T.S.O.L. Singer Jack Grisham Shares Crazy Stories from the Early Hardcore Punk Days

Jack Grisham, Alex Morgan, Uncle Jack, Jack Greggors, whatever you know him as, you definitely know him (and if you don't, I doubt you'd be reading this).

He's in almost as many punk documentaries as Keith Morris and Henry Rollins and he sings in T.S.O.L. (and other projects). He also writes books and movies. I had the pleasure of speaking to Jack on the phone (our conversation flowed easily for over an hour) about all things T.S.O.L., including their new album, A-Side Graffiti.

Read on as A Hardcore Conversation continues. 

Let's see here, I was hoping to get some T.S.O.L. history too but the new album, I was listening to it and I want to talk about that also. I always start off all my interviews asking a variation of this question, which...

Let me just before I forget, I directed a film about T.S.O.L. (Ignore Heroes) and I'll send you the link if you want to look at it, you can. Pretty often it's a pretty funny film.

I've watched it. I wanted to ask you about that, I think it's very cool that, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, but similar to An American Demon, your book, and the movie, you didn't want to just make a typical rock memoir or rock biopic either, right?

Why? I've been in so many of those fucking movies. You know, it's like, do we really need another one? Whether or not it's successful or not, at least you take a shot at doing something. Trying something a little outside the box. I mean, that's what this punk rock thing was supposedly about.

Right. I had a couple of major complaints though, because I don't think there was an interview with Keith Morris or Ian MacKaye or Henry Rollins in your movie!

[Laughs] Or Dave Grohl, either! What's funny about that, one of the producers, one of the guys at the start, he got mad at me and quit because he had given me a list of all sorts of people like that and he had already contacted them and I told him, "Yeah nope, I'm not talking to any of those fucking people."

That's great, that's awesome. That's my ongoing running joke online about how it's not truly a punk movie without those guys, obviously. Even if they don't really apply, like they're all in the Damned movie. Obviously, they're all fans. But what does that have to do with the Damned, you know? 

Well, I feel bad about that because I'm also in the Damned movie [laughs]! I will say this, Rat [Scabies, drummer in the Damned] wrote a blurb for my first book. And I used to play poker with Rat so I guess I'm allowed to be in the movie!

Yeah, I guess so! I didn't realize Rat lived in the United States. Or maybe you lived in England?

For a little while he was living in Huntington Beach for a while. 

Oh, that's cool. Did he surf?

I don't think he's ever seen the sun.

It doesn't look like it.

It's funny, I had a party one time to celebrate the people that were still alive. Because everybody I knew was dying and I was only seeing these people ever at funerals or memorials, so I had this party called "We're still here" and it was it was on the beach and [Dead Kennedys guitarist] East Bay Ray showed up and he took his shoes off, now I've never seen that fucker with his shoes off, ever! His feet were as white as they could get but he had his shoes off on the beach, that's gotta be a first!

That's pretty funny. I actually interviewed him a couple of years ago when when they released the Chris Lord-Alge remix of the Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables album.

That's funny. I was friends with Jeff Lord-Alge, Chris's brother. Chris was the one that did their thing or was it Jeff?

I believe it was Chris and I didn't know he had a brother. They're both recording guys? 

Yeah, and East Coast dicks [laugh]. You know what I mean? Like, they were really about you know, "Hey, fuck you, you're learning how to be a studio, guy go get me a fucking donut, man!"

Making you pay your dues to record with them?

Well not me, they weren't fucking with me but they were fucking with other people. 

Yeah. I hear you. Okay, let me just rewind a little bit. Now, I think we already covered this but I do traditionally start my interviews with a variation of: You are Jack Grisham, singer of Vicious Circle, T.S.O.L., The Joykiller, Tender Fury, and all-around American Demon, correct? 

Correct. Okay, Guilty as charged. 

From the collection of Jeff Arellano

Your father was a military guy, I think that's pretty widely known. But, did you ever consider following in his footsteps at all? 

Yeah. My dad served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. I come from a military family. Like my daughter right now. She's an officer on a ship. She's actually off the coast of Iran right now. She's running jet fuel, she's not in the military she's a Merchant Marine, but she runs jet fuel for the government. Anyway, so I tried, I just figured, "Fuck, what else am I gonna do?"

There was like a weird period in music, around '84, ‘85, you know, which was kind of, people were kind of burned out on the hardcore scene and everybody was getting into like, weird country shit, or whatever the hell they were doing or hair metal and so I just figured, "Fuck, I'm gonna try and join the military and they called my dad. My dad said, "No fucking way. No, no fucking way." And the guy said, "Well, we'll get him straightened out." And my dad said, "No, my kid, he's up to something!" 

Your dad threw you right under the bus!

Oh, straight under the bus. He thought that I was gonna do some sort of sabotage. My dad died in '84 so this was right around, probably around '83 right after I left T.S.O.L. I think was probably when I tried to do it. And my dad just said, no not gonna happen. Probably a pretty astute move on his part. I used to have to salute him when he came home from work. 

Like, he required that of his kids?

Well, he required it of me.

Did you do it like sarcastically or could he tell the difference? 

No, no, it wasn't sarcastic. But he was stoked when I when I shaved my head. Like he was totally stoked that I had gotten squared away and got my head shaved. And when he realized that the reason why I had my head shaved is so nobody can grab my hair in a fight he wasn't as happy about it. So I got the fuck beat out of me one night, it was like, I don't know if you ever saw that Bugs Bunny cartoon where he goes, "How many lumps you want? Three or four?" 

So I'm wearing, I got a dress on in the morning, I'm living with my mom and dad, I got a dress on and big ol' gold hoop earrings, I have two black eyes, my lips are just swollen, fuckin' huge and I'm eating sugar sweet cereal watching cartoons. My dad comes downstairs and he sees me and he goes, "Alright, alright, you finally got your ass kicked!" I'm like, "Yeah, fuck you, it took 10 to do it." It was always like that with me and him. It was pretty, pretty gnarly.

Yeah. Did you did you guys reconcile at all ever?

No. I did basically a grave side amends with him a  couple years after he had died. We're clear now. My dad was cool you know, he was stressed out. Five kids, didn't make shit for money and he really taught me, the one thing about my pops was, so he was in the military and then he would come home and work at Jack in the Box at night so he could have more money for his kids to take care of his family.

