INTERVIEW WITH JACK GRISHAM, RON EMORY, MIKE ROCHE.
BY DIRTY JOE AND MIKEY SAMUELSON
What did T.S.O.L. originally stand for?
Jack: True Sounds of Liberty
Where was T.S.O.L. from originally and what was the first show?
Ron: We’re originally from Long Beach and Huntington Beach. The first show was probably at The Cuckoo’s Nest.
Jack: Backyard parties. If we could, we would do a tour of people’s backyards. The best shows were the ones that people threw together.
Why did you change your name on every record?
Jack: People used to think it was because people were trying to kill me, but that wasn’t the real reason. You had that thing, ‘no hero’s’. So we changed our names because it didn’t matter who was in the band. It could be different every time. Anybody could be in the band. On that, Todd and I just switched our names.
Is there anything you’d like to say about Todd?
Jack: Yeah, Todd dying was fucked. It was a bad deal. We hadn’t played with him for years and we’d been apart. You never want to lose a friend.
Mike: It’s hard to get through the shit. It hit us all pretty hard in different degrees and different ways.
Jack: It was fucked. He was a nice guy and it was fucked. And the sad thing is, it’s not the first friend and it won’t be the last.
Ron: He was a hell of a drummer and a good friend. We got a bunch of emails on the website, a bunch of people talking about him. What an influence he made on the music we played. After touring and talking to a lot of people all over the country, he made a big impact on a lot of people.
Why did you guys end up getting back together after so many years or did you guys get back together to rid the world of the memory of the rock and roll version of TSOL?
[everyone laughs] Jack: We played reunion shows before. When we did it back then, it was a money thing. This time we were asked to play at this art show [Bergermire Station]. They said ‘Hey, do you guys want to get together and play a few songs?’ and it was free. We were getting together to play a couple songs and have fun. The show was Devo, X, The Weirdos, The Plugs, The Urinals, The Go-Go’s and Rick El-Rick. And we got our plywood metallic silver fucking trophy for Outstanding Achievement in the World of Punk Rock. When we walked on stage and played the first song, the lighting rack goes down, mike stand gets chucked into somebody’s head, and the bouncer’s nose gets broken in the space of one minute. Then from that, somebody called us and said, “We heard you guys played, would you be wanting to go on tour?” Basically, this has been all for fun, because we like playing with each other.
What changes have you noticed in the L.A. punk scene in the last few years?
Jack: It fucking blows! It’s bad, kids are fucked up, they’re confused. You don’t know who’s on your team. One of the worst things I ever saw, there was a barricade at the front of the stage – ya know, the shows are so fucking safe now – I’m not advocating people going out and kicking each other’s ass, I mean they’re safe like there’s no stage diving, no fucking insanity. You used to be able to go into a club and people would be lighting the bathrooms on fire, everyone’s getting hammered and shit’s getting stolen. It was a blast! Now, you go in and it’s so fucking orderly. Everyone comes up and buys their t-shirts, stands behind the barricade, and get their soft drink. It’s fucked. This one time, shit’s getting wild and the barricade falls down and I’m going “yeah, rush it!”. Now the stage is going to be covered with kids throwing our stuff off the stage. Instead they stop and help the security guards set the barricade back up. I looked at that and said ‘that is just fucking unbelievable.’ That’s like a lot of the bands these days. They act like what we rebelled against. At old T.S.O.L. shows, there were times when we’d show up and hand the promoter a 200 person guest list. And he’d go “fuck you” and then we’d go “fuck you, we’re not playing, we’re either getting 200 in or fuck off.” You get your friends in, there is no one watching the backstage because there’s no backstage. You are we and we are you and there we are, come back. Our beer is your beer, everybody hang out. Everybody get on stage and then we go out and battle the cops afterward. The bands nowadays act like Journey. There are punk bands out there, or they call themselves punk bands, they don’t get to the show til it’s time to go on stage. “Stay out of our backstage area, don’t touch my deli tray and I don’t walk through the crowd.” Ya know, it’s fucked.
Mike: And outwardly, it’s bigger. It’s much bigger, if you had to take a snapshot of the scene, but it’s a Sprite commercial. The cars are pulling up, it’s not a stolen car, like we used to get there, 30 people in a little car. Now nice cars pull up and outside the security would be like “move, move” and they all fucking herd in like cattle and the bands are saying they’re punk but there’s something lost in the translation.
