HEY! HO! LET'S GO talk about Ramones with Jon and Ed

HEY! HO! LET'S GO talk about Ramones with Jon and Ed

Ed Stasium in front of the cover of the first Ramones LP, at The Grammy Museum in LA in 2016.  Original Ramones photo by Roberta Bayley.
Ed Stasium in front of the cover of the first Ramones LP, at The Grammy Museum in LA in 2016.  Original Ramones photo by Roberta Bayley.


JON WURSTER TALKS WITH ENGINEER/PRODUCER ED STASIUM, ON THE OCCASION OF THE RSD 2022 RELEASE OF THE RAMONES' THE SIRE ALBUMS 1981-1989

BY JON WURSTER (Superchunk/Bob Mould Band/The Mountain Goats)

Jon Wurster






If you’re like me, the Ramones changed your life forever. They proved, beyond a doubt, that you didn’t need to be a virtuoso to make music and express yourself. Joey, Dee Dee, Johnny and Tommy (and later, Marky, Richie and C.J.) altered the musical and cultural landscape in a way very few artists in any medium have. In 2022, it’s unusual to walk down the street and not be confronted with some variation of Arturo Vega’s iconic Ramones logo on a t-shirt, sticker or coffee shop sign. But the Ramones aren’t a logo. They were a flesh and blood gang of musical miscreants from Forrest Hills, Queens, who somehow came together to create some of the greatest pop songs of all time, while also being one of the most ferocious live acts to ever hit a stage. The Ramones are my Beatles, and possibly yours, too.

As a lifelong Ramones fan, I was beyond excited when asked to interview longtime Ramones engineer/producer Ed Stasium about the RSD-exclusive, vinyl-only, set of 1980s Ramones albums he oversaw and remastered. As you will soon learn, we did talk about the remasters, but as a hardcore Ramones obsessive, there was no way I wasn’t going to take this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gently punish Stasium with as many crucial, inside-Ramones questions as he could handle. And handle them, he did! What follows might not be for the casual Ramones fan, but if you’re a die-hard, you’re in for a treat. Ok, let’s rock tonight!


JW: PUTTING THIS SET TOGETHER MUST’VE BEEN QUITE AN UNDERTAKING. WHAT WERE THE SOURCE MATERIALS FOR THESE ‘80S REMASTERS, AND WHAT KIND OF CONDITION WERE THEY IN AFTER ALL THESE YEARS?

ES: Warner Bros. has been very good about archiving everything. So, they’ve taken all the master tapes and everything has been archived. All the tapes over the years, the multi-tracks the EQ masters, the flat masters, have all been archived at a high resolution 192 kHz-sample rate/24-bit.

We don’t work from the tapes, the tapes are fragile. They basically bake the tapes and transfer them to digital and put the tape away. It wouldn’t be beneficial to FedEx original tapes. I haven’t touched the original tapes since I worked on them. When we did [the 1988 compilation] Ramonesmania, we did use the tapes. But I did go from the original copies (for this). It was all transferred into [audio-editing software] Pro-Tools.

But first of all, the great [producer/engineer] Bill Inglot finds everything. That guy knows where everyone’s master is in the world. He compiles all this stuff and then gets it to me.

The only one we didn’t get the original master for was the [1989] Bill Laswell-produced Brain Drain. We only had an EQ copy of that because nobody knew where the actual master tapes were.

But Bill put them all together in Pro-Tools sessions, and I went through them. They’re all transferred from tape so there’s noise, there’s crackles, there’s some dropouts here and there because the tapes were sitting for years before they were archived. I’d get rid of any noise, any pops, in the Pro-Tools session and then I’d upload all of that with my edits to Greg Calbi at [mastering facility] Sterling Sound. I spent probably a week going through everything and making sure there was quiet in between the songs. I didn’t change any of the spacing between songs.


AND YOU WERE PRESENT WHILE GREG DID THE MASTERING?

