Monday, September 10, 2012

Big Ugly Music: An Oral History of the Gideons

                                                              (Photo by Kat Shimamoto)

The Gideons were a punk band from Fort Worth, Texas, originally active between 1996 and 1999, and fronted by towering, one-legged singer Carl Pack. A high school basketball star in Tolar until cancer took his right leg below the knee, in performance Pack would throw away his crutches and hop around the stage, bellowing imprecations. (He also used to ride a bicycle to work at Half Price Books.) The visual contrast between him and guitarist Chuck Rose – a diminutive but intense man who once played bass with Cowtown rockabilly cat Johnny Carroll – was quite stunning. Their music – songs like “Automatic Prick,” “Genetic Curse,” “Hey Mister,” “Stepdad,” and “Your Mom” -- careened along with the force of a runaway locomotive, thanks to bassist Hardy Bennett, and unusual rhythmic complexity, thanks to Terry Valderas, a drummer steeped in prog and psychedelia. The principals have reunited intermittently since 2000, and on October 25th, 2012, they’ll perform at 1919 Hemphill. Carl Pack declined to be interviewed for this story.


The Gideons, what can I say?  It’s been 16 years and they remain the most ridiculous, irreverent and complex combination of people I have ever had the pleasure (and at times, displeasure) of knowing.  Every member from the beginning until this very day has brought his own unique form of genius to the band.  Being a Gideon is no easy task.   It takes real men, real talent, musical diversity and a whole lot of “making up when you sober up the next day” to be a Gideon, in all of the configurations the band has taken over the years.  The most incredible aspect of the individuals in this band, outside of great musicianship and creativity, is the fact that they are all still living.  The three years that they were a “serious” band were an exercise in hedonistic, drunken debauchery. The latter years weren’t much different for many original members and members to come.  Collectively, they would make Gonzo proud, and possibly outdo him.  Still, they live to play another gig, and hopefully many more.  Long Live The Gideons!

                                                             - Michelle Richardson

Dramatis Personae

Hardy Bennett, original bassist (ex-Mumblety-Peg).
Lathe Dauphinot, original rhythm guitarist.
Scott Feille, drummer (ex-Suntouched).
Blake Hestir, reunion bassist (ex-Anonymous Dog, Jethro Tilton).
Jerry Howeth, drummer.
Carl Pack, vocalist (ex-GDX).
Michelle Richardson, Chuck Rose’s wife/Gideons governess.
Chuck Rose, guitarist (ex-Cringe, Howling Dervishes, Johnny Carroll, David Daniel Band, Swap Jack, GDX).
Terry Valderas, original drummer (ex-ESP, Toadies).
Darryl Wood, rhythm guitarist.

Primordial Ooze

Hardy Bennett: My old band Mumblety-Peg was punk, but didn’t look it. We came in at the crossover time, when metal and punk were crossing over. We were actually the first punk band to play at Joe’s Garage. We’d all come out of the metal scene, getting into Black Flag, Misfits, and the Ramones – total Ramones fans! – put a little punk band together, and started playing Joe’s. There was a scene at the HOP for a while; we were playing there. That was where I really started getting into it. I’d actually been in a glam-metal band at one time, with the poofy hair, the spandex, a gun belt, a leather vest and cowboy boots.

Terry Valderas: I knew Carl back in the ’80s and regularly saw him at various punk and new wave shows back in the day. I worshiped Chuck's band, the Howling Dervishes, too. I got to meet him during the Axis days when I was in with the Toadies and loved his band, Swap Jack.

Hardy Bennett: When we were playing Joe’s Garage, Carl was playing with the Hallucinogenitals and Chuck was with GDX. I think Carl actually crossed over into both of those bands. We gave them some shows out at Joe’s Garage because there really wasn’t any other place to play. Once we started headlining Joe’s, then we were able to start bringing other bands in. We brought in the Dragworms and the Toadies, started trying to create sort of a punk scene. Mumblety-Peg was really following in the footsteps of Lickity Split, which was Carey Blackwell’s first band. So we weren’t the first punk band in Fort Worth, but we started paving the way for more bands to get into the scene.

