It’s always a pleasure coming back to Brazil. When me, Johnny, Joey would come there, we always loved it, made friends, loved the food and everything about it”
Wikimetal (Nando Machado): Hello, Mr. Marky Ramone?
Marky Ramone: Hi, who’s this?
W (NM): Hi, this is Nando, from Wikimetal. How are you?
MR: Oh, hi! How are you?
W (NM): Yeah, I’m great, I’m great. I’m very happy to be talking to you. We are here waiting for you to come to Brazil with the Marky Ramone´s Blitzkrieg on the 20th of October, to play at the Two Wheels Brazil Festival, the TWB. What is it like to come to Brazil again? I know you have many friends here and you are always welcome here. What is it like to be in Brazil again headlining this great festival?
MR: Well, a lot of work! It took, let’s see, 12, 13 years coming there on my own to achieve this, and now it’s been done, and we’re very happy that we’re able to do this. And it’s always a pleasure coming back to Brazil, because even when me, Johnny, Joey would come there, we always loved it and talked about it, and made friends, and loved the food, loved everything about it. And now I’m able to come there on my own, and it’s just something that I always look forward to.
W (NM): Excellent. Talking about beginning of your career, Mark, who were the musicians that helped you to create your unique style of playing?
MR: Oh… The Beatles, Jimmy Hendrix, The Who, Phil Spector, Wrecking Crew – those were his studio musicians. I like Buddy Rich a lot, he was a jazz drummer, there are a lot of people that I can name, though those are definitely on the top of the list.
W (NM): And do you remember the first time you heard of the Ramones?
MR: I knew Dee Dee… He was my friend, and he told me that he was forming a group, so I was flying with a band called Wayne County, and the Backstreet Boys, and Richard Hell later on. And then at the bar at CBGB’s, the Ramones started playing in ’74, ’75. And they weren’t too good in the beginning, they were a little… They weren’t tight yet. As they kept playing, they got tighter and tighter, and better and better. So that’s how I really found out about that, I was just hanging out at CBGB’s and knowing Dee Dee, and Dee Dee telling me “Oh, we’re playing, you want to come down an hear the band?”. But he didn’t have to, because I used to just hang out there, and just be with friends, and that’s how I got to hear the Ramones.
W (NM): How about entering the band? Do you remember how their approach was to invite you to join the band, at the time?
MR: Oh, Dee Dee asked me to join the group in the Spring of 1978. So, I was again at the bar at CBGB’s, and Dee Dee asked me if I would play with the band. And then I was at another club, called Max’s Kansas City, and Johnny came up to me and asked me if I would play in the group also. So the word got around, and then I started rehearsing with them. And that was basically it, I rehearsed three or four songs when we first met, at the audition, and we got it on, we got it on very well, and we knew… We all knew it would work, so it was that simple.
When ‘End Of The Century’ came out, a lot of punk purists didn’t like it, because of the horns and the strings. But now, people come up and bring it for me to sign, and go “I appreciate this a lot more now”
W (NM): Great, great story. Tell me a little bit about the crazy experience, since you mentioned, of working with the legendary producer Phil Spector?
MR: Well, Phil was the greatest producer, and we were very happy to work with him, at least me and Joey were. And he wanted to produce us, he was known to carry guns and take them out, and be, you know… But he didn’t. When we were in the studio with him, there were no guns drawn, he kept them in his holsters. So that’s a story, that’s an exaggerated story. But me and Joey had a great time working with him. It took a long time to do the album, but Johnny and Dee Dee couldn’t get along with him because of the way he worked. Johnny and Dee Dee were used to working very fast on an album, but Phil worked at his own pace. And I understood, because he wanted to put strings on, he wanted to put horns on it. So there were a lot of things that took time to produce this album. So me and Joey understood that, and we weren’t going to argue with Phil Spector. So there was a little, a little friction between the other two members and Phil. But in the end we made through, and me and Phil remained friends until he went away to jail.
W (NM): OK. And it’s a great album too.
MR: It’s OK, it’s a good one. But when it came out, a lot of punk, you know, purists, didn’t like the album, because of the horns and the strings. But now, a lot of people come up to me at shows, and they bring the album for me to sign, and they go “Well, I appreciate this a lot more now, then I did when it came out.” And I understood. I understood what they mean, what they meant. They got used to it, they got used to the fact that, you know, the horns, and the strings, and the Ramones, it was a nice experiment.
W (NM): Changing the subject, Marky, we have a classic question on our show, one that we ask every single person we interview, which is: imagine yourself driving your car, or maybe in the shower, anywhere you might be, listening to a rock station, and a song comes up that you just lose your mind completely, and you start banging your head, and you go crazy. Which song would that be, so we can listen to it on our show now?
MR: Oh, OK… “Ramones”, by Motörhead.
W (NM): In the late 70s, disco was the mainstream in the music industry, and punk rock and heavy metal were trying to stay alive. How do you remember seeing these two crowds relate to each other back in the US, at the time?
