Because the Music Matters!!!
(re)View From The Past #3
third in a retrospective series by Andrew C Schlett
first published February 15, 2011
Let’s go all the way back to the beginning. Not to the beginning of time and
space, not to the beginning of music, or even to the beginning of Rivethead. Let’s go
back to the beginning of Andrew “C”. Since this is a column of memories, my memories
to be precise, today I want to tell the story of how I first became involved with Rivethead
and the coincidentally fortuitous chain of events which led to my writing a regular
monthly feature in the old print version of this fine publication. My involvement in the
Houston music scene never really was pertinent or crucial; the scene would have thrived
and succeeded with or without my participation. It doesn’t really matter to anybody else
but me how I became involved in it to begin with. But it’s kind of a cool story, and one
that I think will make for an enjoyable telling. Hopefully it will make for an enjoyable, if
not somewhat irrelevant, read. So welcome, all my H-town homies and Rivethead
followers worldwide. Settle in y’all, sit back, and dig on another episode of ‘(re)View
from the Past’!
It all began early in December of 1989. I’d been maybe four months out of TDC
on a year stretch and was working as the cook in a small assisted-living place for the
mentally ill down off South Binz. I had a roommate, Brian, who I had met in pre-release
and the two of us listened to Z-Rock (KKZR AM1070) almost constantly back then. One
day, I was the right caller and won us two tickets to see a band called Chastain at a place
called the After Dark Club. We had never heard of this band, or this club, but hey, we
just won free tickets so we were pretty darned happy! We went to the show as guests of
Z-Rock and Dan Hunter, the DJ who gave us the tickets. While there I was not only
blown away by the music of Chastain, but I also happened to pick up a copy of this little
free music rag I saw called “Rivethead”. There was a stack of them by the door. What
the hell, I thought, it’s free and the cover art looks pretty cool. (Sidebar note: I still have
that issue. It’s a drawing of a dragon wearing a Santa Claus hat biting off the neck of a
guitar. It’s way rad.) We went home later that night with the amps still ringing in our
ears and, the next day, I opened the Rivethead and started reading. It was a pretty nifty
little paper, I decided, and since I had the memories of the Chastain show still fresh in my
mind, and since I had been on the newspaper staff in high school and had always enjoyed
leisure writing anyway, I decided to review the show and mail that review into the paper,
with hopes that they might publish it.
Just a few days later my phone rang. The caller identified herself as Lisa E, the
editor of Rivethead, who explained that not only did she love my article and had every
intention of publishing it, but she also asked if I might be interested in doing some sort of
regular column for her each month. My heart leapt! For what, truly, could possibly kick
more ass than going to a variety of different shows every month on the Rivethead press
pass and then writing about them afterward? The chance of a lifetime had just opened up
before me, certainly! I had no interest in fame; simply seeing my own byline in print was
satisfaction enough to justify the effort of writing. I never expected any money, which is
good since that particular expectation has always been fully met. But oh God all the free
shows I was gonna see and all the hot chicks I was gonna nail! Hell yeah!!
In hindsight, I suppose my motivations were not that different from anybody who
gets involved in rock-n-roll. My handicap, my stumbling block, was that the only
instrument I could play was the electric typewriter. Frank Zappa once said that rock
critics are nothing more than frustrated musicians who can’t play music. Sounds about
right to me, nowadays, but back then I took myself pretty seriously. Andrew “C”, rock
journalist, on assignment for Rivethead!
Not long after that, within just a couple of months, I lost the cooking job and the
place I had been living, and had to move back up north to the FM1960/Spring area where
I was from. I got a new job delivering Rigia’s Pizza and on my first day there I met
Ashley Henson. He recognized my name immediately from the pages of Rivethead and
explained that he was the lead guitarist for Red Ink, a Christian thrash band that was just
starting to go out and play some live gigs. I also met Mike Schulenberg working there,
who was putting a band together that he was calling Urban Assault Squad and for whom
he was in the process of composing guitar licks to fill in one of their songs. Before long
I was spending most of my off time in the UAS practice room (Shoe is frowning. “Don’t
call us UAS!”) with a rotating group of very cool people, usually in a clouded haze of
smoke and sound, feeling the visceral stoned ecstasy of amplified instruments in a small
enclosed space. Shoe, Brian Nelson (bass guitar) and Tony Watson (who?) all became
very close friends of mine; shouts-out here also to Chip Lambert and Chris Stringer.
Soon I was writing about Urban Assault Squad in the pages of Rivethead, and went on
eventually to manage that band. Don’t know how good I really was at that, though.
Just an interesting note. I have rarely had such a bad day as the day I sat
handcuffed in the backseat of a police cruiser in the parking lot of Rigia’s Pizza, on my
way to jail for possession of less than a quarter ounce of weed, with Dick Rigia leaning
into the half-open window of the cop car, frowning, shaking his head, and saying “I’m
sorry, Andrew, but you’re fired.” My worst day ever? No. Not hardly. But it’s probably
in the top ten. I did close to three weeks for that freakin’ bag.
Life goes on, though, and when they let me out of jail I went at once to Domino’s
Pizza to apply for a job. Fate must have intervened that day, sending me to the one
particular store that I went to, since the very first person that I saw there was Jeff Mikel.
Most all of you, Rivethead readers, anybody who knows Houston music at all will
recognize Jeff Mikel as the awe-inspiring and jaw-dropping guitarist who is almost
single-handedly responsible for the overwhelming success of Academy Black (and I
know Jeff, as well as the rest of the band, is smiling right now). But to me, at that time,
Jeff Mikel was nobody more than Rich Mikel’s little brother. Rich and I had been friends
for some few years and it was only through Rich that I knew Jeff at all. I had no idea he was even
in Academy Black, and in fact I only knew that Jeff played guitar because Rich was fond
of joking that he, Rich, had quit the guitar after hearing Jeff play. I knew of Academy
Black only through reading of them in Rivethead and had never even been to the Axiom,
only seeing it’s name in Rivethead advertisements and reviews by other writers.
And that, my friends, is when it all took off. The rest, as they say, is history. I
came to know Jeff well and through him, and many others, I got to know pretty much
everybody who made the scene what it was. Bands a-plenty, three, four, five shows a
week sometimes and hours spent in various practice rooms, lotsa suds, not as many
chicks as I probably coulda hoped for but I wound up with a decent one anyway. A little
bit of fame, maybe, as my level of name-recognition increased (“oh yeah, I read you in
Rivethead every month!”) and I got invited to more and more parties and band houses.
All the while I kept writing every month for Lisa, sometimes she loved the material I
turned in to her, sometimes not so much, but she always ran my work and never edited a
single word. I was edited only once the whole time I wrote for Rivethead, but that was
under the Claytor administration shortly before I left Houston and is a story for another
column. Living the dream? You better believe it! Then I split town. The details of my
departure and reasons thereof were detailed in my first revival column, please revisit that
posting if you missed out on it.
Well that’s pretty much the story then. That’s how I went from being nobody, an
obscure, nameless, ex-con pothead to being the well-renown and highly esteemed
chronicler of the underground Houston music scene who once was known, and is now
known again, as Andrew “C”. Thanks for coming along with me on this little ride, and I
promise next installment to write about something a little bit more important than myself.
I have a birthday coming up soon. I’ll be 47. Where the hell did twenty years go??
Shout out for now, H-Town. Don’t forget to tip out your bartenders and
waitresses, but tip them out even more if they’re old too. Because the memories, like the
The Editor's Desk