Friday, December 18, 2009


"Lux seemed like a creature from another world, with one foot already out of this dimension. As much as we might wonder 'Where are you now?' we can also wonder 'Where on Earth did you come from?' Now that's a mystery!"



Four Flew Into the Cuckoo's Nest
A legendary punk artifact: The Cramps, pioneers of the sleaze-rock sound, play a free 1978 concert for the patients at a California mental institution. The patients get into the act, hopping onstage and dancing to punk classics such as "Human Fly," "TV Set" and "The Way I Walk." The footage is technically raw, and so is the sound quality. But it's still a scream -- by the end of the show, you can't tell the patients from the band, and that's the whole point.

(January 29, 2004)

"this is the craziest movie ive ever seen ,i mean who approached who for this gig & how much did they get paid ,its like fellini meets manson ,but one thing i will say when the cramps show up they bring it baby,i probably seen a 1000 rock shows,gigs club band things from the stones to bob marley,bowie zep all that is punk & the cramp show i went i rank as one of the best 3 shows i ever went to"

--Anonymous individual on some message board


"In the spring of 1976, The CRAMPS began to fester in a NYC apartment. Without fresh air or natural light, the group developed its uniquely mutant strain of rock’n’roll aided only by the sickly blue rays of late night TV. While the jackhammer rhythms of punk were proliferating in NYC, The CRAMPS dove into the deepest recesses of the rock’n’roll psyche for the most primal of all rhythmic impulses -- rockabilly -- the sound of southern culture falling apart in a blaze of shudders and hiccups. As late night sci-fi reruns colored the room, The CRAMPS also picked and chose amongst the psychotic debris of previous rock eras - instrumental rock, surf, psychedelia, and sixties punk. And then they added the junkiest element of all -- themselves."

— J. H. Sasfy, Professor of Rockology, from the liner notes of The Cramps 1979 release Gravest Hits


The Cramps' performance in the 1980-81 movie "Urgh! A Music War" has got to be the most hypercharged, controversial, culturally devastating bit of film since Abraham Zapruder took his lunch hour to go see the President's motorcade. This is raw as FUCK! The first time I saw it, I had no idea what to make of it. It was the first time I had ever seen or heard the Cramps. I didn't know if I loved it or hated it. Before long, I figured out that it was the former. As you may recall, Urgh! is stuffed to bursting with stilted, awkward, self-conscious performances by various "new wave" bands. That was the kind of thing I liked then, or so I thought. And right in the middle of all that, the Cramps just EXPLODE. After a while, I realized that THIS was what I really loved. I just didn't know it because nobody had ever done it before. --Chuck

Smell of Female
Record Review

Ned Raggett

One gets the feeling from the title and cover art alone that if the Cramps could have released this live document in Glorious Smell-o-rama they would have jumped at the chance. Even without it one can almost sense the whiffs of perspiration and energy the group was cooking up; recorded at New York's Peppermint Lounge with Powers on guitar, the quartet slams out a then mostly entirely new set of songs with, as expected, appropriate covers as needed. The wonderfully profane take on Hasil Adkins' "She Said" surfaces here, with Interior sounding like he's about to die more than once. The Count Five's "Psychotic Reaction" and the perfectly appropriate "Faster Pussycat," taken from the legendary Russ Meyer film of the same name, also give the band more than a little something to chew on. As for the originals, the usual mess of swampy rockabilly and industrial strength noise comes together in just the right way from the start. "Thee Most Exalted Potentate of Love" gives Interior the chance to do his undead but still wired loveman thang right from the start, while Ivy and Powers hit the twang hard and Knox keeps everything going just right. "Call of the Wighat" is another highpoint, with Knox showing that he's up to more involved pounding and percussion when the need arises. A studio cut, "Surfin' Dead," surfaces as a ringer at the end; if not quite the Cramps go Beach Boys, it arguably forecasts the Jesus and Mary Chain's "Kill Surf City" just enough.

In 1985, The Cramps were able to perform one original song for Dan O’Bannon’s classic horror-comedy zombie flick The Return of the Living Dead-- “Surfin’ Dead”
"Stay Sick? I can do that!"



"In 1987, the group finally found a simpatico bassist in the form of tough gal Candy Del Mar, whom Lux and Ivy met in the parking lot of a liquor store. Del Mar made her recorded debut on the live album Rockin n Reelin in Aukland New Zealand, and she was still on board when the Cramps finally signed a U.S. record deal with Enigma Records and recorded the fine and full-bodied Stay Sick! in 1990."
-- Some fucking review on some fucking website

(Note: I know the year 1987 is a typo, but that's the way it was originally posted by whoever the fuck wrote it. I just left in like that because I already have something under 1986, and couldn't find much else for 1987.-- Revisionist Historian Chuck)

(ABOVE: Candy ass, in a good way.)


