When Dallas Skaters Ruled The World – Grave City looks back

Thrasher Magazine has given Grave City access to its archives. Thrasher called Dallas’ triple threat of 80s skaters “the Dallasonians” – John Gibson, Jeff Phillips, and Craig Johnson. Grave City has already covered Dallas’ own Zorlac Skateboards in a previous post. Stay tuned….

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Part 1 coming soon…

In the meantime, check this out.

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Stick Men with Ray Guns interviews, Part 2: Grave City interviews Clarke Blacker

This is the second of three interviews Grave City is doing with former members of Dallas cult punk band Stick Men with Ray Guns. (As I write this, I’m working on getting drummer Scott Elam for the third and final interview.) The first interview, posted yesterday, was with bassist Bobby Beeman and is here. Three new collections of Stick Men with Ray Guns material have come out in the past year and that’s the direct impetus for my wanting to do this.

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Clarke Blacker

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Clarke Blacker was the guitarist for Stick Men with Ray Guns and performed a vital function for the band as its oldest and maybe most musically accomplished member, with a broad appreciation for various styles of music coupled with an intellectual understanding of punk’s place in modern music history. (And as I mentioned in the previous post, I also interviewed Clarke over a decade ago for my old radio show and podcast, Radio Schizo, after Some People Deserve to Suffer had come out.)

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Stick Men with Ray Guns Interviews, part 1: Grave City interviews Bobby Beeman

Within the past year, three new releases have been put forward that collect material from cult favorite Texas punk band Stick Men with Ray Guns. Below is the first of a series of new (2016) interviews with former members. This site, Grave City, is based in Stick Men’s hometown of Dallas and is obviously named after a Stick Men with Ray Guns song. Below I interviewed Bobby Beeman, who formed Stick Men with Ray Guns with the late singer Bobby Soxx in late 1980.

But first, a little back story is in order: Over a decade ago I interviewed Stick Men with Ray Guns guitarist Clarke Blacker for my old podcast and radio show, Radio Schizo (RIP) and at that time the band’s well-received CD collection Some People Deserve to Suffer had just come out, produced by Blacker. At that time, I wanted to pick Blacker’s brain about that collection (and I did!). Some People Deserve to Suffer is still a defining document for this notorious hardcore punk band that existed from 1980 to 1988.

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Stick Men With Ray Guns in Dallas. Bobby Beeman is on the left.

A little bit more info about SMWRG is in order before getting to the interview. It’s well known that among the bands Stick Men with Ray Guns would influence were the Butthole Surfers. The Surfers’ King Coffey, in Steven Blush’s American Hardcore, stated:

“Stick Men with Ray Guns, one of the best I’ve ever seen. They were fronted by Bobby Soxx, a manic Buddy Holly-type, scary motherfucker who’d pick fights with the audience. He shoved the mic up his butt during a show and the Buttholes [sic] had to play after that, so Gibby sang with the mic from the kick drum. […] Stick Men with Ray Guns had such intensity about them.”

Other reminiscences of the band are shared in the interview below.

Bobby Beeman of Stick Men with Ray Guns was interviewed by Oliver/Grave City in September, 2016.

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Stick Men with Ray Guns’ new album on 12XU Records.

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Oliver: Bobby, congratulations on the two new collections that have recently been put out by 12XU. Can you give some background about these releases, what material they include, and how you came about doing them? I know my friend Jack down in Austin helped with mastering some of them.

Bobby Beeman: Jack Control at Enormous Door is really the reason these albums and the Grave City album (released last year on End of an Ear Records) came out. He took our old material and remastered it so that it sounds better than it ever has, and the best it possibly could. Then Jack found labels to release it. He helped with the covers. He is the one that made this happen.

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Grave City interviews Dallas goth rockers Garden of Mary

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Garden of Mary are a newer Dallas gothic rock band that cite the influences of Sisters of Mercy, Asylum Party, and Midnight Call. Below is Grave City’s Garden of Mary interview. Containing members of Dallas hardcore act Modern Pain and Narrow Head, GoM already have a cassette-only mini-LP released on Louisville, Kentucky’s Funeral Party Records (no relation to the former Dallas postpunk event of that name). Although the LP came out in May of this year it was actually recorded two years ago in 2014  in Austin at Bad Wolf Recordings.

