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31 lug 2014

Interview with Joe Queer - PART 1

I don't know how to introduce Joe Queer. There's no need, because if you need it means you're in the wrong place. But I can tell how this interview was born. A few days before the Queers' show in Milan during their last European tour, I got an email from Joe Queer asking if he could be interviewed because he needed to clarify some things said by B-Face in his interview through these pages. 
I read it and I said "Okay, some asshole is making fun of me".  I asked to a couple of friends if that e-mail address was the right one and they confirmed. 
Of course I couldn't say no (who would?) so I met Joe at Arci Tambourine before the show. With an old iPod in my hands,  few notes for the interview and a little fear we did this interview. I have no doubt to say that it was one of the most beautiful afternoons of my life. He told us many, many stories even outside the take. I decided to split the interview in two parts because it's very long and I would like that all readers read everything until the end. The second part will be published after the summer, and the best is yet to come. Trust me.
A special thanks to my pal Enri for giving me a hand and the guys from Otis Tour  for being so kind to us. 

[A] - Ciao Joe, It's a big honor for me and for I Buy Records to interview you tonight. How are you?  How is going the tour so far?
[J] - Ciao Ragazzi! Great, Great as usual!

[A] - Like the past year, you are touring Europe without Dangerous Dave and Lurch Nobody. What's goin on? Who are the guys playing with you during this tour?
[J] - We gotta give Lurch a little time out, he is the first guy we call but I think he needs to have a tour off. Dave got some family stuff with his girlfriend. We have a friend from a band from Boston, The Pity Whores,  he was all excited because he's never been to  Europe before. And Duende the drummer is from Barcelona, he filled in for The Queers on our tour with Marky Ramone when we toured around the Europe. We have other regular guys Lurch or Bear on drums or Chris Fields he plays bass for The Dwarves, he played drums on Punk Rock Confidential. He's been doing lots of shows with us. He is from John Cougar Concentration Camp with Dave. Anyways those guys are playing with us, that's what is going on.

[A] - Right now doesn't come up to my mind a band that tour as long as you do. I think you play around 130 shows every year. How do you do? Where do you find the energies to play with the same passion of the beginnings? Of course touring so much gave you the opportunity to meet many people and have tons of cool moments around the world. What's  the funniest story you can tell us about?
[J] - I don't know how many shows we play. In the early days of The Queers, I owned a restaurant, I worked  construction jobs and for a long time I worked on a commercial fishing boat that my brother owns. To me touring is like a day at the Playboy Mansion! I go play a show, kids cheer, you got hot chicks there, it's great! So I never looked at this as work, I look it as fun really. I mean not every minute is great, some things suck but mostly it's great. Matter of fact most of my days are great. I really don't have bad days whether I'm on tour or home. After playing so long whether it's Japan or Italy or Spain or whatever through 20 years almost, now it's like "yeah I make money" but it's about seeing my friends and fans wherever I am. I made  a ton of friends thru the years. To see my friends in Japan or in Italy or wherever they're like family now. Or going to Spain it's like WOW! I've been really lucky so I always look forward to seeing my friends I've seen almost every year for many years, it's been pretty fun but it gets me off my ass to go out and tour. You can't put a price on being able to travel around and meet people all over the world. Early on when I was touring I just wanted to do drugs and meet chicks and party but you gotta grow up as you go and things change.

