A Conversation with John Fogerty
Mike Ragogna: Hey John, how are you?
John Fogerty: I'm good Michael, how are you?
MR: I'm pretty good. This looks like the year of John Fogerty, what the heck is happening?
JF: [laughs] That's funny. I'm just staying busy, I guess.
MR: You are staying busy, sir. You have a major tour schedule, kicking off part of at the Nokia Theatre in LA. You're focusing performing full Creedence albums in addition to your own. Where did the idea came from to perform the Creedence catalog?
JF: Doing the old albums probably came from my wife. The idea is to play the entire album from first cut side one to last cut side two, which is interesting to even think about in this day and age. You know how nowadays, things come through the ether. The idea of trying to explain to somebody that there was one side and another side, they'd probably just stand there with their eyes glazing over. So it sort of focuses on that group of songs and it's a concept of a place to go with most of the songs I play in some form or another. What this does is sort of ensures that you also play what they call "deep album tracks."
MR: What's nice about this approach is that for people who don't know the full LP, they'll be introduced to the album in a special way, and for fans who have already experienced it as the vinyl or CD, they get to see it in another light.
JF: We've done a little bit of this in Canada and I did it in Australia last year. Even for myself, you tuck these things away into a little compartment in your memory or in your brain and you really think you're dealing with it through your life, but you really don't. You kind of leave it in that compartment.
MR: Which was your favorite Creedence album?
JF: My favorite from the Creedence albums was Green River, certainly up until that point in time anyway. But there were many things about it that I had left back in 1969 that really didn't come out until I started touring and playing that whole album again. It's just funny. We worked with some production people to have video, there are other people helping me bring this up into a production for the stage, but on a lot of the stuff, I had to correct people, because I'm the only guy that knows a lot of it. I found myself kind of going, "No, no, no, that's not..." and my memory would take over because I was the guy that created it in the first place. It's just really interesting how that works because there's a fan that was alive at the time, then there's somebody that comes along that was a much more casual fan. In a professional sense, they're trying to work up a program and they're just seeing it in a completely different way and sometimes it's right on, but sometimes, it's kind of general and missing the point. For me, to hear something like that, especially if it's way far off from my recollection, then you just have to kind of take over. It's interesting. It becomes really important, if you can imagine.
MR: Yeah, and you've kind of got the luxury of re-learning what the song was originally about by performing it in context again.
JF: Yeah, that's really what happens. When you do a whole album, you're much more likely to feel that way about it because you've got all the surroundings. I know when we did Bayou Country instead of a song out of context like "Proud Mary" which has spun off into so many different realms of the universe, I mean Gerald Ford dancing to "Proud Mary" at his inauguration, every other wedding you've ever been to, Tina Turner, just a million things, and then when you put it back into Bayou Country and think about it that way, it becomes a lot more pure, how it was intended in the first place without all that extra cultural bling that happens over the years. You know what I'm saying. I like that phrase, "cultural bling," I hadn't ever said that before.
MR: [laughs] Nice. So one of the stops along your way in addition to performing live is that you're going to be doing this "Wrote A Song For Everyone" project with the Grammys. Can you go into what that is?
JF: I talked to the moderator a little bit already, we're going to do sort of a museum display of artifacts from my life, I guess you'd say. It's kind of weird to stand there like Theodore Roosevelt or something. I saw Night At The Museum with my kids too many times, maybe thirty times by now. But besides having that, there's also "An Evening With..." so I will be asked questions and I will be prompted to tell stories from certain areas of songwriting and recollections of my life. I don't know what that is right now, I did a little bit of on-camera stuff because that's going to become part of the presentation that they're having, but I'm sure the moderator has a script or a path that he wants to go down, though I don't know what that is. So it's going to be pretty spontaneous, but I'm not making it up. Since I'm recalling it from real life, I tend to be able to get there pretty quickly when people press the right button. That's always kind of fun and I'll probably sing a couple of songs, acoustically anyhow.
MR: Can we rehearse that a little bit, then? Like what is one of your favorite stories or memories from your solo career or Creedence days?
JF: I'll tell you one of my favorites, just because it's precious. They opened the Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame, and there was the whole process and, of course, I had gone to almost every ceremony starting in 1986 in New York and watched the thing take its course. The city of Cleveland lobbied really heavily and finally got the actual building built, so they not only had a grand opening but they also had a big concert and I was lucky enough to get to perform with Booker T & The M.G.'s backing me up. At that time, I was in the middle of working on an album and I didn't have a band per se...this was 1995, I think. By this point, it was Booker and Duck [Dunn] and Steve [Cropper]. Al Jackson, Jr. had passed away and they had someone else for the drums. We met and had a couple of rehearsals back there in Cleveland. I went with my family and my children with Julie [Kramer] were quite young at the time, but this was a proud thing we were all doing together. It got to be quite late at night by the time I actually performed, it was about ten or eleven or something like that. All I know is we did our spot in the show, there were many, many, many very talented musicians as you can imagine, and my little children had fallen asleep and my wife and I went back to our hotel. The next morning, I was up at probably ten-thirty or eleven or something like that because it had gotten late and I'm brushing my teeth, and my two little boys come running in and they start jumping up and down pointing at me and shouting "I ain't no fortunate! I ain't no fortunate! I ain't no fortunate!" because they had seen how I perform the end of "Fortunate Son." It's almost exactly what I just said--I stop and I say that over and over as the band does a big vamp--and my little boys who must have been, who knows how many hundreds of yards away from me, somehow knew it was me and could perhaps see me on a screen and saw it. It was just so sweet. That was the first thing out of their mouths. They were probably three or four years old at that point. It was just an amazing daddy moment. My rock 'n' roll life and my real life sort of got synched together forever in that one little moment.
