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— How long did it take to record «Greatest And Latest»?
— It was pretty quick — about two months because it was mainly Ramones songs, which I knew already. The main issue was deciding what to play: Should it be old Ramones material or new material? I had about three albums worth of new material, but I knew that people would rather hear the Ramones songs. I was afraid that they wouldn’t like my original songs. I like it when Iggy Pop plays his old stuff like «I Wanna Be a Dog,» so I know how the fans feel. Monte Robison and Chris Spedding, who produced the album, kept changing their minds. But it was my show, so I made the final decisions on what was played.
We recorded the album at a studio in Hollywood right near my house. It was nice, as I could walk there from home. I like California a lot more than New York these days. It’s very expensive to bring a band to New York.

— How long have you been working with Chris Spedding, who played guitar on the album, mixed and produced it?
— A couple of years. I met him when I went to Toronto and we worked together. I didn’t know him when he was working with the Sex Pistols. He is a real producer. I haven’t done rap with him … I can’t do that too well.

— Why did you cover «Cathy’s Clown»? It really stands out from the fast punk sound of the rest of the album.
— I just love that song. I heard it by the Everly Brothers as a kid. Then after the Ramones signed to Sire, I heard it on a Ricky Nelson compilation. I couldn’t believe it when he died. He was a great rock star. Then I heard Reba McEntire’s version and it sounded really good being sung by a woman. I just wanted to record it and so did Barbara, my wife, who played bass on the album.
I also recorded «Jump In the Fire» by Metallica — they’re so demonic, they’re crazy, I don’t know how they do it. But the band didn’t want to play that — they thought it was too metal.

— The new material is very punk-rocky like the Ramones. Have you ever really wanted to get away from the Ramones’ fast, hell-for-leather style?
— What made me like the Ramones again? Well, it’s like with Billy Idol. I liked his «White Wedding»-era stuff, but I knew him more from [the band] Generation X. I liked the old Ramones music before [producer] Phil Spector did the albums, but I didn’t like the music too much after. I got tired of the Ramones around the time I quit and I really got into rap. I thought it was the new punk rock. LL Cool J was my biggest idol.
So I started listening to and playing other music in the ’90s. It was after hearing other bands, like Bad Religion, cover Ramones songs that I started to like our songs again. Bands like Mudhoney, the Riverdales and White Zombie got me back into punk.

— Do you speak to any of your old bandmates anymore?
— I saw Johnny recently. We met on the street in L.A. when he was with his girlfriend, and he said he wants to record another Ramones album. He asked me if I would work with Daniel Rey [who produced the Ramones’ «Halfway to Sanity» in 1987 and their best-of album «Ramones Mania» in 1988] and I said no. He also asked me if I’d play on the album but I said no, I think C.J. [Ramone] should. However, I told him I’d be happy to give them some songs. I’m not sure how serious he is about a new album, and I’m not sure if Joey’s voice is up to it; it’s a little worn out.
We also talked about the new Ramones movie that is going to start filming next year. «Sidewalk Surfin’,» which appears on my new album, was originally written for the movie. They needed the song quick though, so I had Chris do an instrumental version and gave them that.

— How was your European tour this past April? Do you like being on the road?
— Nice. I didn’t want to go at first, because I was tired of touring, and a few years ago when I played in Sweden and Norway, I didn’t seem very popular at the time. But the promoter, who was also my friend, strong-armed me into the tour. I was playing every night, mainly Ramones songs, and the audiences really liked it. We sold out many dates and all the Americans I was with didn’t want to go home. We didn’t do an American tour because it I know it wouldn’t go down well.

— Which do you like better — doing lead vocals and guitar, or playing bass?
— I like the guitar better these days. I like the bass, too, but it’s hard to fit a bass amp in a small car. Barbara likes to play the bass in my band, and I’m going to get Jimmy Vapid from the Canadian band the Vapids to come play guitar with us. He sounds like Johnny. I’ve also asked C.J. [to play] in three different bands, but he keeps saying no. All of the Ramones want their own bands now.

— How did you and Barbara write «Sidewalk Surfin’» — together or did you write it then present it to her?
— I taught her the same way I taught the Ramones. I gave her the outline of the song, coached her through it, and then left her alone to learn it. About 25% of the effort for the song came from Barbara. She’s still young and argumentative, like a kid in a way. I don’t like that when we’re playing. I know what’s best for me and my band. But then again, I try to be nice. Part of the privilege of being in a band is giving something back to the young people. If you can do anything for them, you should. Generally though, I don’t write with a lot of people anymore because it takes too much time.

— So what’s your next project?
— I’m going back to New York on Nov. 1 to promote my autobiography «Lobotomy,» which will be coming out, and I’ll probably see Joey and Marky. The Ramones movie starts filming in January, and I plan to tour Europe next spring. I used to have escape fantasies about leaving the music business, but last night I told Barbara that I wanted to keep playing for another three years as I’m getting good support from the record company.

Alexa Williamson, www.livedaily.com

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