Monday, April 29, 2013
Marky Ramone Interview: Ramones Drummer Talks ‘Dust to Punk’ Saga
Brooklyn native Marky Ramone is known best for his high-powered drumming and streetwise tenacity with legendary rock and roll punkers the Ramones. But the Marc Bell/ Marky Ramone ‘Dust to Punk’ transformation is an amazing story that most are not familiar with.
In 1969, Marc Bell (drums), Richie Wise (guitars and vocals) and Kenny Aaronson (bass guitar) formed the Brooklyn based power trio Dust. Marc and Kenny were still teenagers in high school during the bands inception. Dust was signed to Kama Sutra Records and released their self-titled debut album Dust in 1971. Their second and final album Hard Attack was released the following year.
The band toured extensively with legendary acts like Alice Cooper, John Mayall and Uriah Heep. Dust was a phenomenal band and should have mimicked the success of many of those legendary rock groups of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Unfortunately the impatience of youth and a record label accustomed to bubblegum music, split-up the band after only two contributions to the music world.
On April 16th and after more than forty years, Sony/ Legacy released both Dust albums in its entirety on a single CD. The ‘Dust’ and ‘Hard Attack’ albums have been out of print and sought-out by collectors worldwide for decades. Many tracks are considered a precursor to Heavy Metal music. The Dust collection features an incredible mix of music …
Notable tracks from Hard Attack (10 tracks) … “Thusly Spoken” shades of early Pink Floyd highlighting the bands ingenuity. “Learning to Die” Is a Black Sabbath riffed tune and perhaps a precursor to early Kiss music. “Ivory” is an incredible progressive/hard rock instrumental piece. “How Many Horses” is an awesome tune showcasing the bands diversity while bordering on southern rock & rhythm and blues.
*Fred Singer played keyboards on Hard Attack
Notable tracks from Dust (7 tracks) … “Stone Woman” and “Goin’ Easy” spotlights Richie Wises’ proficient electric slide work. “Love Me Hard” is an excellent tune with heavier riffs reminiscent to Mountain and Deep Purple. “From a Dry Camel” is a very cool psychedelic track. “Loose Goose” is sort of a “Hot Rod Lincoln” meets Hendrix in an instrumental jam.
I gave this rare two-album- single CD collection by Dust(5) stars.
After Dust split-up, all three band members and its manager attained greater success…
Kenny Kerner (The bands producer and manager) became a sought –out producer and arranger while partnering musically with Richie Wise. Kerner was also instrumental in getting Kiss signed to Casablanca Records. (All of Kenny Kerner’s credits can be found at allmusic.com)
Kenny Aaronson (bassist) joined The Stories (“Brother Louie” #1 Hit on Billboard’s Top 100), was named… “Bassist of the Year” in 1988 by Rolling Stone Magazine, toured with Bob Dylan, backed up artists such as Steve Cropper, David Gilmour, Johnny Winter and Tony Iommi, auditioned for The Rolling Stones in 1994, he’s a producer and songwriter, was a regular member of Joan Jett and The Blackhearts and New York Dolls. (All of Kenny Aaronson’s credits can be found at allmusic.com)
Richie Wise (guitarist) became a successful producer and arranger while sharing production credits with his partner Kenny Kerner. He produced various Kiss albums including …their debut album Kiss, Hotter than Hell, Double Platinum, Killers, and Smashes, Thrashes & Hits. He’s also produced albums for such artists as Gladys Knight & the Pips, Jose Feliciano, Steve Marriott, Badfinger, Savoy Brown, James Brown and Teena Maria. (All of Ritchie Wises’ credits can be found at allmusic.com)
Marc Bell (Ramone) (drummer) joined forces with Wayne County and the Backstreet Boys fronted by rock’s first transsexual singer Jayne County. In 1976, Marc was introduced to Richard Hell and they eventually formed Richard Hell & the Voidoids. After the conclusion of the bands U.K. tour with The Clash, Bell met Dee Dee Ramone at the infamous CBGB music club. Dee Dee Ramone asked Bell if he’d like to join the Ramones.
In 1978, Marc Bell became Marky Ramone, the Ramones new drummer. Marky’s first task at hand was to record the Road to Ruin album which featured one of the Ramones biggest hits “I Wanna Be Sedated.” The next year the Ramones filmed Rock ‘n’ Roll High School and later joined forces with producer Phil Spector to record the End of the Century album.