MR: Beautiful. Now the name of this exhibit is Wrote A Song For Everyone, which backdoors us into your latest album. On this album, you celebrate your catalog through duets on almost all of the songs. What was the inspiration for that approach?
JF: Actually, it came out of the blue, at least for me. My wife and I were sitting in our family room with our kids just having family time, probably more than three years ago now, when suddenly, out of the blue, she says, "Why don't you get a bunch of the people you love and sing your songs?" She'll do that, but I'm usually able to dial the station back in and say, "Oh, you're talking about professionally," because the next sentence could have been about one of the kids in school, you know? If you're in a family, that's how things work. The next moment might have been, "The dog needs to get his shots renewed." So she said that and I instantly knew what she meant and it sounded delightful to me. Instead of some abstract career move that maybe some agent or a record company would suggest to you, she was saying something that was very personal because she said, "The people you love," meaning the artists that I love, the people whose records I buy, that I'm a fan of, and have them sing my songs with me along them. At least I think that's what she meant, gosh, maybe I should go back and ask her if that's what she meant. [laughs] What that seemed to mean to me was when I call up Bob Seger or Brad Paisley, I'm going to say, "Here's this idea, would you like to do something with me?" You just follow your nose, kind of. When a person said yes, I'd say, "Why don't you pick a song?" It's not that I had a plan, but it kind of felt like by saying that, I was allowing that person to have their influence rather than me telling them.
You used that phrase "duets," and we've all seen that thing, and most of us kind of cringe at the whole idea because they're sort of put-up jobs, usually the people aren't even in the same room; one sends an email file to another person and then they open it in their computer and then they sing along or they play a little piano solo on it and send it back. It's not organic and it's really not very musical, at least the things that I've heard about. I certainly didn't want that to happen, so I was kind of following my heart. I just said, "Well, what would you like to do?" and then when a person would suggest a song, I would say, "Okay, why don't you figure out a treatment, a vision, an arrangement because I don't want to redo the same old record again, I want to experiment and do something musically new to us so we can really enjoy this." One of the first people I talked to was Keith Urban, who happens to be a friend. He's somebody I've known for several years now. Rather than the concept that I'm using Keith like a feather in my cap, that wasn't my emotion. My emotion was, "Here's this guy I know that I really love," and I mean personally; we're really good friends, "and he's a whale of a guitar player and singer, I love his records," So what would we do if we were going to do something really fun? Let's have something that's really intriguing for us. So he sort of suggested some sort of back porch attitude with "Almost Saturday Night," and I said, "That sounds really interesting Keith, that sounds fun." I had seen Keith a couple of times live as opposed to seeing him on TV. In his live show, he does banjo. He's always had that banjo on quite a few of his songs but you'd probably never realize that's actually Keith playing that part. I said, "Man, why don't you bring that banjo? I think there's a place that would be pretty cool." Of course, he did. I'm just knocked out about how it turned out. My song was done one way and this came out completely different from that, just because I kind of encouraged the musician, and his personality is different from mine. Every parent tries to do that with their kid; instead of controlling them, you try to get them to where they actually open up and use their own creativity. This was what happened.
MR: And your boys, Shane and Tyler, actually made it onto the album, too!
JF: There you go, see that's a wonderful moment. I knew this album was going to be a pretty special thing in my whole career. I've got all these wonderful people and I'm kind of revisiting my catalog, so who knows if it will ever happen again. My boys do have a band and they play and we've kind of grown up playing guitars and singing together. They'd run and get something online--this is the world we live in--and they'd say, "Dad, dad, come upstairs. Do you know how to play this?" and they'd have "Back In Black" by AC/DC going. "I want to know how to play that!" It was so intriguing because perhaps I had never actually played that myself. I love the record but I never sat down and actually learned it. Why would I do that? I'm not playing in a bar anymore, so I didn't have to learn the song note for note, but now my kids are having me do it, so we would learn those things together. It became a grand opportunity for me and my boys to make music together on one of my songs. As it turned out with that track, we actually recorded it at Abbey Road, so it's got quite a story to it all by itself.
MR: Wow. John, look at the people on this project. These are, for the most part, people that I believe probably grew up on your music. There's something iconic about both your music, both solo and with Creedence, that I think became a foundation for what would become coined "Americana." How do you feel about leaving a mark like that?
JF: I really try not to think about stuff like that. I'm a fairly humble person. When you finish a song and you've worked really hard on it, then you kind of say, "Yeah, that's a pretty good song, I like that song." You do have your own standard because you throw away a lot of things, so when you find one that's a keeper, you realize you've gotten up to the standard that you've set for yourself. I try not to get full of myself, if I can say it that way. But every once in a while, I'm taken by surprise when something happens.
I'll tell you two stories quickly. One was with Brad Paisley. When he said he would do it, I said, "Okay, will you pick a song?" He said, "I know what I want to do," and I said, "What would you like?" He said, "I want to do 'Hot Rod Heart.'" That just really surprised me because it was off of Blue Moon Swamp, which was kind of a later album and the song itself I didn't feel had real high visibility. My wife and I had wanted that to be the lead single, by the way, off that album, but the record company went in other directions. We always thought that song got kind of overlooked, but here was Brad Paisley picking "Hot Rod Heart." I said, "Oh, that's interesting, Brad, I didn't think many people knew about that," and he said, "John, when I was a little kid, I played Centerfield at the Wheeling Jamboree," or something like that. Twelve years old playing Centerfield. And he said, "Blue Moon Swamp, I really love that album, that's one of your best records and I loved 'Hot Rod Heart.'" So he's kind of telling me things that I didn't know. He's giving me what it meant to him. I'm a huge fan of Brad Paisley, I'm in awe of his immense talent, and since I'm a guitar player and a musician, I tend to revere people like that and I also want to learn from them. Even though he's younger than me, I kind of look up the mountain to him. It sounds weird, but that's the way it is, in my mind at least, so to have him relaying a story like this where he's gone way inside and he knows my career...
