It's a well-known fact that most band names are essentially gobbledygook, but here at Rocks Off we're doing out best to make sense of the oddest monikers.
Ninjas From Texas is a metal/hardcore act out of San Antonio. It's the sort of music that makes me sad there are no good Van Damme movies anymore. I can totally see him as an aging underground metal musician who deals out ass-beatings and justice from under a mask all set to Ninjas From Texas' "Bitch We Keep it Real." It's angry, it's juvenile, it smacks of being written in the aftermath of a bitter session of masturbation, but goddammit it has punch.
There's even a kind of brutal poetry in something like "Sex, Drugs, and Mopeds." I mean, sure, the growling and the screaming and the call for immediate gratification is still all over the place, but Neil Munoz's vocals honestly have a Salinger quality to them. There's a beautiful, empty futility to the message that he and the band accomplish well under the soulpunch.
That name, though...
Fucking ninjas, man, really? Haven't we played out ninjas? I don't know about you, but I've been off ninjas since the third Mortal Kombat game, not to mention the fact that I cannot respect anyone the President of the United States of America can take in a fight over peaches. And there is nothing ninja about Texas. Texas is all about big balls in your face, and that's the opposite of ninja stealth and cunning.
I decided to challenge the Ninjas to a fight to the death over the truth.
"Well we we're frustrated as hell trying to come up a name," says guitarist Chris Blanco in between roundhouses and blistering solos. "I remember we went for a cruise one day and George [Arroyo, drums] locked the doors and wouldn't let us out until we came up with a name.
"It took us a good hour of driving to figure out the name Ninjas From Texas," he continues. "I just remember blurting out the most random name as a joke, George dug it and James [Contreras, guitar] was all 'I don't fucking care.' Ever since then it's been the name and the funny part is it has its way of sticking into people's heads."
Just as I thought. Yet another stupid origin story. Is it too much to ask that a band's name actually have some kind of deeper connection to who they are? Are the Doors really the only ones?
I suppose that's understandable... much of what we think we know about ninjas is itself bullshit. The whole black outfit thing? Never happened. That all comes from stage plays in the Edo period, when someone realized that having your secret assassin character dress exactly like the non-descript stagehands then having him bust out an attack would be badass.
Every ninja since then looks like that. In real life assassins looked like assassins now... just like everyone else unless they are really crappy at assassinating people.
Sais and nunchucks? Farm equipment. The mystic arts of ninjitsu? Nothing concrete about it really exists before the twentieth century, which is appropriate since the samurai equivalent of bushido is also less than 100 years old. There's nothing special about ninjas at all that can't also be said for an army sniper or a mob hitman.
So ninjas killed people, and at least two clans were insanely good at it. The Iga and Koga clans were tight-knit families that produces the best of the best for all your covert needs in the 1400 and 1500s until Oda Nobunaga invaded the region. Even then, these families still continued training exceptional assassins and saboteurs, including the legendary Hattori Hanzo. That unity is what helped preserve their skills and secrets.
"Family, that's what it means to me," said bassist Josh Lerma. "Every time I get to play a show it's like a family reunion on stage with my bros. And we are here to fuck shit up and throw down in the fuckin' pit. We're the Ninjas From Texas!"
Actually, in historical context that's pretty damned accurate.
Final Definition Ninjas From Texas (n): 1. A hurt squad consisting of five Hispanic metal musicians. 2. Stagehands in Stetsons. 3. The state of your shit being thoroughly fucked up.
Ninjas From Texas play Friday, April 26 at BFE Rock Club (11528 Jones Rd.) with Small Dog Syndrome, Me, The Hero?, Karma Points, Eclipse.
Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.