Carl Pack: I was not in the Hallucinogenitals, that was Blake Hestir -- later one of [the Gideons’] bass players -- and Joel Zoch, who later became Jethro Tilton. At that time, I was in the God Damned Christians. We went by GDX. I played bass in that band, Chuck on guitar. We played the HOP and Joe’s Garage quite a bit.

Blake Hestir: The Hallucinogenitals was my band. I thought of the name while in the shower one day. That was me, Joel Zoch (League of None, Jethro Tilton, Loop12) on drums and delay, Chad Redon (Jethro Tilton) on “treated” guitar, and this guy John Kersh on a Strat and souped-up Fender Twin. He used to play with baby dolls and dildos and eight distortion pedals. Ear splitting drum-bass-guitar a la Merzbow/Boris, but before Boris was born. Carl came to see our one show at the HOP. It’s amazing we weren’t arrested that night. The owner was pissed, though it was a full house, so he made plenty of money.

Terry Valderas: I had just moved back from the Northwest to Fort Worth in April 1996, and was living with Steve Bond. Steve and I had been in ESP together, playing psychedelic dirge-rock all over the Metroplex from 1985 to 1989. We played a lot of private warehouse parties, as well as the Hop and MC Club. We were also the first band to play the Axis Club, in February 1989. We broke up after several huge Axis gigs and I joined the Toadies, Robert Kramer joined Tabula Rasa, and the other two dropped out of music totally.


Michelle Richardson: We were in Austin, visiting friends, and went to Emo’s to see Tim Kerr and Ron from the Pocket Fishermen play in a punk cover band called Fist Fight. Chuck had wanted to form a band with Carl ever since he played the trashcan with Swap Jack. So, we came back to Fort Worth, pitched the idea and rounded up the original members.

Terry Valderas: It all started at Fred’s actually…seeing Michelle, Chuck, and Carl there. Fred's was the embodiment of the “greasy spoon” back then, with the same charming staff and regulars from the ’80s, and the same sparkly bar and seats. My uncle first took me there back in 1980 and it really didn't change that much until Terry and Jennifer [Chandler] took over ownership. Hell, I played my farewell gig there back in 1991, before I quit the Toadies and moved to Portland! I got back in town after five years, and Terry and Tommy [Broome] were still ruling the roost. I spent quite a few months closing down that bar and then playing volleyball out back on the sand court, where the patio is now located, for the entire summer, sometimes playing well into the early dawn with future Gideons and many other friends. That was an awesome summer! I got invited to play with some new configuration of GDX with Carl, Chuck, and Lathe Dauphinot, a friend of Carl’s who worked at Fred’s and played guitar.

Hardy Bennett: Terry Valderas had come in from [Portland], and Terry’s just an incredible drummer. Chuck was friends with Carl and I through the band scene. It was Chuck, Terry, Carl, Lathe, and myself. Lathe just kind of got in there because he was hanging out with us.

Terry Valderas: We first rehearsed at Carl’s place off Southwest Blvd. Their old drummer from GDX also lived there, but wanted no part.  

Michelle Richardson: Originally, the Gideons did only cover songs as I recollect.

Chuck Rose: The first gig was covers. Maybe one original. We played “Hate the Police” (Dicks), “Nervous Breakdown” (Black Flag), “Mongoloid” (Devo), “Beast le Brutal” (Didjits), “I Got A Right” (Iggy), “BBQ Pope” (Butthole Surfers), and maybe a few more. It was a short set.

Hardy Bennett: We didn’t do a whole lot of cover songs. Just to get the feel of each other, we went through a lot of stuff. Black Flag…just a lot of simple old punk stuff. Chuck had written some stuff, I’d written some stuff, and we started playing that. From the first time we played shows, it was pretty much all original. We did, maybe a Dwarves cover, I remember we did start doing a Shane McGowan cover of “Victoria.”

Chuck Rose: [The Gideons] never played “Victoria.” That was a band me and Hardy played in briefly with Cary Blackwell.