Another time, I was at the Grammys here in LA a few years ago and for some reason, they put me in the front row. I'm sitting right next to Tom Hanks and I think one of my albums had just been out for three weeks or so. Tom said, "Oh, I love your album," and I looked at him and said, "Oh, you have my album?" He says, "John, I'm a fan!" I was just kind of shocked that this great cinema star--can you get what I'm trying to say? I'm not trying to be cute, I was just surprised that somebody liked me, especially somebody important like that. He put it very clearly, "John, I'm a fan." I was like, "Oh, oh, I get it!" If it was an old album, I would've gone, "Oh yeah, he knows 'Proud Mary.'" but since it was a new album, I was just very surprised. Those kinds of things do make you feel very humble and honored for sure.
MR: What advice do you have for new artists?
JF: Oh, wow. Well, the first thing is listen to your heart. You are sensing that you have a talent and you should listen to that talent. Listen to your heart, meaning do everything you can to follow that, to develop that talent. Never trust anyone who says something to you like, "Oh there are millions of people that want to do that. You don't have a chance!" Never listen to that. Always follow that inspiration because it's what you love to do. I'm going to leave it at that. The other things you will learn along the way. Sometimes the people you meet will be unkind to you, but if you listen to your own voice and try to stay true to your own voice, things will pretty much work out.
MR: That's beautiful. Like Tom Hanks and so many others, I really am a fan. I think you're a powerhouse, and it's really great to see that you have it in perspective and you're a nice guy. I love that. Thanks again for everything, I really wish you all the best.
JF: Thank you so much!
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
A Conversation with Marky Ramone
Mike Ragogna: Hey, good morning, how are you, Marky?
Marky Ramone: I'm doing good, how are you?
Mike: I'm doing okay.
Marky: That's good to hear.
Mike: Thanks man. Rumor has it you're going to be on tour soon with Andrew W.K..
Marky: Well, this is basically a world tour. It's ending in England, but this is kind of the tail end so we decided to do some shows in America because a lot of people wanted to check the band out. We booked some shows and then England will be the last one. We've gone everywhere--Russia, we've been in Spain, we've been in Rio, we've been in Germany, Holland. It's amazing how well these songs hold up and how the audiences want to hear them. That's basically it. We're going to be doing thirty-three or thirty-four Ramones songs, and in New York, we're going to be playing in Irivng Plaza and we're going to play out in the West Coast. It's amazing to see all this, how the older and younger generations bridge the generation gap and it's all because of this great music.
Mike: Yeah. Hey, listen, there's going to be a CBGB's event pretty soon in October. You guys are almost synonymous with CBGB's. What are you thoughts about that?
Marky: It was just another club. To me, when Hilly Kristal died, CBGB's died. I hate to come off that blunt, but again, we live in a capitalistic society and it's becoming a brand--obviously the t-shirt is--and hey, it sounds like fun that the name is still going to be perpetuated for years to come. Do I have anything against it? No, everyone has to have fun and a good time and of course, a lot of people want to relive their memories, so more power to them. But I saw the trailer for the movie and it was pretty bad. It was very, very amateurish. But what can I say? I'm just being honest with you.
Mike: No problem, I admire that. I'm sure you've been asked this a billion times, but what is it about The Ramones' music that keeps it alive through the generations?
Marky: I think it's the lyrical content, the energy factor of how long we've played without stopping, counting the songs off--"1, 2, 3, 4..." in each song, and I think it was the image. We looked like one, and it's very important to me for a band to look like a band and it still is. Maybe not as much today, but when I look at The Beatles and I look at The Stones and I look at The Ramones, when I look at bands like that, there's a certain look that without one or the other, it wouldn't be what it is. It really gelled and it was chemistry, and I think kids saw the camaraderie on the exterior of us. But when you start analyzing the reasons, it might go away. I guess that's the reason.
Mike: How do you see The Ramones' place in history from this point on?
Marky: We started a musical genre. I'm sure there were other bands and individuals with punk elements, but we definitely solidified it and this is the end result, what you see today in bands like Green Day, Offspring, Rancid, even in England when The Ramones went there for the first time influencing The Clash and The Sex Pistols. I think we did our honest day's work. But the thing is it continues, and that's why I'm here to continue bringing this music to people everywhere around the world because I feel these songs are too good not to be played.
Mike: One of the funniest ironies I can remember is the band's appearance in the kiddie movie Rock 'N' Roll High School. The concept of the movie was almost the total opposite of what The Ramones were. It was beyond, "What's wrong with this picture?"
Marky: [laughs] Well, we weren't blessed with Hollywood features, but we tried and we were very disappointed that we didn't win the Oscar. [laughs] Only kidding. But it was like a bunch of aliens landed and all of a sudden the director goes, "Yeah, we'll use them." We were put into that movie and we were very grateful. It definitely got us a lot more interest from fans and friends of the group. It was another step that we needed to catapult us to a longer audience.
Mike: Did you at least have a little more fun when you were playing Marky Ramone in the "Rosebud" episode of The Simpsons?
Marky: Well, that was easier than hanging around for six weeks making a movie, but yeah, that was fun. I'm a big Simpsons fan and Matt Groening's a fan. I saw an eight by ten, came to the studio and recorded that song, or half a song, I should say. And that was what it was, the episode "Rosebud," the song "Happy Birthday Mr. Burns," and my one line was, "Gee, I think they like us." So hey, who knows what that could lead to? But we were very happy to be included in that episode. When I see it on TV or DVD, I laugh. It's pretty cool.
