One thing that Houston has had for decades is an incredible avant-garde noise scene. Bands like Fiskadoro, Female Demand, and Black Leather Jesus all bring definition to the indefinable genre here in town, but the king of them all is Jon Read, better known as the Wiggins. He followed the evolution of experimental noise here all the way from Cleveland in 2003, and has maintained an A-level artistic status ever since.
His new album is The Myth of Man, and in many ways it's both amazingly new and comfortably typical. All those Read touches are there: The punk-rock voice, the rockabilly twangy guitars, and the industri-goth drum machines and distortion. Each track is a quick shot of something cheap followed by dirty sex in the bathroom of your ears. If Frank Black had fronted Alien Sex Fiend, you might get a good idea of what the Wiggins can do all on his ownself.
The notoriously touchy artist, infamous for his wild onstage behavior, was still kind enough to sit down for a brief interview about the record.
Rocks Off: Houston has always had a pretty damn impressive experimental noise scene, and you're definitely one of the brighter spots in it. Why do you think the city is such a fertile ground for the avant garde stuff that you do?
Jon Read: I'm not sure how fertile Houston is for experimental stuff, or a least it has a fraction of the audience of bands going for a mainstream sound. Aside from outsiders like Jandek, the scene doesn't have much patience for much of anything homegrown or from the "darkside." Time tested genres (pop, garage, blues) are the way to go in Houston if you want a big crowd or any press attention. Music is conservative and in a cultural lag now and on the surface Houston reflects that.
I don't know why so many people do experimental music in Houston. The music scene seems to want to shake this history and are more focused on what people in Brooklyn are doing.
I have a wide range of taste and enjoy genre stuff, but I should think in this age someone like me, or Indian Jewelry, Cop Warmth, Future Blondes, or Fiskadoro wouldn't be considered "weird" or even experimental. It's sad, it's like Nirvana never happened and we lost a war. I still sell records so fuck it.
Rocks Off: You do all your own album art, right? Would you say that the songs dictate the paintings or the paintings dictate the songs?
JR: They just battle for my time.
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Most people get to know my art through my music. I get more work and funding through my playing. In the local art world I have almost no presence. That being said, I'm very thankful for those that do support my visual art. I love doing them both, and they are both inspired by the same thing... Which is Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, apparently.
See more with Read/The Wiggins Monday and see him live with Wicked Poseur, Hearts of Animals, and Fiskadoro Friday, September 28 at Walters.