|Cheetah Chrome - Dead Boys/Batusis Interview Exclusive|
|Written by Dom Daley|
|Saturday, 17 April 2010 05:00|
Young, loud and snotty.........
You might not see Dead Boys shirts on sale in Hot Topic or slung over the back of the latest fake-titted media whore like the product of their contemporaries, yet the band were as important to the punk genre as spit and safety pins - more so, in fact. In 'Sonic Reducer' they have one of the genuinely great all-time songs and in Cheetah Chrome they have a former member who will always command the respect of any clued-in Über Röcker. With the release of the new EP from his Batusis project with New York Doll Sylvain Sylvain and the upcoming UK tour, what better time to catch up with Cheetah for an exclusive Über-interview......
When did you realize you wanted to be a guitar player? Who influenced a young Cheetah?
When I saw the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, I was a goner. I knew that was what I was born to do. I have a ton of influences, but the major ones would have to be Keith Richards, Zal Cleminson, Ron Asheton and James Williamson, and Glenn Buxton. Johnny Thunders and Jimmy Page as well.
Of all the people you've shared a band with have you ever imagined what it would be like to put together a five piece line-up of the best?
That would really be too hard to do, especially with people I've been in bands with. Each one of them had their own special place in whichever band, and they wouldn't work well in one of the others. For instance, Stiv wasn't the right singer for RFTT, and vice versa, David wouldn't be the right guy for the Dead Boys. The only guys that could do both would be me, Blitz, probably Craig Bell. Stiv and I did discuss a line up once of him on vocals, me and Thunders on guitar, Dee Dee Ramone on bass and Jerry Nolan on drums ....Glad we didn't do it, the reunion shows would have been rough on me.
Looking back at the Dead Boys for a moment - when you were writing 'Young, Loud And Snotty' did you think all these years later it would be such a monumental record and heralded by other musicians as such a massive influence? Who would you say was the biggest surprise who claimed to have loved the Dead Boys?
No, I never put that much thought into what I do, I just do it. I don't project very far into the future. I wanted it to be successful at the time, which it wasn't really. We got famous, but we didn't sell any records. I'd have to say Anthony Bourdain and Juliette Lewis were the biggest surprises as far as DB fans.
Was there any other material written and recorded but never released from the Dead Boys era?
No, it's all out there unfortunately. There is no archive.
Being the songwriter and creator, how frustrating was the fiasco of the second Dead Boys album not getting released at the time it was finished with the right mix? How was the version that came out a few years ago so much better?
Oh it got released when it was supposed to be - it wasn't supposed to suck! The only fiasco was Johnny getting stabbed, that kept us from touring in support of it for months.
The reunion shows in New York were recorded and released in Europe on Bomp! Records I believe, were things different getting back together? Were you older and wiser or wasn't it the case?
Things were exactly the same, we weren't much older and we weren't a bit wiser; if anything, we'd forgotten a few things due to substance abuse. We didn't learn from a single mistake. The Dead Boys were a star crossed lot, I don't think we were meant to make it!
Have you ever thought about going back and rerecording Rocket From The Tombs using today's technology because the cd I have doesn't do the songs justice, sound wise?
Well, we redid most of them on 'Rocket Redux', at least the ones we decided to revive. I doubt we'll do any others.
Will there be any new studio music from RFTT?
We just released a new single, 'I Sell Soul' b/w 'Romeo and Juliet' on Smog Veil. We have more material written, but I have no idea what will happen with it.
Recording with Sylvain Sylvain as Batusis - can you elaborate on this project for us? Who else is in on the job?
Well, the recordings will be released on 4 May, on Smog Veil Records. The project came to be when Syl's manager and Frank Mauceri from Smog Veil conspired to get us together for a project. Syl and I are old friends, we've jammed plenty, just never in an organized band situation. We weren't hard to convince, they just had to ask us once and we both said "Hell yeah!" I was playing a lot of shows around NYC with the Blackhearts backing me, and so I brought Thommy Price and Enzo Penizzotto in. Due to their schedule with Joan Jett, they aren't able to do the tours with us; they are, after all, her band. So we have Lez Warner from The Cult in on drums now, and former Blackheart Sean Koos on bass for the UK shows.
