Talking about a recent interview he did for an Italian mag, Counter Intuits vocalist Ron House relates with a laugh how the writer finally flat out asked him, "You guys really don't want to be famous, do you?" That right there is one crucial reason why Ron House is one of the last sane men of the '90s alt-rock boom. With the hotly tipped Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments, House and his Ohio comrades seemed poised to hit the big time – even signing to Rick Rubin's American Recordings in 1995 – but it all fell apart, which House summarizes with pitch-black humor: "I've been in a business where I've known how to fail for a long time!" But he didn't succumb to bitterness, he kept making music; increasingly creative and weird music, at that. Most promising is his new project with Jared Phillips, former guitarist in Times New Viking, the grimy postpunk outfit Counter Intuits. Over two albums of insane, lo-fi guitar clatter, House is quickly becoming the American Mark E. Smith, a compelling performer who scatters sarcastic-as-fuck one-liners like mines throughout every song. A lot of people say they're doing music just for themselves, and it's bullshit. But with Ron House I almost believe it. Counter Intuits headline the already-stacked Saturday night of this year's Total Punk Total Fuck Off Weekend.
Orlando Weekly: Surely one of your bands must have played Florida before?
Ron House: I have not played Florida. I'm not exactly a road warrior! I saw New Bomb Turks play there in St. Pete when I was on vacation years ago; that was fun.
Are you staying for the whole weekend?
No, the Slave Apartments are playing Thursday night at this festival in Southern Ohio. So I've got to play with them and then drive to Florida to get down to this. I'd love to stay for a few days after, but my daughter has tooth surgery on Tuesday, so I kind of have to do that. It's a drag, but ... it's one of those things she'll remember, you know? My dad wasn't there for my dental surgery!
How did you and Jared link up initially?
I've known Jared for years, even before he was in Times New Viking – he used to come in the record store where I worked. When Times New Viking was breaking up, the guitarist in one of my old bands, Psandwich, moved to Austin. So my drummer in Psandwich asked Jared if he'd play with us and Jared said yes, which totally shocked me.
Then Jared gave me a tape of stuff he'd been working on, and I said, "Y'know, we really don't need Psandwich because with these demos we can just put my vocals over them and release it as a record." That's pretty much what we did for the first Counter Intuits record, which came out in 2013. I was just thrilled to get a chance to work with him. I feel very cool about it!
Do people who come out to shows approach Counter Intuits as a blank slate? Or is it always, "Ron House of ..."
I think people do approach it as a blank slate. I think people know what I've been in before but ... I think this is better than what I've done before. I feel more confident right now. And also, a lot of the bullshit I used to worry about, I don't worry about now. I turned 60 years old this year and it's just time to put up or shut up. In Decline of Western Civilization there's a part where Alice Bag is singing and she's just so fucking intense, and I want to be that intensity.
What's some of the bullshit you've gotten over?
Whether people like me or not. Or like, why did so many of my favorite bands open up for me and go on to greater things? Stuff like that.
Are you ready for the Florida heat?
It'll be fun! I'll bring shorts! I'll wear a swimsuit onstage!