Terry Valderas: We were all into MC5, Pink Fairies, Thin Lizzy, Big Star, Black Flag. We wrote what became our repertoire for the next few years in the first five rehearsals. Mostly worked up ideas from Chuck, with words by Carl. I actually contributed a couple themes, like “Emptiness” and “Genetic Curse.” I originally stole the riff from a Steel Pole Bathtub song and inverted it, then switched it to odd time. Carl wrote the lyrics originally on a pizza box from Mama's. Chuck added the real chords.

Chuck Rose: “Automatic Prick” was about some asshole I used to work with who was full of himself. “F4X” was about a friend who had an experience with a Christian girl who said she’d sleep with him if he became a Christian. The rest of the lyrics were written by Carl or Terry.

Michelle Richardson: I was always at rehearsal. Many drunken Sundays at either our house on Hurley, later at Darryl’s house on Yucca. Basically, someone would bring in a riff or a beat or an idea and they’d just make it rock, as I recall. At Yucca, Hardy always brought those giant oilcans of Foster's beer. This is when I coined the phrase, “Hardy, Australian for alcoholic.” That was always good for a few yuks.

Like An English Drinking Club

Hardy Bennett: We never really planned on playing anywhere. We just got together to get drunk, to get high, and jam. It was an incredible experience for me to get a chance to play with Chuck and with Terry, because they’re just incredible musicians. Sometimes it was all I could do to keep up with them. But we really had no plan on ever being a real band. We were just musicians from different bands who’d gotten together to jam and to drink. Then the Wreck Room came along, and we thought, “Hey, why not? Let’s go do a few shows.” And it just kind of exploded from there.

Before that, they’d played a shambolic set on the sand volleyball court, after hours at Fred’s.

Michelle Richardson: The volleyball court show was a total fucking disaster. Terry ate fungus, no one could hear anyone else and I pitched a fit and took all of the money Fred’s paid the band. Yep, I was a real bitch that night. The flier for that show was great though. I think Betsy made it. It was Carl as Big Tex from the state fair. I prefer to forget that whole gig though.

Hardy Bennett: I do slightly remember that [volleyball court] show. We’d all taken a bunch of mushrooms, and had the hardest time playing that night. That thing kind of fell apart.

The Gideons played their first official show on December 26, 1996, at The Dog Star on Berry Street.

Hardy Bennett: I remember playing [at the Dog Star]. It was a little sloppy. We were just kind of cutting our teeth. We got to where we were doing so many shows that we didn’t really practice much in between shows, unless we had new music to work on.

Chuck Rose: The Dog Star show was a benefit that Ken Neal put together. I don’t think we played very well. There’s a video of it somewhere. Most of the songs were covers. We’d only just started playing a few weeks prior. The lineup was Carl, Terry, Hardy, me and Lathe. This lineup would only last two more shows. Mazinga Phaser played, Icicle and the Kid and I don’t remember who else. Ken was impressed with our turnout. I think Carl and Hardy got laid. Everybody got drunk.

Michelle Richardson: First Dog Star show is a blur. My mom and her roommate were there though. I remember it rocking and I think Wanz [Dover] from Mazinga Phaser and I set up a show in Denton that night. Unless there was a second Dog Star show that I’m forgetting. Tom Finn has the whole thing on VHS somewhere. I wish I had a copy.

Hardy Bennett: I don’t remember a whole lot of the time I was in the Gideons, because every show we did, I was pretty much in a blackout state. I had a severe alcohol problem. Fortunately, I’ve gotten help for that. I don’t drink anymore. It was a hard road. Back then, by the time I would go on to play, I would usually be in a blackout. I didn’t get to enjoy it until the next day, when I’d get to watch the video. The Finn brothers or Videophile would come out and tape us. I’d get up the next morning, Carl and I were roommates, and I’d be like, “We did a show last night, right?” And he’s like, “Yeah. You wanna watch?” And I’d watch and I’d go, “Yeah, I played pretty good in a blackout.”