[A] - Since my bandmates are old dudes, they were both present at first Queers show ever in Italy. You could find it on Youtube. They both agree that that show changed their life forever and it's still one of the main reason why they love and still play punk rock. Do you remember it? 
[J] - Oh yeah I remember that show. I remember we showed up, we got to Genova and there was a record store, we were kind of bored we didn't what's going on we never played Italy before so it was all new to us.
I remember being in a record store looking around, we were just bored we didn't know anything about Italy. There were a few kids looking at us whispering and looking us kind of weird. We didn't know what they were doing 'till we realised they were into the band. It was kind of crazy and there were all those kids....I remember seeing someone taking shit they had the squat thing whatever you called it - not the regular sit down toilet- the turkish,we never saw one before and laughed our asses off till we had to use one. When we were playing, and Paul the roadie was with us and I remember an asshole guy was in the front row ass causing this.  Paul was standing in front of me while we played cos there were a ton of kids there so we didn't get crushed. So the guy was causing trouble and I stopped playing and said stop fucking with our roadie. He started yelling back that he was in the mafia. I mean it was retarded. If you're in the mafia you don't run around saying you are in the mafia! Come on that's the first rule to be in the mafia-deny you're in it!  It was pretty funny! So then there was a big argument fight and I kept saying throw this cocksucker out. Apparently he was friends with the guy who owned the club. Instead of booting me out they made me leave the club! Our road manager at the time Bobby said "You know, we better get you outta here Joe".  I don't why this guy was allowed to stay at the club but they hustled me out of the door.
My friend, Andrea Carraro from Genova met that guy in a bar, he knows who that guy is...the guy was just a wiseass you know, but Andrea kinda talked to him about it..the guy was probably just drunk and excited, I used to hate people when do that but then I realized if they weren't drunk, they wouldn't create any trouble. It's been a while I remember the whole thing in Genova very well.

[A] - You waved the best moments of the punk rock and you are still here now that the things are goin so down year by year. What do you think went wrong? The young kids now listen emo-shit stuff, do you think there is any chance to back to the good moments of the past? What is missing? Is it really over?
[J] - Who knows..I think lot of it comes down to us being lucky we were on Lookout in the early 90's. MTX was there with Screeching Weasel, The Hi Fives, Green Day, Op Ivy, The Smugglers etc. They were all kickass bands. There were a lot of good bands on Lookout and in the whole pop-punk scene back then. Nowadays most of the pop punk bands suck. I mean come on who is any good out there playing pop punk? Seriously. Besides the Manges and Riptides who's writing any good songs? Masked Intruder is the only decent band out there nowadays that could have done something on Lookout Records back in the day.
I watch some of these allegedly 'good' pop punk bands now and they suck. I don't even know how they can get into playing their crap songs. I'm a Ramones fan and us Ramones' fans only love the Ramones. I love other stuff like the Beach Boys and Black Flag etc but with the pop-punk stuff when it's great it's great and when it's not it sucks. There are a lotta mediocre bands. I just don't see that big great pop-punk band that could run with any of the great Lookout bands. I don't wanna start to name bands but some of the biggest pop punk bands now wouldn't have been on Lookout because the other bands were so much better and the fans back then wouldn't accept bullshit.
Joey Ramone told me "you gotta be your own worst critic". In other words don't believe what people write or say about you but listen to your heart. He asked me to work on songs for his solo album. He said he had plenty of songs but needed stronger ones. He knew people would say his solo album was amazing and the best album since Leave Home or Road to Ruin or whatever but deep down he told me he knew it could be better. And this was Joey Ramone. He was honest with himself unlike so many bands nowadays. You can't believe your own bullshit.
I don't need some music critic to tell me if my album is any good-I know if it is or if it sucks. Our Move Back Home and Beat Off albums sold great but to us they both sucked. We knew we could do way better. They got great reviews most of the time but to me they sucked then and do now. I see some bands these days playing absolute crap songs but since they have some people showing up to see them they think they're great. I watch these bands and don't understand why they can't see that they suck. It's insane. You have The Riverdales-Screeching Weasel-Manges-Riptides-Masked Intruder and The Queers all making kickass songs still. After that eh.......Nothing excites me cos it sucks.

[A] - The Queers don't need presentation but let's make a step backward and let's talk about your beginnings. How was born your passion for music and punk rock in particular? How and why The Queers started? What's your memories related about the early days? Rehearsal room, first gigs and so on...

