Houston Music

Artist of the Week: Room 101

Each Wednesday, Rocks Off arbitrarily appoints one lucky local performer or group "Artist of the Week," bestowing upon them all the fame and grandeur such a lofty title implies. Know a band or artist that isn't awful? Email their particulars to [email protected].

Here at Rocks Off we’ve interviewed groups, we’ve interviewed singular artists, we’ve even interviewed a singular artist who referred to himself as a group, but we have never had the opportunity to interview a person who actually thought himself to be an entire group. Ladies and gentlemen, introducing Room 101.

The Detroit transplant scatterbrain provides a sonic wall of sound equivalent to being kicked square in the jaw. His music is ethereal, mercurial, pernicious, luridly entertaining, and just about every other adjective you kinda-sorta understand the definition of. We reached out and had Room 101 answer a few questions for us. Be forewarned, though: this shit gets kinda thick.

Rocks Off: Tell us a bit about Room 101, what exactly is it?

Room 101: Room 101 is the name of my one-man-maniac-band performance art, musical, interpretive multi-media, psychedelic anger-management manifestation project.

RO: Wow, that's exactly what we were going to guess it was.

R101: You must've done well in school. I do it in my spare time instead of attacking citizens at random, like Judd Nelson in Relentless or Dallas Winston in The Outsiders. I try to get ‘em in groups during functions at which I may be unexpected, therefore undercutting entertainment and masturbating the brain stem with subconscious neurological stimulation via your personal nightmares.

RO: Where does your name come from? Is it a hackneyed reference to that John Cusack movie where he's in that haunted hotel? Oooh, you should make a song about that. Call it "Shitty John Cusack Movie."

R101: I think the Pussycat Dolls already have a song about that featuring Weezy, Young Berg and John Cusack. Rupert Murdoch made the beat. In any case, the name Room 101 is a reference to the concept within George Orwell's 1984. Citizens determined 'in need' of re-education for their 'questionable behavior' are sent to the Ministry of Love to gain victory over the self by submission through their torture with what they personally deem “the worst thing in the world.”

I felt what better way to address the dormancy and complacency in modern consumer-based society than to attack it in its most relaxed and safety-blanketed state with some of the most awful topics that people often willfully choose to not look at. I get bored easily and find commonly offensive and controversial material humorous. I also like the idea of scaring people into thinking for a change. Interpret that how you may.

RO: We'll interpret that to mean you're a nutbag. How does one of your songs come to fruition? It seems like a lot to have going on in your head, you know. We mean, we couldn't keep track of all of that. One time we were looking for our car keys and we were holding them in our teeth as we patted down my pockets.

R101: Good guess. I was once clinically diagnosed as a maniac psychotic. Songs start for me in the wind. There is so much going through my head at one time that I often overflow the drool tray. I can't even get David Cronenberg to write me back about my 'Scanners in reality' concerns. He owes me royalties.

I've been a multi-instrumentalist for years, so I tend to hear a lot of things at once. I write, arrange, perform, record, mix, master, and press everything that is heard in the music. It can begin and end anywhere; from the beat to the samples to the lyrics to the guitar or bass lines... My band meetings often end in fistfights.

Every personality in me is fighting for the spotlight. The film is a joint effort by myself, an estranged doctor who calls himself Resonant Host, and an expert in historical film and self-imposed totalitarianism, Vito Powers. We are all from Chicago proper. I relocated here eight months ago.

RO: Wait, so you're more than one person? You mean like that wack Christian Slater show that just got cut?

R101: I'm an Army of One and a Conscientious Objector. I have to perform multiple functions in multiple capacities as a multi-faceted and layered individual. So I am nothing like what I am, except for when I am.

I am the grime seeped into the cracks in the sidewalk - I am everything you are afraid to face; the highly willed and extraordinarily pissed off white male/patriarchal privilege denouncing equalist in active manifestation and relentless pursuit of critical thought and questioning the status quo - and I always thought Christian Slater was brilliant in Gleaming the Cube, the place where you skate when you 'let go'...

RO: Agreed. Do you feel like you have to go out of your way to be all weird and wacky when someone comes up to talk to you after a show? Seems like that'd be mandatory or something.

R101: I never feel like I have to be anything other than a workaholic. The material speaks for itself, unless I am asked questions about it or become the conduit for some poor, dissociated prole to vent upon for how I have “offended” them by making them look at things that they would rather not no matter how relevant. My approach and mediums are often considered “unfair,” so my new self-protest slogan is "Stop Unfairness."

Conversely, I tend to throw myself around like a rag doll onstage and often end up throwing myself face first into the floor or breaking the microphone. I broke a piece of my guitar off at the last show on accident. So, many people don't want to talk to me because of how the show may come across, and others who do usually meet someone whose room is spinning at such high velocity that they get a meandering response. I lose 5-7 pounds per performance. It gets disorienting.

RO: In reference to your song, what is a plastic bag hat?

R101: A “Plastic Bag Hat” is the future of fashion and celebrity-culture couture worship. The way things are going, we are on the fast track to the new wave of accessories that make dying chic and sexy. Being a barfing bag of bones drunk and on meds while feeding on Tums and Metabolife isn't quite enough to cut it in the modeling industry anymore. The “Plastic Bag Hat” is a logical next step.

Live-action asphyxiation as the new coupler coil to bulimorexia. Sashaying and swaggering in the upright grave of the ultimate “hotness” is slow, living death making a collapsing pivot turn on the runway in this season's freshest new design: your intentional, intellectual demise and vain, death obsessed self-image fused with sex and its simultaneous rejection out of perceived ugliness and imperfection.

RO: Do you really talk like this? Like, in everyday conversations and whatnot? When you order a drink at a restaurant, does it come out as this same type of tomfoolery, or is this posturing for the sake of aesthetics?

R101: I really do talk like “this.” My aesthetic is reality for who and what I am. Tomfoolery is for the Department of Defense's Military Privatization effort. When I order a drink it’s pretty much straight up whiskey triples, hot in a glass. That doesn't take a lot of elaborative effort or descriptive explanation.

The bartenders usually think I'm the quiet, shy type. People sometimes get to know to me and often wonder how I may have ended up this way. My answer is usually: Look around you. - Shea Serrano

Hear Room 101 on KPFT 90.1 FM's "Living Art" program 11 a.m Friday, November 28. See him (them?) December 5th at The Houston Artery and January 12th at River Oaks Theater. Shows are always updated on Room 101's MySpace page.

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Shea Serrano