The Rocks Off 200: Punk-Rock "Newcomers" Screech of Death
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 the original Rocks Off 100 at this link.
Screech of Death (L-R): J.R. Delgado, Lisafer, Arthur Hayes
Photos courtesy of J.R. Delgado/Screech of Death
Who? The annual Sk8 & Rock concert series at Fourth Ward's Lee & Joe Jamail Skate Park circles some of the biggest red-letter days on Houston's punk-rock calendar. For five years now, local bands have cranked out their rowdiest tunes while skaters from all over -- a number that can reach into the hundreds -- practice their craft at a facility that "reinvented vertical pipe-ramp skateboarding," as one of the event's organizers, Barry Blumenthal, told Rocks Off last year.
Dedicated to late Devo guitarist/keyboardist Bob Casale, the series' 2014 season begins this Saturday, and playing one of their first shows (alongside Austin's Biscuit Bombs and Houston vets Talk Sick Brats) will be the righteously named Screech of Death, a relatively new "midtempo old-school punk" combination of two Texas punk warriors and one L.A. import. The Californian is Lisafer, Screech of Death's lead singer and bassist, whose impressive rap sheet includes hitches with storied goth-punks 45 Grave, D.I., Nina Hagen and most recently Snapper, which also featured Rikk Agnew of the Adolescents.
Joining her is drummer Arthur Hayes, an original member of notorious cornholers the Hickoids as well as The Next and Mystery Date, and a longtime San Antonio scenester who used to book bands at legendary Alamo City dive Tacoland. Although it's his first band playing guitar, J.R. Delgado's local punk credentials span notable names like Doomsday Massacre, the Party Owls, Anarchitex and Sugar Shack; he also owned and operated landmark punk/alternative club the Axiom long before east downtown's so-called "Warehouse District" was trendy. We could probably listen to Screech of Death's stories for days, or at least read their emails. Let's get to know them a little better, shall we?
Home Base: "Houston is headquarters and Texas is our playground," Delgado says.
Good War Story: Scoring major bonus points, Screech of Death coughed up three, all of them awesome.
Arthur: When I booked the first bands in Tacoland, I had to run the sound and set up the PA, which had to be done around 6 p.m. Tacoland was a biker bar, and at that time it had about five bikers there as I was setting up. When I had everything ready to check, I walked up to the mike and said, "PUSSY."
I saw Ram [late Tacoland owner Ayala] spew out a mist of whatever that was in the mystery bottle, and some biker yelled out, "WHO YOU CALL'N PUSSY?" and started to head towards me. Ram lunged over the bar and grabbed the biker by his ponytail, pulled him back to where he could speak loudly into his ear and said, "He's not talkin' to you...PUSSY!"
I finished what I was doing and wanted to defuse this misunderstanding, so I said, over the mike, "everyone that's here right now gets in free tonight." Ram yelled out, "NO! NO! EVERYBODY IS PAYING...PUSSY!"
Of course that caught a loud round of laughs. Every time I showed up at Tacoland after that, Ram would great me with," HEY PUSSY!" That's how it all went down the night the music started at Tacoland.
J.R.: We were driving to Austin to see the Plasmatics, [and] on the way there I ran over a spoke hubcap that punctured my gas tank. It took two tank refills to get there! The next morning, we were like, "What the hell are we going to do?"
Then a friend, Billy Pringle (aka Billy Problem of the Inserts) said, "Come on, I know what to do." He drove us to my van, not telling us what the plan was. When we got there, he went under the gas tank, pulled out the chewing gum outta his mouth and plugged the hole...and it worked! Off we went. It never leaked!
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Lisafer: "My next show."
Why Do You Stay In Houston?
J.R: "No, we're not moving to Austin, because it's not weird enough."
Lisafer: "I don't want to grow old and die in Lost Angeles," she says. "My corpse would have a face that is stuck in a screaming-in-pain position. Perhaps in Houston I will not feel suicidal."
Arthur: "I was paroled here..."
Story continues on the next page.
Music Scene Pet Peeve:
J.R.: "Places like Dosey Doe and House of Blues where domestic beers are 7 bucks! I won't go there unless there's something I really want to see."
Lisafer: "I haven't figured out who is going to get punched in the face yet, so no plans to leave as of now."
Arthur: "Creeping meatballs."
Five Desert Island Discs:
J.R.: Rolling Stones, Exile on Main Street; Black Sabbath's first album [Black Sabbath, 1970]; David Bowie, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust & the Spiders From Mars; Dead Boys, Young, Loud and Snotty [and] We Have Come For Your Children; T. Rex, The Slider
Arthur: Easy Rider movie soundtrack; John Cale, Animal Justice; Alice Cooper, Love It to Death, Sex Pistols, Never Mind the Bollocks, Here's the Sex Pistols; Fear, Fear: The Record
Lisafer: "I would want one song continuously played on a loop: 'Warm Leatherette' by the Normal."
Best Concert You Ever Saw:
Lisafer: Buzzcocks: every single time."
J.R.: "Hmmm...too many of them."
Arthur: "The last one was badass and one before that was badass and the one before that was badass but it didn't cost as much money as the now days that are ass," he proclaims. "I'm into cheap thrills."
First Song You Fell In Love With:
Lisafer: "I Had Too Much to Dream Last Night," the Electric Prunes -- "James Lowe is like my real dad that I never had," she says. "I grew up just down the street from him in Chatsworth, Calif. He knows me since I was born and like no other. His song was heard by me when I was a bun in the oven. So that is my first song I ever heard.
Arthur: "I Dream of Jeannie theme song, 'cause my love got stuck in a bottle."
More info on Saturday's Sk8 & Rock 2014 opener is available at sk8rocks.wordpress.com. Show starts at 7 p.m.
See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.
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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