[J] - I'm not that much younger than the Ramones they are about 10 years older than me so I grew up with stuff like they did. David Bowie Ziggy Stardust I loved when it came out. Mott The Hoople, Stooges, T Rex, Velvet Underground and Lou Reed. Loved all that stuff as well as The Monkees and Turtles and Del Shannon. All that poppy stuff from the 50's and 60's I loved. That was one of the first connections I had with GG Allin - we both loved bubblegum pop and the Ramones.
So when I heard the first Ramones album I was like "that's fucking awesome, man! It all makes sense to me. I love it". I think the first Ramones song I heard was Loudmouth (speaking of which last Sunday night we played a live show in Los Angeles at The Roxy and Richie Ramone came on stage with us and we did a little tribute set to Tommy Ramone and covered Loudmouth. Richie sang. It was awesome).
I just really connected with the Ramones. Me and my friends couldn't believe that there was a band singing about all the shit we felt: "I don't care", "I just wanna have something to do". I couldn't believe when Joey did "Rock 'n Roll Radio" : "Do you remember lying in bed with your covers pulled up over your head?"  I couldn't believe that because I thought I was the only person in the world that did that when I was young. I told that to Joey one time actually. I used to have my little AM radio glued to my head. I shared a room with my little brother so I had it on really low under the covers so no one could hear. Radio was great back then - there was the Rolling Stones-Beach Boys-Dick Dale-Monkees-Lesley Gore etc and all that great soul stuff. Just a great time for music.
I grew up with the Beach Boys and that old stuff that's why I love the Ramones. We were also really influenced by Black Flag TV Party. That was us-sitting around the house drinking Budweiser from the can and watching Family Feud. Wimpy played drums and I played guitar and Tulu played both so we started a band. We had nothing else to do. We were really inspired by the Meatmen who were more on our level and they'd put out an album. We were lucky to live near Boston so we got to see tons of cool shows down there. I saw The Police at The Rat in front of about 43 people. I smoked a joint with Andy Summers and Stuart Copeland in front of The Rat haha! They were super nice guys. Syl Sylvain and The Criminals were great too. We'd see all the good NY bands-The Dictators kicked ass. DK's at The Rat were wild too I remember. It was pretty cool to see all that. Then I moved to Manhattan Beach, California - that's next to Hermosa Beach where Black Flag started in 1978. I was in Boston and I could see all the great Boston and New York bands and then when I was out west for the summer I could see Black Flag, Flipper, The DK's, Circle Jerks, Plimsouls, X, The Blasters, Social D etc. It was really cool.
I listened to Rodney on the Roq every Sunday night. Heard tons of great songs for the first time there. My Old Man's a Fatso. Just Wanna Live Like Yogi Bear by Stukas over Bedrock. Haha loved that songs. It was a great time.....Some of the first gigs The Queers played we used to be called The Bugs and we played with GG Allin because he was from New Hampshire too.  First time he was pretty straight laced. Very normal guy. Friendly and knowledgable about music too. I liked him a lot. He hadn't done all that crazy shit yet. GG and The Jabbers were always looking for musicians. He always had an ad in the paper every fucking week. We played with GG just as a side project where I played guitar, my pal Don played bass and GG played drums. GG was a good drummer. We called him The GeeG. I remember we picked him up in Manchester,NH to bring him back to Hampton Beach so we could rehearse there. So we picked up GG, I was driving, and we had a little cassette-player to listen to music. GG said "Hey listen to the new song I just did called Cherry Love Affair". He played the song for us and asked "What do you guys think?" Don was drinking a beer and he said:"Let's face it GG, this shit sucks!" and GG was fucking crushed, it was funny as hell. GG was terrified of Don.
Anyway we went to a Ramones show and GG showed up. It was about February in 1978 in New Hampshire. GG was dressed in fishnet stockings and a mini dress with lipstick on. Lemme tell ya that took some balls back then. At that show I brought my Mosrite up for Johnny to check out and he told me about Mosrites and let me play his white Mosrite. He was always super nice about gear. He took me onstage a few times to show me about his setup and how his amps worked. Even way back then we knew the Ramones quite well and would always be backstage at shows. They really loved their fans and always remembered us. Instead of being rock star dicks they were down to earth and we could always ask questions of them or their roadies or Monty. I sucked all that up cos I was from New Hampshire and didn't know shit about how to tour or about amps and guitars really. I kept my mouth shut and listened and learned a lot. Nowadays you get young bands who act like they know everything. They're too stupid to listen. Learn to listen and listen to learn.

