Do you ever wonder how awesome it would be to be a member of your favourite band? It’s the dream, and one that came true for bassist Christopher Joseph Ward, aka CJ Ramone. Joining the legendary punk family, The Ramones, in 1989, and thrown directly into the touring circuit post-Brain Drain release, CJ hasn’t stopped touring these songs – until now. After 30 years of non-stop tour bus living, CJ is after a change of scenery, and sound, but not before he comes to Australia.
“I wasn’t thinking this would be my last record initially but just over the last couple of months I decided it’s probably time for me to go,” CJ says. “This year is 30 years that I’ve been touring out of a van and I like the album so much that if it’s my swansong that’s great.”
That in no way means that you won’t be seeing or hearing from CJ again. He’ll still be making appearances at festivals and special events, and he will be continuing songwriting with a new direction insight, the genre his parents raised him on; country music.
“During the recording of the ‘Holy Spell’, I actually had three or four songs that did not make it onto the record that are solidly in that country influence genre… They could be songs on the next record, so that’s probably going to be the starting point for my next recording project. When I say it’s country-influenced, I don’t mean it sounds like Hank Williams or something like that, it’s still rock ‘n’ roll but it’s definitely got a country feel to it,” CJ laughs.
You’ll never take the punk out of the Ramone though. While he is side-stepping, he won’t be shaking his identity.
“The Ramones were probably the best times of my life, the best thing I’ve ever done and I would never turn my back on it or try to distance myself from it. I just kept doing what I do and didn’t deny the influence. I was a fan for years before I ever got into the band, played with them for seven years. If my music sounds Ramones like, it’s for those reasons. I never sat down was like, ‘oh I have to write a Blitzkrep Bop style song, or I have to write a ‘this’ style song’, based on the Ramones music.”
Naturally, CJ was heavily influenced by the rockers learning much of what he puts into his music and the business side from legends, Joey and Johnny Ramone.
“I actually sat down with Joey a bunch of times and worked on songwriting with him and the cool thing was he gave me little pointers that at the time didn’t seem like anything major but when I actually sat down to write my own stuff it really was,” CJ explains. “Johnny was the bigger influence when it came to how to run the band and how to keep things rolling on a tight budget and I learnt more about how to handle myself in business from Johnny… I knew I was out with a band that were the original DIY band so I really learned a lot about how to survive on the road.”
However, as a fan, he did try to avoid getting into the politics of the band to ensure the magic from the barrier still existed behind the curtain.
“When I was in the band and I got to see behind the curtains – it was sometimes disappointing, sometimes rather shocking but I always maintained a bit of distance just so that I could be able to still enjoy being in the band. I just tried to keep myself out of that Ramones story, mostly because I was a fan and I didn’t want the whole thing to be spoiled,” he laughs.
Catch CJ Ramone at Geelong home of rock music, Barwon Club on Sunday 15 September and in Ballarat at the Karova Lounge on Wednesday 25 September. Tickets at davidroywilliams.com/tours/cjramone
Written by Tammy Walters