Circa 1992
Rock Out Censorship
(c) 1997-2003, Rock Out Censorship. All rights reserved.

By: Mike Heck

I recently had an interesting chat with Lux and Ivy of the Cramps, to find out the method to their madness and maybe bring out a few different sides too:

ROC: Can you tell us about some of the problems the band has faced with the record companies?

LUX: We run out of energy waiting for somebody to quit bullshitting us and have a good album contract and people behind us, but now we seem like we have a lot of things going for us these days than we did before, although we're still not signed to anyone.

ROC: You're not signed to Restless Records?

IVY: Oh, just for this album (Look Mom No Head).

LUX: ...No Club, Lone Wolf!

ROC: The Cramps are such a legendary band, it's hard to understand why you would have problems with record labels.

LUX: It's always been hard for us to understand too. They don't know what category to put us into. It seemed to me what we're doing, is the same thing everybody was doing in 1962, but for some reason they don't seem to know what we're doing. I guess we don't sing about some of the same things that people sang about in 1962 and the music is not the same, exactly, but it's in that spirit.

ROC: R.O.C. is dedicated to the fight against censorship. Can you tell us about some of the censorship problems you've had since forming in '76?

LUX: Well more power to you, there can't be enough people working hard enough to stop this crap going on, and I think one of the main things that keeps us from getting hit too hard is that people still don't know enough about us yet and also our lyrics have several syllables in some of the words and we don't sing 'Satan' in songs so, they don't know.

IVY: I think our lyrics are too Jive-Ass for them to even read through.

ROC: That's like with Elvis or Little Richard in the late 50's early 60's, censors couldn't read through their lingo.

IVY: Yeah, they don't know what it is, they don't know what anything is. They only know mostly about heavy metal ideals...SATAN...I worship Satan, they understand that!

LUX: We get accused of being sexist but I think there are other bands that are sexist but I don't think they should be censored.

ROC: People actually accuse The Cramps of being sexist with you in the band, Ivy?

IVY: Oh, yeah!

LUX: All the time, they don't mention her.

IVY: They'll say we're sexist but, they won't acknowledge that I'm doing anything.

ROC: That's so hypocritical!

IVY: Yeah, I's just stupid people saying that. It's mostly in England because in England they're really repressed, they're just so uptight about everything and everybody's got their heads up their asses. The critics there just drive things into the ground.

ROC: In a lot of people's eyes you're living legends.

LUX: Well...I thank you...well we don't want to be a cult band, we feel like everyone should like our music, I'll put it that way. We're not trying to be outrageous so a little tiny fraction of people can like us or something. We would like to 'change' other people over...but, this is just a dream we have.

ROC: Some people have accused The Cramps as being "trash," how do you feel about this?

IVY: Yeah, the only way that I could say that we're involved with "trash" is that if "trash" is what other people throw away because they didn't know how valuable it was. I mean the people saying that it would seem they suddenly like us because they think this stuff is trash, just like some people think Elvis is trash. People get hung up on some superficial human aspect...

(Lux interjects)

LUX: ...A lot of people look for the negative in everything these days. People laughed at Elvis because he got fat or something and forgot that he completely changed the world with some weird thing he did, but it was his own original idea and...was very powerful, equally as powerful as the Sex Pistols or the Beatles or anybody else...(long pause)...Johnny Rotten may get fat yet.

IVY: He is!

LUX: He's a great guy.

ROC: P.I.L.'s newest LP is dedicated to the fight against censorship.

LUX: Every album he's been on has been against censorship, in a way.

ROC: Before John Lennon was killed he ultimately wanted to reform The Beatles. The government was afraid of the power they possessed...

LUX: ...well I can see why the government would be afraid of it. That's what Rock & Roll is all about, making the government afraid....They're (the government) really kind of dumb though, so it's really not a contest, you can sneak up on them over the years, it takes years for them to catch up on it and realize what's happening. I just can't take it seriously, this thing about being censored, I mean like, like...this is competition for us or something, you know. I think censorship is serious but, people say: 'don't you worry about these people,' those people are dumb, they can't understand our lyrics, they don't know what we're singing about. If we say: 'FUCK ME, MAMMA,' they think we're talking about our mother.

ROC: They miss the lingo, but at the same time if they try to attack you on that, and you can't release the records, what do you do?