Through 1997, the Gideons were regular visitors to the Impala on West Vickery.

Chuck Rose: The Impala was a cool place but we couldn’t draw there as well as [at] the Wreck. It was a bad part of town that nobody wanted to go to. Kelly Parker was the owner, he booked us a lot.

Michelle Richardson: Impala shows were somewhat torturous. Poorly attended by Gideons fans, disrespectful closing acts. But it was nice to shoot the shit with Kelly. I liked the Impala but the Gideons never seemed to quite fit in there. Of course, I may have forgotten a show or two where they went over well.

Hardy Bennett: The Impala was dingy. Small stage. The crowds usually weren’t too big. I remember a time when, before the Wreck Room, the Impala was a pretty big place to play.

The Gideons played their first Wreck Room show on June 28, 1997 (the author’s 40th birthday; too bad I wasn’t there). There exists some contention regarding who was the first band to play at the Wreck: the Gideons or Hasslehorse.

Chuck Rose: Hasslehorse might have been the first band before this gig. But even though their name is on this flyer, they didn’t show up. We ended up sharing the bill with a boxing match.

Hardy Bennett: Our main venue was the Wreck Room. We were almost like a house band there.

Michelle Richardson: Wreck Room shows were always a blast, for the most part. Tommy Broome would always destroy a metal chair, all of our friends showed up. The Wreck Room was home to the Gideons.

Chuck Rose: The Wreck Room shows with Terry in the band were pretty good. We usually drew a pretty good crowd and played well. The Wreck Room was sort of a scene within itself. I went there a lot even when we weren’t playing there.

Parasite Won

Hardy Bennett: When Darryl Wood joined the band, that added a whole new persona. The music changed. Darryl was like a machine. His logic and his rhythm and his thinking is so different from anything I’ve ever encountered. He was a good, strong rhythm guitar player. He had a real flair.

Michelle Richardson: Terry was lured away by Parasite Lost. He was working long hours, playing in two bands and chose the one with the hot, female lead singer. Plus, he was living with Darryl, so he couldn’t choose the Gideons over Parasite Lost and perhaps didn’t want to. Needless to say, I was extremely pissed at Terry for a great while.

Hardy Bennett: Terry and Darryl were living together at Darryl’s Yucca house, and Terry was playing with us, so somehow, Darryl just kind of fell into the band. He said, “Hey, I’ve got a couple of songs,” and he played ’em for us, and we loved ’em. He was with us a few months, then they formed Parasite Lost, and we lost both of ’em. We picked up another drummer who I really didn’t care that much for, and started doing shows with them. 

Terry Valderas: December 6, 1997. The Lounge on Magnolia. It’s in my diary. Damn psychedelics and playing! I yelled at everyone and quit. Too much stress being a manager at a work, and playing in two bands, plus being young and irresponsible. Jerry Howeth replaced me.

Hardy Bennett: We’d been together for six or eight months and [Terry] decided he wanted to go off on some side projects. The Gideons just weren’t the right venue for him. He didn’t listen to the same kind of music we did. He’s got a very diverse flavor for music, but he really wasn’t into the punk scene, the underground, alternative, [Butthole] Surfers and bands like that. I wish he’d never quit, because we weren’t as good after we lost him. We picked up another drummer, but he didn’t know anything about the style of music we were playing, so all he could do was kind of fill in and try to keep up with us. I don’t know where we found him. He just came in out of the blue. We didn’t audition anybody. I think we had a show to do, and he said he was a studio drummer and could just come in and play anything. But our music was a little…off. We weren’t really playing punk, we weren’t playing metal. Carl described it as “big ugly music,” and that kind of stuck, because that’s what it was. It didn’t have a real genre.

Chuck Rose: When Terry quit, we went back to being a four piece. Jerry Howeth was a fine drummer, but his style was a funk-jammy thing that me and Hardy never thought fit us well. We recorded “Stepdad” with Jerry at his friend’s studio, played more shows at the Wreck and then eventually broke up. Losing Terry was a big blow, but I didn’t blame him for leaving. We remained good friends.

