From the archives – Interview with Lux Interior and Poison Ivy of THE CRAMPS (originally appeared in NOSEBLEED issue 12 – 1995)

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The Cramps one and only Dublin live appearance was on Friday 24th February 1995, the first night of their European tour in support of the FLAMEJOB album on Creation records. This interview took place backstage after the gig and originally appeared in Nosebleed issue 12 ( published June 1995). It is typical of several interviews I conducted at the time in that research material was hard to come by and I was downright reliant on whatever press clippings, interviews, hearsay and expertise of others I could forage. Where a real journalist might have had a press kit or an archive to consult, the average lowly shithead fanzine illiterate relied on enthusiastic bluff. At this point, punk and related underground music was only starting to be examined and documented in book form (England’s Dreaming, From The Velvets To The Voidoids, Get In The Van etc.) and google wasn’t yet a verb.

This interview is being re-published here to mark the 10th anniversary of the death of Lux Interior on February 4, 2009.

( live photos – Bassetti )

(Original intro text) For years, The Cramps have been a part of punk rock than not everyone has understood… probably why they’ve remained as underground and seminal as they have after 20 years of relentless gigging and obsession with 50’s rock’n’roll, b-Movies and sexual innuendo. This interview was conducted by myself and Ronan from Sound Assault (see ad on back page) after the band’s gig in the SFX. Also present were two blokes from East Coast Radio (fucked if I know who they are). The conversation started around the show the band had just played and led, as usual in this country, to complaints about the poxy weather…

IVY – it was freezing on stage… I was wondering, ‘cos the audience seemed kind of tame too, is it ‘cos of the cold?… I could never get warm… I wish it was a different time of year…

BOZ – Someone said to me that this is the first night of the tour… is that right?

IVY – Yeah… well we just came off an American tour so we’ve been touring… but it’s our first tour over here.

BOZ – Did you intentionally pick Ireland to start off with or was it just the way it went?

IVY – …well, ‘cos we’re doing London next… we’re only spending 3 weeks in all of Europe… we’ll also tour Japan and Australia.

BOZ – You guys have an incredible live reputation – is there any emphasis you put on your live performance as opposed to recording… anything special… is the live performance the most important thing about the band?

IVY – Not the most important but it’s different… both things are real important, but there’s things that happen live and it’s really loud so you can get feedback. Potential disasters happen.

LUX – We like the girls to take their clothes off.

 BOZ – I only saw one person taking his clothes off (to Lux)… You didn’t even make it the full way… kind of a half-hearted attempt…

IVY – It’s far too cold… (to Lux) see the steam coming off you… you have like… smoke coming off you.

LUX – Yeah, well it’s cold.

IVY – It looks really strange.

BOZ – How does Europe compare with America in terms of audiences?

IVY – I think it’s wild.

LUX – It’s different in every town though… I mean, it’s really hard to tell though. Some places we do, everyone gets really dressed up and looks really bizarre and half of them are undressed and it looks real bizarre… and half of them are undressed and they’re going really crazy… and then in other places they just kind of stand there and watch you… but that’s our criteria for playing live, what the audience does for us, that’s fun to us…”Woah!… look at that… now everybody’s doing it!”.

IVY – There were no devils… like Albuquerque… we went to Albuquerque, New Mexico and there were 3 devils in the audience… People dressed like devils… I like seeing devils out there.

