Hey CJ! Your new record "The Holy Spell..." sounds incredibly fresh and vital. How did you put together the band for the "American Beauty" successor? Have the other members been involved in the entire songwriting process?
WELL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH! THE BAND, AND IN FACT THE ENGINEER/PRODUCER, ARE THE SAME PLAYERS I USED ON AMERICAN BEAUTY. THEY ARE ALSO MY TOURING BAND. WE HAVE CHEMISTRY THAT IS VITAL TO THE SOUND OF THE RECORD.
Although "The Holy Spell..." aligns perfectly with your former output, songs like "This Town" or "Stand Up" feature a laid back, almost summery musical dynamic and therefore sound more mature. What do you still learn and discover as a musician these days?
I LEARNED THAT INSPIRATION IS EVERYWHERE AND THAT RECOGNIZING IT IS A CHOICE. I COULD HAVE MADE A MELANCHOLY RECORD ABOUT MOVING AWAY FROM MY HOME TOWN AND LEAVING MY FRIENDS, FAMILY, AND EVERYTHING I'VE KNOWN SINCE I WAS A CHILD BEHIND. BUT INSTEAD, I TOOK TIME TO RECOGNIZE THE BEAUTY IN MY NEW HOME AND THE PEOPLE WHO LIVE HERE AND SEEING THE POSSIBILITIES IN STARTING OVER IN A NEW PLACE AT 53 YEARS OLD.
Steve Soto has been part of your live band and has pretty much followed you through your entire solo career. Besides paying tribute to him in "Rock On," how does his spirit live on in both your personal and musical live?
STEVE HAS INFLUENCED ME IN SO MANY WAYS; IT IS HARD TO LIST THEM ALL. MUSICALLY OF COURSE, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY AS A HUMAN. HE WAS SUCH A COMPASSIONATE PERSON, JUST BEING AROUND HIM FORCED ME TO QUESTION MANY OF MY OWN OPINIONS AND VIEWS ON PEOPLE AND THE WORLD. HE LOVED HIS FRIENDS AND FAMILY UNCONDITIONALLY AND TRIED TO GET THIS AROUND HIM TO DO THE SAME. I MISS HIM AS EVERYONE WHO KNEW HIM DOES, BUT I CARRY HIM WITH ME IN MY SONGS AND MY MEMORIES, AND I BELIEVE I'LL SEE HIM AGAIN.
You experienced the punk scene from the early days on. What importance or inspiration do you see in labels like Fat Wreck to represent that spirit today?
FAT HAS CARRIED THE TORCH FOR 25+ YEARS. IT'S HARD TO SAY JUST HOW IMPORTANT THAT IS. A LOT OF PEOPLE FOUND THEIR VOICE AND A PLACE TO BELONG BECAUSE OF THE BANDS THEY HEARD ON FAT. THE RECORDS, FESTIVALS, BANDS, AND CREW AT FAT CREATED NOT JUST A SCENE, BUT A CULTURE THAT HAS BEEN THE EPICENTER OF PUNK SINCE FAT MIKE INVITED US ALL TO HIS PARTY.
Tommy Ramone once gave you credit for "keeping the Ramones young." Looking at the current state of punk rock, are you "proud" to be part of the scene? Where do you see punk rock in another 20 years?
I AM PROUD OF THE PUNK SCENE. IT HAS NOT JUST SERVED TO BRING MUSIC TO THE MASSES, BUT HAS BEEN BROUGHT ABOUT CULTURAL CHANGE, MADE IMPORTANT AND LASTING CONTRIBUTIONS
TO ART, CHALLENGED EVERYTHING FROM SEXUALITY TO POLITICS, AND GAVE THE OUTSIDERS A PLACE TO BELONG. 20 YEARS? AS LONG AS YOU HAVE TEEN ANGST, YOU'LL HAVE PUNK.
You picked two really interesting cover versions for "The Holy Spell..." What are some of the earliest memories you can share about being introduced to music?