After several tours and recording the albums Pleasant Dreams and Subterranean Jungle, Marky Ramone was asked to leave the band in 1983. He was replaced by Richie Ramone.
In 1987, Marky rejoined the Ramones and recorded with the band on Brain Drain (1989), Mondo Bizarro (1992), Acid Eaters(1994) and Adios Amigos(1995) the Ramones farewell release.
Marky joined a Ramones tribute band called The Ramainz (Live in N.Y.C. album released- 1999) with Dee Dee Ramone and his wife Barbara.
After the Ramones …Marky formed the bands Marky Ramone & The Intruders (albums released … Marky Ramone And The Intruders (1996), The Answer To Your Problems? (1999), Start of the Century (2006). And Marky Ramone & The Speedkings (Legends Bleed album released in 2002).
In 2000, Marky collaborated with longtime friend and bandmate Joey Ramone on his debut solo album, Don’t Worry About Me.
The Ramones were inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.
Lead singer and songwriter Joey Ramone died of Lymphoma in 2001. Bass guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Dee Dee Ramone died of a Heroin overdose in 2002. Guitarist Johnny Ramone died of prostate cancer in 2004.
The Raw DVD, a compilation of home footage of the Ramones was released in 2004. Most of the certified gold video was filmed by Marky Ramone and is currently the best selling Ramones DVD to date.
In 2009, Marky released his first worldwide clothing line with Tommy Hilfiger and the following year Marky Ramone’s Brooklyn’s Own Pasta Sauce was launched.
In 2011, the Ramones received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.
Today …Marky is enjoying his eighth year on the air as a radio deejay hosting Marky Ramone’s Punk Rock Blitzkrieg and can be heard on SiriusXM Satellite Radio faction channel 41 on Tuesdays from 8:00 p.m. - 11:00 p.m. EST and rebroadcasts on Saturdays from 3:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m. EST.
His latest band is called Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg. The band launches a worldwide tour beginning May 3rd from Santos Party House in New York City.
The 2013 tour will feature Andrew W.K. on lead vocals.
I had a rare opportunity to chat with Marky Ramone about the recently remasterd Dust CD, the Blitzkrieg world tour, his incredible musical journey with the Ramones and the truth about Phil Spector.
Here’s my recent interview with drummer/songwriter/entrepreneur/legendary member of the Ramones … MARKY RAMONE.
Ray Shasho: Hello Marky! Are you calling from New York?
Marky Ramone: “Yea from New York City.”
Ray Shasho: Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg with W.K. on lead vocals is set to launch on a world tour from New York in a few weeks.
Marky Ramone: “We’re going to do New York and the states and South America for now. Later on we’ll end up in Asia and doing some Russian dates.”
Ray Shasho: What is it like to perform in Russia?
Marky Ramone: “Great! Russia is great. They love western culture, they love rock music and they love the Ramones … and they’re all into that.”
Ray Shasho: I’ll be totally honest with you Marky … I’ve listened to a lot of music in my time but this was the first time I heard Dust. Great band!
Marky Ramone: “We were seventeen/eighteen years old and met at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, it’s one of the oldest schools in America, so we rehearsed and that’s the result of those two albums. Now they’re finally out on a big legitimate label, so it can be out there, and Sony/ Legacy remastered it. We were there during the remaster to make sure it didn’t take away from the original intent of making those albums. So they’re finally out. But we were young skilled teenagers who knew how to play really well… I don’t know where I got it or where the other artists got the gift, but we got it, and we formed the group and that’s what happened.”
Ray Shasho: It’s amazing the resume you guys developed after Dust disbanded.
Marky Ramone: “Kenny with the Stories, Bob Dylan, Joan Jett, Billy Idol. Richie ended up producing the first two Kiss albums, Gladys Knight & the Pips … you name it. Then I started hanging out with a bunch of guys to help change music.”
“Bands like the New York Dolls and Rainbow/Wicked Lester (Kiss) and future members of the Ramones used to come see Dust when we played at the Village Gate in New York; they were all in the audience. We were all basically the same age. Johnny Thunders and I were born on the same day but he was a little older. The guys from Kiss were older but they were Dust fans, and then everything came together and that’s why Richie ended up producing them.”
Ray Shasho: Critics have labeled the CD as a Heavy Metal album and I believe it’s an injustice. The Dust CD is an ingenious mix of musical styles performed by young talented musicians.
