Hey Cramps fans! Here is an oldie but a goody! A re-posting of an interview that Sal Canzonieri of Electric Frankenstein did for Gravyzine back in circa 1997 with the very great and legendary, and sadly late, Lux Interior. They talk about 1960s horror hosts, collecting 1950s horror comics and movies, being on Epitaph, stage clothes and rockabilly. Enjoy!
Sal: I noticed your last album was dedicated to Ghoulardi…He just past away, right?
Sal: Out here Zacherley is pretty much THE Horror Host. Can you explain to our readers the difference between the two, I don’t think most people are too familiar with the horror hosts and that whole phenomenon.
Lux: They were different people, Zacherley and Ghoulardi. To say they were just Horror Hosts, they were much more than that, they were somewhere between a horror host and Hitler. Ghoulardi, he was just way out of control, always causing trouble, always in trouble but he was so powerful that he could get away with it. Kind of like Elvis Presley shaking his hips on television, he was so powerful he could get away with it, everyone was upset about it but they couldn’t do anything about it because it was bringing in too much money. When Ghoulardi was on TV in the 60’s crime just plummeted because no one was out, they were all watching Ghoulardi. He was just a totally rebellious character. A good model for young people and was one of the forerunners of what later became youth counterculture type thing.
Sal: They had a lot of audiences based on television more than let’s say the movies themselves.
Lux: Yeah,oh yeah. The movies were, of course those movies were great and everything and that’s part of it, but the part where they played music it was like a party, just the chance to go nuts, the music like Ghoulardi played “Papa Oom Mow Mow” by the Rivingtons, wild great rock’n’roll records that he played during the time that he was on. He would blow up things. He was just a role model.
Sal: Have you seen any tapes of Zacherley’s show that he had in the 60’s with the house and the Standells and the Young Lions, they always used to play. I used to live near there when I was little.
Lux: Yeah, I’ve never seen Zacherley, I’ve seen the video tape of Zacherley, introducing trailers and stuff which is great. I never saw his show but I’m always a big fan of Zacherley, in the monster magazines. He was just an amazing. I think that Ghoulardi and Zacherley, were probably really the best ones. I’ve always loved Ghoulardi and as a matter of fact we often play his hit single.
Sal: Our band did “Coolest little monster” with Zacherley on the B side of one of our singles. He got a new record deal so he redid that song. He originally was going to sing it with us but he couldn’t do it because of his contract, he was still signing by contract so he let us take from the original record the intro and the middle so on our record it’s him doing the intro….We see him all the time. Have you ever gone to the Chiller Theatre conventions.
Lux: No, We’ve always been too busy. I really would have loved to go to the Chiller conventions. It sounds great. I’ve seen photos of him there and he looks great.
Sal: We used to help around the convention with, Kevin Clement is the guy. If you ever want to be a guest just let me know, we can set it up.
Lux: Oh we’ll probably do that sometime, it’s just a bad timing thing. That’s ‘cause we’re always doing something right at that time so far.
Sal: I don’t know if you collect. Obviously by what you’re interested in musically you can see that you’re interested in obscure records and horror toys, I’m sure. Have you ever on tour found really good finds in any thrift shops?
Lux: Oh, all the time. We’re always out looking for stuff. It’s great because we go to a lot of weird places, we’ll stop on the bus, in-between here and there we’ll find amazing things. Fairly often, you know, the farther away you get from the 60s the harder it is to find things. Somebody just gave us two albums by the Jaguars in Montreal, amazing instrumental albums. Fans give us stuff sometimes and that’s really great. Right before we left we found a box with a bunch of jelly jars on top of it in a junk store and I piled all this stuff and looked in this box and something just made me want to see what’s in that box and I found just a stack of amazing 78s of all 50s, the real wild, obscure, crazy rock’n’roll stuff. Like Blues, R’n’B stuff, that was the latest thing that we found. But we find stuff all the time.
Sal: One thing I want to know about. Your lyrics are interesting and definitely entertaining, not exactly what draws your inspiration but what books or movies you particularly find that you can pull from that inspires them.
Lux: Well, all of them. Mainly horror movies and exploitation movies and a lot of stuff comes from those press books from those old movies. Lines out of old movies, comic books that we collect, all the old horror comics of the 50s, probably about the only comics that we collect are obscure horror comics, the real sick ones from the 50s. Some stuff comes from there but mainly just old records, old rockabilly records and that stuff, singles mainly, 45s.
