Marc Storm speaks with
Jerry Roslie of The Sonics
about the ongoing
renaissance of the
garage rock pioneers
Witches. Psychos. Strychnine. Scary sounding stuff you would think, right? Jerry Roslie, founding member and songwriter for influential garage rockers The Sonics didnít really think so when he wrote the bandís early hits about just those subjects. Rumbling out of the Pacific Northwest right around the time Kurt Cobain and his contemporaries were born, The Sonics may not have been as well known at the time as Jet-City pals The Kingsman and Paul Revere and the Raiders. They nevertheless left a tube-amp fueled stamp on garage rock and its attendant spin-offs that echoed for decades to come. Fast-forward to the 21st century. There are new generations of rockers turning on to The Sonics, as luminaries including the late Kurt Cobain and White Stripes founder Jack White among many others have cited the band as one of their biggest influences. The revival of sorts is not just a rediscovery by fans from the early days, but a realization by younger generations of punkers, alt rockers, and just flat out rock lovers who lock onto the raw power and unbridled intensity of the band. Face it, you do not find many bands from the 60ís performing at SXSW or at tattoo festivals. The Sonics are not resting on the laurels their early hits either. They are recording new music, which has lost none of that no-nonsense intensity and slightly twisted subject matter (witches, psychos and strychnine have become vampires, bad attitudes and politics). Jerry Roslie still has a full songwriting tank, touring and recording with the current lineup featuring fellow original members Larry Parypa and Rob Lind, with more recent additions Freddie Dennis and Ricky Lynn Johnson, and was kind enough to talk with us about his perspective on The Sonics - past, present and future.
Punk Globe: You have some many people from various eras of music talking about how influential The Sonics were to them. What factor or factors do you think it is about The Sonics that make them so influential?
Jerry: I think our music was different from most because the songs I wrote were about witches, psycho's, strychnine, and strange stuff like that. On top of everything else, I screamed my "ars" off whenever the spirit moved me. Some radio stations were afraid to lose their listeners if they played our "barbaric" music (as one TV producer of a national rock show called it), but the ones that did play our music seemed to have a lot of good feedback.
Punk Globe: I assume when the band first formed you didnít say, hey, letís be influential to future bands. But did you decide that you wanted to do music that was a little bit more unique than what others were playing?
Jerry: I personally liked music that was over the top and I liked the energy of people like Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Elvis Presley to name just a few. I've always thought that rock should be played from the soul with a ton of conviction so that your audience can feel that there's no doubt...." It's time to party"!!
Punk Globe: When you go into the studio nowadays to record your new material, do you feel that same kind of vibe that you felt in the early days? Does it feel as good, feel as fun to record music as it did then?
Jerry: I love to write and create new music. I like to try to make and play rock and roll that you don't just hear.....but music you can FEEL right down to the bone.
Punk Globe: Does that sort of vibe translate when you are playing the songs live?
Jerry: That is what we shoot for. We want people to experience the high energy that we know rock 'n roll is all about.
Punk Globe: What sort of cross section of fans do you see at your shows? Fans from the early days, new fans, a combination?
Jerry: We have been shocked at how many younger people like our material. We do see a definitive combination of early fans and new fans. In so many concerts......we look out over the crowd and it's like dťjŗ vu. It's gratifying to say the least.
Punk Globe: Youíve seen a lot of changes in the music business. With your new music and recent shows do you feel it was tough at first to search out fans of the earlier music to introduce them to your new music, or do you think there was some welcoming anticipation among your fan base, like they knew that you would do this someday?
Jerry: I have had fans come up to me after the show and say things like: "I thought I'd never get to see the Sonics play live in my lifetime!" "The Sonics are what real rock and roll is all about!" "The Sonics kick butt!" , etc.
Punk Globe: You did a show at SxSW, an event usually more for the newer bands and alt rock bands. How did that go and how were you received, did these younger kids really feed off the vibe of the band and their music?
Jerry: Very good crowd response and some of the people said they had come all the way from Europe and other countries especially to see us....and love it!
Punk Globe: Iím sure some cynics may think that there is a sense of novelty of a band from the 60ís era playing aggressive, loud music that the younger kids like. Would you say that is not the case and it is more about the music in itself and the energy that it exudes, that it doesnít matter what era the band came from?
Jerry: Absolutely! When you look out over a "sea of people" and most of them are singing and screaming the words to your songs right along with you, you get a great feeling inside and you feel really connected with your fans like it's almost some kind of religious experience or something.
Punk Globe: You are having this current renaissance of sorts. Do you feel this is something you can and want to sustain? Do you feel a lot of new music left in you and a level of drive that makes you want to keep going and create new generations of Sonics fans?
Jerry: Personally, I want to play as long as possible. If it feels good, you can't help but do it. I feel that I have only scratched the surface of songs I want to write and sing about. In that respect, it's only the beginning Punk Globe would like to thank Marc Storm and Jerry Roslie for the fun interview...