I went to Edgewater, NJ to guide through everything and give my opinion, but usually, I would just sit there and eat sandwiches and drink coffee and let Greg do his magic. I’ve known Greg since ’73-’74 when he was working at the Record Plant. There was a mastering suite there called The Cutting Room. The first record I did with Greg was a Gladys Knight and the Pips song called “I Feel a Song in My Heart.” I didn’t know anything about mastering, I still don’t. That’s some magical shit going on.


WHAT WAS THE GOAL, SONICALLY, FOR THESE REMASTERS? WE HEAR ABOUT THE MASTERING “VOLUME WARS” WHERE EVERYONE IS TRYING TO MAKE EVERYTHING AS LOUD AS POSSIBLE. WAS THAT SOMETHING YOU WERE DEALING WITH?

Not for vinyl. This not going to be a CD release, this is not going to be streaming. This is EQ’d specifically for a vinyl release. You get as loud as you can, you can only do so much with that.


WHAT WAS IT LIKE OPENING UP THE FILES FOR THESE ALBUMS YOU PROBABLY HADN’T HEARD IN DECADES?

I only worked on [the 1984 release] Too Tough To Die, and three of the songs on the [accompanying] rarities LP that I worked on with Tommy Ramone. We had the original EQ (versions of the albums) in the same Pro-Tools session so we could A-B them and see what that sounded like, and some of them didn’t sound so hot, let me tell you. So, we went back to the originals and Greg re-EQ’d everything, and did some leveling changes, that voodoo that he does so well.


WERE YOU AWARE OF THOSE ‘80S RAMONES RECORDS WHEN THEY CAME OUT?

Oh, some of them, yeah. Some songs on these records I might’ve heard once, or not at all. These are the Sire LPs we’re not doing box sets for. End of the Century [from 1979] is finished, but it’s in limbo right now. I don’t know what’s going on with it. I’m not privy to the business stuff. And you know what? (whispers) I don’t care about business stuff. Pleasant Dreams, with (producer) Graham Gouldman, I was very familiar with.


YOU RECORDED THE DEMOS FOR PLEASANT DREAMS, RIGHT?

I did. I did “All’s Quiet On The Eastern Front,” “KKK,” “You Sound Like You’re Sick”…


THIS MIGHT BE MY FAVORITE RAMONES ALBUM, SONG-WISE.

There’s some good songs on there. I think Tommy did demos for “7-11,” and “Sensation,” and I also did “Come on Now.” “Airwaves” is a great song. “KKK” is another great song. I know all those songs and am very familiar with that record.


PLEASANT DREAMS WAS UNUSUAL IN THAT IT WAS NOT SOLELY RECORDED IN NEW YORK, LIKE MOST OF THE POST-END OF THE CENTURY RAMONES ALBUMS.

Pleasant Dreams was recorded in New York at Media Sound. My friend Harvey Goldberg did the tracking there, then they took it to Graham’s studio, Strawberry, in Stockport, England. They did the vocals there, and extra guitars, though I don’t know who did those extra guitars. But they used all the backing vocal ideas Joey and I came up with on the demos, they just redid everything. But pretty much, the arrangements of the songs I did are exactly the same as the demos.


DID YOU HAVE ANY CONTACT WITH THE PRODUCERS OF THE OTHER FIVE ALBUMS IN THE ‘80S SET?

No. Nothing at all. The band’s estates trust me implicitly, they know I’ve been working with the band for over forty years. I keep close to both aspects of the estate: Joey’s half and Johnny’s half. I deal with [Johnny’s widow] Linda and [Joey’s brother] Mickey, and they trust me. I did all those Ramones box sets everyone loves, and I feel like I’m part of the band, really.


DID ANY OF THOSE PRODUCERS EVER REACH OUT TO YOU WHEN THEY WERE RECORDING THEIR RAMONES ALBUMS AND ASK FOR GUIDENCE ON HOW TO WORK WITH THEM?

