CJ Ramone played The Magnet earlier this month and beforehand, SFN‘s Pip Johnson had a little chat with the legendary Ramone.
SFN – You’ve just released your third solo album American Beauty and and it’s gotten a lot of great reviews around the board. While the Ramones have been disbanded for 22 years this year, do you think it’s on your shoulders to carry the Ramones legacy?
CJ – “I guess in some ways I feel like its my responsibility to kinda carry it on, i really came back to playing music because after the band retired there was so much negative stuff said about them in books and movies it bothered me that there legacy seem to be reduced to a soap opera y’know and the only way i could change that would be to get out and remind people what made the Ramones great.”
SFN – To give an image of what they where actually like?
CJ – “Yeah yeah, because I mean being in the business as long as I have I’ve met a lot of bands that are assholes and its just like every other part of the population and the guys weren’t represented fairly I think there was a lot of opinions put out there but my interactions with them where on a daily bases, I feel like I know them probably better than most. so everybody kind of has there opinion but i feel like mine was a little bit more objective.”
SFN – How do you think the Ramones legacy lives up today?
CJ – “There music I think y’know, kind of speaks for itself that people still wanna listen to it and wanna hear it. I think there as classic as your gonna get y’know, they where one of a kind.”
SFN – Like they where the godfathers of punk-rock?
CJ – “Yup, exactly y’know all the things you’ve heard before but the music is great, i still listen to it myself.”
SFN – Your new record American Beauty has some brilliant backing talent on it, what was it like working with The Adolescent‘s Steve Soto and members of The Street Dogs?
“Steve and I have been friends for a long time we did, I played this thing together for a lil’ while, I played in his band 22 Jacks on one one tour back in ’99, he’s great to work with, he’s a professional, he’s unbelievably talented, he’s got a great voice, great song writing skills so he’s a real good, really good guy to have around.”
“Pete Sosa from The Street Dogs is 100% pro, he just comes in and busts it out, not a lot of rehearsing goes on he’s y’know he’s just a real solid drummer plus the great thing about both guys is there both great guys and i get along with both of them well.”
“That’s one good thing about being in the biz this long is that I get to work with people I like and thats kinda how , I try to surround myself with people I like.”
SFN – The album features your heartfelt dedication to Tommy Ramone, what’s your favorite memory of Tommy?
CJ – “I think what Tommy said about me at the Ramones induction into the [Rock and Roll] Hall of Fame, he was the only guy that even mentioned me, when the Ramones where inducted into the Hall of Fame and being that Tommy is the guy who really is the creator he came up with the look and the sound, told everyone what instrument they play, everything. He’s really the guy. so hearing him saying that was pretty darn impressive. That was and completey unexpected, I had no idea he was gonna mention me, so thats probably the best memory of Tommy.”
SFN – Do you remember the story of when Tommy read you the rules of the road? (No partying, no drinks, no drugs, no glue sniffing?)
CJ – “It’s funny by the time i got into the band there was no partying, there was no nothing. nobody in the band did anything, i was pretty much the only on, of course I had many a night that of partying myself y’know probably one of the funnest, best nights I’ve had was, we where shooting the video for “Substitute” and Lemmy [of Motörhead] was in the video and after the video shoot Lemmy and I, two young ladies went out and had a bit of a party together and we went back to my hotel and continued the party there but that was probably one of the best nights of partying I had.”
SFN – You’ve been known to play some great Ramones deep cuts in your live sets, are there any Ramones songs this year that you’re playing for the first time or are you sticking with what you think works?
CJ – “We are doing “Sit In My Room” this year, we are doing “Swallow My Pride” and I’ve played them in the past but not in a long time. We are doing “Outsider“, I try to pull out some deep cuts especially from the periods that weren’t represented in the Ramones set. “Outsider” was off Subterranean Jungle I don’t think the Ramones played anything off that record, so I try to mix it up a little bit and most of them are my favourites so it feels good doing them.”
SFN – Your work with the Ramones revitalized the band for some of their best work. You were even responsible for “The Spider-Man Theme” cover on Mondo Bizarre, how did that come about?
CJ – “I had, I was a big Tom Waits fan, I had wanted to, I had submitted a Tom Waits song for one of the records, I think it might Mondo Bizarro or something but Joey wasn’t a fan so second time around when we where lining up songs for the the last record I talked to Joey who had became a fan, a Tom Waits fan and I told Joey to submit the song because it carried more weight then I would vote for it and I knew Mark would vote for it so, we got it on the record.”
SFN – Finally a silly question, is punk rock dead?
CJ – “Is punk dead? not as long as I’m out playing it *laughs* not in my personal opinion, y’know it’s probably like everything else watered down somewhat and kinda become cliched in some ways and what not but I think it’s still pretty solid, I still hear good punk bands coming out.”
“The scene defiantly has contracted, it was huge in the 90s but I’m of the opinion that punk-rock never really belonged in stadiums, it’s almost contradictory for punk rock to to be in stadiums but I like playing in the sized venues that I play, I feel like that’s more punk rock and it’s got nothing to do with the money that’s made or anything like that but the really punk rock spirit isn’t really, there can’t be that many people into it, most people just following the trend. It’s been put in there ears so much on the radio and everything else but I like punk, I like playing punk in the smaller places y’know 100-150 kids that’s a good size room you can really feel the difference in the energy too.”
SFN – It’s better to play to 500 hundred than 10,000 when the 500 know you and are there for the music.
CJ – “Yeah defiantly and I’ve done both, I’ve played big giant festivals. I always kinda found them boring y’know the crowd is 30 feet away from you, there’s daylight and I never really dug it.”
Interview conducted by Pip Johnson, Words by Jess Sharpe and edited by Jack Cinnamond. Special thanks to CJ Ramone and The Magnet.