He used to say that, I hear these guys go, I humbled myself and took a job. My father never looked at any job as if you were humbling yourself. It was like, "Yeah, you're doing what you have to do to take care of your family, what do you mean humble yourself, what the fuck are you talking about?" I mean, it's funny because even though I'm a fuckin' asshole I've always been the same way with my family, whatever I got to do to do that.

One time T.S.O.L. was playing a show and we didn't make a lot of money, right? So we're playing a show, but I had a job that day. And the show we're playing is at the campus at USC and I had a job that day so while kids are lining up, waiting to get a ticket to go inside to see me play, I'm outside on a forklift moving pallets around.

From the collection of Anthony Allen Begnal

Oh wow, that's wild!

I just happened to be working at that campus. It was pretty fuckin' funny.

That's awesome, man. Did anybody recognize you?

Yeah, one kid and he's like, "What're you doing, man?" Like he thought I was fucking around.

Like you were vandalizing the building or something. 

Yeah. It's like, "Dude, I'm moving pallets." I was working as a day laborer.

So you have a few siblings, I believe four, right? 

Yeah, five kids all together. 

Were any of your siblings punk or whatever and into T.S.O.L.?

Well no but, okay, so I have an older sister, who is like, she would be considered what a punk was in the '60s. She was a, you know, a yippie flower, protester person. When my sister was 18, right out of high school, she used to get into it with my dad too.

Out of all the kids, the two of us were the ones that got into it with my dad the most. And so she took off and hitched freight trains across the country and took off.

Page from the Glen E. Friedman's 'My Rules' photozine. (From the collection of Michael S. Begnal)

So your sister was a hobo? 

[Laughs] Well, she wasn't a hobo but she was like a hippie and it was funny because all of this stuff that I had learned, you know how to behave in a riot or whatever all came from her underground magazines.

It's funny, you know, they were hippies but you know, there's the peace & love hippies and then there's the burn baby burn hippies and my sister was a burn baby burn hippie.

Right, the much more interesting hippies, obviously. 

Yeah. So there'd be things like you know, in a riot, stand in the center of a crowd and throw bottles. Always telling you things like, "Here's the best way to deal with this." You know? So, I mean, I learned how to make bombs from literature that she had. 

Okay, I was actually gonna ask you about that story, I think it was the [early Orange County hardcore band] Middle Class were playing and you paid your way into a show with a couple of pipe bombs?

Yeah, with a pipe bomb, yeah.

What were you doing with those pipe bombs?

I'd sell them to some people but not very often because if you get caught making those that's a big that's a big charge.

Yeah, for sure.

I was pretty good at making bombs. So a lot of it I just did it by myself. I liked to blow shit up. I was physically abused as a child or whatever and so a lot of those kids turn into like fire starters. You know what I mean? That kinda, I like to burn down buildings and shit. It's that, it's just that aggression, that repressed anger.

I hear ya, I used to blow up my Star Wars action figures with firecrackers and stuff like that, you know?

[Llaughs] Fuckin' bad ass. To be honest, like my girlfriend now, I bought a bunch of illegal fireworks and gave it to her kids and they didn't light them off.

See, kids today...

I come out of the house and there'd be four young teen boys and I'm like, let's get these going. "C'mon man, these are just sitting in the garage, let's blow some shit up! You won't be in trouble. I promise!"

They probably just wanted to be on their computers, you know? 

Yeah, they do want to be on the computer. But we always had a rule. Like when I was raising my kids, man, the rule was, you can do anything you want, as long as you're willing to pay the price and you clean up your mess. 

I like it! I'm gonna I'm gonna apply that to my kids, but I can't get my kids off their computers anyway. 

When you can kill 1000 people in a fuckin' raid (in a video game) it's hard to get them out to just light up a couple M80s.

Right. So, you've said a bunch of times how you were more into musically, I guess when you were younger, into like, soul music and the Stylistics and Luther Vandross and stuff like that so, what was it about punk that you were into? Was it just like the wild crazy freedom of punk that you were into? Or friends of yours were into it?

Yeah, it was just the fact that because I was acting like I acted already. Everything that you would consider calling punk, you know, I was doing that when I had hair down to my elbows, I had blonde hair down to my elbows wearing a Levi's jacket with a fur collar. I was blowing up, stealing cars and blowing shit up.

I mean, I had gotten kicked out of my first school when I was in sixth grade. So it's like I was already behaving that way and then all of a sudden the music just came in and it was like a backdrop to it. It's not like I didn't like punk but I liked like the poppier punk shit. That's what I liked. And back then, you know, most all the punk stuff was really just kind of three-chord rock 'n' roll with some cool changes in attitude.

Yeah, for sure. 

That's what it was. Listen to Gen X goddamn, the Sex Pistols were a pop band.

Yeah. Oh, yeah.

(sings, "Bodies, I'm not an animal...")

It's catchy as hell for sure, man.

They're pop songs, man.

And the Ramones obviously, were even more bubblegum, you know?

Exactly. Pop songs with fucked up lyrics, that's all it was. 

Yeah. How did you start writing lyrics and melodies and stuff like that?

Well, just listening to it. I still don't think, I'm not really a very good musician. You know, I'm a better performer than I am a musician. But, you know, it's actually pretty interesting, Grant Hart, from Hüsker Dü, like I would write some words, but I never really thought about it a lot.

Then we stayed, when we were in Minneapolis, we stayed at Grant's house, his parents had a motorhome and he let us sleep in the motorhome in the driveway of his parents' house. And he gave me a thesaurus, you know, a little rhyming dictionary and he said, "Hey, use this when you're writing, there's all sorts of words, it's really cool." And I still have the little rhyming dictionary that he gave me.

Oh wow, that's awesome. 

Yeah, and so then I just started looking into it more, you know, and as I got doing it more then I wanted to make more sense of it. And then, you know, I ended up being a writer, I guess.

Yeah. So, were either your parents into writing or anything like that?

No, and I didn't, the other thing is, I didn't go to school. When I went to school I went to school to see who was there. 


I mean, I'm not a very, like, a woke...woke is a shit word to use now but, I'm not really a well, I'm not a woke kind of guy. I'm not really. Now I am, now I'm a lot more introspective. But at the time, I wasn't. I was just basically, you know, let's get some pussy and drink and fuck shit up.

