Sunday, April 26, 2009

Suiciety: An Oral History

(Photo courtesy of Frank Cervantez)

Suiciety was a heavy rock band from Fort Worth, Texas, that existed from 1988 to 1993. (There was also a Suiciety from New Jersey that existed from 1987 to 1994, and apparently another from Detroit.) They straddled the gulf between metal and punk, recorded a demo tape in 1991, released a 7-inch (“Unlearn”/“Empty”) on Oakland, California-based Repercussion Records in 1993, made a couple of short tours, and broke up around the end of that year.

Responding to a post about the band on the Unsavory Palindrome blog, a Fort Worth fan wrote, “It seemed that a tension followed them around. Whether it was Miguel throwing down his bass in disgust or Augie heaving a floor tom across the room, they always provided an outburst.”

The original lineup consisted of three friends from Paschal High School: Frank Cervantez, guitar; Augustine Rodriguez III, drums; and Miguel Veliz, bass/vocals.

Miguel Veliz: “After I saw the 1983 US Festival on Showtime when I was about 10 or 11 years old, I knew I wanted to play music. Ozzy and Van Halen did it to me. I saved up money and bought my first guitar right after fifth grade, but didn't really learn much for a couple of years. I learned more in the first year and a half of Suiciety than I learned the first five years I had a guitar.

“I met Frank when we were about 15. I was dating his cousin, who introduced us, and we hit it off immediately. We were into some of the same music -- Sabbath, Metallica, Zeppelin, Ozzy, Slayer, Venom -- and I turned him to a lot of punk rock and hardcore bands (D.R.I., Misfits, Cryptic Slaughter, the Accused, etc.). He was already a really good guitar player, but I was still playing ‘Smoke on the Water’ with one-finger ‘chords.’ He showed me some stuff and we decided to start a band.

“We tried to play with another friend of ours who had just bought a drum kit, but that didn’t work out. Frank jammed with Augie at a party, then later introduced him to me. It turned out [Augie’s] aunt lived across the street from me and we had met before when we were younger.”

Augie Rodriguez: “I dropped out of school in ’88. I’ve always known Frank. He was the kind of guy that always stood out. I noticed he had a Voivod shirt, and he noticed that I had a Nuclear Assault shirt. He had a B.C. Rich guitar and a Peavey Rage amp – affordable gear for people that bought clothes at Trader’s Village. I was the guy that played in the school band but couldn’t afford my own drum kit, but I knew a buddy who played in a father and son band, just the two of them, so we started banging out the kind of music you liked if you came from central Fort Worth – old Zeppelin and Sabbath.

“He introduced me to a guy he was in school with named Mikey, who turned out to be this guy I knew named Miguel who lived across the street from my aunt’s house. I had no idea that he was a real genius in an eggshell, waiting to be hatched. I didn’t know that he drew and wrote lyrics about death and played. We turned [Miguel] into a bass player. He had a knockoff Les Paul and wanted to be like Spike Cassidy in D.R.I. I wasn’t there, but I heard there were some fists thrown. We got him on an Ibanez Flying V bass.”

Miguel Veliz: “Augie was great, perfect for what we wanted to do, heavy hardcore thrash. Then it was decided that I would move over to bass and we had a three-piece band. This was about 1989. We named ourselves Just-Us. Terrible, I know. We practiced every time we could, at either my parents’ house or Augie’s mother’s house. We did mostly covers and we had two, maybe three originals.”

Augie Rodriguez: “Miguel had long hair back when if you went to a punk show and you didn’t have the Mohawk or the skin – and you weren’t white – you’d get your ass beat. He got lucky and met a drummer who was Hispanic after we’d been watching the white guys play. Our thing was to play what you want and what you know, and outdo what was on the radio. We were playing our favorites and learning. I wound up being a vegetarian in a meat eating band, wearing leather shoes and leather jackets.”

Frank Cervantez: “We played a few house parties – a lot of covers by D.R.I, Cryptic Slaughter, listening to a lot of Neurosis and starting to write originals. By 1990, we changed our name to Suiciety.”

Augie Rodriguez: “We grew up on the south side, where people were in gangs, killing each other. The name Suiciety was like society was killing itself, like a guy on a tightrope with the Klan and politics and liberalism and things like that all around.”