Sal: 50s comics have the greatest cover, those colors.
Lux: Oh yeah.
Sal: And the artists. It seems as though the artist who didn’t know how to draw made the coolest monsters.
Lux: Yeah, real archaic looking.
Sal:Our record covers, we try to make each one look like an old, crazy comic book covers. Have you got a hold some old, obscure horror film lately on tape that might be real interesting. I’m sure you got stacks.
Lux: Well the ones that I really like a lot are that I think will become more popular. At one time no one ever knew who Betty Page was and we really loved Betty Page and I can’t believe that now she’s as well known as Marilyn Monroe or somebody. I think that the next thing that might become popular are these West German horror movies from the early 60s. They’re just packed with cool stuff. They have all these weird camera angles, they go take a drink and it’ll show them looking at the bottom of the glass. And some girl stripping on the other side of a nightclub. They all take place in nightclubs or strip clubs. Just weird camera angles. Some of them look like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari where some of the angles are so weird and stuff. And they all have sexy girls in them and really weird stories. Titles like “The Head”, “Phantom of Soho”, “In on the River”, just a lot of them early 60s West German horror movies. Klaus Kinski’s in some of them, Edgar Wallace. If you want to get one just to see what I’m talking about, “Phantom of Soho’s a good one”.
Sal: I heard of a lot of these. The French and Spanish are easy to come by nowadays, and Italian ones, of course.
Lux: Yeah, you got to find a good rental place that gets good Sinister cinema stuff. The Something Weird Video stuff.
Sal: Yeah, those are always at the convention. They’re easy to get. Something Weird come out here all the time, they have a big huge table.
Lux: Yeah we’re real good friends with Mike Vraney!
Sal: Yeah, Mike’s real nice. We talk to him a bunch of times and we try and get clips from Kiss me Quick and other ones that have Frankenstein, those nudie cutie ones with Monsters and nudies in them. Those are pretty cool. We use some of those stills for our record covers.
Another question I wanted to ask. Your stage clothing, do you get them tailored or are they something you find in thrift shops.
Lux: Oh, half and half. If we find something that’s cool and sometimes we get things made. Works both ways.
Sal: Ivy’s outfit in NYC, everyone’s asking where she got it.
Lux: The one that she just wore. That was given to us by Margaret, the guitar player of the Doll Rods. She wasn’t wearing that when the tour started and she pulled it out and said, “Hey, look at this She-Elvis outfit” and Ivy said “Ooh yeah” and she put that on and she looked good in it.
Sal: Lately, as far as listening, has anything been on the record player for awhile? I guess being on tour is kinda hard.
Lux: Oh all kinds of stuff. We listen to stuff all the time. We bring a CD player, 2 big boxes of cassettes and stuff, compilations I’ve made out of singles. That stuff we always take with us. Just a lot of Rockabilly stuff is kinda what we are listening to, it’s really our favorite thing. We did that interview in Incredibly Strange music talking about Bachelor Pad Music, that’s what they’re calling that these days, we listen to that sometimes, that’s sometimes a fun thing to listen to but our real passion is Rockabilly and 60s.
Sal: There seems to be lots of Rockabilly coming out. I mean I remember the first time in the 70s Rockabilly resurgence but now there’s so many, even more things coming out of the vaults. It’s like a time machine, people cranking them out.
Lux: There seems to be a lot of bands that seems to treat it too reverently. You know, they sing about boppin’ in the soda shop and all this kinda stuff and that ain’t what rockabilly is supposed to be about. It’s really supposed to be about sex. And I like Reverend Horton Heat, they do something new with it, and there are a few other bands that do. I wish that somebody would take Rockabilly a step further, and Psychobilly that’s not sexual enough, it’s too fast and not sexual enough most of the time. It’s kind of like Rockabilly mixed with punk. It seems it’s not as sexy as it should be.
Sal: Yeah it doesn’t really seem to be concerned with that. It seems to be concerned with the hair-do’s and basically how fast they can play. It’s not tribal enough or sensuous.
Lux: Yeah, I mean if Elvis was concerned about what came 30 years before him, he’d be doing the Charleston. It makes no sense.
Sal: It didn’t seem like they want to be rule breakers, like Elvis was more into breaking the rules, so was Jerry Lee Lewis and all the original people.
