Photo by: Danielle Nicol
My best buds and absolute American heroes in Noogy just ended a 6-day Texas stretch with legendary punk band, T.S.O.L., who is currently on tour promoting their 2017 release, The Trigger Complex. I hit Andre (Noogy) up wondering if it would be at all possible to set up an interview with the man who has become one of my idols – novelist, singer, and American demon – Jack Grisham. He and Anthony hit me back a few nights later from San Antonio, in between sets of rocking out with Piňata Protest and Dead 77, to let me know it was on. I was already planning to roadie the show at Three Links (Dallas), and the conceptualization of this conversation began to dawn on me. Did you read the book? (American Demon) Jack Grisham’s nuts! I knew right away that we were going to be best friends. Read that story below. [short read: 1 minute/ long read: 20 minutes]
“That’s a canon,” Grisham tells me on the (somewhat) quiet taco shop patio adjacent to Three Links Deep Ellum where we can hear the smokers converge between sets of punk music through the fence, in anticipation of the man who sits before me to take the stage. The fence is lined with railroad spikes to keep the birds from shitting on bar patrons. “Ok so basically, what we would do is we would pour gas down the holes of manhole covers, and then you light it, and then when it expands and blows, it blows the manhole cover off. You know? It’s fucking badass.” He says – what a great fucking guy. We yip-yapped there until long after closing before the sweet young hostess came out to say we had to leave and kindly allowed for my plea of just five more minutes in the seclusiveness quarantine of Fuzzy’s back patio.
“I have to be on stage in fifteen minutes!” Jack exclaimed. “No, no, we have time. I think there’s another band.” I assured him. (There wasn’t.) From the bar we could hear Noogy going through one of their hits, “New Crew”. It’s categorized with UNESCO as a cultural heritage. “Love ‘em! Great band, man. It’s funny because they didn’t think I was listening to them, and then we were talking today and I was naming songs that they did, and I don’t think they thought I was paying attention. I thought they were great, really fun, man.”
Jack tells me he doesn’t enjoy tour quite as much as he used to. “You know, I was joking with someone and they go, ‘You’re not 30 anymore.’ ‘Yeah, I’m not 40 or 50 anymore either, man.’ I’m 57. I’ve been doing this for 40 years, man. We play every night. I don’t sleep. We drive all day. You know, and it really just fries me. I’m fried.”
The original “street canon” story appears in Grisham’s first book, American Demon. (ECW Press, 2011) “I wrote about my life in American Demon, and people were bummed on me for it. It’s like, look, I’m not taking pride in it. I’m telling you this is how I acted. This is where I came from. This is what was going on when I was sixteen, seventeen, fucking six, seven, you know, when I was first learning how to build bombs and do this shit. It’s not about pride. It’s a matter of this is this. This is what it was.”
“The trouble with being around for that long is that a lot of people don’t understand where you came from. So, people’s ideas about bands back then or what was happening in the scene are all basically not first-hand accounts. They’ve read it from somebody who maybe wasn’t even there when they wrote about it. Sometimes I’m bummed about punk rock because when I got into it as a kid, it was basically an attitude, more than a sound, or the way you looked. Everyone made their own clothes. People looked different. There was, like, in my opinion, a really trippy, cool equality thing going on. bands were so different. Like now, bands sound so much alike. It’s like, when I first got into it, you got shit for that. If you exactly sound, like, you can borrow stuff or steal stuff or whatever, but if you basically ripped-off somebody’s sound, you were unoriginal and not cool at all.When I was a kid, there’d be double bills with The Go-Gos and Black Flag on the same bill, man. Now that shit would never fly today. I’m not saying Go-Gos and Black Flag. I’m saying a hard band like Black Flag playing with an all-girl band like The Go-Gos doing pop songs. People aren’t as open-minded as they say they are.”
Jack Grisham is old as fuck. “We’re talking four decades of music, man,” And he doesn’t even surf anymore, which is a real fucking bummer. I guess I’m one to talk, though, 30 years old and my back is killing me. He still paddles out and says “hi” to everyone, but no one is leaving skateboards at my doorstep is all I’m saying. I e-mailed the honorable Dave Buck in drunken celebration after the show with the imagined headline, “Zen-Man saves stories for stage”, laughing like a hyena in drunken stupor, imagining what jack in his twenty-nine years-stubborn sobriety might think if he serendipitously stumbled across my behavior… He’ll be thirty years clean and sober this coming January of next year, but I imagine he’d be ok. (Congratulations Jack!)
“It’s a personal choice. I don’t give a fuck what anybody else does. You know what I mean? That’s different then somebody saying, ‘Oh, you’re straight-edge!’ No, I’m not straight-edge. I don’t care what you do. It’s not my business to do what you do, or worry about what you do, unless you come to me and say, ‘Hey Jack, can you help me?’ Now, it’s my business. ‘Hey Jack, I wonder about this. You’re sober. Why are you sober?’ Now, it’s my business, but its not my business to tell someone, ‘Don’t do something that I used to thoroughly enjoy.’ That’s crazy.”
“So, [with] most of the stories – it’s like, I did a lot of fucked up stuff, but in the beginning I did it because of how I was raised. Then, later on, a lot of the stuff I did, I just did because I wasn’t thinking, man. You know, like, I got arrested for impersonating an officer once. Just fucking not thinking. ‘Dave, this is a great idea! I’m in on this.’ Just whatever. So, I tend to stay away from stories where other people got harmed, because I realize that, yeah, we think it’s a great story, but let’s call them. Do the victims think it’s a great story? Do these guys think it’s funny? You know, and a lot of them didn’t think it was funny. You know? They don’t think that the stories are funny, man.”
Well… then he put on his boots and jacket and reminisced about a crack binge that ended in Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson’s p-bass getting pawned into the general (and most likely pubescent) public, before exclaiming his adolescent lust for the inanimate human corpse…. A song which does not rhyme, no matter how many ways you spell it. “Well, a lot of it’s like learning how to write, like really looking at what I was doing. Before, I would do stuff, but I never thought about it. Grant from Hüsker Dü gave me my very first rhyming dictionary. I still have it. Grant gave it to me.”