Frank Cervantez: “Our first official show was at Shawn’s Subs on University by TCU, on New Year’s Eve 1990. Jon Teague hooked us up with the show -- I think he was working there. He was in a band at the time called Crucified Choices with Brian Waits. They also played that night.”

Jon Teague: “I had a job at this deli on University, and Doug [Ferguson] was working there, and the guy that owned the place was cool enough to let us book that show there.”

Miguel Veliz: “We were all really nervous. We played just about every song we knew, songs by the Police, Doom, Excel, Final Conflict, the Cure and a couple of originals. That night, I barely had the nerve to sing the originals, so I let the crowd sing the cover songs. It was a blast! A lot of slam dancing, singing along, and we met many of our closest friends that night, including Linc Campbell, who we knew from another band called Lickity Split. A few weeks later, he offered to try and sing with the band, and we agreed.”

Linc Campbell: “Lickity Split was me and some guys I knew from Arlington Heights [High School]: Quincy Holloway [drums], Carey Blackwell [vox], Chris Pastore [guitar], and Daniel Jackson [bass].”

In his book Home Fire (Flapjack Press, 1993), Lickity Split frontman Blackwell chronicled the Fort Worth scene of the time:

The Agitators set got busted by the cops. The Tombstone will probably get shut down. This one cop was really cool, he told Chris and me, “If it was up to me I’d let ya’ll crazy white folks do whatever, but I’m just one man.”…

Why Am I…played, a few skinheads causing problems during their set. One skin put his beer down in the middle of the pit then backed away from it a few feet. He was just waiting for someone to knock it over so he could pound on them…

Tonight was our last show and no one seemed to take it lightly, the place was packed and we gave them everything. Everybody was into it. I’ve never sweat so much in my life. We all looked like we’d just gotten out of Chris’s swimming pool. My involvement in sunny side summer is drawing to a close, but it feels good to be going out like this.

Linc Campbell: “We broke up our senior year, and then I tried playing with [guitarist] Reagan Jobe, Chad Percy on bass, and a drummer, but there was no chemistry. It was kind of like having five dates with a girl before you realized it just wasn’t going to happen. I think the first time I saw Miguel and those guys playing, it was at a Lickity Split reunion show where I wasn’t playing. I talked to them and Reagan Jobe about jamming.”

Miguel Veliz: “After a few more shows as a trio, we did a few with Linc on vocals, including one at Paschal High School for my Music History class. Shortly after that, we acquired a second guitar player, Reagan Jobe, who we also met at our first show. That summer of 1991, we played our first show as a five piece, which also our first show at a club in Dallas.”

Augie Rodriguez: “There was some kind of drama with the principal at Paschal because I had dropped out. Slipped Disk was our first big show after Shawn’s. It was our first show outside of Fort Worth and there was a kind of scene clash that ended in a fight, but I had my dream drum set, Frank had a bigger amp. We also played at the Durutti Column and Joe’s Garage.”

Frank Cervantez: “We played a lot of punk house shows here [in Fort Worth] and in Dallas and Amarillo. We also played at Joe's Garage, Easy St. Theatre, Slipped Disk Studios, Common Ground, Mad Hatter’s, and I think the Engine Room. We played with Crucified Choices, Little Boy (Jon Teague and Chad Percy), Sleeping Body (Chad Percy, Carl Hallowell, and Jeff Leaper, all of Liberty Electric Tattooing), Voice of Reason, Burden (Eric Harris, Brian Waits, and Chad Percy), Shmu…”

Miguel Veliz: “We were lucky enough to play with some really great bands back then like Born Against, Antischism, Subvert, the Toadies, Buzzoven, Eyehategod, Rorschach, Voice of Reason, Schlong, Logical Nonsense, Sinker, Indian Summer, and Scorched Earth Policy. The audience was really young for the most part, not really a drinking crowd, mostly punk rock and metal kids, as well as your average Fort Worth music lover who loved all types of music, and a lot of family and neighborhood friends.”

Augie Rodriguez: “We had a community before we had a scene.”

Linc Campbell: “I was so stoked before we played Joe’s Garage the first time, from seeing Pantera there and other local metal bands that I really loved. I felt really let down when our performance didn’t live up to expectations. House shows were more intimate, with lots of younger kids who were into punk rock.

