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  News arrow Members arrow C.J. Ramone arrow 1998-06 Interview with C.J. Ward of Los Gusanos (www.nyr
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Randall's Island, New York, USA 1996 (Lollapalooza tour)

— What has the response been to the new material?
— At the shows, it’s been real good. A lot of kids come up to us, and go, “It’s so great that you’re doing what you’re doing. That you’re not riding the “Ramones” thing, and nobody does rock ‘n’ roll anymore”. I started the band with some friends, and the whole thing was to just let everybody do what they want, and that’s kinda what “Los Gusanos” is, all of our different influences combined. To me, it’s a throwback to more of that raw-power garage rock. Everybody has a different opinion of what it sounds like and what they compare it to. People have been like, “You sound like Ted Nugent”. Some people say, “You sound like Black Sabbath”. It’s funny.

— When the pop-punk stuff hit the radio a few years back, there was a backlash from the punk purists. Do you still see that going on?

— Well I think, really these days, there’s no way to avoid the situation that happened with punk. The industry really has their fingers on the pulse of the music business these days, and they jump on it. Things go right from the underground to MTV. Nobody likes to see their scene exploited. You know how it runs in the industry: they just sign up whatever is big on the underground. They’ll squeeze them dry. They’ll commercialize the style, pound them into your head, and then they’ll dump it. Then punk will fall into the same category as disco.

Although now, the record companies have got it figured out so well that they go back and do all these MTV and VH-1 specials, and try to lend some kind of credibility to these styles, like disco, and make it seem like it was a real musical movement rather than something invented by the industry. And you don’t want to see that done to your favorite music; it’s kinda painful to watch that happen, but it’s part of the whole process. It’s part of the machine.

I liked punk when I was a kid, because it was a small scene, where everybody pretty much knew each other, and everybody supported the bands. But punk deserved its due. It deserved its day in the spotlight. All these newer punk rock bands, God bless them, it’s good to see punk doing well. No matter what anybody says about “Green Day” being pop or anything like that. They’re definitely a pop band, but definitely punk influenced. There’s no way to deny that.

— So you feel that the true punk rock is like psychedelia or disco, a movement firmly rooted in music history, and everything that people call “punk” today is really just a retread of the original?
— Punk was a reaction to a political climate and a certain time in America, where people were just starting to break out of the 60’s "peace and love scene," and you had kids who were totally alienated. They had the opposite ends of the spectrum within one generation. They saw the extreme right to the extreme left clash, and then all of a sudden they were the afterbirth of that. Alienation, and just like a feeling of nothing really mattered, that’s what punk was born out of. Now, I’m speaking about in the U.S.; I’m not talking about the British or European punk scene, because that had nothing to do with America. To me, that was the tainting of punk.

Everybody relates punk rock now to Mohawks and safety pins, and it really wasn’t. Punk was more like the “Ramones”, really angry street music. What kids do today, not to say that kids still don’t feel alienated, but they’re not inventing anything with their feelings. They’re just going with what they learned as kids, when they felt alienated, and they related to these bands like the “Ramones” and the “Sex Pistols”. Now they’re just kinda copying their styles, and it’s just not the same thing. It’s not a reaction

— What’s it like having gone from a high profile band back to the basics?

— It’s kinda nice because I never really experienced it. I always felt like I just got lucky with the “Ramones”. I just felt like, “There’s so many people out there that struggle, and I just stepped into a good situation and had it easy”. I’m definitely paying my dues now. Last tour we did, before the CD came out, we slept on people’s floors and stuff, and I’m sure we’ll be doing it again on this trip.

— How long did it take you to put “Los Gusanos” together?
— We got together in ’92, just kinda messed around a bit, playing out in clubs, doing covers, “Beastie Boys”, AC/DC, whatever we all knew. That’s how much I loved playing — I’d come home from being on the road with the “Ramones” and I’d jam with friends.

We decided we were going to do a benefit CD; I always figured, “Well, I’ve got some kind of notoriety now, I can actually maybe make a difference”. I thought education’s a good gift to give someone. So, we did a four-song-CD single with “Alternative Tentacles”, which was a benefit for the Oglala Lakota College, a Native American-run, four-year school on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. And all the money went right to the college. It can be ordered through “Alternative Tentacles”. We’re kinda hoping that as our new CD sells more, the people will start going back and trying to collect the back-catalog, and pick that up. So we can get some more money back over to them.

— Despite your historic tenure, I think some people would be shocked how much of a struggle you guys had getting this disc out there.
— Everybody thinks once you’re in a big band, it’s all gravy, and that’s totally not the truth. It helps in some spots, but most of the time it hurts more than anything. When you go to a record label, they look up past releases and what you’ve done before, and when they see record sales as low as some of those records did, it makes them kinda nervous.

So, you’re fighting on a couple of fronts. It’s just the style of music we’re doing — there aren’t a lot of bands doing it. There isn’t a real scene yet for that style of music. Music is at a total stalemate right now. There’s not one style of music that everybody’s digging. So we’re hoping that we’ll be able to ride that next wave. We’re hoping that it’s going to go back to the heavy stuff, because, let’s face it, the shit that’s out now is so middle-of-the-road.

— What’s the most important thing you learned from being in the “Ramones”?

— Probably to keep working. The “Ramones” made a living being on the road. They never sold a lot of records, but most every show we did was sold out. That tells you something. That’s what it’s all about. Gold records and all that stuff don’t mean all that much. I’d rather just tour. I’d be full of shit if I said that I wouldn’t like to have a gold record, but it’s not really a priority. Playing six, seven nights a week, beating the shit out of your body, living on road food, sleeping on floors. It’s tough to be great every night, but hey, that’s us — we’re the fuckin’ dog soldiers of the business. Just get out there and do what we gotta do.

Roger Scott, www.nyrock.com

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