The Rocks Off 200: John Alton, the Madness of Cosmic Bug Loaf
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 Jessica Alton
Who? Every Cosmic Bug Loaf song sounds like your last brain cell committing suicide as the world burns around you, which is just about the nicest thing I've ever said about anyone. Much of that is due to John Alton, whose strange and intense guitar work feels like two different people alternately berating and coming on to you at the same time. Then there's that voice...it comes out of the speakers like Pennywise came out of the sewers in IT. There's just something insidious about it, even though it's all dressed up in bright colors.
When he was a boy Alton started learning the classical guitar from his father; you can hear a LOT of Bach in a Cosmic Bug Loaf song if you listen closely. His favorite game was to set his metronome faster and faster and see if he could play the pieces perfectly far in excess of the proper tempo.
Eventually he took to the electric guitar and teamed with childhood friend Chad Leibold (drums) to form first the June Bugs and eventually Cosmic Bug Loaf. Previously he's been signed to Esotype Records as part of a math-rock outfit called Eternal Life, and has contributed guitar to recordings by the Wheel Workers' own Steve Higginbotham. All in all, Alton keeps busy laying down strange and wonderful sounds, so keep an eye and ear out.
Home Base: Practice and writing sessions for Cosmic Bug Loaf usually tale place by rotating between the members' houses. Whenever Alton wants to work on solo projects, he prefers to take himself out into the woods with a guitar to write.
When it comes to playing live, he loves every venue for different reasons. Like a lot of local bands he praises the sound quality of Rudyard's, but also enjoys the atmosphere of AvantGarden and Notsuoh.
Good War Story: "I was abducted by aliens." Author's note: there is simply no way to know if he is joking on that or not.
Music Scene Pet Peeve: Though he doesn't cite any statistics or anything, Alton feels like the scene just isn't as big as it used to be.
Why Stay Do You Stay In Houston? "I stay in Houston because my family is close and also my bandmates are close," Alton says. "I get a little overwhelmed with industry and cities, so I hope to move to somewhere that has more nature than humans sometime in the future. Then again, it might be too late for that."
Five Desert Island Discs:
- Radiohead, The King of Limbs
- The Doors, Morrison Hotel
- Elliott Smith, From a Basement on a Hill
- Pink Floyd, Meddle
- Converge, You Fail Me
Best Show You've Ever Seen: "Radiohead by far," he says. "I have seen them live three times, and every time it blows me away."
First Song You Ever Fell in Love With: Portishead, "Half Day Closing"
See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.
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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