I don’t know Laswell at all. I don’t know Graham Gouldman. [1983’s Subterranean Jungle producers] Richie Cordell and Glenn Kolotkin, I don’t know them. I do know [producer of 1987’s Halfway to Sanity] Daniel Rey, he’s a good friend. I worked with his band Shrapnel. I mixed a single for them called “Combat Love.” [1986’s Animal Boy producer] Jean Beauvoir, I know from working with The Plasmatics. But as far as people asking me questions? Nah. It’s the Ramones. Although, these records really do sound different.


AFTER SUBTERRANEAN JUNGLE, THERE’S THIS NOTICEABLE SHIFT WHERE THE RAMONES BECAME AWARE OF HARDCORE PUNK. THERE’S A FEELING OF “WE CAN PLAY AS FAST AND AS HARD AS THE KIDS.” ON THESE ‘80S RECORDS, THERE’S HARDCORE-INSPIRED SONGS LIVING NEXT TO SUPER-MELODIC SONGS. LIKE, “I WANNA LIVE” IS JUST A COUPLE SONGS AWAY FROM “WEASEL FACE” ON HALFWAY TO SANITY. TOO TOUGH TO DIE IS THE FIRST ALBUM WHERE THIS REALLY CAME INTO PLAY. WERE THERE DISCUSSIONS GOING IN ABOUT THIS NEW DIRECTION?

No, it was just “We’re doing these songs.” There wasn’t any mention of hardcore or any type of styles. It was still the Ramones. “Endless Vacation” and “Warthog,” really, were the two hardcore tunes.


THAT ALBUM’S SINGLE, “HOWLING AT THE MOON,” WAS PRODUCED BY FORMER EURYTHMIC DAVE STEWART. HOW DID THAT WORK, HAVING A GUEST PRODUCER COME IN FOR JUST ONE SONG?

It worked fine. He came in during the tracking sessions, and he had this grandiose idea; It was probably the first time the Ramones had used a click track. But it wasn’t a traditional click track, it was a sample of a piledriver that Dave had. (Laughs) And we cut it with the band with that piledriver sample as a click track to keep the tempo solid. Then [Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers] came in and…did Benmont or [Talking Head] Jerry Harrison play on that song?


JERRY IS ON “HOWLING” AND BENMONT PLAYS THAT GREAT ROCK ‘N‘ ROLL PIANO ON “DAYTIME DILEMMA.”

Oh, yeah.


WHAT WAS IT LIKE GOING BACK TO MEDIA SOUND FOR TOO TOUGH TO DIE? DID YOU FIND YOURSELF SETTING UP OR MIC’ING THINGS DIFFERENTLY SINCE THE ROAD TO RUIN SESSIONS YOU CO-PRODUCED WITH TOMMY RAMONE?

(Laughs) Nah. No, I do the thing I always do…haphazardly set up microphones. But (Media) was a great, huge room. It was a church, so it had 60-foot ceilings and it sounded amazing. That’s when I started using room mics. Actually, on Rocket to Russia I used room mics as well.


IT’S KIND OF MINDBLOWING THAT THE FIRST TIME YOU EVER HEARD THE RAMONES WAS WHEN YOU FIRST WORKED WITH THEM ON (1977’S) LEAVE HOME.

Yes. I was living in Canada and I’d never heard of them. There was no vibe about it. I was up in the fuckin’ woods, forty-five miles north of Montreal. I wasn’t getting Rock Scene magazine up there. There might’ve been one article I read about the scene at CB’s, but I didn’t know anything about it, so I didn’t know what they sounded like at all. I’d never heard the first record.


WHAT WERE YOU DOING UP IN CANADA?

I had moved from New Jersey up to work at Le Studio, near Montreal. I ran into [record producer/engineer] Tony Bongiovi, who was starting up The Power Station [recording studio] in New York. I came back to New York and met again with Bongiovi, and they put me on salary at the Power Station. But I was doing a record in Canada and couldn’t get back in time for the first day of the Leave Home session. So, at the last minute, Bobby [Clearmountain, producer/engineer] came in and set up the session and recorded a couple songs the first day. I’d forgotten about it until I got the track sheets for the Leave Home box set I was doing. I called Bobby up and he didn’t remember doing it! I wanted to ask him some questions about it, but he didn’t remember.

