A punk-rock icon. One of the founding fathers of American hardcore. The man who would be governor of California (if people in the know had their way). The one, the only, Mr. Jack Grisham. If ever a person has lived a full (if sometimes sordid) life, it is this man. Not to get too sentimental and melodramatic, but Jack has led an amazing life, been through so much, and now---a bit more mellow than in his youth---seems to have changed his ways...while still creating incredible music (despite what he may think!). Why, just last year he released some brilliant new material that can be found on The Joykiller career retrospective, READY SEXED GO; and put out DIVIDED WE STAND, an outstanding tour de force that shows that TSOL still have it after all these years.
Here is an intimate look into the mind of a genius.
SKRATCH: About READY SEXED GO: why the decision to release it last year?
JACK: Well, basically, to get it out somehow! [Laughter] I mean, there was never any band, so they didn't really wanna release the record at all. We basically made this record, and it was just sitting around, but there was no like band, so it wasn't gonna come out. The only reason it even got to come out was they did that Joykiller best-of compilation, and then put the READY SEXED GO stuff with it. That's why.
SKRATCH: Weren't you supposed to release it under a different name, those last eight songs?
JACK: Right, that's what I thought you were talking about. The band was called The Go, [...] but then there was another Go up in Seattle or whatever, so then [...] they called me saying, "Please, we've got this band and we've been doing this," and I said, "Yeah, I don't care." It's like, We'll do something else. So then we were just gonna release it under Gentleman Jack Grisham, [...] and then we just never did that. So yeah, we were gonna release it as something else, but we didn't.
SKRATCH: And regarding the compilation part, was it hard to decide what songs to use from the album?
JACK: Well, yeah, 'cause I wanted the whole album on there. There's actually [...] two, like, Gentleman Jack or Go records after all The Joykiller stuff, and one of 'em's real kinda lo-fi, just real garage-y sounding, and the other one's like a lot slicker. I wanted to put both of the records on there, but we just didn't do it. So yeah, in a way, I guess it was kinda harder to pick out what songs to put on there. And the record company has a lot to do with that. [...] They have a lot to do with it, 'cause they have the money, you know what I mean? It's like, they pay for it, so it's hard to tell them to "F off"...though I have quite a few times.
SKRATCH: [Laughter] I can imagine.
JACK: Sometimes I'm not very pleasant. [Laughter]
SKRATCH: Do you think you'll ever put out anything new as Joykiller again?
JACK: Well, probably not, 'cause we just...there's no band. That's the trouble. Like. I really love that band, I had a lot of fun with those guys, that was a fun band, but the trouble is that we just couldn't afford to do it. It's, like, people don't understand. I'm, like, an adult. We weren't making any money; we were constantly broke, and we were struggling just to get by. So I'd go on tour for a month, and I'd come home with like $500, and I've got a wife and two kids. That's, what, 30 cents an hour or something? [Laughs] 15 cents an hour? So it was just really hard to go on tour and do anything, so that was kind of the end of that band. It's really a drag, but that's the way it is. It's hard, and I don't think anyone's really willing to put out a record with a band that's not going to tour. They figure, Why put out a record with these guys? you know?
SKRATCH: What initiated coming back with TSOL in '89 for that little period?
JACK: Back in '89, somebody asked us if we wanted to do some shows, and the first time we came back...I will be straight honest with you: it was strictly for money. [...] Someone was offering us a lot of money. Basically, it was a lot of money to do this thing, and at the time I was broke, I had no money, and that sounded real good to me. But then after we got together and started playing, I realized it didn't matter how much money they gave me: it was not worth it. And so I just stopped doing it. It just wasn't worth it. It wasn't time for us to be back together again. We were arguing, and there was a lot of drugs involved, and I had stopped getting high at the time, and it was just really hard to deal with those guys. I remember one of the shows I made them pay me more money. I just told them, [...] "You know what? You can stick this money. I don't want it. I don't want this money. You can cancel the show." The guy's going, "You can't cancel the show!" [Laughter] I go, "Yeah, I can! I'm not doing it. It's not worth it to me. I don't care what you give me." And the guy finally goes, "I'll give you this much more!" [Laughter] I'm like, "All right, I'll do it for that---but that's it." It was strictly for money at the time. And then when we got together later on, it was strictly for fun.
SKRATCH: How do you feel about the direction TSOL took after you and Todd left?
JACK: Well, I didn't like it at all, I'll tell you. It's not so much the music, 'cause we've all done shitty music. I've made a lot of shitty music. You can't stay around for very long...I mean, you can hardly name a band that hasn't turned out some pile of shit [...] at one time or another. [Laughs] Like, even your favorite band.... A lot of them have just turned out some real crap sometimes, and that's expected. So it wasn't even so much the music as it was the attitude of the guys in the band. That is what I had the real problem with: it was the way the band acted. Basically, how they acted was what we were against. What they were doing was what we had been against the whole timewhat we were raised saying, "Hey, look, we don't want this." It was that whole rock-star, hang-out trip, and I couldn't get behind it. I hated it. But the music, hey, do whatever you want. I mean, whatever, you know?
