The Rocks Off 200: Chad Smalley, Blaggards' Barse Player

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Welcome to The Rocks Off 200, 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. See previous entries in the Rocks Off 100 at this link.

Who? What? If ass is arse when the Irish say it, then bass should be barse, shouldn't it? All joking aside, meet Chad Smalley, the bass player and vocalist for Houston's kick to the head that is Blaggards. It's great Irish music played with a ridiculous punk-rock rush that makes it engaging and impossible not to like.

It was almost ten years ago when Smalley attended an open-mike night being hosted by fellow Blaggard Patrick Devlin. Smalley had been obsessed with the dream of being a musician ever since he saw the Talking Heads concert film Stop Making Sense at the River Oaks Theater. He'd followed a string of music projects until landing with Devlin and forming what has become a Houston institution.

Currently Smalley and the other Blaggards are breaking in their new fiddler, Brittany Johnson. Smalley swears that 2014 is the year for the new album the band has been promising for years, but they'll have to sneak it in among the rest of their busy schedule. The North Texas Irish Festival in Dallas, South Texas Irish Fest in San Antonio, Paddy's Day in College Station and Austin, and a Midwest tour in early April are all on Blaggards' itinerary, not to mention their fifth trip to Ireland itself.

Home Base: Blaggards rent a monthly rehearsal studio, but Smalley keeps his chops sharp at home with a little amp and head phones to keep him focused on improving his skill. Picking a favorite venue to play is a little harder when you've played as many as they have. Dan Electro's, Molly's Pub and Continental Club are just three of the many area spots Smalley loves to plug in.

One Good War Story: "We had some funny stuff happening in Ireland last year," teases Smalley.

In Cork, we borrowed drums from a local guy, but for some reason he didn't bring cymbals. So Mike [McAloon] had to play the entire show with snare, kick, and three toms. No cymbals or hi-hat. It was a true testament to Mike's talent that he was able to pull that off. But he had a vocal mike, so wherever a cymbal hit was supposed to be, he'd go 'psssh.' in the mike.

We couldn't stop laughing. Oddly enough the same thing happened in Galway a few nights later, but I made a few frantic phone calls to the guy who loaned us the gear, and like a trooper he showed up a few songs into the set and put the cymbals on right in the middle of a song, with the audience cheering him on. It was classic.

Story continues on the next page.

Why Stay Do You Stay In Houston? "Houston is home," he explains. "That's about as simple as I can put it. It's funny that I moved to NYC when I was in my early twenties, expecting to make it big and never having any intention of leaving, but it wasn't until I moved back home that everything started falling into place.

Smalley continues:

Early on Blaggards flirted briefly with the idea of relocating to Austin or the East Coast, but we soon realized the idea was just silly. We already make a living doing what we do, so there's no reason for us to leave. Houston is a great home base to have as a band. Our families are here, the lion's share of our fan base is here, the food is great, the cost of living is decent, the arts scene is vibrant, the women are gorgeous, and the weather is beautiful (most of the time, anyway).

I know a lot of Houston musicians who moved to Austin, but I've never really seen the appeal. Don't get me wrong, Austin is an amazing town, but there's a lot of fierce competition there. It's a great town to cut your teeth in, but honestly it's nearly impossible to get regular decent paying gigs there. If you already have an act and you know how to sell it, you can do that from anywhere. Of course you have to hit the road too, but fortunately we love touring.

Five Desert Island Discs:

  • The Beatles, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band
  • Talking Heads, Fear of Music
  • Peter Gabriel, Peter Gabriel
  • David Bowie, Scary Monsters
  • Iron Maiden, Powerslave

Best Show You've Ever Seen: "The one that comes to mind right now is Robyn Hitchcock at Rockefeller's way back in the early '90s when he was touring solo in support of his album Eye," says Smalley. "He was just so brilliant, switching between guitar and piano and bantering with the audience. I wish I had a bootleg of that show. I saw him live several times after that, but nothing ever came close to that performance."

First Song You Fell in Love With: "Probably 'I Am the Walrus' by the Beatles," he recalls. "I remember the first time I heard that as a kid and literally going slack-jawed because it sounded so gloriously weird."

Blaggards play a Valentines Day show Friday at the Ashford Pub, 13308-100 Westheimer, and Saturday at Molly Maguire's, 15945 Kuykendahl.

Jef has a new story, a tale of headless strippers and The Rolling Stones, available now in Broken Mirrors, Fractured Minds. You can also connect with him on Facebook.

See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.


Damien Randle, K-OTIX Man of Action Kevin Anthony, 45 Southbound Man DJ Good Grief Knows How to Have Fun Robert Kuhn, the Well-Traveled Islander Gunnar Cushway, Insko's Feel-Good Utilityman Mario Rodriguez, Tax the Wolf/Bang Bangz's Wonky Power Monger John Smith, Goodtime Continental Club Manager Dwayne Cathey, A Good Man to Scare People With Walter Carlos, Guitar-Punisher of Funeral Horse Ryan James, Putting Up a Good Fight John Cramer, Guitar Apostle of Project Grimm Big Gerb, Houston's Hongree-est MC Steven Higginbotham, Hard-Working Wheel Worker Alisha Pattillo & Her Swaggering, Soulful Sax Brandon Ray, Punk Rocker Turned Filmmaker/Animator The Excitable Boys of Another Run Flash Gordon Parks, DJ as Funky Professor DJ Main Event, Kratez Crew JumpOff Man Odd Hours and Back to Back's Hank Doyle Legendary K-OTIX Producer Russel "The ARE" Gonzalez Dylan Bryson Sings the Blues (Rock) DJ Damon Allen, R.O.C.O. Fellow Tom Lynch, New Kid On the Block Ashley Worhol, Goth-Metal Queen of Katy Joe Ortiz, Clockpole's Master of Nonsense Marzi Montazeri, the Man Dimebag Darrell Called a Bad Motherfucker John Salinas, the Beat Beast of Only Beast Homegrown Cowboy Crooner Charles Peters Adam Bricks, NYC Expat Metal Journeyman and Blasé Bassist Alan Hilton Kyra Noons, Houston's Reggae Sunsplash DJ AudiTory, the Maestro of LuvItMane The Nephilim Terror's Death-Metal Growler Danny Carroll Tommy Grindle, Guitarist of Square and Compass The Bailout Bureau's Mysterious "Bob Bovary" DJ Twinkle-Toes, Won a "Dick-Measuring Vinyl Orgy" With Two iPods Beanz N Kornbread, Gmail-Loving Production Duo You(genious), Party Crasher Turned Musical Auteur Daniel Alexander, Klein's Backyard MC



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