The Rocks Off 200: Steven Higginbotham, Hard-Working Wheel Worker

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? Steven Higginbotham leads the vocals and strums the guitar in The Wheel Workers, who stay on top of their game by expertly crafting an endless series of indie earworms. Seriously, I think I've listened to "Chemicals" four times in a row, and you simply cannot get enough of its warm quirkiness. Higginbotham feels like a reborn avatar from the best moments of the early alternative scene, and brings a smile to the face of all who hear his plaintive voice.

He started on his path in the fourth grade with piano lessons and later the violin before teaching himself to play the guitar. Dedicating to the instrument took him away from the world of classical music and more in a rock direction, and he started writing his own material. He spent time in Austin as part of The Wheel Works, but brought the sequel to that band, if you will, back home to H-Town in 2005. Since then, you can find him and his colleagues consistently involved wherever good music is needed.

One of the things that define Higginbotham outside of his obvious talent is the incredible energy he brings to his enterprise. He writes almost all of the material, records most of it, and makes a light show/video projection for every song the Wheel Workers do live. Being in a band is far more effort than most people realize.

At the moment they are working with producer Dan Workman on a vinyl release of their last album, Past to Present, which will be released in late winter/early spring. The album will feature several remixes and new tracks, and a third full-length album is about halfway done. Look for it as early as summer 2014.

Home Base: Higginbotham maintains a studio in his home that the Wheel Workers rehearse in, and it serves as his personal artistic sanctuary. When the time comes to play live, he prefers Fitzgerald's for the sound and ample room, not to mention a long history of support for his work.

Good War Story: "Well, we have been pretty fortunate overall," says Higginbotham. "But recently we played a gig where we got pushed into starting our set way before we were ready. Our monitors weren't working, or were blasting us with feedback, the keyboards weren't even on in the PA. It was pretty terrible.

"We ended up making comedic verbal sound effects through the mikes to replace the nonexistent keyboards," he continues. "The crowd seemed to enjoy it, so it wasn't a total loss."

Why Do You Stay in Houston? "Friends and family mostly," admits Higginbotham. "Plus, we feel at home in the local scene."

Five Desert Island Discs:

  • The Flaming Lips, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots
  • Iron and Wine, Endless Numbered Days
  • Wye Oak, Civilian
  • Sonic Youth, Daydream Nation
  • Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues

Best Show You've Ever Played: "Free Press Summer Fest 2012," picks Higginbotham. "We got to play the same stage the same day as the Flaming Lips. Amazing."

First Song You Fell in Love With: "No idea. Probably the Beatles, 'Yellow Submarine,'" he says. "I remember singing that a lot when I was a kid."

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.

The Wheel Workers play the Continental Club, 3700 Main, Friday, January 10, with Kenny the Spider, Spain Colored Orange, and the Voltage Drop. See the rest of the Rocks Off 200, and the Rocks Off 100's 2013 alumni, on the next page.


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


Crystal Toliver, Source of That Yello Echo You Hear Mr. Castillo, Song-Sniping DJ DJ Big Reeks, The Chief Waxaholic Melane Gutierrez, The Coffin Queen Folk Descendent Kevin Taylor Kendrick Eloy Contreras, Deathrazor's Sharp Thrash Vocals Robert McCarthy, Guitarist From Beyond Justice Tirapelli-Jamail, The Manichean's "Quiet One" Charlie Horshack, LP4's Guitar Warrior Kathryn Hallberg, Little Girl Gone Tessa Kole, PuraPharm's Voice and Vice Richard Griesser, Vintage Camera Hound With Enviable Archive Downfall 2012, Sci-Fi Metal Storytellers Kevin Choate, Drum Like You're Screaming DJ Rockwell, Booth Pimp and Party-Rocker Ash Kay, the Freakouts' Punk Vocal Head-Butt Pat Kelly, The Godfather of the Suffers Michelle Miears of BLSHS, Siren In the Machine DJ Remix, Genre-Hopping Mix Maniac Kahna, Brutal Nation's Metal Booking Queen DJ Ill Set, Enemy of Wack Tracks Shane Tuttle, Updog Owner and Album-Cover Designer Electric Attitude, Renegades of Funk Sama'an Ashrawi, Trill Gladiator Recon Naissance, A Rap While Matt's Guitar Gently Weeps DJ Klinch Asks, "Can You Dig It?" Jose "Chapy" Luna, Percussionist Con Corazón Love Dominique, Wicked Heart R&B Chanteuse Chris Gerhardt, Mastermind of Giant Battle Monster The Jobe Wilson Band, the Boys From Chambers County Kimberly M'Carver, Missouri City's Nightingale DJ Panchitron, Stirring the Cumbia/Moombahton Melting Pot D.R.I's Kurt Brecht, Thrash Zone Supervisor Sloan Robley, The Last Houstonian Banshee Jack Saunders, Dealer of Grit & Jangle Richard Ramirez, Noise God and Black Leather Jesus Mike Meegz, Scoremore's Houston Lieutenant Jacqui Sutton, Houston's "Jazzgrass Lady" Robin Kirby, Silk and Sandpaper Songwriter Billy Dorsey, Grammy-Winning MARATHON Runner David DeLaGarza, Don of Tejano Stars La Mafia Jason Puffer, Your Psychedelic Sex Panther Tobin Harvell, Fitzgerald's Unflappable Floor Manager Walter Suhr, the Straw That Stirs Mango Punch! Tony Garza, La Orquesta Salmerum Founder OG Ron C, Chopstar King of the Purple Dome Football, etc., Giving Emo Back Its Good Name Angela Jae, Renaissance Artist Shellee Coley, Voice of the Northern Woods Blaggards, Houston's St. Paddy's Day House Band DJ Meshak, Hongree Records' Sound Selecter K-Rino, South Park Coalition's Southside Maven DJ Candlestick, One Niceguy and a Very Busy DJ Danielle Renee, Only Beast's Destroyer of Walls Felipe Galvan of Los Skarnales Kristine Mills, Houston's Brassiest Voice Brian Davis, Punk Drummer, Horror Composer Elroy Boogie, Top-Notch Turntablist Sean Ozz, Wizard of The Abyss Alyssa Rubich, Angel of Instability Alphonso "Fonz" Lovelace, Righteous Drummer Frank Zweback, Funkmaster General OG Bobby Trill, Bombon Beatmaker Beau Beasley, Organist for the End of Time Rapid Ric, Mixtape Mechanic Dwight Taylor Lee, the Wandering Bufalero Coline Creuzot, Soulful Pop/R&B Singer Cristina Acuna, Cactus Music's Twitter Fingers Clint Broussard, Blues In Hi-Fi Man Now Back On FM Nortnii Rose, Houston Ska's Greatest Hope Ramblin' Chase Hamblin, the Man Who Will Be Paid Chris Alonzo, Bringing Night Flight to Facebook


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