When pressed on his new album The Trigger Complex, (Rise Records, 2017) “If you look at The Trigger Complex, you’ll hear a lot of early Generation X, a lot of Stiff Little Fingers, The Stranglers, The Damned. It’s really like a roots record for us. I love these guys and they say, ‘We’re making a roots record, and it all sounds like Johnny Cash.’ It’s like, wait a minute, Johnny Cash wasn’t my roots. The Damned and Sham was my roots, and fucking, you know, Frank Zappa, and The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones. I wasn’t a country guy.”
Themes revolve around silver linings, difficult relationships, romantic encounters, and Grisham’s own realization of self. “I just want to be left in the street with my scars as you’re walking away…okay?” (Lyrics from “Sometimes”, The Trigger Complex) “ Even Hemmingway says it, ‘The man that battles with self’. It’s not with fucking these people. With self. This is what the battle is. People go, ‘Well, why aren’t you writing political stuff anymore?’ Fuck, I don’t know. Once you say, ‘Abolish government’ where are you gonna’ go after that? I’ve already said it.”
Jack’s got his little kitten claws all over the place, from singing in a punk band to writing songs with Earth, Wind, and Fire. He’s a published novelist who wrote about his (wild) life in American Demon as well as his sobriety and thoughts on living life clean and sober in A Principle of Recovery: An Unconventinal Journey Through the Twelve Steps Program which he self published in 2015. Before this interview he had been rushed to Three Links from an NA meeting, where he volunteered his time as a guest speaker. He leaves us with a message – “to not hurt people… if that makes any sense.”
You can read the full transcript of our conversation below for all the leftover deets. We talked about his badass anarcho daughters and being a punk rock dad, evading arrest, Sixteen Candles, the Dalai Lama, and sticking straws up his nose. Let’s just say I left out a couple interesting particulars about my new buddy, Jack Grisham.
Noogy photo by Vera Velma Hernandez
T.S.O.L. photos by David Medlan
“Is he preaching humbleness as the way now? He’s a liar.” – Eric Daniels (Sloth Fist)
DS: I’m sitting here with Legendary TSOL front-man, Jack Grisham, who has also fronted other bands including Joykiller, Jack Grisham and The Manic Low, and Jack Grisham’s LOST Soul, as well as written several books. Jack you are probably one of the coolest and in the sense most intimidating people I’ve ever met so thank you so much for letting me do this interview.
Jack: Well, you’re welcome… I’m a total fuckin’, well, it doesn’t matter. Let’s not talk about me.
DS: Let’s not talk about you?
Jack: Well, you know what I mean. It’s ok. Thank you very much. I’m stoked to be sitting here with you. I’m stoked to be here.
DS: So, Jack do you still surf?
Jack: No. They try to get me to surf. They bring boards to my house and give me surf boards, and try to get me in the water, but I don’t know if I’m depressed, or whatever, but I kind of just don’t surf anymore. I need to get out there. Sometimes I’ll paddle out and just say hi to people, but that’s it. I just paddle around and say hi to everybody, and go back in.
DS: OK. I understand, man. So, now let’s do some T.S.O.L. T.S.O.L. is closing in on it’s 40th year anniversary. How many things have changed over that time within the scene? Could you enumerate on some of the ups and downs? What about the kids who are coming to the shows?
Jack: What do you want a positive or a negative? A positive – people are very nice to us. You know, after being around for that long, they are very nice to us. On the negative, the trouble with being around for that long is that a lot of people don’t understand where you came from, or the history, or the basic what-was-going-on back then. We’re talking four decades of music, man. So, people’s ideas about bands back then or what was happening in the scene are all basically not first-hand accounts. They’ve read it from somebody who maybe wasn’t even there when they wrote about it. So, there’s a lot of weirdness about what this is supposed to be. Sometimes I’m bummed about punk rock because when I got into it as a kid, it was basically an attitude, more than a sound, or the way you looked. Everyone made their own clothes. People looked different. There was, like, in my opinion, a really trippy, cool equality thing going on. There wasn’t, you know, it was… and then also, bands were so different. Like now, bands sound so much alike. Some of these bands sound exactly alike. It’s like, when I first got into it, you got shit for that. If you exactly sound, like, you can borrow stuff or steal stuff or whatever, but if you basically ripped-off somebody’s sound, you were unoriginal and not cool at all.
DS: Not punk.
Jack: Yeah, basically, and punk was even just a concocted phrase.
Jack: But I’m saying there’s that new music sound, or whatever. When I was a kid, there’d be double bills with The Go-Gos and Black Flag on the same bill, man. Now that shit would never fly today. I’m not saying Go-Gos and Black Flag. I’m saying a hard band like Black Flag playing with an all-girl band like The Go-Gos doing pop songs, you know, where they’d be on the same bill. These days… You know what I mean? People aren’t as open-minded as they say they are. They’re just not anymore. So, that’s a negative as far as I’m concerned.
DS: Can I touch on that though? So, you guys… it seems like the scene back then was a little more hostile then it is now. Do you think maybe that that could have been part of it, because you have different crowds coming together that obviously clash?
Jack: Well, I don’t know if it’s hostile. It was… when I was a kid, it was hostile because outsiders were coming in at us. So, it wasn’t between you and I, like, you know, I was stoked to see you. Like if I saw you, I’d go, “Oh, fuck, brother, who are you into? What do you like? Why do you look like that? What’s your favorite bands? What kind of vinyl? Where do you get records?” You know, I would be stoked to see you because you were part of a family that I had not seen, like a lost cousin or whatever. So, we were always stoked when bands came from Texas, or New York, East Coast, West Coast. Bitchin’. Bitchin’. Bitchin’. Family. Family. Family. The hostility in the start of the scene was from outsiders coming in and then wanting to beat up punks or thinking that punk rock was some violent thing, and they’d come to a show and start trying to be violent. It’s just like, “Wait a minute man. You know, we’re dancing! It’s not a fucking slug fest in here.” And then later on, in the mid-80’s is where it kind of got really violent, and by then I was out. I was done. So, the early violence was against the outsiders. In the mid-80’s you had a lot of punk-on-punk violence, which was not good. I was done by then. I had had enough. It’s like, when the family is fighting the family, it’s not good.
