Monday, March 26, 2018

Johnae Whitaker of Live and Loud Productions: Keeping Punk alive in Houston

You are constantly out in the scene checking out new bands. It’s obvious that you have a passion for music. When and what sparked this obsession?
I’m not really sure to be honest. I’ve always loved music. Growing up my Dad was the song leader at the church, my folks forced me to! My Mom had me in 4 dance classes a week, trying to burn my hyper energy!

Can you give us some insight of your process in organizing a show (talking with the bands/venues, promotion, etc)?
This entire thing was forced upon me, and I didn’t want to do it. I had no one to show me the ropes, or bad habits. Back home I was at a venue, so that part was simple. As far as bands, when it’s a touring band of course I listen and take the time to decide on a good pairing and send the local band links. Usually everyone is on board, unless work or they are in another band that’s playing. As far as promotion, I had to get creative. Sometimes I would invite my friends from Norml to have a table, or I would get a food truck to come out. Something that would grab the kid’s attention. Occasionally when I know I have a killer band coming I might send out invites to like band page before I actually promote. I also like to post videos of the bands. Honestly, I don’t even understand how it all came together and the shows I pull off. I’m usually just as amazed as the next person!

This is a continuation of the previous question. What you do is considered being in the music business. However, it could be called the “people” business due to the fact you have to deal with many different personalities. What’s your approach in that department?
I treat everyone the same. Granted, there have been a handful of occasions I had to get the fan girl out of me before I met them face to face. I’m honest and truthful with the bands. I’ll do whatever I can that’s in my reach to help. Such as find contacts wherever they are trying to go, or a spot to crash, and I’ve helped a handful find a venue for their show. I’m down for the cause, and nowadays most realize that. Occasionally some mistake my friendliness and helpfulness for something else and start flirting. But I’ve learned when that does happen to, again, just be honest and usually tell them ‘I just want to book your band’. However, other than the creepiness sometimes, I haven’t had too many personality conflicts.

How many shows a month do you usually book and what have been some of your favorites?
Back home being at a venue it was every weekend, usually 2 shows per weekend. But, I had to book all genres. Here in Houston, Live and Loud Productions is an independent so I can do as I choose. Originally, my plan was 2 shows a month. But things just fall in my lap so there have been times where it’s been 4-5 shows a month. My favorites?’re killing me. I get excited about all of them! Back home my favorites were probably a show I had with The Bulemics and Die Fast. And another show was Mobile Deathcamp with Beefcake the Mighty from GWAR, Todd Evans. Annnd I threw a bday bash for my dear friend Amanda and The Guillotines played...epic! Here in Houston, my bday bash with Revels, All Opposed, On the Cinder, and Goodnight Gallows was awesome! I was dumbfounded by the turnout! October Friday the 13th was amazing with All Gonna Die, Gen Why, Broke Off, Feels Like Murder, and TV Casualties, and a show in November with Sorted Scoundrels, Bottom of the Food Chain, Broke Off, and...well...Khobretti! I have a few I haven’t announced yet they will probably be on that list!

What are your favorite venues and why?
Rudyards is my favorite. It’s home away from home. Even though everyone complains about the stairs of death, everyone wants to play there. It’s a pretty chill environment. I actually like the creepiness of Super Happy Fun Land, it’s pretty creepy with all those doll eyes looking at you!

You previously booked many shows in Beaumont. What was the scene like out there?
There was a point in time when there actually was a pretty damn good scene over there. But once Jimmy Soul and Chuck Dorian moved from the area (yes I totally called y’all out...) it started to die down.

Final thoughts?
I love doing what I do. I never imagined I would get all this love! Or so many would know who I am! I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices, but I can’t imagine not doing this. I’m in love with the Houston punk scene, and very proud and honored to be a part of it.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Sketchy Trench - Gnarly Punk Rock from San Antonio

Your music has refreshing melodies without challenging the integrity of a true punk rock attitude. What was your initial approach when starting the band?
People say punk rock ain't got rules, and musically that's true. For a lot of us the core is still about the same shit it's always been about - subversion of imposed norms, rebellion against a corrupt society, and musical and personal freedom. But the specific sub-genre you might get labeled under isn't important. There are so many amazing, passionate bands out there, all playing different styles, and we wanna play with all of em. So we intentionally put a mix together that hopefully allows us to do that. Our sound is basically a blend of shit we grew up on, shit we love, and shit we found ourselves more naturally able to write. We enjoy being creative, so people who dig melody and harmony might like that. But we also play hard and fast and loud, cuz that's what we like to see when we go to shows.

Sketchy Trench is a unique name. What is the story behind it?
Just skateboarding, really. Sketchy trench, like a gnarly ditch. Embankments and drainage ditches are just my favorite shit to skate. Also I guess we thought the phrase had a bit of a ring to it.

How has your music evolved since you first began playing together?
We might be too young of a band to have much of an answer for that; we've been playing less than a year at this point. Once we had a full setlist, we started gigging and haven't really stopped. Playing shows is all I really ever wanna do, so it's cool. But it makes it challenging to find time to write. We plan to take a month off soon and dedicate that time to new songs. Hopefully once that's done we'll have something to compare our current set to. That being said, I'm admittedly very fortunate to have the band members I do. They're talented and dedicated, so in that regard I can say the music continues to become tighter all the time, for sure.

