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Hell hath no fury like Austin's psychobilly sideshow, the Flametrick Subs.

By Lisa Garrett

JULY 13, 1998:  If Hell's Roadhouse auditioned for a new house band, the Flametrick Subs would fit the bill.

Enter Buster Crash. Stepping up to the antique mic, the tattooed, slick-haired vocalist with the Texas twang, sounds and looks like a Lux Interior (of Cramps fame)/Johnny Cash hybrid. He's followed by Clem Hoot, with red hair and Telecaster flaming, picking the highs and lows, providing an odd phrase and the occasional noisy backup. Supplying the "big bad bass" beat is Peggy Suicide. Sporting another greaser coif, she smoothly controls her upright, standing on a chair and slappin' when need be, thumping out the rhythm. Backing up the pandemonium is stand-up skinsman, Johnny Cat who instantaneously evolves from aloof tapper to psychotic pounder.

This is what happens when you transplant someone from Norway to Texas, especially if the place he winds up happens to be Waco, and the Norwegian is a guitar-playing, music-loving Texan at heart. Once a mild-mannered student at Baylor, Clem Hoot met up with another foreigner, Buster Crash (born in Miami), and all hell broke loose.

"Living in Waco can do a lot of funky things to a man's mind," Hoot says. "There's a lot of inspiration in Waco."

One has to wonder what Waco influences sparked the Flametrick Subs' obtuse moniker. According to Hoot, the answer to "the forbidden question" is amorphous. Today, it has something to do with the Beatles' yellow submarine painted black with a fiery detailed bow. Listening to the Subs' lyrics on "Alien Death Ray" and "Cattlewash" reveals no custom U-boats, but the Waco factor, or maybe just their obsession with cows, comes through.

The real revelations emerge during the Subs' notorious live performance. This is in part due to the band's on-road rah-rah squad - the infamous Satan's Cheerleaders. Flashes of vinyl, piercings and tattoos accent the stage on two, sometimes four, women who dance the diabolical cheer, choreographed with props and the occasional scream. "It's not every show that they are there," Hoot says. "But most shows they are, and it's always fun to have them, they add a lot."

Starting out as friends and fans, Squad 666 became the most requested part of the Flametrick experience by inventing their own part go-go dancing, part back-up singing routine. Dressed in black (or white) vinyl with fishnet stockings and Docs they often bring in new audiences if they are not already working the crowd into a frenzy.

But the Subs' music stands on its own, with or without the on-stage escapades. From pre- and post-beer drinking songs to the fastest known cover of "Folsom Prison Blues" to Crash's banter about doing time in Waco, the band's many influences create a frantic toe-tappin', glass-liftin' schemozzle. Some sources of inspiration (like Cash and Cramps) are obvious thanks to Crash, who writes most of the lyrics, while others are less known, such as glam-rocker Gary Glitter (thanks to the been-round-the-block Johnny Cat). The Flametrick Subs' unique rumpus made it easy for the band to jump right into playing originals, and a snap to score a regular Saturday night gig at Austin's Black Cat Lounge since 1994.

Last year the Subs recorded their first cd, Amaze Your Friends With X-Ray Glasses (Teen Rebel), an introduction to their weird world with songs like "Creepy Dead Folk" and "Life Sucking Voodoo Women." Still, nothing beats a live show. So much energy is collectively expended it makes the creepy live folk do the "stumble and the limp and the jitterbug." The cheers of the crowd have been heard, so their new cd, Undead at the Black Cat Lounge (Texas Flat Lizard) was recorded live and will be released next month. To test the waters, the Subs are having Last Call Records, a French label, distribute it to Europe and Japan. "It's a good deal because if it sells well, a tour support is in order," Hoot says. "We know it's going to do well because it's a true representation of us - what we play live."

If that's the case, the Flametrick Subs will have no problem - except maybe getting the flame-licked black "hot-rod submarine" across the Pacific.


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