LUX – …a three devil audience…that’s a good audience…

BOZ – But what happens when you look out in the audience and you see people punching the heads off each other, which obviously happens from time to time…

LUX – We don’t like that… and a lot of the time in America we make an announcement sometimes at the beginning of the thing that we don’t like stage diving and we don’t like body surfing and all that kind of stuff… ‘cos we’ve seen all kinds of… you know… 14 year old girls getting their heads removed and stuff like that… that’s fine if somebody wants that, we’re just not the kind of group that wants that, you know… I mean, I know there’s groups and that’s their whole thing and that’s fine for them but for us… we don’t like the violence… mainly I don’t like people up in front of me ‘cos nobody can see what I’m doing. I figure people pay 20 bucks or something… a lot of money to come and see you and they’re looking at some guys hairy ass right in front instead of me… it ain’t right…

RONAN – I heard your record collection is well good and just over different interviews over the years I’ve been turned onto people like Link Wray… and if it wasn’t for people like you I would never have heard of them…

LUX – We meet a lot of those people nowadays, it’s kind of cool. The people that were just names to us, you see pictures of them and everything… you know, we did that song BLUES BLUES BLUES and Hayden Thompson called us up when we were inn Chicago… first thing we hear one morning “Hello, This is Hayden Thompson”, so that was pretty cool …and we get to do all kinds of great things since we’re in this band. I mean a week ago we were standing in Sun Records… you know, I mean all kinds of cool things I thought we’d never get to do… because of this band.

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ECR – I know in the early 80s there was hassle with getting airplay, but now you’ve got videos on MTV… how is it affecting the popularity of the band?

LUX – Well, I think more people know about us now than did back then ‘cos nobody really knew too much about that whole scene that was happening back then… except the people that were involved with it… it was probably a lot smaller than it seems like it was now, ‘cos now it’s assimilated into culture and it’s become part of history or something… but… I don’t know… I always thought the reason to have a rock’n’roll band was to get big and have power and start trouble from it, not be a cult band… it’s OK to be a cult band but I don’t think you should try to be one…

BOZ – The whole thing with you guys is that you came up around the whole punk thing in America and the CBGB’s scene… I mean you have Billy Zoom and Mojo Nixon who both played behind Jerry Lee Lewis at one stage and you’ve got retro bands like the Flamin’ Groovies… Robert Gordon who recorded with Link Wray… where do you see the connection between the punk thing and rock’n’roll… you know… the 50s thing?

Lux – Well I thought it was a lot like what happened in the 50’s… just like what happened in the 50’s, the punk rock scene that happened was a reaction against all the boring stupid pop music that was out at the time and that is the same thing that happened in the 50’s… Matter of fact, in a way it was the same thing that happened in the mid 60’s. You know, rock’n’roll always lasts a couple of years and the music gets real shitty and all the bands that were good get shitty.

RONAN – Is there anything that’s happened since then that you like?

LUX – Well I liked what happened in the 50’s and I liked what happened in the 60’s and I liked what happened in the 70’s but I’m not too excited about anything that’s happened since the 70’s… I don’t really know, nothing that would get me all that excited… But I like that Doo Rag who we’ve just toured with in America, they’re really genuine nutty people and they really make a great sound. It’s real delta blues… amphetamine Delta blues… and they’re real good and I like… what’s his name… Reverend Horton Heat…

RONAN – The Dwarves?

LUX – I don’t know them.

RONAN – Big Stick?

LUX – I don’t know them either…

BOZ – Man Or Astroman?

IVY – Yeah…

LUX – Yeah… I like them a lot…

BOZ – There seem to be a thing with the press that something weird’s going on in this band… I’m not putting any emphasis on what the press say but recently I saw an interview and in it there was a claim that you guys have nothing in your house that was made after 1957 or something like that… how much of that is true?

IVY – No, because it’s weird… they even show the picture that showed that that was all wrong cause the text said that it was all 50’s… We have things, state of the art stereo or whatever and a lot of items from the 19th century you know, it’s just… I thought the picture showed that if you really look at it… there’s a TV there from the 50’s and there’s Victorian items and there’s new futuristic things…

LUX – The 50s is… you know… like 1% of our personality mean, they made 3D cam about 6 months and we bought 3 of them recently and no one else knows they exist, you know… like we buy things from 100 years ago… I have a 3D camera from 1906 and we have stuff… the best stuff from all times… people always say that about the 50s is because that’s when rock’n’roll started and we’re like really into rock but because it’s the first time… it became Rock’n’roll from rhythm and blues and stuff but… people like to say that because it makes it easier to understand or something like that but we like a lot of stuff, good old rock’n’roll from the 60’s and 70’s… from any time.