Mike: How are you keeping busy with music these days?
Marky: I try to do these shows with my band everywhere, not just England or the States, but all around the world, and I have my own radio show on Sirius XM coming into its ninth year. It's the largest punk rock show in America because it goes to all the States. And my pasta sauce has really taken off. Sometimes when you pray for something, it can definitely come true. [laughs] I'm going to include something else in the food line farther down the road, and my book is finished now. I have the typed out rendition of it on my computer and I read it and I have to go over little things here and there and add some things, but now that's done, which took about forty-five years to write. There's always something new but you have to know when to stop. You could have a part two, a part three, but this really tells it all. It's written by one of The Ramones. I don't want to start patting myself on the back, but I was in the band for the last fifteen years, so there's a lot of stuff that's in the book that's very topical. It's real, it's factual, and it'll be out in 2014, which is right around the corner.
Mike: Is it going to have a lot of Bob Gruen photos, etc?
Marky: Maybe, maybe it might not have any photos. Maybe it'll just be a book, a real book to read. But we'll see. Everyone knows what The Ramones look like. I wanted to really put in things that had to do with me growing up and other bands I was in, just to show another side of what I did.
Mike: Hey, speaking of other bands you were in, you were in another pretty seminal band, Dust.
Marky: Yeah, we were in high school and we were really too young to tour because we had to finish school to make our parents happy and have that diploma on the wall, which we did eventually. I had to go to night school and summer school for three years. But that's the price you pay to be in a rock band. We were one of the first heavy metal bands in America. We had that first album written as young teenagers before we even heard of Black Sabbath, because Sabbath had their album in 1970 in America on Warner Brothers. We really weren't that aware of that genre there. Of course, Zeppelin was out and Hendrix and Cream and all those groups, but there was nothing in America, there was no representation of that genre yet. But the term "heavy metal" that coined the phrase I think was used in the song "Born To Be Wild," but metal wasn't out yet. Again, there were bands that had elements of metal like Blue Cheer and Mountain, but I think Dust was musically way ahead of those groups. Then we had to break up. We were just naive and the manager didn't know what to do with us because it was a new genre and a lot of people didn't know who to include us with on a floor. It was kind of like growing up, you know?
Mike: Something I didn't know was that you auditioned to be a drummer in New York Dolls.
Marky: Yeah, that's unfortunately when Billy Murcia, the first drummer died. Johnny Thunders called me and asked me if I would come down and audition. They knew Jerry Nolan already, but they knew me too. I guess it looked better to have more people there. It was just me and Jerry. Jerry got the job, he played it straight; I was doing all these drum fills and triplets and that's not what they needed and wanted. I was taking all my Dust stuff, my technical 5/4, 6/4 stuff and throwing it into Dolls songs and it didn't work. I was glad that Jerry got it and I think they lasted 'til '75. But I knew all of them from hanging out in the city at clubs and venues, et cetera. But they were in the audience watching my band Dust, so that's how we all became friends and then later on, I started hanging out at Max's Kansas City and meeting Wayne County, Richard Hell and then Dee Dee asking me to join The Ramones. So that was pretty cool.
Mike: While compiling the material for your book, when you look at the stuff you've done, did anything surprise you, something you maybe hadn't thought of in years? Did you make any connections?
Marky: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. It's really true, you've got to be at the right place at the right time and hanging out at Max's and then, eventually, all of us going downtown to CBGB's, we all started knowing each other and then one thing led to another. Dee Dee always loved the way I played in The Voidoids and Dust and so did Johnny Ramone and that's how I got the job. It was that simple. So one thing leads to another. When Richard Hell approached me and asked me to join The Voidoids, I was at Max's and I had just left Wayne County and a girl knew him and that's how I got the connection. It was that simple. So you know, it's fifty-fifty. You've got to be lucky, too, but who you are and what you do is very important.
Mike: Your history includes associating with VH1's Rock 'N' Roll Fantasy Camp.
Marky: And I was a guest, I was never a teacher. I wouldn't want to do that. Just to walk on as a guest, I think that's great. The kids learn and have a good time and the other teachers are very good. They're very technical, they know how to explain instruments and how they should play certain songs, but I guess I just came on to say hello to the people that were learning the songs. They thought maybe it would involve some kind of inspiration, but I did it just to come there and show them to have a good time.
Mike: Speaking of inspiration, how was your gig with Reverend Martini's All Nite Jumpin' Showcase?
Marky: Oh that stuff's great, the rockabilly stuff, I love it. They're really into The Ramones in Las Vegas. I was a guest. I saw Little Richard and then I hung out with a lot of the rockabilly bands. I think I played with one band at a venue there because I just happened to have been there. It was fun, but out of nowhere, you get asked to play and you go up there and they have their own way of doing Ramones songs so you just adjust. I did a walk-on at The Barclay Center in New York with Fallout Boy. They asked me to do two songs with them. That's a whole other ball game. But they did it very well and I was very grateful to have been asked to do that, and then I just did Rock In Rio and I did a thing with The Ventures at B.B. King's. That was also pretty cool.
Mike: You also were inducted into the Rock 'N' Roll Hall Of Fame in 2002.
Marky: Yep. That was something totally unexpected. To represent this genre of music as The Ramones in this hall of fame where you're among your peers and other people you were influenced by like The Kinks, The Yardbirds, The Who, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean... We were very proud to be included in that because we were talking to everybody who was into punk rock and still is.
Mike: Are you surprised at how endearing and enduring The Ramones have been after all these years?
