The Ramones were the archetypal New York punk rock band, CJ Ramone their late-era bass player. Born Christopher Joseph Ward, CJ replaced Dee Dee Ramone in 1989 and remained bassist and backing vocalist until the band retired in 1996. CJ continues to make music. His album Last Chance To Dance is full of the aggressive, poppy threads that one expects from a Ramone.
DISORDER: What advice do you have for a young bass player?
CJ: What you feel when you play is as important as how good you play. There are a lot of great players out there, but a great player that puts honest emotion and feeling into what they play is pretty rare. To do that you need to have some life experience, so leave your computer, your smart phone and all the other crap that gets in between you and the real world, and go live.
How did music become part of your life?
My mom and dad were big music fans. I remember riding around in my dad’s VW bus listening to everything from 50’s legends like Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline and Hank Williams, to 60’s classics Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, and Motown, to 70’s contemporary (at the time!). As I got older, I started finding bands that spoke to me. Black Sabbath was that band. I had a huge growth spurt between 8th and 9th grade and had to wear knee braces for two years. With nothing else to do, I asked my father for a bass guitar. That is where it all began.
Were there ever moments when a career in music seemed frustrating?
I played in bands from 13-21. Recorded my first record at 19. I had a reputation as being a solid heavy metal bassist and had plenty of offers, but none that would get me on the road. I wasn’t going anywhere in music and I did not want to live and die in my hometown. I wanted to see the world. So I enlisted in the USMC [the Marines]. That was the height of my frustration with music. Of course, two years later I would get the audition for the Ramones.
How do you view your musical progression?
I’ve circled back to my roots at this point. The songs I write now are more influenced by the music I heard as a child than what appealed to me in my teens. Each record is like a journey through my musical life, going deeper into my subconscious with every song. I hear memories in every note I write, and that makes me love music more than I ever have.
What is the difference between life on the road with the Ramones and now, as a solo artist?
Comfort level and attendance!
How do you document your travels?
Pictures and videos. I save the itineraries that we print for each tour. I have all the itineraries from my years with the Ramones.
What is your most vivid musical memory?
Playing on stage with Lemmy [of Motorhead] at the final Ramones show.
When did you realize that music could become a career path?
First time I picked up the bass at about 13. Everything I did from that point on was temporary until I became a touring musician.
What insights has a life in music given you?
Cultures in other countries and how alike people are everywhere.
Any musical regrets?
Playing a medley of Madonna and Elton John songs at the MTV Movie Awards with the Ramones. We were the joke that night.
Looking back, would you do anything differently?