C.J. RAMONE The X-Press Interview

It is with mixed emotions that C.J. Ramone has announced his upcoming Australia tour. The tour is both a celebration of his 30 years as a Ramone but also his last ever as he is hanging up the bass at the end of the tour. C.J. was viewed as a vital injection of youth in the iconoclastic New York punks when he replaced Dee Dee in 1989, playing on the band’s last four studio albums and touring with them up until their final shows in 1996. Post-Ramones, C.J. has demonstrated his own songwriting and vocal skills and has just released his fourth solo record The Holy Spell on legendary Californian punk label, Fat Wreck Chords. Ahead of the tour, MICHAEL HOLLICK chatted with C.J. about what it’s like to be a Ramone, what he plans to get up to in retirement and what we can expect on his Australian tour that hits Bar1 in Hillarys on Friday, September 27, Prince of Wales in Bunbury on Saturday, September 28 and the Rosemount in North Perth on Sunday, September 29.

You’re Retiring! Why? 

This year is 30 years since I joined the band, since I got into The Ramones, so it’s kind of a timely thing for me to be retiring. I had pretty much planned this out for a while. There are other things I want to do and I don’t want to spend my life just doing music. Music has taken up 30 years of my life. Thirty years. There are other things in life that I am looking forward to doing.

So this tour is a celebration of that?

Yeah, definitely. It’s my last opportunity to come over and say thanks to all the fans who have supported the band and who have supported me. And to catch up with friends. I was there in 2014 and had a really good tour and got to catch up with my buddies (legendary Aussie punk-rockers) the Hard-Ons, who I think I met them on my first Ramones tour over there, so looking to do that again.

There seems to be a connection between you and Australia. What do you think that is?

I think I most likely have more fun in Australia than any other country. And I know a lot of artists, when they go to a different place, they say, “This is our favourite city, wooo!”, but genuinely, for me, Australia has always been one of our favourite places to go to. And not for any other reason than I get along with the people real well. I don’t know what it is, if it’s my personality just fits in well but (laughs), but it just fits in well over there.

The tour is comprised of only small club venues, is that important to you and the band?

Punk rock, I know a lot of my friends that play in big punk rock bands don’t want to hear this, but punk rock never belonged in stadiums. Punk rock was never supposed to be, even rock and roll to me never belonged in stadiums. There is just so much that is lost when you are in a big, big room like that. I really like the smaller places. I like when I walk off the stage, I walk to the bar. That’s the kind of touring I have done since I have left the Ramones. And even when I was in the band, you can ask anyone who’s ever met me, I used to go out after a show and go look for a couple of kids and go “hey kid, take me to a bar where you guys hang out”. 

Who’s in your band for the upcoming tour?

Since I started playing out again, I pretty much have always had guys from other bands, serious players like the guys from Social Distortion or The Adolescents or The Aquabats. On this tour, I have Pete Sosa (drums) and Lenny Lashley (guitarists) from The Street Dogs, a great band out of Boston. And the other guitar is Danny out of The Adolescents. All veterans from the punk rock scene, all toured small clubs, perfect fit, Dan and Pete have been playing with me for years, Lenny just joined up with us this year, but he fit right in immediately, he’s an old road bull and he makes his own good time on the road, and believe or not, that means a lot when I choose guys to tour with. I don’t care how famous or how good a player somebody is, I wouldn’t pick ’em if I don’t want to tour with them.

Ahead of your retirement, what are the things that you do like about touring?

I really took being in a band and touring as an opportunity to really go and hang out in other people’s culture. I really just wanted to go out and experience the world, and that’s how I have always been. I knew I was never going to get rich doing it. I wouldn’t have been able to survive this long if I was waiting to get rich, you know that I mean, I wouldn’t have stuck it out for 30 years if I wanted to be rich. I could have stayed working the job I was doing, and made a better living than making music. 

Finally, what are the other things you are looking to do after you hang up the bass?

I would love to own or work on a fishing boat for a while. Or a tug boat. I grew up on an island so I would really love to do that for a while and I live in San Francisco now, so to go out on the San Franciscian bay, that’d be something special.