Sunday, October 21, 2012

LUX interview from GRAVYZINE

 LUX INTERIOR, the ultra slithery frontman of the legendary CRAMPS engages Sal of Electric Frankenstein in this sinful interview........

I noticed your last album was dedicated to Goulardi…He just past away, right?
Lux: Yup.
Out here Zacherly is pretty much THE Horror Host. Can you explain to our readers the difference between the two, I don’t think most people are too familiar with the horror hosts and that whole phenomenon.
Lux: They were different people, Zacharly and Goulardi. To say they were just Horror Hosts, they were much more than that, they were somewhere between a horror host and Hitler. Goulardi, he was just way out of control, always causing trouble, always in trouble but he was so powerful that he could get away with it. Kind of like Elvis Presley shaking his hips on television, he was so powerful he could get away with it, everyone was upset about it but they couldn’t do anything about it because it was bringing in too much money. When Goulardi was on TV in the 60’s crime just plummeted because no one was out, they were all watching Goulardi. He was just a totally rebellious character. A good model for young people and was one of the forerunners of what later became youth counterculture type thing.
They had a lot of audiences based on television more than let’s say the movies themselves.
Lux: Yeah,oh yeah. The movies were, of course those movies were great and everything and that’s part of it, but the part where they played music it was like a party, just the chance to go nuts, the music like Goulardi played "Poppa Ooh Mao Mao" by the Revingtons, wild great rock’n’roll records that he played during the time that he was on. He would blow up things. He was just a role model.
Have you seen any tapes of Zacharly’s show that he had in the 60’s with the house and the Standells and the Young Lions, they always used to play. I used to live near there when I was little.
Lux: Yeah, I’ve never seen Zacharly, I’ve seen the video tape of Zacherly introducing trailers and stuff which is great. I never saw his show but I’m always a big fan of Zacherly in the monster magazines. He was just an amazing. I think that Goulardi and Zacherly were probably really the best ones. I’ve always loved Goulardi and as a matter of fact we often play his hit single.
Our band did "Coolest little monster" with Zacherly on the B side of one of our singles. He got a new record deal so he redid that song. He originally was going to sing it with us but he couldn’t do it because of his contract, he was still signing by contract so he let us take from the original record the intro and the middle so on our record it’s him doing the intro….We see him all the time. Have you ever gone to the Chiller Theatre conventions.
Lux: No, We’ve always been too busy. I really would have loved to go to the Chiller conventions. It sounds great. I’ve seen photos of him there and he looks great.
We used to help around the convention with, Kevin Clement is the guy. If you ever want to be a guest just let me know, we can set it up.
Lux: Oh we’ll probably do that sometime, it’s just a bad timing thing. That’s ‘cause we’re always doing something right at that time so far.
I don’t know if you collect. Obviously by what you’re interested in musically you can see that you’re interested in obscure records and horror toys, I’m sure. Have you ever on tour found really good finds in any thrift shops?
Lux: Oh, all the time. We’re always out looking for stuff. It’s great because we go to a lot of weird places, we’ll stop on the bus, in-between here and there we’ll find amazing things. Fairly often, you know, the farther away you get from the 60s the harder it is to find things. Somebody just gave us two albums by the Jaguars in Montreal, amazing instrumental albums. Fans give us stuff sometimes and that’s really great. Right before we left we found a box with a bunch of jelly jars on top of it in a junk store and I piled all this stuff and looked in this box and something just made me want to see what’s in that box and I found just a stack of amazing 78s of all 50s, the real wild, obscure, crazy rock’n’roll stuff. Like Blues, R’n’B stuff, that was the latest thing that we found. But we find stuff all the time.
One thing I want to know about. Your lyrics are interesting and definitely entertaining, not exactly what draws your inspiration but what books or movies you particularly find that you can pull from that inspires them.
Lux: Well, all of them. Mainly horror movies and exploitation movies and a lot of stuff comes from those press books from those old movies. Lines out of old movies, comic books that we collect, all the old horror comics of the 50s, probably about the only comics that we collect are obscure horror comics, the real sick ones from the 50s. Some stuff comes from there but mainly just old records, old rockabilly records and that stuff, singles mainly, 45s.
50s comics have the greatest cover, those colors.
Lux: Oh yeah.
And the artists. It seems as though the artist who didn’t know how to draw made the coolest monsters.
Lux: Yeah, real archaic looking.
Our record covers, we try to make each one look like an old, crazy comic book covers. Have you got a hold some old, obscure horror film lately on tape that might be real interesting. I’m sure you got stacks.
Lux: Well the ones that I really like a lot are that I think will become more popular. At one time no one ever knew who Betty Page was and we really loved Betty Page and I can’t believe that now she’s as well known as Marilyn Monroe or somebody. I think that the next thing that might become popular are these West German horror movies from the early 60s. They’re just packed with cool stuff. They have all these weird camera angles, they go take a drink and it’ll show them looking at the bottom of the glass. And some girl stripping on the other side of a nightclub. They all take place in nightclubs or stripclubs. Just weird camera angles. Some of them look like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari where some of the angles are so weird and stuff. And they all have sexy girls in them and really weird stories. Titles like "The Head", "Phantom of Soho", "In on the River", just a lot of them early 60s West German horror movies. Klaus Kenski’s in some of them, Edgar Wallace. If you want to get one just to see what I’m talking about, "Phantom of Soho’s a good one".