MR: Well, metal came out in ’69, ’70 really, by Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer and Deep Purple. America was behind heavy metal, about a year behind. But punk and metal… Metal got very big at one point in the mid-70s, I would say, you know, after Sabbath’s third album, and then you had “Machine Head”, by Deep Purple, you had the live album. So there was a lot of… The metal was already established. Punk, in ’74, ’75 in New York City, at CBGB’s, wasn’t. That’s the only place we could play, really, so it took a lot longer for punk to be acknowledged. Metal became a lot bigger than punk did. So, I mean, we were up against disco, we were up against stadium rock, and all these bands that were, you know, self-indulgent, and playing, you know, five, six, seven minute songs and all that stuff, which I had nothing against… Everyone had their own taste. But that’s what we were up against, so the record companies were really pushing disco and the stadium rock stuff. They thought punk was too far out, too violent, too… You know, too much. So radio kind of stayed away from it, that’s why a lot of punk bands started doing disco music, and disco songs, so they could be played on the radio. And that’s why a lot of metal bands started doing a lot of the ballads. They would do ballads to be put on the radio. But the Ramones, we stuck to what we believed in, and, you know, now we get played more than ever on the radio all over the world, with “I Wanna Be Sedated”, “Blitzkrieg Bop”, “Rock N’ Roll High School”, “Sheena is a Punk Rocker”… So it was a question of the competition of what the record companies were pushing on the radio, obviously, to make money. So that’s what happened at that point.
W (NM): And what did you feel, what did you think when you saw the heavy metal bands merging punk and metal, and becoming huge, like Metallica, Anthrax, all these bands that mixed punk and metal, what did you guys think of that at the time?
MR: Well, it’s better than disco… We knew that these band liked the Ramones, we knew they liked Black Sabbath, we knew that they were into, you know, Zeppelin, and all these great bands. So, you know, it’s great to see things come together like a metal band… A metal and punk fusing together, because of the influences of the two. So then you get bands like those guys, and it shows the influence that they… What influenced them, which is the Ramones, which was Black Sabbath, which were a lot of the metal bands that were just coming out at that time.
I was in a heavy metal band when I was a teenager, Dust. The albums came out five years before the first Ramones album. So the Ramones were big Dust fans, they used see me play in the Village.”
W (NM): We think that Ramones is, obviously, a band that transcends any musical style; it’s that kind of band. But talking about the punk movement, when we think of heavy metal, is kind of clear that Black Sabbath invented it. There were bands that were heavy before, but Black Sabbath put it all together in a package, and it’s kind of symbolic for heavy metal fans. Even though there were bands like Led Zeppelin, The Who and Cream, that obviously influenced the style. Is it fair to say that the Ramones invented punk, even though there were bands like MC5, The Stooges, and others that influenced the style? Do you think that the Ramones could be the first real, real punk band ever?
MR: Yes, we solidified it. There were bands before the Ramones, a year or two… That was in ’69, ’70, like Stooges, MC5, but they weren’t… They didn’t play fast. They weren’t counting between each song. A lot of them were influenced by rhythm and blues. And, you know, the MC5 were basically a rock N’ roll political band. The Stooges, to me, were like a garage band, like a garage rock kind of band. And that’s what was happening at the time, and you could also say that “Summertime Blues”, by the Blue Cheer, was heavy metal, which came out in ’68. So, you know, there were punk elements in these groups, but the Ramones solidified it, and so did Richard Hell, in New York City, with the “Blank Generation” album. So Malcolm McLaren took that and then brought it back to England, and then formed the Sex Pistols.
W (NM): Yeah, you’re right.
MR: It’s that simple.
W (NM): And the “Blank Generation” album, in which you played, is also very important for the beginning of that movement, right?
MR: Yeah, that was a punk anthem in New York City, in CBGB’s, that one song. And then the Pistols wrote “Pretty Vacant”, which was the same thing as “Blank Generation”, because you’re blank. And the Sex Pistols wrote “Pretty Vacant”, which was another thing about the same situation in London, you know…
W (NM): Do you remember the first time you came to Brazil? If I’m not mistaken, you played at a venue called Palace, and I don’t know if you remember this, but skinheads showed up in the streets to fight with the punk and the kids, and the venue had to shut down their doors. Do you remember any of that?
MR: No… I came there, I think, the second time, and we played at a really huge place. What I remember is just the wonderful fans and kids really enjoying the music… It was very passionate. And that’s why we kept coming back, you know, that’s one thing I’ll never forget. And then a lot of the kids started forming their own bands, and using the Ramones as an influence to start their groups. And then, when we came back again, they would all… You know, a lot of them already had their bands, and they would give us their CDs, their cassettes, and we were very thrilled to see that we were influencing their way of life and music. That’s what I remember.
W (NM): We have another question that we ask every person we interview. Can you choose a song that you feel really proud of having written, or maybe you recorded it, so we can listen to it on our show now?
MR: “I Wanna Be Sedated”.
W (NM): Excellent. I guess that was even harder than the first one, right?
