The Rocks Off 100: Spike the Percussionist

Welcome to the Rocks Off 100, our portrait gallery of the most compelling profiles and personalities in the far-flung Houston music community -- a lot more than just musicians, but of course they're in there too.

Who? The man they call Spike is the rhythmic heart of Houston goth, with a resume of acts he's drummed with that is longer than an average person's arm. He's best known for his current work in Morgue City, but has also banged skins for the likes of Delicate Terror, Astrogenic Hallucinauting, Selk, Childman, L.M.P.K. (Lethal Mutant Plasmid King), Disco Kickers, and Nimbus.

Oh, and also Jandek, and in case Spike's credentials weren't already one-of-a-kind, he served as a the musical director for the piercing suspension troupe CoRE. Currently he is building a side project called Fiddle Witch with Jo Bird of Two Star Symphony fame.

"I was never allowed drum lessons when I was little since the parental units did not consider drums to be a legitimate instrument," says Spike. "Coming from a very classical-orientated background they only allowed lessons on piano, guitar, clarinet or any other primarily melodic type of instrument.

"When I was about 15 or 16 I asked for Karate lessons," he continues. "They immediately asked if I wanted to take drum lessons. I was a very angry child and they figured that it was better for everyone if I was hitting an inanimate object rather than people. After my first drum lesson I found the reason for my existence and my true religion which is fueled by the holy trinity of Terry Chambers, Bill Bruford and Richard Thomas."

Home Base: Spike operates his own studio, the Noiz Temple, and that's where he hones his drumming. Despite the twenty-one steps you have to haul your equipment up to perform, Spike's favorite spot to play is Rudyard's because of Joel Omelchuck's skill at the sound board.

Good War Story: "Both myself and my bandmates of Selk were banned from ever performing at a city function in Corpus Christi for destroying a whole ton of audio gear and a stage," he says. "Selk is like having the worst car wreck of your life, but you had fun. We are what would be considered true industrial. Not that watered-down stuff that people call industrial just because somebody is using a drum machine with a metal clang sample on it."

Oh, it's not over. Spike goes on:

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Anyhow...Selk was asked to perform at a big public function by some soccer moms who had seen a previous performance and thought that we were "fun." Fun? We will show you "Fun!"

So in '90, we did a performance at their big festival in which we crucified Elvis, threw things out into the audience and acted out some other light violence on stage. We figured that they would learn their lesson and not ask us back. After we received our second invite for the festival in '91 we thought..."That's it! We will really show them that they do not know what they are messing with! Push the kill button!"

So... [after] many trips to our favorite junkyard and raids across the city to find various things like a toilet, a giant birdcage, a surfboard and a large TV, we devised our show. The sound guys miked up everything and we went to town.

Two songs in, and the sound guys were trying to figure out ways to get to their mikes and cables without getting sliced or hit with the flying chainsaw, steel and glass. We had some railroad spikes that we had painted and written SELK on to be given out as souvenirs after the show. However... one of our stagehands decided to give them out midway through the show and things got real dangerous. Our audience who likes violence was armed!

Next thing I know, I see a railroad spike fly right past me and stab into the stage. We dodged most of the incoming, but a guest musician got hit in the knee while playing. After avoiding all that I ended up bleeding all over the place, when the toilet I smashed decided to fight back.

It ended up making for great action photos of what it was like to be there. In the end, the festival sued us for damages to the audio gear and the stage and the city banned us from performing at any of the events. The concert became known as Slayfest, which was a play on the name of the festival which was called Bayfest.

Here is a clip from that mess.

Why Do You Stay in Houston? Spike loves the city, with all the concrete, metal, and access to state-of-the-art technology.

Music Scene Pet Peeve: "Weekend-warrior bands, beginner bands and people that don't really understand what is involved with being an improv musician can wreck people's musical adventures," he says. "There are some people that just like to jam on the weekend and half-ass put together a set and then vomit that up on people at clubs or other events.

"If you want to perform live in public then you should put the work in to produce something worth listening too," continues Spike. "If you are still learning how to play then you should stay home and do just that... explore and learn how to really play your instrument of choice. Strive to put on a performance on that really gives the audience a sonic experience."

5 Desert Island Discs:

  • Dif Juz, Out of the Trees
  • COIL, Horse Rotovator
  • Autechre, Tri Repetae ++
  • Astrogenic Hallucinauting, Noiz Issues Vol.1 No. 3
  • David Sylvian, Taking The Veil

Best Show Ever: "I don't think I have ever had a best show," admits Spike. "I always walk off the stage thinking that I could have played something a bit better. Maybe there was an early beat or a late crash. I dropped a mallet or a stick. It's always a test of my abilities to perform live and I don't always feel like I pass the test."

First Song You Ever Fell in Love With: Dif Juz, "No Motion."

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