I heard of a lot of these. The French and Spanish are easy to come by nowadays, and Italian ones, of course.
Lux: Yeah, you got to find a good rental place that gets good Sinister cinema stuff. The Something Weird Video stuff.
Yeah, those are always at the convention. They’re easy to get. Something Weird come out here all the time, they have a big huge table.
Lux: Yeah we’re real good friends with Mike Rainey!
Yeah, Mike’s real nice. We talk to him a bunch of times and we try and get clips from Kiss me Quick and other ones that have Frankenstein, those nudie cutie ones with Monsters and nudies in them. Those are pretty cool. We use some of those stills for our record covers.
Another question I wanted to ask. Your stage clothing, do you get them tailored or are they something you find in thrift shops.
Lux: Oh, half and half. If we find something that’s cool and sometimes we get things made. Works both ways.
Ivy’s outfit in NYC, everyone’s asking where she got it.  
Lux: The one that she just wore. That was given to us by Margaret, the guitar player of the Doll Rods. She wasn’t wearing that when the tour started and she pulled it out and said, "Hey, look at this She-Elvis outfit" and Ivy said "Ooh yeah" and she put that on and she looked good in it.
Lately, as far as listening, has anything been on the record player for awhile? I guess being on tour is kinda hard.
Lux: Oh all kinds of stuff. We listen to stuff all the time. We bring a CD player, 2 big boxes of cassettes and stuff, compilations I’ve made out of singles. That stuff we always take with us. Just a lot of Rockabilly stuff is kinda what we are listening to, it’s really our favorite thing. We did that interview in Incredibly Strange music talking about Bachelor Pad Music, that’s what they’re calling that these days, we listen to that sometimes, that’s sometimes a fun thing to listen to but our real passion is Rockabilly and 60s.
There seems to be lots of Rockabilly coming out. I mean I remember the first time in the 70s Rockabilly resurgence but now there’s so many, even more things coming out of the vaults. It’s like a time machine, people cranking them out.
Lux: There seems to be a lot of bands that seems to treat it too reverently. You know, they sing about boppin’ in the soda shop and all this kinda stuff and that ain’t what rockabilly is supposed to be about. It’s really supposed to be about sex. And I like Reverend Horton Heat, they do something new with it, and there are a few other bands that do. I wish that somebody would take Rockabilly a step further, and Psychobilly that’s not sexual enough, it’s too fast and not sexual enough most of the time. It’s kind of like Rockabilly mixed with punk. It seems it’s not as sexy as it should be.
Yeah it doesn’t really seem to be concerned with that. It seems to be concerned with the hair-do’s and basically how fast they can play. It’s not tribal enough or sensuous.
Lux: Yeah, I mean if Elvis was concerned about what came 30 years before him, he’d be doing the Charleston. It makes no sense.
It didn’t seem like they want to be rule breakers, like Elvis was more into breaking the rules, so was Jerry Lee Lewis and all the original people.
Lux: Yeah and I think that’s what Rock’n’Roll is really all about whether it’s R’n’B, Rockabilly, whatever it is. I think the Stooges were a great band. They did something brand new when they started, they were about breaking rules and every once in a while something like that happens. But I don’t see much happening since punk rock hit the 70s, you know the Sex Pistols and the Clash and the American bands like the Ramones, when that happened and when we started out, I think that was culture changing and people are still copying that, fashion is copying that and since than Grunge was just a copy of early 70s progressive rock. The thing that punk rock rebelled against – and retro - that’s just disco for the fifth time over again. I’d like to see a bunch of 16 year old kids do something exciting and new with R’n’R. That’d be great.
Yeah it seems like just now, maybe since MTV has stopped being a big focal point for people the young kids I’ve noticed in our audience, the people under 20 seem to be into rock’n’roll again.
Lux: Uh Huh, I noticed that too. Our audiences are mostly very young, kids under 20. They get the point right away. They understand.
Yeah, because they do it by feeling
Lux: It’s all the ones that are 30 years old or something that are trying to make some kind of big philosophy to understand what it is.
It seems like these young kids when I talk to them, they’re rebeling against the generation before them which was Hardcore and Rap and what they’re working on is music that has melody and lyrics that you can remember. That’s what’s good about The Cramps because always their songs were memorable.
Lux: Yeah that’s a good thing and besides that teenagers are always going to be into sex, so if anything good happens that’s probably the age group where it’s going to come from.
Your record covers went through different themes, an S&M clothes faze for awhile but now it seem slike you’re going towards more eclectic, right?
Lux: Well I don’t know, we haven’t had very many record covers so they were just some picture we took at the time. We have always been kind of interested in the same thing so I have no idea what our next record cover would be.
I was over at Epitaph when they were putting your record cover together – the new one – and then told me you guys are going to be coming out through them. Has it made any difference to you being on Epitaph? Sometimes labels are a little controversial with some people.
Lux: Well, that’s OK with me. They sell to the right stores, they sell vinyl and they sell CDs to the stores where a lot of people would go buy a Cramps record and that’s that’s good and they know what they are doing in regards to a lot of things. I just like the people there. The record company we were with before that was a label distributed by Warner Bros. And that was a real horrifying experience. Warner Bros. Was the only real major label that we dealt with so it’s really refreshing to be with Epitaph who are actual real people.