My first day, someone had left the volume on the console up really loud. Bob met me there, showed me the setup and put on the tape and said, “Here’s what we’re doing.” (laughs) He turned it on and it was just so loud it blew me away. I said, “This is what I’m dealing with here, OK.”


TONY BONGIOVI DIDN’T REALLY SEEM LIKE A “ROCK” GUY. I’VE ALWAYS BEEN CURIOUS WHAT HE THOUGHT OF THE RAMONES?

I remember Tony telling me about the band when he asked me to “co-produce” Leave Home, which I never got credit for. He went and saw them at CB’s, and he said, “Eddie, it’s like gettin’ run over by a locomotive.” Tony had the sensibility to know there was something going on with the band. Although it’s kind of out of his realm. Tony was more of an R&B cat, and I’m the rock guy. He didn’t play in bands or play any instruments. He was more of a technical guy.


JOHNNY HAD SUCH A SINGULAR GUITAR SOUND. HIS GREAT QUOTE WAS “I WANTED IT TO SOUND LIKE ENERGY COMING OUT OF THE SPEAKER.” DID HE OR ANY OF THE OTHER GUYS EVER BRING IN A RECORD THEY WANTED TO REFERENCE, FOR SOUNDS OR PRODUCTION?

The only record that we ever referenced was at the beginning of cutting (1977’s) Rocket To Russia. Johnny brought in [The Sex Pistols’] “God Save The Queen” and we listened to it and he said, “We want to sound better than this.” That’s the only thing he said. Anything else? Never. (Thinks) Actually…this is funny…(during Rocket to Russia) Johnny referenced a Steve Miller record. They wanted to lighten things up. I don’t remember the song, there’s some clean guitar on it, mixed with Johnny’s badass guitar.


MIGHT BE “LOCKET LOVE” OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT.

Yeah. So, there was a reference to Steve Miller as well. (Laughing) Steve Miller and the Pistols.


HOW OPEN WERE THE RAMONES TO ARRANGEMENT CHANGES? THE DEMO FOR “HOWLING AT THE MOON” DOESN’T HAVE THAT SPACE FOR YOUR GREAT, TWANGY GUITAR SOLO.

I didn’t work on the Too Tough To Die demos. That was all Tommy, he did the pre-production. The only record I did pre-production with the band was on (1992’s) Mondo Bizarro. When we did that record I was doing pretty major productions, back in the late-‘80s/’90s. We recorded all of it at The Magic Shop in New York. (Thinks) Y’know, I guess I did work on preproduction for End of the Century with the guys.


YOU PLAYED GUITAR WITH THE BAND DURING THE END OF THE CENTURY REHEARSALS. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE?

Just like being in the band. Johnny wanted me to come to the sessions because Uncle Phil [Spector]’s reputation preceded him.


WHAT GUITAR DID YOU PLAY?

My ’63 Strat. I played on the tracking of End of the Century. (laughs) I was there for the big “Rock ‘N’ Roll High School” first chord*.  [WURSTER: *Spector is said to have had Johnny play the song’s opening chord a mind-boggling number of times.]


WHERE DID YOU RECORD THE GUITAR OVERDUBS YOU PLAYED ON THOSE END OF THE CENTURY SONGS LIKE “ALL THE WAY” AND “THE RETURN OF JACKIE AND JUDY”?

I did overdubs at a little studio in the Valley. I don’t remember the name of it. I think it’s in my notes. (Laughs) The only album I ever took notes for was End of the Century. You know why? (Laughs) Because I was getting paid by the hour. I was the Ramones’ Musical Director and I wanted to be very honest about it. So, I’d write down the hours, usually starting at 8 or 9 at night and usually until the dawn, then breakfast at Duke’s.


