This interview was printed in Greek for our old fanzine "Gang Bang" (Issue No. 10), about 18 months ago (if my aged memory serves me well...).
The reason i re-post it here is simply. I send it via email to many friends around the globe when we talked about a new Johnny Thunders related 'zine (that unfortunately never happened), and the plethora of these people told me that is a shame to remain hidden in some old magazine's dusty pages.
Waldo was kind enough to answer to all of my questions extensively and with no displeasure...So, this is it:
I read somewhere that you knew Johnny Thunders n’ Jerry Nolan, before you’ll be a member of the Heartbreakers. How come and you join the band? You were in some other bands before the Heartbreakers?
I knew of Johnny and Jerry from the NY Dolls actually but I knew of Johnny from years earlier. All throughout the late 1960's, I used to go to a lot of concerts in and around New York City, especially at the Fillmore East. Every weekend I'd be there at the late shows usually to see bands I wanted to hear. I would always see Johnny at these shows also - he was always dressed up with the latest expensive British rock star clothes ( thanks to either his girlfriend or his side business) . He would stand out in the crowd and it never failed that I would go to a show and he would be there. Either he lived at the Fillmore and other places or we just liked the same music. I didn't know his name at the time until I finally saw him in one of the Dolls early shows a few years later.
How you and Johnny wrote all these songs? Tell me more about the procedure of the Heartbreakers’ songwriting.
Johnny usually wrote his songs by himself and just brought them to rehearsal where we all worked them out. Jerry and I decided to form a team because he would sometimes start a song like Can't keep My eyes or Take a Chance and wouldn't be able to finish it - he also didn't like writing lyrics that much. So he'd come to me to help him finish the song and write some lyrics. Songs like One Track Mind and Get off the Phone were written completely by me but we'd share the credits - he wrote most of Can't Keep except for one verse. The one song we actually wrote together in a rehearsal studio was All By Myself - he started a drum beat and I started some chords and he started singing All By Myself and then I just finished the Lyrics later.
There are many people saying that the best line up of the Heartbreakers was the first one with Richard Hell on bass. There are no many recordings with him in the band and the younger fans like me, have the wonder how the band has sounded with him? Personally I don’t really dig his solo works so, I want your opinion about this.
Hell was not really a great bass player although he was surprisingly adequate for someone with little experience learning it. He always wanted to be a poet and just got into rock n roll to get his writings published. There are some tapes that I have of him with the band that aren't all that bad in the early days. I agree, his solo works were pretty nondescript. He was never a rock and roller at heart. He did have a lot more presence on stage than Billy Rath and he was more widely known at the time as he had just came from the band Television which had a fairly large following. But that measure of fame he had was also bad for the band because he had a big ego and thought he should be in charge of the Heartbreakers and give all the orders. John wouldn't take it and Jerry and I stuck with Johnny after Hell made his little coup attempt. Musically, Billy had much more talent on Bass.
Why “L.A.M.F.” hasn’t got the best mix at the time it came out? I think the last reissue of the album (“77 mixes”) is the best. I read somewhere that there was“post production anarchy” and “each member practically did his own mixes for every song”… What really happened and why it took so long for the album to have the right sound?
No one will ever know why LAMF never got the sound we were looking for - we tried over and over again with different producers and studios and it would always come out the same. That muffled sound. Jerry tried on his own and so did Johnny. I always thought that the Remix by Johnny in the '80's sometime released by Jungle Records ( I think it was called LAMF Revisited) sounded much better than the original but John was also adding things to those mixes - he changed a few solos and did some late overdubs. The lousy sound was the main reason Jerry left the Band - he didn't want it released.
Is it true also that Jerry Nolan agreed with Jon Savage’s review (on Sounds magazine) about “L.A.M.F.” and told the rest of the band that if the album be released without “a proper mix”, then he saw no reason to remain a Heartbreaker?
I don't know that Jerry ever read Jon Savage's review but he could have influenced what Jon wrote - Jerry was very vocal about his dislike of the album mix but so were the rest of us as well. Jerry had 2 months to remix it on his own and never got anywhere with it. We were forced to make a decision by the record company. After trying to remix it countless times, we were in early October, 1977 and we had to get it out in time for the Christmas sales season. if we didn't release it by then the record company would have dropped us anyway. So we had to decide, go with it or find a new label. 3 of us chose to release it and Jerry quit. I don't know who was right to this day - the record sounded lousy but I doubt we could have fixed it anytime soon - everyone tried and it still sounded the same. I think the problem was in the translation from tape to vinyl because it always sounded good in the studio on tape but lousy on vinyl.
When Jerry quit the Heartbreakers during the UK tour with the Sex Pistols, you “hired” Rat Scabies, Paul Cook and Terry Chimes as replacements. In the recent released Heartbreakers' box, we found recordings with Chimes on it. There are others with the other two? By the way, how much unreleased material does exists in the vaults?