Yeah, I remember that you guys were having a lot of problems with IRS records. It’s hard to find a label to really care about what you’re doing and back you up. But with the Cramps all the fans I know of, myself included, were real concerned that you find someone who would really help you and back you up in a positive way.
Lux: Yeah, it really is because everybody sees something different in the cramps and there’s been times in the past where the record label would say, "Oh, you’re a freak show!", "You’re weirdos!" "We really got to push that freaky thing!", and that’s a part of it. Yeah, it’s a freak show to some guy in a polo shirt but who cares about them. It’s much better to have a record company who says we know who you are, we know who your fans are and this should be something sincere to everybody involved and honest and that’s the best thing to do.
Distribution is really important and things like that and they probably have a good distribution network.
Lux: Yeah they do.
I’ve seen you over the past dozen years and how the shows have changed live, sometimes it’s more elaborate. Like one time I saw you play at "Privates" in NYC and you had the spiders coming out and cobwebs all over the stage and everything. Is there a difference between how you set up the shows year by year, is it planned out how you wanna do it.
Lux: It’s not too planned out. I think some of it is just what we’re into at the moment. We try to have as few rules as possible and we try to leave it open to being unpredictable. So we don’t like having a lot of props around too much but sometimes we’ll we’ll do something because we think it’s fun or somebody gives us something, just like that outfit that Ivy wore. We didn’t plan it out and draw it on drawing boards…
Well I don’t mean it being planned out on paper but as far as wanting to express a certain thing during a certain period.
Lux: Yeah, it’s kinda just what we’re interested in at the time. It’s always different too, sometimes we have no time and we just have to throw something together and other times we have more time to plan something. It’s always different, it seems like we’re always busy. It’s hard when you are in a Rock’n’Roll band, as you know, it’s hard to just keep it above water.
Just the mail drives you crazy, when you get stacks of letters it gets to be very difficult, and you start to worry about the things people write you about. Do you get to play smaller clubs anymore?
Lux: Oh yeah, we play small clubs. It’s really fun. We just played in Montreal in a club that holds 650 people. It’s like two floors and the floor’s just like 10 feet from the stage, the bottom floor is right at the edge of the stage, and it goes all around the stage so I mean nobody was farther away than 20 or 30 feet. And there’s like 650 people crammed in there and that was just chaos. It’s like when you see in movies in the peevles?, it’s like the minute you step on stage, like cshhhhhhhhh. You could hardly hear the music it was just the shrieking going on. That was a ball. Like that showshow we did in NY, the first row of people was like 10 feet from the stage, or at least it seemed like it with all those lights shining, I couldn’t even see the audience half the time..And that’s fun too but the more intimate it is the more fun it is, the more unusual.
The lighting was great though, there in NYC, it was really dramatic.
Lux: Yeah, we only use red and white lights, we try to keep it as simple as possible and you can do a lot of things with that. We don’t have lights that look like disneyland, the color of the rainbow just going off for no reason.
Oh yeah it drives you crazy. You’re trying to play and lights turn green, purple, orange. And you can’t see the fretboard. And the strobe lights too, you do it tastefully, you don’t have it running through every song. When it does come on, everybody really savors those moments, it gets pretty cool. When you’ve been playing, basically the original days when I saw you at the CBGB’s theatre way back on the Bowery, did you ever think that you would still be playing from then till now?
Lux: Well, we didn’t give it that much thought I don’t think. I still can’t imagine not doing the Cramps at this point I still can’t imagine not doing it so I don’t even know what’s going to happen. We’ll just do what seems like the right thing to do. Back then I really don’t think we thought how long are we going to do this. The first time we played CBGB’s, the first time we auditioned I think we were thinking that we’d go out and nobody would like us that much and we’d only play once.
Yeah everybody thinks that the first time. The guitar that Ivy got when she played Human Fly, that Dan Electro was that a vintage one.
Lux: That is completely made, made out of a piece of wood. That was made by a guy in Washington DC, Steve Metts. He makes guitars for people, he makes guitars for ZZ Top, and when we were playing in Washingoton DC he called up Ivy in the hotel room and said, "Hey I made you a guitar I want to give it to you.", and she said "Oh, OK." It’s pretty amazing when you see it close up it has mother of pearl inlay in the fretboard, It has the Cramps logo and on both sides it has those trucker but flap girls. It’s really beautiful.
Yeah you could see it’s got a purple shine from where I was in the audience. I thought it was a Dan Electro the way it was shaped.
Lux: Well it’s a copy of a long horn, the same size and everything but it was completely made from scratch.
What do you think of, I noticed Guitar Wolf opened for you, that whole resurgence in Japan of that whole wild rock’n’roll.
Lux: Well I like a lot of those bands, of course we got Guitar Wolf, we sought them out to get them on the bill and it was difficult. It was difficult communicating with people in Japan most of the time. But I really like the 5678’s, they’re really one of our favorite bands. Have you ever heard their stuff?
Yeah I met them a few times, they’ve played down in NY.
Lux: Yeah and there’s some other bands from over there that are really good. The Cedrics? Yeah there’s a pretty crazy scene over there.
Have you been to any countries besides the usual ones.You've played in Japan and England and all that but have you played even further east? Asian countries at all like Thailand?