Well yeah, as one does.

That was it! That's right, as one does, Just standard, okay, what are we doing? All right. I'm in! That sounds great to me. And sometimes I laugh thinking about these guys that they go back and they'll put these lofty ideals on punk rock, but that wasn't so with a lot of the guys I knew, they just wanted to cause trouble and, you know, fuck shit up. They weren't operating on this high platform.

I hear you, man. I think that's a thing that a lot of people either just have forgotten or want to forget or whitewash over. But right, people like to talk about, oh, punk rock was always this, that and the other like you just said and there were a lot of people that just wanted to fuck shit up for sure.

Yeah, and I think that's what it was! It was just basically a license to be a fucking asshole. And the other thing about it, you know, that people sometimes forget, the girls were just as bad as the guys.

You know, they're always leaving this out. Like, I love these guys, you know, that are like you know, the weaker sex. What are you fucking talking about? There were some really gnarly, hard hitting chicks. I hung out with them!

Oh yeah, for sure.

I mean they were larcenous. I mean these bitches are going down, they're gonna do some time you know, they're not playing with dolls.

Right. I'm an East Coast guy and I remember, you guys obviously toured so you may have come across her, I think she just passed away so rest in peace, but Lefty was a female African-American Nazi skinhead who was at all the shows in the northeast back then.

Yeah, okay, right, so you know what I'm talking about. There was all sorts of that shit going on. I mean, I knew some some of these chicks that drug me into fucking trouble!

Remember the girl with the mohawk in Repo Man, robbing the deli and stuff like that?

Yeah. It was, I mean, my present day girlfriend's one of them. You'd never even know if you looked at her, you know, she looks so nice, and she's a therapist, and she's got a master's degree from USC and blah, blah, blah. She was fucking larcenius, yeah this is after she got her record expunged.

My wife actually works with special needs kids with a similar kind of history [laughs].

Yeah. You know, I find it amusing but anyway.

T.S.O.L. was really one of a pretty small handful of OG hardcore punk bands back then that actually managed to tour nationwide (as opposed to weekenders and one night stands). How did you guys do that? Were you flowed tour support money from Alternative Tentacles or Posh Boy?

No, no, we had nothing. There was nothing. The first tour we went on, there were seven of us and we were literally living on $5 a day for food. That's for seven guys. We would get a White Castle burger and break it into four ways. So we stole basically. We would have enough gas money to get to the next place and and we would have a little money for food.

But it was basically steal and scavenge and whatever you could do to feed yourself. And I'm six four, and I came home from one of those tours weighing 175 pounds. And right now, if you took all the fat out of me, bones and muscle just bones and muscle straight, I'm 197. It's like I'm looking like Christian Bale in The Mechanic. It was just so...but yeah, we toured a lot, you know, three or four tours of the US, like three for sure of the US.

What was your vehicle? Did you guys have a van or a bus? 

No, no, we didn't own a van, no money for a bus. We would rent campers. We would find old people that, our manager and his wife were like a young couple and they would say they were taking a trip and they would rent a camper for a month.

Who was your manager back in those days? 

Mike Vraney, who also managed the Dead Kennedys.

So you guys kind of had some actual business going on, you know what I mean?

No, not really. I mean, we had a manager, but there was no, there was nobody in charge. You know what I mean? It was just a mess. There were always legal problems and everything was fucked up. Nobody was doing stuff right and it was just...

You know, it's funny, one of the members just basically sued himself recently. I get this paper saying that somebody has filed a dispute against something. And I look and I call him, I go, dude, what is this? He goes, "Yeah, they've been taking my money." Oh, it's you! You just filed a dispute against yourself! That's the kind of shit that's always been going on in that fucking band.

Yeah, wow.

And it's like, this is the thing, we couldn't get into a lot of countries. There were you know, gun charges and, you know, all sorts of just craziness. 

Yeah. Did you have a tour manager with you?

Yeah, we had a tour manager with us, but it's like, it was this guy Microwave, who was the tour manager, but there's no, there's no bookkeeping [laughs].

But he collected the money for you and stuff like that?

Yeah, he collected the money. God knows, I mean, I never saw like any paperwork. I mean, maybe they gave us a piece of paperwork one time. I don't know. 

I've heard the name Microwave. But can you tell me who he was/is?

Microwave was a roadie for the Dead Kennedys. And then he went on tour with us. Now, the Kennedys, they were they were really well organized. They had a credit card, they had I mean, we actually used their credit card.

You were allowed to or...

No, not with their knowledge [laughs]! I think one of our vehicles one time got rented using the Kennedys' credit card. But no, we were like, it was a shit show. It was really an unorganized shit show.

From the collection of Jeff Arellano

Did you guys ever play the Electric Banana in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

I fucking love Pittsburgh. Are you from Pittsburgh?

I'm originally from about two hours east of Pittsburgh, State College is the name of the town, it's where Penn State University is.

Okay yeah. I got stuck in the mountains up there one time during a really bad storm.

Yeah, that happened to my band. I was living in Brooklyn at the time. And we were playing in Chicago and we got stuck in a snowstorm up in the mountains somewhere on Route 80 up there.

Yeah, you come over there, that's what some guy told me, he said, "You better get going. The first nor'easter of the winter's coming!" I was like, What the fuck? About a couple hours later we're on the top of that path right there and it was a complete whiteout.

Yeah, it's wild. 

I'd never seen anything like it. But no, we played Pittsburgh, but I'm not sure, a lot of the places we played were just like little shitholes. Or somebody threw it together or something.

I remember we played a show, going back to Hüsker Dü, it was us and Hüsker Dü playing, we played a strip club in Minneapolis, and we had to wait outside while the dancers came on. Then the band would play and then we'd have to go outside because the dancers would come on between the bands and we weren't old enough to be in there.

So, I was asking about the Banana in Pittsburgh because they infamously, the owners were Johnny and Judy Banana, I'm sure that was their real last name, but they were a husband and wife team that ran the place and they would infamously supposedly pull guns on bands at the end of the night in order to not pay them. I just wondered if you'd had a run in with them? 

No, but I wish we would've ran into them because we often traveled armed.

So that would have been interesting then.

There's a famous story in the T.S.O.L. movie of when we're in Lawrence, Kansas, and we had a bunch of guns and they (management) made us send them home because they were so pissed because of, you know, the gunplay, that we went to the post office and we basically put all the guns in a box and mailed them home.