RONAN – I heard you like looking around junk shops as well…

LUX – Oh yeah, oh yeah… just about everything we own comes out of junk shops…

 BOZ – Speaking of digging p old stuff, where do your loyalties lie in terms of musical hardware?

IVY – I play a 1958 Gretsch… It’s the best sounding guitar I’ve ever had…

BOZ – Is that a strict loyalty?

IVY – I have some other guitars but that’s my favourite. I also have a reissue of the Gretsch… I also have an early 60’s Fender… they’re better sounding live…. But that’s more a case of… It’s not as if that was a better era, it’s just that things were made better… things are made crappy now… things were handmade…you know…

BOZ – You know the way bands can be grouped into certain clumps, sometimes it’s the underground they come from… but the Cramps seems to be forever out on its own because it’s such an obscure thing… you know… everything else progress and you guys have basically stayed the same all the way along… is there any bands you relate to in terms of musical family type of thing?

LUX – Well… I always hear that we always stay the same but… The thing is that we’re playing rock’n’roll and there aren’t many bands that are playing rock’n’roll… There are bands that play pop music and they change as times change and start making whatever else is popular now… and we play rock’n’roll so that may appear to people that we don’t change, but I think that’s totally inaccurate that we don’t change… I mean we don’t change in the same way that any blues band that’s a good blues band wouldn’t change… They would write new songs and they would grow up and they’d be different and they’d mature and they’d make different types of things as they experience new things… I don’t know… I just think that’s totally inaccurate that we stay the same… I don’t think it’s true…

 BOZ – How do you relate to the bands that have ended up with your members like the Bad Seeds and the Gun Club?

LUX – Well we know Kid real well (Kid Congo)… we see him pretty often… I haven’t seen his new band yet though.

IVY – I like the Gun Club… especially the early bluesy music, the first and second albums and then they had some EP that got back to blues… they kind of got jazzy.

 BOZ – OK… in terms of the press talking about you, there seems to be all these labels… horror rock, psychobilly… swamp rock… how do you see yourselves and how do you feel about all those labels you’re being given by the press?

LUX – …That’s just something that naturally happens and we don’t give a damn… we don’t care… that’s their business… thank god we don’t have to call ourselves… They can do whatever they want to do… It really doesn’t matter to us… we derive great enjoyment from making records and playing live and it doesn’t matter what we think about it…. of course I think it’s stupid but it’s just a part of what happens… it doesn’t matter…

ECR – Do you think that attitudes towards the music business and yourselves have changed over the years?

LUX – I don’t think so… I think we always looked at the music business… like there are good people anywhere and there are bad people anywhere and you’re libel to meet both kinds… and we have a lot of good lifelong friends we’ve met from the music business, you know, everything from writers to people at record companies to everything… and then a lot of people who are the worst people on earth that we’ve met too so… any business is pretty corrupt, you know, I think we expect that from the beginning of the music business but we’ve never got to the point where it’s fucked us up too bad…

 BOZ – Do you reckon that the cramps would have made it to where they are today without the initial punk thing happening?

LUX – Well we would have had a band and we would have been playing and we would have been good…

IVY – We might have had no exposure apart from punk. In America, unless you’re a big band on a concert level… all the bands playing cover songs, you know… top 40… so there might have been no way to get this started…

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 BOZ – Did you have any help in the States with people that are near legendary at this point… Claude Bessy…

IVY – He was a real help… Slash did one of the first big features on our band… he had Slash magazine.

LUX – We used to have a whole lot of people helping us out.

IVY – Why do you mention him?

