The Rocks Off 200: Dave Callier, Grindcore Guitar God
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.
Photos by Stanislav Smrcak
Who? If you're at all interested in Texas' extreme-metal scene, you're going to run into Dave Callier at some point. A total sucker for unchecked speed and aggression, the guitarist serves as the front man for P.L.F., Houston's thrashiest international grindcore export.
The band just recently returned from a 32-date European tour promoting their new LP Ultimate Whirlwind of Incineration that took them from Barcelona to Moscow and every weird little hamlet in between. But one band could never be enough to contain all of Callier's hyperspeed riffs and mucous-burbling shrieks. He also fronts the speedy local death-metal standouts Oath of Cruelty and shreds brutally in the long-running blackened death outfit Morbosidad. If it's loud, fast and heavy, he's into it.
The extreme-metal bug bit Callier early, and it bit him hard. Like so many who have contracted the sickness, he says he was infected as a youngster by an older brother with little regard for his younger sibling's eardrums.
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"The first time I heard extreme music I was nine years old, and my brother was home for Christmas break from college," Callier says. "He put in a dubbed tape of the first Carcass album, Reek of Putrefaction. He explained to me what 'carcass' meant and what 'putrefaction' meant, and the meaning of the second song, 'Regurgitation of Giblets.' It just totally blew my mind. I couldn't even fathom how people could make music that sounded like that, especially with the pitch-shifters on the vocals.
"It definitely left an impression on me," he added.
As soon as he could, Callier set out to make a nasty impression of his own. The band that would become P.L.F. began bashing away in 1998, and he's been pushing himself to metallic extremes ever since.
Home Base: When he's not on tour, Callier can usually be found playing with one band or another at local metal haunts like Rudyard's, Walters and the White Swan. Though he loves to go on tour, H-Town seems certain to remain his hideously hot headbanging headquarters.
"I'm a single parent and everything, so I'm definitely not going anywhere for a while," Callier says.
Good War Story As much as possible, the P.L.F. mastermind prefers to keep his war stories confined to his songs. But in the wild, wooly world of extreme rock, the insanity can't help but get a tad out of hand at times. A few years back, Callier says his grind troupe was invited to play a house show in Austin that got rather more rowdy than anticipated.
"It was a pretty wild place," he says. "I'm not really sure who owned the house, but during our set, people were swinging sledgehammers into the walls. Someone blew up a window on me while I was singing and playing our set. I don't know if people were getting evicted from there or what, but it was pretty wild: The place was literally being destroyed while the show was going on.
"Some more bands played, and we kind of got out of there and drove back to Houston," he continues. "When we were on our way back, we heard that somebody had burned the place down."
Story continues on the next page.
Why Do You Stay in Houston? "I've actually lived in Houston my whole life," Callier says. "When I got out of high school, I learned a trade. I went to electrical apprenticeship school and I've been working construction for the past 13 or 14 years. More than that, believe it or not, when I graduated from high school instead of moving away and traveling like a lot of my friends, I just wanted to stay here and play in bands."
Music Scene Pet Peeve: Callier is put off by the petty annoyances that every local band deals with, like other bands on the bill taking too long to set up and tear down or hogging too much stage time. But the real challenges arise from the sacrifices that must be made in order to pursue music with such niche appeal.
"I'd say it's definitely a life choice that works contrary to being successful financially or vocationally, having a good marriage, any of that," he says. "I would say that people who are really, really into music usually give all that up to some degree, because in the more extreme kinds of music, there's no money to be made, but people do it because they're weirdos with obnoxious taste in music, I guess."
Five Desert Island Discs:
- Repulsion, Horrified
- Kreator, Pleasure to Kill
- Agathocles, Razor Sharp Dagger
- Poison Idea, Kings of Punk
- Scorpions, In Trance
Best Concert I Ever Saw: I'd say the best show that I ever attended was the Obscene Extreme festival in 2006, which was in Northern Czech Republic," Callier says. "Just as far as the lineup: Three days of grindcore and goregrind, and to a lesser extent, death metal. Just a really stacked lineup, quality sound and a lot of international bands."