[A] - Since the beginnings the story of The Queers is really related with the Lookout Records: you released many records through this label and then you broke up the partnership, what really went wrong with the label?
[J] - At that point tho we were doing very well and way better than we probably deserved to be we were fighting all the time. Me, Hugh and B-Face were all fucked up on either drugs or booze so we couldn't agree on anything. I mean we were on Lookout Records and making money. We'd been in Rolling Stone magazine.
We were able to tour around the world and make money. We were getting big royalty checks from Lookout Records from record sales but B-Face wanted to run the band it seemed. To this day he talks about how he had to put up with so much of my bullshit but I don't understand how much better it could have gotten for us. He wasn't writing the songs I was. When we broke up he said all sorts of bullshit about me which was untrue but kids believed it. Without ever talking to me to hear my side of things. It was a real mess thanks to him. Of course B-Face  has no one but himself to thank for not being in The Queers.
The very last time we ever played together we went to Chicago to play 3 shows on a weekend. All the way there B-Face was yelling at me cos I wanted to go to Epitaph Records. He said I was delusional - I was making things up. I was stupid and an idiot. For saying we should sign a 3 album deal with Epitaph!! He didn't know what the fuck he was talking about. He'd never talked to anyone at Epitaph or anyone signed to Epitaph. But he said I was an idiot for wanting to go there. That ride out was when I first thought I was gonna have to get new guys. No one would want to be in a band with a person treating them like that. I told him Epitaph was sending us a contract for a 3 album deal and he kept saying that wasn't how band signed to a label. To this day I don't know how he thought a band signed to a label. You meet with the label-they give you a contract-you have a lawyer look at it and if you like it you sign it and send it back which was what we were going to do. You wouldn't have believed the shit he was saying that whole trip to Chicago. Bands would have given their left ball to be in our position but all he could say is I was an idiot.
This is right after we did Don't Back Down and we were doing great too. There were a ton of musicians and bands that would have loved putting up with my bullshit to be where we were but he just kept saying I was stupid and didn't know what I was doing. Insane.  Epitaph had flown me and Hugh out to Los Angeles for three days to meet with them because they really wanted to sign us. It was right after Don't Back Down and we were doing really well. I knew Matt from Rancid well.  I talked to Matt and he was the one who talked to Mr. Brett from Epitaph about signing us. Matt and Tim were in Op Ivy and knew Lookout very well and then went to Epitaph. So I listened to what they said cos they'd done exactly what I wanted to. We'd already conquered the Lookout Records crowd so I wanted to go after the Epitaph/Fat Records crowd next.
In retrospect it shows what an idiot B-Face was at the time. He was saying all this shit about what I wanted to do and he didn't know what the fuck he was talking about. In the light of subsequent developments history has shows us it would have been a great move going to Epitaph. It was just a mess with the band cos ofB-Face's attitude. Then Hugh got brain cancer. Without Hugh I knew there was no way I was staying with B-Face.
To be honest I never kicked B-Face out of the Queers. He just stopped calling me. Admittedly I didn't call him either but I never once said fuck you you're out of the band. I never fired Hugh either. Hugh just couldn't play anymore cos of the cancer. I would have stayed playing with Hugh for sure. Him and I would argue but we were really solid pals. B-Face was just an adequate bass player but nothing special and he barely sang backup vocals. So musically to lose him was nothing I was concerned about. We did the first tour without Hugh and B-Face and the band sounded amazing. Dangerous Dave on rhythm guitar - Chris Fields on bass and some idiot on drums. Man those guys sang harmonies and played their asses off and I remember walking offstage on that tour and thinking man this is how I want the band to sound. We never sounded very good with Hugh and B-Face. Very few times we did cos we were usually fucked up. Once those guys left I didn't wanna be on Lookout cos I wanted a new start. The whole Epitaph thing fell thru cos Mr. Brett just disappeared from Epitaph for a whole year. He just took off and when I talked to them they said they couldn't sign any bands cos Brett was gone. They were really freaked out. I finally just moved on to Hopeless Records. I hated that label and hate them now but it was a new start at least. New lineup and then we did Punk Rock Confidential. I was so psyched to do an album without B-Face just to prove I didn't need that idiot in my band. Hey we haven't stopped yet and we've done a lot more great songs! The last thing Hugh ever said to me was keep the band going and don't quit. He said we had done so much great stuff and to keep it going. That meant a lot to me. Good old Hugh. I still miss that fucker. He was born exactly one day before I was. Same year. Haha man he was something else. I hated him at times but he was great to be with most of the time. B-Face I've seen only once or twice since those days. I guess he's doing ok. He always said he had to put up with my bullshit so much but never mentioned all the bullshit i had to deal with cos of him. Eh water under the bridge. I hope he's doing ok I really do but I don't regret moving on from him one bit.