I mentioned Garden of Mary in a previous Grave City post about local gothic rock and deathrock bands. (That post is here.) I wrote: “[Garden of Mary singer] Ryan’s vocals are downright narcotic, and Noah’s bass pins the music down — gives it its anchor — in true trad gothic rock style, a la the Sisters of Mercy. There are elements of dreamy shoegaze and hallucinatory 80s UK dark underground stuff at play in the mix, too.”

You can stream Garden of Mary’s 5-song release, The Agony in Memory, below.

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JOHN PEEL IN DALLAS AND PEEL SESSIONS’ ROOTS IN DFW – A GRAVE CITY EXCLUSIVE

In 2007, Robert Wilonsky said he tried to contact “John Ravenscroft” (how goth a name is that?) aka John Peel about his days on the radio in Dallas, Texas. John Robert Parker Ravenscroft got his start in Dallas as a British Invasion dj in the 1960s. Obviously, John Peel went on to break bands like The Cure, The Damned, Killing Joke, Joy Division, and others when he returned to England. If it wasn’t for Dallas DJ veteran John Peel, postpunk and gothic rock as we know it might not have happened. And he got his start in Dallas.

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Gothic Rock and Deathrock in DFW in 2016 – Grave City’s Quick and Dirty Guide to the Best Bands

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Emphasis on the dirty. Dallas has quietly been cranking out quite a few gothic rock, deathrock, and dark postpunk bands in the past few years. This is a guide to a few — BUT NOT ALL — of them, and it’s why Dallas might just be the sleeper capital of traditional gothic rock not just in Texas, but in the larger US southwest region.

A few caveats: The following list is by no means exhaustive. It’s meant as more of a starting point for your own discoveries. I’m always interested in things I have overlooked; email me.

Lastly, a qualification of terms: By “gothic rock,” I mean gothic rock rooted in the traditional guitar-driven, human-on-a-drum-kit, punk-was-our-foundation style of gothic rock, and not post-1990s dark dance club music that calls itself “EBM” and “industrial” and which many people confusingly also call “goth” these days. There are very divergent trends in the 30+ years that saw the birth of bands like UK Decay and Sisters of Mercy, with some acts since the 1990s using dark imagery to accompany slick dance music mainly meant for djs to play in clubs to pack the dance floor (Faderhead, et al), versus others exploring and rediscovering the actual punk/postpunk roots of the genre (Night Sins, Crimson Scarlet, Belgrado, Lost Tribe).

With that caveat out of the way, here are some –but not all — of the best current North Texas goth bands:

1) GARDEN OF MARY

As of this writing, Dallas’ Garden of Mary have a cassette-only release, The Agony in Memory, on Funeral Party Records. (Note that Funeral Party Records is not related to the Funeral Party goth/postpunk event that used to occur in Dallas at the Beauty Bar and at The Church.) Ryan’s vocals are downright narcotic, and Noah’s bass pins the music down — gives it its anchor — in true trad gothic rock style, a la the Sisters of Mercy. There are elements of dreamy shoegaze and hallucinatory 80s UK dark underground stuff at play in the mix, too.

As this blog post goes to, uhm, “press,” Garden of Mary will play their first show at my friends’ event, Mutant Wave, on Wednesday, September 21st. They will also play when Soft Kill return to Dallas in December, at a Wardance event. Look out for this band in the future.

2) AZTEC DEATH

This Dallas three-piece plays a clean but somber style of early Factory Records-inspired music that is refreshing and crisp. Singer Chris Ortega’s vocals are up front and center – unlike many current darker bands that tend to bury their vocals beneath waves of dark sludge – and are clearly enunciated. (You can understand them without a lyric sheet.) And, yes, while there is a hint of the almighty Ian Curtis in the vocal delivery, the band’s overall darker tones also recall the deeper spectrum of the original postpunk explosion – namely, oft-overlooked pioneering bands like Positive Noise and early The Opposition, or Glorious Din from San Francisco. But Aztec Death also cite influences from the shoegaze genre.

Aztec Death have been playing out a lot in Dallas — some promoters might say too much — but they are worth catching if you haven’t seen them yet. They win p(o)ints with me by featuring more smoke than a Cheech and Chong movie, and more atmosphere than a Maya Deren film. One of my personal favorite band in Texas. Or anywhere. They blew folks away that caught them at the recent San La Muerte III dark punk fest down in San Antonio in August. Check out their Facebook page.

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