SORRY, GOING DEEP HERE. WHILE WE’RE TALKING ABOUT END OF THE CENTURY, WHAT WERE THE SOURCE SOUNDS FOR THE RADIO DIAL MONTAGE AT THE BEGINNING OF “DO YOU REMEBER ROCK N ROLL RADIO”?

Phil did that. Apparently, Phil mixed the record two or three times. I was not around for the mixing, nor was the band. So, I don’t know where any of that stuff came from.


THE BASS INTRO TO “I’M AFFECTED” ALWAYS STRUCK ME AS AN ODD BASSLINE FOR DEE DEE TO COME UP WITH. HE ACTUALLY FLOATED THE IDEA THAT HE DOESN’T PLAY AT ALL ON END OF THE CENTURY.

Dee Dee has written in his book, “Oh, it might’ve been Ed Stasium who played…” No, Dee Dee was there. He played on every track. And I never really noticed Dee Dee being really fucked up, honestly…ever. But yeah, that’s Dee Dee on that song, for sure. I did the remixes for End of the Century and Phil did not get rid of anything. The Ramones are all over that record, except for “Baby I Love You.”


I KNOW WE’RE GETTING EVEN FURTHER AWAY FROM THE ‘80S REMASTERS, (LAUGHS) BUT I WANTED TO ASK ABOUT A FEW SONGS ON ROAD TO RUIN. IS IT SAFE TO SAY THAT “DON’T COME CLOSE” IS ALL YOU?

Guitar and bass. On that album, I played a lot. “Needles and Pins” as well. Tommy might’ve done a subliminal guitar bit, but I played most of them, for sure. “Don’t Come Close,” that’s all me. There are early versions of those songs on the Road to Ruin box set that have Johnny and Dee Dee on them doing their thing.


WHAT WERE THOSE CONVERSATIONS LIKE WHEN YOU WOULD SAY “I HAVE AN IDEA FOR AUGMENTATION, HERE”? DID THE GUYS SAY, “DO IT AND SHOW IT TO US, AND WE’LL SAY ‘YEA’ OR ‘NAY’”?

Exactly. Tommy and I would usually come up with the ideas. We did the basic tracks pretty quickly, probably three or four days at Media Sound. Then Tommy and I would take over doing the vocals, and I would do the backing vocals and guitar bits, and silly percussion on, like, “Bad Brain.”


ROAD TO RUIN IS THE RECORD I PLAY FOR RECORDING ENGINEERS WHEN I WANT TO SHOW THEM HOW I WANT THE CYMBALS TO SOUND.

(surprised) Oh really?


THAT ONE PAISTE CRASH CYMBAL, IT’S JUST THE GREATEST SOUNDING CYMBAL EVER. IT’S LIKE GLASS. WAS THAT JUST A LUCKY CONFIGUARTION OF MICS AND CYMBALS?

I don’t remember what I used. I have a feeling it was AKG 414s, and the Neve console in Media, a great console. It was just a great combo. I don’t know what the cymbals were. I didn’t pay much attention to that, I just wanted to get a performance.


GOING IN TO MAKE ROAD TO RUIN AND TOO TOUGH TO DIE, WAS THERE EVER A BRIEF FROM DANNY FIELDS [Ramones co-manager ’75-‘80], SEYMOUR STEIN [Sire Records President] OR GARY KURFIRST [later Ramones manager] ASKING YOU TO DEVOTE MORE TIME TO SONGS THAT WERE EARMARKED FOR SINGLES LIKE “I WANNA BE SEDATED” OR “HOWLING AT THE MOON”?

No, but, going back, I remember Seymour hearing the demo of “Sheena Is a Punk Rocker” and wanting us to go right into the studio to record it. We had completed Leave Home, and it was right around the time of the [Stasium-engineered] Talking Heads ’77 session, and we did “Sheena” at Sundragon Studios, as well. We did “Sheena” and the first version of “I Don’t Care.” Did both in a day. Seymour thought “Sheena” was going to be a hit. I don’t know from singles. I know what I like, but I’m not an A&R guy. I’m not a manager, I’m just a lover of music and a fan, and I like to twiddle the nobs ‘til they sound good.