Any plans to work with the great Jeff Dahl again?
We always plan to, but life gets in the way. He's back in Hawaii now, which makes it a bit harder, but I'd like to.
Going back to the Dead Boys for a moment, How do you view what you achieved with the band? Do you regret not keeping the band going for longer and maybe making more music and touring further afield? Just the one tour of the UK with the Damned.
I wish we could have toured Europe more, but that's about it. We'd run our course by 1979, the rot was already set in. I'm very proud of what we did, it was one of the high points of my life, even the bad parts. We kicked a lot of ass, and we did it well.
What was Stiv like to work with?
He was a blast, always up to something. He was very professional in the studio, very exciting to watch. You'd be watching him from the control room, commenting on how focused he was, then look down and see that he had his dick out; there were a lot of interesting takes with different girls in the vocal booths, too.
What did you think after the band re-grouped in the 90's? Was it something you enjoyed and thought could have lead to more with the line-up?
Well, the reunions I always compare to a family holiday, like Thanksgiving; everybody is happy to see each other, has a good time for a while, and then a couple of people get drunk and the fighting begins, then you all go home till next time. After Stiv's death it only served to remind us of him, and how it wasn't really worth doing without him.
I was watching TV the other day and 'Sonic Reducer' was being used for a TV programme trailer - how times change, eh?
Yeah, and of course it was on a show that I don't watch so I missed it! I was actually clicking around with the remote and skipped right over it - "Ahh, Numb3rs - nahhh!"
What inspires you today to keep making music?
The music! I just love to play. Only reason I need.
What bands have impressed you recently that you've heard? Anyone come along and kick your ass and made you think damn I could write that?
I've heard a couple of things on the radio that I liked which turned out to be Linkin Park so I guess them. I hated 'em when they first came out! I hear a lot of good stuff on college radio but have no idea who it is. Most of the stuff I listen to is pre-1976, the stuff I grew up on.
You seemed to play a lot of gigs in Max's - What was your view of the venue say compared to CBGB's? Even here in the UK keen fans of your music and people like the Dolls know how significant a venue it was - do you think it's a shame these places no longer exist for future generations to enjoy and use?
Yeah, it is. In fact it's a shame that New York City no longer exists, at least not the New York that I knew.
Do you have any tour stories that could go in the Hell's Gigs section of Über Röck? Surely there must have been more than the odd incident whilst playing with the Dead Boys?
Oh yeah, I have lots of gig from hell stories from those days! But I just wrote my memoirs and put them all in there, so you'll have to excerpt one - I can't be competing with myself in today's' market!
Did you think Guns N' Roses did a good version of 'Ain't It Fun' - it certainly opened up your music to a whole new audience.
I think they did a great version, it struck me how close they kept it to the original. That's a tough song to sing, you need to have been through a bit to pull it off, and they pulled it off!
The Dead Boys DVD that came out a few years ago was a real treat for fans of the band, especially us in Europe, or more specifically the UK, to see footage of such a great band - is there any more material locked away that might one day see the light of day or recorded songs perhaps?
There is a lot of video, but the quality isn't so hot. One from the Variety Arts Center in LA is particularly good . We did shoot some stuff of a reunion in 2006 at the Beachland Ballroom in Cleveland for a documentary, but the amount of interest in the marketplace was very disappointing, so that's been shelved. There are no archives of recorded songs to be plundered, not even alternate takes.
If I wanted to introduce and impress someone with your music what 3 songs would you recommend I play them?
I'd say 'Sonic Reducer', the Ghetto Dogs version of 'Still Wanna Die' and 'Bury You Alive' from the new Batusis EP.
It was there I decided I'd taken up enough of legendary six stringer Cheetah Chrome's time seeing as he is swamped under with his and Sylvain Sylvain's Batusis project and getting ready to tour and record. Get out there and buy the EP and go check him out when Batusis hit a town near you. His autobiography gets released later this year so keep your eyes peeled for that as I'm sure it'll be well worth a read.