And we got arrested that night and if we hadn't mailed those guns home then we would have basically been arrested with a 11 or 12 stolen firearms. 

That wouldn't have been good. 

Yeah, no. We would have been in jail. 20 years. 15, 20 years, especially the way we looked back then there's no way you're getting out of that. Not in Kansas. 

No, man. Like I said, I grew up in kind of the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania and it was a similar situation so I hear ya for sure. So, Vicious Circle is your first band.

Actually, there was a band before that Johnny Coathanger and the Abortions. 

OK, I thought I thought that was the same band under a different name. 

No, Johnny Coathanger and the Abortions was the first band and then it went to Vicious Circle.

OK. Was Todd Barnes in that band too? 

Yeah, Todd and I. Then these two other guys from Huntington: Steve Houston and Mike Terrell.

And those two were not in Vicious Circle?

No, but Steve Houston was in this band called The Klan with Snickers from the Simpletones and they had a song called "Cover Girls." It was a good song, it's like, early Southern California punk.

Nice. So, then you do Vicious Circle and I guess you've talked about that quite a bit. Do you have any stories that you have not told about Vicious Circle? 

No, not really. In the movie, I wanted to give the background because the thing about T.S.O.L. Is that we had brought all that crazy Vicious Circle reputation and crowd, Todd and I had brought that with us when we joined T.S.O.L. It was like an instant following really.

So everybody knew it was you guys.

Right, exactly.

Was that kind of like a punk gang already? Or was that too early? 

Yeah, Vicious Circle was kind of, I hate to say this, but kind of like the first punk gang in this area. But it wasn't really like, I don't know what you'd even call that. It was just a bunch of fucking knuckleheads you know, wearing VC armbands and you know, doing that stuff.  

Then later on, you got the Circle One guys, you got the La Mirada Punks (LMP), you got the you know, there was there was a ton of them.

Yeah. So was Circle One related to a Vicious Circle at all? 

No, completely different. 

How did you feel about punk gangs and that kind of stuff?

It was a bummer. Because the problem was, when we were doing it, it was because there were so many people hating punks at the time. So it was really self preservation. I mean, so, I was popular in school because I could surf really good and I got in a lot of trouble and the girls all liked me and, you know, I was a fucking asshole.

So the guys liked me, the girls liked me, you know, that kind of thing. So I was well known before I started playing punk rock. When I got in punk rock, then there was really a lot of, you know, "Fuck Jack Grisham." You know, "Jack's done this," you know, that kind of shit. And so it's like, I was constantly getting into it with people, man. Like, getting into a fight a day.

Were you even 18 at that point?

No, I wasn't. I turned 18 in '79. And so this is '78, '79.

But you were into it though, right? Or were you like, fuck me, I gotta fight this guy again, or whatever?

I mean, yes, sometimes I was into it, but not really, man. Like, okay, this one time, right? So there was this notorious fuckin' dude, this guy who was just, he was in and out of prison and just fuckin' gnarly. The last time he was in prison was assault on, I think it was attempted murder on a police officer. This guy was fucking gnarly and they hated punks.

And so, I had gotten a reputation for just being like a fucking asshole. Like, just an animal, right? Like a crazy animal, like that. So I'm getting gas one time, and I'm with this young kid Stewart, who's with me and Stewart's wearing a leopard skin coat, he's got a dog collar on. And so this van pulls up next to us and I just look at him and nod my head and it's this dude. This dude that hates punks and fucking just got out of prison and it's him and a couple of friends and they pull up next to us and they're staring at me and I give them a little head nod.

I go back to pouring gas, just putting the gas in and then this kid that's with me starts going, "What the fuck you looking at? What the fuck you looking at fatsos?" to the dude, to this guy because they're in a van next to us looking at us. And I turn around, I see him and I smile again and I keep putting the gas in and then this kid I'm with is going, "You want him to kick your fucking ass? You want my pops to kick your fucking asses?" because he called me his pops.

And then I just smiled again and got in the car and drove off. I didn't think anything of it, right. But afterwards, I saw one of those guys and he came up to me and goes, "Yeah I carry too man, I guess it's good to carry when you got a lot of people after you."

So he thought I was armed and that's why I didn't give a shit about them because they looked at it like, here's this guy dressed like a total "faggot," you know, sitting there and just smiling at us and they just figured, well, I was armed. In their figuring that's what it was and in reality I was terrified. I mean, I thought they were gonna fucking kill me.

That's like a prison mentality. You and Stewart wouldn't be fucking with them if you weren't armed obviously, you know?

Exactly. They're thinking, This guy's got nothing, he's smiling at us while he's putting the gas in and he doesn't got a care in the world. And that was the way the guy thought, the guy thought, well fuck, they've heard all these stories about me making bombs, and torturing people and all this shit and they pull up on me and I don't really have a care in the world.

So they're figuring. "Yeah, this guy's fucking...[laughs and doesn't finish his sentence]. So, in reality, I'm shitting my pants because I'm no fucking tough guy. It's like, yeah, they would've beat the living crap outta me.

Were you still in high school? Did you graduate high school?

I was just right out of high school. I didn't really graduate. I had to take a summer school class because I didn't have enough credits to graduate.

OK, so you got your GED or whatever? 

No, I ended up graduating, I had to take a summer school class to do it.

Well, that's cool. So you did it.

Yeah, and it's pretty funny, man, because I had a teacher when I was in school, and I turned in some writing thing and he said, "You're not a writer."

That's funny. Do you still have that? 

Well no, because I didn't save it 'cause I'm not a writer. He's right, you know. And it's funny because I've made a lot of money off writing books and then one of my other school English teachers actually wrote a review on one of my books on Amazon so it was pretty funny. 

Was it a positive review? 

Yeah, it was really positive.

Did he say who he was?

Yeah. He said who he was and he said, I had no idea that that nice little surfer boy was up to this! Because at the time, that's how I looked when I was in his class. 

OK, so T.S.O.L. hooked up with Posh Boy Records. That's who put out the first EP with the Ed Colver photo, right?


What was your relationship with Colver like? Were you friends with him? Or was he just around and gave you guys some photos?

I'm still friends with Ed. He actually just sent me a text yesterday. Ed's a good guy. 