Lux: Yeah we haven't been to Thailand but we will probably do that soon.

North Vietnam is having bands come there now.

Lux: Oh Yeah? I didn't know that. I heard that China and Thailand are having bands in there now and we plan to do that but I hadn't heard Vietnam.

Yeah you can go in to North Vietnam through Sweden and get in there and somebody told me that 10,000 people will come to a show, even old villagers because there's nothing else.  But they've been buying American Punk records through the mail now.

Lux: That would be really great.

I got a letter once and I sold bunches of singles, not just of my band but all different ones to people of North Vietnam.  I talked to someone from North Vietnam and they're telling me all these Swedish bands come, and how other bands come through there now that it's a little bit more relaxed. It might be cool to go there.

Lux: If the Cramps played there they probably wouldn't forget it for a while!

Yeah I read that in Thailand when they show Laverne and Shirley, at the beginning they say "Please do not copy these women - they are escaped from a mental institution and are not like how nice normal American girls act." I wonder if you come out to North Vietnam everybody will start emulating a Cramps look.

Lux: That would be pretty funny.


Friday, October 22, 2010

KOGAR THE SWINGING APE presents Lux and Ivy's Favorites Volume Fifteen!

Here is Lux and Ivy's Favorites Volume Fifteen!

This volume is a mix of left over songs from that magical tape that came into my possession earlier this year and some other hold over songs that I've been waiting to throw on the series.

A HUGE thank you goes out to Haunted George for doing the cover for this volume. For those unfamiliar with his work, I highly recommend checking out his Myspace or Facebook pages (the URL's are part of the artwork when you download the volume). Be sure to check out his stuff. It's some of the more interesting/different music being produced today in a landscape filled with the usual garbagegarage (tm).


A few notes on the songs.

The intro/instrumental was reassembled from the original tape using the best sources I could find. You can read the whole story about "instrumental" on my blog. It shouldn't be too hard to find the track title if you really want to know. I kept it a mystery for the hell of it. The actual intro will be familiar with most everyone (i hope!). It was on the tape I was given and I had to laugh when I heard it. You could tell it was recorded using a cheap microphone that was more than likely held up to a television so it could be put on the tape.

Ruth Wallis - Ubangi. Wow, here is a song that i've looked for for years! In an old interview with the Cramps, Lux had attributed this song to someone named Ruth Fallen, and described the song in pretty good detail. I could never find this song anywhere. He called it YOU BANGI ME, I BANGI YOU (or something like that).

Then, as a result of that interview I gave to Dig It magazine, someone contacted me (thanks Colin!) suggesting that it was Ruth WALLIS! I tracked down the song, listened to it, and decided it HAD to be the song Lux was referring to. My guess is that the interviewer mis-heard Lux when he said the name of the artist. FALL-IN, WALL-IS, it could have been careless notes, or a bad transcription of a tape the interviewer had made.

Finding a good copy of the song was nearly impossible. It originally appeared on 78. I found a CD compilation of Wallis's songs with Ubangi on it. Great, right? A version taken from CD has to be good quality, right? Wouldn't you know it? The CD has a glitch on that particular song! Any mp3 rips of it sounded like shit. Besides the glitch it had an amazing amount of background noise.

After a while I found that it had been issued on a LP as well and through some further searching found a sealed copy for sale on ebay. This is the version on this compilation. And even then, it doesn't sound that great. I think it was mastered from the original 78 and not a master tape. The song even gets louder and softer, so I guess no one cared because it was for stag parties anyway!

