One of Mojo20’s biggest musical inspirations has always been the Ramones, so you can understand the honour and excitement when we got chatting to bass player from the legendary, seminal punk pioneers; CJ Ramone. When original member DeeDee Ramone left in 1989, CJ breathed new life into the band and added a fresh sound, backing vocals and managed to not only keep up with the legends but help them progress further. We talked about living the dream, what’s next and the passing away of founder and drummer Tommy Ramone. Take a look…
Over the years you’ve played with a large number of different bands and culminated in releasing solo material with your own band under your own name, but what was it like to live the dream and be a big part of one of the most important bands in rock n roll history? Tell us a little bit about how you got the opportunity to join and what it meant to you, to officially be a Ramone.
I had a friend who was playing drums for Mickey Leigh, Joey’s brother, who told me about the audition. Because I had no expectation to get the gig and the fact that I was still in the Marine Corps, I went down with the intention of meeting the band only. So when I walked into SIR studios in NYC, I was not nervous. I came off as very confident which I think left a good impression on Johnny. I auditioned several times over several weeks before actually getting the job.
What has the reception been like for your recent solo material, especially your 2014 LP ‘Last Chance To Dance’?
It’s been really good, from the fans and from the press. Putting out music with the Ramone name attached carries a pretty big responsibility.
We’ve just seen the one year anniversary of the passing of the last original Ramone, Tommy Ramone. This was a big deal and awful news for all fans of the band and punk music in general, but what did Tommy’s passing mean to you personally?
The thing that I would like to say most about Tommy is that he was the architect of The Ramones. He created not just the look and the image, but also the sound. Originally he intended only to be the manager, but when he could not find a drummer who could play the style he heard in his head he sat down behind the drums and told the band he would play until they found a suitable drummer. So besides creating the Ramones sound, he also created the punk rock style of drumming which carries on today. If you deconstruct the Ramones career, the first album that is not great song for song, side for side, is ‘End Of The Century’. The next few albums are mediocre with a few moments of greatness, but the next record that I felt was a comeback, was ‘Too Tough To Die’, which Tommy was again part of. That alone makes the argument. He had vision, coupled with creativity. Without him the Ramones would never have existed.
What bands or artists that are performing today would you say are still flying the flag for good music? Do you have any particular favourite modern bands that we should know about?
There are a bunch of great punk rock bands out there today. You still got some great ones from the 70s, 80’s, 90’s out there as well as some “newer” bands like Nightbirds and Mean Jeans. I’m always looking for something new, but I tend to listen to what I did when I was a kid.
I remember discovering the Ramones, they were the band that changed everything for me and the way I looked at music. They were responsible for me becoming a music fanatic and without finding them, I wouldn’t have been led to so many other great bands or artists. Was there a band or artist when you grew up that had the same impact for you and pushed you in the direction you went?
Black Sabbath was the band that really made me want to play music.
Have there ever been talks about a Ramones biopic? It’d be incredible to see a movie based on the band. If this was to happen, who would you have play you as they covered Dee dee’s departure and your beginning?
There was a rumour a while back that Martin Scorsese was thinking about doing the movie. If they were to include the years I was in the band, I really don’t know who they would get to play me.
Obviously, the world knows CJ Ramone best for being the bass player from the Ramones between 1989 until the very last show, but what do you do when you’re away from the stage? What other passions do you have apart from music?
I do some enduro riding (Kawasaki KLR and Yamaha XTZ1200), I have a vegetable garden and chickens, I read a lot of books, but most of my time and energy is spent on my wife and kids. It doesn’t sound like a very Punk rock lifestyle, and I’ve had some fans comment about that. In reality however, what I do is very punk rock in that I live my life the way that I want to. I have lived by my own rules for a long time, that’s about as Punk rock as you can get.
Can you pick out one particular highlight from your career in music?
The obvious ones would be my first show with the Ramones, playing on stage with Lemmy (Motorhead), and the last show. In truth, my best memories are mostly personal moments I had with Johnny, Joey and DeeDee.
Have there been any low points that stand out from over the years?
It would be tough to complain about anything after spending 7 years with the Ramones.
So, what’s next for CJ? Another album perhaps? A tour? Or maybe even retirement?
I will do a new record in 2016. I am also hoping to finish a book I’ve been working on for a long time about my life before and during the Ramones. I am hoping to do two more records after my next one and touring for at least another five years, but I learned long ago things can change fast and your plans don’t always go as you wish. If you’re tough enough though, you can make it happen in your time.
Last Chance To Dance is available to purchase now.
CJ Ramone was speaking to Mojo20′s Stuart Green (@mojo20_music)