LUX: I'm ready for an attack, let 'em attack, I feel ten times strong, they're dumb!, put us on the David Letterman show, I'll debate on the David Letterman show, Paul can play, I don't care!

ROC: How has the economy affected attendance on The Cramps tour and other tours?

LUX: It's terrible, it's terrible.

IVY: A lot of promoters are going bankrupt, there's less venues for us to play. People can't afford to go to shows, they can't afford to buy records, but it really hasn't hurt the attendance that much yet.

ROC: In Ohio, the Governor passed a bill that allows you General Assistance benefits for six months out of a twelve month period. In Michigan, it don't exist anymore...

LUX: It's so unbelievable, I saw that Governor of Michigan on TV and he's saying, "Welfare, it's no problem-we just won't have it!" No problem for us. It's that easy-we just won't have it anymore. We just sweep 'em into the gutter and they'll rot eventually. I don't know, people say wait till the next election but boy, there's got to be a better idea than that. Politicians are the worst thing since religion.

French TV Show

Circa 1995

Cramps Artist Biography
by Carol Brennan

The Cramps have been a fixture on the fringes of the punk-alternative scene for almost two decades, and the band has long been heralded for their blend of rockabilly-style guitar noise and screwball humor. The Cramps formed in the New York City area around 1976 with original members Lux Interior on vocals and Poison Ivy Rorschach and Bryan Gregory on guitar; behind the drum kit sat Miriam Linna. Interior and Rorschach were natives of Cleveland, Ohio, and later married. Of the lack of a bassist, Rorschach explained years later to New York Newsday writer Ira Robbins, "We weren't trying to do anything radical. None of us wanted to play bass. We collect a lot of old records, and if they have bass on 'em I can't hear it. It didn't seem essential." The combination of the two females, Rorschach and Linna, already made the Cramps unique in the testosterone-fueled Greenwich Village punk scene. But their particular brand of campy theatrical excess and undress combined with ear-splitting sonics gave them an edge the more cerebral bands couldn't muster.

Gravest Hits helped usher in the Cramps' cult following among music aficionados. The band was invited to open for the Police during their 1979 U.K. tour, with Linna replaced on drums by Nick Knox. In a 1979 profile for Melody Maker, writer Penny Kiley called them "America's rockabilly solution to the New Wave."

By this time the Cramps were known for outrageous onstage theatrics and a retro-outre look that seemed to combine the punk ethos with trash-culture tack. References to B-movies and a slightly sadomasochistic air infiltrated both lyrics and performance--an inevitability, so Rorschach explained in Melody Maker: "You can't separate music and other cultural things; what we do isn't just music. Everything I ever saw on TV, everything I ever ate, everything I heard on the radio is an influence. We're celebrating pop culture." In the same spirit, the band was one of the earliest to exploit the then-new medium of video to fully bring their unique vision to fans, filming a four-minute takeoff on the classic '50s-era horror film as promotional material back in the late '70s.

In 1984 IRS issued Bad Music for Bad People, a collection of previously released material from Gravest Hits and Songs the Lord Taught Us added to other tracks that had only been available as British imports. MTV news personality Kurt Loder--still writing record reviews for Rolling Stone at the time--was a big fan of the Cramps during this era. Critiquing Bad Music for Bad People, Loder declared, "This is rock & roll the way it never really was on the radio, but the way you always dreamed it could be."

Such dreams never translated into financial success, however. For many years much of the vinyl output by the band was self-financed; Interior and Ivy would then try to sell the finished product to record labels. A Date with Elvis was the Cramps' fifth release and third full-length album. The creative inspiration behind the 1986 work was the media madness over what would have been Elvis Presley's fiftieth birthday the year before. As Ivy explained to Kiley in Melody Maker, "It's our tribute album to Elvis.... Elvis has always been on our mind but he was especially on our mind last year because it was just like national Elvis year or something."

A Date with Elvis met with some criticism for its uninhibited lyrics in songs like "Hot Pool of Womanhood" and "Cornfed Dames." Simon Reynolds reviewed it for Melody Maker and found "few surprises here, none of the little touches of musical radicalism" that surfaced on the Cramps' earlier releases, and lampooned the more misogynist tracks as displaying "a relentlessly crude, stunted view of sex." Ivy, whose stage garb of bustiers and other provocative apparel belied her creative and decision-making status in the quartet, dismissed charges of sexism. "I think it's an unbelievable joke people saying we're sexist.... I create this music. I co-write these songs, how can I be sexist? Sexism to me is when you're blinded to seeing certain people and the accomplishments of certain people because you've got them tuned out. Paying attention to a girl isn't sexist at all, that's just animal."