“Once when my parents were in Austin, we were going to practice at their house from early afternoon and just play all night long. We invited all of our friends, and it wound up being a show. My parents were supposed to be home at three o’clock the next afternoon, so the next day, we were in the process of moving back some of the furniture that we’d moved outside to make room for all the amplifiers when my parents pulled up about two hours early, wanting to know ‘What’s been going on here?’”

Frank Cervantez: “Our original music was really influenced by Neurosis: heavy, fast, moody and sometimes longer type of songs dealing with religion, politics and life. We were 17-18 years old.”

Augie Rodriguez: “It was a weird mix, the Paschal dropout and students with our Zep metal and the Arlington Heights Swiz hardcore fans.”

Linc Campbell: “Sometime in ’89 or ’90, we played a big metal show in this huge warehouse off Beach and I-30. There were all these generic ‘80s actual metal bands, and we had a couple of songs where I’d play keyboards – not really keyboards, just general noise. Afterwards, guys from other bands came up to us and told us we definitely sounded different from every other band. We all came from both sides of the metal-punk divide.”

Jon Teague: “Hearing those guys play made me realize I needed to learn how to play better! They were all great players, and you could tell there were a lot of influences at work there – basically everything from that time that I still like to go back to. There was nobody else in Fort Worth doing anything like that.”

Miguel Veliz: “We recorded the demo after we had about six or seven original tunes that we wrote as a five piece. We just found an ad for a recording studio in the back of the Star-Telegram and gave the guy a call. He had a place in Haltom City that he did country music demos at, and he had never recorded a heavy rock band. But we didn't care; we wanted to record our demo.”

Frank Cervantez: “We recorded the demo tape at S.D.S. 8-Track Studio. [Engineer] Charlie Echols mainly recorded country music from what I understand, but for some reason, he liked us.”

Augie Rodriguez: “Miguel was the footwork man. If there were some shoes, his feet were in ‘em. He knew people, and he found out about this studio in Haltom City where people cut demos. I always had a job, because that’s what you do if you’re a dropout and your dad says you’ve got to work, but the other guys sold skateboards and records so we could make that demo, just for ourselves.”

Linc Campbell: “I think we were in separate rooms or something. It felt really weird, because we were used to the live experience.”

Augie Rodriguez: “I was caged up in a room, but the other guys were plugged into the main switchboard.”

Linc Campbell: “I wish we’d done other songs. It was really raw punk hardcore, with an obvious leaning toward heavy music in general. It was different than what we matured into. Listening to the lyrics, they’re filled with general 19-year-old angst about having a beef with the world.”

Miguel Veliz: “We did all the songs we knew, including a really bad attempt at a funk song, and it was pretty decent for what it was. Within a year or so, we wouldn’t be playing any of those songs. The lyrics had more of a political edge to them and we had progressed to writing songs on a more personal level.”

Augie Rodriguez: “My cousin heard the demo tape and said, “No – that’s not you. It’s something else that you’ll find eventually.”

Miguel Veliz: “Later that year, after we recorded our demo tape, Reagan was out of the band and Linc moved on to second guitar and vocals and I started to share vocals with him.”

Linc Campbell: “At first I enjoyed the energy of a frontman, just bouncing around. When I started playing guitar, it felt like going home. When Reagan left, it wasn’t him leaving – it was the rest of us throwing him out. I only wish we’d been grown up enough to handle that differently.”

Augie Rodriguez: “I always wore black, so I got to be the guy that dropped the hatchet. Linc didn’t know. We didn’t really like his vocals, but he played a meaner guitar, complementing Frank. After that, we were like three Juans and a John.”

Miguel Veliz: “In the summer of 1992, I decided to leave the band. I was frustrated and I always had high hopes of doing more than we were realistically able to. I went on tour with Sleeping Body and then Voice of Reason as a roadie. While I was in Oakland, I met Adam [Nana] who ran a little label called Repercussion. He asked me about a band that was described as a cross between Rites of Spring and Black Sabbath in Maximumrockandroll. The band was Suiciety. I just laughed and said we weren't together anymore, but I stayed in touch with him.

