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Nashville, USA 1979

NO TIME TO DILLY DALLY WITH THE SEX PISTOLS

Joey Ramone: I’ll start. Let me throw something out. What do you guys think about the return of the “Sex Pistols”?
Lars Frederiksen: The only reason why I would even go see it is just for nostalgia. In ’77, I was listening to “Kiss”.

Joey Ramone: Do you think anyone takes it seriously?
Lars Frederiksen: They wanted us to go on tour. They wanted us to open up for them.

Joey Ramone:
Yeah, I heard you told them, “Open? We sell more records than you”. (laughter) That’s what I heard. I thought that was great.
Lars Frederiksen: (laughing) No, I don’t think we said that.
Tim Armstrong: With you guys (“Ramones”), you guys never broke up. With them, it’s a little weird. They broke up.

Joey Ramone: Yeah, with them, it was always a sham. I mean, they were a cool band but they were a creation. They were a creation of (manager) Malcolm McLaren’s genius, a good way to sell sweaters at the “Sex” boutique (a London shop McLaren ran in the mid-70’s), you know what I mean? Sell bondage gear and stuff. We thought they were cool too, but they weren’t real. They were like a figment of Malcolm’s imagination and they made him a lot of money.
Tim Armstrong: I always thought they made a great fucking record (Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols).

Joey Ramone: Yeah, we liked their record too. But you know Sid played a major role in that band and now they’re saying he was just a coat hanger, to take up space. I mean, that’s pretty sick, right? That just shows you where your loyalty lies. Who your friends are. That’s like saying (original “Ramones” bassist) Dee Dee Ramone was just a coat hanger.
Lars Frederiksen: I think the whole thing is sort of funny. I think Johnny Rotten’s funny. I’ve always thought the guy was funny because he’s sort of anti-everything...

Joey Ramone: He’s anti-everything and then he does “Mountain Dew” commercials, right? (laughter) I do think he’s funny too. He’s a real witty guy, real clever. He comes up with good stuff. He takes advantage of the press and the press love the abuse. And that’s how it ought to be.
Lars Frederiksen: That’s exactly it.

Joey Ramone: Everyone else kisses up to the fucking press, know what I mean?
Tim Armstrong: We don’t have time to tour with the “Sex Pistols”. We’ve been on tour now for seven months straight and we’ve got five more months to go.

Joey Ramone: No time to dilly dally with the “Sex Pistols”.
Tim Armstrong: Yeah. But that (“Sex Pistols”) record is a pretty sacred record to me. That was an important record when I was growing up. Man, it’s just weird. It’s weird that they’re getting back together. I know Johnny Rotten’s a funny guy and he’s real clever but I think it’s kind of weird. I’m not sure I really want to endorse the whole thing.

Lars Frederiksen: Something’s Rotten in Denmark. No pun intended. (laughter) It’s funny. Johnny Rotten put down a lot of the music that’s going on now (at the press conference the “Pistols” held in London). But he didn’t say a bad word about us, which was nice of him. The kids these days, their “Sex Pistols”, their “Ramones” are in the forms of “Rancid” and “The Offspring” and “Green Day”.
Tim Armstrong: I always liked the “Sex Pistols” but the “Ramones” were the first band I ever fell in love with. The “Ramones” — it’s a whole different thing. I was a kid, right? The first three “Ramones” records, my brother Jeff got them, he’s older than me. He’s like seven years older. And I just listened to those records every day. I didn’t know anything about 50’s rock or “The Ronettes” or anything like that. All I knew was these records were what music was supposed to sound like. It’s like I never had heard music until I heard the “Ramones”. I think a band’s whack, I still go back to the “Ramones”. It’s a staple, you know. That’s one thing that’s never changed with me. So, “Sex Pistols” were cool to me. (Never Mind the Bollocks) was a good record but I didn’t fall in love with the “Sex Pistols” the way I fell in love with the “Ramones”.

Lars Frederiksen: Ditto.
Tim Armstrong: I’m from a low income family. The “Ramones”, it was my band.

Lars Frederiksen: The first time I ever heard of the “Ramones” was when I saw “Rock & Roll High School” in the early 80’s. And I sat up and watched “Rock & Roll High School” 27 times because it was the first time that I ever really heard any music that powerful besides what I was into in the 70’s, which was “Kiss” and AC/DC. And then I hear the “Ramones”. And watching that movie, it changed my life in a certain way, just the movie and the “Rock & Roll High School” song and the energy and every thing. I remember some of my brother’s heavy metal friends would always put down the “Ramones” and I would always wonder why. Like, “What’s bad about them? There’s nothing bad about them”. I guess there wasn’t enough guitar solos.

Joey Ramone: When we started out, we were alone basically because nobody sounded like us. And it was always difficult. You’re always alone.
Tim Armstrong: Outcasts. That’s the true spirit of it all, right there. So many kids liked “Black Sabbath”. I thought the songs were too long. You guys wrote like perfect songs. You still do. You guys are still great. It’s not like one of these bands that were once great. Because you’re still playing great fucking music. This is sort of like our opportunity to tell you everything we ever wanted to tell you. Because if there was never such a thing as the “Ramones”, there would never have been such a thing as “Rancid”.

Lars Frederiksen: One thing I always wanted to know. On Johnny Thunder’s record, he does “Chinese Rocks” and he takes song writing credit for it. And when you guys do it, you take song writing credit for it. Nobody knows who really wrote it.
Joey Ramone: Dee Dee wrote it. In those days, Johnny didn’t want songs about heroin (on our albums). So Dee Dee got real frustrated and he took it over to Johnny Thunders of “The Heartbreakers”. That was his clique: Johnny Thunders and Richard Hell. “The Heartbreakers” copped the song and it became their anthem. But Dee Dee wrote the song.

Lars Frederiksen: It’s a great song and both bands did it so well. There was not a bad version between the two of your bands. It was always one of my favorite “Ramones” and/or Johnny Thunders songs. How often does that happen? How often does that happen when both artists, their versions of the same song can be one of your favorite songs?

AND WHERE DID THOSE RAMONES’ CLASSICS COME FROM?

Joey Ramone: We were inspired by a lot of different things. It was getting out your frustrations and your aggressions, writing things that we were dissatisfied with like the state of radio, things that we found amusing: TV and movies. Horror movies, B films and stuff. Like the song, “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement”.

Lars Frederiksen: What was that song about? Because like I had fist fights over what that song was about.
Joey Ramone: Dee Dee and Johnny wrote that one. Don’t go down to the basement. There’s something down there. I can’t say exactly what was on Dee Dee’s and Johnny’s minds. That’s what’s cool about music . It’s real personal. That’s what’s kind of a shame about the MTV situation because music’s personal and everybody conjures up their own interpretations of a song is about. It becomes your thing, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re interpreting it the way the artist in tended it to be interpreted. But now with MTV, people don’t even think anymore.

Lars Frederiksen: My friends interpreted that song, “I Don’t Wanna Go Down to the Basement”, so many different ways. I guess that’s the most beautiful thing about a great song. There was no forced feeding of what the basement was about. It was left up to your imagination. A lot of my friends thought it was about incest because of the line, “Hey Daddy-o/Hey Romeo”? It’s some weird shit going down there in the basement, right?
Joey Ramone: (laughs) Actually, we’d have to ask Dee Dee.

Lars Frederiksen: Or the basement of your mind. I don’t want to go and feel the things that I’m feeling.
Tim Armstrong: I started listening to music before there were videos, or at least before there was MTV. So it is kind of weird sometimes. When I’m listening to “Green Day”, I always fast forward the video. I wonder if people do that to our songs. With our videos, it’s just a band rocking out. We stick to that. I don’t want to get too into the narrative thing and create a whole story line. To me that’s weird. So I think if we keep it to basic live performances, it’s not too distracting.
Joey Ramone: The first time I saw you guys was on the video for “Salvation”. I thought, “Wow, these guys are cool looking”. That’s a great song. That was one nice thing that MTV did to me. It turned me on to “Rancid”.

Tim Armstrong: I’ve got a question for you, Joey. In the early days, did you guys have any idea how influential you would be? Any band now, any punk rock band now, whether it’s NOFX, “Green Day”, “Swingin’ Udders”, “Pennywise” — they were all somehow in fluenced by the “Ramones”. No question about it. Did you guys have any idea how influential you were going to be?
Joey Ramone: No. Well, we knew that we had something that worked. But we thought we were the only ones who would appreciate it. Because it was so different than anything else. And a lot of people didn’t get it. As we started playing, there were a couple of people like Danny Fields (who discovered and signed “Iggy and The Stooges”, and the MC5, and went on to manage the “Ramones” in the mid-to-late 70’s), certain key people who were really excited about us. When we first started playing CBGB’s there was no one there. I think one of our original fans was Alan Vega (of the band “Suicide”). He told Johnny he’d been waiting all his life for this. We’d get a lot of the Warhol types. The Cockettes, the Warhol crowd. It was word of mouth in the early days. We felt we had something but in those days, we were total outcasts. I guess in the beginning, we weren’t talented enough to do other people’s songs. So we started out writing our own songs. That was kind of the cool thing about the “Ramones”. It was from scratch. It wasn’t being proficient players or anything like that. It was starting out from the ground up.

Tim Armstrong: It’s just amazing. We were listening to your first demo from back in ’75 and it’s basically the same sound. That sound is remarkable. You guys always had that sound. That mid-tempo, punk rock sound. That’s such a staple.
Lars Frederiksen: So many bands tried to do it, man.
Joey Ramone: When I joined the band, I was the drummer initially. I didn’t really want to be playing drums because I was in a band before the “Ramones” and I was the singer. I guess it was Dee Dee who really wanted me in the band and Johnny called me one day. I knew them from the neighborhood. So I thought it’d be a cool thing, except that I had to play drums. But I wanted to sing. Tommy (Erdelyi, the “Ramones” first drummer), who never played drums in his life, was initially a producer. He had worked on Jimi Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland”, and he was acting as an advisor and consultant to us. After it didn’t work out with me on drums we tried to find a beat keeper — a simple kind of drummer. But everybody was kind of flamboyant in those days. So Tommy would sit behind the drums and show them how to play, until we finally asked him to be the drummer. He said “OK”, and in so doing created the style that drummers like Paul Cook (the “Sex Pistols” drummer) and everybody else have tried to emulate.

Tim Armstrong: Johnny is a totally amazing guitar player. I love his sound and the fact that he doesn’t play guitar solos. I’ve heard rumors that you guys overdubbed B-3 Hammond organ or piano over the guitars on the first three records.
Joey Ramone: Bullshit. It’s the way he strums. The way Johnny plays, he creates these overtones. Even now, during soundchecks, I still hear all kinds of things in his playing. He gets these incredible colors in his sound.

Tim Armstrong: You guys were song-oriented, not musician oriented. It wasn’t about the drummer or the guitarist jacking off. We are in that tradition. All these drummers who think they are rock stars are maniacs. I know so many of them and I don’t want anything to do with the fucking guys. (“Rancid” drummer) Brett (Reed) didn’t know how to play drums when he joined the band; we got him in because he was this cool skater kid and he was my homeboy. “Rancid” was formed on friendship. I’ve known Matt since I was five years old. When I met Lars, within five seconds I knew he was as cool as shit and he had to be in the band. That’s how we are. There aren’t too many other bands who are like that though.
Lars Frederiksen: You can’t fake that shit. I love our band, they are my best friends. I am lonely 23 hours a day and the only time I am not is when I am playing with my band.

Joey Ramone: That really comes across live. I like watching you guys, your antics. The “Ramones” have definitely had to make sacrifices to stay together for all these years. It’s knowing what you got, really loving what you got, really appreciating your fans. It didn’t come easy being accepted which we never really were, which is fine. And it was never easy just getting along. (laughs) It wasn’t. As time went by things got tense between me and John after a number of, uh, incidents. I am not going to get into it. And Tommy left in the early days, but you’ve got to appreciate what you got and that’s why we’ve stuck it out. At least I’ve stuck it out. Me and John for 22 years. Dee Dee decided he wanted to go off and become a rap star. (laughter)
Lars Frederiksen: For us it’s all about friendship. Last night at the show (“Rancid” had played the night before in New York City), we gave a shout out to “The Offspring” because they are getting a lot of shit right now for signing with a major label. (“The Offspring” recently left “Epitaph” for “Columbia Records”) If you have all the money in the world but you don’t have your credibility or your friends you ain’t shit. “The Offspring” are our friends. Matt and Tim used to see them in 1987 when there were only six other people there. Then, when they got big, they took us on tour with them and gave us support and love.
Tim Armstrong: If someone does that for us, we will be his brother forever.

Lars Frederiksen: The most important thing here is friendship. Record companies, I don’t know if they’re your friends...
Joey Ramone: They ain’t your friends.

MOST INFLUENTIAL BAND OF THE PAST 25 YEARS

Lars Frederiksen: I’ve seen bands who think that record companies are their best friends and then when they don’t sell the 1.5 million records they were supposed to sell, they are yesterday’s newspaper. It doesn’t matter to “The Offspring” if we sell a million records, they just want to be our homeboys. Reading all the negative shit about “The Offspring” in the press, we just want them to know we love them no matter what’s going on.
Tim Armstrong: I would hate to see “The Offspring” be destroyed because of some backlash from the media. I would hate it if songs that Dexter (Holland, “The Offspring” singer/guitarist) has inside of him never got heard because of what some magazine says about him. That would be a tragedy. I don’t get this one-hit wonder stuff about “The Offspring”. They have so many hits. l always thought they had hits, even in ’87.

Lars Frederiksen: That negative backlash has happened to every great band. It happened to the “Ramones”. They said you couldn’t play, that you guys were a bunch of half-wits And here you are, the most influential band of the last 25 years. You guys saved the world from disco!
Joey Ramone: Not bad for a bunch of half-wits, huh?

Lars Frederiksen: Fucking yeah! Nobody ever built a statue to a critic, and nobody will ever think about building a statue to a rock critic... There are a lot of irresponsible journalists out there. The same people who are bagging “The Offspring” now for not being punk were probably into “Guns ‘n’ Roses” when they were big. Joey, you know that a lot of kids don’t think it’s so street-level to be on a major label. What do you think about it?
Joey Ramone: I think it’s true that an indie label gives you the freedom to follow your vision. The first label we were on, “Sire”, was an indie. It wasn’t until later (when “Warner Bros.” bought “Sire”) that things changed. “Focus” (Dutch art-rock band) broke the label, but the “Ramones” gave “Sire” its direction. Seymour Stein signed us, and he was a real visionary. Stein was willing to take chances when nobody else was. After us he signed “The Talking Heads”, the “Dead Boys” and Richard Hell. I don’t think it’s right to shoot somebody down because of the label they’re on. “The Offspring” already proved themselves; I don’t think there’s anything wrong with them moving on.

Lars Frederiksen: “Sire” sounds like “Epitaph”, and you were “The Offspring” of the 70’s.
Joey Ramone: We were the first alternative band. It was different in the 70’s — there was more substance. We grew up on some of the best rock ‘n’ roll. Some of the best stuff. We grew up on great radio, then it got really bad. Then there was nothing.

Tim Armstrong: I grew up on the “Ramones”.
Joey Ramone: Now there’s some really good new bands like you guys and I thought “Nirvana” was a great band and I thought “Jane’s Addiction” was a great band. But you can’t look at it as a whole. Though I like “Hole”. (laughter)

Lars Armstrong: I like them too.
Tim Frederiksen: So do I.

Joey Ramone: They’re sincere. They’re real. The songs are great. Good energy.
Tim Armstrong: You never know what’s going to happen. I’ve seen them play four times. When Courtney gets on stage, it’s rock ‘n’ roll time.

Joey Ramone: Totally unpredictable. They don’t kiss up the way a lot of these new bands do. Today it’s like bands come out of the woodwork. A lot of these bands — I just don’t get it. Like “The Presidents of the United States” and all this shit.
Tim Armstrong: I don’t get that either. I never really got the weird kind of over-the-top stupid joke rock.

Joey Ramone: Yeah, it’s stupid.
Tim Armstrong: At least when you guys were talking about popping Quaaludes, reading comic books, that’s what I used to fucking do. Know what I’m sayin’ ? There’s a difference.

THE MEDIA

Lars Frederiksen: I think we’ve all exploited the media. I don’t think the media’s exploited us in any way. We all knew what we were getting into. The media’s a tool, man. If you want to say something, you use the fucking media. Who else is going to hear you? A punk rocker telling another punk rocker there should be revolution is like telling the Pope church is on Sunday. He fucking knows that. It’s the other guy you gotta get.
Joey Ramone: Let’s talk about politics. What are your political leanings?

Tim Armstrong: I’m an anarchist, man. I’ve never voted. I don’t know how to drive a car. I don’t have a checking account. I don’t know about any of that fucking shit.
Lars Frederiksen: I know I’m definitely not a Marxist because I believe in compromise. I don’t believe in my way or the highway type of deal. And it’s bullshit. It’s blind. I believe in accepting people. I’m definitely not right wing because I accept everybody if they’re black, white, Asian, Hispanic, male, female, gay, straight, whatever, it doesn’t matter. I think I’m an anarchist in a socialist way. Socialism of the heart, to quote Billy Bragg.

THE BIG QUESTION

Tim Armstrong: The big question is, why are we playing “Lollapalooza”. I’m gonna tell you why I’m playing it and people don’t have to believe me. But the reason why I’m playing “Lollapalooza” is that I get to tour with you guys.
Lars Frederiksen: That’s the reason why we’re on this tour.

Tim Armstrong: It’s going to be fun. But we wouldn’t be on it if you guys weren’t doing it. There are other aspects, playing for a billion people. But the bottom line is because of you guys. We’ll see you guys play 30 times. Your last tour.
Lars Frederiksen: I want to see the very last “Ramones” show.
Tim Armstrong: That’s rock & roll history.

Lars Frederiksen: How many people get to say they played with the “Ramones” on their last show? How many people get to say they saw the “Ramones” 30 times in a row? Maybe their roadies... The way we see it, it’s the “Ramones”/“Rancid” tour with a funny name.
Joey Ramone: I think it’s going to be fun. I think it’s going to be a really cool party because I like “Metallica” and I like “Soundgarden” and I like “Rancid” and I think it’s going to be great. It’s like a big party. It’s the event of the summer. It won’t be bullshit hype. It’s really for the fans and for us, all of us. I like “Soundgarden” and we’re friends with them. They’re the reason we got on. They asked us on. We got passed up every year since the beginning. Even though Perry Farrell is such a big “Ramones” fan and said how much he loves the “Ramones”. But did he ever ask us on “Lollapalooza”? No. So he’s full of shit, that guy.

JOEY RAMONE RADIO

Joey Ramone: You know what was the high point for me over these last two nights? I’ve had this communication with this guy at WXRK in New York here, Andre Gardner and we’ve been talking and keeping in contact. Anyway, I got a call from him last week. He said “Kevin Weatherly is coming into New York and he wants to have a meeting with you”. So, I went to see “Rancid” play Thursday night. And you played “Radio” and dedicated it to me and that was really great, really nice. Then the next morning I got up really early at 8 o’clock in the morning and I go out to this interview with them at WXRK . They just changed to an alternative format and I got my own radio show. I’m going to have my own radio show. It’s going to be a four hour show on Sunday night on WXRK. I can do anything I want, play whatever I want for four hours.
Lars Frederiksen: That’s awesome.
Tim Armstrong: That’s awesome.

Joey Ramone: It was kind of this connective thing, you know what I mean?
Tim Armstrong: We were praying for you because I remember you were talking about that earlier.

Lars Frederiksen: It was cool when (at the “Rancid” show) everybody screamed though.
Tim Armstrong: When we said, “Joey Ramone!”.

Joey Ramone: It was great. It was this connective kind of thing.
Lars Frederiksen: Then he gets the job!

Joey Ramone: And I got the job, yeah. That made my day.
Lars Frederiksen: Well, you know, it’s kind of like this: now we got one of us there. Now we got one of us behind the fences. We got somebody back there now looking out.

Tim Armstrong: That’s a good gig for you because you’re primarily a music fan and that’s a good gig for a music fan to have. We’re big music fans. I’m a music fan, first of all. And then, I just want to participate. I’m such a music fan.

Joey Ramone: The real bands and the real individuals that make up those bands are real music fans. It’s all about passion, real feelings. It’s not about, “Yeah, I’m a punk and I’m angry”. That’s just a lot of crap. It’s about the things that really matter. Passion, heart, soul. This is what matters to me and I think it seems to matter to you guys too. Most people don’t really expose their feelings.
Lars Frederiksen: I think that’s true. I think what touched our band about the “Ramones” is the fact that you can feel that compassion and that love and the realness. You can’t fake that shit.

Joey Ramone: No, you can’t. People know.
Lars Frederiksen: When you hear a song and, it sounds like the guy’s talking directly to you, that’s fucking cool and that’s what the “Ramones” have done for me. And I know they’ve definitely done it for Tim. Well we got to go, but you know Joey, probably most of the questions I want to ask probably will come up when we’re on the road together and I’ll call you up at 3 o’clock in the morning and go, “Hey Joey, I just remembered something I wanted to ask you” and hopefully you won’t yell at me.

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