DS: What changed? What got you back into it?
Jack: Well, I’d always dicked around with music, but also, I ended up getting clean and sober. Then the other guys ended up getting clean and sober, too, and then somebody said, “well, hey, do you want to play this show? You know, some TSOL songs with a back-up band,” and I said, “you know Roach is clean now, the bass player.” I go, “so we should get Roach too,” and when I talked to Roach, he said that Emory was clean, the guitar player. So, then I said, “Fuck! Let’s do it!” We all three got together and did it.
DS: That’s dope. That’s super positive, too, man. So, that’s like a positive, you know what I mean?
DS: The first time I heard of your band, I was fifteen years old, backstage at a DIY venue show, on a Wednesday night in Dallas, TX, and the touring act (they were like Real Big Fish’s cousins or some shit like that) noticed that we were punks. So, they asked if we’d heard of TSOL… sticking straws up their nose and bleeding all over the audience. I don’t know how…
Jack: Never did that! You know who stuck a straw up his nose was the guy from Wasted Youth. I’m not sticking anything up my nose other than fucking… you know, we never did anything like that. Did I get cut? Did I get hurt when we were playing? Yeah, but it was never purposeful. It wasn’t like, “oh, I’m gonna do this and then try to put on a spectacle for you.” It was like, “no, I’m playing music,” and then I just fell and fucking split my hand open on an open bottle, and shot blood all over the place, but it wasn’t because I’m trying to do a, you know, early G.G. Allin thing. No, you just got injured during the festivities, but it was never purposeful. It was never like, well, I mean, I cut myself, but I was a kid playing with a razor blade. It wasn’t like, you know, kids do that. They doodle on themselves with razor blades when they’re kids. Some kids.
DS: I was one of them.
Jack: Yeah, some kids enjoy that.
DS: On your Wikipedia page, it mentions that you’re a raconteur, you know, instead of calling you a novelist. You know, I know you don’t control your Wikipedia page but it was just something that I saw. A story-teller. I know you’ve got more stories then most. So, would you mind starting the interview off with one or two of your favorites that kind of stick out? Just kind of a “getting to know you” sort of thing.
Jack: It’s funny that you brought that up, because I just had an actual moral dilemma over that. I’m a non-violent pacifist these days, and real… I don’t take pride in damage I did to people. So, I got stuck the other day in a story thing where I had to stop and say, “Hey, I’m not this guy, and I’m not going to participate in this.” You know, and I had to walk away from it. So, most of the stories – it’s like, I did a lot of fucked up stuff, but in the beginning I did it because of how I was raised. Then, later on, a lot of the stuff I did, I just did because I wasn’t thinking, man. You know, like, I got arrested for impersonating an officer once. Just fucking just not thinking. “Dave, this is a great idea! I’m in on this.” Just whatever. So, I tend to stay away from stories where other people got harmed, because I realize that, yeah, we think it’s a great story, but let’s call them. Do the victims think it’s a great story. Do these guys think its funny? You know, and a lot of them didn’t think it was funny. You know? They don’t think that the stories are funny, man. It’s a little rough. I wrote about my life in American Demon, the first book I wrote, and people were bummed on me for it. It’s like, look, I’m not taking pride in it. I’m telling you this is how I acted. This is where I came from. This is what was going on when I was sixteen, seventeen, fucking six, seven, you know, when I was first learning how to build bombs and do this shit. Its not about pride. It’s a matter of this is this. This is what it was. If that makes any sense? To no longer want to hurt people. So, my whole goal now is to make recompense for what I’ve done to people, and not do anymore damage. I’ll hear a lot of these guys, like Biafra giving his talks. I’ll hear Rollins giving his talks, and it’s all about, “this guy, this guy, this guy, this guy”, and it’s just like wait a minute. We’re all great about pointing our fingers at other people, but let’s take that mirror and point it back. Let’s look at yourself. Let’s see what you’re doing and the way you’re acting. I want to see yourself the target, and let’s see what that looks like. See? A lot of these guys are willing to make the target this politician, and this, this, this, this, this, but they don’t look back on themselves and say, “Where have I exhibited greed. Where have I been fucking egotistical? Where have I been this?” It’s like, let’s look at that. Let’s change the target, here, if you want any real change. You know, if you want to really enact change in this country, it’s not about putting the glass on somebody else, it’s about putting it back on ourselves. It’s what it comes down to, and a lot of those guys, they’re just not fucking willing to do it, as far as I’m concerned.
DS: You take the ego out of things, then?
Jack: Yeah, which… A solid sense of self, there’s nothing wrong with that? You know what I mean? It’s realizing, “Hey, hang on a minute, man. Let’s just get real for a second.” Everyone is so quick to talk about all this shit that they’re gonna’ do, and what this guy’s doing, and what this guy’s doing, and then when you really put on them, “well, what are you really doing?” Nothing. You’re not doing nothing, but just bitching because it sells, and people dig it. People will come out and here you talk about fucking tearing apart somebody. You know, it’s like, tear apart yourself. Show us that. Show us the dark side of your character, so we can reflect and see the dark side of our own, so that we can reflect and start working there, and then we can move on from that.
DS: I’m down with that. True Sounds of Liberty is a name that you’ve literally battled for, legally, and you won. Of course, the general public prefers to see the original members carry-on. What does T.S.O.L. stand for to you, and what do you expect it to mean to the fans?
