The Rocks Off 200: John Cramer, Guitar Apostle of Project Grimm
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.
Who? Jeez, where to begin... ever since his family moved to Houston in 1979, John Cramer has been in and out of more rock and metal bands than most of us can even count. He started out as a drummer, the rhythmical sidekick to a well-to-do neighbor whose parents indulged his guitar-god dreams. When those dreams fizzled, Cramer found himself the owner of top-end guitar gear, and has been putting it to use ever since.
His main vehicle today is Project Grimm, the latest in a long, long line of collaborations, team-ups, and defunct acts. It arose from the ashes of The Mike Gunn, a heavy psych act that achieved significant underground success in the early '90s and is still somewhat popular with the more out-there DJs looking for obscure cuts.
Sadly, their reign ended as the drummer rode off into the sunset on a motorcycle with a huge bag of weed.
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Cramer called up Ricky Costello of Bleachbath to replace the midnight rider, and added Drew Calhoun and Jim Otto from Cramer's side project, the noise collective Schlong Weasel. They recorded and released their first CD, Lying Down, in 1996; shortly thereafter, Otto quit.
The band went power-trio, got better, and wrote and recorded their second album, Huge Beings. It came out on the night of their farewell show in 2003, but they reformed for a one-off show in 2008 around Christmas and then again permanently in 2010. These days, of you want your guitar rock straight and heavy, Cramer and the PG boys can give it to you in spades. 2014 should see the release of their third LP.
Home Base: For 15 years Project Grimm has called space at Sterrett Street Studios home. Songwriting is done organically as a group, allowing a natural vibe to guide the direction of the compositions. The band prefers to play Rudyard's above all others, having known the staff for two decades and enjoying a home-away-from-home feeling as a result.
Good War Story: "There's so many," he says. "Okay."
Back in the Mike Gunn days, we had a show at the Ritz in Austin. Our drummer was stuck in a rainstorm in Cleveland, so I played drums, which was ridiculous in and of itself. The opener was supposed to be Houston's own Rusted Shut, but only one guy showed up.
The entire crowd that night was rich Austin straight-edge kids in very expensive cars all parked out back. The Rusted Shut guy and I decided to go on, and spent our entire show verbally abusing the kids in attendance and daring them to do something about it. As payback, they keyed the MG bassist's car.
Story continues on the next page.
Music Scene Pet Peeve: Cramer has a common complaint about Houston's size and how hard it is to tie anything together in so massive and fractured a city. He feels that any attempt to build a "scene" anywhere feels forced, and eventually crawls up its own ass. His take on it: it's a good place for outsiders.
Why Do You Stay in Houston? "I stay in Houston because my kids live here," says Cramer. "Also, I have a day job. Music pays no bills. I love it, but it's not the most lucrative pastime."
Best Show You've Ever Played: "Neurosis, the 'Honor' tour in Austin, February 2013," he says. "I've seen many great shows, tons really, but that was the best."
First Song You Fell in Love With: "'Smoke on the Water' was the first I remember. I wore that damn thing out," offers Cramer. "[Deep Purple's] Machine Head was the first record I ever bought. And worth every penny. I still love it."
Five Desert Island Discs:
- Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay
- Dio, Holy Diver
- Brian Eno, Ambient 1: Music for Airports
- The Beatles, The Beatles ("White Album")
- Popol Vuh, Aguirre
See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.
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
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
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