Sounds Of Liberty: Interview with Jack Grisham

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Interview with Jack Grisham

Photo:Danielle Nicole


In our life, there are such moments that are really hard to forget. They explode in our memory, corrode the neurons of your brain like acid, like a cancer, and you can’t stop thinking about them.

These things you will remember with a smile in fifty years, without giving aware, but you will simply perceive it as part of yourself. I will never forget how I first heard T.S.O.L. The first thought which immediately attained consciousness intoxicated by punk rock was «They really follow their name.» Many years have passed since then, and I still do not cease to think so. Of course the band has changed. This is not the same True Sounds of Liberty as they were before. They have changed and become better. At the beginning of 2000s Jack Grisham, who at the time of the band’s first glory was called «Iggy Pop of LA hardcore», returned to T.S.O.L. The band whose concerts had been seen by everyone. The band, whose performances were seen by everyone. Their name is known to every self-respecting musician, and those who’s been at the band’s concerts will spend hours chatting to you about what they saw there. But as has already been said, times and people change. After leaving the band, Jack Grisham played in a variety of collectives — from the Cathedral of Tears to The Joykiller. Grisham was able to quit bad habits, and find himself in literature, as the author of the famous autobiography «An American Demon», as well as devote himself to a new hobby — photography, in which the musician is very successful.

But talking to Jack, I understand how difficult it is always to ask the right question. This is reminiscent of balancing on a tightrope. The main thing is not to fall into the abyss and save the situation. Along with this, catching his answers, I understand that maybe I somewhere staggered, but still did not fall into the mud, dealing with the same Jack Grisham-not so much T.S.O.L. vocalist, as a man from that time and part of that same wave. Wave of American hardcore that washed everything around.


— In one of the interview, Malcolm McLaren said such a thing about Sex Pistols — He said that it would be better if the band never released their debut album. Tell me, if we talk about TSOL, how do you think; what reaction would people have if you ended releasing any albums after “Dance with me” or if you did not record any albums at all, as The Screamers did?

-There is something to the privacy, the respect, and to the latter awe of a moment. If you don’t release, and the hype continues to build, then the legacy of the act becomes greater than the act itself. There are bands these days that are only popular due to the resurgent interest in punk—they were nothing during their “day.” In that respect should T.S.O.L. have quit after the 1st two releases—yes.

-I know that you have five children. What kind of relationship with them? Was it difficult for them to perceive you, as my father is a rock star; and like a real father? And how did you overcome this distinction yourself?

— I’m not sure how they perceive me—I never asked. I’m also not the rock star type or hold any belief that what I’ve done artistically makes me any more important than anyone else. I don’t believe in heroes nor do I favor those who do. No man is above another man. I didn’t cure cancer or bring peace to a troubled world. I made punk rock records.

-Your last album, released this year “The Trigger Complex”; became famous not only as one of the most powerful works of the year, but also thanks to your work with Shepard Fairey, who acted as a designer. Can you tell please, what do you feel about working with a man who grew up on your music…Did you immediately found a common language?

-I’ve become friends with Shepard since he designed our cover but I wasn’t well acquainted with him before that. Shepard is an East Coast guy and I don’t think he was a fan of the “Orange County” scene when he was younger. We came from a violent inception and some of that reputation for thuggary came with us. I love Shepard’s work though and I’ve really appreciated the few conversations that I’ve had with him.

-Your younger sister D.D.Wood, also doing music and recording songs (which is actually more softer in sound than T.S.O.L), what was it like for you, as an older brother, to observe the formation and growth of her love for music, and the beginning of the artists career? Have you experienced a sense of pride, such as a teacher whose students have made any achievement?

-My sister doesn’t speak with me—she thinks I’m the devil. I know that she has a good voice though, as does my older brother. Their musical talent surpasses mine. I’m unaware of her undertakings—I don’t associate with her, blood means nothing to me.

-After leaving TSOL, you successfully continued your career, among other things becoming co-founder of The Joykiller. In 1995 you had a debut, self-titled album, which immediately became a classic of the alternative. I cannot but mention — what an amazing album! What was it like recording it with almost the same musicians that you played in TSOL? How do you think this feeling of novelty affected the outcome of this record?

-What we had done in the past had nothing to do with The Joykiller other than our history gave us an opportunity to record—I’m grateful for that. The Joykiller was one of my favorite bands. It was what I think TSOL would’ve become had we stayed together.

-In your autobiography, you detail your life at some length. But talking about life on the stage — what in your life was “the top”? I mean, some crazy stuff that you did. The craziest stuff!

-The trouble was it didn’t seem great, or crazy, or the top, while I did it. My actions were my life. I wasn’t pretending to be “punk” I was incapable of being anything else. Many of my fellows were “punk” on the weekend or when they stepped before a camera or a crowd—they were the Alice Coopers of hardcore. They put on a great act for you, the fans, but it was nothing more than an act—theatre. I see some of you that admire men who were charlatans. You’re fooled by what you think as true.

T.S.O.L. took part in filming of Penelope Spheeris’s «Suburbia» performing «Wash Away» and «Darker My Love».

-You know, its always interesting to talk with fellow writer about their work. Jeff Noon once told me that I need to write without rules. But as for me —  I failed in it! Of course, this is more about the text than anything else … but in my case I had to get up every day, keep a clear schedule. In this sense, what things you limited to yourself?

-I think there are some rules that need to be adhered to—you can’t, or shouldn’t, write above your readers. You’re trying to convey a message and you probably want it to be understood. As children we are taught in certain ways and those ways become ingrained. Now, you can bend a way and lead someone onto a new path but you need to meet them where they stand or at least close enough to where they can reach out to you without too much work on their part.

— Bad Brains, recited the ideas of the Bible and Napoleon Hill, Ian McKay gradually formed the movement “Straight Edge”. Do you have some philosophic idea, which is also the impetus to continue your creativity?

— F**k them and their dogma. When are you people going to wake-up and see the damage that those ideas caused—the separation in the scene that Henry, Ian, and the Bad Brains ushered in. We were free before those movements. Punk wasn’t judged from within. We were a family and those men brought division and hate onto the table.

-You know, I’ve just finished my novel about punk rock, and I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. For some reason, when there were Richard Hell and the New York Dolls, they could not surprise anyone. Punk took root in England, where he later returned as The Damned, who went on a tour of America. The Germs, X, Black Flag, Plasmatics—almost the whole hardcore scene took the main inspiration from them. I know that you are a big fan, tell me, do you have any history related to the legends of British punk? Maybe the first meeting, or participate in filmmaking about them?

-Well, I am a fan. Hearing punk rock for the first time was frightening, exciting, wondrous, and confusing. I felt, as I believe people must have felt when they first heard rock and roll. To me it was the deterioration of society but instead of being depressed it made me happy. When I got a chance to play with some of those bands, and become friends with them, I was stoked. They were just men and women but they seemed to bring an answer or at least a counterpart to my madness.

-Continuing this theme. After all, TSOL appeared when hardcore had just started its formation. Tell me, what was it like to go on stage, in every next city and see that everything is changing? In a global sense a kind of flick; in the minds of young people.

-It didn’t change for a long time and I’m still in doubt as to how much it did.

-For several years I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to ask this question. I don’t know if you know it or not, but there was a hardcore scene in the USSR—like the US—complete DIY, just not on such a big scale. Here is one of these concerts. For some reason, he reminds me of one of your early performances. What do you think? Do you like it?

Yes, I enjoyed! It reminded me of the Dead Kennedys. But with an eastern rhythm.
I hope to one day play there or at least visit.


— Russian Version of the interview —