Tod Waters Comes Home to Houston, and Rock and Roll

Tod Waters and DieFast performing at EastDown Warehouse, March 26
Tod Waters and DieFast performing at EastDown Warehouse, March 26
Photos by Violeta Alvarez

Die Fast is not a new band. They’ve been around for years, yet this latest incarnation is something new and may look familiar, especially if names like Emo’s, The Abyss or The Axiom mean anything to you. That’s because Die Fast’s founder and front man is none other than Tod Waters, formerly of the beloved local band Spunk. Most famously, Waters is associated with Junker Designs, a fashion powerhouse for Hollywood's rock-star elite.

After a 15-year stretch in L.A., where Waters built his fashion empire from the ground up, he has recently returned to Houston, a move he says is permanent. From Die Fast's rehearsal space in Francisco Studios, Waters confirmed his enthusiasm for his homecoming.

“I always gave myself a ten-year time limit [in Los Angeles], so now it's [been] 15 years," he says.

“And since my mother’s death, I would rather be in my childhood home with my old friends around," continues Waters. "I love Los Angeles, but it isn't home.”

Guitarist Chris LaForge, also of 30 Foot FallEXPAND
Guitarist Chris LaForge, also of 30 Foot Fall

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That heartfelt sentiment slips into many things Waters does, especially his enthusiasm for rock and roll, live performance and art. It’s nothing new for him, either. I first met him 25 years ago when he was a younger version of the same guy, surrounded by a gaggle of female fans and with an image that was all '90s nonconformity: a punk-styled youth with a quiet, amicable demeanor. Yet onstage, Waters became someone completely different: an explosive showman who seemed to bleed punk-rock tunes with a ferocious intensity.

He had a drive to complete whatever he set his mind to, and didn’t seem to harbor the same insecurities about failure that most of humanity usually nurses into mediocrity. It was obvious fortune would smile upon the self-made artist, despite his circumstances.

“I left Houston at a bad time for me," Waters reflects. "Spunk [had] broken up; [my girlfriend] and I [had] broken up. I was living in a garage apartment with no bathroom and living on dates [the fruit] and cigarettes. So, when I went to L.A., it was with no plan at all.”

“Lucky for me, I got involved in making clothes for people," he continues. "That was amazing. I still am full-force in that world and work with bands [like Mötley Crüe] whose albums were in my collection from the time I was in high school. So it’s awesome.”

Waters attributes his success to luck and not his own entitlement or contributions, which speaks volumes about his character. His humility is refreshing, especially in the world of rock and roll, and even more so in the world of Angeleno rock stars — Los Angeles being a town that values image over substance and measures the worth of art according to the wealth it gains.

His story is the kind of stuff from which tall tales and local legends spring, yet you’d never find the man remotely pretentious or cocky. In fact, the day I found him neck-deep in performance at EastDown Warehouse, he was kind, well-spoken and even generous, pausing his pre-show duties to ask if I was okay and if I needed anything.

Waters is in his element onstage.
Waters is in his element onstage.

Totally unassuming, Waters showed up to his Houston group's inaugural show in sneakers, cutoff athletic pants and a hoodie. After years of monumental success, he’s still just a punk-rock kid playing loud music and promoting his band. In short, he is Tod, unspoiled by celebrity, grateful at heart and a Texas kid wandering a lonesome creek bed looking for bones with which to make art, as on so many days spent in his youth.

He’s still that guy whose heart beats for rock and roll. He describes Die Fast as "KISS on speed," and has big plans for a Houston takeover that includes recording new music and possibly touring.

“I started a record a couple years ago in Los Angeles with producer Andrew Murdock of Alice Cooper, Avenged Sevenfold and Godsmack fame," Waters elaborates. "It is almost done, so I think that will come out first. Then, I hope with the deadly Houston lineup to release something close after.”

That deadly lineup includes a who's who of badass local musicians: Chris LaForge of 30 Foot Fall on guitar, and bassist Rudy Olivarez (Hell’s Engine) and Chris Moye (Patterns) on drums. That combination was important for Waters.

“[Los Angeles] doesn't have the kind of hooligan-ish, slightly dangerous people that are required to form a frightening rock group; it’s a very fine balance," he says. “I am really lucky LaForge basically said, ‘I will get you a band together.’ Then he did.”

Die Fast's first show here was a solid, explosive set of quick rock tracks. Ever the rock performer, Waters did plenty of his signature jumps and stage antics. I couldn’t help but recall the once-dreadlocked screamer of Spunk, who never failed to put on a killer show and pull in hundreds of fans.

Bassist Rudy Olivarez. also of Hell's Engine
Bassist Rudy Olivarez. also of Hell's Engine

Waters has much of the same vision for Die Fast now. When describing his show, he makes no justifications or defense.

“Die Fast is in-your-face and ass rock and roll," he says. 

Of tonight's show at Scout Bar, he says, “People will for sure hear some shit they have never heard live in Houston before. Mostly material of the second Die Fast record, Hollywood. And a couple of tunes recorded with Shawn Smash, and a new version of 'Zipperneckkids' and 'Rock Your Pussy.'

“Come see [tonight's] show," Waters adds. "We are slowly working up to Spunk’s levels of insanity as far as the lights and other goodies go...I think these songs are more catchy. The goal is to bring the big, bloody, dangerous rock show back to Houston.

"I want you there," Waters concludes. "All of you. Houston is more than ready for Die Fast, and we are more than ready for you.”

DieFast performs during Punkstar Industries' Live Music Radio Broadcast tonight at Scout Bar with special guests Ten Foot Beast and Torrid Complex. Doors open at 8 p.m.; listen in at punkstarradio.com.


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