SKRATCH: Do you find that people have misconceptions or myths about you?
JACK: I mean, not really. To tell you the truth, I don't think people think about me all that much! [Laughs]
SKRATCH: Well, I mean, I don't know, maybe based on the history or something people think you're...I don't know...fill in the blank.
JACK: Yeah, yeah, sometimes I get that from people, like, you know, "This guy's gotta be an asshole" or "He's gotta be this" or "I've heard this." So, of course people make that kinda stuff, but what can I do about it? Nothing. I mean, a lot of people end up meeting me and say, "You're nothing like I thought you were gonna be. [...] I heard you're an asshole." [Laughter] And some people meet me and say, "God, you're supposedly so nice, and you're a jerk!" [Laughter] So I guess it goes both ways.
SKRATCH: Back to the music...Is there any record that you've done with any of your projects that perhaps you feel epitomizes the essence of Jack Grisham?
JACK: Well, I've never really been happy with anything I've done. I mean, I'm just not. It's never good enough, as far as I'm concerned, 'cause I look at stuff that I love so much---like, I'll hear other bands and their songs and think, "God, that's so cool." You know, my daughter had to tell me one time. We were talking about music or something, and I go, "God, man, I wish I could write a song that made people feel like that." It was some song we were listening to [...] some old song I always loved when I was a kid or whatever, and my daughter told me, "Dad, you do write songs like that. There's a lot of people who like your songs." [Laughter] But I don't see it that way, you know what I mean? 'cause I'm looking at it from me, and I don't see it like that. I'm always judging myself really hard about what I'm doing or whether I'm happy with it or whether it's good enough---'cause it's never good enough, as far as I'm concerned; it always sounds bad.
SKRATCH: So you're a perfectionist.
JACK: Yeah, a perfectionist who can't do anything right! [Laughs] That's really it. That's the trouble with that. But a lot of stuff---like I like the latest TSOL record we just did: I really like that. You know what? There'll be records that it's easier for me to deal with, like I'll feel satisfied at the time that I did the best job I could do on that record. And I'll tell you my favorite records. Out of all the records I made, I like Joykiller THREE, I like the third one of that; I like the Tender Fury record called IF ANGER WERE SOUL, I'D BE JAMES BROWN (that's really hard to get, but I'm really happy with that record); this latest TSOL record; the DIVIDED WE STAND record; and the Gentleman Jack stuff, the songs that are on the Joykiller compilation thing. I like that Gentleman Jack stuff. I'm real happy with it---I mean, as happy as I get! [Laughter]
SKRATCH: How about BENEATH THE SHADOWS? When that was released, do you think it was ahead of its time? Because a lot of people didn't really "get it."
JACK: Well, a lot of people didn't "get it," and what made me mad about it was we were trying to do what we had been taught to do by the people that were supposedly punk---which is what makes it so funny. It's like all these people, they talk about, "You gotta experiment. Don't be like this, and don't fit in the mold." Well, yeah, but if you do something out of the mold, they freak out---and these are people who are supposedly trend-setting punk-rock guys. So it was rough. We got a lot of crap for that record. And I like it. I thought it was a good record. I still like it now. It's real child-like. I mean, there's stuff that...I like the record. I think it came out good. [Laughs] It was a ballsy move. We didn't know any better. We just said, "Hey, let's try this." And it was pretty funny, 'cause the guys in TSOL after I left the band, they actually blamed me for that record---you know, basically saying, "Well, yeah, look what we did. We're back to rocking now that he's gone." [Laughs] You know, "Now that that bastard's gone, we're back to business!"---which is pretty funny.
SKRATCH: I mean, that record, I think that's one of the best. Definitely.
JACK: Thank you. I really like it. I think it's a cool record. We took a chance. [...] Like I said earlier, we did what we were taught to do. This is what you do: you make records like this. You experiment, you try new things, you don't worry what people are gonna think about you, you just do it. You do it because you wanna do it. That's what this whole music thing was supposed to be about. And a lot of people forgot that. That's what makes me mad about a lot of these bands. You know, it's like everyone talks about how cool they are and what they do and stuff, but a lot of 'em at the time were assholes; they were no better than the rocker bands we were trying to get rid of. There were people in those rocker bands that were more open-minded than these supposed punk guys.
Obviously, this is only a taste of what Jack had to say, but, you know, space constraints and everything. As for touring, sadly---but understandably, taking into consideration where he is in life---Jack and TSOL are basically just playing shows in California...so the rest of us will have to make due with listening to the records!