MR: No, I mean, I love the song, that was the first song I recorded with Johnny, Joey and Dee Dee, on “Road to Ruin”, in 1978. But, you know, I have a… You know, I was in a heavy metal band when I was a teenager, and the band is called Dust, and I just released the album, the two albums that I did with two of my… We were a three-piece band, in America. And the albums came out five years before the first Ramones album. And if you look at the first album cover, you see me in a leather jacket and jeans. So the Ramones were big Dust fans, because they used to come see me play in the Village. They weren’t in a band yet, so I was already making albums before the Ramones even started. And what the albums are, is heavy metal, and there’s a heavy metal encyclopedia. Now, when the Dust album came out, they voted a song on that album on the top 10. So, as a heavy metal band, Dust, we were one of the first bands in America to be called a heavy metal band. And that was ’70, ’71. And my guitar player ended up producing the first two Kiss albums, and we all became friends. So he was only 19 years old when he produced “Kiss”, and “Hotter than Hell”.
W (NM): Great. Would you like to choose a song from Dust, so we can hear it on our show now?
MR: Yeah. Alright everybody listening to Wikimetal, this is Dust. Name of the song is called “Suicide”.
Listen to all kinds of music, not just what you like. Open up, listen to Jazz, listen to Metal, listen to Punk. Even listen to Blues.”
W (NM): If you could synthesize each Ramones member, especially the ones that are not with us anymore, what is the first thing that would pop into your mind, if I say, for example, the name of Dee Dee?
MR: He was my best friend in the group, he was a whirlwind hurricane. He was funny, he always had something to say that cracked me up, and he was a great bass player, he was able to lock in with my playing, and, you know, we partied a lot together. And he was very open as an individual. And I’ll always miss him and, you know, he was my close friends.
W (NM): How about Johnny?
MR: Johnny and I had a lot in common. We would collect sci-fi posters, and we liked sci-fi movies. He was more of, like, a regular guy, just wanting to play. And he really wasn’t into partying as much as me and Dee Dee were. In fact, he didn’t party at all, but, you know, we were different. He was more or less like the guy that took care of business and stuff like that. But we needed somebody like that in the group, to deal with me and Dee Dee and Joey, and you know, we all had our functions. So Johnny was basically more… He was older than we were too, he was about six years older than I was. So it was a different… He was born in a different time, so his values were different than me and Dee Dee and Joey. But, you know, he was a great rhythm guitar player, I miss him, and, you know, I knew him for… God, twenty something years.
W (NM): OK, and Joey?
MR: Joey was very quiet, very introverted. Again, he was a close friend too, but very… How can you say? He had a problem, called OCD, and everyone knows that, and it affected him and people around him. But I understood that there was some kind of a situation. But now we understand what was the matter with him, because back then, we didn’t know, so it was just a little strange, until you know what’s the matter with the person, you don’t know, so now we know, because there’s a term for it. But he was a very friendly guy, again, he was very quiet, he was a great singer, had a great stage presence, and again, that’s somebody I miss, somebody I’ll always remember, and there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about the three of them, because they’re not around anymore, you know they passed away.
W (NM): You also recorded the beautiful album of Joey Ramone, his last album, I love that album.
MR: Yeah, it’s the only solo album that matters. He was alive when he was doing it, he asked me to play on it. I played on the album, but I could only play on six songs, because I was on a tour, and I was really… I didn’t have enough time to know the whole album, so I was able to do half of it with them. And we did the song which we both loved “What a Wonderful World”, which Louis Armstrong recorded. And, you know, Joey was able to see his vision happen, because he always wanted to do a solo album. And he did it before he died, and while we were recording the album, he came out of the hospital to sing and be in the studio while it was being made. And then, after he did what he had to do, we would drive back and bring him back to the hospital.
W (NM): OK, so, if you don’t mind, can we hear a song from that album? Maybe the one you mentioned, from Louis Armstrong.
MR: OK. Hey everybody, this is Marky Ramone, and you’re listening to Wikimetal. And now we’re going to hear “What a Wonderful World”, by Joey Ramone and yours truly on the drums.
W (NM): This is legendary, Mark. So just before we finish, what would you say to a young kid that’s beginning to play the drums?
MR: Keep rehearsing… Rehearse – that’s the most important thing. And try to keep a… Don’t smoke cigarettes, and don’t do hard drugs, and try to exercise. Believe in yourself, that’s the most important thing. And if you think you’re good, and if you think that you have it, just keep playing and playing and playing. Form a group – that’s important, because you’ve got to play with other people, musicians, so you can understand what each musician is doing. As a drummer, you’ve got to keep the beat and that’s very important. So listen to every… Listen to all kinds of music, not just what you like. Open up, you know, listen to jazz, listen to metal, listen to punk, listen to… Even listen to blues. It’s very important because these are different time signatures. So, you know, I suggest that to a guy that’s just starting out.
W (NM): Well, it was great to talk to you, Marky Ramone, legendary drummer, it was a real honor. It’s not every day that we can talk to one of our rock N’ roll heroes, so it was a real honor for me personally. Thank you so much, again, and I’ll see you here in Brazil for sure.
W (NM): All the best.
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