Jack: Well, what’s funny is, it wasn’t even our name in the first place. We stole it from a church show. There’s actually (if you look it up) “The Sounds of Liberty” church band. It’s a religious band called The Sounds of Liberty, and our buddy goes, “Nah, you’re the True Sounds of Liberty.” So, that’s where the name even came from, but to me it’s always been about that name, about what supposedly we stand for are these real hardcore libertarian, socialist ideals, but not socialism, how people think socialism. It’s like, how do you explain this? I don’t believe in feeding the bears. I don’t believe in giving things away for free. I believe in supporting a person to work for themselves, because they get pride in themselves. If you give somebody something for free, then they become a slave. It becomes servitude and it becomes fucking resentment and servitude because now everything depends on your hand giving them something. You know? But to support people… basically, if they are willing to climb then you’re willing to push. So, the band to me has always been about equality and fucking freedom and individuality and listening to an opposing viewpoint even though I may detest that viewpoint with all my heart, but to still listen and see where somebody else is coming from, even though I may detest it with all my heart, that they have the right to speak. However, on the other side of that, to not tolerate when somebody takes an idea and maybe turns it into a physical fucking thing, to fight against that. If it goes against oppression or that kind of thing, you know, and to fight hatred without being hateful, which is fucking to not become what we detest, which is… whatever. So, with that, that’s what that band has always meant to me. When they later on went into the metal years, they did not believe in any of that.
DS: We’re just not gonna talk about the metal years.
Jack: I don’t care. They can look it up all they want. You know, at the time they were more concerned with how their leather pants fit. Anyway, but whatever.
DS: Ok. There is one thing I wanted to mention. Again, on the Wikipedia page, it mentions, very strangely, I think, that one of the members of Guns and Roses wears a T.S.O.L. shirt in one of their videos. So, I was thinking that that is kind of a silly thing to put on a band’s Wikipedia page, but after that I was like, “Well, you know what? T.S.O.L. is one of those classic punk rock names, and punk rock is an underground genre, it’s not like a mainstream thing” … I mean, it’s kind of mainstream.
DS: But at the same time, it’s something you can see and it’s there.
Jack: Well, in a certain very, very, very small subculture there are people that look at liking us as credibility. Like, “Oh, I saw T.S.O.L. Oh, I’m wearing a T.S.O.L. shirt. You’re wearing Misfits and Black Flag, but I’m wearing this. Do you know what this is?” You know what I mean? So, it was really funny when people started fact-checking articles, because they didn’t used to fact-check shit. So, Rolling Stone or somebody would be doing an article with some band, and the band would say, “We grew up on T.S.O.L. I used to tour with them, or whatever. Well, then the guys from Rolling Stone would call or write me and say, “Hey, this guy in this band says he used to do this. Did he?” You know, and they’d fact-check it. So, wearing that shirt, it’s almost like when the old rocker guys wore Bad Company T-shirts. Bad Company wasn’t really big and popular, but the bands dug them. You know what I mean, that kind of thing. Whatever. If I sound like an asshole, I’m an asshole, but I’m trying not to sound too egotistical about it, but on some of those things, it’s kind of a… you know, the bass player in the Goo Goo Dolls was wearing a T.S.O.L shirt in one of their videos. I think it’s Pretty in Pink, you see T.S.O.L. posters on the wall.
DS: It gives them an edge, I guess. You don’t approve of that kind of publicity?
Jack: I don’t disapprove of it.
DS: So, from a business point of view. In the business of being in a band, what do you think of those kinds of relationships that develop?
Jack: Well, my trouble is I refuse to kiss ass. Meaning… fuck. I hate to talk about myself, and I always want to kick my own ass when I read this shit, but it’s like… So, I’m not gonna be nice to you just because you can help me. You know what I mean? If you ask me, I’m gonna tell you the truth, you know? I’m gonna say, “Hey, no, I don’t really dig what you do, and I don’t really like your band, and I think you’re fucked,” to those guys, “but yeah, if you want to take us on tour, cool.” So, it doesn’t really help us a lot. You know what I’m saying? I’m not gonna go there and fluff some guys fucking balls because I want something from them. You know? They are very clear about where I stand. So, we don’t get a lot of help because of that. Well, maybe we don’t get a lot of help because the band sucks, but a lot of it is I’m gonna bust their balls. I just busted somebody’s balls about a big show they wanted us on, and I said, “Well, what good does it do us to be on that show? That’s our hometown. What good does it do us?” It doesn’t do us any good to be fucking bottom rung and play thirty minutes. You know, I’d rather do a full show, have 300 of my friends on the fucking guest list and play at a bar. You know, but then they offered us a whole bunch of money and said, “Come on, Jack. Quit being a dick. Will you play?” I was like, “Oh yeah, sure. Great.”
DS: I think I know which show you’re talking about…
Jack: But… but, also, the promoter of that show was a great guy! So, there’s a difference, too. I really like some of these promoters, but at least they know that they’re going to get the truth, or at least as much as I’m willing to tell it that day.
DS: Could you talk about your side projects, briefly? How is everything going on that front? You are very active. Is having all those outlets for creative release really necessary?
