By: Johnny Moss
Imagine if suddenly someone asked you to be in one of your favorite bands of all time. For CJ Ramone, this is hardly a stretch of the imagination. For him, it happened. He got to perform in and hang out with a band that many of us know and love .This band is New York’s own The Ramones. As Hollywood calls on the Ramones, as portrayed in an upcoming full length movie about CBGB’s, the way we look at The Ramones in the future may forever change.
I met CJ Ramone in the most unlikely place, Skatopia. This place is a wet dream for anarchists located in the hills of Rutland Ohio. The skate park, ran by pro skateboarder Brewce Martin is not for the faint of heart. The event was the Interpunk American Skate Fest and the roster was one of the most impressive lineups I have ever played. The lineup featuring Gwar, Fishbone, 7 Seconds, Youth Brigade, DOA, Agent Orange, DI, CJ Ramone, Murphy’s Law, Nassau Chainsaw, Teenage Bottlerocket, El Destructo, Frontside Five, Machine 22, Downtown Brown, Mustard Plug, Greg Ginn & The Taylor Texas Corrugators, Sleeper Agent, Fast Piece Of Furniture, Agression, Dirty Filthy Mugs, Trusty, Pinstripes, McRad, Minus One, Shot Baker, Kirkwood Dellinger, Dirty South Revolutionaries, Flat Tires, Rezzin & More.
For most of the event I stayed in the catering tent, why you may ask? , The answer of course, was free keg beer. My drummer at the time, Jason Ward, was along for the ride and had remarked several times about how stoked he was that Fishbone was seated at the table directly beside ours. We took notice when a larger man came in the tent that honestly I did not immediately recognize due to the hat. My mistake, however, was not one shared by my drummer Mr. Jason Ward, who elbowed me on my side thus spilling my beer and then stating “That’s CJ Ramone!” Jason spoke to him and they maintained a fairly lengthy conversation while I sat and tried desperately to look cool in the presence of so many punk rock heroes.
Finally, after many beers and much nerve, I approached CJ and introduced myself. Now, I am no stranger to the road, and honestly no stranger to people that have achieved .quite a bit more fanfare than myself. But something was different about Mr. CJ Ramone, something at first I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Then it occurred to me, CJ seemed to have humility and was a decent human being. Honestly out of all the people I have spoke to from wherever to now, I feel like CJ Ramone may have been the most down to earth rock stars I have crossed paths with. We spoke and made a few jokes and then I went back to my part of the tent and resumed being Mr. Cool. Later I caught his performance and he knocked it out of the park. He played hundred times better than I had played (and I was drunk I might add, due to free beer), and that was my initial meeting of CJ Ramone .
Now on to the next part of this intro to the interview, my friend and rival Jeff Williams also known as Mr. Biggy Stardust. If there is one person on this planet that can call me out on the stupidity of anything I pursue and falter on, it is Jeff. From an early age I watched him tear people a new one on stages all over the south. Witty comebacks and internet beatings are the name of the game with Jeff. If you are offended by Jeff, you are not learning the basic principles of what rock and roll is and will continue to be are represented by him. I feel until he reaches the bitter end. Jeff, a long time friend of Jeff Clayton of Antiseen, is also no stranger to people who get more fanfare than himself. So in a way this interview is just as much about Jeff as it is about CJ Ramone. When given the opportunity to interview CJ there was no doubt in my mind what I was going to do. I have known for a long time that Jeff is a rabid fan of The Ramones whose knowledge of the band far outweighs my own. So as bitter internet rivals and good friends often do, I passed the honor to him. He has taught me much about rock and roll and I hope this conversation between these national and local icons will teach you. So without further ado I give you, Biggy Stardust interviewing CJ Ramone. –Johnny Moss
Biggy: 17 years later…..do you ever say to yourself “Holy shit…I was IN The Ramones!”?
CJ: Everytime I hear em or someone says “Hey CJ!”
Biggy: You publicly stated the difficulty in joining a legendary band that is extremely dysfunctional and disjointed. Was there ever a point in which you felt like walking away?
CJ: Around ’95 it was getting ugly, Arturo Vega did me a big favor by talking me down a couple times.
Biggy: it’s been revealed that in the last few years of the Ramones….. Dee Dee wanted back in. Was that ever a threat to you?
CJ: I didn’t find out until after Dee Dee had died, I’d have stepped aside had I been asked he is the original.
Biggy: Because Dee Dee was so loved by the fans and his importance to the bands legend….did you ever feel heat from him at all?