Marky: Yeah, I am. But when I hear one of our songs, I go, "Now I see why." The songs were great when they came out originally; they were catchy, short and to the point, so I guess the two-minute song approach is the best way. You have your chorus, you have your bridge, that's it, goodbye at the end, you know what I mean? Things were getting very bloated when Ramones came out with other bands. I don't want to name names, but you have this self-indulgence, which is nice, but we didn't like it. We just loved a great song, so that was the intent and that was what the punk scene was about. Now, looking back, a lot of the songs, in my opinion, should have been hits. A lot of DJs at the time were afraid to play us. They didn't want to play us, they had other agendas. Plus the scare tactics and sensationalism about punk that was brought over from the UK didn't help either. It kind of put a little damper on the name "punk." Now, of course, it's no big deal. The band's being played more than ever, there's a renewed interest in the last ten years, so who knows when the calling comes?
Mike: Do you have favorites among all those two-minute wonders?
Marky: Oh yeah, "Sedated," "Blitzkrieg Bop," "Rock 'N' Roll High School," "Sheena Is A Punk Rocker," "Rockaway Beach," "The KKK Took My Baby Away"...
Mike: [laughs] Always loved that title.
Marky: I know, it's pretty funny. What are some other ones? "Lobotomy" is great, these wonderful titles, "Rock 'N' Roll Radio," we can't skip that; "Pet Sematary," which I want to thank Stephen King for including in his movie. The list goes on. It could just go on and on and on and on, there are hundreds of songs.
Mike: You already left your mark musically, but didn't you have a clothing line as well?
Marky: That was a capsule collection, meaning that only came out at a certain time, like in the Spring. I'm friends with Tommy Hillfiger and I was approached to make my own jacket and my own jeans, which I did. They sold out and that was it. It was a creative thing, which I'm always willing to jump into, I don't care if it's cooking, music, clothes, it's shows of creativity. Again, I was very happy to have made that clothes line because I said, "Hey, I can do that!" I thought that was pretty cool.
Mike: Nice. What's your advice for new artists?
Marky: Try to be original. I know it's hard to do because a lot of thing have been done already. Rehearse a lot because you're going to have a lot of competition, try to be the best you can be. Don't smoke cigarettes, don't do any heavy drinking, believe me, I know. Don't do hard drugs, which I never did, and believe in what you're doing and try to not be influenced by negative influences out there, people saying, "You're not going to make it, you can't do it," this especially from relatives or friends. Just believe in yourself. The most important thing is to rehearse with other musicians because you're eventually going to have to play with other people. You'll have to play with a bass player, a guitar player, whatever you're doing live as a musician. And try to like all genres of music, not just one thing. You have to learn, it's a learning process. Try to get into blues, jazz, some metal, definitely punk. Then throw it up and you come down and one day you might have your own style.
Mike: You've been in the public light for so long and everybody has their idea of who Marky is, but is there something we need to know about Marky Ramone that nobody knows yet?
Marky: Well, I wasn't brothers with Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee. We were just friends. A lot of people thought we were brothers, but that wasn't the case. That was just the name that Paul McCartney would use when he would sign into a hotel. He would call himself "Paul Ramone," so Dee Dee took the name "Ramone" and called it The Ramones. It sounds like a family, but we weren't. We were just friends.
Mike: Well, I guess we'll be looking forward to the next entry in your pasta sauce line.
Marky: Yup, and ten percent goes to charity, to Autism Speaks. That's the most important thing for me, is that it definitely goes to that charity. It's a charity that's been around for a while and the proceeds go to that. Obviously, it helps people with austism, all ages, all different types of development of the disease and I'm proud to be part of that.
Mike: Beautiful. Okay, thank you much, Marky, I don't want to take up any more of your time, I really appreciate the interview.
Marky: Any time. Thank you.
For more info... http://www.MarkyRamone.com
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
According to the artist...
"This is a visual for the song 'Omen' from Slowriter's full length release TrailBlazer released earlier this year on Autumn + Colour records," reveals vocalist Bryan Taylor. "It features live footage of the band performing the song in studio with projection on the wall in the background. The video for 'Omen' is a small glimpse at the atmosphere and mood of a Slowriter live show. With an ever-changing lineup of musicians and production, the live show is a vital part of Slowriter."
A Conversation with Tom Odell
Mike Ragogna: Hi, Tom, how are you doing?
Tom Odell: I'm good, man, how's it going?
MR: It's going well, thank you for asking. It's going well for you too, isn't it! Despite the title of your album being Long Way Down, your career's on a real crescendo right now.
TO: Yeah, it's nice. Pretty busy, doing touring. It's great, man. It's really nice that people can connect to the songs and to come and play to people every night is a real dream. It's good.
MR: Nice, congratulations. This is a very honest album, Long Way Down. It seems like you were basically writing how you felt and you weren't thinking of shoehorning it into anything. Can you tell me how biographical this album really is? And what is your writing process?
TO: With my writing process, I try and just write what I'm feeling. I think when I was a teenager and had just started writing, I had the ambition to write good songs and there was this moment when I wrote "Grow Old With Me," which is the first song on the album, and I just sort of wrote what I felt rather than this analyst type writing where you analyze everything. Then afterwards, I try to go back and form it into a song. I think that just clears the way. It allows you to just lay down the most genuine feeling rather than it being sort of contrived. My writing process changes. Sometimes it's on the piano late at night or sometimes I get revved up a bit or I'll get an idea on the guitar and then I'll move it to the piano. It's always different.
MR: You've done your share of busking and the whole open mic thing, and those must've been pretty difficult years financially, et cetera, but I'm sure there was a lot of growth that happened. True? What do you think?
TO: Yeah, I think that if you were given everything on a plate straight away, there'd be no struggle, would there. You have to sort of yearn for something and want something. But I wasn't really bothered by it and I'm still not really bothered by it, as long as I've got enough to eat and sleep. To me, the biggest yearning was to make an album. That was my goal. That was at the end of the road for me. I knew that's all I wanted to do. So when I first moved to Brighton when I was seventeen or eighteen, I moved with the intention to absorb a lot of music and make an album. It took me two or three years. It's a pretty difficult thing to break into.
