By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Mar 27, 2003 at 5:24 AM

Five years ago, local guitarist Paris Ortiz decided to make a change. Formerly of local popular funk rock band, Psychedelicasi, Ortiz was used to opening for rock bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Faith No More. But after an impromptu jam session with former Shrine heavy metaler, Travis Mantsch, Ortiz was offered a place as guitarist in Mantsch's newest project "Big Dumb Dick."

Ortiz accepted on the spot and five years later the band and its notable name have been performing to headbanging crowds in Milwaukee, Chicago and throughout the nation. A week before showcasing at one of America's most famous rock joints, CGBG's in New York City, Big Dumb Dick will play at the BBC on Sat., March 29. OMC recently spoke with Ortiz on such heavy metal basics as pyrotechnics, women and Motley Crue.

OMC: How long have you guys been together?

PO: Big Dumb Dick has been in existence since late 1997. Travis Mantsch, lead vocals, is the only remaining original member. I am the second oldest, as far as band time, five years. I joined in August 1998. Micah Havertape, drums, joined August 1999 and Matt "Crack" Dambeck joined October 2000.

OMC: You sometimes use the Mustang Cheerleaders from Milwaukee's pro indoor football team during your show. Did you ever use pyrotechnics in your performance?

PO: Actually, pyrotechnics were a part of our show. It didn't play a major role but it was used for effect. We wanted to step up our stage show and give the average club-goer a "big show" feel. During our performance of, "Made in Hell" from our CD "Random Acts of Silence," we had pyro that would shoot flames up in the air. The pods were behind our former bass player and myself. You had to be careful because the flames came up to your armpits.

OMC: What else did you do?

PO: Aside from pyrotechnics, we utilized dancers and special lights that we designed and built. It may be hard to visualize but we built three, huge square wooden frames that housed over 500 Christmas lights. They actually looked like three, giant Lite Brites. We had a separate light tech that manned the switch and at certain points during or show "Big Dumb Dick" would either flash or just shine bright. We also had the words "Sex" and "Drugs" flash as well. So during a frenzy jam you would witness our lights flashing "Sex-Drugs-Big Dumb Dick." Now picture that with fire in the background and four strippers.

OMC: Do your shows can get pretty rowdy? What's the craziest audience experience that you've had?

PO: Our crowds are great. Aside from moshing, body passing and the occasional flashing I can't think of anything too wild. I love our crowds. They may look scary and aggressive but they just want to rock, have a good time and sing along with us.

OMC: So, do a lot of women come to the shows?

PO: No one wants to play for a 100 percent male crowd. No one wants to play in front a sausage factory. Our goal is to have our music heard by everyone. Women look at music differently. Guys want to rock. A fat distorted guitar riff is all we want, but woman pay close attention to lyrics. They want to walk away humming the melody.

Don't get me wrong I know plenty of woman that want to rock out and have a good time but they connect with our music on a different level. From a business point of view, the more beautiful women you draw, the more guys show up and that makes bar owners happy. It's a vicious circle but it's a reality. Besides, you rock harder if a lovely lady is watching you intently.

OMC: How do the women react to your band name, and some of your songs like "Bitchslap?"

PO: Girls love our name. We sell a ridiculous amount of Baby-T's with "Big Dumb Dick" on them. There is always a time during our performances when Travis will yell, "What's our name?" and the crowd goes nuts. The women are usually the loudest.

OMC: "Bitchslap" was featured on the season finale of HBO's "Mind of the Married Man." How'd that come about?

PO: Luck and never burning a bridge. We were contacted by a friend in Chicago who was our former manager's assistant. His present company is a third party music supplier. They supply music to companies like HBO with cheaper music. Instead of paying huge prices for a Metallica song, they'll use up and coming bands like us at a cheaper rate. It's a win-win situation. They get what they want at Wal-Mart prices and we get the exposure. HBO was very good to us. "Bitchslap" aired for one minute and 30 seconds. In TV time, that's a long time. It was a very surreal experience. I'm sitting there, watching HBO and I'm hearing my band.

OMC: You've played with several national acts including Ratt, Cinderella and Motley Crue. Any interesting experiences during those tours?

PO: Not really, it's just business as usual. They have a job to do and we have a job to do. Most of those bands really keep to themselves. If you're lucky someone may say hello or talk shop. Motley Crue was very cool. The lead singer and guitarist were MIA most of the time but Nikki Sixx and Tommy Lee were very cool. They invited us to their dressing room. Nikki talked about the music business and Tommy talked about his jail experience. He liked my outfit. In fact when we opened for him at Summerfest last year he remembered us. Ratt on the other hand were just a bunch of assholes.

OMC: When Motley Crue was on the Greatest Hits tour in 1998 with all four of their original members, they held a battle of the bands contest, "Kick Start Your Career" in Milwaukee for a local act to open for their performance at the Riverside Theatre. You guys won. What was that experience like?

PO: It was amazing. Our only real competition that night was a local hair metal act. It was close. We won by one vote. The fact that we were not your typical metal act gave us an edge. The actual gig was amazing. The Riverside is a beautiful theater - the stage had nicer carpeting than most apartments I've had. We were treated like royalty. Our own dressing room and 20 minutes to warm up the crowd.

The two things I remember most about that night are how well we were received. Opening acts can get treated brutally. But the beauty of this band is, we're Big Dumb Dick. With a name like that, you either love us or hate us. There is no in-between. We didn't care. We were going to be heard no matter what. To my amazement people were reacting to every song. They clapped, cheered, and responded. I thought they were going to ignore us but they, like Sally Field once said, "They liked us - they really, really liked us!"

The other thing I'll never forget was half way through our set my guitar tech Doug was trying to get my attention. As I looked to my left every member of Motley Crue was standing in the wings near the soundman man watching us. I mean, I'm playing and Motley Crue is actually listening and banging their heads to our music. That's f---g cool.


OMC: Buzzhorn is playing with you at your next gig at the BBC. What do you think of them?

PO: Good friends. Great local, I mean national band that got the golden ring. Everyone had their sights on getting signed. That's why we're in this rat race. Buzzhorn signed with Atlantic Records. Their debut CD "Disconnected" is an awesome CD. I really wish they got more local support. The radio should be shoving that CD down your throat. Just a bunch of nice guys. They haven't changed a bit. If you didn't know Buzzhorn was a signed act you couldn't tell by their actions. Except when you see them perform because they kick mucho ass on stage. Touring has made them a machine.

OMC: Where do you prefer to perform in Milwaukee?

PO: I have a special place in my heart for the stage at the Globe. Lots of great shows and memories there. In fact we debuted our light/girl show there. The Rave is cool. It's a great place to open for national acts. My favorite show of the last year has to be opening for Monster Magnet at the Rave. Summerfest is always the most sought after gig. Now that's a stage. You get treated like a rock star.