CJ: When I played my first NY show he made some threats and at the last show he said he was going to punch me in the face, I’m glad he never tried.
Biggy: In the early 2000s…describe the feelings you experienced when all of the members deaths occurred in such a short span of time.
CJ: It hurt, still does, not much more I can say.
Biggy: Johnny kept his cancer a secret from the public (until Mark outted him) right before his death. Were you aware of his condition the whole time?
CJ: Yes, I knew very early on, I also knew about Joey’s illness.
Biggy: In Johnny’s book…he expressed his disdain for some of Marky’s “quick cash grab” projects that seem cheap or insincere. Many Ramones fans feel the same way….do you as well?
CJ: Yeah, not the best use of the name, he’s just trying to make a living I guess.
Biggy: The Ramones were chosen for the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame in 2001…and inducted the following year. Did you feel resentment for NOT being included…even though the general consensus among the fan base was that you were an important member those last 8 years? Especially considering that other bands have come along since then and have had non -founding members inducted…such as Robert Trijullio of Metallica.
CJ: Does anybody really consider the rock and roll hall of fame legitimate? It is the shining example of why the industry died. Johnny, Joey, Dee Dee, Tommy and the fans let me know what my place is in The Ramones legacy, and that is all I consider important.
Biggy: Speaking of Metallica…..there was a slight rumor going around years ago that you were in mind within the Metallica camp to replace Jason Newstead….and that you turned it down. Is there truth to this?
Biggy: If so….do you regret not exploring that chance further? And do you think you had a shot if you did try out….considering you were the one punk rocker in a pool of heavy metal applicants?
CJ: 9 and 10, Johnny contacted me a couple months after Jason Newstead left Metallica and that they (Metallica) wanted to fly me out to play with them. It wasn’t an audition; they just wanted to make sure I fit in. It wasn’t possible at the time because my son had been diagnosed with Autism and after a talk with his doctor I was convinced I needed to be at home. Johnny called again a few months later and offered it up again, he told me I was crazy to turn them down, but I had to be at home. I would have loved to play with Metallica, Master of Puppets is one of the greatest metal records of all time, it would have been an easy transition for me since I played metal for years as a kid, but if you met my son today, you’d never know he was autistic. I’m not saying he’s like that because I didn’t join Metallica, but i’m not sure he’d have gotten quite where he is had I been gone for months on end.
Biggy: The Ramones are everywhere now. How do you feel that the Ramones are bigger NOW…when that interest in the band would of benefitted you MORE while the band was active?
CJ: The Ramones have the strangest legacy of any band ever, but just like great painters, their mass appeal didn’t kick in till they were gone. Just makes them more of an enigma.
Biggy: Several books have surfaced since 1996…the year the band broke up. Johnny and Monte’s among the more credible. Do you read these? And do you have a favorite? Do you resent anything printed?
CJ: They’re all I hate Johnny books and people rewriting history, Monte’s was the best of em.
Biggy: As a fan of the band (myself)….your recollection of the band is an interesting one. Where is YOUR book?
CJ: My books coming, my experience was different; it’s about my life before and during The Ramones. It’s going to be hells of a lot more objective than the rest of the shit slinging you’ve read.
Biggy: Linda is said to “own” The Ramones since Johnny’s death. Do you and she have any relationship…Whether it is business or friendship…what so ever?
CJ: Linda does not “own” The Ramones; she “owns” The Cummings Estate and co-owns Ramones Productions Inc., with Joey’s brother Mickey. I have taken part in celebrations by both camps, but I’m not active with the organization.
Biggy: Geek fanboy question: do you still have your Mosrite bass?
CJ: My original Mosrite was stolen.
Biggy: You’ve stay somewhat busy over the years with Los Gusanos and Bad Chopper. What else is currently on your plate?
CJ: I put out a new record titled “Reconquista” and have been lucky enough to have some great players take part. I am gearing up for a European tour that will take me to Russia where i’ve never been before. Jonny “Two Bags” and Dave Hidaldo jr. from Social Distortion are playing with me on this tour, in place of Steve Soto and Dan Root of The Adolescents who are recovering from their own recent tour of Europe. In March I am hoping to record a new record and maybe get that book finished.
Biggy: Thank you CJ. From a fanatic of the band….I like you more….every time I read or hear your take as a Ramone. Anything you have left to say or plug at this point in time?
CJ: RAMONES FOREVER!!!
Biggy Stardust and his Wretched Hive
Johnny Moss (Dirty South Revolutionaries)