BOZ – Well, I read an interview with him about a year ago… I mean… the label and the bands, the whole thing seems to have been one big black hole… It came out of nowhere and went straight back there… He mentioned the fact that nobody else would touch the Cramps when he was doing it…

IVY – That’s true, press-wise… I mean we were doing good live but any kind of journal.

LUX – It’s funny, when we first started playing in New York, immediately the Dead Boys and the Ramones would have us open for them right away and we immediately got a huge following because of it and started headlining… once a month we’d play CBGB’s or Max’s… headlining on weekends and stuff and just drawing huge sold out crowds and everything like that but the press never ever would mention us and stuff like that. I never could… to this day I don’t know why… there’s somebody just wrote a book about that whole scene and it mentions all these weird obscure groups who never even went to New York from Cleveland but the only place we’re mentioned in the whole thing is… they’re saying “Nick Knox who played with the Cramps was also with the Electric Eels… Here’s a chapter on the Electric Eels”…

BOZ – …that was in From The Velvets To The Voidoids

LUX – Yeah I think so… but even back then there was all these magazines that came out that we weren’t mentioned… we were never mentioned in Punk magazine.

BOZ – …never ever?

LUX – We played a benefit for them once and even after the benefit they never mentioned us.

IVY – Yeah… they never mentioned that we played in the benefit…

LUX – I don’t think that they knew what to make of us ‘cos we weren’t exactly punk… we didn’t have the safety pins.

IVY – Yeah… it was just a real live thing… the live scene was real strong… it was strong enough to keep us going… it was just like 2 worlds… there was the live world where we were accepted and there was a journalist world… where we were just scum.

 BOZ – …weird that PUNK magazine wouldn’t mention you… no:12 they had Robert Gordon on the cover and inside there’s pictures of him and Link Wray… at that stage PUNK was still a credible thing… In the same issue they had a photo-strip of Debbie Harry beating up Devo and stuff like that… it’s strange that they wouldn’t feature the Cramps… you know…

LUX – Well you know… at the time all these rock writers went to the same parties… It’s like they all got talking somewhere at some party, you know… “Well I don’t like them”, and everybody goes “Oh! You don’t?… Either do we, we don’t either if you don’t!”…

IVY – He showed up at one of those parties a day early (laughs) he crashed John Holmstrom’s party….

LUX – Maybe that’s why they never wrote about us…

IVY – No, that was later. This was when you finally met Marty Thau… he invited you to a party a the day wrong and showed up a day early… he said it was just 4 people sitting around anyway…

LUX – yeah I showed up at his party a day early and he had some girl in there and I just went in on Valium “Hey!… time for a party… who wants to have a party?”…

BOZ – Still, it’s surprising that you never had any other contact…

LUX – Yeah (Pauses)… I really have no idea… it’s always been a mystery to us.

BOZ – Getting away from the music thing… last week Russ Meyer was here for the first ever showing of Faster Pussycat Kill Kill… in terms of the Cramps phenomenon… how much of your image would you attribute to his influence?

LUX – We’ll that’s one very strong influence… but I mean there were a million directors like Russ Meyer that were really great you know… Something Weird Video… I don’t know if you know about that record company in the states… they put out all that kind of exploitation movies and there was a whole lot of people like Russ Meyer… but Russ Meyer was probably one of the best technically and stuff like that. He made some really great movies… but you know there’s another 100 directors like that that you don’t know about… yet they’re amazing… amazing… amazing stuff, you know, in a way it’s almost like if you’ve never seen movies before or something and then all of a sudden people starred putting out movies because this is a whole… there’s thousands of these movies that none has ever seen and they’re just starting to come out now and it’s a whole period… a whole storybook no one’s even hardly seen yet… so 10 years from now you’ll be amazed what you know that you don’t know now.

BOZ – …The Cramps to me… you’ve got a sort of zombie thing… Return Of The Living Dead type image… And then there’s the Tura Satana thing and it all mixes together… how come you have never entered into film before in any way?

