The Rocks Off 200: Melissa Lonchambon Ryan, Omotai's Mistress of Metal
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 by Denniz James Polk
Who? Melissa Lonchambon Ryan is one of the main arteries that the blood of Houston music flows through. Currently she's the bassist for Omotai, who released the spine-throttling EP Fresh Hell back in February on Treaty Oak Collective, but that's just a fraction of who she's been in the scene.
The child of musical parents, Ryan started early. Her dad was in the Little Singers of Paris (similar to the Vienna Boys' Choir) when he was a kid, performing all around the world. Piano lessons, saxophone in the school band, but it was in summer vacations during middle school that her true path was laid out when she watched MTV's 120 Minutes and Headbanger's Ball. Her envy of an older brother who played guitar in a band sealed the deal, and Ryan forged ahead in groups like Pop Deflation, Lucky Motors, Panic in Detroit, Sharks and Sailors and Peloton.
Omotai has just returned from a jaunt out West, including Total Fest in Missoula, Mt. Now busy writing material for their fourth release, the band welcomed Jamie Ross aboard a year ago and has been drawing on Shiner, Russian Circles, and Breather Resist in their newer songs, says Ryan. We'll be looking forward to it.
Home Base: Omotai practices downtown at Sterrett Street Studios, which Ryan declares to be the least smelly of the last four places they've called home. When it comes time to play, her preference is Rudyard's or Walters because of the intimate environment and warm crowds.
Good War Story: "On the first Omotai tour, after playing in Hollywood, we drove around for ages completely exhausted looking for a hotel, and we ended up an hour or so north of town where the only vacancy was at America's Best Value Inn," Ryan recounts. "So we stayed there and everyone slept like a rock.
The next morning we got up and Sam [guitarist Waters] noticed he had a tick lodged on his chest. Being the avid outdoorsmen we were at the time, we each took turns Googling 'how to remove a tick', trying to 'burn' it off with a lighter in various ways, or tweeze it off like a bunch of clowns. Pretty much doing exactly what you are NOT supposed to do to remove a tick.
We didn't worry too much about it until over the next couple of days, a telltale red, target-shaped rash started appearing on his skin around the tick bite. Two weeks later, when we got home, he went to the doctor, who was delighted to get to diagnose his first case of Lyme Disease. Not to worry, Sam was treated for it quickly and he's free and clear.
So, No. 1, I never stay at America's Best Value Inn, and No. 2, I picked up a proper tick remover from REI and I always take it on tour (along with my other tour-friendly camping gear that my bandmates like to rib me for). It should be noted that I also fell halfway down a dark flight of stairs while carrying drums the day after the tick incident and nearly broke my ankle. Music is a dangerous business.
Story continues on the next page.
Music Scene Pet Peeve: "Not a pet peeve, but wishful thinking," opens Ryan. "I think the venues should invest in a backlined Ampeg 8x10, so bassists don't have to keep schlepping their gear around." [Author's Note: As a former singer who helped the bass player carry his rig because of a bad back, can we please make this happen?]
Five Desert Island Discs:
- Polvo, In Prism
- Yawning Man, Rock Formations
- Yo La Tengo, Prisoners of Love
- Mastodon, Remission
- Smashing Pumpkins, Pisces Iscariot
Best Show You've Ever Seen: "Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds this summer was absolutely one of the best shows I've ever seen," she says. "Earthless kinda blew my doors off when I saw them at SXSW this year at the Thrasher/Converse party, never having heard them before. Polvo downstairs at Fitzgerald's a few years ago. And Fugazi at the International Ballroom in 2002."
First Song You Ever Fell in Love With: "Most of the songs on Best of the Beach Boys Vol.2 when I was in elementary school."
See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.
Joshua Allan Vargas, Metal-Video Maestro Tim Ruiz, La Mafia's Master of Technics Jessica Perry, the Spice In Vanilla Sugar Handsomebeast, Silver Jeans Starchildren Silver Blueberry, Garage Days Revisited DJ Squincy Jones, "If It Jams, I Play It!" DJ B*Ryte, From VA To H-Town With Love Jess Walker, the Pride of Pride Houston Phil Peterson, AR*V All-Star John Janatsch, Mayor of Houston Rock City Frank Ortiz, Synth-Pop Served Perfectly frank. Optimo Ram, Online Radio Jefe Meagan Chambers, Don't Gag Her Gorgeous Guitar Justin Nava, the Voice of thelastplaceyoulook Donnie Houston, Halftime Entertainment Chase Harris, Deep Cuts' Rather Deep Thinker Dave Callier, Grindcore Guitar God 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
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
The Ask Willie D Archives Houston's Top 10 Hipster Bars, Clubs & Icehouses 2014 Today's 10 Most Promising Young Metal Bands Hip-Hop's Seven Best Breakup Songs Houston's Top 10 Rooftop Bars and Lounges
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.