Jack: Yeah. Well, I just like making music, you know? So, I like making all kinds of music. Somebody just sent me a couple of tracks they want me to sing on, and they are like really hard tracks. Then I just did a song with Myron McKinley, who is the musical director of Earth, Wind, and Fire. So, they said, “Hey, do you want to’ do this?” You know? I just like doing it. So, going back to punk rock, it’s like, “Hey, you can do this. You can do this. You can do this. Hey, we’ve got a jazz quartet. You want to’ do a song with us?” “Fuck, that sounds fun. I’m in!” “Hey, we’ve got a total fucking hardcore band. You want to’ come sing backgrounds on the record?” “Yeah! Fucking great!” It all depends on the guys. I’ve ran into bands that are so far away, sound-wise, from punk rock, but they carry such an unbelievable punk rock idealism that it’s like, “How can you not like them?” Like Sponge. Do you know that band Sponge? Sixteen Candles. They had that song that was like an old 80’s radio song, right? In one of my side projects, we went on tour with them, right? Those fucking guys wouldn’t open the doors until we had a soundcheck, until we were taken care of. They’d say, “Do you guys need anything? Can we give you the deli trays they give us? How can we take care of you?” It’s like they treated us, as an opening band, better than so many of these big punk bands treat us when we open for them. It’s like, “Wait a minute, man. Who’s supposedly the punk?” So, I do a lot of stuff. I just did a project with Frank Agnew, from The Adolescents, and it’s really mellow. We did a song that we are using to bring awareness to an issue. I’m constantly working. I have to work. It’s like the crazies in the mental hospital, when they’d have them making baskets, or making blankets, or something. You’ve gotta’ put these fuckers to work, man. They’ll just sit there going nuts. For me, it’s like, I’ve got to’ be working or else I go nuts… Like a boil. It needs to be lanced.
DS: I didn’t know this, but you are actually twenty-six years sober…
Jack: Well, actually, I’m twenty-nine years sober, now. I’ll be thirty years sober in January.
DS: Thirty years sober. Congratulations, first and foremost.
Jack: But it’s a personal choice. I don’t give a fuck what anybody else does. You know what I mean? That’s different then somebody saying, “Oh, you’re straight-edge!” No, I’m not straight-edge. I don’t care what you do. It’s not my business to do what you do, or worry about what you do, unless you come to me and say, “Hey Jack, can you help me?” Now, it’s my business. “Hey Jack, I wonder about this. You’re sober. Why are you sober?” Now, it’s my business, but its not my business to tell someone, “Don’t do something that I used to thoroughly enjoy.” That’s crazy.
DS: A lot of us, and our readers struggle with our own insecurities and dependencies. So, you know, how did that come about for you, and what keeps you sober?
Jack: Well, my life was a mess, and I didn’t understand what the problem was. I was just like, there’s this thing where they talk about being bewildered, in terror, frustration, and despair, and that’s basically where I was. I didn’t understand what was going on. I basically was so fucking selfish and so fucking self-centered that I alienated the whole world, and completely damaged. I would slit my own wrist, or slit my own throat before you got a chance to. You know, just craziness. It was like constant strife with everyone, and its like, “What is fucking going on?” On top of that, I’m fucking drinking, and eating pills, and taking mushrooms, and doing blow, and smoking coke. You know, whatever the fuck I’m doing? I’m doing all this shit, and it’s like, “Hey, there’s a problem here, but we can’t even get to the psychological part of the problem until you get your head clear for a few days. Let’s get all the chemicals out of ya’, and let’s find out what the fuck’s wrong. What turned out to be wrong was the unbelievable amount of selfishness and self-centeredness to the point I almost mimicked being a sociopath, because you would cease to exist unless you served me in some fashion.
DS: What keeps you sober?
Jack: The realization of that. The gratitude of waking up and seeing that life’s good. This is good. You know? This is not a negative. I don’t base my self-worth on stuff anymore. I don’t base my self-worth on whether I’ve got a record coming out, or whether I’ve got a show coming out, or any of that bullshit. So, that’s what keeps me clean.
DS: How has being a punk rock dad affected your life?
Jack: Well, I’ve got two great kids. My kids, now, don’t… they’re out of control. My oldest daughter now is 31. Her first tattoo, at 16 years old, was from ass to neck, shoulder to shoulder. You know? A big cross she got on her back, so, it’s like, these kids aren’t fucking around. They were raised with a dad that’s a hardcore libertarian, but the cool thing was that they also got raised with a dad, at the time, that was sober, that taught them a lot of love, and caring, and understanding, and listening to their problems, and being there for them, and being a part in their life. I’m not a sperm donor, I’m a fucking dad. There’s a big difference, man. So, my kids have actually turned out to be hardcore individualists, and I’ve got two daughters that are both hard-hitting chicks. They’re both hard-hitting humans. “Chicks” has got nothing to do with it, but my oldest daughter is an officer on an oil tanker, so these are strong, independent, powerful women who are also kind, understanding, and helpful to people. So, it’s actually pretty bitchin’, and they hang out with me. They like hanging out with me, and their friends hang out with me, and sometimes my oldest daughter will take her friends on tour with us, and go along. I’m getting ready to do a trip down the west coast with my daughter. So, it’s like, I wasn’t one to hang out with my parents at that age, you know? So, it’s pretty cool.
DS: Sounds like a dream.
