Monday, February 20, 2006

Beating a Dead Horse and Houston don't need that.

What do John Nova Lomax and Michael Hagaa have in common? They're both beating a dead horse. Not the same dead horse, that would be sick. They are different beasts. John Nova Lomax is sitting on top of a horse that was a ghost before he saddled up. Michael Hagaa can't let go of a horse that, great as she was, doesn't deserve this meditation.

Hagaa's Dead Horse played heavy metal in the late 80's as the art form was taking a decidely gravitational turn. My impression at the time was that the band was fittingly named. With all due respect, it is sad to hear that Michael is spending his time "archiving dead horse recordings, articles, photos and band paperwork." Oh well musicians fade away though I don't know too many who have done so in a pile of band paperwork (I've never even heard the two words together before).

John Nova Lomax's dead horse doesn't exist. I don't know what he is getting at in his Feb 16th Houston Press Article "Band Suicide: Why so many Houston music groups self-destruct right on the brink of having it made." He somehow identifies 37 year old Hagaa's failure to get a bunch of twenty-something Conroe musicians to follow Hagaa's personal MTV glory dream with an overall failure on the part of the Houston music scene. John, there is no magic city "scene" any where. There is something going on in Houston (as there always has been) and you're missing it. And as usual, you're not writing about it.

Grabbing into thin air to come up with external factors that are "holding down the scene," Lomax neglects the one factor that he is contributing to - the perennial flogging of the dead horse that is the Houston Press writer's noble rite of passage: to lament the absence of a scene. This is a myth, not a dead horse, a ghost horse. There is something going on brother you're just too hung up on bullcrap to harness it.

The one big difference that Houston has to many great music towns big and small (and never forget that Houston is the Fourth largest city in the entire nation) is the absence of a good writing community; a good local rag; like a good radio show; that doesn't linger on foolishness such as this; an agent that assumes an audience of music appreciators and writes to that audience.


Justin said...

Heeeey, what do you mean a good radio show?

It's true that Houston doesn't have and never has had a writer, much less a group of writers that fawned over the musicians, be they good or bad. I'm not sure that's entirely a bad thing. There are plenty of mediocre Austin bands that I've read praise for in their local press. It doesn't make the bands any better, but it might make more people want to be in band--because who doesn't want people fawning over them? But is that the right reason to be playing music?

As nice as it is to have people playing music because they like it, the lack of press in Houston means that even the bands are Bad they will never be Nationwide. It takes press to do do that. That's why even the crappiest bands from New York and LA can find themselves on majr labels with little effort. When you have lots of media people whose job is to find a good story, you can bet they are going to find a story, good or not. Stories create buzz, buzz creates demand, and demand leads to records.

I think my biggest problem with Lomax's piece, though, was the glorification of Tom Bunch. I never trusted that guy and I'm not gonna start now.

Kilian said...

Justin! The "good radio show" reference was supposed to link to the Local Show. I'm gonna fix that.

I don't think a good writer has to fawn over musicians. A good music writer starts with the pretense that there is a base of people that are in to live music and, no matter the size, writes to that audience and respects it. People will respond to that, to respect for their intelligence. Imagine if there was a writing culture in Houston that simply wrote to the best element of the art culture. It doesn't have to be a hifalutin affair to do that either. Pitchfork Media may be an over the top indie webzine but I think Lomax could learn from their focus, or the Chicago Reader for that matter, or the Voice whatever just don't waste paper with fictitious accounts of the "scene" or more importantly the failure of the scene, jeez. What good does that do anybody? None. What lesson has he taught a band? In what audience has he piqued an interest in live music?

I totally agree with you that if there is a lesson in Lomax piece it is complete bullcrap. Not only is he writing about bands doing music for all the wrong reasons. He is writing about music for all the wrong reasons.

Tom Bunch's Sprawl reference explains him perfectly. He thought Sprawl was "just okay." That's because a guy like Bunch or Lomax can't see what's in a band like Sprawl for THEM. Sprawl was born of a great movement in music - DIY. Sprawl didn't need a label, didn't seek a label and built their own scene. They are responsible for inspiring all kinds of bands and the members of Sprawl are still very, very important to the Houston scene. Sprawl kick started the great "Jesus Christ Superstar" trip that truly led to the creation of IBP. There's just so much history that should be nurtured in Houston but Houston gets crap like this.

Of course I could go on and on with all the great things that have come out of Houston but that is beside the point because a good writer would use that knowledge as his starting point and this sort of article would never have been farted out.

Ramon Medina - LP4 said...

Wow, the piece has made one thing, everyone hates Tom Bunch.

Kilian said...

For the record, I don't hate Tom Bunch.

infoterror said...

dead horse was exceptional in their day, and I'm glad Haaga has kept going. He was always kind to me and other clueless teenagers at dead horse shows, and seemed to give a damn. I don't blame him for moving on. Metal kills talent like nothing else; three good albums followed by a lifetime of burnout, divorce, sodomy and failure.

Kilian said...

Hello Infoterror, pretty intense blog you've got going over there.

I agree with you that Dead Horse was great in its day because they were doing what they loved and doing it well and major label be damned. There was no way a Heavy Metal band was gonna get signed to a major label in the early 90's and DH knew that and even joked around with it.

I hope Hagaa can move on but "moving on" is not where Lomax left our hero. Maybe the song he just put up on his myspace page, "Pissing on a Dream" will be cathartic for him.

Ramon Medina - LP4 said...

OK, I'll agree, hate is probably too strong a word (he was always to me a preipheral figure anyhow) but he's still kind of a schmuck.