Michelle Richardson: The band was never the same without Terry. I couldn't stand Jerry, so I kind of lost interest in their future.


In March 1998, the Gideons were voted best metal band for 1997 in the Fort Worth Weekly music awards, defeating local corporate metal favorites Pantera.

Michelle Richardson: Winning “best metal band” had no impact that I can tell outside of a nice stroke to the boys’ egos. I felt like they deserved it because at that point, Pantera was a national act, not a local one. They were a local act when I was in high school and they played songs like “Pussy Tight, Tonight” at Joe’s Garage. Let’s just say that it didn’t land [the Gideons] any attention from record execs or anything worth mentioning, really.

Hardy Bennett: We won the Fort Worth Weekly music awards in ’98, and we got together the next morning at Benito’s: Carl, Chuck, me, and I don’t remember who else was there. We had the award in front of us and we’re sitting there, it’s probably 11 o’clock on a Sunday morning, and we’re taking shots of tequila. And we’re like, “OK, we won the award. Now what?” Chuck said, “I think we should break up the band.” And that’s when the first break-up was. That’s when I left the band. Shortly after that, I started frequenting treatment centers.

Michelle Richardson: Honestly, I can't remember the circumstances surrounding Hardy’s departure. He was in really bad shape all of those years as far as the booze was concerned. All of us were. I’m sure there was an argument of some sort. Or maybe it was that the drummer after Terry was a total innard. I really don't know. Those were some very drunken times. Anything could have happened.

Chuck Rose: Hardy never left. The band broke up. When we started doing reunion shows, me and Terry were playing with Blake. I don’t know where Hardy was or [what he was] doing around that time. We lost touch during that period.


Michelle Richardson: When Blake moved back from Florida, he, Chuck and Terry formed Hot Piece Cousin -- a great little band but with limited appeal, it would seem. Then, I think Blake just kind of became the Gideons’ next bass player. The Gideons were strictly doing reunions at that point.

Blake Hestir: I joined the band in 2000, I think. When I moved back to Fort Worth in ’98, I started hanging around with Chuck and Michelle, which quickly resulted in a lot of weekend nights burned over drinking beer and talking music. At some point, Chuck suggested he, Terry, and I form a band, Hot Piece Cousin. I had known Terry for a long time, certainly since the ESP days. He’s a fabulous drummer. Pure talent. Wild man. And I knew Chuck from the Dallas and Fort Worth punk scenes, and recording Anonymous Dog back when we were the more-or-less house band at Kelly Parker’s original Axis. [As the Gideons], we recorded a CD and played a few Fred’s Fests and so forth.

Chuck Rose: The recordings were done at my house on an 8 track Fostex reel to reel.

Michelle Richardson: I don't really remember what happened in the following years. Just that the band kind of fell apart. I think Chuck quit. He quit frequently thought or at least talked about it. Later, when Terry came into town from Tulsa, they’d get together and cobble together a few great shows.

Blake Hestir: Somewhere along the way, Terry, Chuck, and Carl got the idea of resuscitating the Gideons, so they asked me to play bass. I think Hardy had declined. I never saw the original lineup, but GDX used to play with Jethro Tilton back in the early ‘90s at Joe’s Garage. And I knew Carl from the early days of the [Butthole] Surfers in Dallas and all that scene. At our first or second show – the one at Fred’s – Carl twisted his knee in the second or third song. He plowed along, rolling around on stage screaming despite the pain for another 40 minutes or so. He’s hard. At another whacked show at Fred’s, I broke a bass string in the middle of “Hey Mister.” Terry and Chuck never stopped. I ripped off the string, grabbed an old one out of my case, and had it on and “sort of” tuned by the end of the song.

Michelle Richardson: At one point, they roped Blake’s ex-[philosophy] student, Scott Feille – brilliant drummer -- into rehearsing and playing a show.

Blake Hestir: After Terry left, Carl and Chuck wanted to play a few more shows. So, we called up our friend Scott. Great local drummer. Another overlooked Fort Worth talent. He’s one of those drummers who can channel the really dark tribal world of the subconscious. He hits toms and archetypes spill out all over the place looking to dance. Scott fit the Gideons sound perfectly.