Marky Ramone: “Around that time in 1970, when Dust wrote the first album, the only Metal that was really out was stuff from England. So that year in America, who could you really call the beginnings of Heavy Metal, there were maybe only a handful, so we showed that we could do our thing in America.”
Ray Shasho: But the band was so diverse …here’s an example… the track “Thusly Spoken” had shades of early Pink Floyd. It’s a track that doesn’t reflect the heaver riffs.
Marky Ramone: “We liked everybody. We liked Hendrix, The Who, The Kinks, Cream, Jethro Tull … and you bring that altogether and you’ve got Dust.”
Ray Shasho: The tune “How Many Horses” had early implications of southern rock and the track “Ivory” is an incredible instrumental piece.
Marky Ramone: “Ivory” was 5/4 time and no other band back then was doing that, so we wanted to do it. And the other one was country and kind of bluesy.”
Ray Shasho: The other instrumental “Loose Goose” is what I call … “Hot Rod Lincoln” meets Hendrix in an instrumental jam.
Mary Ramone: “And that was before all that came out.”
Ray Shasho: So Dust were early rock pioneers after all.
Mary Ramone: “We didn’t know it but now we can show it.”
Ray Shasho: Who were some of the bands Dust toured with?
Marky Ramone: “We toured with Alice Cooper, John Mayall, Uriah Heep and a lot of those kinds of bands. The record company at the time was bubblegum music … The Ohio Express, The Lemon Pipers and stuff like that, so they didn’t really know how to handle Heavy Metal. So after the two albums were up, we went our own ways, it was that quick and that simple.”
Ray Shasho: What was the transition like for you coming from ‘hard rock’ Dust …to ‘punk rock’ bands Wayne County and the Backstreet Boys, Richard Hell & the Voidoids and finally the Ramones?
Marky Ramone: “It was a breeze because what I was playing in Dust was so technically intricate and joining bands like Richard Hell and the Ramones was very simple. That stuff is easy to play and that’s why I liked it. The songs were short, to the point, and it was the beginning of a new genre called punk rock and we were at the forefront of it at CBGB. There was nowhere else to hang out so we hung out at CBGB and Max’s.”
Ray Shasho: I was a Top 40 deejay when the Ramones were popular.
Marky Ramone: “Did you play us?”
Ray Shasho: (Laughing) Actually no.
Mary Ramone: “There you go.”
Ray Shasho: We played a lot of the “New wave” bands of the late 70s … The Cars, Blondie, The Pretenders, Joe Jackson, Cheap Trick, The Knack etc.
Marky Ramone: “How come they didn’t play the Ramones?”
Ray Shasho: They were never on the playlist.
Marky Ramone: “Now I guess they regret it.”
Ray Shasho: I always veered off the playlist from time to time but I don’t remember seeing the Ramones in our music library.
Mary Ramone: “Now it’s bigger than ever …they say better late than never.”
Ray Shasho: The Ramones influenced so many bands … I asked Chris Stein (Blondie) last year …Who were some of the bands you followed when you were part of the ‘Punk’ and New wave’ scene? Chris said …the Ramones and Television when Richard Hell was still with them.
Marky Ramone: “A very important part of the punk scene. Then they took Richard’s image and brought it to England and that’s how you got the Sex Pistols.”
Ray Shasho: Chris Stein also said that he thought bands like ‘The Stones’ and ‘The Who’ were early punks.
Marky Ramone: “They had punk elements, but they didn’t solidify punk. The Ramones solidified it at CBGB. But that’s where everyone got the foundation with Richard Hell and the New York Dolls with Johnny Thunders guitar playing.”
“It was the Ramones, Richard Hell, The Heartbreakers (Johnny Thunders), Blondie and Patti Smith.”
Ray Shasho: I always thought ‘The Clash’ took it to another level.
Marky Ramone: “The Clash ended up doing dance music … (Marky singing “Rock the Casbah”) I guess they had to because the record company wanted a hit, so they catered to the dance thing. They were like Blondie, they liked disco. I’m not saying that’s good or bad, but they changed and we didn’t, we stuck to our guns and now we are where we are.”
Ray Shasho: The Ramones didn’t get pressured by the record company to alter their style a bit to generate a Top 40 hit on the radio?
Marky Ramone: “No way. They know we wouldn’t have done it. (All laughing)”
Ray Shasho: So you beat the record company … that’s a first.
Mary Ramone: “Well, we would have broken up or something like that.”
Ray Shasho: What do remember the most when you were with the Ramones?