During the late 1980s the Cramps took a hiatus from releasing new material, although imports and compilations appeared intermittently. Soured deals and lawsuits provided additional distractions. For 1990's Stay Sick!, the band--now joined by bass replacement Candy Del Mar--kept up their own unique blend of covers of obscure rockabilly tunes and female-worshipping originals like "Bikini Girls with Machine Guns" and "Journey to the Center of a Girl."

More lineup changes followed the release of Stay Sick!. Del Mar left, replaced by Slim Chance; longtime drummer Nick Knox also exited and Harry Drumdini took over. Both new members played on the Cramps' 1994 release FlameJob, their major-label debut after signing with the Medicine label, a division of Warner Bros. The band seemed at ease at their new corporate home. "Some labels in the past said, 'We don't have a pigeonhole for you' or 'You should be doing a rave record' or 'You should give your multitrack to a DJ and let him make a new mix out of it'--all these horrible ideas," Interior told Boston Globe writer Jim Sullivan. "We had to spend a lot of time in the past saying, 'No, no, no, no...' feeling like we were from Mars because of it."

FlameJob boasted the usual psychobilly vortex of the Cramps with tracks like "Swing the Big Eyed Rabbit," "Sado County Auto Show," and "Ultra Twist." Rolling Stone reviewer Paul Evans noted that this psychobilly twang and the Cramps' original trash-culture ethos had become familiar musical territory for several other contemporary acts, like White Zombie.

A refusal to capitulate, despite the many obstacles encountered over the years in a notoriously fickle industry, may also have played a part in the Cramps' success; in the 1994 interview with Sullivan for the Boston Globe, Interior offered a reason why he and Ivy never decided to call it quits: "Probably we would have if we knew something else to do that was as fun."

by Carol Brennan

Silver anniversary sleaze
Montreal Mirror

(This is a shitty article, but for the sake of historical completeness, here it is.-- Chuck)

A moment of silence for Ghoulardi, please. Known as the Cool Ghoul, he was the Baltimore-based beatnik fiend host of endless late-night TV monster movie marathons in the '60s. The Cramps' latest album, Big Beat From Badsville, carries a solemn dedication to the recently departed weirdo. But, as I inform the band's guitar goddess Poison Ivy on the horn from Texas, his spirit carries on. You see, Ghoulardi's son is none other than Paul Thomas Anderson, the lad responsible for the cockumentary Boogie Nights. In the wake of that film, Screwed and Larry Flynt, it seems only appropriate that The Cramps' twisted twosome, Poison Ivy and singer Lux Interior, should have their own biographical epic fouling up cinema screens. After all, it's a full quarter-century since Lux picked up a hitchiking Ivy on a desolate stretch of highway in '72. That chance encounter spawned a relationship that would give life to a shambling rock 'n' roll monstrosity that lives to this day (chewing up rhythm sections as it goes). Of course, the perverted perpetrator of Polyester, John Waters, would have to direct the film.

He'd have a field day with the band's early years, grafting fetid chunks of rockabilly, surf, psychedelia and punk together in a New York City basement in 1976. Throw in some superstitious hoodoo and a whole lotta bumpin', grindin' inuendo and you've about got a fix on The Cramps. In those poverty stricken days, Lux and Ivy turned to unsavoury and even outright criminal conduct to make ends meet. "We didn't hurt anybody, unless they wanted it," protests onetime professional dominatrix Ivy. Fast-forward to the dawn of the '90s (memo to Wardrobe Dept.: stock up on plaid flannel!) and we find our heroes facing censorship by MTV. The clips in question were the tunes "Creature From the Black Leather Lagoon" and "Bikini Girls With Machine Guns."

"Well, 'Bikini Girls,' I didn't understand," says Ivy, "I thought it was such a quaint thing. There's a scene where I'm shooting the machine gun, and the vibration makes my panties fall down." The camera showed nothing but the panties around her ankles, but that was enough to make MTV's top brass spit their Perrier out on their Gucci loafers. Doing the only honourable thing, The Cramps proceeded to make an even more offensive video. "For some reason, our boss at Enigma Records just said put in everything they wouldn't want. We thought, 'Well, he's paying for it, okay.'" Inspired by the teen riot that opens shlockmeister H. G. Lewis' film Just for the Hell of It, the band found an empty house, filled it with thrift-shop junk and then promptly trashed it. "There's stuff in there, like Lux huffing glue from a paper bag, or me sitting on his face. But I think what got them was smashing the TV with a sledgehammer." Here we are in 1997 and Ivy and Lux show no sign of slowing down. In fact, signing on to Epitaph, as of this new album, should be fresh wind in their sails. Which means the movie will have to wait... at least, until they have a Jayne Mansfield-style double-(be)header car crash. Or a church falls on them. Or some such thing. I guess in the meantime I'll stick to pitching my Seka biopic. I wonder if Drew Barrymore is available?