MR: Your goal was to make an album, and you have been inspired by some of the best--Leonard Cohen, Elton John, Bob Dylan--and I believe I even hear some of those influences in your work. Now that you have your album, have your priorities changed? What did you feel when you listened to your album? Did you feel some sort of completion?
TO: [laughs] No. It's funny, because you sort of get to one point and immediately, the goalposts change, you know? I learned so much from making the first record that I know the day I finished it, I just wanted to make another one. I think, particularly on a first album, I made a lot of mistakes. I listen to it now and I think, "I know what I want to do next." That's part of what being an artist is about; it's about developing, and going forward and pushing yourself. You're never going to make a record that's just right the first time, are you. You make mistakes. I think part of being an artist is also being able to sign off and leave that there and move on to the next thing.
MR: Overall, were you able to see musical growth happening? In other words, you're seeing the album and you move the goalpost, but can you see where you're heading now after this project?
TO: Yeah, I do actually. It's not black and white, it's not solidified, but I think the direction I'm heading right now is that I put my band together just before we recorded the album, so we were still pretty fresh. But now, we've been touring for a year and there are a lot of songs coming together for me during sound checks. They happen with the band and there's a feeling of these songs coming together. Right now, I'm really excited about being in the studio again in close to the next three or four months, maybe around Christmas time, to get some of these songs down. I kind of know what I want to do for the next record. The songs aren't all written but you get those pinpoint songs... I don't want to talk too much about this, but I feel myself going in a certain direction, which is really exciting for me.
MR: You mentioned "Grow Old With Me" earlier. Usually, that can be a more difficult topic to bridge when you're young. Sometimes, the desire to grow old with someone is an older person's sentiment.
TO: It's difficult to say that when you're old, though.
MR: [laughs] See, that also proves the point I'm about to make, which is you seem to already have a worldliness about you and your music and to your lyrics, a real depth. There's a depth. Where did you get that depth stuff?
TO: I don't know, I guess there's always been a small desire in my head to make music that was inclusive. I don't think about it that much, but when I set our recording Long Way Down, I didn't want to exclude people. I think there's something wonderful when music can be shared by many. At the end of the day, it's just sound and it's people uniting through music. That's not saying I'm desperately trying to write things that every age can relate to, but I just didn't purposefully write things that people couldn't relate to. I think to me, that's not so much about having music that's popular, it's just about keeping it real. There are things in everybody's lives that I try and write about, but it's not really a conscious decision. This is a hard topic, I don't know if I'm saying it properly, but I'd love nothing more than in twenty years time for one of my songs to still feel relevant.
MR: Well, you seem to be relevant right now, sir, because you won BRIT's Critic's Choice award. Were you surprised?
TO: Yeah, I was surprised. I think the thing about that is you kind of take it with a pinch of salt. This industry is so fickle, if you listened to everything that happened, you'd have a very turbulent lifestyle. but it was a real honor to win that BRIT, definitely. A real honor.
MR: Seeing as you're both a new artist yourself and a bit of an old soul, what advice do you have for new artists?
TO: For new artists, I don't know if I'm massively in a position to say, but I would say that for me, the joy I get from music is the same joy I got when I was writing songs in my bedroom. I would've made music regardless of if I was still there now. I think it's very important to have that. I meet artists occasionally and they ask how I made it. I think if you can just make the most genuinely satisfying music that you personally feel satisfied with and it moves you, that's all you can do and the rest will come into place.
MR: So you're no stranger to the States?
TO: No, I've spent quite a lot of time in New York and LA, we did a two-week tour back in May and we just did another two-week tour again. It's great, man, I love it. I guess it's quite a weird schedule at the moment because in Europe, we just started playing in much bigger venues. We played a festival the other day with twenty-thousand people and it was overwhelming, and then you come over here and you play in front of a hundred and fifty people. It's really a wonderful thing because it keeps you on your toes, you know? It keeps you grounded and working hard and trying to get that same joy you got out of it in the first place.
MR: Do you think having been here is going to be inspiring yet another batch of material?
TO: Yeah! Last time I was in America, there were a lot of songs that came out. I'm very influenced by American culture, American music; I grew up absorbing a lot of it. I think being out here and touring is very inspiring. Very, very inspiring.
MR: Fabulous, Tom. I appreciate your time, I'll let you get back to it.
TO: Nice to speak to you, man.
MR: By the way, I really like this album a lot. What a terrific debut.
TO: Thank you very much, that means a lot, man. Thank you very much.
MR: Take care, all the best.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne
A Conversation with The Sadies' Dallas Good
Mike Ragogna: All right, let's talk about your new Yep Roc record. Dallas, take us through the album?
Dallas Good: Okay, I'll do my best.
MR: First off, it's called Internal Sounds, right?
MR: So Internal Sounds as opposed to...?
DG: Did you see the cover? When The Sadies started our North American tour to support our Darker Circles album, I slipped on some ice in Saskatoon and had a compound fracture of both bones in my leg. It made a gruesome noise inside my body.
MR: And thus the beginnings of the new album.
DG: Yeah, it's very much along the lines of deadened, considering it was two major bones snapped in two, but I had a lot of blood to baffle it.
MR: That must have scared the crap out of you, seeing that happen to your body.
DG: Yeah. Actually, the first thing I did was put my foot back to where it was supposed to be, and I just remembered, "If I go into shock, I'm twice as f**ked." I tried my best not to be scared and just be more practical about it, but that's easier for me to say two years later.
MR: So this was what was the impetus for the creativity that went into this album, its core message, its beating heart, if you will?