“After the tours and a brief stay in Amarillo, I moved back to Fort Worth and we got the band back together. After we won some recording time at a show at Mad Hatter’s, we were able to record the 7-inch.”

Frank Cervantez: “The 7-inch was recorded at M.A.R.S. Studio, which is exactly where Spiral Diner is now on Magnolia. Our good friend Summer Semmens paid for the recording.”

Miguel Veliz: “I got back in touch with Adam at Repercussion and he decided to release whatever we recorded. The problem was that the guy who owned the studio stiffed us on the free time and made us pay for it after giving us some sob story, and we were broke, so we had to borrow money from our friend Summer to pay for it. So that fucker still owes us some studio time if he didn’t pawn all his gear for crack money.”

Augie Rodriguez: “Summer paid so we could finish these songs that took a whole night to record.”

Miguel Veliz: “Repercussion released the self-titled 7-inch with two songs ‘Unlearn’ and ‘Empty,’ with artwork by myself and a few other friends.”

The record’s sleeve and label featured artwork by Miguel, Daniel Jackson, Justin Wood, and Jon Teague, as well as lyrics in English and Spanish. The band’s sound on those two songs has the kind of heft and power that, heard close-up in a live situation, makes your viscera shudder and the ground tremble like the Earth’s come off its axis. The guitars and bass lock into the deepest, darkest riffage imaginable with an absolute singularity of purpose while Augie pummels his kit like he’s pounding coffin nails and Linc and Miguel trade vocal lines like an angry demon and his minion.

Linc Campbell: “I have absolutely no memory of recording that, just getting the record and the feeling I got from having it.”

Augie Rodriguez: “We were doing something that was positive for us and negative for our parents.”

Miguel Veliz: “Our touring experiences really only consisted of some weekend outings to Colorado and New Mexico, and all over Texas. At one point after the release of the 7-inch, we decided to tour, and I started booking a whole tour that would have taken us all over the country. It wasn't until after I had been booking it for several weeks that the others told me that for various reasons they would not be able to do the tour. So I reluctantly cancelled all the dates that had been booked. And quite honestly, I was bitter about that for a really long time.”

Augie Rodriguez: “Miguel’s ego was too big for this spot. He throws big splashes of paint that coat the world in different colors. He wrote to Maximumrockandroll. We did a ‘getting-your-feet-wet’ tour that fizzled, due to our immaturity and lack of experience. We were hurt and selfish, and there were issues with venues. We got kicked in the shins because it wasn’t meant to be.”

Jon Teague: “Miguel’s the most driven person I know when it comes to doing what he wants to do, and Frank’s the most positive person I’ve ever known.”

Augie Rodriguez: “If someone were to try to harm Frank…I’d go to jail for that man.”

Linc Campbell: “We went through a phase where we were starting to play places where you could hear everything well, and then we’d play places with stages where you needed monitors to hear and we didn’t have them. We were growing a little bit and we did a lot of things that were based on feeling and cues. In practice, you could hear it all because you were just surrounded by the sound, and then you couldn’t hear it live. We’d get pissed at each other. I was in Waco at school, and sometimes I’d come offstage after playing and just get in my car and drive back to Waco.”

Frank Cervantez: “The first tour was great -- only three shows: the Fort, Amarillo, and Albuquerque with us and friends in tow -- a 6 foot bong, Sinker from Oakland. Got lost in the mountains in New Mexico and had a great time. We did another little tour in ‘93 with Burden and about eight other friends to Amarillo and Pueblo, Colorado. Way fun and one of our best shows, in a basement!”

Linc Campbell: “We had friends in Amarillo. The guys in Sleeping Body and Voice of Reason all lived up there, and it became our home away from home.

“Once, we were supposed to play a show in Albuquerque, but it got cancelled because the guy who owned the venue went to some party or something. We wound up heading to a party about an hour from the city, up in the mountains. We listened to Dr. Dre’s The Chronic all the way up there, hearing Frank’s infectious laugh as we all cracked up at the skits between the songs. There was a stage set up, and we were getting ready to play when the generator broke. I wound up hanging out with a girl on top of our van, drinking Jim Beam, which is funny, because I don’t like whiskey. It was beautiful: lush green, not a cloud in the sky, stars everywhere.