Jack: One of my favorite things I ever saw at a punk show, that East L.A. show [talking to Mike]. The cops showed up to the show and there was this guy standing there. This guy breaks a board off the fence of his house. He’s holding the board in his hand and it had a nail in it. He said “let’s get him” to the cops. You never see that now. There’s no unity, we’re here to save the world from themselves. [laughing] We’re making an army, we’re training youngsters how to make bombs in buckets again. They need to relearn lesson one. Stand in the middle of the crowd and throw bottles. Back to school. Now there’s a sizable army, so we figure a little training is necessary.
What have you guys been doing for the last ten years?
Jack: God’s good work, we’re missionaries.
Mike: Yeah, in different areas of society.
Jack: Yeah, we’re visitors.
Mike: Yeah, we’re visitors, observing.
How was Social Chaos and the other tours last year?
Jack: It was fun.
Ron: Probably the best tours we ever did. We had a blast.
Jack: And all the bands were great. At first, everyone was kind of standoffish, cause they were all English bands, except for DOA and DRI. So they’re all like “fucking Yanks”, at first. Then by the end, it was a blast. We’d be playing and look over and Charlie Harper would be standing on the stage watching.
Ron: Charlie Harper is on the side of the stage singing “Warhead to Code Blue”.
Jack: Yeah, it was funny. Gene from Chelsea, he was always coming up to us going “We’re fucking rockers man and we gotta stay together!” The little stuff that we did after that, we did by ourselves. We toured through California, Oregon and Washington.
Ron: We got to go back and play places, because that Social Chaos tour was ridiculously expensive for a punk rock show. We got to play for $5. It was a blast.
How was the response from your fans since getting back together?
Jack: Some of it was really good and some of it was weird. Some people don’t know that it was two different bands. So, they’d go “T.S.O.L.’s playing, oh that’s a metal band. Fuck those guys.” They didn’t realize it was two completely different bands. So a lot of times, we had to walk out and reprove ourselves. By the end of the night, they’d be coming up to us going ‘fuck you guys are great’. But then, some places knew. A lot of the kids go back. They get out the old records and want to learn the history of the scene. So you get kids like that, they know everything. They weren’t born, but they know all the words to the songs and then they tell their friends, ‘hey you should see these guys. These guys are great!’
Ron, skateboarding and cars?
Ron: I like them both. [laughing]
Ron: You can count me in on that one too. First love of my life.
Jack: I surf everyday. The old surfers were punks, swastika surfboards, fucking animals. How could you not love that? The early surf thing was great, getting hammered on the beach, you’re with your friends, you go to parties, you’re fucking drunk, you’re breaking stuff, you’re stealing shit, you’re out of control, it was wild. Surfing was punk rock before punk rock was punk rock.
Ron: And skating evolved, from lack of waves. Late ‘60s, early ‘70s, metal wheels, clay wheels. I used to wear clay wheels down to nothing in a weekend at San Gabriel River Mountains.
Jack: You still ride that Black Knight?
Ron: No, a Red Roller derby. It came out in ‘59. It was a hand me down from my brother.
Mike: But when Road Riders II came out, it was on.
Ron: When Meta-flex came out, even before Precision bearings. That was the shit, man. We skated pools, I loved skating pools. Backyard pools that were not meant to be skated. That’s what I like to do. It just hurts a little more.
Jack: They took the whole surf scene and sold it. They took something that was pure and sold it. They took skateboards, something that was pure and sold it. They took punk rock, something that was pure and sold it.
Mike: It’s America. It’s fucking America!
Mike: When you’re a purist, it’s something that’s hard to swallow. Everything that used to be out in space and wild and different is now fucked, but I’m not giving up.
So, you guys are putting a new album out?
Jack: Yeah, we’re going to. We’re writing right now. It’s taking us a little bit cause we haven’t played with each other in such a long time. It’s almost like starting all over again. We’re supposed to have something out by June. [laughing] Internet release only, we’re changing our name to the Artist formerly known as T.S.O.L.
In the last year, who has been your biggest supporter?
Mike: We’ve had some support from bands: Fletcher from Pennywise, Dub All Stars have been nice. A lot of older bands have been respectful and it’s been cool. U.S. Bombs, Cadillac Tramps, all those bands.
Jack: Basically, no one supported us, they’re a bunch of cock-sucking fucks. I wish they’d all just burn in hell. They don’t want us playing. Know why? They don’t want Daddy to come home. You know what I mean, that’s what it is. Basically the kids have been bad, they’ve been very willful and very disobedient and dad has just shown up with a belt and they’re not happy about it. There’s been some spankings being turned out.