The Rocks Off 200: Brandon Ray, Punk Rocker Turned Filmmaker/Animator
Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, 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. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Photo courtesy of Brandon Ray
Who? After playing an active role in Houston's early-90s punk scene, Brandon Ray turned his creative persona from music-maker to animator. His signature style revolves around the use of pieces of paper put into motion -- almost like a pop-up book come to life -- and his projects in the past year alone have ranged from kids' programming for Amazon Studios to music videos for local bands and beyond, including a project in which megastar Johnny Depp played guitar.
That one, a collaborative effort with co-director Pat Kondelis, was a project for Texas Music Hall of Fame alum Bill Carter. The song, "Anything Made of Paper," is about the West Memphis Three, a group of Arkansas teens who were exonerated in 2011 after a long battle against their 1994 conviction for murder, as a gift for one of the now-freed men.
"Bill's beautiful song was inspired when Damien's wife Lorri brought Bill and his wife Ruth three paper roses as a gift from Damien, while he was on death row," explains Ray. "When Bill asked what he could give Damien in return, Lorri's response was, 'anything made of paper' -- that's all Damien was allowed to have while on death row. So Bill and Ruth set out to write a song for Damien about hope and love."
Ray adds that the video received Depp's (along with the other band members) seal of approval and has also been honored as an Official Selection of the 2014 Irvine International Film Festival -- which he humbly describes "pretty cool."
Home Base: Today, Ray is a self-described family man, who spends all of his free time with wife Lisa and colorfully named kiddos Bleu and Violet.
"You'll find me posted up at the H-town zoo on the regular, chillin' with my little man Bleu," Ray says with a smile. "Years ago, I spent quite a bit of time at Fitzgerald's and Zelda's waaaay back in the day."
Why Do You Stay In Houston? Ray points out Houston's cultural diversity as its main character-lending quality.
"Sure, they're doing their best to 'Keep Austin Weird,' but here in H-town, we've got a kaleidoscope of different cultures," he says. "As our art scene keeps expanding, I think we're going to be recognized for this in a big way."
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Good War Story: Ray draws a blank on harrowing accounts in his current gig, citing that "animation's war stories involve tape, inkless pens and late-night construction-paper trips to the store." But he digs back to his punk days in a long-lost local group called the Spooges, describing the groups first show at the long-lost Abyss -- when their guitarist ended up handcuffed in the back of a cop car:
"When they searched us, they found hundreds of condoms in our pockets -- we were going to toss them into the crowd during our set," he recounts. "In a redneck accent, the cop asked me, 'Whot tha Hell you gonna do with all these??? You gon' be busy tonight, boy?' I just wiggled my eyebrows at him until he finally let us go."
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "I love all genres of music, including country and rap, but I don't like it when people outside the Houston scene think that's primarily what we have to offer," Ray laments. "We're one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world, and that diversity is reflected in our music scene, I think."
Five Desert Island Discs: From a practical perspective, Ray explains: first three are "music to jazz me up so I could smash coconuts and find myself some sustenance," followed by "a couple of reflective, beautiful albums to cool down with and reflect on the good times of my previous life."
- Empire of the Sun, Walking On a Dream
- Ween, The Mollusk
- Grizzly Bear, Veckatimest
- Willie Nelson, Red Headed Stranger
- Neutral Milk Hotel, In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
Best Concert You Ever Saw: "I'd either say Rainer Maria and the Promise Ring at Fitz in 1997, or Belle & Sebastian at the Backyard in Austin, 2002," Ray decides. "But if I'd ever gotten to see Alabama Shakes or Bon Iver live (which I haven't), my answer might be different."
First Song You Fell In Love With: "When I was like seven years old, I'd sit in front of the record player and listen to The Monkees' Greatest Hits album over and over again," he remembers. "I loved all those songs, but my favorite was probably 'I'm a Believer' with Mickey doing lead vocals."
See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.
