37 Years And Counting, Houston Still Loves The Hates

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The Hates aren’t just an essential Houston punk act; put simply, they’re an essential Houston music act, as critical to this city’s music development as their contemporaries in other genres. Like Lightnin' Hopkins or DJ Screw, The Hates indelibly attached this city directly to a specific style of music.

Christian Kidd is the lone constant to the band that began 37 years ago, an event that’s being celebrated with an anniversary bash Friday night at Rudyard’s. We asked Kidd to talk about the band with us and he reflect a little on the years that have come and gone; but, more excitingly, he addressed the band’s future. There are still some mountains for The Hates to conquer, which is a beautiful thing for anyone who loves Houston music.

Houston Press: When Bob Ruggiero wrote the story on your book a couple of years ago, he used Kidd throughout the piece, instead of your other monikers. Is Christian Kidd what you prefer for print?

Christian Kidd: I legally changed my last name to Kidd when I married my wife, Alexis. It started out as kind of a joke, but eventually it became a tribute to her courage and grace in the face of her incurable cancer. I still answer to my other names, but Kidd's the one I'm keeping.

Talk a little about Friday’s show. Did you hand-pick the bands on the bill? What do they share in common with The Hates that makes them good bill-mates?

Friday's show is turning out to be really just a happy accident. Punk Rock Stacy let me know just over a week ago that whoever was originally scheduled on April 1 cancelled and that night was wide open. As soon as I knew we could commit to the date, I put the word out that I was looking to fill the bill. Luckily Houston's punk rock community is fairly close-knit, so I had my pick of several bands.

Tony Vila is actually going kick things off with a brief acoustic set. I know it sounds weird, but it kind of reminds me of back when I first started in the late '70s how all of the shows were filled with bands that sounded different or were even from different genres. I chose Revels because after hearing their music, I thought them full of incredible energy and fun. And this will be their Houston debut- I've always loved the idea being a part of introducing something new and cool to the fans. Action Frank reminds me of the ties between old school and modern punk with that NOFX sound and attitude. It's going to be a great night.

Who is playing with you in the band these days? Is it still Michael Dauzat and David Ensminger?

David Ensminger is definitely back with The Hates after a short time away doing other projects. He's still involved with the Biscuit Bombs and No Love Less, but there's more than enough of him to go around. Michael's been missed, but his family comes first. So we've been doing shows with Will Cheadle on bass, who also just happens to work with me at Fuller's.

Looking back at your band mates through the years, what’s been the common thread to them all that made you believe they’d be a good fit for The Hates?

The only commonality is that each person who's been a part of this band comes from a completely different and diverse musical background. I've gone from classically-trained musicians to teaching people myself who've never picked up an instrument before. Some guys had never played punk rock prior to meeting me. Some punks had to learn to play more than the standard three chords. Everyone has had to work hard, harder than they might have in some other band. But because they were willing to lend their time and energy, they've each made their mark on music with an unheard-of longevity for an unsigned punk band.

In addition to that, I've worked very hard to make sure that The Hates don't sound like any other punk band out there, and sometimes that is to our detriment. But standing my ground in that respect, and finding people who are willing to stand that ground with me, is important to what I want for this band.

If you could pick out a few songs from your own catalog that you especially love, which ones are they?

"So What (If Your Mother Kicks Me in the Nuts)?" - It's an explosive song, full of all of the energy and aggression that defines punk. I actually wrote it specifically to be shocking. People were used to me being quiet and polite, and this song was full of screaming belligerence. Plus, it was semi-autobiographical. Nice girls' moms didn't necessarily want me to date their daughters after I went punk.

"Armageddon" - It's kind of like my "Stairway to Heaven". I wanted to see if I could push the boundaries of what punk rock was supposed to be at the time. Not to mention that most of the lyrics are still pretty timely. And my wife wants me to point out that it's her absolutely favorite Hates' song.

"Game As Ned" - I've spent some time in England, Wales and Australia, and those places left their mark on me. I went through a period of adopting slang from those places and integrating them into some of my music. This one in particular is an ode to the Australian anti-hero, Ned Kelly- and completely tongue-in-cheek. And you know how some bands get a choir to sing along with them for added pathos? I had a choir made up of Welsh schoolchildren singing the chorus for this song on video. It was crazy and fun. Just like the song was meant to be.

What are the biggest similarities and differences between Houston’s current punk scene and the one you helped initiate in the late 1970s?

In the late ‘70s when I was starting out, there were so many bands doing so many different things, and it was all falling under the banner of punk. A lot of it was experimental, and we were all just doing what felt right at the time. You didn't have to dress a certain way, or sound like anyone else- it wasn't until the mid-to-late ‘80s that it became important to wear spiked armbands, or all black- to look or act a certain way.
Just like any form of popular music, punk was eventually put into a box of what you're supposed to look and sound like, and it's getting harder to break out of that sort of idea- both idealistically and commercially. I don't want to make it sound like there's anything wrong with young punk bands that sound like Green Day, The Misfits, The Clash, or whoever their influences are- they're helping to keep this form of music I love alive. But for myself, I like the idea that The Hates still don't sound like anyone else.
The best part is that despite the highs and lows that punk rock has endured over the years, it's still here. And I can't ask for anything better than that.

When you were combing through stories for the book, which stood out as the most significant Hates moments, in your opinion?

The 7 Seconds show in the early '90s was a personal "Oh my God!" moment for me. The Hates got asked to open for Kevin Seconds' hardcore band at Fitzgerald's with the understanding that we could not go backstage and mingle with the group before the show. Kevin himself came out onto the floor and plucked me out of the crowd to talk about music in the green room. Back in ‘80s punk bands from around the country and even around the world traded cassette tapes in kind of a grassroots effort to spread knowledge of new music, and it was cool that he remembered me and my work from those days.

If there’s something in music that you haven’t done over all this time, what would you still like to accomplish with the band?

I would love to be a part of Punk Rock Bowling in Vegas. We could build a mini-tour around it and play our way to Vegas and back. It'd be a feather in my cap to play with some of the old school bands I admire as well as renew my acquaintance with bands I've shared the stage with before. I'm also not giving up on my Fantasy Island dream of playing shows in England, either.

The punk kids I know have a healthy appreciation for old school acts; do they understand how iconic The Hates are and what a pivotal role the band played in establishing a punk scene here?

I'm not sure that today's kids know about how it was when punk first started to take hold here. Houston's punk scene wasn't as publicized as much as New York's or LA's, but that's okay. The fact that punk still exists here is a testament to one of the things that makes Houston great- diversity. People that talk about what makes this town so amazing always mention the international population we have, and how that influences locally-owned businesses, food, and the like. But the music too, has its own worldly view- in this city cumbia rubs elbows with rap, classical music gives a nod to metal, jazz and country and punk and electronica can be friends. That's how all of the music festivals are growing here- because Houston can do it all.

Punk's beginnings here were not glamorous, and its place here is sometimes tenuous because it's not always popular. But it's not going away. And because people are starting to take a renewed interest in Texas punk, the stories that haven't been told yet are going to be. I'm just glad to have been a part of it all.

The Hates 37th Year Anniversary show is 9 p.m. Friday, April 1, at Rudyard’s, 2010 Waugh. With Action Frank, Revels and Tony Vila. $8. 

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