Night Life

Achtung! Stuka!

Over the years, Tim Murrah has given plenty of people plenty of reasons to hate his guts. As manager and occasional DJ of the downtown basement club Metropol (now Underground Lounge, 804 Fannin), Murrah ruled his nocturnal underworld with an iron fist and utter disregard for pretense and bullshit. He is the Basil Fawlty of Houston nightlife. Much like the hilariously abrasive lead character in Fawlty Towers, Murrah is both very tall and a purist who will not suffer riffraff gladly.

As at the ill-fated English hotel, the customer was not always right at Metropol. Murrah publicly called out clubgoers who requested wack artists and their subpar songs. One night, he went so far as to hurl a maraschino cherry at a woman who spilled her drink on his soundboard. For many, venturing down that dark staircase into Murrah's musical dictatorship was an amusing exercise in ballsiness. But there were those -- that gal on the receiving end of flying bar fruit likely among them -- who gloated when Metropol closed. To them, Murrah's new club -- Stuka (202 Tuam), which opens Friday, January 31 -- has got to be as unwelcome a sight as the club's namesake German dive-bombers were to the Poles during the blitzkrieg.

But if Murrah is hard on naive clubgoers, and even harder on the bands and artists they request, it's nothing compared to the venom he spews about the other clubs on the Houston music scene.

"I don't like places like Emo's," he says. "I don't like Lola's (2327 Grant). I don't like The Proletariat (903 Richmond). I don't wanna be associated with that. I'm over tattoos and piercings and 'Oooh, look at me, I've dyed my hair black. I'm so punk rock.' "

He especially would like to be there when venerable alt-standby Numbers (300 Westheimer) goes to the graveyard of clubs. He briefly spun records at Numbers late last year but left after two gigs -- because, he says, he didn't want to spin Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie records for "people with fangs" anymore. "I told them, 'Man, when I open up my club, I'm gonna do everything I can to put a knife in your back,' " he says. " 'I wanna do what I can to help put you out of your misery.' "

Murrah's doesn't-know-when-to-keep-his-mouth-shut outspokenness can be read as raving elitism, but you gotta admire his moxie, his honesty, his Kid Stays in the Picture nerve. While other local industry folk bitch and moan about each other in the sanctity of gossip circles, Murrah tells you straight up who (any number of flashy DJs) and what (shitty music coverage in certain alternative publications) pisses him off. "In the music scene and the club scene," he says, "there needs to be a big, giant wrench thrown in it."

After a year of being a club owner without a club, he is bringing some of his, shall we say, passion to Montrose, home of all those clubs he loathes. Stuka's space used to house the after-hours BYOB roadhouse known as Club Nsomnia, but Murrah says the place is on its way to becoming a haven for rock enthusiasts. Promotional posters -- ranging from the nostalgic (a racy ad for the Stones' Sticky Fingers album) to the obscure (Who was that band Texas again? Weren't they, like, Welsh or something?) -- now adorn the walls, along with legendary album covers like Iggy Pop's The Idiot and Roxy Music's notorious Country Life. A jukebox will soon be installed to cover for Murrah and his buddies when they step out of the DJ booth.

While Murrah is known as an ardent supporter of Britpop, he says Stuka will be a juke joint for all frustrated record store freaks who subscribe to Magnet and have High Fidelity on DVD. "It's a place for people who don't go out because they're not happy to go anywhere, 'cause they don't get to hear good music," he says. "I like our little tag line, you know. We're thinking of using it a lot: 'It's not who you are, it's what you listen to.' "

Although Murrah won't disclose his age, he insists that he is, as Cedric the Entertainer would say, a grown-ass man, so this won't be yet another trendy, exclusive nightspot. Murrah doesn't give two shits about what you wear as long as your musical taste makes his grade. "It's not elitist, it's not fetishistic or anything like that," he says. "It's just, it's time to move on, you know. Like I said, we're not here to kiss anybody's butt, and we're not here to make enemies. Everybody's got an equal chance. We're friends with everybody. We don't wanna blow our trumpets and say, 'Hey, we work here. Look at us, we're so cool.' "

Jeez, that sounded almost conciliatory. Soon enough, though, Murrah rounds back into form. "I don't want it to be a club, I want it to be an institution. I want this to help get Houston the recognition it deserves, and I can be a part of it by the sweat and toll it took to do this. But if it doesn't work, then we're gonna have a fuckin' great time and take the whole city down with us. We wanna go down in flames and we wanna wreck up as much stuff as we can on the way down."

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Craig D. Lindsey
Contact: Craig D. Lindsey