Ottawa Ontario – In 1976 The Ramones released their debut album, and one of the songs was entitled “I don’t wanna go down to the basement”. Forty years later punk fans will want to go down to the basement, chanting ‘Gabba Gabba Hey’, to see CJ Ramone live at the House of TARG in Ottawa. The concert takes place on Thursday, June 9th, 2016.
Bass player Christopher Joseph Ward, aka CJ Ramone (pictured here), joined the Ramones in 1989 filling in after Dee Dee left the band. He remained their bass player until the band called it quits in 1996. The former US Marine, who was already a fan of the Ramones, quickly made his mark on punk rock.
Which was more challenging: Going through boot camp as a United States Marine or replacing Dee Dee on bass as a Ramone?
“Ha! Good question. They were both tough. With the Marine Corps it was physically and mentally challenging. With the Ramones it was more of an internal struggle. I was a huge fan of the Ramones and of Dee Dee, so it was a strange thing to come to terms with replacing him. Eventually he wanted back in the band which made it pretty tough”, CJ recounted.
CJ Ramone appeared on the last three studio albums of The Ramones: Mondo Bizarro (1992), Acid Eaters (1993), and Adios Amigos (1995). He also appeared on three of their live albums: Loco Live (1991), Greatest Hits Live (1996), and We’re Outta Here! (1997).
In addition to playing bass for the Ramones, he was also a vocalist. He sang lead vocals for the Ramones on songs like “Cretin Family”, “The Crusher”, “Strength to Endure”, and a handful of others.
Sadly lead singer Joey Ramone (2001), original bassist Dee Dee Ramone (2002), guitarist Johnny Ramone (2004), and original drummer Tommy Ramone (2014) have all passed away. In 2012, before the death of Tommy, CJ Ramone wrote a beautiful song entitled “Three Angels” commemorating and paying tribute to Joey, Johnny, and Dee Dee Ramone. It was a challenging subject and something close to CJ’s heart.
“It was actually difficult to write. I was trying for a while. They all had a huge impact on my life, including Tommy who was still alive at the time I wrote the song. I just wanted to say thank you to those guys with a song and explain my relationship with each one. To do that in just one verse each was complicated. It wasn’t a small feat. One day when dropping my daughter off at school the melody and lyrics came to mind. It was the first time I experienced something like that. It was like it was brewing in my self-conscious and it popped out. It is an important song for me and closed a chapter of my life”, CJ divulged.
CJ Ramone, who played in Los Cusanos and in Bad Chopper, keeps the spirit of the Ramones alive by playing under the name CJ Ramone. He hopes playing under the name CJ Ramone will bring positive attention to the Ramones.
“Los Cusanos started while the Ramones were still together. I didn’t want it to be a distraction to the band so I used the stage name of CJ Ward. Bad Chopper was a project to keep me busy doing music. I didn’t feel the songs were good enough yet to live up to the Ramones name. Also at that point in time there was a lot of attention on the Ramones private lives like Johnny stealing Joey’s girlfriend (which allegedly inspired Joey Ramone to write the song ‘The KKK took my baby away’ according to a documentary). I am really happy with the songs recorded now. I think touring under the name CJ Ramone will bring positive attention and remind people what made the Ramones great. That is why I’m using the name”, CJ explained.
Backing CJ Ramone on the west coast is guitarist Steve Soto who’s resume includes Agent Orange and the Adolescents, Dan Root who was a guitarist for the Adolescents, and drummer Joe Rizzo who has worked along side Todd Youth (a guitarist for Agnostic Front, Murphy’s Law, Danzig, and Motorhead). Social Distortion drummer David Hidalgo Jr., who is not touring with the band, played the drums in studio for the last album.
“The guys who recorded with me have punk rock history. They are all west coast based. Working with Steve, Dan, and Joe is awesome. We just finished a new record (not titled yet, and no official release date yet). It was completed last Friday (May 13th), and it should be out by years end. There is a different backing band I tour with on the East coast and they’re great too.”
CJ Ramone is signed to Fat Wreck Chords, the record label run by Fat Mike of Nofx.
“It was really a relief to get signed. Since the Ramones retired I didn’t have a record Label. Fat Mike is dedicated to punk rock. Although I haven’t met him or talked to him in person, he signed me. I am a fan of the bands on the label. I look forward to being able to tour with some of them. It’s a good home for me”, asserted CJ.
CJ Ramone is looking forward to playing the Ottawa show and he is also looking forward to interacting with fans.
“I played with the Ramones and I was also a fan of the band. I’m still excited to talk about them. So my approach is to be as accessible as possible. I hang out, and I sign autographs. Every show is a celebration of the Ramones. The reason I came back is to rekindle that flame. It feels great”, CJ concluded.
Opening the concert are Broken Gold (featuring members of The Riverboat Gamblers and who are touring with CJ Ramone) and Ottawa punk band GOAT.
Sarah Destruction who is a rhythm guitarist and one of the vocalist for GOAT is really looking forward to the concert and sharing the stage with a beloved member of the legendary punk band the Ramones.
“I’ve been a huge fan of the Ramones since I was a kid. It’s a huge honour to share the stage and open up the show for CJ with the band GOAT. Ohio, Paulie, Mikey, and I are all really excited”, says Destruction who spent her teenage years growing up in near by Cornwall Ontario.
The concert takes place at Ottawa’s House of TARG, famous for it’s perogies, pinball, and punk rock. It is located at 1077 Bank Street. Tickets, which are $16 in advance, are available at Vertigo Records, online, or through the band Goat via their Facebook. Doors open at 9pm and the event is 19+. The show is being promoted by Spectrasonic.