By Jason Hall
Long Beach, California circa 1978: The earth shook and the punk scene added a monumental band to an evolving southern California soundscape- T.S.O.L. (True Sounds of Liberty). From hardcore to art punk, the band varied styles on each of their albums, but made an impact on rock and roll history with politically charged songs and shows that defined the punk rock scene. Their influence upon Guns and Roses and several other bands earned them the respect and rightful place in music history as well as a spot on this year’s Coachella line up.
T.S.O.L….Man…what can you say about T.S.O.L.? This band has been around forever – well, since 1978 anyway. If you’re a punk fan, you have to know about T.S.O.L. They’ve been pounding our ears with amazing, politically and socially charged music for decades.
This year at Coachella, T.S.O.L. will grace the stage to promote their first album in eight years, Trigger Complex. Bands like T.S.O.L., and Surfbort are acting as a saving grace for some of us this year after a somewhat lackluster lineup.
I was lucky enough to interview Jack, the singer for T.S.O.L. this week. It was the funniest interview I’ve had the privilege of doing. This interview can be at times, hard to follow. Jack and I went on some strange and wonderful tangents. I hope this is as entertaining to you as it was to us…
(Warning: This interview contains strong language and opinions.)
Coachella Valley Weekly: Were you into music growing up?
Jack Grisham: “No, not really. I mean… growing up? I’m old now. What part is growing up? According to any one of my three wives, they all say I’m an immature prick. I don’t think there’s any growing up whatsoever. One of the songs dead, so the two living wives would argue the fact that there has been no growing up whatsoever. Nah…when I was a kid, I listened to music. I had a sister who was a hippy. I was born in ’61, so in the formative years, I’m listening to stuff like Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention, The Stones, all kinds of protest shit. I grew up with protest music basically, which is so funny because there were the hippies, but there were also the angry hippies. Not the ‘peace, love, and dope’ guys, but the ‘hey, here’s what to do in a riot guys.’ That’s what I grew up with. So, I was reading what to do in a riot when I was in 3rd grade. Which is crazy…I remember reading, ‘stay in the middle and throw bottles.’ That was something I was able to use later on.”
CVW: What were your musical influences growing up?
JG: “All that late 60’s shit is what I listened to, but I wasn’t really into anything until punk rock showed up. Then it was like, The Damned, Souxsie And The Banshees, all that early English stuff. The guys around here were my peers. I liked them, but…I don’t even know what I’m saying. I’m saying that’s a stupid answer. If I read that, I’d think that was stupid.
CVW: Now is the perfect time for that angry political music with everything happening.
JG: “Yeah, but nobody will do anything! We’re so desensitized. It’s like, really, what does it take for somebody to actually do something? Do you know what I mean? Think about it. What does it take?”
CVW: I have no idea. Look at what’s going on now. It’s ridiculous. There’s a whole bunch of people ranting and hiding behind their anonymity on the Internet and nobody doing anything solid. We get a president who gets a blowjob, and the world is going to end. We get a president who’s the world’s biggest dick, and throwing out unproven accusations, and nobody cares.
JG: “Nobody gives a fuck. They say they care, but they don’t really care. Who knows man? The issue is we don’t even know what’s real. They’ve got it now where we don’t know what news is real or isn’t real. We can’t tell if what we’re reading is real, unless we were there. Even if you were there, all memory and recall is subjective. I talk to guys who were all at the same show. We all see it differently. They’re all facts, but what are the real facts. The real facts are a mixture. There’s a part of me that says, ‘fuck it, burn it to the ground.’ Then there’s another part of me that wants to take a more active role. I told my kids the other day, ‘look, I’m okay to be known as the first freedom fighter who goes down for America.’ My kids weren’t happy with that response, but fuck man… I’ve lived a full life. I know that’s crazy talk. My mom used to call me up with crazy talk.”
(CVW -I won’t go into what she said. It’s better that way)
“I told her she can’t say shit like that. She tells me, ‘Oh, I was in the market the other day telling someone that.’ Goddammit mom, take it easy. The best thing about it, other than I’m my age and talking about my mommy, is she still thinks I’ve never done anything wrong in my life. If you talk to my mother, she’ll say, ‘you’ve always been such a good boy. Never any trouble.’ It’s fucking killer. Selective memory. Alternative facts.”
