here we are with an interview of CJ Ramone on cows, Kim Kardashian, crowdsourcing and his brand new album ‘Reconquista’. Setting up the interview with our beloved bass player/singer involved phone calls, Facebook, Les’ (close friend of the Ramones and local teddy bear, ed.) superhuman powers, a lounge VIP tent, a press room, a photographer from On the Rocks (Danny, ed.), an iPhone with a fatal memory error containing the interview and a very friendly press lady from Rock Ternat’s organization to make it all work out. 1,2,3,4… Hey ho, let’s go!
CJ: Actually, I was reading a history book and I came across that word. It really fit what I was trying to do. It stands for taking the name ‘CJ Ramone’ back and get myself back on track in music. It fit exactly for that purpose.
Ramones.be: On the album there’s a number of punk celebrities playing a part. How did that work out? Did you just take your rollerdex and said: hmm, I wanna play with these people… or how did that work out?
CJ: No, I wish I could say they were all in my rollerdex but it’s actually Steve Soto (The Adolescents, ed.) who co-produced the album that called in a bunch of his friends of Southern California. As soon as they heard it was a ‘Ramone’ project, they were all immediately happy to step in. That’s how we got Billy Zoom from X, Dennis Casey from Flogging Molly, Matt Katz from Blondie, … In short, a whole bunch of good players are on the record and it’s Steve Soto’s hard work to bring them together.
Ramones.be: You did the funding through PledgeMusic. Any particular reason you chose that path?
CJ: The reason I chose to do it through Pledge is because it’s my first album as CJ Ramone and I wanted to do it as DIY as I possibly could, you know. I also want(ed) to make it more personal between me and the fans. After all, the album is a tribute to the Ramones and the Ramones fans. It seemed to make sense to me to do it that way.
Ramones.be: There are songs on the album such as ‘Three angels’, ‘Low on ammo’. Do these contain a message that you try to convey on the inheritance of the Ramones and that you were looking for a closure of that era?
CJ: yeah, part of it is that, well... after Johnny, Joey and DeeDee were dead a lot of books came out, films and stuff, .. and they just portrayed the guys personal lives in a bad light, in my opinion. To put it bluntly, who is fucking whose wife, who is doing drugs. You know, all that type of stuff. It felt like it took the attention of of what made the Ramones great… which was their music. They’re musicians, not politicians! They don’t necessarily need to be morally upright. It would be good if they were but that’s not part of being in a band. That’s what ‘Three angels’ is about. My relationship with them, what type of guys they were…
‘Low on ammo’ is about what takes place after the band is dead and the family members are running things. Their lawyers are involved and … how nasty it gets. It is also about how everything becomes about money and profit margin. The band’s legacy or worth is really diminished a lot because of that. Via the song I wanted to include the fans in what is going behind the scenes. I think it’s a good way to let them know that it’s not the band anymore but these other people that are in charge of selling their songs to commercials, putting $60 shirts in high-end stores.
Ramones.be: There’s a song on the album called ‘King Cobra’. When I listen to that song, I think ‘YEAH, that’s a CJ Ramone song’. Why is it not included in the set list?
CJ: It’s kind of difficult to choose songs from the record to play live because I’m matching my songs up to the Ramones songs.
Ramones.be: so, you’re always looking for a trade-off…
CJ: (laughs) It’s kind of intimidating to do that. But the songs I chose to play live, I’ve strictly chosen based on the people’s opinions I trust. I had them listen to the record and I said ‘If you want to hear a song of the record, what would like to hear?’. I asked about 10-15 people and these were the songs the most often picked. I might be doing King Cobra on the next tour. It’s one of my favorite songs but it was just not everybody’s favorite.
Ramonesbe: Well, I’ll be at the next to tour to hear you play it! Any concrete future plans? You had the Warm Jets, Los Gusanos, now you brought this band together. What is the future bringing us?
CJ: January and February (2014) I have no touring booked. I’m going to finish up writing a record. As a matter of fact, I have a record about half written right now. In March, I hope to record with Ed Stasium, who did the early Ramones records. I’m going to try to do an album a year for the next 4 years to make up for all the years in between that I was gone. I was gone for almost 10 years. Trying to make up for all that lost time! So that’s my plan, an album a year in the next 4 year. Whether my body will actually be able to deal with that is a different story… (laughs)… but that’s my plan anyway.
CJ: Going to retire as a musician… (thinks)
Ramones.be: Well, can one retire being a musician?
