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Nick Gaitan, Houston Music's Wolf-Like Problem Solver

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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 sheaserrano@gmail.com.

Remember the scene in Pulp Fiction where John Travolta accidentally blows that guy's brains out while Sam Jackson is driving them around? Travolta and Jackson drive to Quentin Tarantino's house in a panic. Jackson calls Ving Rhames, and Rhames tells Jackson not to worry because he's sending The Wolf.

Jackson, who, up until that point, was the coolest guy in the movie, is appeased. Then Harvey Keitel shows up in a tuxedo and says, "I'm Winston Wolf. I solve problems." And that's that.

Nick Gaitan is Houston music's Winston Wolf. Whatever you need, Gaitan can do it. That's why he's been nominated for 93 HPMAs this year. Need a lead singer that can give your band some automatic swagger? Gaitan's got you. Need an anchor for your band to keep everything under control in the background? Gaitan. Need someone to help you clean brain chunks out of the back of your car? He can probably do that too. (We didn't ask.)

So we reached out to Gaitan to cut it up about possible bass/dick jokes, Toy Story 3 and his work with Billy Joe Shaver. Hit the jump for that, as well as a few MP3s.

Rocks Off: So, not to be all ball-gargly or anything, but you seem to be pretty universally respected within the Houston music scene. Can you explain why that is? Is it the big bass that you play? It just seems so regal.

Nick Gaitan [laughs]: Your opening statement kinda reminded me of the John Waters film, Pecker. "No Tea- Bagging!" Sorry. So, do you mean, "Is the Upright Bass the reason I get respect in the Houston Music Scene?" One reason, sure, as a part of a whole.

I write, sing, and play bass. It all just depends on what night you catch me on. Sometimes I'll be up in front, and some nights I'm backing someone up, keeping the low end. I do feel that, wherever you do happen to find me, I'm making some good sounds, doing what I love.

The upright bass, regal? Absolutely. As for the love, I feel that what I've done in Houston music as a writer, singer or bassist has always carried my voice. I represent the city I came from and this life I live. Houston's history in music, period, is an amazingly diverse truth. We're part of a tradition, something our city knows about, musically.

Nick Gaitan & The Umbrella Man, "Hurricane Song"

RO: How many times a day do you make a penis-as-big-bass metaphor? Like, at least four a day would be our guess. We're elegant like that.

NG: Nope, Sorry, no dick/bass jokes. Do you know any?

RO: Did you see Toy Story 3? That movie is amazing. We almost started crying twice. We felt like you should know that about us. What's the last movie that made you cry?

NG: I sure haven't seen it. The last thing I watched in the theater was La Mission up at the Angelika. No tears, but a pretty good movie. I'm watching a whole lot of Peter Lorre stuff at home though. I don't know what movie last made me cry.

RO: Serious question: How aware are you of trying to infuse doses of Latino heritage into your music? There are quite a few hat-tips in there.

NG: I'm pretty aware of what I put in my music, there aren't any accidents there. All sides of my heritage come out in my music. Mexican-American in Houston, listening to rock and roll, traditional musica Mexicana, soul, blues and country. Working, playing, living, laughing, hurting; it's what music is made of.

RO: You've been playing with some no-name country-music person lately. Talk a bit about how he has totally been riding your coattails.

NG [laughs]: "Coattails" your nalgas! Playing with Billy Joe Shaver has not only been a career-changing event, its been an experience, a really amazing one at that. In just less than three years, we've run all over Texas together, been to Norway and Sweden, as well as toured the States a bit.

We've toured with Willie Nelson, broke down in Arizona, flew off the highway in a tour bus. We've met some amazing people, and some not so amazing ones. Moving, always moving. We just got back from a week-long California tour. That's only a small amount of time standing next to his entire career and life.

Nick Gaitan & The Umbrella Man, "Meet Me Off Main"

RO: How often do you look at someone who plays the bass guitar and think, "What a pansy that guy is"? Is there some sort of unspoken feud between the big bass and the bass guitar? Something like a Team Edward/Team Jacob situation?

NG: Not too often. I like electric bass fine. I wouldn't say there is a feud. I really think certain music calls for a certain type of bass instrument. It all depends what you like. Take a look at the brass bands, with the sousaphone, it's wonderful. Or the guitarron in Mariachi music.

Only recently did I get a bass guitar. It was a black Fender Jaguar, but it went up missing one night in December. I haven't gotten another one yet. I do prefer the traditional upright, though.

See Gaitan with his band The Umbrella Man 8 p.m. Wednesdays at the Continental Club. He is nominated for Best Bassist, Local Musician of the Year, Best Roots Rock, and CD/Album of the Year (Nick Gaitan & The Umbrella Man) in this year's HPMAs.

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