Interview: Jerry A. Lang
I will work with everybody at any time, because I find that everybody has something to offer. Even if it would be noise. You can still find some beauty in that.
As frontman for legendary Portland punks Poison Idea, Jerry A. Lang not only sang on bona fide classic albums like Feel The Darkness, Kings Of Punk and Record Collectors Are Pretentious Assholes, but also raised hell both on and offstage. While the band are no longer active, Jerry A. definitely is and going stronger than ever with both a brilliant new solo album From The Fire Into The Water and a new release with his other band Crime Scene as well as his must read memoir Black Heart Fades Blue. Gavin Brown caught up with Jerry A. to get the lowdown on both of these records as well as hearing about his legacy with Poison Idea.
E&D: You released your debut solo album From The Fire Into The Water late last year. How did the album come together?
Jerry A.: There are lots of recordings. Gathering up some old recordings, I was starting to work on so much stuff. Trying to do some new stuff as well. So I figured out – I might, as well release it all at once, combining everything. So everything would clean up, and when I’d go to my next project, I’d have nothing left to hold me back.
E&D: Can you tell us a bit about how the creation of the album went?
Jerry A.: I think, it’s just human growth. People go forward and start walking upright, and that’s what evolution is. We evolve and we start working upright, growing.
E&D: Have you had plans to make a solo record for a while?
Jerry A.: Sometimes it comes by accident. Sometimes, I have access here at a piano, here at my house, writing new songs. Sometimes you try to figure out playing along to an old song, and something brand new comes from it, that doesn’t sound like anything you’re trying to play. But it does sound good! I think, everything has been written before. I think, everything has been done before. I think, people just need to add their own little spice and make it their own, but basically, I think, everything has been done before. So it’s just presenting this new idea as your own.
E&D: You’ve got songs with Hard Ons, Big Stick, The Random, Soft Kill and loads more on the record. Even with all the different bands on the record, it flows together so well. Was this always the plan when you were making the album rather than just a collection of collaborations?
Jerry A.: Yes, of course! You have to be a pretty selfish person or a pretty ego-maniac not to work with everybody else. I will work with everybody at any time, because I find that everybody has something to offer. Even if it would be noise. You can still find some beauty in that. And if it was a four-chord Ramones-type-of-thing – like I’ve said, it’s all been done before. But all sorts of new things are happening. With my favorite collaborations, I like the newest stuff. I like the Savage Beat, I like Crime Scene. I like the Hard Ones. I think, that’s pure 100% rock-n-roll. And it’s great! I love doing that! I love those guys. It feels good and exhilarating and it’s physical.
E&D: Will you be doing any live shows in support of From The Fire In The Water at all, possibly with guest appearances from the bands you worked with?
Jerry A.: One of my favourite sayings: if you want to hear God laugh – just announce your plans. Because, yeah, something would always happen. I’d love to tour with Crime Scene. I’d love to tour myself, playing a Jerry A. Lang show, playing my music that I’m writing now. I’d love to tour with The Hard Ones. I’m not dead yet. So of course, I’m going to be playing.
E&D: What is the biggest influence on the music you are making at the moment?
Jerry A.: I’ve read once that you’re always listening to the same music, in your adult-life than you’ve been listening to when you were 16 years old. That’s not true. ‘Cause, when I was 16, I was listening to The Ramones and The Sex Pistols. And now, I listen to more psychedelic music…13 Floor Elevators, Syd Barrett, stuff like that. Still listening to Motörhead. But fanzines, lot of Slash magazines, a lot of NMEs, a lot of Search and Destroy, Zig Zag – same thing I read today. The only thing I don’t have on my wall right now, I had when I was 16 probably posters of porno ha ha! I don’t have them on my wall anymore.
E&D: You also have a new EP with Crime Scene called Dark Tidings coming out very soon. Can you tell us about that album?
Jerry A.: Listening to the lyrics – each one is completely different. It goes in your life at a time. The Crime Scene lyrics gave me the the opportunity to write about what this world means. Right now, I’m living on the West Coast of United States. And the thing about punk-rock was – always ask the question ‘Why?’. Why are things like this? Why are things like this? When you get to the bottom of the problem. And in Crime Scene I’m asking ‘Why?’. Why does the government allows it to go on? Why do we allow people to do poisonous fentanyl? There are reasons behind it. It’s not just because of the freedom. To harm other people and poison your society is not freedom. It’s genocide. And there are reasons behind this, why this is happening. While somebody’s making money of this. While somebody has the reason to control these people. It’s always gonna be changing. So with Savage Beat – it’s rock-n-roll, like I said. With Crime Scene, it has a focus and whatever you’re feeling that day.
E&D: Do you feel that Confuse & Conquer was a great record to end the legacy of Poison Idea on?
Jerry A.: To sound completely different – it’s a good thing. You hope you’d keep changing. People need to change. Who wants to do the same thing over and over again? That’s the definition of bother and sanity. You can’t do the same things over and over and over again and hoping for exciting results.
E&D: What were some of the best times you had with Poison Idea and are you proud of the band and what you achieved?
Jerry A.: What is the craziest story? There’s the reason why there are only two people left, who’re still alive from the original lineup, and I’m the one. It was crazy. There was a lot of anger. Insanity. If you want to get the true story – you should read ‘Black Heart Fades Blue’.