CJ Ramone, the bass player of the legendary Ramones, is an important part of punk rock history. Throughout the remarkable twenty-two-year career of the Ramones he is still carrying on the vibe of the ’77 punk rock generation with his brand new solo album ‘American Beauty’ which will be in stores at 13th March.
Marcus Liprecht of Pressure Magazine has spoken to CJ Ramone to find out what makes up American Beauty, what memories CJ has in Germany and where to get a cold beer in the New York City neighborhood. Enjoy the ride and feel free to share the CJ Ramone interview.
Hi CJ, how are you today and how is the mood in beautiful America – especially after the elections?
CJ: THINGS ARE A BIT SALTY FOR SURE RIGHT NOW, BUT IT IS SOMETHING WE HAVE TO GET THROUGH. WHEN ONE SIDE HAS BEEN IN POWER FOR EIGHT YEARS, IT IS NOT EASY TO WATCH THE OTHERSIDE TAKE OVER.
In a few days you will release your brand new album called „American beauty“ (Release on 13th Feb 2017).
I have noticed that there is no title song with the album name on the record. What does the title stands for?
CJ: I THINK IT FITS WELL RIGHT NOW. EVERYONE IS SO EMOTIONAL AND PASSIONATE ABOUT WHAT THEY BELIEVE IN, I THINK IT IS BEAUTIFUL.
A LOT OF WHAT IS GOING ON IS NOT, BUT IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME SINCE THERE HAS BEEN THIS MANY OF US INVOLVED IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS.
Please describe your intention producing this record. And where do you pay attention to be satisfied with the final result?
CJ: I AM TRYING TO WRITE THE BEST SONGS I POSSIBLY CAN AND PUT OUT RECORDS THAT I AM PROUD OF. I’VE ONLY GOT A COUPLE MORE YEARS TO DO THIS SO I’M TRYING TO MAKE THEM COUNT. THIS ONE IS SPECIAL/DIFFERENT BECAUSE I WROTE THE WHOLE RECORD IN ABOUT TWO WEEKS. LOCKED MY SELF IN MY BASEMENT WITH A BOTTOMLESS POT OF COFFEE AND A GENEROUS SUPPLY OF WHISKEY.
I THREW OUT A YEARS WORTH OF WRITING BECAUSE I THOUGHT THE SONGS SOUNDED CONTRIVED. THE EXTRA PRESSURE OF A LOOMING DELIVERY DATE REALLY SQUEEZED THE BEST SONG WRITING OUT OF ME.
PRODUCTION IS OF COURSE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I FOCUS ON AFTER SONGWRITING. GETTING THE TEMPO AND THE MOOD RIGHT, MELODIES AND HARMONIES, PERCUSSION, ADDED INSTRUMENTS LIKE PIANO OR DOBRO, HECK I EVEN USED A MARIACHI TRUMPET SECTION ON ONE SONG! THOSE ARE THE THINGS I REALLY PAY ATTENTION TO. THEY CAN MAKE A GOOD SONG GREAT.
Please point out your most beloved top three songs on the new album and tell us what is the story behind them?
CJ: MORAL TO THE STORY- IT’S A LESSON IN IMMORTALITY!
PONY-TOM WAITS COVER- HUGE FAN OF TOM WAITS AND THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITES FROM HIM. KEEP AN EAR OUT FOR THOSE MARIACHIS!!
TOMMY’S GONE- ODE TO TOMMY RAMONE, THE MAN RESPONSIBLE FOR THE RAMONES AND INVENTED THE PUNK ROCK DRUMMING STYLE.
Especially the Song „Girlfriend in a Graveyard“ makes me feel „shocked“. What’s the background, do you like Horror movies or black humor?
CJ: I WAS HAVING TROUBLE GETTING THE CREATIVE JUICES FLOWING ONE NIGHT, SO I PUT SOME CHILDHOOD FAVORITES ON. I LOVED THE HAMMER MOVIES AS A KID SO I WATCHED DRACULA AD 1972. CAROLINE MUNRO WAS IN IT AND SHE WAS ALWAYS MY FAVORITE! INSTANT INSPIRATION!!
As a personality that definitely has inspired many other musicians. I would like to know, what music you listen to and which bands had inspired you while working on your own songs for this record?
CJ: I LISTEN TO EVERYTHING, AND I MEAN EVERYTHING. FROM COUNTRY AND CLASSICAL TO PUNK AND METAL. MUSIC ISN’T THE ONLY THING THAT INSPIRES THOUGH, MOVIES, ART, EVERYDAY THINGS, I PUT A LOT OF MY OWN LIFE INTO THE SONGS I WRITE. IT KEEPS ME FROM TRYING TO BE SOMETHING I AM NOT.
The artwork of „American beauty“ is remarkable. who is responsible for the artwork and what is the story behind it?
CJ: THE COVER WAS DONE BY A HOUSTON BASED ARTIST WHOSE WORK I CAME ACROSS ON THE NET, JESSICA JILL GUERRA.
SHE DOES WOODBLOCK PRINTS AND AFTER BUYING ONE, I REACHED OUT TO HER ABOUT DOING THE ALBUM COVER. I WAS REALLY IMPRESSED WITH HER ART AND HER WORK ETHIC AND ASKED HER TO DO THE TSHIRT DESIGNS FOR THE WORLD TOUR ALSO.
YOU CAN FIND HER WORK BY SEARCHING GUERRA GIRL.
What kind of hobbies do you have in your spare time and how much of them are left after your life turns into a professional carreer as an musician?
