise scene in Houston is world-famous. Add to that the copious amount of vinyl record stores and a punk lifer like myself is in pure heaven.
The scene here for the last five or six years is the story of legends not yet told," says Fool. "The underground bands here in town are so fucking good it's painful!"
Home Base: "I run the label out of my Garden Oaks house with my wife and two little kids, who really do know more about music than most of the human race," he says. "My daughter saw some dude wearing a GG Allin shirt at the store and immediately started to scream 'chchchchch chatter chatter chatter!' The dude looked scared!
"With the bands I've been in Francisco Studios downtown for 16 years now. The room we have has been very important to the scene as a ton of legends of the scene have used my room at one point or another. One of my bands signed our contract with Fearless records while sitting on the floor pounding beers.
"I don't wanna name drop names but a lot of punk bands that most people know by name have at one point or another paid me for their share of rent on the room," he says.
"Now for local hangs?" he begins. "I was a big-time frequenter of Emo's here in Houston and when that place closed I must admit to not picking one home base for my late-night excursions. If you wanna find me look at Rudz or any vinyl-selling record store if you really must. If I'm digging in a bin it's better to stay the hell away from me until I'm done or else I may kill you!"
Top 5 Desert Island Discs: "Jesus Christ man, why don't you just ask me to murder someone?," recoils Fool. "That would be a lot easier for me."
Rolling Stones, Sticky Fingers "It isn't going through puberty, your first drink of booze or getting laid for the first time that makes you a man. It's listening to this record and going "OH MY GOD" that really makes you a man.
Ozzy Osbourne, Diary of a Madman "When I first heard this thanks to my aunt in 1982 I knew right then and there that I would be in a band. The ending solo on the song "Tonight" is something that will never grow old in my mind.
Turbonegro, Apocalypse Dudes "1998 and a little over ten years after the release of Appetite this came out. I was living on Hawthorne with a few dudes including a 16-year-old John from Muhammadali renting our couch. We all jammed this record to the point of utter destruction. Everything changed after that."
Dwarves, Blood, Guts & Pussy: "I bought this record the same day I bought Poison Idea's Feel the Darkness. While both are simply amazing, it's the Dwarves that seems to always make me go the craziest. Crazy is good. It only lasts a few minutes but most thing that are great should only last a few minutes. I mean, I got shit to do man.
Ramones, Ramonesmania "I hate CD's with a passion but the first one I finally broke down and bought was this. It's not easy to find on vinyl as most people jack up the price so owning this on CD is a must. I love -- I mean L-U-V -- the Ramones and picking just one is next to impossible so having one with every single catchy as fuck hit on it rules. RULLLEEESSSS!
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "Easy! The suburbs," Fool exclaims. "Everything that is horrible in life comes from there. Fake punks that pack a Rancid show but are nowhere to be found when a local punk show is going on. Most suburban music fans of any genre from across the U.S. really don't help out locals but the Houston suburbs really go out of their way to not go out of their way.
Good War Story: "Since a chunk of the good ones have at one point or another made their way into the Houston Press, I shall share with you a really sad but true one," he begins. "The Born Liars were playing a show in the 'burbs after saying we would never ever play the burbs again after so many bad shows that have taken place.
"It was at a now closed joint named the Trash Bar. Me and Josh Wolf were having a good time laughing and being typical Montrose-loving regulars. A few of the locals did not take kindly to our Montrosian antics.
"Right about the fifth song of our set one of the locals is saying over and over again 'I'm gonna killl you F#@s.' I threw my bass high over my head, jumped off the stage and continuously punched this homophobe.
"After I was finally pulled off of him and the dude ran away, we go outside to see they totaled Josh's car. Slashed the tires, broke the windows and spray painted homophobic slurs all over.
"I'm glad I got a few good hits in on him, but the lesson has been ingrained forever that while punk rock may be gaining acceptance to the masses, it will never be accepted in its truest form. Stay true to yourself no matter what someone might think of you.
"Viva La Rock N Roll!"
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