How long have you all known each other? How did you meet?
Sexy J plays guitar. I've known him since 2nd grade. We each moved around for a while, but then we both ended up in San Antonio recently. We use to be in a band together, so we decided to try to start another one. About a year ago he and I wrote some demos right before we recruited Sketchy T (he plays bass). T and I had been playing for a few months in a thrash band, which I stole him from (but they're cool with it.) With the help of my primo (shout out to Ryan), we put the demos out looking for a drummer. Did a few shows with a few different drummers. Then Chia came highly recommended, and once he sat in, we saw why. Booked the first show in April 2017, first show with the current line-up a month or two after.

You do good amount of touring. How often do you hit the road and what are some memorable stories?
The cool thing about living in Texas is you can basically tour without ever leaving the state. There's a ton of rad cities and scenes, so we can stay playing all the time without having to really go too far. So that's most of what we've been doing. We did do a run to California in January and we hit a half-dozen states on the way there and back. The whole thing was memorable. Makes you wanna just do that all the time. Stories from that trip involve hotel rumbles, beached whales on the curb at Denny's, geriatric circle pits, and drugs so good you forget how to walk. But nothing crazy. So we're planning a midwest trip in the summer and hopefully a longer east coast tour next year.

I really enjoy all your videos and graphics. People do not seem to understand the amount of time it takes to create this sort of content. Is this all done within the band or do you have help from friends?
Thanks. Dude, no shit. I spend most of my waking life just making flyers and messaging motherfuckers all day. But it has been effective in keeping us booked, and that's the end goal. And I do enjoy it. Honestly, I enjoy everything about being in a band, so that makes it easier to spend the time it takes. But specifically for videos and graphics, we definitely couldn't do it without friends. The music and art communities here work together beautifully. We're honored to have homies contribute their talents whenever possible. Shout out to Cros, Evil Dave, Crazy Dave, Gilstock, Speed, Antons, Avi, and all the friends who lend us your art or shoot us at shows.

Final words?
Our girlfriends rule.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

DEAD STUFF - Bayou City Sludge Mutilation

Dead Stuff sounds like everything from death metal to stoner rock. What are your influences and what goes into writing a song? 
Charles:  I like all types of music, but I gravitate to thrash.  I listen to a lot of pop too, because there’s nothing like a good, strong melody.  I like to say that my favorite songwriters are Dave Grohl, Robb Flynn, Butch Walker and Jason Bieler.  All four of those have such a strong sense of melody.  That may not be reflected in the bands that I’ve been in or the riffs that I write, but it’s in there in my DNA.
Derek: I grew up listening to all sorts of music and have played in some pretty diverse bands. We each have different sensibilities, and the combination has made for songs that wind up more interesting to us.
Cory:  I find influences in all kinds of music. Anything from Tori Amos to the almighty Slayer.

What I find really cool about your band is that you’re willing to play with any band regardless of style. Is that due to all the members being fans of multiple music genres?
Charles:  I’ve always found bills that have the same kind of band to be boring.  When we play a show, I’m there as a fan too.  I want to hear and discover new and cool bands.  I like variety and playing with bands of a different style also opens your music up to an audience that wouldn’t necessarily see you.  We’ve had some people come up and say that they dug what they heard, and that they normally don’t like heavy music. 
Derek: I get cranky watching copies of the same band all night. Diverse bills are more fun to see and to play.
Cory: That plays a part but we also love playing with our friends. I love playing shows with multiple "genres". It’s a great way to hear something new.

Your band sounds great as a power trio. However, are there any thoughts in adding a second guitarist?
Charles:  We’ve never really discussed this, but as much as I’m a fan of the guitar duo, I’m not really interested in having a second guitar player just double whatever I’m playing. Working out of a trio is something I’ve always loved, and having a strong rhythm section that can shine is something that I find inspiring.  Both Derek and Cory are such better musicians than I am, that it drives me to do better, to try and push my boundaries. 
Derek: I think Charles should get a multi-neck guitar and be his own second guitarist.
Cory: Nope. Charles is more than capable of getting the job done

Dead Stuff has been playing live pretty often. When can we expect some recordings? I am definitely ready to hear you in the studio.
Charles:  Hopefully soon! 
Derek: We're finishing up some DIY recordings at the moment. You'd be surprised how many tracks of vibraslap you can force into a song.
Cory: Working on a recording as we speak.

Do you feel the traditional rock band is a dying breed? This is especially alarming considering the kids that only know mainstream music are being force fed garbage.
Charles: As long as there’s convention, there will always be someone fighting to go against the grain.  So while there may be a proliferation of bands that have no identity, there will always those that stand out because of the conviction and honesty that rings through their music.
Derek: I think the whole environment is changing. Things aren't as straightforward as they used to be. I don't know if it's bad or good, but sincerity matters. I'll be playing music even if I have to do it alone in my room banging on pots and pans.
Cory: I feel it’s always been that way. There is good music you just need to know where to look.

What do your lyrics cover? Do you have an overall theme or do you just write about whatever is on your mind?
Derek: I don't know but there's a lot of yelling.
Cory: A wide variety of themes from death to being lame. Not really a theme. We write about a bunch of things.

Final thoughts.
Charles:  I’d like to thank you Jeff for the interview, and giving us the opportunity to get our name out there.  I’m looking to writing more tunes with my brothers Cory and Derek, and sharing the stage with some killer bands, especially Khobretti!
Derek: Come see a show. Take your pants off. Buy a shirt for a handsome friend. Ask us why the fuck we're playing in B. Thanks Feral Noise!
Cory: I love playing with these two dudes talented and handsome!