Jack: But, also, I showed up to volunteer at my daughter’s school one day, and I walked in, and the lady goes, “What are you doing?” I go, “I’m here to help out.” She goes, “Get out of here!” I go, “I’m here to help.” She goes, “Get out of here, man! Get out of here!” I go, “Well, I’m here to help.” She goes, “HEY!” and she’s pointing to my shirt, and I look down, and I’m wearing a shirt that says “Fuck the police”, and I’m there to volunteer at my fourth-grade daughter’s class. It’s like, “probably not, man. Do you realize what you’re wearing, guy?” Which I didn’t, you know? Ok. So, I’ll give you a story. You wanted a story. I’ll give you a story. So, I got my two kids in the car. I’ve got my youngest daughter, and my oldest daughter in the car. Now my oldest daughter at the time is 14 years old, skinhead, vegan, fucking anarchy punk. She’s got her anarchy patch on her jacket, and we’re going down the street. I’ve got to’ get home, you know, my ex-wife is busting my balls, and the cops get me for speeding, right? So, I just decide I’m not gonna’ pull over, because it’s only a couple miles to the house. He can just fucking wait as far as I’m concerned. So, my kid looks at me and she’s got her shaved head and all this shit, right? She looks at me and goes, “Hey dad, the cops are behind us.” I go, “Yeah, fuck ‘em,” and my kid looked at me and she realized that the cloth “A” on her shoulder was just cloth, and her father was made of the real thing. There were some situations. So, I got them home. I got into it with a cop, because he’s fucking, “Egh! Egh! Egh!” at me, and the siren, the whole thing, right? So, I get my kids in the house. Blah, Blah, Blah, great, alright. So, midway through it, I finish with this guy. Luckily, he didn’t arrest me for resisting – is what he should have done, right? He wrote me up for everything he could possibly write me up for, and my parting remark was, “You know what I’m gonna’ do with this ticket? I’m gonna’ go in and wipe my ass with it.” Just a fucking dick, right, but I realize when I get in the house that I’m being a fucking asshole, and that this guy didn’t deserve it. Now the police, if you look back, the police were supposed to be our militia against the government. They were supposed to work for us. They were supposed to work for the citizens against the government. That was our militia, supposedly, right? So, things got changed around a little bit. So, a couple weeks later, I’m walking down the street, and I realize that I’m gonna’ have to go back and contact this man, and clean up my part of the shit. So, I saw him, and I walk up to him, and he sees me, and gets off his motorcycle. He covers up his revolver with one hand and puts his other hand up and says, “Alright, stop! Stop!” because he thinks I’m coming in for round 2, right? I walk up to him and say, “Hey, I’m sorry for the way that I treated you. You didn’t deserve what I did to you. You’re out here doing your job. You’re patrolling the streets. You’re trying to bring a measure of safety here, and you don’t need some asshole like me coming up and fucking up your day because I think I’m more important, and I’ve got something to do. I just want to’ say that I’m sorry for the way that I treated you, and I hope you can forgive my actions.” I started to walk away and he goes, “Whoa, whoa! Hang on,” and he takes his glasses off and he’s got tears in his eyes, and he says, “That is the first time in 20 years that someone has ever apologized to me.” So, showing my kid basically both sides of that. I was wrong against this individual, and I’ve got to’ clean that up. These are the lessons that I’ve shown my kids, and taught my kids, if that makes any sense.
DS: Would you mind telling us a bit about hypnotherapy?
Jack: Yeah, I’m a master hypnotist, master neurolinguistic programmer. Basically, it’s just… it’s words. It’s the study of the mind, and words. You know, it’s funny because people go, “I can’t be hypnotized.” Well, you’re hypnotized all the time. People spend their time in states of trance constantly. All hypnosis is, is just a state of relaxation to help people solve their own problems, if that makes any sense.
DS: Like meditation?
Jack: It’s a little different than that. It’s like, to get people to release the problem sometimes, we’ll get in a situation and we’ll hang on to the problem, and we won’t let go of it. Our mind is like an anaconda, and we can wrap our way around a problem and not let go. It’s a way to let people free their minds, but the funny thing is, I don’t practice because people google me, and who really wants me to put them under? You know what I’m saying? Or they come with something else, they have a crazy notion of what they think’s gonna’ go on.
DS: What do you think of substance therapy? Psilocybin has been FDA approved to treat depression, and a lot of people take ayanauasca, or DMT. Would you incorporate that?
Jack: I don’t do it for myself, but I’m not against it in any way. From what I’ve read, psilocybin for depression and anxiety, PTSD… It seems to have some positive effects. You know when I was out there, it was one of my favorites. You know? It’s funny because I’ve actually had therapists say before, “You had properly diagnosed yourself, and you were medicating properly.”
DS: You’re touring now with my buds in Noogy.
Jack: Love ‘em! Great band, man. It’s funny because they didn’t think I was listening to them, and then we were talking today and I was naming songs that they did, and I don’t think they thought I was paying attention. I thought they were great, really fun, man.
DS: That’s rad. I know you probably didn’t put it together, but it seems like when you take a smaller band on the road with you, you are definitely giving back to the scene. Do you see that, kind of, give-and-take relationship within the scene with other punk bands?
Jack: Well, I don’t know. I think they were a little shocked because we gave them some money the other day. We split some money with them, and they were like, “Why are you giving us this?” It’s like, “What do you mean, ‘Why are we giving you this?’ ‘Because they gave us some money and we’re giving you half of it.” You know, and it wasn’t a large amount of money, but it was a chunk of money where it’s like, “Hey, get food. Get some gas in the car.” We don’t make a lot of money doing what we’re doing. We’re playing little clubs and shit, but we’re using their gear. So, they’re bringing the gear, and coming with us, and we share equipment with them, you know? And it works good. They seem to be having a good time.
DS: Yeah, they are. They told me so. How’s tour treating you?
Jack: It’s alright. I don’t like it as much, man. You know, we were joking because I was just talking to a friend on the phone… doesn’t matter who I was talking to, but someone in a completely different genre that does their thing, and they go, “You’re not 30 anymore.” “Yeah, I’m not 40 or 50 anymore either, man.” I’m 57. I’ve been doing this, like you said, for 40 years, man. I can’t do it like I used to do it. We play every night. I don’t sleep. We drive all day. You know, and it really just fries me. I’m fried.
DS: Can you give me a day-to-day of your time on the road?
Jack: Well, I’m up really early. So, today, I woke up early. I walked around. I went and tried to find a coffee shop, and then I do on Sundays…. It’s not Sunday because it’s a holy day, it’s just Sunday because it’s a good day because people are home. I do a live, kind of, spiritual, (I guess you’d call it spiritual) not religious post every Sunday morning. So, I went and did my post this morning, got up, drove six hours, came here. I went to a group for people that don’t drink or use drugs, came back to do an interview with you. Go over there. I’m gonna’ put my jacket on. Put my shoes on. Go on stage. Go drive to wherever we’re staying tonight. Stay up. Maybe fall asleep for two hours. Wake up all night, sitting around, and then go get on a plane and go home. I don’t sleep very much, maybe two to four hours a night.
DS: So, are you double-booked as a drug counselor?
Jack: No, not really. It’s just for free. You do it for free.
