A Glimpse Into Waco's Punk Rock Past with Kris Hunter & John Watson

 
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Seemingly in the middle of nowhere but deep in the heart of Waco in an undisclosed storage room, we met with Kris Hunter and John Watson. Both have been a part of the Waco Punk scene for the better part of 20 years. They made up the band formally known as ‘The Faction’ (formed in 2001) which they have recently revived as “After the Fact.’

After meeting these guys at a punk rock show at The Legion and hearing about the history of this space, we knew we wanted to sit down with them an learn more about it.

Kris:
Well first, before you even get through the door, you can see the little Waco Co-op sticker. Back in the day, this was pretty much what you guys are doing now. They worked really close with Mission Waco, put on a lot of good shows at the Jubilee Theater, and everything. A lot of the older bands before my time started The Waco Co-op.

John:
You see the box of Texas Casket Company CDs there?
That came from the drummer for the Hypocrites. Goes back to like '95, '96, somewhere around there.

John points out a kickdrum along with other various drum equipment stacked in a crawl space above the practice room.

KWL:
So now we're inside the space. Looks like a lot of history in this carpet.

Kris:
There is a lot of history in this carpet. And on the walls and everything. There's a lot of stuff that goes back pretty far. The Marshall amp there, that was used by Jared Hempstedt of the ‘American Culture Experiments’. Let's see, even this amp, the Crate amp, used to be used by a band called ‘The Space Cops’. And that was one of my brother's bands back in the day. I think they broke up in 2015.

This amp here was the bass amp for ‘NPR’. This is our drummer's drum set. He was in a grind-core band called ‘Sick Culture’. They didn't really play Waco much. They played Belton and Temple a lot. And every ‘ADD’ album was mixed on that computer as well.

KWL:
That's incredible. Just so much going on here. So, this space has been here for how long?

Kris:
For about 20 years. The first time I ever came here, our old drummer was sitting in with ‘ADD’ and they didn't even have all the soundproofing up on the walls yet. And obviously, there was barely anything in here because there was only two bands practicing at the time, and both those bands shared equipment, so there was a whole lot more room.

That and the little whiteboard here. So, this, there was a band called ‘Grail’ that practiced here, and they had their set list up here and then made a note saying, "Hey, whoever's jamming in here, you're free to use the double pedal." This right here is the wife of the front man of ‘ADD’, ‘The Hypocrite’s, and ‘Angels of Mercy’. I have no idea who wrote that, but I know this board has remained unchanged since at least 2015.

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KWL:
That's beautiful.

Kris:
Oh, I have to open up the bass case.

KWL:
It'd be rude if you didn't do that.

Kris:
That bass and that guitar have been a part of this thing for 17 years.

 
 
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Kris:
It's gotten a lot of play over the years. And that’s the ‘ATF’ [After the Fact] song book that you're not allowed to look at yet.

KWL:
Top Secret! So, this space though, is the only practice space? Or were there other spaces where other bands were practicing?

Kris:
I mean other bands have had other practice spaces before, but as far as catering to the music community as much, this space definitely takes the cake.

John:
We all have our private locations, and this is one that you can pitch in on and share with multiple bands. There's at least, there's still two practicing here now. Us and another band practice here.

Kris:
Yeah, at any given time I think the most that ever practiced here at once were like three bands, but it's interchangeable. I mean when it first opened it was ‘The American Culture Experiment’. They were practicing here, and then when ‘The Hypocrites’ changed to ‘ADD’, they were practicing here. Sometimes not just bands though. Some people who are involved in the music scene sometimes store equipment here or just come out here for little jam sessions. I came out here one night and I was with the drummer for ‘The Space Cops’, the bass player for ‘NPR’, and some other guy who I can't remember. We had a funk jam session, for like an hour, just playing funk. It was a lot of fun.

KWL:
I love that.


Kris:
So there's this big debate between our drummer and ADD's drummer, one of their early guitarists-

John:
Our former drummer Aaron.

Kris:
About pretty much who started punk. And Rob was talking about ‘The Ramones’, and Rob was always a very, very avid ‘Ramones’ fan. I think that's about all he listened to for like 2 years. But Aaron being the avid debater-

John:
Oh yeah, Aaron likes to debate (laughs).
Even if he knows he's wrong, he's still going to make a point.

Kris:
Yeah, and I think he was saying something about ‘The Stooges’, and then there was this whole thing about "Oh, they're not punk, they're like proto-punk" and you know, it was one of those classic "We're so punk rock we have debates about punk rock".

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KWL:
I love it. Well what do you guys think about the current music scene in Waco?

Kris:
I was really hoping not to get this question because I'm too critical.

John:
We're at a good point. We've got a few bands that have a lot of potential. We just now of course we need a new place to start putting on bigger and better shows. Pick up the frequency a little bit and make it a little more diverse.

Kris:
One of the conversations that I seem to be having a lot is the generation gap. And you have guys like us who have been doing this since '98. We started going to shows in '96, and we came from an era that was the wild west.

John:
We were getting called out and beat up by regular people just because you looked weird going out.

We got yelled at everywhere we went, we got rocks thrown at us, spit on- Quite a few of us are actually Christians, and we'd go to church, and because we had a mohawk and patches everywhere, we'd get kicked out of churches just because we had an odd appearance. Now it's openly accepted and everything is accessible right now.

