JASON B. SADD: THE DIMITRI MONROE STORY BY JACK BASTARD
If King Ink, the mighty Sleazegrinder could be considered the American equivalent of Nick Kent, for all his dedicated years documenting the Dark Stuff in the sad and sordid trenches of rock’n’roll’s unfortunate underbelly, then his old riding pardner, J.D. Monroe could, at least, be viewed as the American counter-part to Kerrang!’s Ray Zell, having introduced, shamelessly promoted, and helped to popularize, literally, hundreds of garage-punk, psychedelic, power-pop, and glammy trash bands in his home-made rant-rags, like ‘Burntout Recluse’ and ‘Ready To Snap!’, as well as in the pages of more conventional publications, such as Hit-List and Now Wave, and Detroit’s entertainment weekly, the Metro-Times. And like part-time glam-shouter, Zell, Monroe’s had many short-lived trashy punk bands with members of Motorcycle Boy, Dark Carnival, Trash Brats, and Dimestore Haloes. He’s co-written songs with members of the Zeroes, and Disruptors. He lived with Dizzy (RIP) from the notorious Glamour Punks in L.A. during the ass-end of the Metal Years. Jeff Dahl dedicated his acoustic, ‘Have Faith’ to him. Bands like Kill City and Pale Imitations cover his songs. The underground’s most discriminating singles label, famous for discovering punk and power pop’s next big things, RAPID PULSE RECORDS, released a 45 of his last set-to-self-destruct-in-15-minutes ‘Flash Metal’ rock group, THE SAVIORS, to worldwide acclaim. Another of his infamous bands, Dimitri Monroe & The Naked Flames, kicked-off the classic compilation, ‘Drunk On Rock Part 2’. He opened for the Humpers on their first national tour. He paid tribute to the Hollywood Brats on the Italian tribute disc. He currently resides ‘in dirtbag motels in the Memory Gutter’, while he seeks a new band, a radio show, a record label, and a reputable country music song-publisher. We managed to catch up with the reclusive bard of the gin-joints, and this is what he had to say about his checkered past.
Interview by Damianne (originally for Lipstick & Handcuffs fanzine)
WHO WERE THE ORIGINAL SUFFERING BASTARDS?
That was me, Nasty Bastard from Pale Imitations, Kid Loser from Eleganza, and Boogie Jack the Bad Joker. We always wanted to add a second guitarist to the band, but never found the right guy. We’d lined up this one cat to audition to be bassist, and the Kid was gonna switch to guitar, but the would-be bassist hung himself from a tree. We made this shitty e.p. at a $25/hour crackhead’s recording studio. We were shootin’ for a really cheap and filthy bluespunk sound, like the Four Horsemen and Beasts Of Bourbon. Flipside magazine said we reminded them of the Turbo A.C.’s and early Humpers. Summa the other guys went-on to form Muncie Rock Crushers, while I did that thing in Detroit.
WHAT THING WAS THAT?
We never agreed on a real name for it. It was supposed to be a rockgroup-me, Mark from the Kevin K. Band, and Ricky Rat & T.T. from the Trash Brats. Initially, both Brian O’Blivion, and Brian Smith, from my beloved Beat Angels, and Mister Cheetah Chrome had all signed-on to come down, and guest-star on that album, but we had some disagreements about who we wanted to participate at the time. I had a bit of a cold, and never got to polish up final vocals, and at $50/hour, we had an excrutiatingly limited recording budget. Then, their friend, Cranford Nix Jr., and my Grand-Daddy both died, and we never got to finish it. We had a good thing goin’ until calamity struck. The record label slated to release the album went out of business, and we all moved-on to other projects. I lost touch with most of that bunch, but I know that Ricky Rat has since worked on some projects with Brian O’Blivion, Brian Smith, of my beloved Beat Angels, and Cheetah Chrome, as well as the Every Other’s brother, Texas Terri, Car City Call Girls, and the Kevin K. Band. He’s a really sought-after guitar player. Still one of my favorites. Mark joined some gypsy flamenco band I never heard, and I went through alot of personal junk-another rock’n’roll divorce, permanent relocation, and several more deaths in the family. I never say I’m starting a group, anymore, because something disastrous always happens. Brett from Cold Front records, heard a couple songs in their primitive, unmixed form, and said he thought, ‘Nostalgia Kills’ was one of the best songs he’d heard in years, but for some reason, him and Jeff Bale never got around to releasing us as part of their Sin City series. Another disappointment was that I’d even been discussing a tour with Nick Marsh from Flesh For Lulu to support that album that never got finished. It was called ‘Trash Romantic’.
WHO WERE THE SAVIORS?
The Saviors were called Neon Jesus when we were teenagers, and we played loads of covers like Lords Of The New Church, Circus Of Power, Dogs D ‘Amour, Balaam & The Angel, Deadboys, Hanoi–stuff like that. When we got older, we reconvened in Ohio, at an ace recording studio called Workbook, with a cuppla the guitarist’s friends, and former band-mates, who used to write for my old sleaze-punk fanzines, and streamlined the name a bit. Muscletone Records passed on signing us, but they were really encouraging about the quality of songwriting. People really seemed to like those songs. All the magazines compared us to D-Generation and American Heartbreak. We should have gone on tour with the Favors, but we broke up, instead! Another one of my absolute favorite guitarists! Still lobbying labels to release our far-superior sophomore single! http://www.myspace.com/thesaviorsarenotreal
WHAT ABOUT PALE IMITATIONS?