Then I found a few more holdover songs from the original INCREDIBLY STRANGE MUSIC interview.

Red Hewitt and the Buccaneers - D.J. Blues; Lux never mentioned the artist, just talked about the song, and the lyric "music right out of the swirling all!" The first few seconds of this track remind me of a cramps song. So happy to have found this track. Red Hewitt was from New Zealand and released a few 45's on the Audion label (see scan on tracklisting).

Sheri Lee Douglas - Chime Bells; Never thought I'd find this one. Lux and Ivy swear this is KAY MARTIN singing, and I have to agree with them. It sounds exactly like her. The b-side of this 45 will be on the next LAIF volume.

Let's see, what else? There are a few more tracks from Forbidden City Dog Food as well as a bit from the Purple Knif Show. After listening to it again recently I heard a few seconds of something that never registered with me before. As the show ends, there is a few seconds of the deadly ones song, the mad drummer! It is such a great song, it HAD to be included on this volume.

Enjoy this volume, it might be awhile before the next one, but you never know!

My plans for remastered versions of the earlier volumes are still going according to plan. Volume 6 will be next, then volume's one, two, three and five.

Huge thanks go out to: Debbie D for doing a little sound voodoo on a bunch of the mp3's to make them sound better, Howie Pyro for the secret track, Bruce Milne, Colin Duff, Olaf Jens for helping me with a few songs, Steve Pallow, and Adam Fitch for his amazing graphics.

The first Black Centipede novel, Creeping Dawn, will be creeping your way in ...

Thursday, October 21, 2010


What can I say about Lux Interior? What kind of a eulogy can I give him on what would have been his 63rd birthday? How can I explain why the Cramps meant so much to me and still do? Frankly, I do not know. That is to say, I can't quantify it, I can't give you a formula. What follows has been assembled from a couple of earlier posts, and a few other things I've written on the subject. Looking back, I think I did a fairly good job of saying what I wanted to say, so I thought it might be appropriate to bring it out again. I've put it together and filled in some of the cracks with more or less fresh insights. I hope it says something to you.
My painting in honour of Lux's Birthday
SlimGil DeLuxe

by Chuck Miller

I was born in Akron, like Lux, and I lived in Cuyahoga Falls, no more than a few miles from the Purkheiser residence in Stowe. It is entirely possible that child-me and young adult Lux passed one another on the street now and then, neither of us aware of what destiny had in store. Erick Purkheiser may have glanced at that dopey-looking little redheaded kid bouncing along and never dreamed that his future activities would affect that child's life in ways both subtle and noisy; profoundly rewarding and profoundly dangerous.

Of course, it ain't about geography. Lux and Ivy could have come from Idaho or Wisconsin or the moon or Planet X, and the result would have been the same. And in fact they WERE from all those places, and quite a few more. They pulled together such a diverse array of inspirations and influences that they were from everywhere.

It is perhaps easier to say what the Cramps were NOT than to try to define what they were. They were not punk rock or psychobilly or any of that. They were unique in a way that very few things ever are, and there was never a pigeonhole built that could hold them. They were sui generis. What kind of music did they play? Cramps music. What kind of a band were they? They were the Cramps kind. Where can I find their records? Under "Sacred Music" of course.

The first time I actually SAW the Cramps in action was in the movie "Urgh! A Music War." As you know, they contributed a blistering rendition of "Tear it Up," which not only eclipses every other performance in the movie, it eclipses every other performance in the fucking history of the fucking world. At the time, though, I did not quite see it that way. It was frightening. I was a bit stunned. What is this I am seeing? Is this man having a nervous breakdown on stage? Is this like one of those clips of Elvis when he was too fucked up to remember his lyrics? And look at that poor guitarist! She must hate this guy. I mean, if looks could kill...

Obviously I knew nothing at that point. I was staring directly into the sun and trying to make sense of what I saw, but I lacked the vocabulary for it. However, instead of blinding me, this sun began to pull my eyes open. It would take me a while longer to complete enough of a paradigm shift to accommodate the Cramps, but once I did, there was no going back. The interesting thing is, it was not so much a process of discovery as it was of recognition. The Cramps spoke to something that was already in me, dormant and undernourished. The change was not instantaneous. Nothing worthwhile ever is. And when it had been accomplished, I could finally answer the question posed by Lux in "Garbageman."

Yeah, I DO understand!!!
And what's more, I have understood for a long time, though I didn't know it because I had never had it shoved into my face and shaken like that. I knew that this was the purest form of what it was, and what it was was what I wanted.

I, like Lux, ended up playing in a band that was a de facto homage to my inspirations-- mainly, in my case, the Cramps themselves. I did not come up with a stage name, but I had a person in me that only came out on a stage in a club late at night, and it's a damn good thing. This person would do or say absolutely anything. He wasn't me, and yet he was. Possibly he was more me than the one who walked by day.