Yeah, I love his work. I don't personally know him but I'm friends with him on Facebook [laughs]. So he just offered you guys the photos, did you have to pay him or have contracts?

I'm sure Posh Boy paid him. I mean, Ed still grumbles about that because we use that, we use our first EP cover on our t-shirts and Ed always gets mad. He thinks it should say Ed Colver on the front of our t-shirts [laughs]. 

Ed's a great guy. And if you go to his house, man, it's like, he'll just sit there and just be breaking all sorts of shit out. Going over to Ed's house, you gotta be ready to go over there for a while. Ya know what I mean? 


You're not going over to Ed's for a quick visit. You're gonna be there for hours, looking at all sorts of shit that nobody's seen since 1977.

Ed Colver at his office, presumably holding something no one's seen since 1977. (Photo: Brian Botelho)

That's awesome. So how did you guys hook up with Posh Boy, at a gig or something? 

Yeah, he just came up to us at a gig [interviewer's note: Robbie "Posh Boy" Fields was the owner of his namesake label] and offered us a recording contract and we flushed it down the toilet. It's just, there wasn't a lot of thought behind anything we did. There wasn't any big plan. It's like, "Oh you want to make a record? Great, let's make a record."

You know, there was no big plan. He came and saw us play a couple of times. Lisa Fancher did the Dance with Me record on Frontier Records. Basically, we just did records with them.

Here's what's funny, I didn't know that out of the punk hardcore bands, that we, the T.S.O.L. record, that LP ['Dance with Me'] predates the Misfits LP ['Walk Among US']. We basically released the first punk rock horror record in the United States.

Oh wow. Did you guys ever play with the Misfits back then? 

No we never played with them. Now, they released EPs, but they their album came out after our album. 

OK, yeah. So you're talking about the Dance With Me record, right?

Yeah, the T.S.O.L. Dance With Me record came out before 45 Grave, came out before the Misfits, came out before any of those bands.


I just learned that this year, that that was really the first punk horror record. And people go well, what about the EPs? It's like, no dude, we're talking LPs not EPs.

Yeah, I hear ya. So what was inspiring you to do stuff like that? And "Code Blue," was that a true story?

[interviewer's note: notice that he does not answer me about “Code Blue”]

I like horror movies. I like Vincent Price. I like that kind of shit. And you know, I was a fan of Poe and Lovecraft and all that. So it was just kind of something, because a lot of this stuff a lot of the first, the black and white EP (the first T.S.O.L. record), there's only one song on there that I actually had written the lyrics to because I had gotten in the band after they had started putting those songs together.

So then you look at "Dance with Me" and all the stuff on the album, I think maybe except for one song, I had written all the lyrics for and that's why it took on a horror feeling. 

So that leads me to, who was David Lord Porter, who is credited for co-writing "Silent Scream" on that record, which I think is about Dracula, right? 

Yeah. That's actually pretty fucking funny because, there's always been a weird thing. You know, we've got a lot of emotional problems in that fuckin' band. So Ron Emory had brought these words to a practice and he goes, "Hey, I wrote this song." And he brought these words and I read it right, and I'm like, You didn't write this! I mean, Emory never even went to fucking school. You know what I mean?

You know, an Emory lyric is like, "You're burnin' in hell with baby batter on your face" [laughs]. So he brings in these lyrics and I'm thinking, he doesn't even know who these fucking people are. And then Mike Roche, our bass player got mad at me said, "You know, Ron writes something righteous and you give him shit for it" and blah, blah, blah. Anyway, so I said, "Yeah, whatever."

So we go and record Dance with Me and Ron's girlfriend shows up and said, "How did you like my book?" I go, What are you talking about? And she goes, "Well, Ron took those words out of my book," and I'm like, goddammit! And so David Lord Porter wrote a poem in a book and the poem's called "Silver Screen" and Ron changed it to "Silent Scream" so we had to end up crediting the guy. Thank God, he never came looking for money. 

Was Ron in the room when she revealed that? 

Yeah, he's in the fuckin' room! 

Were you like, "Fuck you, motherfucker!"?

This is pretty standard shit, that's what I'm saying. There's always like, Ron would do the, you couldn't get a straight story out of Ron, that was Ron's schtick. You couldn't get a straight story out of me because I didn't give a fuck. That was my schtick and Roche was always trying to be the businessman. So that was kind of like the breakdown.

That's pretty funny. So, what did you think of TV shows like like CHiPs and Quincy with their punk episodes and their portrayal of punk rock at the time? 

I never even watched them. 

You really never have, to this day?

Never watched 'em, never thought, didn't care. 

Well, okay, then let me ask you this because I know you must have watched this since T.S.O.L. is actually in it. Suburbia, the Penelope Spheeris movie, with the girl getting her dress ripped off and people getting stabbed in the audience at a punk show.

That funny that you say that because, well, first of all, I still talk to the two girls that came up and kiss me on stage! 

That's cool, I just watched that scene last night, actually. 

OK, so I just recently talked to both of them. I'm still friends with those guys. 

Was that real? Or was that planned? 

No, it was fake. I didn't know that was gonna happen and Penelope just said, get on stage and kiss him. But I remember when I went to the theater, I walked out halfway through. I just didn't even, I don't know, it was weird. But I did later on go see it somewhere.

It was pretty funny because it was playing at the movie theater and I just, you know, and it wasn't like a premiere or anything it was just on at the movie theater and I went and just wandered in randomly and just sat in the back and watched the movie.

What did you think?

It was kind of cool. It was trippy. It was funny when people would yell at the screen and they would yell at me on the screen and they didn't know I was sitting in the backrow. 

Nice. You guys were obviously not in The Decline of Western Civilization [also directed by Penelope Spheeris].

No, but Vicious Circle was supposed to be in first Decline and then we had broken up and split. I took off.

So T.S.O.L. wasn't together yet when they were filming Decline

No, not when they did the first Decline, no.

Well, right, I mean, you weren't gonna be in the hair metal one, The Decline of Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. Well, not this version of T.S.O.L. anyway! [both laugh] Sorry, Sorry!

No, it's totally okay. I complain about it all the time myself.  

I was gonna ask you if we could talk about the 1983 to 1993 version of T.S.O.L. Did you know that's what people call it, "Rock T.S.O.L."? 