Kris:
Waco was kind of this little hub for a little while, but it was also kind of unknown. I mean when we would bring in bands from Dallas or Austin or San Antonio, they'd be like "We had no idea.” I think there are a lot of really good bands in Waco right now that have really good sound, really good talent and everything.

We come from an era where people were doing back flips off drum sets and literally climbing on the speakers and diving into the crowd and you know. Just crazy, crazy stuff, and I mean bands that wore makeup, bands that dressed in drag, bands that you know, dressed up as monsters, and you know. You never knew what you were going to get. You really didn't.

KWL:
Amazing.

Kris:
The band ‘Well Inside Out’ would do this thing that was like a “story time.” That was like a Waco staple where they would stop the show and be like "Okay guys, it's story time." Jason [From ‘Well Inside Out’] would tell some dumb story that happened during his week and whatnot, and then they would start a song. Well, everybody was sitting down when they start this high-energy song and it all goes crazy on the floor. You know? Oh, and then there was punk rock musical chairs, and that would get pretty violent sometimes. I mean, I've seen chairs fly across the room. Because I mean, same premise, you're still doing musical chairs, but when someone removes that chair, they're not paying attention and it just goes. You know?

KWL:
Oh wow, that sounds interesting.

Kris:
And then even us, ‘The Faction,’ you know, it was like shock value. We'd turn off all the lights and we'd have black-lights. We had candles around the drum set and the upside down UN flag. During the set we would throw the flag out in the crowd and they would circle pit around it and stomp all over it. It was very punk rock.

KWL:
That is very punk rock.

Kris:
Right? And that's, I know it's a different generation, you know the music is a little different and everything, and I'm not saying you know “hey you have do a back flip off of the mains” but there does seem to be this lack of energy-

John:
It's a loss of the performance art in it.

Video of The Faction performing in November 2001

Kris:
Yeah and I hope to see bands like ‘Rewound’ inspire other bands. I mean, even when ‘Dead Horse Creek’ played a few weeks ago. They're from Dallas but their singer lives here. I mean they're dressed up as cowboys-

KWL:
I did see their outfits. They were pretty intense. I liked their vibe.

Kris:
Yeah exactly! The energy that was going into that performance was awesome.

John:
And all their songs are in a specific order and they're telling a story.

They're actually trying to get funding to release the book, because the drummer actually wrote a book off of their first album. So, they complete the performance and it's all connected. They have a book about it, they tell a story going from front to back of the Bloody Higgins Boys. That's their outlaw gang.

Kris:
Yeah, it's pretty cool and that's what I wasn’t to see more of. I want to see a lot more energy. I mean, I came from a little era where all the bands were the same. 90s pop punk was the thing, except for ‘ADD’ and ‘The Culture Experiment’.

John:
But they were there before and are still around.

Kris:
Right. Yeah, they were older. And then around 2001 bands just started kind of coming in on their own and being like, going from pop punk to street punk, ‘Well Inside Out’ went from pop punk to very heavy and experimental punk rock.

Then there were bands like ‘Dorks For Hire’ that were kind of your traditional early 2000s ‘New Found Glory’ style stuff. And there was like ‘Release the Controls.’ I wouldn't even consider them punk, but they were more on the metal side, but they played all the punk rock shows, and they were probably the heaviest band going on at the time, and I think one of the best shows I ever went to with them. There used to be these old Baylor dorms that are torn down. Well they told the residents "Hey, we're tearing them down"-

John:
You know where the parking garage is, right off University Parks? That and the building behind it, they all were going to be torn down. So on the final week, our two friends, ‘Mark Needs A Chick’ and ‘Release Controls’—

Kris:
They lived next door to it.

John:
They didn't live next to it, but some of the girls that came out lived next door to Mark, so they set up the show in Mark's house and—

Allen Wallace (Release the Controls) at Baylor Landing. Photo courtesy of Mark Ellis.

Allen Wallace (Release the Controls) at Baylor Landing. Photo courtesy of Mark Ellis.

Kris:
They punched a hole in the wall!

John:
They busted a hole in the kitchen wall to run all the cords through to the other apartment, and we had a punk rock show in the other apartment—

Kris:
And spray painted the walls! There's a, I think there's a picture of that.

John:
I believe I know which one you're talking about.

Kris:
Yeah. And I mean, yeah they tagged the walls, punched a hole in the wall.

KWL:
What year was it?

John:
That was about 2002. It's a really fun memory.

Kris:
Yeah for sure.
I think the real decline of my generation's scene came in 2005, and it was just there were so many bands and so many promoters and there was no way to operate without there being some sort of political thing.

John:
There was a lot of in-fighting.

Kris:
And yeah there was a lot of in-fighting that ended up going on. I don't think that is the only reason that that scene waned. I think the younger generation was into the post-hardcore and screamo stuff. Art Ambush [A now closed venue in Waco] was putting on huge shows. ‘Art Ambush’ was the venue. I mean they were getting crowds of 800+. They were bringing in bands like ‘Underoath’and ‘Flyleaf’ you know? It was kind of weird when they [Flyleaf] got famous. It was like, "What?"

Yeah, so, I mean, Waco has always been a tightly knit group when it comes to the music scene and everything. I mean, we always find each other.

 
Katherine Selman