And I did not consciously invent him. More like I discovered him living down in my basement, so to speak. Which makes sense, when you consider the fact that most of us spend about 90 percent of our time refraining from doing whatever it is we REALLY want to do.

Many observers took Lux's stage persona at once too seriously and not seriously enough, without really understanding just what they were seeing, and they got it hopelessly confused with the man behind it. Which it both was and was not. In many ways, I suppose it was the purest distillation of what Erick Lee Purkhiser really was. As with all great fiction, it was closer to the truth than mere reality; it was authentic on a level the "real world" seldom reaches.
To say that Lux was my favorite singer would be like a Christian saying Jesus was their favorite guy that got nailed up on a cross. Technically true, but missing almost all of the emotional subtext.

We mourn his passing, and rightly so, for he was a rare bird whose like will never be seen again.

But leave us always remember and never forget: What Lux was to a set of vocal chords, Ivy was/is to an electric guitar.

The Cramps without Lux Interior would be like Elvis Presley without Elvis Presley. However, as Lux himself knew full well, there is no "I" in Cramps but if there were, it would stand for "Ivy." That doesn't make much sense, but sense is not what I'm shooting for. I'm trying, in the most roundabout way possible, to say that the Cramps were, essentially, a duo. Drummers and bassists and second guitarists could come and go-- and there were some great ones-- but in order to have the Cramps, you have to have Lux AND Ivy.

Now, we only have Ivy. And we must continue to cherish her. The Cramps are no more and will never be again. But we still have a kick-ass nasty red-headed guitar heroine by the name of Poison Ivy Rorschach.

Back in about 1990, I had the very great good fortune to interview Poison Ivy for a little entertainment paper I worked for at the time. When I say "little," I mean just that. It was extremely local, given away for free at libraries, laundromats, college campuses, etc., in Mobile Alabama. Not exactly Vanity Fair, it was almost as prestigious as the Thrifty Nickel. Most of the writing was as boring and crappy as the small, parochial "music scene" it covered. (I also played guitar in a band called the Church of the Chainsaw, which might just as well have been a Cramps tribute band.)

So, I had a grandiose idea. I was going to try and get an interview with someone who was actually famous. I selected a few artists I really liked and wrote to their record companies or publicists. The Cramps, of course, were on the list. The very top, in fact. Some time went by and I heard nothing from anyone, which I had more or less expected. I had almost forgotten the whole business when one day, while I was at work, the phone rang. I answered, a female voice asked to speak to Chuck Miller, I admitted I was him. The caller said, "This is Poison Ivy of the Cramps."

Since reaching adulthood, I have never once shit in my pants. But if I had, that would have been it. I knew It wasn't a joke because any of my friends would know that they'd be signing their own death warrant with such a stunt. I got my shit together, got a tape recorder, and we talked for more than an hour. It was the highlight of my journalistic career, if not my whole fucking life. I wish I still had that tape.

Another thing I've never done is have a religious experience, but, again, that came very close.

I have interviewed a few more celebrities since then, but that was the only time I ever came away from it feeling that I had just talked with someone who genuinely appreciated my interest and who thought I was just as important as she was.

Years later, I got to meet both Lux and Ivy face-to-face, for all of about 15 seconds, at a club in New Orleans while they were making their way to the stage. I seriously doubt she actually remembered me, but she very sweetly pretended that she did. I shook hands with Lux and stammered out some incoherent but sincere expression of my admiration and devotion. To which he replied, "Thank you." Those were the only two words ever spoken directly to me by Lux Interior, and I have no doubt that he meant them as much as I mean it now when I say, rather belatedly, "You're welcome, Lux. And thank YOU."

I always had the impression that Ivy was the brains of the outfit. But not in a creepy Colonel Tom kind of way. More like an "I know that what we are doing is some incredibly great and unique shit, and I intend to take good care of it" way. She built and maintained the framework that allowed Lux to be the magnificent beast that he was. She was his foundation. Had there not been an Ivy, right now there might be only a handful of people mourning the death of that weird old Mister Purkhiser who ran that used record store out by the airport. Would young Eric ever have found the freedom to gleefully bounce around nearly naked on a stage in a pair of high heels? Maybe, maybe not. And had he not, how much poorer our lives would have been.

Now, I am not seriously suggesting that anyone here is likely to forget or even discount her. But with everything that has been written about Lux, a lot of it by me, I want to take the opportunity, now that some time has passed, to express my gratitude, admiration and appreciation to the Cramps' other half.

I have a friend in California with three daughters, all under the age of 15. They are lucky kids indeed because they all got to see the Cramps in 2006. The youngest was less than a year old. The two older girls were enthralled with Ivy. She touched something deep inside them. There is still a lot more sexism in the music world than anyone wants to admit. There are a few basic molds into which most female performers squeeze themselves. There are way more Pussycat Dolls than there are Girlschools or Runaways, more Brittneys and Jessicas than Candy Del Mars. Where can a young girl look to find a guitar heroine of her own? Not many places. But one of those places was the stage before which those girls stood on that day. And they will carry that with them for the rest of their lives.