Yeah, believe me it's rough. See that was a Roche move. Roche, the thinker was like, Hey, you know, this name is already built up, so we're just going to use the name. He asked me if they could use it and I said I didn't give a shit. I didn't care. I wish at the time, I would have had a little more sense and I wish I would have told them no.

The 1987 lineup of T.S.O.L. 

Yeah, I hear you. But then your logo, well, their logo because it was probably not one that was in use when you were in the band would not have been in a Guns N' Roses video.

Well exactly! And, that's the thing too is, I would get in arguments later on with a couple of the guys in that metal band. I don't think they ever really realized what they stepped into. You know what I mean? They were very self important about what they had done. It's like, you know, Hey, you guys stepped into a name that was already built up.

We toured all over the country, we'd done records, we had done, we had been in a movie, and then you guys stepped into it, and then you act like you built up this name. And that was the thing, it was like, Well, okay, if it was all you, and you built up this name, what have you done since? Well, nothing. You know what I mean? Nothing.

So you're talking about the replacement guys then?

People don't realize how hard it is to build a name and a following out of a fucking band. It's a lot of fucking work. It's like, I had to do it with the Joykiller (one of Jack's next bands). Totally reinvent something. The same thing with trying to build a name as a writer, trying to build a name as a director. It's very difficult, man.

You know, I didn't give a shit too much until I read this thing where they go, "Well, we started as a little punk band in Long Beach." It's like bitch, you didn't started as nothing. You stepped into something that was already name recognition. It's like, if I buy Coca-Cola right now, well, I didn't have anything to fucking do with it. Anyway.

Yeah. So I can't remember if it was Emory or Roche was in The Joykiller, though, right?

Emory was for a little bit. Because he had quit T.S.O.L. and so he was in the Joykiller on the first record. 

Were you like, "See, motherfucker!" Like, giving him shit at all? 

No, no, of course not. No, I would never say anything like that. 

I hear ya, I was just making a joke. 

No, no that's okay, I like those kinds of jokes. But you know, it really takes a lot to create, man, and build something, it's a bitch.

Yeah, for sure. I got a question kind of related to that kind of stuff. I'm sure you know the band Dr. Know, Kyle Toucher from Dr. Know has been writing books lately, and I interviewed him last year, and he was talking about how with putting out books he has the same feeling about that that he used to have putting out records and stuff like that. Do feel that way with putting out books?

Yeah, I mean, I like I like writing books. I like to write. Writing is good and now I'm getting into  making films, I wrote a script for another film.

READ MORE: Dr. Know Guitarist Kyle Toucher on Their Classic Records, His Career As a VFX Artist & More

Oh, cool, a fictional film? 

Yeah, fictional. So, yeah, it's it's like, fuck, man, I was telling my daughter this. It's cool, I'm really close to my kids, my kids and I are really tight. So my daughter and I were walking today and she asked me, because somebody asked me about playing a Joykiller show actually and I told her, I said, "Yeah, I don't want to do that." Because it's like, I'm 62 years old, I put on a lot of weight, it's like, I'm somebody's dad, man.

To me it's like, it's just kind of fucked, like sometimes when I see it, and I'm including myself in this, I see all these old punk bands and I think, "Fuck, if I was a kid and somebody, my friend said, 'Hey, do you want to go out to a show? My dad and his friends are playing tonight?' I'd be like, "Yeah, fuck you!" To me, it's kind of embarrassing, a little bit. I mean, you know, rock 'n' roll is supposed to be fucking young and sexy. Not fucking guys that now look like your aunt!

But wait, are you saying that T.S.O.L. is done now?

[interviewer's note: this interview was done shortly before the No Values punk fest in California was announced]

Let's say we're getting really done. We were supposed to be done, with no fanfare of, "Hey, we're done!" But it's getting to the point where it's like, I already told them I'm not going to tour anymore. So if we go out and play one show somewhere, like a festival kind of thing and we go play a show, great.

But it's like, I just don't got it in me to get in the van and go fucking driving around all over the fucking place and get out looking like some fat dad up on stage rockin', it's not doing it for me.

I hear you but you do have a new album out obviously! Before I get into the new album, I wanted to ask you kind of an old-school kind of issue question, for the record. The Meatmen. What about that beef? What can you tell me about that from you know, 40-something years ago? 

You know, I mention that in the movie, I talked about it, but I didn't name them. I didn't name them in the film, right? Supposedly, they were just being like smart asses and funny about it. You know? But it actually really kind of bummed me out because I looked at this as a family. Right?

Like, to me, if you're a punk that you're a part of a family. So these guys talking shit were basically talking shit about fellow family members. We got into it with Henry [Rollins] and Ian MacKaye too because they they were talking shit about us too.

From the collection of Michael S. Begnal

They were friends with Tesco, right? Is that why they were they were talking shit about you?

Well, who knows but I remember Ian and those guys, when we were going to Washington, DC. it's like there was all these "DC Skinhead Strike Force waiting for T.S.O.L." [laughs], shit like that. And then we went out there and it was just, it was just stupid. I think Mike Roche actually shoved [Minor Threat bassist/guitarist] Brian Baker against a wall really hard.

Yeah, that's a legendary story. 

Yeah and because, we were like, fucked people. You know, you're you're fucking with people that are real, not nice people. And so then when Minor Threat was coming to Los Angeles, Ian called me on the phone and said, "Hey, I want to make sure that we're cool."

Yeah, so you can talk all that shit and now you want to come to California and now you wanna be cool. You know? It's like the fucked thing was, there's a lot of guys out here even still to this day that are extremely protective of me. You know what I mean? Like, not in a good way. And when I mean extreme, I'm saying extremely protective of me.

Like a cult of personality kind of situation?

Well no, like a cult of fucking really unpleasant animals that don't like their uncle Jack fucked with.


I'm sure other people have the same kind of thing. And I didn't want to cause any trouble for Ian and those guys because to me, it was still like a family. Like that's how I've always looked at it. You know?

Yeah, for sure.

So yeah, the Meatmen thing was such a bummer to me that they would do something like that to someone who's part of the same family. And then what was even worse is later on, I found out that he was a school teacher.

Tesco, yeah.

