Interview: Marky Ramone
Fri, 13 Feb 2009 09:04:22
Marky Ramone is a punk icon. The The Ramones drummer understands the intimate connection between rock n' roll and fashion and how the two elements are quintessential parts of the culture and the scene's fabric. That's why he teamed up with designer and longtime friend Tommy Hilfiger to design a "Rock Scene" capsule collection for the Spring 2009 line, featuring punk rock wardrobe staples like leather jackets and jeans. Co-designing clothes is just extension of his creative process, so ARTISTdirect.com spoke to Ramone, who still speaks in a thick New Yawk brogue, about the breadth of his collection, how much input he had in the design process and whether or not he’ll be playing Ramones' tunes when he tours. His fashion collection, featuring men's and a women's leather jackets, men's and women's jeans and t-shirts, as well as accoutrements like slim fits, stencil lettering and abstract artwork, is in the Hilfiger Denim store and web site.
Why did you decide to do a fashion line?
I went back to 1950s movies, Marlon Brando, biker movies of the 1960s and, of course, the whole James Dean thing. I looked at bikers and people that lived that kind of lifestyle and the kids who were into rock and punk. I wanted to put my touch to the clothing, putting studwork where there wasn't studwork before, a zipper around the sleeve or near the elbow and having the pants with studwork on one pocket rather than two. It was a little more in the future or futuristic. I think a guy from 1950s could look to the future and see what is happening now. A little bit of research goes along way.
How much input did you have into the designs?
They would send me drawings, and I'd look at them and change some things. We developed them until we agreed on things. I would add some things, take away other things…until I liked it and realized it was something that younger and older fans would wear. It's not too over the top, and it's not standard leather jacket and jeans, either.
Ideally, in your mind, who is the consumer of these items?
Rockers. Punk kids. Indie rockers. A 40-50 year old guy may have a leather jacket, but it's too hard to wear anymore, and he may want something nicer and in a softer leather, so he gets the one I designed. I wanted the leather to be soft, supple and comfortable and cool looking while it hung on the body well. I feel fashion and music go together, 50/50. One is audio, and the other is visual, so I felt I could combine the two. Look at The Beatles, Elvis Presley and The Ramones. In history, a look is part of what people caught on to, it exists and it becomes Americana. Leather jacket, jeans, sneakers, cool t-shirts… I see kids wearing that. It's affordable. When I was a kid, the rock stars I loved, I would see them wearing crushed velvet, satin suits, high-heeled patchwork shoes. That stuff costs thousands of dollars. You couldn't emulate what you liked at the time, so when jeans and leather jackets came into fashion in rock n' roll, it was easy and affordable. In today's economy, if you are in a band and looking to wear something cool, you have to keep it affordable.
How did you hook up with Hilfiger?
I've known Tommy for 23 years already. When he started out, I knew him and his brothers, Andy and Billy. As time went on, we all knew each other and we got advanced in our careers and he was into rock music and hip- hop and always. What I noticed about his clothes, is that they were always well-made and were quality. He was not another rock t-shirt company, who got his material from Pakistan. He was not that. I was proud to be part of it because I know Tommy's history and he was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. He went from selling used clothes and became who he is today and I admire that. When I was asked to do this, I said, "Sure."
Was this capsule collection his idea initially?
It was his, Andy's and Hilfiger Denim's idea. It was a few people. Being a Ramone for 15 years and being a Ramone after the band retired, I had the knowledge of knowing what looks cool, but these guys are professionals and I am not, so I respected their input 100 percent because of where they are and how they go there.
“In history, a look is part of what people caught on to, it exists and it becomes Americana.”
How did Rock Scene magazine inspire the line?
[We] own the logo. It was a big New York magazine in the 1970s, running features of the Ramones, Johnny Thunders and Debbie Harry. For a while, it lasted and then it stopped. We brought it back, and that is what we are doing with this line. We associated Rock Scene with Hilfiger Denim. We will continue to put the logo on more things in the future. This comes first. We will see what happens and how this goes. This is a first attempt and we go from here.
Lastly, fill us in on what you’ve got going on in your other career: your music!
I have two radio shows on Faction, channel 28 on Sirius. On Tuesday nights, there’s the Punk Rock Blitzkrieg. I also have a band, Marky Ramone Blitzkrieg. People have been emailing me about playing Ramones songs. I will attempt to play 30 Ramons songs in Tupelo, Mississippi, which is where Elvis was born. Theirs is a whole new punk rock generation who never saw the Ramones, and I want to keep the legacy alive. They are too good of songs not to be played. I do DJ appearances around the world. That is fun to do, because you get to hear the songs to loud PA. I can’t play them that loud at my house; I do not want cops coming to my house! I got inducted in Long Island's Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame and the regular Rock n' Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. I am going on my own, a loner. The Ramones are in the past, but the music lives on, and that's what is important and the legacy is huge and I will keep that alive.
— Amy Sciarretto
Photo Credit: Johnny Nunez