I have a lot of fans in Italy; I get e-fan mail from that country pretty much every week. The Ramones have an even bigger fan base in Italy. Today I answered questions for an Italian Ramones fan site. I thought I’d share this interview here on my Journal page.
Q: You have produced one silkscreen for the Ramones; precisely, Weird Tales of the Ramones in 2005. Are there more works that you have done for the Ramones? (You know! That’s important to know for us collectors! :-))
A: I also created the movie poster for Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, plus I drew over a dozen new caricatures for a planned deluxe CD release of the Rock ‘n’ Roll High School movie soundtrack. The caricatures were of all the musicians and groups who had songs on the film’s soundtrack.
Q: These serigraphs are limited copies, how many prints are there?
A: I don’t recall.
Q: There are also versions in flyer format, these are in limited edition?
A: Are you talking about the postcards? There were lots of those printed as promotional giveaways.
Q: Who commissioned your work?
A: Hugh Brown, a Grammy-winning package designer who worked at Rhino Records at the time.
Q: Tell us about how you chose the subject and what inspired you to create your work
A: Since the title of the box set was Weird Tales of The Ramones and my cover was for a comic book, I thought it would be appropriate to make the cover look like a rock ‘n’ roll horror comic book. I am known for my zombies (I was the production designer of the cult classic horror film The Return of the Living Dead), so I decided to have a zombie theme on the cover.
Since the band had several drummers, I had the problem of deciding which one to depict. I decided to draw a zombie drummer that represented all of their drummers. The irony is that their history is the opposite of that of Spinal Tap. All of Spinal Tap’s drummers died; the rest of the band is still alive. With The Ramones, all the drummers are alive — the rest of the band members are dead.
Since The Ramones no longer exist, they’re all depicted as zombies. It’s just that the ones who have died are wearing masks of their former selves on the cover.
Q: Was there something of The Ramones world that influenced this particular piece?
A: My cover was influenced by the E.C. horror comic books (i.e., Tales From the Crypt, The Vault of Horror and The Haunt of Fear). I imagine The Ramones were E. C. fans but I don’t know for sure, as we never talked about E.C.s when we were together.
Q: You knew the Ramones before your work?
A: Yes; I met them when I was doing their movie poster. My girlfriend at the time, Alison Buckles, who was into the L. A. punk scene from its very beginnings, turned me on to their music. The Ramones and I both liked the same Mexican food joint in Hollywood, so I ran into them a lot there.
Q: What has changed since producing these serigraphs?
A: Most of the band has died. I have had lunch with two of the drummers since Weird Tales of The Ramones came out.
Q: Do you listen to The Ramones?
A: Sometimes; not as much now as in the 1980s.
Q: If so, what your favorite songs?
A: “Rock ‘n’ Roll High School”, “Beat on the Brat”, “Blitzkrieg Bop”, “I Wanna Be Sedated”, “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker”, “California Sun”.
Q: Have you ever meet or seen The Ramones in person?
A: I met them all (when I was creating the Rock ‘n’ Roll High School movie poster) but I’ve never seen them play except on video.
Q: In our collection, among the many posters of the Ramones, there are also works by Arturo Vega, Lindsay Kuhn, Jim Evans aka TAZ, Derek Hess, Shepard Fairey (known for his OBEY and HOPE posters), Matcho Mark, Ben Harris and more…
You can find all our posters here http://www.gabbagabbabook.it/MEMORABILIA/POSTERramones.HTM
Do you know these artists?
A: Jim Evans (Taz) is a very old (early 1970s) friend of mine. He introduced me to underground comix.
Q: Now we’d like you to tell us if you like, in particular, a few posters from our collection and why?
A: I like the Taz posters and Mark Matcho’s work the best. I always love any of the Electric Frankenstein imagery. Why? I nearly always like art and cool lettering much better than photographs.
Q: And if you do not like a particular one, then why?
A: Mostly (there are occasional exceptions), I find posters with just a photo of the band to be boring. Anybody can do that. Plus, I like really well-executed and appropriate hand lettering — not just regular typefaces.
Q: Honestly, what do you think about our book? Please give us feedback!
A: I love books, especially books about music that are well-illustrated. My own new book on music is coming out on May 7. It’s titled Legends of the Blues. It has 100 full color portraits I have painted of my favorite blues musicians born prior to 1930. I also wrote all of the bios.
Q: MANY THANKS FOR YOUR TIME, We will inform you about our project. THANKS AGAIN
A: My pleasure!
Since we’re talking about The Ramones here, please allow me to share two of my favorite Ramones stories. These were told to me by Allan Arkush, the director of Rock ‘n’ Roll High School.
Roger Corman had made a successful rock and roll exploitation film in the late 1950s; he figured it was time to produce another. He called his young director Allan Arkush into his office.
“Allan,” began Corman, “I think it’s time to do another teenage music exploitation picture.”
Allan had worked at the Fillmore East prior to becoming a movie director, so he was listening intently, half-sold already.
“What do you think of ‘Disco High School’?”
Allan was appalled.
“‘Disco High School’? Roger, have you ever seen the people that go to discos? They’re not kids! They wear suits! A lot of them are your age! It can’t be ‘Disco High School’…”
Allan leaped up on top of Roger’s desk and began playing Peter Townshend-style air guitar.
“It’s gotta be ‘ROCK ‘N’ ROLL High School’!”
Allan and his passion were very convincing.
“‘Rock ‘n’ Roll High School’ it is. Go find me some possible bands for the film.”
Allan pitched the project to two bands. One of them was The Ramones. During Allan’s story pitch to them, The Ramones seemed uninterested and distracted. They didn’t seem to be paying any attention to Allan at all until Arkush got to the end of the movie’s story.
“…and then… you blow up the high school!”
Suddenly, every band member perked right up. In unison, they shouted, “WE’RE IN!”
Allan returned to New World and saw Roger.
“So, tell me about who you found.”
Allan was ready. He had pictures of both bands. He spread out the first group’s photos.
“The first band is called Cheap Trick. They play great, high energy pop music and have this terrific, almost cartoonish persona. Look at these guys — they’d be perfect. They want $50,000 to be in the movie.”
“This next band is a kind of punk rock group called The Ramones. They’re asking $25,000 and…”
Roger stopped Arkush mid-sentence.
“Allan…I think we’ve found our boys…”