CVW: This interview took a left turn. I had a list, but nope, let’s just chat.
JG: “Oh shit! Go ahead. What do you got?”
CVW: Oh no. This is okay. I like it.
JG: “Yeah, but you just stopped it by doing that!”
CVW: I really fucked that one up.
JG: “Yeah. You really fucked that up right there. We’re talking about (mom’s crazy talk), doing what ever you want, nobody does shit, might as well step up and be a freedom fighter, I mean, we’d made some progress Clarice. And now you want to go right to a form and fill it out.
(CVW- this is almost a direct quote from Hannibal Lector in Silence Of The Lambs, as if he’s been waiting years to be able to bust this gem out.)
CVW: Look man, I love Lector, but the real story in that movie is Buffalo Bill. “Put the lotion in the fucking basket!”
JG: “I’ve always wondered if he got that fucking dog from an old lady he killed or was it something he picked out.”
CVW: I feel he picked that dog out. It was part of his lady skin costume. You gotta go all the way on that costume. You’ve literally killed for it. How did T.S.O.L. Form?
JG: “I was in another band called Vicious Circle with Todd, the old drummer of T.S.O.L. When Vicious Circle broke up, Todd started playing with Mike (Roche) and Ron (Emory). T.S.O.L. Was initially a three piece. I was up in Alaska at the time. When I came back, they asked me to join. The name came from a church show. There’s actually still a band called The Sounds Of Liberty. They’re a Christian band. They were on this TV Show. Pat Brown, who is long dead now, said, ‘The Sounds Of Liberty? You guys are the True Sounds Of Liberty.’ That’s how the name came about.”
CVW: T.S.O.L. has been an ongoing force since the late 70’s minus a few break ups/ hiatuses. Has it been hard to evolve?
JG: “Yes. When you’re in a band, and you’ve all been together that long, you all listen to different stuff and you all like different music. If it was up to the guitar player, it’d have a more kinda bluesy or roots rock kinda feel maybe. The bass player likes heavier, Motörhead, kinda shit. I listen to all kinds of shit. I’ve been listening to Aphex Twin lately. Also, Radiohead. The other guys are like, ‘what is this shit?’ I’m also a sucker for pop songs. I don’t give a fuck. I’ve been a punk for 40 years. What are you going to say? I’ve lost my punk rock credibility because I listen to Stevie Wonder? When you get together to write a record, it’s hard to figure out which way to go. That’s why it took us eight years for Trigger Complex.”
CVW: “Give Me More” starts the new album, Trigger Complex, off strong. It ends with an instrumental, “Bats.” I know you’re a singer, but do you find it refreshing when there’s a killer instrumental on an album?
JG: “Well…hahaha…I do like instrumentals. I like instrumentals when we’re playing too. It’s killer to take a break. We have a song our guitarist sings. He tries to get out of doing it, but like him doing it, because I get to sit back and watch the play. It’s kinda cool. With “Bats,” the keyboardist, Greg, and I talked about it. We said, ‘why don’t you come up with something. Let’s take it on.’ We were going to use it as an intro instead, but we used it on the way out.”
CVW: It was weird to hear an instrumental, but I love it.
JG: “There was a record we did a long time ago. It was called Beneath The Shadows. The punk rock kids hated it. When it first came out, they just hated it. It was really keyboard heavy. The first song I’d really written music too was called “Glass Streets.” It was a piano instrumental. This is kinda a throw back to that record which was done in 1983. It was interesting. The producer let us do what we wanted. He let us be kids making a record. It’s cool now because there’s a real innocence to it which is real bitchin’.”
CVW: Do you prefer big shows like Coachella, or smaller venues?
JG: “I like playing these big festival shows because I’m not there all night. In small club shows, I’m there all night. After all these years of being there all night, it’s fucking tiring man. I can’t sit through six bands, take the stage at 1:00am, sleep in the van for 3 hours, then drive 8 hours to the next venue. Then I do that all over again 30 days in a row. At festivals, I can’t get close to the crowd, it’s not intimate, you know? People aren’t rubbing against me. Kids aren’t running across stage. I like all that, but at festivals, they have catering, we play early, and I get to bed early.”