We formed Pale Imitations in the late 80’s in hopes of going on tour with Circus Of Power. It sounds naieve, but Ricky and Alex were always chiding me, ‘Where’s Your Tape?’ We were just learning how to write songs. I was really into Mother Love Bone, the Quireboys, and the whole grebo biker-rock movement-Zodiac Mindwarp, the Cult, and Warrior Soul. Even the Throbs and Rock City Angels, and the Front. All that lot. It was the early part of the grunge/alternative scene in Boston, when everybody else was really into the Lemonheads and Dinosaur Jr. and we stood out, cos we all wore make-up and leather and cowboy boots and scarves. We were drunk and obnoxious, and really pissed off all the Fugazi ska kids with the back-packs. I worked at Taang! Records, and wrote press releases for bands like the Freeze and Poison Idea. The only bands on the scene we really fit-in with back then, were Facts About Rats, The Fighting Cocks (formerly the Unattatched), and Voodoo Dolls. Local newspapers compared us to the Blackjacks. The real core of the Imitations were me and Nasty, who had just broken up Murder Stars, when Dave started going to college, and this kooky lead guitarist named Tony Meter, who was like our own, very talented and mysterious Brian Jones figure. He made all my shitty Dogs D’Amour-derivative songs sound like the real Rolling Stones. He was sortof like this half-indian, black magician, who lived in a tiny nook halfways up our staircase where he was always burning candles, and performing weird rituals, and casting spells. Him and an old hippie named Hector also had a goth band called Black Snake Moon, that I really loved. Tony was Arthur Lee’s Godson, and when I doubted that, he introduced me to him. I dunno if Tony’s still alive. He was brilliant. Later on, an older musician named Ron started coming around to our jams and parties on Blaine Street in Allston Rock City. He co-wrote ‘Mister Unhealth’, and gradually, became an Official Imitation. He kept that group goin’ when me and Nasty very foolishly tried moving back to the mid-west, and now, they have a whole new audience in NYC. http://www.paleimitations.com
A total shambles. Named for an old Creem column. Me and this dude, Kentucky Mike Loughnane, a drummer named Heavy Metal Todd, and a bassist called Kid Loser. We drank alot back then. We all dug the Coma-Tones and Thee Hypnotics. We opened for the Humpers, but our best show was at some basement party benefit concert for our old amigo, Johnny Sexx, from Snotboy 77. The local punk flyer compared us to G.G. & The Jabbers. Mike sang for another band, called Cry Baby Killer, until he died.
I UNDERSTAND YOU HAVE SEVERAL NEARLY-COMPLETED ALBUMS IN THE CAN. ANY PLANS TO FINISH OR RELEASE THEM?
I’m too skint, honestly. Maybe someday, summa my former bandmates might get around to recording someone elses’ vocals on top of mine, or re-recording that old stuff, cos everybody else seems to have their own recording studios nowadays, but for me, old songs are bad fruit-black bannanas and sour grapes, past their expiration date. I’m always intent on finding fresh inspiration, and composing new songs relevant to right-now. I don’t suffer much from writer’s block, I am only blocked by my economic marginalization. I can’t pay nobody for studio access. Fifty bucks an hour might as well be a million dollars, to me. I’m nowheres near to being middle class. Povery hurts. People don’t always appreciate how important music and art become, when you have no other voice, no other options. When it stops being a lark, when it’s your prayer. I think it was Joe Strummer who sang, ‘Some dreams are made for children, but most grow old with us’. Ringo Kid’s one of the hip few who could see past the rawness of my demo-tapes, and appreciate the songs, even if I’m not Robin Zander, as a vocalist, I have other qualities, y’know? So did other guys like Bator, and Westerberg, and David Johansen. Not everybody wants to be Robert Plant. The things I try to convey in my music are often things that only someone who’s been homeless, who’s lost everything, is gonna fully understand. I’m so outside, no one will let me in.
I’ve gone through alot of drastic lifestyle and personal changes in recent years, and I’m taking my time finding the right players for a new, more mature, current-events related song project. Listening to alot of Spencer P. Jones, Steve Earle, Leonard Cohen, Paul K., Patti Smith, Nick Cave, Guy Clarke, Tex Perkins, and the Pogues. I watch that ‘Let’s Rock Again’ DVD over and over again.
WHAT NEW BANDS DO YOU LIKE?
I’m hearing alot of good things about Bubblegum Screw, and Red Invasion seems promising. I mostly still listen to Gen X, Pretenders, Wanderers, Hanoi, and the Only Ones.
ARE THERE GROUPS YOU’RE KEEN TO PERFORM WITH?
When I get a road-worthy outfit operational, I’d love to open for Snatches Of Pink, Stereo Junks, Joker Five Speed, Kusworth, Diamond Dogs, Electrajet, the Hangmen, the NY DOLLS, and Brian James Gang. I really wanna be on Wicked Cool, if Little Steven reads this.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO ADD?
Yeah-I wanna say a heartfelt thanks to anyone who was loving and merciful to me throughout the Nightmare Years, and especially, to anyone who paid me fair compensation for honest work, or helped me to get paid for my craft. ‘If voting could change things, they’d make it illegal.’