3 1/2
Oak Canyon Ranch
Review & Photos By:
-Monica Monique

All photographs belong to TotallyLA unless otherwise noted.
If you use a picture please ask us or provide a link back to us to give us credit. Thank you.

Psychobilly band The Cramps turned Hootenanny into a trip away from home. Why? Well I can assure you it was more then stage antics. That which included but was not limited to:

1. A viewing of Lux Interior's EXTERIOR (after a tearing of his clothing), to which most men would be jealous.
2. Lux's mike swallowing to which most porn stars would be jealous. (see picture below)
3. Lux's mike stand throwing, to which most contortionist would be jealous.

It was a show of emotion rarely seen in a music today. Vibrating through a version of surfing bird that made my heart race, The Cramps seemed more then musical, more than surreal, more than sane on this trip. I'm just glad they chose to take us with them.

Click for Hootenanny Review.

Review & Photos By:
-Monica Monique

Home Interviews Features Concert Reviews Concert Photos CD Reviews
Concert Calendar Contests Band Resources Cyber Lawyer Chat Graffiti Wall
Best of the BEST Fan sites Classifieds About Us About You Links Credits

All photographs belong to TotallyLA unless otherwise noted.
If you use a picture please ask us or provide a link back to us to give us credit. Thank you. on October 12, 1998

It would be almost impossible to have never heard of The Cramps. Their 22 year history as a band has been the stuff of legend. Punk's greatest living rockabilly zombies may have had a fittingly up and down time for a while but after inventing and perfecting leering psychobilly rock, New York's Cramps -- Ohio born vocalist Lux Interior, native California guitarist Poison Ivy and assorted cohorts that have come and gone -- have yet to show any signs of fading away.

The Cramps are a world apart from the everyday sounds of grunge and the canned beats of techno. They have truly lived hard, real lives that have made them what they are -- three-dimensional rock and roll heroes. Unlike many current "rockabilly" thug poseurs, The Cramps are the real deal. Lux has done real jail time for selling "dangerous drugs" and Ivy has actually made a living as a dominatrix in New York City. It's no wonder why these two love birds have been together for over 25 years.

In phone interview, Lux and Ivy talk about old times, what's happening now and why they always seem to show up around Halloween.

There are times where fans wondered what have happened to The Cramps, especially in the early 90's. Why were there such long gaps between albums?

Interior: I guess it comes down to things going in cycles. When [1991's] Look Ma No Head! was released, grunge hit big and we were ignored and I thought, `Jeez, is this the end of the Cramps?' All anyone wanted to know about was grunge this and grunge that. People were saying stuff like, `What are you guys still doing around? We were called retro, and grunge bands were just a re-hash of the worst rock ever got - the early '70s. That was the reason punk rock happened in the first place. But all that never seems to really effect us, anyway. Now, were gaining popularity again, actually not popularity, I just think the general masses are discovering us again.

How did you two meet? You both seem like a perfect match. Ivy: When I met Lux, we were living in Sacramento. The radio up there played Lynyrd Skynyrd and Boz Scaggs like there was nothing else at all happening on the planet. Other places were playing things like David Bowie, Lou Reed and T-Rex, but you'd never hear any of that on Sacramento radio. All you heard was 100% natural, granola rock. We were looking for something more exciting. It was like we were the only people in that town that've ever heard of that music so I guess it was only natural that we gravitated to each other.

And then the two of you moved to New York to start up The Cramps. Did you ever think you'd still be in The Cramps making music?

Interior: Well the first time we stepped onstage at CBGBs we thought we were gonna do it once. We never thought about a second time, we were just thinking, `Let's see if we get beat up or what happens.' And ever since that night it's been a million laughs. We still get up there and we get to play really loud, there's all these people screaming at you, there's flashing lights in your face...I can't think of any other way to make a living. It's all we know now.

Why do you think there's a sudden resurgence in The Cramps' popularity all of a sudden?

Ivy: Who knows? We've never felt like our music's for everybody. It's for those who can identify with being a hoodlum, a misfit. No one else should be expected to like it but maybe it's a sign of the times (laughs devilishly).