THE ROCKS OFF 200
The Excitable Boys of Another Run Flash Gordon Parks, DJ as Funky Professor DJ Main Event, Kratez Crew JumpOff Man Odd Hours and Back to Back's Hank Doyle Legendary K-OTIX Producer Russel "The ARE" Gonzalez Dylan Bryson Sings the Blues (Rock) DJ Damon Allen, R.O.C.O. Fellow Tom Lynch, New Kid On the Block Ashley Worhol, Goth-Metal Queen of Katy Joe Ortiz, Clockpole's Master of Nonsense Marzi Montazeri, the Man Dimebag Darrell Called a Bad Motherfucker John Salinas, the Beat Beast of Only Beast Homegrown Cowboy Crooner Charles Peters Adam Bricks, NYC Expat Metal Journeyman and Blasé Bassist Alan Hilton Kyra Noons, Houston's Reggae Sunsplash DJ AudiTory, the Maestro of LuvItMane The Nephilim Terror's Death-Metal Growler Danny Carroll Tommy Grindle, Guitarist of Square and Compass The Bailout Bureau's Mysterious "Bob Bovary" DJ Twinkle-Toes, Won a "Dick-Measuring Vinyl Orgy" With Two iPods Beanz N Kornbread, Gmail-Loving Production Duo You(genious), Party Crasher Turned Musical Auteur Daniel Alexander, Klein's Backyard MC
THE ROCKS OFF 100 2013 ALUMNI
Crystal Toliver, Source of That Yello Echo You Hear Mr. Castillo, Song-Sniping DJ DJ Big Reeks, The Chief Waxaholic Melane Gutierrez, The Coffin Queen Folk Descendent Kevin Taylor Kendrick Eloy Contreras, Deathrazor's Sharp Thrash Vocals Robert McCarthy, Guitarist From Beyond Justice Tirapelli-Jamail, The Manichean's "Quiet One" Charlie Horshack, LP4's Guitar Warrior Kathryn Hallberg, Little Girl Gone Tessa Kole, PuraPharm's Voice and Vice Richard Griesser, Vintage Camera Hound With Enviable Archive Downfall 2012, Sci-Fi Metal Storytellers Kevin Choate, Drum Like You're Screaming DJ Rockwell, Booth Pimp and Party-Rocker Ash Kay, the Freakouts' Punk Vocal Head-Butt Pat Kelly, The Godfather of the Suffers Michelle Miears of BLSHS, Siren In the Machine DJ Remix, Genre-Hopping Mix Maniac Kahna, Brutal Nation's Metal Booking Queen DJ Ill Set, Enemy of Wack Tracks Shane Tuttle, Updog Owner and Album-Cover Designer Electric Attitude, Renegades of Funk Sama'an Ashrawi, Trill Gladiator Recon Naissance, A Rap While Matt's Guitar Gently Weeps DJ Klinch Asks, "Can You Dig It?" Jose "Chapy" Luna, Percussionist Con Corazón Love Dominique, Wicked Heart R&B Chanteuse Chris Gerhardt, Mastermind of Giant Battle Monster The Jobe Wilson Band, the Boys From Chambers County Kimberly M'Carver, Missouri City's Nightingale DJ Panchitron, Stirring the Cumbia/Moombahton Melting Pot D.R.I's Kurt Brecht, Thrash Zone Supervisor Sloan Robley, The Last Houstonian Banshee Jack Saunders, Dealer of Grit & Jangle Richard Ramirez, Noise God and Black Leather Jesus Mike Meegz, Scoremore's Houston Lieutenant Jacqui Sutton, Houston's "Jazzgrass Lady" Robin Kirby, Silk and Sandpaper Songwriter Billy Dorsey, Grammy-Winning MARATHON Runner David DeLaGarza, Don of Tejano Stars La Mafia Jason Puffer, Your Psychedelic Sex Panther Tobin Harvell, Fitzgerald's Unflappable Floor Manager Walter Suhr, the Straw That Stirs Mango Punch! Tony Garza, La Orquesta Salmerum Founder OG Ron C, Chopstar King of the Purple Dome Football, etc., Giving Emo Back Its Good Name Angela Jae, Renaissance Artist Shellee Coley, Voice of the Northern Woods Blaggards, Houston's St. Paddy's Day House Band DJ Meshak, Hongree Records' Sound Selecter K-Rino, South Park Coalition's Southside Maven DJ Candlestick, One Niceguy and a Very Busy DJ Danielle Renee, Only Beast's Destroyer of Walls Felipe Galvan of Los Skarnales Kristine Mills, Houston's Brassiest Voice Brian Davis, Punk Drummer, Horror Composer Elroy Boogie, Top-Notch Turntablist Sean Ozz, Wizard of The Abyss Alyssa Rubich, Angel of Instability Alphonso "Fonz" Lovelace, Righteous Drummer Frank Zweback, Funkmaster General OG Bobby Trill, Bombon Beatmaker Beau Beasley, Organist for the End of Time Rapid Ric, Mixtape Mechanic Dwight Taylor Lee, the Wandering Bufalero Coline Creuzot, Soulful Pop/R&B Singer Cristina Acuna, Cactus Music's Twitter Fingers Clint Broussard, Blues In Hi-Fi Man Now Back On FM Nortnii Rose, Houston Ska's Greatest Hope Ramblin' Chase Hamblin, the Man Who Will Be Paid Chris Alonzo, Bringing Night Flight to Facebook
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
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