LUX – Well we’d like to, you know… but I think that some people see us as threatening and some people are afraid of us and to do it yourself, it’s too expensive and we’ve hardly got time… lt took all our time to have a band and to like… the past 3 years, it’s taken us this long just to get another record out and record companies to put it out and that’s the story all along… it’s keeping us busy just getting records out.

BOZ – The whole 50s thing… it seems like film was a big underground thing before TV… It just seems like you might have got involved…

LUX – Well, I mean, you ask why we haven’t done stuff… I mean a lot of things… like that movie The Crow… they wanted me to be the main villain in that thing, they begged me to do it didn’t do it ‘cos it’s a stupid movie (Laughs) stupid… stupid dialogue, stupid plot. I could have done that but it’s just stupid so we don’t want to do stupid things… a lot of movies are stupid movies today…

BOZ – Wow about the whole Quentin Tarantino / Pulp Fiction thing? How do you relate to that?

LUX – He’s great… I like that…

BOZ – …and you’ve got Dick Dale and Ricky Nelson in the soundtrack… do you reckon the Cramps would fit into something like that?

IVY – Perfectly…

LUX – Yeah… I think so too…

BOZ – And with the MTV thing and the new interest in punk, do you thing it will branch out and grab the Cramps in?

IVY – …well… it already has somewhat I think…I think we do get attention for having been involved… ‘cos there’s a lot of interest from the people who dig punk rock that were too young the first time…

RONAN – Can I ask you a really stupid question… What do the Cramps eat… bar chicken…? We reckon both of you like chicken…

LUX – We eat lots of Mexican food…

BOZ – What do you see yourselves doing in the next 10 years?

IVY – Oh… who knows… things could change so radically in the next 10 years that would just blow your mind… you know… the world could like be a gaping hole and swallow us up…

LUX – There may be aliens from other planets that we’re pals with by then….

RONAN – …have you got any good recipes for them?

LUX – For aliens from other worlds?… yeah… you’re talking to an expert now… well you should know about recipes for aliens right here in these countries… cookies… leaving cookies outside the door… that will work… that will bring the aliens…

IVY – Don’t they eat pancakes?

LUX – What?… Pancakes?

IVY – Aliens eat pancakes…

BOZ – Do you want to tell us where you picked up these (referring to drummer Harry Drumdini & bassist Slim Chance) because they’ve been very quiet?

LUX – If you asked them the questions about 20 years ago… this guy wasn’t even born (points at drummer)

IVY – We don’t advertise… we just keep our eyes open.

Harry Drumdini – They just grabbed me by the scruff of my neck…

LUX – Come on… let’s go… Lots of candy little boy… get in my car (laughs)…

BOZ – Are there any old heroes of rock’n’roll you’d like to work with?

LUX – old heroes of rock’n’roll….

RONAN – Johnny Cash?

LUX – Oh yeah…

IVY – yeah… Johnny Cash is great… I love him…yeah…

RONAN – He’s playing here in a couple of weeks…

IVY – I saw the posters, yeah… did that new album come out over here?

RONAN – The cramps and Johnny Cash, that has to be done!

 BOZ – One last question, do you ever come under criticism for what some people might consider sleazy… like you’re peddling something?

LUX – That’s their problem, you know… Sleazy… that’s a weird concept… that has to do with good and bad taste and we don’t really believe in that good and bad taste stuff…

BOZ – …and… like you’ve got all these politically correct bands…

LUX – well that political correct… that’s a really terrible thing… that is exactly what happened to the hippies in the late 60’s… they turned into real… telling you exactly the one way it’s supposed to be and that is what’s happening now… it’s just happening the same way again… that political correct stuff is the biggest load of shit… people should be free to do whatever they want… ‘cos there shouldn’t be rules that you have to follow just to be politically correct and stuff like that… Woah!… that’s really strange…

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