DS: No, I didn’t mean that. I just meant…
Jack: Yeah, I went to a morning meeting just to talk to people about how do ya’… It’s not about not drinking and not getting high. It’s about how to live when you’re not drinking and getting high. How to live with people. How do ya’ let go of stress, and look at your family, your friends, your job, you know? The world around you? I share my weaknesses and the strengths. A lot of these guys, all they share is strength, strength, strength, or supposed strength. It’s like, “Well, wait a minute, dude. We know you’re not always strong. We can’t live up to your ideals. Give me when you’re weak. Give me when you’re selfish. Give me when you’re fucking lustful. Tell me this, so I know that I got a fucking partner in this, that I’ve got somebody that’s like me, and we’re walking together, not somebody that’s so far above me that I can’t touch. There was a great – like I said, I’m non-religious – but there was this great thing that this reverend wrote, and it’s called I Stand By The Door, and he says, “Let those other guys get too holy. Let them go so far inside the spiritual kingdom that they become worthless to anyone. I’d rather just stand by the door. I’m not that good.” He goes, “I’m gonna stand here by the door and help people get wherever their going instead of being so fucking holy that I’m just no good to you.”
DS: I’ve heard that before… T.S.O.L. released The Trigger Complex in 2017. I’ve listened to it and have definitely found some favorites. It seems mature, and thought-out, less raw instinctual frustration than in the “Code Blue” days, but not like overly-poetic or anything. It still maintains kind of an animalistic quality to it. So, I’d just like to know what were some of your influences on this album? If you can speak for your band members as well, but definitely, at least your lyrical influences.
Jack: Well, a lot of its like learning how to write, like really looking at what I was doing. Before, I would do stuff, but I never thought about it. Grant from Husker Du gave me my very first rhyming dictionary. I still have it. Grant gave it to me.
DS: Could have used that on the first one, huh? lolol
Jack: Yeah, where I’m really starting to look at stuff and saying, instead of saying, like a simple phrase or rhyme, what could you do. You could move this. You could do this. You could really look at the words. So as someone that writes more now, I look at things differently. I look at lyrics differently – content, and what I’m doing, you know? So, like Carver, I read Carver. I read a lot of these people and just looking at that lyrically, you know, but then it’s still fucking rock and roll. Sometimes you’re just throwing a fucking word in because what else are you gonna’ stick there? How does anything else work, man, and not taking yourself so seriously, and still having fun with it. Melodies and whatever. So much. If you look at The Trigger Complex, you’ll hear a lot of early Generation X, a lot of Stiff Little Fingers, The Stranglers, The Damned. If you look at The Trigger Complex, it’s really like a roots record for us.
DS: It sounds like a 70’s album.
Jack: Yeah, which is what we grew up on. That’s a roots record. I love these guys and they say, “We’re making a roots record, and it all sounds like Johnny Cash.” It’s like, wait a minute, Johnny Cash wasn’t my roots. The Damned and Sham was my roots, and fucking, you know, Frank Zappa, and The Beatles, and The Rolling Stones. I wasn’t a country guy.
DS: What drove you to write some of the songs? We’ve been talking about the good and the bad the whole time. It seems like there’s kind of a theme, a lot of romance, a lot of romantic encounters that had good and bad situation, you know?
Jack: Yeah, cause that’s my… my difficulty is a lasting relationship with a woman. I’ve been married three times, man. You know? It’s like, “Fuck!” So, for me, that’s the easiest thing to write, and people go, “Well, why aren’t you writing political stuff anymore?” Fuck, I don’t know. Once you say, “Abolish government” where are you gonna’ go after that? I’ve already said it. You know, what are you gonna say? Abolish Government. We’re done. I still believe the same fucking thing, man. It’s like, I’m still for liberty. I’m still for equality. I said it. We still play those songs. They hold as true today as they did in 1981 when it first came out. It’s like so ok, I said it. Now, I’m gonna’ fuck with this. This is what I’m dealing with right now. I’m gonna deal with my relationship with you, and people around me. That’s the problem.
DS: In a recent interview with L.A. Weekly, you call yourself a “Tiger who masquerades as civilized.” What do you mean by that?
Jack: Well, the thought that any of us are ever above animal is ridiculous. You know, we’re not that far out of the jungle to think that we’re lifted to this lofty area. It only takes a few moments to get somebody’s back up against a wall to watch them go back into fucking animal. Hey, I make no bones about the fact that I’m a cowardly, vicious animal underneath this, and I try to live above that. Even Hemmingway says it, “The man that battles with self”. It’s not with fucking these people. With self. This is what the battle is. So, yeah, I masquerade as civilized, but how close are any of us away from that? You’ve seen mob rule. You’ve seen things happen. I’ve seen as much as anybody, being in riots and situations where people are afraid you know? Where their basic values have been challenged. You watch how this intellectualism deteriorates into basic fucking animal survival.
DS: I’ve been reading your first book, American Demon. It’s intense and twisted, and I love it. I don’t want to be too judgmental. You’ve obviously come to atonement with certain things. My favorite part though, is when you blow up a manhole.
Jack: Yeah, that works.
DS: So that actually happened?
Jack: Yeah, that happened. It really works. That’s a cannon.
DS: Could you tell us about it, for those who haven’t read the book? How did that happen?
Jack: Ok so basically, what we would do is we would pour gas down the holes of manhole covers, and then you light it, and then when it expands and blows, it blows the manhole cover off. You know? It’s fucking badass. So, there was this one that really smelled really bad by the high school that always had this weird methane, real fucking smell to it. So, at the time, I wasn’t a punk. I was a hippy, surfer kid, man. You know? I’ve always acted like this. I didn’t just hear punk rock and get like this. This started a long time ago. So, we took the gas, and poured a bunch of gas all over and down this hole, all over the place and all over the street. I tried to light it with a cigarette, but that doesn’t work. All that bullshit, that doesn’t work. You’ve got to actually get down in it and put a match to it. So, it’s gonna’ fuckin’ go. I always laugh when I see these guys throw cigarettes in gas. Normally the smoke will go out. It doesn’t do it.