It seems like The Cramps have been invading Orange County this time of year lately. Any special connections with O.C. and Halloween?

Interior: We were just talking about that the other day (laughing). It's scary, isn't it? Maybe the devil is makin' us do it.

By Judy B.
Go-Go Magazine
Volume 2, Issue 27
December 21, 2000 - January 3, 2001


The Cramps have done things their own way for 25 years...why change?

From their home in Los Angeles, guitarist Poison Ivy and vocalist Lux Interior talk about their 25-year career in the music industry. "First of all, we are the worst to talk to about the music business because we have done our own thing since the beginning," Ivy said. "We've isolated ourselves on purpose so we could continue doing what we love to do� we love to rock."

The Cramps represent a bizarre mix of pop culture iconography and rock-n-roll wickedness. Their inspiration draws from living hard and playing hard, earning them a cult-like status among dedicated fans. After self-describing their early sound as "psychobilly," The Cramps rocked the way no else had, and probably the way no one else will. "People love us because of the way we do what we do," Ivy said. "I think it's the way we flip our hips, the way we come out and are completely unique. We love playing, and we love rock and roll. We have an attitude that you don't see anymore, and we are true to who we are."

On stage, Ivy is the ultimate bad girl vixen, but it's not just an act to make the audience happy. "When we started this band," Lux explained, "we just wanted to meet the cool people in town [NYC] and play some rock and roll. Punk bands in the '70s were passionate. That's what you needed. We never thought we'd actually get gigs!

"Lux and I have always been reckless and sought out thrills, taken risks, probably blown our minds in certain pursuits," Ivy continued. "It's only from living this way that we come up with this stuff."

This won't be the first time The Cramps take the stage for New Year's Eve in Denver. They have fond memories of a show here two years ago, and remember the enthusiastic and colorful crowd. Denver's punk scene keeps gaining momentum. Local musicians are fortunate because they get paid to play their own music. Lux and Ivy see that as pretty exceptional. "I know bands out here [LA] who don't get paid, get stiffed, or even have to pay to play," Lux said. "The Denver scene is good. The closer you get to the music industry, the more screwed you are. We don't even feel like we've been in the 'music business. ' We don't know anybody, we've stayed on our own, and we've made every mistake in the book, but we're good at what we do and nobody tells us what to do."

Ivy is quick to point out: "My advice is not to listen to anyone's advice."

Twenty-five years is a lot of time to do anything, let alone lead your band through the complex and ever-fickle gauge of the record industry. The Cramps have worked on two coasts, spawned an entire B-culture phenomenon, and will push and shove punk music into the new decade. The current dismal state of popular music has no effect on this fringe-dwelling crew. Even the sad state of current pop fluffiness only seems to prove The Cramps philosophy all the more.

"The business of this will never change," Lux said. "If you try to do what the music industry tells you to do, you end up with some quirky crap that sounds terrible. We write songs about fucking. Nobody does that anymore. Everybody's so busy trying to think of a new shtick instead of just playing their music. If you are strange and unique and new and alarming, people will get it and line up to see it. That's all you can do."

--Judy B.

This is an interview with The Cramps I did a while ago for DREUN, a Belgian e-zine.
By Guy Peters

It’s been more than 26 years since full-time freaks Lux Interior (a spastic contortionist with an Elvis-fixation) and Poison Ivy (a latex-chick from hell), unleashed their Addams Family on Speed-act on the world and basically nothing – save for some line-up changes – has been changed in the meantime. They still supply cool cats that have a craving for frenetic psychobilly with primal rock that smells of vaseline and brilliantine, while their live shows can still be categorized as demented sideshows and/or ecstatic voodoo. We sent the freaks a few answers by e-mail and - lo and behold! – received answers to some of ‘em (yes, they definitely knew which question to pick).

Your latest album, 'Fiends of Dope Island' was released by your own label Vengeance records. Is that the same label that released "Human Fly" in 1978? If so, why the change?

It's the same label. The change is because we decided we wanted to have our own label again and control everything ourselves. Now we have only ourselves to blame.

How did Chopper Franklin become a member of a band? In what bands did he play before?

Chopper asked to be in our band back in 1999 (we already had chosen somebody else who ended up annoying us) and then we kept running into and hanging out with him at concerts and car shows. We became friends.

How the hell do you succeed in staying so intense on stage? Apart from Iggy Pop and Henry Rollins, I saw few artists who pulled that off for such a long time.

Another deal with the Devil, plus we consume lots of coffee, vitamins, baby formula and pickles.