First Song I Fell in Love With: "The first song that I ever fell in love with was "Danger Zone" by Kenny Loggins," the guitarist says. "When I was a little kid, we had a dubbed copy of Top Gun and I used to watch it over and over.
"That synth guitar, at four years old, was like the heaviest shit that I'd ever heard," Callier adds. "I thought it was so powerful."
P.L.F.'s new LP, Ultimate Whirlwind of Incineration, is available now from the Blastasfuk label.
See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page
Mlee Marie Mains, the Heart of Hearts of Animals DJ Navo, Bombón's Boundless Body-Mover Breelan Angel, Dirty Little Secret Keeper Michael Dauzat, Sr., a Rabbi and a Hate Nick Greer, a G Among G's Chingo Bling, H-Town's Own Versace Mariachi Quenton Rockwell, Melody Man in the Shiny Darks Southerland Nights, An Army of Accolades Stacy Hartoon, Rudz's Punk-Rock Heir Apparent Bowen Lyons, Keeper of the Trimms' Groove Chris Gore, Electronica Guru of BLSHS John Alton, the Madness of Cosmic Bug Loaf Reko Trill, of the Almighty Trill Brothers Jo Bird, Bow-Caster of Fiddle Witch & the Demons of Doom DJ Nando1, Who Fights to Keep the Party Poppin' Randall Hopkins, Featherface Drummer and Brilliant Video Director Roby Deaton, Open-Mike Pocket of Cool Nosaprise, Hurrah! for the Blushing Bridegroom Tony Vega, the Big Easy's Barnburner Leslie Krafka, Onward Through the Fog Michael Anthony Shanks, Houston's Merry Shankster DJ Baby Roo, Vegetarian Hip-Hop Veteran Rachel Bays, Filming Them Softly Punk-Rock "Newcomers" Screech of Death Erin Rodgers, the Keys to Glass the Sky Alex LaRotta, Crate-Digging Fistful of Soul Brother Alycia Miles, Triumphant Soul Singer DJ Piam, Poison Girl's Bacon-Fat Funk Specialist Mister Insane, Host of The Insane Show Jake Rawls -- Kemo For Emo Is Back Santos Pastrana, Sound Engineer and DJ Ninja Heading Upstream with RIVERS' Chris Tamez DJ Dayta, Keeper of That Good Good Matthew Davis Buehrer, Runaway Sun's Globally Thinking Bassist Fat Tony, Third Ward to "BKNY" Noon, Rapper With a Lot on His Mind Matt Cash, Clear Lake's Cassette Tape Wailer Jason Smith, Alkari's Space City Rocker DJ Penetrate, All Lit Up in "Neon Lights" Catch Fever Is Catching On Renée Jonard, Princess of Noise Pollution Junior Gordon, Big Man With a Big Sound Chad Smalley, Blaggards' Barse Player Damien Randle, K-OTIX Man of Action Kevin Anthony, 45 Southbound Man DJ Good Grief Knows How to Have Fun Robert Kuhn, the Well-Traveled Islander Gunnar Cushway, Insko's Feel-Good Utilityman Mario Rodriguez, Tax the Wolf/Bang Bangz's Wonky Power Monger John Smith, Goodtime Continental Club Manager Dwayne Cathey, A Good Man to Scare People With Walter Carlos, Guitar-Punisher of Funeral Horse Ryan James, Putting Up a Good Fight John Cramer, Guitar Apostle of Project Grimm Big Gerb, Houston's Hongree-est MC Steven Higginbotham, Hard-Working Wheel Worker Alisha Pattillo & Her Swaggering, Soulful Sax Brandon Ray, Punk Rocker Turned Filmmaker/Animator 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
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