Don't Mess With Texas
Austin and Los Angeles have already faced the raw power of Texas Terri Laird and her punk- damaged band, the Stiff Ones. Now it's Portland's turn to feel the force.
BY JOHN GRAHAM
Texas Terri and
the Stiff Ones, The Weaklings, The Spitfires, New Wave
At last, all the lunch-counter critics, academic analysts and retro-punk Fonzies can put the issue of rock's vitality status to rest. When it comes to the Big Question--whether the "three chords, six strings and 12 bars" formula should finally be retired in these waning days of the millennium--a categorical pronouncement has come down from on high: "Rock's not dead...you are."
OK, so the voice doesn't belong to God, but to a tempestuous redhead named Texas Terri Laird, and she's calling from Los Angeles, maybe the farthest place from heaven known to man. Yet even if it's just one person's opinion, she's got a point: No matter how old the rock-and-roll recipe gets, there are always moments and musicians with enough simmering volatility to remind you that you're still alive--things that can jolt a depleted heart into beating again.
Exhibit A: Texas Terri. Raised in the hip provincial burg of Austin, she ran with punk bands like the Dicks, Big Boys and Stains and indulged her wild side at an early age. ("I got kicked out of every club except one...I guess I had too much fun," she says.) In '83, seeking a city more her speed, she moved to L.A. and made her name fronting bands like the Killer Crows in the late '80s and Baby Bird in the early '90s.
Exhibit B: The Stiff Ones, Terri's latest addiction. Cemented by enduring guitarist Don "Demon Boy" Cilurso, and rounded out by the rhythm battery of drummer James Miller and bassist Terry "T-Rae" Love, they're frequently cited as one of Hollywood's most vital live acts.
Exhibit C: Eat Shit!, Texas Terri and the Stiff Ones' derisive debut platter, an aural eruption of Terri's spiteful, spitting vocals and punk-spawned, street-smart guitars. The music's search-and-destroy temperament, combined with Terri's vigorous onstage persona, leads many to paint her as the long-awaited female answer to Iggy Pop--a description Terri finds flattering but misleading.
"I think they're talking about the spirit of Iggy," she says in a leisurely Texas drawl. "You know, just to be yourself and let the energy run."
Energy is something that pours from Terri like the water she often dumps on her head while singing. Like a henna-haired hurricane, she's spun through her uninhibited existence with a certain, shall we say, lust for life.
"Oh, I did plenty of drugs and alcohol. I stopped because I was becoming too obnoxious for even my best friends," says Terri. She explains that her mates would invariably have to pull her off the barroom floor at night's end, put her clothes back on and drive her home, only to have Terri remember nothing of the mess the next day. But, she jokes, "I'm wild enough without the drugs and alcohol...and the good thing about not being drunk is I can stop.
"Or," she snickers mischievously, "I can egg on other people to get in trouble for my entertainment."
One gets the impression that "shy" was never a word used to describe the young Miss Laird. Even without the boost of booze, Terri has no aversion to removing any or all of her clothing while onstage. However, her barechested performances are neither a conscious political statement about gender roles ("All the feminists love me, but I could give a rat's ass," she declares), nor a lewd ploy for sexual attention.
"I don't take off my shirt to show my tits," she tells me. "I get hot up there and like to pour water on myself, and especially when you're on the road, the less clothes you get wet, the better off you are."
When I point out that no one gasps if, say, Henry Rollins strips to his skivvies, she laughs and adds, "And Iggy comes onstage and he's already got his shirt off."
Terri's tattooed, angular body is an atlas of the rough path she's sometimes taken. From being a brazen young punk to becoming the tough rocker she is today, it's obvious that she's seen her share of worry and strife. The Stiff Ones act as exorcists, blasting away angry demons. By singing herself hoarse about a black past or a bleak future, Terri reaffirms her will to survive with muscular conviction.
"There are probably always gonna be things that bother me, and I know there are always gonna be things that bother Demon Boy," she says. "But I've told him in the last couple of months, 'Y'know what? I think I've suffered enough.' I don't believe you have to suffer to create anymore."
Her hard-knock life leaves her ready to outlast anything--even, she says, Portland's infamously grim weather.
"I can handle that," Terri says,
"seeing how I don't care about my hairdo. It's just
gonna get wet anyway."
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