Q&A: Marky Ramone
Marky Ramone on Morrissey, his favourite Ramone, and his latest single
Marky Ramone [Marc Bell] strips punk music of any lofty pretensions when he writes: “Punk is about cutting a song down to the basics, bare minimum. A means to express your thoughts in a quick two-minute song.” In an exclusive email interview, the former Ramones drummer keeps his answers terse.
Arguably, the last surviving member of the Ramones, Marky — who’d started his career with Dust — joined the Ramones in 1978 as Tommy took a backseat in the role of producer. Richie Ramone filled in during the years between 1983 and 1987, which marked Marky’s hiatus from the Ramones over issues of alcoholism. Marky claimed the coveted spot of the fourth Ramone on two of the band’s most memorable records, End of the Century (1980) and Road to Ruin (1978).
Earlier this year, the musician published his memoir, Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life As a Ramone, which not only offers an intimate portrait of the iconic band but also presents Marky as witness to one of the most significant periods in music history, its legacy enshrined in the New York of the Seventies and Eighties.
Growing up in Brooklyn, Marky was heavily influenced by the English invasion bands, and then followed the sweet irony of the Ramones inspiring the British punk movement with bands like The Clash and the Sex Pistols. Although the forever-feuding Johnny and Joey were politically engaged individuals, this was rarely channeled in the music of the Ramones. The drummer concurs that the Ramones’s anti-establishment drive was about “fun” while The Clash and the Pistols were instrumental in making punk more political.
The musician has a new single out with The Intruders [watch below], and is currently working on new material with Andrew W.K., who is also the vocalist of his band Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg.
Morrissey compiled a greatest hits album of the Ramones last year. It’s a dramatic turn for the musician who once wrote, “The Ramones Are Rubbish.” He has clarified that he wrote that in jealousy-fueled haste. What do you think of The Smiths and Morrissey?
I was never a fan of Morrissey or The Smiths. Just seems like he is jumping on the Ramones bandwagon.
Do you think punk can be as relevant in today’s overly PC culture? In the way that Lester Bangs once wrote about misunderstood bands like the Ramones in his essay ‘White Noise Supremacists.’
Yes, or at least I hope so. It’s needed more than ever.
Bangs also bemoaned the advent of technology that made music making/listening pristine, suggesting the Ramones sounded better on “garbage equipment.” What is your experience of listening to old records of the Ramones on new formats/devices?
I love all the new forms of technology. I am pretty sure if Lester was alive today he would be happy with having all the songs he loved readily available to listen to on his phone. Not to say that I still don’t listen to vinyl.
Dee Dee. Never has or will be another person like him.
Did it irk you when John honored former President George W. Bush in his acceptance speech at the Ramones’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of fame?
Yes, it did irk me. Bush was one of the worst presidents ever and had zero to do with helping the Ramones. And I told this to John after the ceremony.
Many artists, like David Byrne, have lamented the changing cultural landscape of New York City, as it gets more gentrified and the rich take over. Do you feel the city is losing its mojo for radical artistic movements?
No! The scene has just moved out of Manhattan to Brooklyn. It’s great! And eventually it will expand further out to Queens and the Bronx.
Is ‘Wanna Win the Lottery,’ your song with The Intruders, a swipe at American capitalism, or am I just reading too much into this?
[Laughs] Yeah, you are reading too much into the song. It’s a common daydream of people, winning the lottery. One day just all of a sudden having millions of dollars out of nowhere. And having the financial freedom to do whatever they want!