Jerry quit after the Sex Pistols tour - it was nearly a year later in Oct, 1977 that he quit - the Anarchy tour ended in Dec., '76. He quit just before the Heartbreakers first solo tour after the album release. We auditioned Rat Scabies but he never played any gigs with us because he couldn't really play rock at the time - just punk stuff. Paul Cook did one or 2 gigs with us at the beginning of the tour before we got Terry to play the rest of the tour with us. We would have like to keep Paul but he was obviously already occupied with the Pistols. I don't really know how much stuff is still unreleased. Jungle Records in London would probably know better than I do. I have a copy of the Heartbreakers with R. Hell demo we did in 1975 that I gave to Jungle but I think they're negotiating with hell about it's release. Hell doesn't have a copy and he's a pain to deal with. There are plenty of bootlegs out there and odd gigs here and there but it's really all the same songs done over and over.
Is it true that exist more than 300 plus available mixes of “L.A.M.F.” and if so, have anyone thought to release them in a box similar as The Stooges’ “Funhouse” Complete Sessions?
I don't know how many mixes of LAMF are around but I doubt it's as much as 300. Jungle should have most of them as I think Leee Childers sold most of them to Jungle back in the '80's sometime. There wouldn't be much difference between them anyway.
I know that “London Boys” and “Too Much Junkie Business” are actually Heartbreakers songs. Did you have more songs for a second LP that never saw the light of day?
Yes, London Boys and Junkie Business were written during the later heartbreaker days - I wrote the music for both and the Lyrics for Junkie. Johnny always put his name on the credits for Junkie because he was jealous that he didn't write it. I actually stole the music for it from the Dolls version of Pills so John thought he had written part of it.
Is “London Boys” a fantastic and hilarious song-reply to the Sex Pistols (also fantastic) “New York”? If yes, how the two Pistols that played in Johnny’s “So Alone”, took the whole thing? …Or it was an answer just to Johnny Rotten?
Yes, London Boys was written as a reply to the Pistols New York. I wrote the music and John wrote the words ( John was dying to write the words because the Dolls were mentioned in "New York" - this was probably the only time John and I actually wrote a song together). The Pistols ( at least Paul, Steve and Sid) loved it just like we liked their song about us. I never heard if Rotten liked it or not - he was always a bit temperamental and had a fragile ego so even if he liked it he probably would never admit it. The song was really about Rotten because he was the one who wrote the lyrics to New York - the other Pistols all got along good with us.
There had been a forum talk that it took place on the net, about the best live LP by the Heartbreakers. Personally I dig all three recordings the same (“D.T.K. - Live at Speakeasy”,” Live at Max’s”, “Live at the Lyceum”), but I want your opinion since you were in all those three documents.
I'd probably have to say that Live at Max's was my favorite because we were still together as a band then - Live at the Lyceum is a good production but as you can see in the video - we looked more dynamic in the shots from earlier tours then we did that night. The sound was good but I look at it more as a money paying gig then a real Heartbreakers show. We already had broken up for several years by that point and we all looked a bit older and more tired from all the years of bad behavior. it's too bad no one ever recorded the Rainbow show in London that we did at the end of the LAMF tour - that was a great show as well as the one in New York at the Village Gate in August of 1977. Live at the Speakeasy I didn't think was that good - Johnny was just starting to abuse the audiences back then and he got a bit carried away. He copied this behavior from Rotten but didn't do it as well.
There’s a lot of confusion about your career after the Heartbreakers. With the Heroes you released just one single on Skydog if I am right and another one with the Blessed on Daven... Please tell us more about them cause no matter how hard I tried, I didn’t find enough information about those projects…
Billy Rath and I recorded 7 Day Weekend and Junkie Business for Island records in early '78 as a single and we were still calling ourselves the Heartbreakers but it never got released. Skydog managed to get their hands on it somehow and released it a few years later when I was playing in the Band I named the Heroes. I had started the Hurricanes for a year or so in the late '70's and then changed it to the Heroes - there were several lineup changes over the years and then finally settled on The Waldos sometime in the mid '80's. The Blessed single was a separate item entirely. I started playing with them around 1977 or '78 when I was back in NYC for a few months. They were a band of 16 - 18 year old kids who became quite popular in the NY scene because they were young and cute and played funny music. A lot of the Warhol crowd was making them the latest fad. Their guitarist left so they asked me to fill in on a gig and I said I'd love to do it. I even dressed like a schoolboy when we did the show to make it look more ridiculous. It was fun so I kept doing it for a few years when I had time off from the Heartbreakers. We did the single at a friend's studio and released it but it never sold that much and pretty soon the band was breaking up and I couldn't devote myself to it full time. The next deal was the Waldo's single in 1990 and the CD in 1993. All the while Jungle was releasing more and more versions of the same recordings of the HB's.
You have worked also with the Ramones on two albums,”Subterranean Jungle” n’ “Too tough to Die”. What’s your memories from the da brudders , cause I know those times there had been a lot of tension between the members, especially between Joey n’ Johnny..