WHAT WERE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES THAT CAME UP WHEN YOU PRODUCED THE RAMONES? IT SEEMS LIKE MIXING ALL OF THESE RAGING, INTENSE SOUNDS MIGHT BE TOUGH. WERE THERE ANY OF THOSE “MAKE ME LOUDER” ARGUMENTS THAT OFTEN HAPPEN DURING MIXING?

Nah, no problems. None at all. Jeez, I mean, for Leave Home, Tommy and I put that together while Tony Bongiovi was off reading all the airplane magazines. Tommy and I did all the work. (The Ramones) weren’t even around to hear those mixes on Leave Home. We did four or five songs at Track Recording in Silver Springs, MD, and then went up to Le Studio, where I’d been employed, and we did some mixing up there as well.

Ed Stasium and Tommy Ramone in the studio mixing the Ramones double live LP It’s Alive in 1978
Ed Stasium and Tommy Ramone in the studio mixing the Ramones double live LP It’s Alive in 1978




DID THE GUYS EVER GIVE NOTES OR CHIME IN ABOUT THE MIXES?

Tommy was there but the guys never heard those mixes. They were fine with them, as I recall. Dee Dee didn’t care. Johnny came in to listen to mixes on Rocket and Road to Ruin. Dee Dee showed up as well for listening, but we would mix it without them in the room. I mean, who wants to sit around and listen to the same song for eight hours? And everything’s manual back then. We’re (mixing) in pieces, bits at a time, trying to get through it one take sometimes. Because Tommy’s moving faders, I’m moving faders during the mix.


THESE WERE THE PRE-AUTOMATION DAYS WHERE YOU HAD TO HAVE A BUNCH OF DIFFERENT HANDS ON THE MIXING BOARD MOVING THE FADERS MANUALLY.

Yeah. Who wants to sit through that? (laughs) I hate going to other people’s sessions. I’ll stay for a minute and say “Hi,” and then go “Bye!” It’s incredibly boring if I’m not doing the work. I have a sign on the wall here that says “Never attend a recording session if you can help it. Studio lighting makes you look ugly, the recirculated air reeks, and the process’s repetitious tedium tortures the soul.”


YOU’VE BEEN INVOLVED WITH SO MANY OF THEM, BUT WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE RAMONES SONG?

Oh man, that’s hard to say.


ALRIGHT, GIVE ME FIVE.

(Laughs) Five Ramones songs? (Flustered) There’s so many. I do like “Sedated.” I’m very proud of that. But stuff I didn’t work on? I really like “We Want the Airwaves,” “Psychotherapy,” (looking at the tracks on the remaster set), “Somebody Put Something In My Drink,” the song that Richie wrote. “Bonzo Goes to Bitburg” is really great, “Something to Believe In,” written by Jean Beauvoir and Dee Dee. Halfway to Sanity, “I Wanna Live” is the best song for sure. “Pet Sematary” is a great song. “Merry Christmas” is a great song.

The records I did? I love “Mama’s Boy,” “Commando,” “Cretin Hop,” “Ramona,” “Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment,” hell yeah. (Looking at Ramones LP track listings) How many great songs do they have? It’s unbelievable. Oh, “Questioningly” is another one of my faves. That’s another one I played everything on. And the guys were fine with that. Y’know, Johnny wanted to do that. They wanted to be a little bit more commercial.


AND I ASSUME JOHNNY FIGURED YOU COULD DO IT FASTER?

Yeah. Johnny’s a specialist. He does what he does. He does his guitars, and then he leaves. Then Tommy and I stick around and do overdubs, fix stuff up and put stuff on there, then Johnny will come in the next day and say, “That’s great” or “I don’t like that.” So, that’s how it worked.