Lux: Yeah and I think that’s what Rock’n’Roll is really all about whether it’s R’n’B, Rockabilly, whatever it is. I think the Stooges were a great band. They did something brand new when they started, they were about breaking rules and every once in a while something like that happens. But I don’t see much happening since punk rock hit the 70s, you know the Sex Pistols and the Clash and the American bands like the Ramones, when that happened and when we started out, I think that was culture changing and people are still copying that, fashion is copying that and since than Grunge was just a copy of early 70s progressive rock. The thing that punk rock rebelled against – and retro – that’s just disco for the fifth time over again. I’d like to see a bunch of 16 year old kids do something exciting and new with R’n’R. That’d be great.
Sal: Yeah it seems like just now, maybe since MTV has stopped being a big focal point for people the young kids I’ve noticed in our audience, the people under 20 seem to be into rock’n’roll again.
Lux: Uh huh, I noticed that too. Our audiences are mostly very young, kids under 20. They get the point right away. They understand.
Sal: Yeah, because they do it by feeling.
Lux: It’s all the ones that are 30 years old or something that are trying to make some kind of big philosophy to understand what it is.
Sal: It seems like these young kids when I talk to them, they’re rebeling against the generation before them which was Hardcore and Rap and what they’re working on is music that has melody and lyrics that you can remember. That’s what’s good about The Cramps because always their songs were memorable.
Lux: Yeah that’s a good thing and besides that teenagers are always going to be into sex, so if anything good happens that’s probably the age group where it’s going to come from.
Sal: Your record covers went through different themes, an S&M clothes faze for awhile but now it seems like you’re going towards more eclectic, right?
Lux: Well I don’t know, we haven’t had very many record covers so they were just some picture we took at the time. We have always been kind of interested in the same thing so I have no idea what our next record cover would be.
Sal: I was over at Epitaph when they were putting your record cover together – the new one – and then told me you guys are going to be coming out through them. Has it made any difference to you being on Epitaph? Sometimes labels are a little controversial with some people.
Lux: Well, that’s OK with me. They sell to the right stores, they sell vinyl and they sell CDs to the stores where a lot of people would go buy a Cramps record and that’s good and they know what they are doing in regards to a lot of things. I just like the people there. The record company we were with before that was a label distributed by Warner Bros. And that was a real horrifying experience. Warner Bros was the only real major label that we dealt with so it’s really refreshing to be with Epitaph who are actual real people.
Sal: Yeah, I remember that you guys were having a lot of problems with IRS records. It’s hard to find a label to really care about what you’re doing and back you up. But with the Cramps all the fans I know of, myself included, were real concerned that you find someone who would really help you and back you up in a positive way.
Lux: Yeah, it really is because everybody sees something different in the cramps and there’s been times in the past where the record label would say, “Oh, you’re a freak show!”, “You’re weirdos!” “We really got to push that freaky thing!”, and that’s a part of it. Yeah, it’s a freak show to some guy in a polo shirt but who cares about them. It’s much better to have a record company who says we know who you are, we know who your fans are and this should be something sincere to everybody involved and honest and that’s the best thing to do.
Sal: Distribution is really important and things like that and they probably have a good distribution network.
Lux: Yeah they do.
Sal: I’ve seen you over the past dozen years and how the shows have changed live, sometimes it’s more elaborate. Like one time I saw you play at “Privates” in NYC and you had the spiders coming out and cobwebs all over the stage and everything. Is there a difference between how you set up the shows year by year, is it planned out how you wanna do it.
Lux: It’s not too planned out. I think some of it is just what we’re into at the moment. We try to have as few rules as possible and we try to leave it open to being unpredictable. So we don’t like having a lot of props around too much but sometimes we’ll do something because we think it’s fun or somebody gives us something, just like that outfit that Ivy wore. We didn’t plan it out and draw it on drawing boards…
Sal: Well I don’t mean it being planned out on paper but as far as wanting to express a certain thing during a certain period.
Lux: Yeah, it’s kinda just what we’re interested in at the time. It’s always different too, sometimes we have no time and we just have to throw something together and other times we have more time to plan something. It’s always different, it seems like we’re always busy. It’s hard when you are in a Rock’n’Roll band, as you know, it’s hard to just keep it above water.
Sal: Just the mail drives you crazy, when you get stacks of letters it gets to be very difficult, and you start to worry about the things people write you about. Do you get to play smaller clubs anymore?
