For 20+ years, Peter Aaron has fronted the killer NYC gutter blues-punk band, the Chrome Cranks. Once he left his hometown of Cincinnati, OH, to get the band going in NYC in the early ‘90s, they dished out four albums of boot-stomping, Birthday Party-ish howl-rock once called “pig fuck,” “Bowery slime,” and any number of phrases synonymous with the grimiest tail-end of the now mythologized “cool old New York” music scene. So Aaron knows from New York underbelly music history, not to mention what he gleaned from the tons of amazing shows he booked back in Cincinnati. Chrome Cranks recently released an EP, Moon In The Mountain (Bang) on the heels of their great 2012 comeback LP, Ain’t No Lies In Blood (Bang).
And now Aaron has zeroed in on the NYC punk band, the Ramones, to compile the deeply researched, endlessly skimmable book, If You Like The Ramones…, one in a series of fun If You Like books detailing all the bands, movies, TV shows, books, etc. that you would probably dig if you dug, well, you get it.
Check out our Q&A with Peter Aaron below and enter to win at the bottom of the page. The book contest ends TOMORROW, Wednesday, March 26. Good gabba gabba luck!
How did this book come about? As far as I know, you hadn’t written a book before.
You are correct in that it’s my first book. I was in talks with Backbeat Books about doing a title for the If You Like… series for about a year before we settled on what the subject would be. Originally I was going to do If You Like Frank Sinatra…, but for various reasons Backbeat decided not to do that book. When the idea of one on the Ramones came up, I jumped at the chance, being a huge fan of/and almost anything related to them.
How long did it take you to put this book together? There is a ton of information in it!
Thanks, yeah, I really tried to make it as comprehensive as possible. It pretty much swallowed my life for about eight months, although one of those months was devoted to rehearsing and touring with my band.
What is your first memory of the Ramones?
My earliest memory of the Ramones is hearing Rockaway Beach on WNEW in 1977, which was like being fried with electricity. Performance-wise, the first memory is of seeing them on “The Uncle Floyd Show” in 1978 when they were promoting Road to Ruin. I finally got to see them live in 1980.
What do you think makes you a Ramones expert?
Well, besides being a fan for 30-plus years and having devoured every other damn Ramones book out there, I also have an unhealthy obsession with the music and other stuff (movies, comics, etc.) that influenced the Ramones; music that was contemporaneous to the their early existence; and music that was influenced by the Ramones later.
I assume you must’ve met some of the Ramones over the years. Did any of the Ramones ever walk into a Chrome Cranks show?
I first met the Ramones, if you can call it that, at an in-store appearance at Looney Tunes Records in Wayne, New Jersey, in 1978. I brought my copy of Leave Home for them to sign, which was totally stupid as it’s Tommy playing drums on that album, and at the time of the signing Marky was the drummer. But, cool guy that he is, he just went ahead and signed it anyway without chewing me out. Ha! Tommy lives near where I live now, in the Hudson Valley, and besides meeting him at a local gig by his bluegrass band, Uncle Monk, I’ve interviewed him for magazines I’ve written for. I met Dee Dee a couple of times in New York in the early ’90s and later on when he was back stage at a Chrome Cranks/Muffs show in Holland. So I guess, yeah, Dee Dee did walk into one of our shows. Unless he just snuck in the back.
When did the Chrome Cranks officially begin and end, and why? And how did it all start up again?
In name, the Chrome Cranks began in Cincinnati in the summer of 1988. We did a couple of gigs there with a much different lineup (with another singer, and with William Weber and I on guitars and no bassist), before William and I moved the concept to New York in 1992 and hooked up with Jerry Teel on bass and eventually Bob Bert drums to form our “classic” lineup. Basically, we broke up in 1998 because we’d been working hard without a break for several years, without making any money to speak of, and were sick of playing, and of each other. Ha! We all got back in touch in 2009 and decided to do some gigs, which lead to the making of 2012’s Ain’t No Lies in Blood, our hardest, heaviest, noisiest and nastiest record of all. We did a really great tour of Europe this past summer, although now the band is once again on indefinite hiatus as everybody pursues other musical projects and real-life stuff.
Are you planning another book?
Right now, I’m working up a sample chapter for a proposed book whose working title is Anger Can Be Power: 50 Ways Punk Changed Popular Culture and the World. I’m also looking for a home for an illustrated anthology of the portraits of Hudson Valley musicians that I’ve written over the years for Chronogram magazine. This includes profiles and interviews of everyone from Pete Seeger to the Bad Brains, Levon Helm, Sonny Rollins and many more. When taken together, it’s a wallop-packing testament to the region’s deep and highly diverse musical culture. And among other projects, I’m planning a memoir that takes in my time at the dawn of the hardcore scene; my 1980s years as a promoter booking Nirvana, the Flaming Lips and other then-underground acts; and of course my career as a touring and recording musician in the Chrome Cranks. So, much ado, amigos.