They saw a little glimpse of freedom, a hint of their own potential, just like I did so many years before. Someone telling them, without words, that they could do this too, if they want. I don't talk too much about the trappings, you'll notice. The cheap horror movie sensibility, the kitsch, the camp, the fashion. It happens that I love most of these things myself, but the truth is, they are just details. Not all that important. It could have been anything. They could have dressed as giant lobsters and played polka, and they still would have been the Cramps.

The Cramps demonstrated that it is possible to live a life untainted by compromise or surrender, that it is possible to be, not so much what you think you want to be, as what you really ARE at your core, no matter what that is, in a world that encourages anything but. It is a lesson that few will ever grasp and even fewer will ever live. But, thanks to the Cramps, some of us poor suckers will at least have a chance.

Oh, and perhaps the most import thing-- I never eat stuff off the sidewalk. No matter how good it looks.

-- Chuck Miller

The photos above, sent in by SlimGil DeLuxe, show Our Founder Mister Interior in the studio, giving voice to "Rayo X," a super-wrestler in the animated film Los Campeones de la Lucha Libre, the English-language version of which was released earlier this year.
Los Campeones de la Lucha Libre is described by the American Cinematheque’s website as “A feature-length animated action-comedy” in which “Masked mayhem ensues when a team of wrestling heroes is caught in the middle of a struggle between a gang of barbarians right out of Mad Max and a legion of monsters inspired by the golden age of Mexican horror films.” There’s a bit on the animation company’s blog about Lux Interior’s role:
We needed a creepy, unearthly yet endearing voice for Rayo X, and after testing many actors, it was apparent that the role was made for Lux. Working with him was both a blast and an honor…Tomorrow night will be a sadder experience hearing his voice ring out at The Egyptian, and a little unnerving when Rayo utters Lux’s favorite line in the movie ‘Ah, the heady stench of death‘.

Some of you may not be familiar with SlimGil's great Crampcentric artwork. Below you will find a few examples. You can see more on his MySpace page:


Erick Lee Purkhiser (October 21, 1946 – February 4, 2009), better known as Lux Interior, was an American singer and a founding member of the legendary garage punk band The Cramps from 1976 until his sudden death in February 2009 aged 62.
Born in Akron, Ohio, he grew up in its nearby suburb of Stow and graduated from Stow High School. He met his wife Kristy Wallace, better known as Poison Ivy, a.k.a. Ivy Rorschach, in Sacramento in 1972, when he and a friend picked her up when she was hitchhiking. The couple founded the band and moved from California to Ohio in 1973 and then to New York in 1975 where they became part of the flourishing punk scene.
Lux Interior's name came "from an old car commercial", having previously flirted with the names Vip Vop and Raven Beauty, while his wife's name change was inspired by "a vision she received in a dream". The couple called their musical style psychobilly, originally claiming it to have been inspired by a Johnny Cash song, (One Piece at a Time), and later saying that they were just using the phrase as "carny terms to drum up business."
Interior was also a visual artist, in particular he was a 3D camera collector and enthusiast with which he created artworks and collages.
The Cramps gave their last show in November 2006. When asked why he continued to play live well into his middle age, he told the LA Times:
"It's a little bit like asking a junkie how he's been able to keep on dope all these years, It's just so much fun. You pull in to one town and people scream, 'I love you, I love you, I love you.' And you go to a bar and have a great rock 'n' roll show and go to the next town and people scream, 'I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.' It's hard to walk away from all that."
In 2002 Lux Interior performed the voice of a character on SpongeBob SquarePants - the lead singer of an all-bird rock band called the Bird Brains. SpongeBob voice Tom Kenny attended his memorial ceremony.
Lux Interior died at 4:30 a.m. on February 4, 2009, in Glendale, California. The cause of death was aortic dissection. He is survived by his wife Ivy and two brothers, Michael Purkhiser and Ronald "Skip" Purkhiser. The memorial service for Lux was held on February 21st at the Windmill Chapel of the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine. This was a very private ceremony but a report of it, agreed to by Ivy, was posted for fans by long time friend Jonny Whiteside on the blog of LA Weekly and later in the print edition. Lux's brother, Mike, also provided insight into his relationship with Lux in a newspaper article.

The Cramps roots can be traced back to 1976 when, according to legend, Erick Purkhiser picked up hitchiker Kristy Wallace in Ohio. They discovered a mutual love of old-time rock'n'roll and classic SciFi B-movie matinee fare... The rest, as they say, is history.