DG: Well, at least it was the impetus for the artwork and title.
MR: Alright, back to that let's get that album tour of the album. You have this way of looking at the world that's uniquely Sadies.
DG: That's true, I suppose. I've developed a bit of a formula to my misery.
MR: Can you walk us through the infirmary?
DG: With "The First Five Minutes," that particular song was actually the first one that I started working on and as a result, the roadblock. With that one and "The Very Beginning," I was kind of working on simultaneously pretty much right after our last album Darker Circles. So that was sort of like the hardest crossword puzzle I've ever had to do; it took me months to finish them even thought they're by no means profoundly good or anything. It was just the system of writing, I had the music first and it sort of presented some obstacles. But I'm really happy with the way "First Five Minutes" turned out just given the fact that it's a five minute track and it doesn't bore me to death, which is pretty rare.
MR: Which brings us to "So Much Blood," which, let me see, what's that song about?
DG: [laughs] Well, Travis is the primary writer on that one, so I'm not going to try and redirect the meaning of that song. I will take credit for naming it. Again, it would be hard for me to cite his major inspiration for that one, but it's certainly not a left turn for Sadies material. From there, we're at "The Very Beginning," which is more of my existentialist miserable crap, although I don't consider it a dark song at all. I don't consider anything I write "dark." They're more just funny and morose. You know, I'm cool with the word "dark," actually. I think I used "miserable" earlier and that's maybe not the best description.
MR: Recently, I heard somebody describe another person's music as "Darkwave."
DG: [laughs] I'd say we're more "Oldwave." So from there "Starting All Over Again" would be the next one, which is part of "The Very Ending," we separated the two songs so they could be, well, two instead of one. Again, Travis was leading on the lyric of "Starting All Over Again." One time, we gave Exene Cervenka a copy of our Darker Circles record, or maybe we just told her what it was called. She went, "Oh, Doctor Circus? That's the coolest name ever!" And we had to agree it was way better than our title. So for the longest time the working title for "Starting All Over Again" was "Doctor Circus." I had to include that.
MR: And a great name for someone's group, that's great, man.
DG: [laughs] Yeah, it's both my pride and my curse. Then "Another Tomorrow Again" and "Another Yesterday Again," That comes from a tradition of songs I've been writing; we have a song called "Another Year Again" and "Another Day Again" on our previous records. The songs themselves are pretty straight ahead. Not a whole lot of profound ideas in those two.
MR: Yeah, of course you have the very ending in the middle of the record, so let's just face it, Doctor Circus, you and Travis are wiseasses.
DG: [laughs] I don't know, I guess so. Art is art. Being a wiseass is better than being a dumbass.
MR: Eeeexactly. And now for an Andre Williams story break. Kidding, let's continue with the album.
DG: [laughs] So "The Lesser Key" is a song I named after the book of demons, spells and incantations known as The Lesser Key Of Solomon. It was originally called "Song For The Mekons," but then I realized Bonnie "Prince" Billy already had a song called "For The Mekons." How weird is that? We were going to write a song for our dear friends and we find out somebody else already did it.
MR: Scary. No really, all of this is quite scary. But continue, please.
DG: Anyhow, "STORY 19" was written solely as an ode and hat-tip to the Dutch band The Outsiders, one of my all-time favorite groups. Ronnie Splinter, the guitarist, was willing and able to actually collaborate on the song with me, but sadly, about three days before the record was totally completed, he passed away due to a battle with esophagus cancer. So that sucked. In my opinion, there's nothing worse than a posthumous tribute to an artist if you don't have much affiliation with them. It just seems silly to me, so it really does suck that he wasn't able to perform on the record because again he was such a huge influence and such a great, great man and they were a great band and it just kind of sucks that we weren't able to high-five about it.
MR: Sorry, man.
DG: Thanks. And then lastly, we suckered Buffy Sainte-Marie into singing with us. Don't ask me how I talked her into it but I did.
MR: Dude, she's one of my favorites. I love her.
DG: Mine too. She had such a crazy diverse career, but her work in the sixties was untouchable, and then her work as a humanitarian is untouchable too. I cannot stress how lucky we are to have worked with her officially. That song was a bit of an experiment going into it. We recorded all of the instruments in 432hz tuning, Pythagorean tuning, and my cat, who passed away at the beginning of the year, is featured purring heavily on it. It's a special track.
MR: Scared again, thanks. It's pretty obvious you guys are having a blast, all you Sadies.
DG: Well, we're lucky. We do what we do and fortunately--I don't want to say there's a market for it, because that's not true--but we're able to exist. People don't mind that, and we have a circle of friends that make it easier to have fun. So now, we've gotten to André Williams. That's the worst thing to do to somebody, because anyone will come up with one story off the top of their head and then come up with ten more the second they hang up the phone. Well, just about two weeks ago, we did a show with him in Kitchener-Waterloo. Gee, we've had such a sordid past with him and then such a great recent past with him that it's really hard to come up with something good that's dirty and still protects the innocent.
MR: [laughs] He loves you guys, Dallas. He adores your band. He had all these amazing things to say about you when I interviewed him. I was actually looking forward to this interview because I'd get to see where the love was from the other side.
DG: Thank you for saying that, because something more important for me to say is that one of the biggest accomplishments of my career and of The Sadies is being able to not only work with somebody like Andre Williams but actually become friends and family with somebody like that and to watch him. Frankly, ten years ago, we thought we were saying goodbye to him. He had been living so hard all of his life. It's just such a testament to the human will, the human condition, and especially Andre's condition, that he's able to bounce back and still play. I've never seen him more lucid and happy. Having said that, on tour, he would go through no less than one bottle of Bacardi every day. No less. So here's my story. One time, we were in France and somebody presented Andre with a bottle of really fancy Jamaican dark rum and he was furious. He told the person to get the f**k out of the dressing room and to bring him some Bacardi. My brother was like, " Andre, you've got to try this. It looks like a really fancy bottle, you might love it." And he goes, "That's the problem, Trav, what if I like it? Where the f**k am I gonna get it tomorrow?"