CJ: MOTORCYCLES. I TRY TO DO AS MUCH RIDING AS I CAN, BUT I TRAVEL A FAIR AMOUNT AND I HAVE THREE CHILDREN SO I DON’T GET TO AS OFTEN AS I’D LIKE. BUT FOR ME, RIDING IS ABOUT AS GOOD AS IT GETS.
The punkrock club CBGB is hardly connected with the history of the Ramones. What are your thoughts thinking about the CBGB and the punkrock or subcultural scene in your city?
CJ: CBGB’S WAS THE EPICENTER FOR A MUSICAL REVOLUTION SUPPORTED BY THE ART SCENE WHICH GREW OUT OF 1970’S NYC. THE CITY AT THAT TIME WAS A MESS AND NO ONE CARED ABOUT IT. SO THE ARTISTS AND MUSICIANS MOVED IN AND STARTED A SOMETHING THAT GAVE BIRTH TO A MOVEMENT THAT TOOK YEARS FOR PEOPLE TO RECOGNIZE AND APPRECIATE BECAUSE IT WAS SO AHEAD OF IT’S TIME. I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO CATCH THE TAIL END OF IT AND WITNESS SOME OF IT’S GREATNESS.
SO THE ARTISTS AND MUSICIANS MOVED IN AND STARTED A SOMETHING THAT GAVE BIRTH TO A MOVEMENT THAT TOOK YEARS FOR PEOPLE TO RECOGNIZE AND APPRECIATE BECAUSE IT WAS SO AHEAD OF IT’S TIME. I WAS LUCKY ENOUGH TO CATCH THE TAIL END OF IT AND WITNESS SOME OF IT’S GREATNESS.
And what has changed most over the last 30 years?
CJ: IN MY OPINION, NOT MUCH. I JUST SEE THE PENDULUM SWINGING BACK AND FORTH, THINGS GET GOOD FOR A BIT, THEN THEY GET BAD, THINGS MOVE TO THE LEFT, THEN THE RIGHT, THE SEASONS ARE COLD, AND THEN THEY’RE HOT…
What does it means to you personally beeing part of the band till 1996? And what do you think makes the RAMONES so special till today?
CJ: GREATEST EXPERIENCE OF MY LIFE.
THE RAMONES WERE AN ANOMALY. A PERFECT MIX OF PERSONALITIES, MUSICAL STYLES, IMAGE AND SOUND THAT CREATED SOMETHING NO ONE BEFORE THEM OR AFTER THEM COULD MATCH. THEY WERE PERFECTLY IMPERFECT.
Especially in Germany you see lots of people wearing RAMONES T-Shirts on concerts and festivals. Sometime I feel it’s that big as having the „Che Guevara“ portrait on a shirt. I am wondering who owns the license rights of the old band logo?
CJ: HAH!!! I AM NOT AT LIBERTY TO DISCUSS THAT BUT I CAN TELL YOU IT IS NOT ME.
Are there any plans to play also in Germany this year?
CJ: YES THERE ARE AND YOU CAN EXPECT US TO SOUND TIGHT AND GET YOU ALL DANCING!!
What was the funniest thing as you visited Germany?
CJ: I ONCE ASKED OUR BOOKING AGENT IN GERMANY TO BOOK A SHOW IN AUGSBURG. HE REPLIED WHY? THERE ARE NO PUNKS IN AUGSBURG.
I TOLD HIM I WANTED TO VISIT THE MAN FACTORY WHERE DIESEL ENGINES WERE PRODUCED FOR U-BOATS. HE THOUGHT I WAS JOKING. I WASN’T. WE PLAYED AUGSBURG FOR ABOUT 30 PEOPLE, BUT I GOT TO GO TO THE FACTORY!!
Will there be any support bands on tour?
CJ: UNKNOWN AS OF YET.
Are there any Bands from Germany you know well and like to listen to? I heard you have already played with „Die Toten Hosen“.
CJ: YES, DIE TOTEN HOSEN, RAMMSTEIN, THE DONOTS, FROM WHEN I WAS YOUNGER SCORPIOS, MSG, ULI JON ROTH, I’M SURE THERE ARE A FEW MORE THAT I’M NOT REMEMBERING.
For people visiting New York next time, please tell us your top 3 music bars which you can recommend for a cold beer on a Friday evening with good music?
What were the last 3 records you bought and please explain your expectation on each?
CJ: FUGAZI “INSTRUMENT” vinyl I expect the unexpected as Fugazi always surprises.
THE GO GETTERS “ROCK-N-ROLL EVERYWHERE”, vinyl. IT’S ROCK A BILLY, I EXPECT IT TO ROCK!
NIKKI LANE “HIGHWAY QUEEN” DOWNLOAD. I KNEW WHAT THIS ONE WOULD BE LIKE BECAUSE I AM A FAN. SHE IS THE FIRST LADY OF THE NEW OUTLAW COUNTRY SCENE AND I REALLY LIKE HER A LOT.
Thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate it. The last words for your fans are yours.
CJ: AMERICAN BEAUTY IS A RECORD YOU SHOULD OWN. I PROMISE YOU WILL DIG IT.
CJ Ramone Interview with Marcus Liprecht of Pressure Magazine on 1st March 2017
Buy now: American Beauty Audio-CD or Vinyl at Amazon.com
Album Review: Read what we think about the American Beauty Record (German only)
German Version: Here you can switch to the german version of the interview
CJ Ramone – Let’s Go (Official Audio)