Scott Feille: The show we played at the Wreck Room that got the Gideons nominated in the Weekly again was one of the best shows I’ve ever played. I think the Gideons are the best band I’ve seen from Fort Worth. We played with them at the Impala and other places when I was in Suntouched and I thought they were kick-ass, then I lucked out and happened to be playing in a band with Chuck and Blake when Carl’s birthday rolled around and they decided to do a little reunion. “Genetic Curse” is my favorite song. We were playing it and Carl was jumping up and down screaming at me, which made me play even harder than I was already playing. Then he’s humping the monitor and such. My first band with a singer and it got me so riled up.

Michelle Richardson: The last gig at the Wreck Room was played with Lee [Allen on bass] because I think Blake was out of town or otherwise occupied. Of course, the last show was phenomenal and well attended, not because of the Gideons but because everyone was mourning. I remember going to 7 Eleven and buying a 12 pack because the line at the bar was so long. I passed [Wreck Room owner Brian] Forella on my way back in, apologized and handed him a Bud Light. [The Gideons] played Lola’s at some point after that and now, they just get together when the stars are properly aligned.

Blake Hestir: The last gig I played with the Gideons was at Lola’s. Terry came into town, and we all got together to practice down in the sweaty fallout shelter 15 feet under Chuck and Michelle’s house over on the east side. Lola’s was a twisted show. The crowd had the sort of maniacal look that people get when they are doing something they know is very wrong and they’re really enjoying it. There was an edge to the scene. The show opened with Carl pitching out behind a church pulpit and ripping up the Bible. Place erupted. Lee Allen and I did this crazy double bass thing. He danced all around the notes at the top and middle of the scale. I basically worked the low-end riffs. I was having trouble standing up because the stage kept lurching to the left.

Michelle Richardson: Chuck always kept his pedals on top of his amp for fear that Carl’s massive foot would crush them.


Hardy Bennett: It was such an honor and a privilege to get to play with those guys, because Chuck and Terry and Darryl were such incredible musicians. I just provided a fast, hard-driving rhythm. It was exciting playing with the Gideons. It was free form. We had our songs, but we might not play them the same way twice. Terry Valderas would change up the drumbeats. We could be halfway through a song, and he’d go into a reggae beat, and we’d all follow behind him. It was like the X Games of music -- very experimental.

Blake Hestir: Playing with these guys has been a spectacular, humbling experience. It’s exactly the sort of balls to the wall, no sniveling rock music I like. It’s not exactly punk. And not exactly hard rock. It’s not angry or introspective nonsense. It’s like the art of a train wreck that never quite collapses into disaster. Who aspires to disaster? These guys mean it.

Terry Valderas: Getting to play with Chuck was a dream for me really. Easily one of my favorite DFW guitar players from that era. He’s still a hero of mine!

Blake Hestir: I really liked the kind of sound Chuck and Terry could generate. Very full. Aggressive. Propulsive. They liked to rock. Chuck has this genius sense of feedback and can transition between rhythm and solos without losing the fullness of the sound. He’s a great songwriter, too. I think he’s woefully overlooked as a songwriter – mainly because he’s too damn modest!

Hardy Bennett: I feel that if the Gideons had stayed together in their original form, we wouldn’t be around anymore anyway. Somebody would be dead. Probably me. I had to quit the entire music scene. I had been in it for so many years, and it was what I loved, but in order for me to get my life together, I quit playing for ten years. I was in Snake Wagon [with Chuck and Carey Blackwell] for a little while, but I was useless, I was worthless. I basically told those guys, “I can’t do this anymore. I’ve got to go and get some help.” I avoided those people. I finally got ’em all back as friends on Facebook, but I rarely see ’em. Now I’m actually retired. I do a lot of volunteer work. I’m a peer support for MHMR, helping clients. I’m getting into a lot of different volunteer work now. I have all the resources. People helped me, so now I’m helping people.


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