LET’S TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH TOMMY. A LOT OF US FANS THINK OF YOU TWO AS PARTNERS. HOW DO YOU DEFINE THAT RELATIONSHIP?

Yeah, partners. We were co-conspirators. We had a good relationship, we had very similar musical tastes, and we complimented each other.


YOU ARE THE ONLY PRODUCER TO RECORD ALL THREE RAMONES DRUMMERS: TOMMY, MARKY AND RICHIE. I’M NOT INCLUDING BILLY ROGERS OR CLEM BURKE, HERE.

Who is Billy Rogers?


BILLY ROGERS PLAYED ON ONE SONG ON SUBTERRANEAN JUNGLE. IT’S ONE OF THE COVERS, “TIME HAS COME TODAY.”

I don’t know anything about this. Why did he play?


WELL, I THINK MARC WAS MAYBE—

Drunk?


WELL…(LAUGHS)…BILLY PLAYED WITH JOHNNY THUNDERS AND WALTER LURE. WALTER KIND OF FILLED YOUR LEAD GUITAR SHOES ON SUBTERRANEAN JUNGLE. ANYWAY, BILLY CAME IN AND PLAYED DRUMS ON THAT ONE SONG.

Wow! But yes, I recorded Tommy, Marky and Richie.


THEY’RE VERY DIFFERENT DRUMMERS TO MY EAR. THEY EACH HAVE A DIFFERENT SWING. I THINK IT WAS VERY IMPORTANT TO THE BAND’S SOUND THAT TOMMY HAD NEVER PLAYED THE DRUMS WHEN THE RAMONES FORMED.

Yeah. He came up with that beat. (Imitates the Ramones beat) That’s Tommy. And he had a light touch. He was well-rehearsed, he did well. How could he do those fucking constant eighth notes?


BELIEVE ME, IT’S INCREDIBLY HARD TO DO THAT FOR A SUSTAINED AMOUNT OF TIME.

And Marky? Great hitter, had good time. Y’know, I got in trouble with Richie once because, I forgot what book it was, but I was interviewed, and they cut out half of what I said. I complimented him by saying, “Richie is great, but he’s really a great jazz drummer,” and I compared him to Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, but they cut that part, so it just read “he’s a jazz drummer.” He was pissed at me for a while, but we kissed and made up after I explained what happened.



Jon Wurster making it look easy
Jon Wurster making it look easy




WAS ONE DRUMMER EASIER OR MORE CHALLENGING TO RECORD THAN ANOTHER?

No. it was all good. Back then, we just did one or two takes and that was it. There wasn’t a lot of editing, which I got into later on in the mid-‘80s. I don’t think I did a lot of editing on Too Tough. On Mondo Bizarro there was a lot of editing involved, and we actually played everything with a click track.


THE GUITAR ON MONDO BIZARRO IS ABSOLUTELY RAGING, AND I THINK JOHNNY WAS ON RECORD SAYING THAT WAS THE ALBUM THAT BEST REPRESENTED HIS SOUND. WHAT DO YOU THINK ACCOUNTED FOR THAT?

It’s the Mosrite (guitar) through the Marshall amp on ten, really. Everything turned all the way up. Probably a (Sure SM) 57 on the cabinet and an (SM) 87 backed off a little bit. I started doing that on Rocket and really didn’t change much.


JOEY SAID SOMETHING ONCE ABOUT THE FOUR OF THEM HAVING A “STRONG CHEMICAL IMBALANCE.” WHAT ABOUT YOUR PERSONALITY GELLED SO WELL WITH THEIRS THAT YOU BASICALLY BECAME THE 5TH MEMBER?

(Laughs) Well, I guess I’m chemically imbalanced as well.


SAME HERE.