Lux: Oh yeah, we play small clubs. It’s really fun. We just played in Montreal in a club that holds 650 people. It’s like two floors and the floor’s just like 10 feet from the stage, the bottom floor is right at the edge of the stage, and it goes all around the stage so I mean nobody was farther away than 20 or 30 feet. And there’s like 650 people crammed in there and that was just chaos. it’s like the minute you step on stage, like cshhhhhhhhh. You could hardly hear the music it was just the shrieking going on. That was a ball. Like that show we did in NY, the first row of people was like 10 feet from the stage, or at least it seemed like it with all those lights shining, I couldn’t even see the audience half the time..And that’s fun too but the more intimate it is the more fun it is, the more unusual.
Sal: The lighting was great though, there in NYC, it was really dramatic.
Lux: Yeah, we only use red and white lights, we try to keep it as simple as possible and you can do a lot of things with that. We don’t have lights that look like Disneyland, the color of the rainbow just going off for no reason.
Sal: Oh yeah it drives you crazy. You’re trying to play and lights turn green, purple, orange. And you can’t see the fret board. And the strobe lights too, you do it tastefully, you don’t have it running through every song. When it does come on, everybody really savors those moments, it gets pretty cool. When you’ve been playing, basically the original days when I saw you at the CBGB’s theatre way back on the Bowery, did you ever think that you would still be playing from then till now?
Lux: Well, we didn’t give it that much thought I don’t think. I still can’t imagine not doing the Cramps at this point I still can’t imagine not doing it so I don’t even know what’s going to happen. We’ll just do what seems like the right thing to do. Back then I really don’t think we thought how long are we going to do this. The first time we played CBGB’s, the first time we auditioned I think we were thinking that we’d go out and nobody would like us that much and we’d only play once.
Sal: Yeah everybody thinks that the first time. The guitar that Ivy got when she played Human Fly, that Dan Electro was that a vintage one.
Lux: That is completely made, made out of a piece of wood. That was made by a guy in Washington DC, Steve Metts. He makes guitars for people, he makes guitars for ZZ Top, and when we were playing in Washington DC he called up Ivy in the hotel room and said, “Hey I made you a guitar I want to give it to you.”, and she said “Oh, OK.” It’s pretty amazing when you see it close up it has mother of pearl inlay in the fret board, It has the Cramps logo and on both sides, it has those trucker but flap girls. It’s really beautiful.
Sal: Yeah you could see it’s got a purple shine from where I was in the audience. I thought it was a Dan Electro the way it was shaped.
Lux: Well it’s a copy of a long horn, the same size and everything but it was completely made from scratch.
Sal: What do you think of, I noticed Guitar Wolf opened for you, that whole resurgence in Japan of that whole wild rock’n’roll.
Lux: Well I like a lot of those bands, of course we got Guitar Wolf, we sought them out to get them on the bill and it was difficult. It was difficult communicating with people in Japan most of the time. But I really like the 5678’s, they’re really one of our favorite bands. Have you ever heard their stuff?
Sal: Yeah I met them a few times, they’ve played down in NY.
Lux: Yeah and there’s some other bands from over there that are really good. The Cedrics? Yeah there’s a pretty crazy scene over there.
Sal: Have you been to any countries besides the usual ones.You’ve played in Japan and England and all that but have you played even further east? Asian countries at all like Thailand?
Lux: Yeah we haven’t been to Thailand but we will probably do that soon.
Sal: North Vietnam is having bands come there now.
Lux: Oh Yeah? I didn’t know that. I heard that China and Thailand are having bands in there now and we plan to do that but I hadn’t heard Vietnam.
Sal: Yeah you can go in to North Vietnam through Sweden and get in there and somebody told me that 10,000 people will come to a show, even old villagers because there’s nothing else. But they’ve been buying American Punk records through the mail now.
Lux: That would be really great.
Sal: I got a letter once and I sold bunches of singles, not just of my band but all different ones to people of North Vietnam. I talked to someone from North Vietnam and they’re telling me all these Swedish bands come, and how other bands come through there now that it’s a little bit more relaxed. It might be cool to go there.
Lux: If the Cramps played there they probably wouldn’t forget it for a while!
Sal: Yeah I read that in Thailand when they show Laverne and Shirley, at the beginning they say “Please do not copy these women – they are escaped from a mental institution and are not like how nice normal American girls act.” I wonder if you come out to North Vietnam everybody will start emulating a Cramps look.
Lux: That would be pretty funny.