When you write about music for a living, your personal and professional lives often blur, forcing you to draw some difficult lines when it comes to which projects you cover and how. It’s not just a matter of journalistic ethics; it’s also a practical concern. The gig is to be as objective as possible, and you can’t be completely objective about an album made by, say, a close pal with whom you’ve collaborated on musical and media endeavors, who’s charmed the hell out of your mom, and who’s trusted you to babysit his kid.
So I’m not going to write much about Murder House, the 2019 debut full-length by Chicago trio Mexican Werewolf, though I’ve been listening to it a lot. I’m just going to share it, in case you also enjoy ridiculously fun Motorhead- and Misfits-inspired horror-movie rock ‘n’ roll. I’d hoped to have the chance post-COVID-19 to catch the band tearing through these songs at a local club.
But I am going to write about my friend Rick Linus, Mexican Werewolf’s vocalist and guitarist, who unexpectedly passed away this month. I met him a year or two before he launched the band in 2012 with his childhood buddies Nick Wright (bass) and Andrew Raucher (drums), and we quickly bonded over our shared musical obsessions. I’d been going through a rough patch in my personal life, but Rick always made me feel like family and gave me plenty of reasons to smile. It didn’t take long to realize he had that effect on practically everyone. Because I’d already spent years working in an industry where you can’t take openness and sincerity for granted, I found his genuine nature refreshing.
Rick matched his love of people with his unbridled enthusiasm for music and art, and that combination made him a mainstay in the local metal and hardcore scene for more than 20 years. He worked in various capacities in radio, merch fulfillment, design, and events (remember ManBQue?), as well as at record labels (specifically Sony and Victory). He helped run a booking and promotion collective called Unholy Empire, and when our paths first crossed it was in full force–its “Unholy Friday” shows at Cobra Lounge were the best heavy-music weekly in town. Among his other duties, Rick spun records in the perchlike booth overlooking Cobra’s front bar. If he saw you come in, he’d light up with a big smile, and by the end of the night he’d probably blast a tune he knew you loved. (Thanks for all the Disfear!)
When people describe indie venues as the heart of a community, it’s because local music champions like Rick help make them that way. And that spirit doesn’t depend on whether there are bands onstage–as long as people are bonding through music in a shared space, the attraction can be a DJ set, a gear swap, a fundraiser, a record sale, or just the good company. Rick definitely understood that. When he started a family in the mid-2010s, he transferred his nightlife skills into his wedding DJ business, Ten Twelve Entertainment, and continued to work with underground bands as cofounder of apparel company First Rodeo.
Rick’s family, bandmates, and the seemingly infinite number of people who considered him part of their inner circles would agree that music was just one side of him (and this story is just a small snapshot of that). But listening to Murder House reminds me that my life is better for having known Rick. Chicago’s heavy-music world was tremendously enriched by his presence and passion–not just in Mexican Werewolf but in everything he touched.
Rest in power, friend. v
The Listener is a weekly sampling of music Reader staffers love. Absolutely anything goes, and you can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.