Yes I played on every song on Subterranean Jungle, about 7 songs on Too Tough to die and 3 on Animal Boy. They were looking for a new sound so they asked me to play on those records. They always liked my guitar playing and were trying to get a mainstream hit single - sorry to say my playing didn't help them get one but neither did Phil spector's production so I'm not the only one who tried to help them. It would take too long to describe all the tensions between them - suffice it to say that they didn't get along that well then which was before John took away Joey's girlfriend - it got worse after that. John was the dictator but Dee Dee and Joey had the talent, especially Dee Dee. He came up with most of the song ideas although Joey was always trying new stuff too. Dee Dee was also the druggie and Mark at the time was drinking alot so the others were always looking for signs that they were getting high or drunk again. Mark used to hide bottles of vodka in the trash can in the studio bathroom and Dee Dee would find it and rat him out to John to take attention away from himself who was hiding his drugs somewhere else. It was quite a comedy sometimes.
You help a lot Sonny Vincent and Rick Blaze. How was it working with these two punks? It seems like a great combo you and them…
I really didn't do all that much with Sonny Vincent - I just played on that one record. Rick Blaze paid me to play on his record and also do a live show or 2 with him at CBGB's. I was just doing it for the money and the fact that they liked my stuff. Rick is a bit neurotic and I never got to know Sonny that well.
Ok, let’s go now to the Waldos! I wrote about them in our magazine that the “Rent Party” sounds to these ears like the never made 2nd album of the Heartbreakers! I fuckin’ love that record! How the name came out and why you didn’t release a new Waldos album since then?
The Waldos CD came out in 1993 or 1994 and I was very proud of it. My bass player, Tony Coiro was really the driving force behind it and unfortunately he died in late 1995 of liver cancer. The other guitarist also started having serious problems with alcohol and even ended up in jail for a year or so. The band basically broke up after Tony died and I was really thinking of retiring from music because everyone I played with seemed to be dying on me - I think I lost 3 or 4 in the previous 3 years and 3 more in the following years. Todd Youth of Murphy's law convinced me to do a gig and call it The Lures ( see question # 16). The band was me, Todd, a Japanese bassist from the Hip Nips ( EZ ) and Joe Rizzo on drums. It sounded good so I kept on doing it. At the same time, Sammy Jaffa from Hanoi Rocks and now with the NY Dolls asked to play some gigs as The Waldos with me, Sammy, another Japanese guitarist ( Takto) and Joe Rizzo on drums. So here I was playing with 2 separate bands but basically playing the same songs with a few differences. Todd eventually left NYC and so I kept playing with the Waldos only Sammy left after awhile so I got the other Japanese Bassist to replace him and that is the current Waldos. We don't rehearse as much as I did with the original Waldos so I don't write as many songs as I used to - that's probably why we haven't recorded anything new after the first CD. Also the fact that it didn't sell all that much and that there are less places to play in NYC now have sort of made me depressed about the whole music scene in NY.
Long Gone John told me when I interviewed him 10 months ago, that he had in mind to re-release the “Rent Party” with bonuses and a different front cover. What happened? It will have unreleased songs in?
Long Gone John was going to release it - we even met in NYC to talk about it. He wanted me to make a DVD from old videos I had at home and also get some new photos for the cover. I sort of agreed but then realized that he wasn't offering any money for all of this and he also never gave us any royalties from the original CD. He did pay for most of the recording expenses but we never heard from him after - I had no idea if he made any money from the CD or not. I was also speaking to Little Steven's label, Renegade Nation, who wanted to release the CD also. They were offering some money to do it but I wanted more for me to be able to get the DVD done - it takes quite a bit of time and money to edit down hours of old videos to make a decent DVD. So that deal seemed to fall through also. Now I might get it released through a Swedish label I've been talking to - I'll see them when I play Stockholm later this month.
What are your plans for the near future? A new record maybe?
My immediate plans are to play the gig in Stockholm this month and hopefully get the CD released on a Swedish Label. After that I'm not sure. There is more interest in people wanting me play mini tours in the US and Europe but they take time to do and I don't have unlimited vacation time from my job to go off and play tours that don't pay very much anyway.
One last question...You have played in the past numerous times at CBGB’s. What’s your opinion for the closing of the club? Why the city of New York didn’t make the place a part of the city’s culture?
The closing of CBGB's was a sad event but not entirely unexpected. CB's had really lost it's cachet in recent years as the home of new, indie rock but it did have a lot of historical value. New York City rarely designates cultural sites for preservation which is sad - they recognized that the place was an institution but wouldn't do anything to save it. The determining factor in the end was money - that is the god that New York worships and the people who owned the building found they could get more money by selling it to some retail chain store then by keeping it as an artistic destination. The City will eventually regret it but it's too late to change anything now. Culture in America does not have as much power as it does in Europe and certain countries in Asia which is unfortunate because we have lost alot over the years and future generation will never know about it.
" Those who don't know history are condemned to repeat it" I think it was GB Shaw or George Santayana or Oscar Wilde who said it but I'm not sure. Are we done…?
Yes Walter, thank you very much!