Yeah, so I'm like, what are you doing? You're pretending to be a punk on the weekends? It's like, "Dude, you're a fucking school teacher, guy!" You know, there was nobody letting anyone in T.S.O.L. be a school teacher! You know, none of us could hold jobs. We're all fucking armed and dangerous, completely out of fucking control. Nobody's letting us teach school.

So it's like, so what? So this guy is talking shit and then on the weekend he's pretending to be a hard punker guy. You know, it was the same thing with Ian doing the ice cream [Ian and Henry worked at a Häagen-Dazs store]. Like, really, man? Or the guys in Rage Against the Machine coming from nice families bitching about fucking how repressed they all are or whatever the fuck.

Well, yeah, they were going to Harvard, one of them at least went to Harvard.

And I think to myself, fuck that, man, my dad was working at Jack in the Box and we were eating government cheese. Yeah, it was a bummer. It was like, it was bad. It's that kind of shit really just, for me really soured me on fucking punk rock. It's like, really?

Here's what I think is crazy sometimes, is that these guys, a lot of these guys are looked at, like American heroes, or something. It's like, hang on a minute, man. It's this revisionist history bullshit.

T.S.O.L. @ Whisky a Go Go, 1982. (Photo: Alison Braun)


Whatever, I mean, we don't need to get into all that. But you know what I'm saying.

Definitely, man.

And yeah, they might have made some great music but, come on, man. You know, it's like, especially like, when you get into the Bad Brains, and you get into the racism and the homophobia. It's like, hang on a minute, you know? What the fuck are you talking about here? 

Right. So what was your relationship with other LA bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Suicidal, etc?

I was good with the guys in Black Flag until Henry came along.

So you already had beef with Henry from when he lived in DC then? 

Well no, there was just a problem when he first came out here. But you know, it's like, who cares? He's a great self promoter. He's done a great job. You know? Which kind of trips me out also because I don't know if he's ever really written a song, has he?

[Laughs] He's credited as co-writer on some later Black Flag songs, I don't know. 

Anyway, it doesn't matter. 

So you considered yourself friends or at least friendly with other LA bands at the time?

Yeah, but a lot of them didn't really like us. You know, I mean, they blamed us for bringing violence into the scene. They blamed us for all sorts of shit like that. 

Ron Emory performing with T.S.O.L.@ Devonshire Downs, Northridge, CA, 1982. (Photo: Alison Braun)

You guys and Black Flag especially were blamed for that. 

Yeah and it's like, come on, man. Here's what it is, it's so fucking crazy. It's somebody that would have gotten the living fuck beaten out of them if they didn't have a protector. And when they have a protector sticking up for them, then they hate the protector for protecting them. It's like, man, I hate to sound like Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men, but, you live under the freedom that we provide.

I was watching these punks getting their fucking asses kicked. There was one guy when I was in high school, you know, these jocks were just all over this dude and I got into it with them. And it was like, you know, yeah, great.

You may disagree about the violence all you want but you sure didn't have a problem when you were getting the fucking shit beaten out of you. It's the same thing with these people that say "fuck the police" and the minute something goes wrong, the police are the first ones they're calling.

Yeah, for sure. Definitely, man.

It's ridiculous.

T.S.O.L. @ Devonshire Downs, Northridge, CA, 1982. (Photo: Alison Braun)

Yeah, I hear ya. So let's talk about the new record. Yeou recorded it with Paul Roessler, brother of Kira Roessler from Black Flag.

Exactly. And that's funny because I just talked to Kira and Paul today. 

That's cool. I interviewed Kira a couple years ago. She's pretty awesome, obviously.

Yeah, she's great. 

READ MORE: Bassist Kira Roessler on Her Time in Black Flag, Early LA Punk + More

So you've got a history with both of them. I guess going back 100 years or so I guess right?

Yeah, I was the minister at Paul and Rachel's wedding. 

Oh, nice, that's awesome. 

Yeah, it was badass. I'm good friends with all of them. This record wasn't even really meant to be a record.

Okay. I was gonna ask you about that because I'm aware that "Sweet Transvestite" [a Rocky Horror Picture Show cover on the album) came out a couple of years ago. I was wondering if this was meant to be a whole album, were you gonna go in and make an album, or was it stuff that you'd been doing here and there for a while?

So for me, if I'm gonna make a record, or an album, whatever the fuck you want to call it, I like to have it to be cohesive. I like making records that they have a sound, you know, you can you can tell, you know, it sounds like this record, the songs flow together, it's meant to be listened to from track one through 12. You know, you're supposed to sit down and listen to the whole thing, it's a piece of work. That's how I like to make records.

If you go back, you can listen to The Joykiller and each one of those records has its own flavor. It's the same thing with T.S.O.L., the records had different flavors. So this was basically almost like, when a painter is just fucking with color. There's not one song on that record that we could pack up the whole band and just move in that direction and do a whole record that sounded exactly like that.

So what this really just was, it was like, "Hey, let's try this, hey, let's try this, let's feel this out." So these were all these little stabs at feeling stuff out. Until the thought of, "Hey, what does the full record look like and where are we going?" Just trying things.

You know, there's a cover on that record by Amerie. It's a song called "1 Thing" and it's got a DC go-go beat to it. If you ever listen to the original, you'd just say, "Why the fuck are they covering this?" But, but the reason why we covered it is I really liked the groove, I liked this go-go beat groove and then I liked the words.

Now, she was singing to a man and she's going hang on, man there's something you did that got me trippin' here, hang on a minute. To me. It's almost the same as people singing towards the government. It's like, you tell us you're cool but hang on a minute there's this one thing you did that's really got me trippin' man! It's like, you're fucking full of shit.

There's a line where it says, "I got my car keys in the hand, my boots are comming across the floor, meaning we're coming for you." She was coming for this dude. And so I thought, hey it's actually kind of bitchin' If you think of, Hey, us as a united front are coming for our government. 

Yeah, that's awesome. 

Yeah, we're coming for you. Now if you just listen to the words and look at it like that, but the bottom line is it was to a go-go song with a black you know, this black chick singing it.

Yeah. I think that's awesome that you said that because like, that's what's been driving me nuts over the last few years is that people are trying to take sides on which side of the government they like better and, it all sucks!

It's so crazy to me, because I'll see friends you know, and they'll be like, supporting something or whatever. I just think to myself, "Are you fucking kidding me, man? Are you fucking kidding me?"