'Fiends' explicitly mentions the King in "Elvis Fucking Christ". Is that because you're really convinced he's the one true godfather or because he's seen as THE original white rock 'n’ roller?

The song is NOT about Elvis; it's about Lux, the true King of Rock ‘n' Roll. "Elvis Fucking Christ" is a metaphor - we're not as dumb as we look. Besides, what does race have to do with anything, that's ridiculous to even suggest, why do you even bring it up? Elvis wasn't really white, was he? Wasn't he Hawaiian?

Who came up with the idea of recording the tango-blues (?) of "Taboo," because it sounded really weird the first time, but really fits in after repeated listens.

We needed a b-side in a hurry on our last day of recording. Ivy had an instrumental idea to do "Taboo" as a hoodlum fuzz version, and she asked Lux to write some words in a hurry so they could record it that day.

We called the rest of the band and told them we'd be one hour late to the studio, and then Lux went in a back room and came out 15 minutes later with the new lyric.

Your music is considered too "wicked" for mainstream success, yet I've seldom seen a band with so much hardcore fans that collect boots or dedicate a site to Ivy (Angels of Vengeance 666). Any idea what made this happen?

Most of our fans are as uncompromising as we are, similar to the "one percent" of motorcycle riders that belong to outlaw gangs.

© 2003 Dreun


The Cramps' Lux Interior: The Ultimate Trashman
by Denise Sullivan • March 10, 2009

(Now, this here is a good one. Loving, informed, well-written, in depth and free of silly-ass cliches. I don't know Denise Sullivan, but I like her already-- Chuck)

When I heard the news on February 4, 2009, that Lux Interior had passed away due to a heart-related ailment, I thought of Poison Ivy, the other half of the life, love, and creative partnership that conjured the Cramps. It's been 37 years since the pair met in Sacramento, California's land-locked capital, a place that could not possibly contain or support the duo's singular brand of hyper-rock expression. But it was there where their fates were written as curious music lovers, record collectors, and ultimately as musicians—vocations that would endure for the remainder of Lux's life.

"Everything great from any era has been repressed," Ivy once told Re/Search Publications. And so it was the Cramps who set about bringing to light those things that had been left in darkness. Taking their cues from underground forms of music and culture, they specialized in resuscitating cast-offs, shooting them up with rockabilly and surf rock, and bringing them back to life. Exhuming the bones of so-called trash culture and rearranging them to fit the punk times, the Cramps explicitly brought life to the late ’50s and ’60s era of exploitation, from B-horror to grindhouse sleaze, and set it to a rock ‘n’ roll beat with just drums and guitars.

"I think rockabilly was a quantum leap in culture," said Ivy in the same Re/Search interview (published in Incredibly Strange Music, 1993). "Something happened in the evolution of people's minds… maybe it was the atom bomb: 'Let's do it now because we might get blown up!' In the ’50s, everybody was bigger than life about everything." In back-to-basics punk and new wave times, the Cramps were the band with a sound, an image, and reputation bigger than life. Their stage persona also intermingled with their personal life; you might see Lux and Ivy at the record swap… they really did specifically choose to live near one of the world's most famous cemeteries.

Their existence also defined a new genre of punky hillbilly goth, though it was by accident that the Cramps named their music “psychobilly.” They borrowed the word from "One Piece at a Time", Johnny Cash's slightly psycho song about working on an auto assembly line, and used it on a poster advertising one of their early gigs (the band would come to regret, deny, and despise the label). And yet, in one word, "psychobilly" describes the twang they twisted to the point of psychosis, as well as their suitably demented stage presentation.

Born with the names Eric Purkhiser and Kristy Wallace, Lux and Ivy got acquainted in art class in 1974; both shared an interest in glam rock and in discovering unusual music. They eventually found out that some of the weirdest sides were the old R&B, surf, and rockabilly singles, and they set about collecting them. Following a record-buying trip to Memphis and a layover in Ohio, they landed in New York City, where, in 1976, they birthed the Cramps. Returning to Memphis in ’77 with producer Alex Chilton for the recording of their debut EP, Gravest Hits, they followed with a debut album, Songs the Lord Taught Us. All but one ("Human Fly") of the five songs from Gravest Hits were covers of old songs, presumably inspired by records in what was now a growing collection. Their grinding version of "The Way I Walk" by Jack Scott remains one of their finest recorded moments.

