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Interview: CJ Ramone

Interview: CJ Ramone

Monday 2nd February, 2015 2:31PM

New York City native Christopher Joseph Ward was lucky enough to live out the fantasy of pretty much every rock 'n' roll fan. In 1989, when seminal punk force the Ramones was looking to replace bassist Dee Dee (who had quit the band to pursue a hip hop career), Ward, who was in the US Marine Corps went along to the audition in the hopes of simply meeting his favourite band. As legend would have it, Johnny Ramone knew Ward was right for the band straightaway because he "had the right look", and so CJ Ramone was born. The young musician brought a breath of fresh air to the group, and played with them until they retired in 1996. However, following the disbandment of the Ramones, CJ went on to other musical projects including solo work that has seen him put out two solo albums Reconquista (2012), and 2014's effort Last Chance To Dance, which bears strong echoes of the classic Ramones sound. UnderTheRadar caught up with CJ for Seven Quick Questions ahead of his Auckland show on Saturday night to find out more...

1. Can you tell us about your audition with for the Ramones back in 1989, you were in the Marines at the time, right?

That is correct, I was. I’d been home on an unauthorised leave when I heard about the audition and went just to meet the band. I got a call back from Monte Melnick and I figured I had left a cord behind or something, but they wanted me to learn a few more songs and come back. It went on for a couple weeks, but I had to return to get my discharge sorted. My first night in military custody I got a phone call from Johnny Ramone. He told me to do my time and when I got out i had a job. I spent a few weeks in custody before i got out. When I did, I spent five weeks learning 40 Ramones songs and did my first show in Leicester, England on September 30, 1989.

2. At your live shows you play a range of songs from across your back catalogue. After all these years do you have a favourite Ramones song to play?

We play songs from my solo records Reconquista and my new one, Last Chance To Dance and a bunch of Ramones fan favorites. If I had to pick one, it would be 'Judy Is A Punk'. There are a few I never got to do with the Ramones that I play now, 'I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend' and 'Baby I Love You', especially.

3. In your new album Last Chance To Dance there some nice sonic parallels with classic Ramones sound. Is that intentional, or is it just inherent in the way you write music?

I grew up listening to them, then played with them for seven years. They’ve influenced me more than any other band. It’s not intentional. I also was influenced by a lot of the music that they were influenced by.

4. Does the title Last Chance To Dance mean that you aren’t planning any more albums, or do you have some projects in the works?

I’ve got a couple more in me, I think. I thought the title fit the photo I picked for the cover. I am working on a book that I hope to finish this year about my life up to and including my time in the Ramones.

4. You are touring with Pete (of Street Dogs), Dan and Steve (both of Adolescents), who are established musicians in their own rights, how did the team-up come about?

I toured with Steve in 22 Jacks on the 98-99 Vans Warped Tour in NZ and Oz. When I was looking for someone to help me get Reconquista recorded, I went to Steve. That turned into him and Dan joining up. Pete did some percussion work for Last Chance To Dance and we recruited him while he is not out with the Street Dogs.

5. After so many years as a working musician and a bunch of different projects under your belt, what advice would you give to young artists trying to get a foothold in the industry?

Forget about the business and forget about money. Find some friends that love to play. Write your own songs, play them like you mean it and enjoy yourself. There’s enough people doing things for money and fame, do it because you love it and you may have a shot at it.

6. What three things do you find vital to going on tour?

Toothbrush, clean underwear, and deodorant.

7. We heard you've got a few chickens… does it amuse you that people like to know as much about your hens as they do your music?

You know, I put up an announcement about a show and get a few hits.. I post about my chickens and I get flooded with responses! Go figure!!!

Watch the video for 'Won't Stop Swinging' from Last Chance To Dance'....

CJ Ramone is playing with PCP Eagles and Fireshark on Saturday 7th February at Kings Arms Tavern in Auckland, head over here for more info and to buy tickets.


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