CJ: Yeah, I’ll retire from doing this when I feel I’m not keeping up anymore. If I feel that I’m starting to slow down, if am really losing my voice or if I have to start bringing in other musicians to make up for my shortcomings. At that point I would probably pack it in. But I’m actually writing a book right now; It’s about 3 quarters in a way written. Depending on how well this book does, I would give a second book a try. But my wife is an attorney, so I don’t have to worry about another career… my wife is my retirement plan! (laughing out loud)
Ramones.be: If you could re-do one Ramones concert, which one would it be and why?
CJ: I guess my first one. Yes, that would probably be a good one. Not because it was comfortable or it played great but nothing ever matches the feeling that you go out for the first time on a big stage.
Ramones.be: When following you on the Net and Facebook I’ve noticed that you’re still participating in these ‘Walks for autism’. When meeting you a couple of years ago, you told me that one of your sons was dealing with autism. Is this still on top of your priority list?
CJ: YES! This is the first one in 5 years that I’ve missed because I have to do a show but we usually walk for ‘Autism speaks’ every year. We do fundraising. I say we, because the whole family is involved. I picked that organization because they use almost 100% of their money in research to find the cause for autism. There’s a lot of other organizations that raise money to help parents, pay the bills, … In the States I think it’s about 1 in 65 kids that have autism. This year, the Center of Disease Control (CDC) recognized Autism as an epidemic. So when the CDC, which is a governmental organization, lists it as an epidemic, that opens up funding from the government for research into the cure. It was big year this year!
Ramones.be: I guess your son needs a very structured life. Is that a good combination with your touring?
CJ: He very much did so when he was young. That’s when I turned down Metallica two times. I had to turn them down because raising a kid with autism, the structure is not negotiable. The structure is absolutely the most important part of their life. You really have to keep them regimented and when he was first diagnosed, he was severely autistic. He was non-verbal. He didn’t start talking till he was 7 years old and participate in a normal conversation. In those early years it was really a struggle but because we kept his life so regimented… he woke up in the same bed, he ate the same things, he to the same school and the same program, I put him on the bus and took him off the bus,… well, that paid off and if you would see meet now, you wouldn’t even know he’s autistic. He’s an athlete, he’s on the track team, he’s competing in a state wide competition, he’s at the high honor roll at school, he already picked out his college, … and he’s got a girlfriend. He’s got a totally normal life. And I’m not saying it’s that way because I turned down Metallica, but the fact to the matter is that if would not have been there and kept him moving along… he would not have had as a good shot.
Ramones.be: Back to music again. If you could put together an all-stars band with yourself on the bass, who would you put in that band and which type of music would you play?
CJ: (laughs) I would have different bands with different styles of music. I would love to do something with Tom Waits… he’s probably at the top of my list because I’m a huge Tom Waits fan. Like punk rock… I’m playing with Jonny Two Bags and David Hidalgo Jr. from Social Distortion right now. So that absolutely a good one! I would like to something with Mike Ness for whom I have a lot of respect and I think he’s a great songwriter. He has great and long career doing punk rock. I’d like to do something with Lemmy (Kilmister, Motörhead, ed.) at some point.
Ramones.be: Do you want to point us to an upcoming band that is worth checking out?
CJ: I don’t really listen too much new music. I’ve actually gone backwards and listen to stuff from when I was young. I think the music you listen to when you’re in your teens, that really impacted your life, is always what you go back to. So every once in a while I hear a song or a band and I think it’s ok but I can’t relate to them on any type of intellectual level because they’re writing about stuff that affects kids now.
Ramones.be: If somebody would shove a mic under your nose and ask you ‘what is the one message you want to share with the world?’:
CJ: RAMONES FOREVER!
Ramones.be: We’re almost there. What’s your favorite knock-knock joke?
CJ: (laughs) Old boy, that’s a rough one. My daughter tells them all the time.
Ramones.be: Who’s there?
CJ: Interrupting cow.
Heaven or hell
Ramones.be: Digital or analog
Ramones.be: Talent or passion
Ramones.be: Pork chops or apple pie
CJ: Pork chops
Ramones.be: Grease or Saturday Night Fever
CJ: (Oh lord) Grease
Ramones.be: Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton
CJ: Kim Kardashian
(funny comment in the room about PH and body of teenage boy – laughter)
Ramones.be: Singer or bass
Ramones.be: Vanilla or chocolate
Ramones.be: Lemmy or Ozzy
Ramones.be: Beer or wine
Ramones.be: New Kids On The Block or One Direction
CJ: (no comment) (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vky5_kaDArA , ed.)
Ramones.be: Needles or Pins
Ramones.be: Thanks for the interview and hopefully see you soon on your next tour!
And now some gig pics, courtesy of On The Rocks: