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Dee Dee Ramone & Stiv Bators

December 2, 1998 — Bluebird Theatre, Denver, USAIn the early ’70s, Marky (born Marc Bell in 1956) recorded two albums with “Dust”, a hard rock band consisting of Richie Wise, who later produced and played guitar for “Kiss”, and bassist Kenny Aronsen, who later played with Billy Idol, Joan Jett, and Bob Dylan. After brief stints with blues guitarists Johnny Shines and David Bromberg, Marky played for a short time with Wayne County. He then joined Richard Hell’s “Voidoids” and recorded the seminal punk album “Blank Generation” with them in 1977. The following year, he was recruited by the “Ramones” to replace original drummer Tommy Ramone, who wanted to focus on producing rather than playing music. Marky fit right into the Ramone family, laying down the beat on classics such as “I Wanna Be Sedated”, “Chinese Rocks”, “The KKK Took My Baby Away”, and “Psycho Therapy”. In 1983, he left the band due to problems with alcohol, but he cleaned up, and returned in 1987 to continue playing with the “Ramones” until the end of their career.

These days, most of the “Ramones” are playing in their own separate bands, but so far, the Intruders are the truest to the “Ramones” raw original sound. Sure, there are a few differences — “The Intruders” have a finger-picking bassist, and you might even hear a guitar solo now and then. But for now, “The Intruders” are carrying the flame that the demise of the “Ramones” almost extinguished. After a few personnel changes, the lineup has solidified into a trio featuring Marky on drums and occasional vocals, rapid-fire bassist/vocalist Johnny Pisano, and 21-year-old guitarist/vocalist Ben Trokan. Constantly on the road for the past three years, “The Intruders” have been around the world, yet until their recent tour with “Sloppy Seconds”, they had never played in the Northwest. I had the luck to see them two nights in a row  first at the “Satyricon” in Portland (December 6, 1998), where this interview was conducted, and again at “John Henry’s” in Eugene, where I took the pictures.

— To start off, it’s just you, Marky Ramone, but who else is in the band?
— Ben Trokan and Johnny “Fingers” Pisano. They’re both from New York, and they both sing and they both write. They’re really into old punk, new punk... you know, new punk is old punk. You saw them; they’re real professional. That’s what I wanted. I like playing with a three-piece band; it’s tighter. I had another another guitar player in the band once and it wasn’t as cohesive as this. So they’re able to keep up with me, and that’s important.

— How did “The Intruders”
first get together?
— After “Lollapalooza” in ’96, when the “Ramones” did the last tour of America and we decided to break up or to retire. We didn’t have to break up, we just wanted to retire. I wanted to keep playing ’cause I liked it. I mean, they’re older than I am and I just felt that I still have the energy. It’s fun touring and meeting new fans and playing with other bands. I figured I’d write some songs and put an album together, and that’s what I did. So while I was still in the “Ramones”, I wrote songs already for the first album. I waited until the “Ramones” broke up to do anything. I thought it was very disrespectful for Joey and C.J. to do something separately while they were still in the “Ramones”, because there was nothing better than the “Ramones” while you were in the “Ramones”, so why do something else? So that kind of got me and Johnny Ramone pissed off, but nothing came of it... I waited until the “Ramones” broke up.

— Well, that’s admirable. Now, didn’t Skinny Bones used to be in the band?
— Skinny Bones was very good, but he’s a junkie. I had to throw him out. I gave him a salary, and every time I gave him a salary, it would be spent in a day or two and he’d call me up to ask for more money. He was shooting it into his veins. We were playing at a club in New York, and me and Iggy Pop were hanging out, and Skinny Bones was there nodding out. Me and Iggy looked at each other, and we knew what this fuckin’ guy was about. I walked him around the block and his girlfriend got him a big cup of coffee. He was able to do the show, and then I just kicked him in the ass and that was it... That ended it.

— Yeah, ’cause the two of you collaborated on stuff while you were still in the “Ramones”, right?

— Yeah, we did. I thought Skinny Bones was very good, but... A lot of my friends were junkies and they died — Johnny Thunders, Jerry Nolan, Sid dabbled in heroin... and they’re all dead. So I don’t need a guy in my band to die on me, and this band has been together for a year and a half, and I love it.

— How long did it take to record your first album? When I was looking at the CD, I saw that it was recorded at different times and different places.
— I had to record it around the “Ramones” tours because I wanted it out at a certain time. It was in three different studios, so that’s why some songs sound a little different than others. But it’s very raw, and that’s what I wanted, because I thought “Adios Amigos!”, the last “Ramones” album, was very overproduced. It’s a good album, but too overproduced. That’s why I wanted “The Intruders” album to be more dirty.

— It looks like you and Skinny Bones played most of the instruments yourselves on the first album...

— Yeah, we did.

— Did you have the band together at that point?

— No, there was no band. It was just me, Skinny Bones, and Mark Neuman from “Sheer Terror”. We did all the stuff, but we didn’t tour as that band. The second album is going to be just us three (Marky Ramone, Johnny Pisano, and Ben Trokan). We already have the songs.

— It sounded like you had a lot of new stuff tonight.
— Yeah, new stuff. I’m shopping the second album around to different labels. Our first record label sucked. They didn’t put out any ads, they didn’t support it, and it was the wrong move I made. I learned my lesson.

— Yeah, I had to order it because they didn’t have it in stores here.
— Yeah, I learned my lesson. Now I have the tape at “Honest Don’s”, “Epitaph”, you know... “Hellcat”, “Nitro”, “Rounder”... So we’ll see what happens. I’m not going to jump on anything, just wait and choose the right thing, and that’s it. The first album did good considering that there was nothing done to push it. We’re talking worldwide, not just America. But sometimes you make mistakes and learn, you know.

— Are there any particular labels that you’d really like to be on right now?
— Well, obviously “Epitaph” or “Nitro” would be good. That’s the style of label that would hopefully accept us. We could have been on “Radioactive”, the “Ramones” label, but it’s too close to the “Ramones”. I didn’t want that relation, because if the “Ramones” do anything in the future, they could shelve my stuff and just concentrate on the “Ramones”. So that could be detrimental to what I’m doing.

— And I heard that you played with members of “Rancid” for a cover of “I’m Against It” (an old “Ramones” tune). Is that going to be on your new album?
— No, it’s on a compilation that’s been out for a year called “Punk Rock Jukebox”, on “Blackout”. It’s been out already for a year. I’m good friends with Lars and Tim and Matt. They wanted to do the song, so we did it. We became friends, and they’re big “Ramones” fans. We usually do some shows with “Rancid” during the year. We just did one in Washington with them, which was really good.

— You also played with them on the “Warped Tour” last summer. How was that?
— That was great, yeah that was great. 115 to 120 degree weather in Texas and Florida. It was with “Rancid”, it was with NOFX, and “Bad Religion”. It was a lot of fun; a lot of kids, a lot of good vibes from “Ramones” fans who liked “The Intruders” — kids who can get in ’cause it’s not a bar, like 15-to-18 year olds wearing “Ramones” shirts and liking this stuff. It was great. It’s good to play big places and it’s good to play small places. It’s good to do both. For the “Warped Tour”, we were playing in front of seven or eight thousand people. Here tonight, it was 100; Sunday night... I liked it. But you gotta do both. You have to be able to play in front of a lot of people, too.

— That reminds me of another question. What do you think of all-ages shows as opposed to bar shows?
— Great, they’re great.

— ...Because it seems like maybe more people in the typical “bar audience” have heard of you and would come to see you play.
 — Well, at the end, “Ramones” fans were younger than ever. I mean, in “Lollapalooza”, you had parents who liked the “Ramones” coming in with their kids who like the “Ramones”, so it was a second generation. So all-ages shows are good too because they can get in to our shows. Obviously they see something in the “Ramones” that they can relate to. I don’t know what it is, and I’m not going to question it, but I guess the “Ramones” are bigger than ever now because there’s so many “Ramones” imitations like “The Queers”, “Screeching Weasel”, and... you know, the other band... I forgot their name... “Boris The Sprinkler”. There’s a lot of “Ramones”-influenced bands, like the “Beatnik Termites”, “The Donnas”... There’s a real legacy that the “Ramones” left, and that’s why a lot of younger kids are digging it.

— Yeah, it seems to me that a lot of kids get into the “Ramones”
because of those bands. They go through those bands to find you.
— Yeah, it’s great.

— Most of the bands you just listed have covered entire
“Ramones” albums...
(laughing) I know.

— ...And I read a quote in an ad which led me to believe you aren’t too happy about that.

— I said that?

— It was in an ad in “MAXIMUMROCKNROLL” for a “Boris The Sprinkler” album, for their cover of “End of the Century” (a
“Ramones” album from 1980). I think you were quoted as saying, What is the point?
— I said that?

— Well, that’s what the ad said.

— Really? And it said Marky Ramone?

— Yeah.

— And what did it say after that?

— It just said, Re-released on CD, and it had your quote in small print underneath it.
— And who else... What other quotes were there?

— That was it.

— Oh, was it an old issue?

— Not too old. Just a few months ago, I think.
— Yeah, what is the point?

— Well, that’s what I was hoping you would answer.

— I know, what is the point? I mean, it’s not going to be as good as the “Ramones”. Why invest all your time and money and do something that’s not going to be as good as the original when you could just do your own thing; create something new on your own instead of delving into something that you can’t perfect, you know what I mean?

— Do you find it flattering, though, that all those bands covered “Ramones” albums?
— Yeah, it’s great. I mean, it helps keep the “Ramones” legacy alive. So do you know Ben Weasel?

— No, no, I don’t know him. I know who he is, but I’ve never met him.

— Is he the one who quoted me, or was it “Boris The Sprinkler”?

— Oh, your quote was underneath the ad for “Boris The Sprinkler”
cover of “End of the Century” (the ad was actually done by “Skull Duggery Records”, the label that released the album — see their ad in “MAXIMUMROCKNROLL” #180).
 — Alright, do you know them? Because we did a show together and they were real nice (see Rev Norb’s column in “MAXIMUMROCKNROLL” #184).

— No, I’ve never met them either.
— Do you think that’s funny or do you think it’s lying?

— I honestly don’t know. I figured it was probably a real quote because I don’t know why they would bother to make it up.

— Right, but how does it sound to you?

— I interpreted it as them saying, “OK, we covered a “Ramones” album and Marky Ramone doesn’t like it, but we don’t care”.
— But I never said I didn’t like it.

— Right, but that’s how they projected your quote in the ad.
— Well, I heard it, but I don’t like it, because it’s so artificial. It’s too forced. The great “Ramones” album that was copied was done by the “Beatnik Termites”, called “Pleasant Dreams”.

— Is that one out yet?
— It’s going to come out. That one I like. It was real good. But you see, when I saw the “Boris The Sprinkler” album, I wanted to know who the fat guy was on the cover with the glasses because Joey got fat towards the end, and I knew it was supposed to be an immitation of him. So I went up to the fat guy in “Boris The Sprinkler” and said, “Were you supposed to be Joey”, and he goes, “Yeah”, so it confirmed my belief. Then I listened to the album, and I give it about a 6 out of 10. They seem to be nice guys, but you know, I guess if that’s my quote, that’s how I felt. What is the point if you can get the real thing?

— I’d have to agree with you on that account. I’ve only heard two of these “Ramones” cover albums, but the only one to impress me so far was the “Parasites” version of “It’s Alive”.
— I mean (still referring to “Boris The Sprinkler”), there’s no way they could get a Phil Spector production because they’re not Phil Spector, and I’m sure they don’t know anybody who’s as good as him. But they’re a cute band. The singer has the schtick and everything.

— Where all have “The Intruders”
toured, because you’ve been together for a couple years, and I think this is the first time you’ve played in the Northwest.
— Two years. South America, Europe twice, America three times, about 40 shows with the “Misfits”, about 10-15 shows with “Rancid”, the “Warped Tour”... Canada twice already. In South America, we played with the “Sex Pistols”, we played the two shows with them. Now we’re going to finish this tour and go to Canada again.

— I was reading the book “Ramones: An American Band”. It’s the biography that came out a few years ago, and it has a list of every show the “Ramones” played up until 1992. I noticed you guys played in Portland and Eugene a few times throughout the ’70s and ’80s. Do you have any memories of those shows, like where you played or anything that happened?
— Me and Dee Dee at that time were getting very high, so there’s a lot of memory lapse, but I remember most of the shows were the same — crazy, great, fun, just nuttiness... a lot of slam dancing, and that’s how it was. To pinpoint one particular show is pretty hard to do.

— Yeah, and it was a long time ago too. I have to confess I haven’t seen the new video you put out, which I believe is called “Ramones Around The World”?
— You gotta see that, it’s on “Rhino”.

— Yeah, tell me what it’s about.
— I took a camera around from ’87 to ’96 of just the “Ramones”, with my high-8 camera. I was the only Ramone with a camera, and I just taped everything: songs, intimate stuff, backstage stuff, stuff that isn’t on “We’re Outta Here”.

— Do you still keep in touch with the other “Ramones”?
— Yeah, I’m friends with Johnny and Dee Dee. I have no idea what Joey is up to. I heard he was very sick, and Tommy I speak to... And C.J... I think he’s in a biker metal band. They do cover songs or something. They’re called “Los Geesanos”, or “Los Gusanos”.

— Like you said earlier, a lot of the “Ramones”
are doing their own thing right now. Do you know if...
— Yeah, but are you hearing anything by them that’s really great?

— I’ve heard “Los Gusanos”
.
— And what do you think of it?

— It’s definitely not the
“Ramones”.
— It’s horrible, it’s bad.

— Well, it’s completely different. I mean... I can appreciate it as something different.

— I can’t. I think it’s really like 80’s metal, but done badly. I mean, that’s just my opinion. But Dee Dee’s stuff is great, the “Zonked!” album that he put out is great.

— I haven’t heard that yet.

— Yeah, it’s real good. Dee Dee’s solo stuff is great.

— I’ve heard that it’s a bit slower than the “Ramones”.
— Yeah, it’s slower, but it’s reflective. It’s really good.

— You played on his album too, right?

— Yeah, but I don’t say that because I played on it. I just love Dee Dee’s writing. He’s fuckin’ great. He can write a song in 20 minutes and it can become a “Pet Sematary”, you know what I mean?

— Do you think there’s any chance for Johnny Ramone to come out of retirement and do something new?
— Ah, well... there’s talk of doing a movie this summer called “Gabba Gabba Hey”, and it’s not definite, but it might happen. It’s going to be a major movie. We’re looking to have “Rancid” in it, “Misfits”, “Social Distortion”, “Green Day”, uh... maybe Joan Jett, “Bad Religion”... It’s a movie but it will have actors in it; maybe Rosanna Arquette, Vincent Gallo... And at the end we do two new “Ramones” songs, and Dee Dee’s gonna be in the band.

— Wow... (I’m nearly speechless)
— It’s not definite, but we’re talking about it.

— This next question is something I’ve been curious about for awhile. When the “Ramones” met at Tower Records in New York last year to sign copies of We’re Outta Here, I believe it was billed as the first time that all the former “Ramones” appeared together in public.
— Right.

— So I’ve been wondering why Richie Ramone (former drummer) was absent.

— No one’s heard from him for a decade. The last I heard, he was a golf caddy. So that was it. Nobody heard from him. But Tommy was there, and Dee Dee was there, and Joey and Johnny.

— This leads to another question, which is sort of related. The album “Halfway to Sanity” is the only one without any songwriting credits.
— Really, on “Halfway to Sanity”? I didn’t notice that.

— I know it was the last album Richie played on, and he left the band before the tour.
— Yeah, I didn’t play on that album.

— So you don’t know if there’s any reason for the lack of songwriting credits on the album sleeve? I wondered if maybe Richie wrote a lot of the songs and they didn’t want to acknowledge him after he quit.
— I have no idea. I toured for that album because at that point I came back into the band, and then I did the “Pet Sematary” single and “Merry Christmas (I Don’t Want to Fight Tonight)”, and then we did the “Brain Drain” album, so I have no idea what was going on before that, especially with “Halfway to Sanity”.

— OK, that’s all I have for questions. Do you have an address to give or anything else you’d like to say?
— Well, we have a website, an “Intruders” website. Intruders-dot-net-slash-com, whatever it is. And the Intruders/Ramones-dot-com, whatever it is. (actually, it’s www.intruders.net). Get the “Rhino” video, “Around The World”. It’s 70 minutes long, it’s all my footage, and it’s really good. (at this point, the tape momentarilly cuts out, but Marky begins talking about Joey Ramone’s illness) ...He’s going through chemotherapy and I hope that everything is well. Dee Dee and I have a separate band called “The Ramainz”, and occasionally we play in New York. “The Ramainz” album is coming out soon (entitled “Live in N.Y.C.”, it was released June 15 by “GB Music”). It’s a DAT recording from the board; real raunchy, a great show with 400 kids going nuts in the club. It’s Dee Dee singing “Ramones” songs that he wrote. Johnny Ramone... who knows? He might come out of retirement, he might not, but there’s going to be a lot more “Ramones” video footage from my library, like a part 2, 3, and 4. The first one’s out on “Rhino”, and if all goes well, I’ll do some more. I also want to start playing on other peoples’ albums, just doing one song; play some punk stuff and have fun.

— Alright, that should wrap it up, and I’d like to thank you. This has been a great interview and a real honor to meet you. We’re actually from Eugene, where you’re playing tomorrow night, so we’ll be there for that show, too.
— Yeah, I just want to say that I’m flattered that all these bands do “Ramones” cover albums. It keeps the “Ramones” freak-flag waving high, and I wish them all luck. I really like what they do, and you know, keep up the good work. And “Sloppy Seconds” are great, too.

Glenn Shires, Hit List #4

 
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