Somebody asked me one time, what was the difference between punk rock now and punk rock then? Well, back then I never got a letter from another punk calling me an asshole because I said "Fuck the President."


It's like, really? it's like, you know if you do an anti-Biden rally you're a Nazi. And if you do a fuckin anti-Trump rally you're a commie. So it's like, what the fuck man, no, I'm just anti government. 

Same. Left wing or right wing, it's from the same fucking bird. 

That's right. That's goddamn right. There's no common sense. I mean, sometimes I, whatever, it doesn't matter. But yeah, it's fucking ridiculous.

Like the Suicidal Tendencies lyric, "I'm not anti anything I just wanna be free."

Well, and freedom comes with a price. That's the problem with that, too. I mean, I've argued this over and over again, these people that cry about being anarchists, it's like, Dude, you're not socially responsible enough to be a fucking anarchist. You know, that self policing, they think that anarchy means you get to just do whatever the fuck you want. 

Yeah, I get that. So, who played on the record? Is it Emory and Roche? Or is it other people?

Yeah, it's everybody. It's Emery, Rhoch, Greg Kuehn plays keyboard and then our drummer Antonio. He's been with us now for 10 years or whatever, he's been doing this for a while. And then on a couple of songs, because Roche took an injury, our bassist Brandon Reza, who's traveled with us, he played bass on I think two of the songs.

Ron Emory performing with T.S.O.L. @ The Regent, Los Angeles, CA, 2018. (Photo: Deb Frazin)

Got it.

But here's what's kind of cool, I took Brandon's band [Head Bored] into the studio to record a track with Paul Roessler. Brandon is a guitar player singer and he goes out with my daughter.

He's my daughter's boyfriend and he's a guitar player and singer so when Roche had to sit out my daughter goes, "Well, why don't you get Brandon to play?" and I'm like, wait a minute, man, he's a guitar player and she goes, "No, he loves the bass, the bass is like his first instrument." We had him come over and he fucking killed it. He just ripped it up. 

Jack and Brandon on tour in Asbury Park, NJ, 2022. (Photo from Brandon's Instagram)

That's awesome. 

Him and Roche are friends and so it's not like he's trying to take Roche's job. He's only like 20 something, he's in his early 20s. He's not trying to take Roche's job. He's just really kind of holding Roche's spot.

That's cool. That's really cool.

Yeah and it's bitchin' because when we did Europe, my daughter came with us too. So I think it's cool for my daughter that her boyfriend and her dad are playing in the same band.

Yeah, that's awesome, man, definitely. 

It's pretty funny, she said to me today she said, "You know, dad, sometimes people ask me if it's cool to have you as my dad." She goes, "I don't even know what to say." It was pretty funny [aughs].

What does she tell people that ask her that?

She just looks at them like, you're a fucking tool. Like, It's my dad.

That's pretty cool. 

I told her, next time they ask you something like that, just go, "Yeah, you're stoked to get free shit."

So what's next for you, man? I guess you guys are not gonna tour for this album. I guess the record company is going to be pissed.

We're gonna play a couple of shows. So the movie came out, the movie's doing good, I had a new book come out and that book's doing good. 

What's the new book?

It's called True Stories: A Loose Collection of Flash Fiction. I write books for people that don't read.

I'm gonna get the new one but I have An American Demon, which is an awesome book and it's not short if you're talking about people that don't read, people that don't read books, it's over 300 pages long. 

Well, that's it. I've had people that have told me, they said, "Hey, An American Demon is the only book I've read since I've been out of school."

Alright, well, that's good. 

Yeah, but no, so the True Stories book is a collection of short stories. Some of them are only two pages long. I used to teach a class in flash fiction. 


It was just like a community class. There'd be a group and they'd come over to the house, and I'd be running a class on it. 

That's cool.

Yeah, which is funny, somebody that basically barely got out of high school and is running this literature class.

Nice. My father, by the way, was an English professor so that's pretty cool.

That's funny. That's great. So the stories in this book are really quick. So somebody that maybe is not a great reader could actually sit down and go through it. And it's been really popular. People really enjoy it.

That's cool. I'm gonna grab it. I'm assuming it's on Amazon and all that stuff?

Yeah, and they're all short, and some of them are funny. Some of them aren't funny, some, you know, it's just whatever. It's almost like a Twilight Zone kind of trip a little bit. 

Sounds good. So is the new script that you wrote based on any of that?

Um, well, I can't... No, it's not based on that. I can't really talk about it. It's based on a community. We'll see what happens but it is fiction. I like fiction. You know, the trouble is, when I did the T.S.O.L. documentary, and when it was getting edited I caught myself wanting the interviewee to say things that they didn't say.

When I was cutting lines, or whatever, it's like I wanted them to, and some of that I patched together, like I've taken one line out of an earlier talk, and then moved another line to it. Because I wanted more control over what they were doing and that's what I like about fiction. With fiction, you can manipulate reality and with nonfiction, you can't as much.

T.S.O.L. @ The Regent, Los Angeles, CA, 2018. (Photo: Deb Frazin)

You just kind of put an idea in my head. Have you ever done a live stand-up show? You know, because the style of the movie, obviously, is you doing that, but it's not in front of a real audience. Have you ever done that? 

Well, I give talks on recovery. I give a lot of talks on recovery. So I think that that's where I got comfortable with that. And some times, it's a fairly large group. I talked to this state convention one time and  it was 6000 people. But no, it's just not that funny.

I don't think I could come up with shit that was actually funny. All of that is specific to certain audiences. You know what I mean? So if I talk recovery, it's funny if I'm talking about punk rock shit that I'm involved with it's funny, but if I'm coming up with material, I don't think I got it together for that.

So we're not gonna see a Jack Grisham/Henry Rollins spoken word tour?

Yeah, no. But that's done quite well for him. And also, I just don't like the way I look anymore so I don't really like being on stage.

Okay. Well, you know, time marches on and the alternative is, you know, not as preferable to being alive at least but you know...

Of course. And you know, vanity is a sin but whatever, fuck it.

Well, I really enjoyed chatting with you.

Likewise, man, this was really fun. And enjoy your new bed!


T.S.O.L.'s new album, A-Side Graffiti, is available now via Kitten Robot Records. Jack's book, True Stories: A Loose Collection of Flash Fiction, is available on Amazon.

Tagged: a hardcore conversation, tsol