LISTENING TO THE RADIO IN MY DADS VW BUS. HE WAS A BIG COUNTRY FAN, SO MY EARLIEST MEMORIES ARE OF ARTISTS LIKE JOHNNY CASH, HANK WILLIAMS, PATSY CLINE AND SUCH. THE OLDER I GET THE DEEPER I DIP INTO MY MUSICAL INFLUENCES TO FIND INSPIRATION! THAT IS WHY THE HOLY SPELL... CARRIES A BIT OF COUNTRY TWANG.
You can probably tell stories about touring, writing, and being in a band for days. Are you a rather nostalgic person? Do you collect memorabilia such as shirts, gear or tour/concert related items from throughout your career?
I AM NOT NOSTALGIC IN THAT WAY. I DON'T ATTACH VALUE TO THINGS. MEMORIES HAVE MUCH MORE IMPORTANCE TO ME, AND I LIVE MY LIFE TRYING TO APPRECIATE THE TIME I HAVE AND THE PEOPLE I MEET. IT IS A CLICHE, BUT YOU CAN'T TAKE ALL THAT STUFF WITH YOU WHEN YOU DIE. MY ONE COLLECTION IS RECORDS!!! BUT I WILL LEAVE THOSE TO MY CHILDREN.
When you are not on the road, how does a day in the life of CJ RAMONE look like? Do you play music every day? Do you still ride/build bikes frequently?
I PLAY AND LISTEN TO MUSIC EVERYDAY. MY BASSES, GUITARS, AND AMPS ARE ALWAYS SET UP. IT REMAINS MY FIRST LOVE WITHOUT EXCEPTION. I ALSO READ A LOT WHICH HAS ALWAYS BEEN, AND WHILE I CONTINUE TO RIDE AND CUSTOMIZE, I DON'T BUILD BIKES. IT'S MORE FUN TO RIDE!!
Thanks so much for your time, CJ! Any last words to prepare our German/European reader for your upcoming tour dates?
THIS WILL BE THE LAST YEAR THAT I TOUR. I WILL CONTINUE TO MAKE MUSIC AND PLAY THE OCCASIONAL SHOW, BUT I WON'T BE TOURING. THERE ARE OTHER ADVENTURES I WOULD LIKE TO EXPLORE WHILE I AM STILL ABLE.
GERMANY HAS ALWAYS BEEN SPECIAL FOR ME. IT IS ONE OF THE FIRST COUNTRIES I TOURED IN, AND FEEL A STRONG CONNECTION TO THE PEOPLE I'VE MET. OVER THE YEARS I WATCHED MY FRIENDS DIE TOTEN HOSEN AND RAMMSTEIN RISE TO INTERNATIONAL STARDOM, AND WITNESSED HISTORY FIRST HAND ON THE STREETS OF BERLIN AS THE WALL FELL. I HAVE BEEN LUCKY ENOUGH TO TRAVEL TO MANY CITIES ALL OVER GERMANY, EVEN BOOKING A SHOW ONCE IN AUGSBURG JUST FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO VISIT THE MAN PRODUCTION PLANT AND TO SEE THE HOME OF BERTOLT BRECHT. I'VE DRIVEN THROUGH THE BEAUTIFUL COUNTRYSIDE IN BAVARIA, AND RIDDEN IN AN INCREDIBLY FAST MERCEDES BENZ ON THE AUTOBAHN (ONLY TIME I SAW JOHNNY RAMONE SCARED!!!) I WANT TO THANK ALL THE PEOPLE I'VE WORKED WITH WHO TREATED ME WITH MORE RESPECT THAN I ACTUALLY DESERVED AND THANK MY FRIENDS AND FANS IN GERMANY FOR MANY MEMORIES THAT I WILL ALWAYS REMEMBER.
I LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING YOU ALL THIS SUMMER ON THE HOLY SPELL TOUR...