Marky Ramone: “The US Festival in 1982. There was more than 150,000 people under a scorching sun in San Bernardino and with their leather jackets on. We played a whole set and me and Dee Dee the night before with all the parties …it was insane. I remember us partying and it was pretty funny to see us up there.”
Ray Shasho: Were there rivalries between bands?
Marky Ramone: “No, there were no rivalries; we liked the fact that we influenced the punk scene in England. And when we went there, they liked the fact that we were there. They would come see us … the real deal from CBGB. But they really liked The Heartbreakers and that was something very close to them over there. They really loved Johnny Thunders guitar playing, his image and everything. He was Johnny Ramone’s idol.”
Ray Shasho: Marky, what was it like working with Phil Spector?
Marky Ramone: “I loved it, Joey loved it … he didn’t like Dee Dee and Johnny. Phil never pointed a gun at us, it was all bullsh*t. We were the only ones allowed in the studio, no road crew, no road managers and no wives … just the band, the engineer and Phil.”
Ray Shasho: When you joined the Ramones you replaced Tommy?
Marky Ramone: “He was only in the band for about three and a half years, the problem with Tommy was they wanted him to leave the group but in reality wanted to kick him out because they weren’t getting along with him. They bullied him, he didn’t like it and I don’t blame him. So one day, he did the right thing and left, and he ended up producing which is great. He produced the first album that they asked me to play on as a Ramone … Road to Ruin and the first song I recorded was, “I Wanna Be Sedated.”
Ray Shasho: That was a great tune and should have made the Top 40 playlist.
Marky Ramone: “But who knew why or why not?”
Ray Shasho: What are your thoughts about the music industry today?
Marky Ramone: “Different than it was …and I’m still involved with it today more than ever. Bands or individuals have to find new ways to promote themselves. They have to get off their ass and get into the van and tour. They can’t rely on a little Facebook thing or a Myspace or Twittering … they have to get out there Live. The problem is … a lot of bands have a YouTube, and then they have this thing where they can add numbers to it artificially. And you’re not fooling anybody. Booking agents know that you’re adding numbers to your site just to attract interest. They know that you’re doing that, and you shouldn’t do that, because in the end, when you do play, only ten people will show up instead of what you think will show up, because of the numbers you put up on the website. So you’ve got to be careful with that sh*t.”
Ray Shasho: You’ve got a book coming out soon?
Marky Ramone: “It’s 90% finished. It’ll probably be out late 2013-early 2014. I’m writing this myself and its through Simon & Schuster, they’re the ones who are going to distribute the book. I had two guys who were working with me and I fired them because they weren’t sounding like me. They were sounding too much like themselves …so I just took it upon myself.”
Ray Shasho: Marky Ramone’s Brooklyn’s Own Pasta Sauce?
Marky Ramone: “Yup, which 10% goes towards ‘Autism Speaks,’ a charity that I’m very proud to be part of and the sauce has really took off.”
Ray Shasho: You also designed a clothing line with Tommy Hilfiger?
Marky Ramone: “That was just a six month clothing design that I did. I designed my own leather jacket and chain and you can’t get them anymore because they sold it out. I can’t even get one. I had two or three that I gave away … one was an auction for charity.”
Ray Shasho: What kind of sneakers did the Ramones wear?
Marky Ramone: “Originally we liked Keds and then we went to Converse. Converse was too pointy at the toe, so we went to PF Flyers.”
Ray Shasho: Marky, here’s a question that I ask everyone that I interview. If you had a “Field of Dreams” wish … like the movie, to play or collaborate with anyone from the past or present, who would that be?
Marky Ramone: “Paul McCartney in the present and Jimi Hendrix from the past.”
Ray Shasho: Marky, thank you for being on the call today and for all the great music you’ve given to all of us and continue to bring. Good luck on the tour.
Marky Ramone: “Thank you Ray …enjoy the Dust albums.”
Purchase the Sony/ Legacy remastered Dust albums on a single CD. ‘Dust’ and ‘Hard Attack’ have been out of print and sought-out by collectors worldwide for decades. Order your copy here.
Marky Ramone official website www.markyramone.com
Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg tour information at www.markyramone.com/tour/
Marky Ramone on Facebook www.facebook.com/OfficialMarkyRamone
Marky Ramone on Myspace www.myspace.com/markyramone
Very special thanks to Chipster PR & Consulting.
Contact classic rock music journalist Ray Shasho at firstname.lastname@example.org
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