A new era at HMC?... For the last few months, local producer/indie label entrepreneur Darrell Clingman has been going on about what he'd do to improve the Houston Music Council if he were in charge. Now, he says, it's time for him to back up his rhetoric. So next Monday, August 4, Clingman will go before members of the council and declare his candidacy for president of the HMC.

"It's not an ego thing, but I only want to be involved if I am president," says Clingman, who, up till now, has not been connected with the HMC. "I want to be able to make sweeping changes. I'd like to build a touring network for Houston bands; I'd like to get some high-profile people in there. My fiancee wanted me to teach a class, but I said, 'Fuck it, I can do this.' "

There appears to be little -- if anything -- preventing Clingman from walking away with the leadership position, seeing as how the HMC's current president, Tina Johnson, recently left town and no one else seems to want the post. (If only city politics were so hassle-free.) What's more, Clingman has the blessing of current treasurer Alice Romero, an HMC veteran who's stuck by the council through good times and bad. As it is now, says Romero, the HMC can use any help it can get.

"We've got to give more credibility to what we do," says Romero. "If not, then we're just spinning our wheels."

All told, the HMC hasn't been doing much of anything lately. Not only is the council failing as an educational and resource tool for area musicians, but its status in the music community has long since gone south. Membership is at an all-time low, and the loyalty of its officers has been severely taxed in recent months.

"Primarily, I'm concerned with getting the young bands back and involved," Romero says.

Whether the thirtysomething Clingman has what it takes to woo the kiddies into the HMC fold remains to be seen. But he does have a few things working in his favor -- other than energy and big ideas, that is. Besides being part-owner of Houston's Third Stone Studios, Clingman runs his own label, Copper Records, through which he has established industry connections across the country. He cites his experience rallying artists of all statures behind Come and Get It, last year's Badfinger tribute CD on Copper Records, as the most comprehensive hands-on course in music biz strategy anyone could ask for. As for more recent credits, Clingman is currently working with Nashville-based power-popsters the Shazam, whose self-titled Copper debut is currently under consideration by major labels. He's also handling production on an upcoming release from Austin's Cotton Mather.

"I want to share what I've learned about what it takes to break a new band -- the true work that it takes," he says.

First on Clingman's "to do" list if he's elected would be to refurbish HMC's primary raison d'etre these days: its annual local compilation CD.

"I want to change the whole concept of the disc to where there would be a big panel of critics, managers and whoever [making the selections], and just have people submit a finished master," he says. "I would kill [the showcase idea]."

All said and done, says Clingman, he simply wants to restore the council's usefulness.

"I want to make it more of a practical thing. There's more to it than having a newsletter and putting out a crappy CD," he says. "I'm just bursting with shit that I've learned. "

Well then, go to it, man.

Reunion bliss... If the wall-to-wall sea of sweaty humanity at the Fabulous Satellite Lounge July 18 was any indication, Soul Hat's first Houston appearance since reuniting earlier this summer was an unqualified success. It was also a pain in the ass for anyone unfortunate enough to be caught in the congestion near the bar. Me, I simply sat on the bar to catch glimpses of the beloved Austin band ripping through the lion's share of its old catalog with remarkable precision (no new stuff, just the songs we know, thanks). Former guitarist Bill Cassis, the lone reunion holdout, was hardly missed (technically, anyway), as Kevin McKinney juggled both rhythm and lead parts with disarming ease. Perhaps more than anything, this vigorous one-night romp down memory lane proved that Soul Hat was -- and still is -- one of the best live outfits in the state. Expect to hear some fresh music when Soul Hat returns to the Satellite on September 13.

Release activity... While Songs from the Icehouse may well be the "shameless" promotional tool its creators have dubbed it, don't let that keep you from picking up one of the more consistent local music compilations to come out of Houston in recent memory. Everything on this 18-track collection was recorded and mixed at Aztlan Recording, and, frankly, I couldn't think of a better ad campaign for the new studio. The production is topnotch throughout, and the songs largely measure up to their treatments. The disc features fine contributions from the Jinkies, Peterbuilt, Project Grimm and Clouded. Extra credit goes to Rubbur and Sasquatch 2000, each of which came up with two great songs for the compilation.

Keep an eye out for 5th Ward Volume 1, the soundtrack to the upcoming film 5th Ward, which should be in local stores this week. The CD spotlights an array of Houston rap/hip-hop talent, including Geto Boy Willie D, DJ Screw and Botany Boys. The movie itself, shot on location in (where else?) the Fifth Ward, is slated for release independently within the next few months.

-- Hobart Rowland

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Hobart Rowland