MR: [laughs] Ooh, now that's pretty darkwave. And I love his album Night And Day, which is almost autobiographical.
DG: With the Night And Day album we made with him, I've got to say, he was on death's door. That first session with him, he had just narrowly escaped a sentencing, a conviction, prison time. He was really in rough shape and shortly after, he suffered a stroke of some sort. That's when The Sadies did everything in their power to really stay in touch with him and make sure that our friend comes back to us. We helped out a little bit in the hospital and just waited patiently.
MR: You've got an unreleased project?
DG: I doubt you have any knowledge of this record, but The Sadies put out a record in May on the Cowboy Junkies label Latent called The Good Family. That's The Sadies--my mother, my father, my cousin Darcy and my Uncle Larry. It's mostly bluegrass and old-time country, but it doesn't have an American release date. So no fouls for not knowing about it.
MR: And I thought your family also might have been on Internal Sounds.
DG: Well, they're on most of my records, but not this one.
MR: What is The Sadies' mission statement?
DG: I've never really thought about it in terms of that. One time, Andre gave us a mission statement. He just said over and over for a whole tour, "Just do your job. Everything will be fine." Our mission statement is to stay alive and to reach more people.
MR: Was André right?
DG: Yeah, absolutely! If you just stick to your guns and do your job, for a touring musician, that's pretty much all you can do.
MR: Tell me about that, being a touring musician and playing live versus recording. I know it's apples and oranges, but do you have a preference, one over another?
DG: Yeah, for sure. Forever, The Sadies used to pride ourselves on being a live band and that was where our comfort zone began and ended, and our earlier records are very indicative of that; they're essentially albums made live off the floor. That's why we went to Steve Albini. Essentially we were just capturing our live performance as best as we could in a studio environment. I don't think that was a really good thing for us. Now, I really enjoy the studio. I produced the latest Sadies album and I've mixed several of The Sadies albums now. I guess the best way to put this is for me to say the stage is a lot more certain to us and the studio is... [sighs] I don't want to say something stupid. It's still a stone left unturned. We're still exploring the limits and all that horses**t.
MR: Well you've also become an essential backup band, lending your talents to folks like Jon Langford and John Doe. Why is it that you've become that kind of band, where people want to use you to back them up? Do they like your musical chops or do they trust that you'll know how to interpret their stuff? Or both?
DG: I would definitely say it has to be both. We don't ever work with people who are outside of our circle of friends. Andre was the closest thing to that when we first met him in 1999. We hadn't met him before entering the studio together. We've always been approached by people who've seen something in our music they could relate too. We only say yes to the people that we feel the same way about. I would say it's a combination of what we already do and what we potentially would bring to that artist. In the case of somebody as versed as Andre Williams to, say, Garth Hudson or Neko Case for that matter, I think that they have really given us a platform to get better at other styles of music and not just be a total one-trick pony, more like a one and a half trick pony. That's the kind of stuff that validates what I do and why I do it.
MR: I know exactly what you're talking about. I was actually going to bring up Neko Case because I feel that was a great example of the band sort of morphing into what the needs of the project and artist were. It also seems like you touched on how you bring back what you learned from working with them into your projects. Do you see it like that as well?
DG: Yeah, it certainly doesn't result in any drastic left turns or anything, but again, it just kind of validates us making any left turns down the road as far as I'm concerned. One of the greatest learning experiences The Sadies have had getting in shape was with Heavy Trash, Jon Spencer and Matt Verta-Ray's band. The Sadies toured with them a fair bit and performed with them on one of their albums. Yeah man, Jon, we always really pride ourselves on having a high-energy live show that we feel is our strength, and let's just say Jon took it up a notch for us.
MR: That's great. Have you noticed that with any of these artists, you're awed, you go, "Damn, look at what that cat's doing," and then you bring it into your own fold?
DG: Well, I guess so, but again the form dictates the style. It's all just a giant, disgusting, incestuous melting pot and I do my best to stay on the surface.
MR: All right, my traditional question that even you, Dallas Good, can't escape. What advice do you have for new artists?
DG: Give up. There's already too many of us. [laughs] Or "do your job," depending on whether you use that part or not.
MR: You have a very solid career in The Sadies. I don't want to say you need something like this, but if you had a holy grail, what would it be, creatively, success-wise or career-wise or whatever?
DG: It's funny you should ask that, because I've heard the question posed before and I remember hearing my brother answer that he would love the opportunity one day to work with Neil Young. Well, we've already recorded and toured with him, Travis even got to have Thanksgiving dinner with him. So have I, as a matter of fact, so I guess our only grail, our mission statement or whatever, is to just stay alive, keep doing what we do, and hopefully, reach more people in the process. I just say that because I don't have a list of accomplishments that I'm looking for. I just hope for the opportunity to continue to do the things I enjoy doing. We're lucky, and I know I've said that word a few times. We're very fortunate that people we like want to work with us, too. They like me, they really like me.
MR: [laughs] Nice, Mr. Fields. That's a great place to end that. I think this is great, Dallas, is there anything else that we need to let folks know?
DG: I can't really think of anything off the top of my head, but I really appreciate you doing this. If you feel like calling back, if you want me to embellish or exaggerate, I'd be happy to do it. Don't hesitate to call. I'm never too busy for you, my friend.
MR: Aw, shucks, Dallas. All the best.
DG: You too.
Transcribed by Galen Hawthorne