[A] - The Queers strongly contributed to create that kind of punk rock sound we usually call "Lookout-sound" and after so many years still sounds modern and so loved. How came up to your mind to mix the sound of the Ramones with Beach Boys and Black Flag? Now could seems obviously, but 25-30 years was a real revolution....

[J] - When I heard the Ramones, they were the Punk Rock Beach Boys, you know, so I just thought there was like a little unexplored area there musically. Between the Ramones and Beach Boys. I remember B-Face came up with the idea to do "Don't Back Down" which was a good find for us.  Then I wanted to have Lisa Marr sing on "Don't Back Down" which B-Face was deadset against. I was really into the Beach Boys' Today album at the time so I was really psyched to get Lisa on there and do some great poppy songs like I Always Knew and Janelle Janelle and Sidewalk Surfer Girl. Hugh and B-Face didn't care for some of the pop-stuff on that album. I knew it would go over great tho with Lisa and that Punk Rock Girls would be an awesome song. That's one of our best known albums to this day and has some great songs on it. It was really ballsy to have Lisa sing lead vocals on it instead of just doing straight ahead Ramones-style songs like so many bands. B-Face didn't want Lisa to sing at all and he also called me a fag for singing Yummy Yummy on Punk Rock Girls haha! I didn't listen to him at all. He had no clue about writing songs............
I talked to Joey Ramone after that, we were doing quite well, to see if he would do a 4-songs EP with The Queers where Joey sings and we were the band. I called Andy Paley (he is like Brian Wilson's best friend, he's from a pop band from Boston called The Paley Brothers he's a big producer now) "Listen, I think we can do this thing with Joey singing and Joey said he's in".  Andy said: "If Joey is in, I'm in". And then I called Joey: "Hey Joey, Andy says he's in" And Joey says: "If Andy says is in, I'm in" and I was like "These guys are fuckin'doing this!!!". It would have been amazing but then Joey got sick and Andy went off to work, I think, and it never happened. We were gonna do it though-that's a fact.
Joey once told me: "I listened to "Don't Back Down" and a thing I always wanted and I really wished we could have done with the Ramones was have more backup vocal harmonies". He told me he always wanted to do more Beach Boys-type vocals with the Ramones. He said he wanted to do that "and on "Don't Back Down" you guys really really did it" and he thought it was really cool. And that's where we were talking about him singing and I said "Dude, I wanna write a song like "In My Room" by the Beach Boys and you sing that lead vocals and I'll do harmonies and we'll get a chick singer to do the other harmony". He was excited to try it with those back vocal harmonies. Unfortunately it never have happened but If I knew what I know now I would said "Ok, we will start in two weeks" but back then I didn't realise how shit worked. If you have a cool project you gotta jump on it cos everyone's so busy and gets distracted. Then Joey got cancer and Andy was producing and busy so it didn't happen. I was very grateful when Joey said nice things about "Don't Back Down", he understood where we were coming from unlike my bandmates for the most part. He wanted to do the vocal harmonies but knew he couldn't with the Ramones cos the only backup singer he had was DeeDee or CJ. It was pretty interesting how insightful he could be with punk music in general. He really loved it right to the end.

[A] - One thing I always loved about The Queers is the way you have choosen the cover on all your records through the years. Thanks to you I discovered many american pop/powerpop songs totally unknown to me before. How do you usually choose the songs to cover?