R.I.P. Howard Rix
“The Scramblers gave me hope that something was going to come out of this town that wasn’t a photocopy of either the Los Angeles or Seattle music scenes.”
The last time I saw Howard Rix perform with The Scramblers was at a one-off gig for local punk rock drummer Randy Bowman’s 50th birthday back in 2005. That night truly kicked ass because it was the last hurrah for one of the few bands that looked like they were going to escape the vortex of the Vancouver music scene, but unfortunately that did not happen.
Back in the early 90s when I was starting out in my first band seeing the Scramblers gave me hope that something was going to come out of this town that wasn’t a photocopy of either the Los Angeles or Seattle music scenes. When glam rock faded, a lot of Vancouver bands took off their makeup and frilly lace ensembles, donned Mack jackets and Doc Martens and started wailing on about the darker side of life. The Scramblers were having none of that.
They were a mix of the rock and roll DNA from several Vancouver punk bands. The result was a one-of-a-kind hard rock SWAT team that made you hesitant to shake the test tube too much lest you upset the balance of the rock and roll inside. Anyone who had the pleasure of watching Howard hold court at the microphone knows that he was one of the best front men to come out of this town.
On a personal level, I finally met Howard after the dissolution of the Scramblers circa 1993 when my band The Starboys put an ad in the back of the Georgia Straight looking for a singer. At the time we had two different ads in the Straight. One ad said what we were looking for in a singer. The second ad was just cocky rock and roll bullshit on my part that said “Good riddance Scramblers and DOA.” This was when DOA had broken up for the first of numerous times. I was just being a rock and roll prick trying to goose Vancouver out of its complacency. A few days after putting up the ad we walked into our jam space and checked the messages on the answering machine. The first was from Howard who had seen out first want ad and left his phone number. The second message was also from him. He gave a snarky response to my “good riddance to DOA” ad and you could tell he was none too happy.
I called him back and explained my rock’n’roll snottery and he agreed to come down and jam with us. I remember that he showed up wearing a “Fuck Expo 86” t-shirt. We talked a bit about what had gone wrong with the Scramblers before jamming with him on the Stooges classic “I Wanna Be Your Dog” and a few others.
After that I’d occasionally run into him at something like the Railway Club’s “Rockabillly Jam,” but it wasn’t until a 2013 gig at the Wise Hall that I was reminded of what a kick ass frontman he was when he played with his band at the time, The Trespassers. It’s too bad it had to end this way.
Howard’s unfortunate passing is being attributed to an asthma-induced heart attack that led to his falling into a coma from which he did not recover.
I’m having a beer and toasting his passing and I advise you to do the same.
By Cosmic Debris