DS: They did that on MythBusters.
Jack: Oh, they did? Ah good. So, when was that? It was after the story came out, guaranteed. Anyway, I got down and lit it and the next thing I know, I’m engulfed in flames, and the whole fucking street went. It was unbelievable. It was like, I went down. I’m rolling on the ground. My hair is burnt. My eyelashes are gone. You know? It’s like fucking luckily not scarred, and just smoldering Jack. It was fucked up. The whole fucking street went, and I went and got down in the ditch and got wet in the ditch, you know? It was fucked up. It was me and my buddy Craig. So, it was two long-haired surfer kids just causing trouble, just being fucked, but it’s a legitimate story.
DS: That’s great to hear. Do you endorse that kind of behavior?… Having fun, Jack?
Jack: Whatever, man. You know what I’m saying. I mean, you know. I used to tell my kids, “I don’t give a fuck what you do, but you gotta’ clean it up.” You know what I’m saying? So, whatever you’re doing, you’ve gotta’ clean it up. So, if you damaged something, you’re paying for it. If you fuck somebody around, you’re atoning. So, have at it, man. I’m not gonna bust your balls about causing shit, but you know?
DS: What about bashing on homophobes?
Jack: Yeah, well, we did it when we were kids. You know what I’m saying? I don’t endorse violence of any kind. How’s that? I don’t endorse violence of any kind, although, I tell my kids that, and this is fucked for me to even say this, but there is a thing that I used to tell my kids was “free game”. So, I said, “Look, if you ever see somebody bullying someone else, somebody attacking somebody else, someone being physical with somebody else, then you have my permission to do whatever needs to be done to stop it, and I have your back 100%. It’s called, “Free game.” You know? Because I teach my kids to stand up for those that maybe can’t stand up for themselves, if that makes sense, but I’m against violence completely. I’m sure this is gonna’ come back to haunt me somehow, talking about this, but you know?
DS: No. I understand. I’m in a band called The Dolly Llamas, so a lot of the stuff you’re saying actually sounds like something that the Dalai Lama would say. You know what I mean? So, I understand.
Jack: You want to’ hear a funny story about the Dalai Lama? Because I got one!
DS: I’d love to.
Jack: So, I used to give this talk, right? I’d talk about anger, and resentment, and whatever. I’d say, “Look man,” during a live talk, like, a spoken word kind of talk, I’d say, “I bet even the Dalai Lama wakes up some mornings and says, ‘Fuck China.’ I know he does.” There’s no way that as a human being he’s gonna’ do that, and everyone laughs and it’s funny, right? So, I have this guy come up to me. I was in L.A. and I had given this talk and we were laughing. This guy walks up to me wearing a nice suit. His hair is, you know, cut short. Cut tight. Not a skinhead, but you know what I mean? Like, a real tight, shaved head. He’s in a real nice suit. He says, “Hey Jack, can I talk to you?” I say, “Yeah.” He goes, “I work for his holiness. I’m on the L.A. team.” (or whatever the fuck that arranges shit for him.) He goes, “One time I asked him how he was always peaceful.” And he said Dalai Lama looked at him and said, “You’re not with me 24 hours a day,” and he laughed, you know? So, it’s the same thing. He goes, “Jack, you’re totally right.” So, to stop… to not do violence, but to not let harm be brought to someone else, without hatred.
DS: Without ego.
Jack: Right. To stop it without hatred if that makes sense.
DS: I just have one more question. What do you think of the current administration and its impact on local communities? And then what punk rocks place is in that. I want to focus specifically on the effect on local communities.
Jack: Right, but isn’t the current administration a reflection of the local community? You know? That’s the problem. The problem is that this… I’m not a fan. I’m not a fan one bit. I’m not a fan of any fucking part of it, but this is also a reflection of who we are as a society, which is frightening. You know? So, the good thing about this is… there is a good thing about this administration, and the good thing is, it is forcing us to look at ourselves. That is the positive of this. If you want to’ get a positive of that, it’s forcing us to look at ourselves and say, “who are we a country? Who are we as a people? What are we doing?” The frightening thing is, and I know people don’t like it, but we are seeing a lot of the same bigotry, hatred, and violence coming from the left as much as we are coming from the right. You know? And I know, on the left, we can say, “Oh, we’re doing this for a cause, blah, blah, blah.” But like, I’ll said, again, are we stopping this without hatred and no we are not. So, I’m a big fan of civil disobedience. I grew up studying Martin Luther King and Malcom X. They were both heroes of mine, and its two completely different ideas. You know? If you look at Martin, he said, “You can’t fight darkness with darkness.” So how do we resist without fighting, you know? It’s interesting. What are we doing? What’s happening? So, I think what a positive is, is that we are really beginning to look at ourselves, and there are some very nasty times coming, in this realization. This is like the end of an extremely bad relationship that we’re in. Thankfully we’re in the end, but the end gets frightening. You know, the end of an extremely bad relationship is when the car gets keyed, when restraining orders are involved. When fucking… when it’s just nasty, drag-down, ugly, and that’s where we’re heading, in my belief. You know, and at least we’re getting able to see ourselves, and I’ll tell ya’. A lot of people, it’s sad, because Americans don’t travel, and they’re not willing to look outside themselves and see how others think od us. So, I have had the opportunity to travel and see the disappointment in many faces about how we were held in such esteem. Where every kid in the world wanted to be an American kid with these ideals that we had never lived up to. You know?
DS: Self-reflection, and expression.
Jack: Not a fan. In a way, it’s sad. In another way, I’ll go to Malcolm X, when he said, “I’m just an old country boy, and the chickens have come home to roost.” When Kennedy was shot. It’s the same thing. Hey America! Your chickens have now come home to roost. You put it out, now look what you’re getting, and we all got it. I better go put my pants on and sing about fucking dead people now.
DS: Thank you.