“Towards the end, we played a show in Amarillo where there were maybe three or four hundred people in the audience – one of the biggest that we played. I remember thinking, ‘Who needs chemicals if you have a ritual like this?’”

Miguel Veliz: “At the end of the Colorado gig, there was some tension about leaving or something stupid, but we all held on to it for a little while. We were young and didn’t always handle our frustrations well.”

Linc Campbell: “Colorado was the undoing of everything.

“Before, I’d gone to L.A. for spring break with my roommates, and while we were there, we went to Tijuana and I brought back bottles and bottles of every kind of pills. We went to Amarillo and Colorado the next week and everybody was drinking, smoking, and going nuts. At one gig, I had every bottle of pills I’d bought lined up on my amplifier, and Jeff Leaper broked two whippets into a balloon, which I inhaled right before we started. As a result, I don’t remember what a lot of people said was one of our best shows.

“We went up to Pueblo and I had Augie, Brian Waits, and a girl that was with Augie in my truck, pulling the U-Haul. Augie and Brian got in some argument, and Augie wound up really wanting to beat up Brian. I told him, ‘I’ll leave you here. Stop being such a jackass!”

Augie Rodriguez: “After New Mexico, Miguel and I decided ‘Fuck this shit’ without Linc and Frank knowing. We were being unfair to each other. Then we played the Gigglesnort Hotel [Miguel’s house], which was a disappointment that hurt more than two failed tours. We were crying with our instruments at that show.”

Miguel Veliz: “Once we were back home in Fort Worth, we decided to part ways and we had our final show at the Gigglesnort Hotel in southside Fort Worth with Indian Summer and Policy of Three. Frank, Linc, and myself continued to play together as Bloodsunearth [with Frank on drums], and we remained friends with Augie, who we would still see often.”

Frank Cervantez: “Suiciety just kind of fell apart, I guess it was time. We had a good run and made some good music and most importantly made lots and lots of friends.”

Miguel Veliz: “I think we stood out for not being so punk at the punk shows and not so metal at the metal shows. We played anywhere we could with whoever would play with us. We just tried to be an honest band trying to be heard, trying to play anytime we could. We made lifelong friendships and wrote some songs that still mean the world to me today, and only Linc, Augie, Frank and myself could have written and performed those songs. I feel lucky to have been able to share that with them.”

Linc Campbell: “The way we broke up wasn’t well thought out, but then, what is when you’re 21 years old? We played a reunion show in ’98 for the tenth anniversary of Skanksgiving, which was a party that was held at Jon Teague’s mother’s house the Friday after Thanksgiving, starting in 1988. It was great – a 12 x 12 box with 40 kids inside, stage diving off the walls!”

Augie Rodriguez: “Music today is not what it was. If you weren’t there when it was a community, not a scene, you’re missing out.”

Post-Suiciety, Miguel, Augie, and Linc played together in the heavy jam band Kabuki. Miguel and Augie played together as a duo in Solomon, and Frank and Miguel went on to play together in the dub reggae band Sub Oslo. Miguel has also played in the heavy bands Sourvein, Blood of the Sun, and Graves At Sea. Frank now plays with psychedelic rockers Stumptone.

Linc played in Cadillac Fraf & The Mockingbird Cartel with Chad Percy as the band’s frontman and Woody Guthrie figure. In early 2009, Suiciety regrouped to play shows with Brian Waits’ band Garuda in Fort Worth (May 1st at Lola’s 6th Street with the Great Tyrant) and Austin (May 2nd at Lovejoy’s with Shed Alford) on the occasion of what would have been Chad’s 37th birthday.

Chad Morgan Percy – Linc’s Arlington Heights classmate who played bass and sang in Little Boy, fronted Sleeping Body, played sax in Burden and Ghostcar, traveled across America on freight trains and his thumb, worked at the Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo, and invented his own legend -- died January 10th of injuries sustained in an accident the previous September. Of his many gifts to his friends, perhaps the greatest was a reminder that you should hold close the people and things that you love in life, because they will not be with you always.


Blogger jefe331 said...

Thanks for this blog entry. I wish there was more local music history documented. Great to hear what was going on pre-Sub Oslo, etc.

1:58 AM  

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