They soon decided to form a band. Akron Ohio was not the place for a band like The Cramps to "happen" so the couple packed on up and moved to New York City, drawn by the lure of what they read and heard was happening at a club called CBGBs... Erick took the stage name "Lux Interior" from an ad he saw describing an automobile ("Lux" as in the advertising abbrv for "Deluxe") and Kristy took the name "Poison Ivy Rorschach", from a dream she had (of course, everyone knows that a Rorschach Test is the ink blot quiz a shrink gives folks). Lux would be the singer, Ivy the guitarist. The band was soon rounded out by Bryan Gregory on guitar and Bryan's sister Pam "Balam" on drums. Pam quickly dropped out and was replaced by Miriam Linna. After recording one demo and playing a few gigs, Miriam left to join Nervous Rex. Her replacement was Electric Eels drummer Nick Knox (Nicholas Stephanoff).

Their "minimalist sound" may take some getting used to, but this is pure raw rock'n'roll. Two guitars (they only recently submitted to having a bassist) and a basic trap drum set (Bass drum, Snare and cymbal) were the only instruments. Ivy played lead guitar while Bryan (and his subsequent replacements) played highly fuzzed and distorted guitar riffs, more than making up for the lack of a bass. In New York they became cult favorites and, with Alex Chilton (of Panther Burns fame) they recorded a couple independent singles which caught the ear of Miles Copeland, who signed them to his fledgling I.R.S. Records. Those first singles and a fifth song, were released as GRAVEST HITS. The Cramps toured briefly then headed back to the studio with Alex Chilton to begin work on their first full-length LP, SONGS THE LORD TAUGHT US

Shortly after the LP SONGS THE LORD TAUGHT US was released, Bryan Gregory left the band, taking their van and most of their equipment with him. It's rumored he didn't like the direction the band was going and wanted a more modern sound and thought the lyrics should be meaningful, like The Clash. Obviously Bryan had no idea what it meant to be "Cramped." He surfaced a while later in a band called Beast, releasing three singles. They soon Dumped Gregory, moved to the UK and became Veil, vanishing after a one shot gothic LP. Gregory later worked as either a satanic minister or a porn shop vendor, depending on who you believe. (Bryan Gregory died of heart failure in January, 2001. See the IRS Memorial Page for more details). Gregory was replaced by Julien Greinsnatch, whose time with The Cramps, while limited, was forever recorded on film in URGH! A MUSIC WAR.

Gun Club's Kid Congo Powers, a longtime fan, picked up the guitar duties and the band went into the studio to record PSYCHEDELIC JUNGLE. It was during this time that The Cramps started having problems with Miles Copeland and I.R.S. Records. Royalties, unapproved cover art, and lack of promised support on tour were the reputed sources of the dispute. Ultimately the case was settled out of court, but not without having a severe impact on the band. During the period of litigation they could not record (technically they were still contracted with I.R.S.) so touring became their only source of income. Because desperate fans hungered for new material, fear of bootlegging kept The Cramps from doing new material at these concerts.

Once the case was settled, The Cramps recorded a live set at New York's Peppermint Lounge which was released (on the late great Enigma Records) as the "tastefully entitled" SMELL OF FEMALE. Kid Congo then left the band (amicably) to return to Gun Club. I.R.S., either to fulfill a term of the settlement or as a final kiss-off released the psuedo-greatest hits collection BAD MUSIC FOR BAD PEOPLE.

Then a period of rotating second guitarist/bassist and rotating labels began. Guitarists/bassists who came and went included Click Mort, Ike Knox (Nick's brother), Mike Metoff (formerly of The Pagans and Nick's cousin), Fur and finally Candy Del Mar who stuck around for a while. After she left a fellow named Slim Chance assumed duties on the bass.

Nick Knox, stalwart drummer, had long suffered from vision troubles and after eye surgery left him blind in one eye, decided to leave the band and retire. He was replaced by Jim Sclavunos, and soon followed by Nicky Beat and then Harry Drumdini, arriving at the current line up of Lux, Ivy, Slim and Harry.

In 1989 The Cramps seemed to have smoothed over some of their problems with Miles and I.R.S., as they assisted in the preparation of their I.R.S. catalog for CD release. This apparent reconciliation may have only been for the sake of making sure "it was done right" for The Cramps continued to work independent of any "major label" influence. The Cramps continue to record and perform and have released many albums since leaving IRS. While this site is devoted to IRS Records exclusively, all of The Cramps recordings are worthwhile and, in humble webmaster Mr. Bill's opinion, worth seeking out and owning... Look for the aforementiond SMELL OF FEMALE, A DATE WITH ELVIS, STAY SICK, LOOK MOM NO HEAD, ROCKINNREELININAUKLANDNEWZEALND (a live concert recording), and FLAMEJOB.

In 2001, Lux and Ivy revived their Vengeance Records label and regained most of their non-I.R.S. catalog for reissue. And not only on CD -- they're also available on cool colored vinyl (which makes Mr. Bill have flashbacks to the glorious 80s)!