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ALL THIS AND MORE - CHEETAH CHROME INTERVIEW BY ASH CORNER

Photo: Cheetah by Arthur Siegel
 
Cheetah Chrome is renown for being the American guitarist who achieved notoriety in the New York-based punk rock band the Dead Boys. He was one of the first American punk rock guitar heroes of the 70’s. Generating his own unique place in the underground music scene, helping to launch the punk explosion at CBGB’S. Cheetah's also played in Rocket From The Tombs in the early 70’s, until 1975. The band reformed between 2003 - 2006 and went on the road touring again. Cheetah is still a force to be reckoned with in the music business, playing with a variety of musicians and occasionally as a solo artist. He’s been around the block a bit, a true rock ‘n’roll survivor, still walking the walk, and talking the talk. He now lives in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife and son. On Jan 17th, he performed in NYC at a Continental Reunion with Special Guests The Blackhearts, also on the bill: CJ Ramone, Lenny Kaye, Bebe Buell, Sea Monster, The Waldos, Trigger’s All stars, The Bullys, Two Man Advantage, Drag Citizen, Heap, Charm School.

CHEETAH CHROME AND THE BLACKHEARTS - MAY 2009

At Mudkiss we like to offer the opportunity for others to be creative, therefore I invited someone I knew to be a big Dead Boys aficionado to interview Cheetah Chrome on behalf of Mudkiss.

ASH: I’m not a journalist but a fan and a member of a punk, rock n’ roll band called The Adjusters. I’m greatly influenced by The Dead boys. Can I start by asking how you feel about the current state of mainstream music?

CHEETAH: If by mainstream you mean crap like the Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus, it’s gotten so bad that I get pissed off if I hear it. If you mean stuff like Nickleback and U2, I only get pissed off every couple of songs. Indy music on the other hand is in a better place than I’ve ever seen it, a lot of very good music coming out.

ASH: What do you think about there being fewer and fewer major labels now?

CHEETAH: I think it’s great – very cool to see karma, kick ‘em in the nuts. Couldn’t happen to a nicer bunch of bean counting sleazeballs. There were some very nice individuals and some of them that I hate to see get hurt, but as a whole good riddance.

Photo: Debbie Harry & Cheetah by Dawnie Rotten 01/04/88

ASH: What’s your opinion on the new generation of punk/rock n roll bands that are influenced by The Dead Boys and your guitar playing? Do you have any advice for those kind of bands?

CHEETAH: Yea – get in a Led Zeppelin tribute band, that’s where the money is! No, the best piece of advice I could give would be to stay away from drugs. Save yourself years of self inflicted frustration and pain; nothing really good happens for you when you’re using. Sometimes I feel like my life didn’t really start until I quit using.

ASH: How do you feel about the radio being bought by fewer corporations giving new and underground bands a harder chance to break out? 

CHEETAH: Well, there’s the internet, and it’s only really beginning. Since the public’s taste for shit has no boundaries, there will always be crap radio. The majority of people, your average punter, have no idea what good music is, he just wants to fit in.

ASH: So, let’s go back to 1977, Electric lady, New York City how did it feel to start recording on ‘Young Loud and Snotty? Did you feel you reached all your expectations and most importantly did you have a good time doing it?

CHEETAH: At the time we didn’t really appreciate it, we thought we could have done better; that was only supposed to be a demo. I liked it then, I thought Genya did a great job, but I thought we could do better. Listening to it now, it’s really stood up, and I’m glad it went out the way it was. We couldn’t have done it better. Recording that record was one of best times I’ve ever had.

DEAD BOYS LIVE VIDEO

ASH: A year later and ‘We have come for your children was your second studio album for Sire records (great album may I add), was it the same kind of vibe going into the studio for the second time and if not what was different?

CHEETAH: It was nothing like it. It was tense, I hated the producer, and it sounded like shit. It’s a shame because we had good songs, it could have been great. One of the worst times I’ve ever had.

ASH:Ain’t it fun’ is one of my personal favourites from that album and was originally a Rocket From The Tombs song which you co-wrote with Peter Laughner (guitar, vocals). What was the main influence when you wrote that song and what do you think of some of the later covers, such as Guns N’ Roses version on the 'Spaghetti Incident’?

CHEETAH: Main influence would have to be drugs and alcohol….! Maybe the Stooges, Alice Cooper.  I liked the Guns version a lot; I was flattered that they stayed so close to the original.

ASH: I’ve read in various books such as Please Kill Me’ that back in The Dead Boys days you guys where pretty wild. Can you give us any of your craziest tales you live to tell?

CHEETAH: Well, I have my memoirs coming out in September and promised the publishers they’d get all the juicy stories. You’ll have to read the book. “Please Kill Me” it wasn’t too far off the mark.

ASH: In 2003 you reformed Rocket From The Tombs, bringing some new members into the mix. What was it like playing some of the older material which you wrote before The Dead Boys days?

CHEETAH: It’s great, I love those songs. Rocket from the Tombs has always been like my first love, it was my first real band. It’s nice to have Richard Lloyd on board to bring a new aspect to it, it makes all of the songs new again. I got to switch parts on ‘30 Seconds Over Tokyo, and ‘So Cold’, playing Peter’s parts, and so it’s all fresh. We have a new single coming out next month, and writing and recording with those guys is still a wonderful experience.

ASH: I’ve recently watched The Dead Boys reunion DVD. What was it like getting back together for those shows, and was there any bad vibes in the band after all this time apart?

CHEETAH: Not really any bad vibes, I don’t think we’d really wanted to break up in the first place; but we were getting pressure from all sides, our management, the record company, and our fans and we imploded.

The reunions were always fun, like holidays with the family: it starts off great, everyone’s glad to see each other, and then after the main course you get drunk and go at each other!

Photo: Cheetah by Dina Regine

ASH: And finally I spoke to my friend Joey Boy (vocals for Boston band Red Invasion) recently about the time he got to sing ‘Sonic Reducer’ with you and ‘Unnatural Axe’, he mentioned that you were a very respectful and cool guy allowing him to sing and that you were as approachable as you always seemed to be. How do you feel about younger guys wanting to get up there and be somewhat a part of what you do?

CHEETAH: Ahhh, Joey Boy! He did a great job, I enjoyed it a lot. I love it when someone gets up and has a go, as long as they have the chops, don’t tear up my stage. Sometimes they get up and leave your mic on the floor behind the drums or something, I don’t like having to stop the show to go looking for things. As long as you’re respectful, and leave things where you found them, I’m good with it. That only stands for solo shows, though – with Rocket or the Batusis, it’s not only my decision, and you’re liable to piss someone off. I for one don’t recommend pissing David Thomas off!

LEARN GUITAR WITH CHEETAH

ASH: Until now I haven’t had the opportunity to interview anyone let alone someone I look up to, so I’d like to thank Mel from Mudkiss and of course Cheetah Chrome for taking the time to out do this, much appreciated. Many thanks Ash (The Adjusters).

Watch out for Cheetah Chromes autobiography 'A Dead Boys Tale From The Frontline Of Punk Rock' on Amazon – order it now.

A DEAD BOYS TALE FROM THE FRONTLINE OF PUNK ROCK

www.myspace.com/cheetahfchrome
www.cheetahchrome.net

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Dead_Boys

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cheetah_Chrome

www.myspace.com/batusis

Interview by Ash Corner 26/01/10
Edited by Mel
Photos: Dina Regine/Arthur Siegel/Don Pyle 1977/Dawnie Rotten