Scott was a semi-obscure Canadian-American rockabilly singer who originally wrote and recorded the song, turning it into a Top 40 hit in 1959. Despite his way Northern roots (he originally came from Windsor, Ontario), Scott was a hillbilly music lover, which may have partly contributed to Lux and Ivy's fix on him. According to his own website biography, he had 19 singles in 41 months (including "Goodbye Baby"), which was more than anyone at the time except for the Beatles. He also claims to be the first white rock guy (and indeed he was before Del Shannon and Mitch Ryder) to have a hit out of Detroit, known ’til that point for its blues and R&B sides. Scott was having his moment as part of the great mid-’70s rockabilly revival, when at the same time the Cramps released their "The Way I Walk", the song was also being performed by Robert Gordon, a straight-up rockabillyist. Gordon had left the NYC band Tuff Darts to collaborate with guitarist Link Wray (of "Rumble" fame and a superhero to Lux and Ivy). Gordon and Wray's faithful version of "The Way I Walk" (with the Jordanaires on back up vocals) appears on the album Fresh Fish Special.

As if there were a finite number of songs in the world, the downtown New York punk crowd seemed to share the same sensibilities in oldies, if not the same record collection. How else can one explain not only the Ramones but the Cramps cutting "Surfin' Bird", a Top 10 hit for the Trashmen in 1964? The Minneapolis garage band combined two songs, the doo-wop send-up "Papa Oom Mow Mow" and the nonsensical "The Bird's the Word", which had both been hits for the Rivingtons, a West Coast R&B vocal group. "Surfin' Bird", with its frenzied delivery (complete with sound effects), was quick to join the repertoire of teen garage bands everywhere, including Michigan's Iguanas whose drummer was the soon-to-be christened Iggy Pop (yet another Detroit rock guy, and one with whom Lux shared a move or two). The Ramones released their version of "Surfin' Bird" in 1977, while the Cramps' surfaced in 1979: Well-known for their reclusion, maybe Lux and Ivy didn't know they'd been beaten to the punch. Or, maybe in the grand tradition of versions, the song was so good it deserved to be recorded again and again. Or maybe, more likely, they just didn't care.

Iconoclastic yet simultaneously reverent, if the Cramps had one particular specialty, it was primitivism. They once reportedly declared a desire to never develop or advance and the song "Primitive", from their third release, Psychedelic Jungle, ties up the primitive aesthetic in a song: "What I respect you just can't see / What you expect, I'll never be / That's how I live / Primitive." The Groupies, a garage band from New York's Lower East Side, originally released "Primitive" in 1966. According to his liner notes in the Nuggets box set, Mike Stax of Ugly Things magazine writes, "… the Groupies claimed their music was a totally new style, 'abstract rock.'" Quite a claim given that the song's central riff was lifted straight from Howlin' Wolf's "Smokestack Lightning." The Cramps played that one true to form themselves, and yet what "Primitive" lacks in original melody it retains in the philosophy to remain raw, instinctual, and untainted.

In 30 years of making music, the Cramps remained committed to their directive to stay pure; if anything, in performance they got closer to the bone. By the time they released the seriously raunchy Fiends of Dope Island in 2003, I had a hard time parsing the fictional parts from the documentary. However, there was never a question that the Cramps took seriously their mission to pass down the songs that had been delivered to them. "What's for me ain't for you," Lux sang in "Taboo."

The Cramps' act was not lost on Americana minimalists like the Flat Duo Jets, English drug enthusiasts the Spacemen 3, and especially the Gun Club, whose Jeffrey Lee Pierce did to the blues what Lux and Ivy had done to rockabilly. Pierce may've also been the one to coin the phrase "like an Elvis from hell," words that would become frequently used to describe Lux. And in the whole North/South rock ‘n’ roll divide coming full circle, Detroit guitar and drum act the White Stripes, featuring the flamboyant frontman and his silent-type partner, were the latest model of hillbilly goth to underscore rock's Southern connection.

"One half hillbilly and one half punk / Big long legs and one big mouth / The hottest thing from the North to come out of the South / Do you understand?" sang Lux in "Garbage Man." After all the covers have been collected, my favorite Cramps song is an original that appeared on Songs the Lord Taught Us. "Garbage Man" is based on an idea borrowed from bluesology: Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, and bluesmen across time sang of situations in which their baby made love to or, worse yet, ran off with the garbage man. In the Cramps' story, Lux declares himself the ultimate trashman, while dropping references to "Louie, Louie" and "The Bird’s the Word." "Garbage Man" comes from the Cramps' earliest era, when the band was still fairly tame, perhaps even innocent. But after 30 years of rockin' and reelin', the Mad Daddy has finished his route: "You've got to live until you're dead / You've got to rock ’til you see red / Do you understand?" Yep, I think we do.

No comments:

Post a Comment