Yeah. I’m not what you would call a “normal” kind of person. I could never hold a job. I was lucky I found something to do with my life. I was kinda from the same mold as those guys. Kinda street smart and, not a high school dropout, but I never paid attention once I got a guitar when I was in eighth grade. Once I got that, my grades (makes an airplane plummeting sound). I never studied.  I’d be playing with tape recorders or playing guitar and not studying English or Math. I liked History and Science, but I was just a bad student.


ALL THESE YEARS LATER, WHY DO YOU THINK THE RAMONES’ LEGACY HAS ONLY GOTTEN MORE MASSIVE?

Because they changed everything. It wasn’t Emerson, Lake & Palmer, it wasn’t the Eagles. It wasn’t what turned out to be your parents’ rock ‘n’ roll. Even though I like some of that stuff. Johnny used to make fun of me for liking the Eagles. (Imitates Johnny) “Ed likes the Eagles.” I forgot when that started, but he used to bust my ass about it.

[The Ramones] was simple, down to basics. The kid next door could pick up a guitar and play a Ramones song. I’m not a proficient player at all. I can play bass, keyboards and drums, rudimentally.  And that’s what attracted me to the Ramones, and probably what attracted Billy Joe Armstrong and the rest of the gang to be inspired and play some power chords and make it loud.


IT COULD BE ARGUED THAT THE RAMONES ARE THE MOST INFLUENTIAL BAND OF THE LAST 50 YEARS.

I always like to quote Legs [McNeil] in the End of the Century documentary. He called the Ramones “the pied pipers of rock ‘n’ roll.” They would go to a town to play, and the next day there were two dozen new bands starting up. I think that’s what’s attractive, even today. They’re bigger than ever, it’s insane. (Looks at the wall) We got this platinum record for “I Wanna Be Sedated” back there. (Laughs) It took forty-three years to get there. I always loved that song. I remember playing it, the famous one-note solo.


IT’S GENIUS. IT’S ONE NOTE, BUT IT’S THE GREATEST SOLO EVER.

Open E string. I was inspired by “Cinnamon Girl” by Neil Young. It’s the same type of thing.


AND YOU’RE A VENTURES GUY, RIGHT? THAT EXPLAINS YOUR “HOWLING AT THE MOON” GUITAR SOLO.

Could be. (thinks) Yeah, I played that on my Strat. Dave Stewart played some rhythm guitar on that as well. He had a little tiny guitar and he played an octave above. That was fun, doing that solo (hums the solo), just follow the melody.


I ONCE TOLD JOHNNY IT WAS MY FAVORITE GUITAR SOLO EVER. HE LOOKED AT ME WITH A VERY CONFUSED EXPRESSION, WHICH CONFUSED ME, BECAUSE I ASSUMED HE PLAYED IT!

(Laughs) I actually sat in onstage with them, maybe three times. Once, in particular, at Perkins’ Palace, right after Pleasant Dreams came out. I was living in L.A., early ’82 or something. Johnny asked me to play the bit on “Airwaves” (hums the song’s single-note guitar hook). So, I plugged into an amp and played it offstage, during the encore. Then they busted into “I Just Wanna Have Something To Do” and I played along with that.


WOW, WHAT A GREAT MOMENT TO BE PLAYING WITH THE RAMONES ONSTAGE. ONLY A HANDFUL OF PEOPLE GOT TO DO THAT.

I miss those guys and I love them all. I’m proud to be part of their legacy. And here I am forty years later, still working on Ramones stuff. It’s insane. I would never have thought that, ever, in a million years.


WELL, THIS BAND IS VERY IMPORTANT TO SO MANY OF US. FOR ME, THEY’RE THE MOST IMPORTANT BAND OF MY LIFETIME.

Right on, me too.





Ed with Joey, Marky, Johnny and engineering assistant Paul Hamingson at Baby Monster Studios during the overdub sessions for 1992’s Mondo Bizarro.  Photo by Chuck Pulin.
Ed with Joey, Marky, Johnny and engineering assistant Paul Hamingson at Baby Monster Studios during the overdub sessions for 1992’s Mondo Bizarro.  Photo by Chuck Pulin.