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Punk Rock Bowling Interviews: Jack Grisham on his new movie Code Blue and T.S.O.L.

Hearing a crowd scream things like “I want to fuck the dead” is something you can mostly think of happening in a weird, post-apocalyptic, action movie, but if you are a fan of T.S.O.L, it's something that you've sung in your head for years now. When singer Jack Grisham wrote the song Code Blue for one of punk rocks most essential albums, Dance With Me, there's no way that he would have thought that the song would have continued to be sung by generations. Now Jack has written an illustrated short story about "Code Blue", and took that story even further with a Kickstarter campaign to produce a movie about it! On the Sunday before Punk Rock Bowling, I was able to make a stop to speak with Jack in Huntington Beach about the movie and his times in T.S.O.L...

ZR: So, tell me about the movie. The crowd funding was very successful. It must be great to take that kind of avenue to raise money. You can't really take that kind of material to a producer for funding.

Grisham: Yeah they're not gonna do it, man; you can't go to companies. See, now using this shit, sometimes people will give you shit for getting on Facebook or getting on whatever, that's like putting flyers on poles; this is what what we've got now.

So, how are you going to use it? How can you creatively use it? So, I'm making videos. I'm on there fucking around, because for me I've always been independent, it's like that's just what it is. You hustle to get whatever you can get, get people to back it, and I'm stoked because we've raised almost $40,000 for it! In thirty days raised almost $40,000! No one else is going to fucking do it.

We can't go to clothing company and say, “Hey we've got this movie, and the kid ends up fucking this girl, and blah blah blah. So we'll take your shirt and have it on the kid when he's fucking her.”

You know what I should do, is call these companies and say, “Hey fucker, give me some money, or I'm going to make sure that when our guy's balls deep in that corpse, that your logo is on his chest when he's fucking her.” We can go through everything! Have him eating Kentucky Fried Chicken while he's getting a blowjob, whatever; just so fucked up.

So, this is how that movie even came out in the first place. So, "Code Blue", the song that the movie is based on, it's a T.S.O.L song. Everyone says it's about necrophilia, its not really about necrophilia. It's about a kid who is just struggling with dating in school like anybody, man.

We all had different problems with girls. I had a couple other issues that may have been some problems, they were angry with me. Mine wasn't lack of female companionship, it was overlapping female companionship that kept them angry with me. I remember when I was like in seventh grade one time, and these six girls all showed up at my house. They came there as a group because they wanted the straight story out of me. They all got together and said, “What do you mean, I thought I was seeing him!”

 

Artwork from Jack Grisham's "Code Blue".

Artwork from Jack Grisham's "Code Blue".

 

Going back to the song, it's just about a kid that’s having trouble in school with all of the gossip and everything and says, “Look, you're a pain in the ass. I would rather fuck a dead person than fuck you.” That's what the song said. Everyone thinks it's about necrophilia, it's not, because he can do whatever he wants and they don't complain. He can shoot in their hair and nobody’s going to give a shit. That was written in 1981.

So, then years go by and somebody sends me a copy of this Chuck Bukowski book that he did with R. Crumb, and it's a cool short story book but it's an adult short story book, and I thought, fuck man, I'm going to do an adult short story. Then for some reason I was watching a clip, from Las Vegas, the Punk Rock Bowling, T.S.O.L clip when we were playing at the pool...

ZR: In 2013 at Gold Spike, yeah that was a great set!

Grisham: Yeah! Have you seen the clip that is like 25 stories up looking down on the pool with everyone singing? So, I was watching that and somebody had sent me this book and I thought, “Oh my god, I'm going to write a kids story on T.S.O.L, this 'Code Blue' song!” So, that's what I did.

So, I wrote this kids book on this and that sat around. So, the illustrator would ask me, “What do you want this kid to look like?”, because when I'm writing I don't like to use a lot of descriptions on stuff, because I want the people to make their own kid. Who do they think the kid looks like? Stuff like “pulling the hoodie over his head”, but I don't say “pulling the gray hoodie over his head” or “pulling the blue hoodie over his head”, whatever, because you want people to do their own work.

So, he wants to know what I want these people to look like. So, I'm getting online and looking up “emo kid”, “upset sad boy”, “sad kid”, ya know, whatever, and here comes this picture of this kid, so I take it and send it. Then I look up “dead girl”, “corpse”, and I send that over, and I'm looking at all these pictures I have saved in a file; “mortuary”, “hallway”, “lighting sconce”, all this shit; and I thought, “Oh my god, man, this looks like a fucking movie!” It's trippy because there's this bus driver in the movie, and the picture that I downloaded was Chris Farley being a bus driver...

ZR: Oh man, from Billy Madison?

Grisham: I didn’t even know what it was from, I was just like, “Make the guy like this.” So, I'm looking at that and I'm tripping, I'm thinking, this is like set designing and casting a movie with this! That's what this looks like.

So then I thought of my friend Susan Dynner, who did Punk's Not Dead and she's a producer, co-produced Brick, Free Ride, and After Porn Ends; so I called Susan and said, “Hey, let me send you this book and see what you think; see if you want to make a movie out of it.” So, she calls me back and she goes, “Are you serious? Let's go, I'm stoked!” So, then she and I wrote the script together and basically took it directly out of the book.

I was looking at this one thing that came out funny though. I'm an asshole, so even if you're a nice guy, I'm writing about you, so I'm writing about a nice guy, but as a narrator I'm an asshole, ya know?

“He wondered into the house, leaned up and took a sip of coffee and then sat back on a couch that was covered with dog hair and kids piss stains.”, ya know, whatever the fuck.

So, I'm an asshole but you're a nice guy, so I'm an asshole writing about a nice guy. So, when we first got together and started going over and transferring the book to script, it was like, wait a minute, the kid's not a dick, the narrator's a dick. So, the first read-through of the script was bad because the kid's not an asshole, I am. So, we had to fix that and then after we did, the script we got on crowd funding reached the goal to get it out. It's going to be a short film, about 20-30 minutes long, we'll of course get a DVD from it, and maybe film festivals or HBO.

ZR: That would be great to see a showing at Punk Rock Bowling next year or something. The kids would go crazy for it.

Grisham: Yeah! Hopefully next year we can show it at Punk Rock Bowling, maybe Netflix or whatever.

ZR: This is a song that all of us grew up with, "Code Blue" has been a steeple in the punk rock scene since it came out.

Grisham: The song you hide from your parents. I keep telling people that back then it was hidden from parents, and 35 years later it's still hidden from the parents. Society has opened up about a whole bunch of shit, but they're not opened up about guys sleeping with corpses; that’s taboo.

ZR: So, being in movies like Suburbia when you were young, did you take anything from those shoots that could help with that Code Blue film at all? It didn't seem like there was much of a major production for those films, was there?

Grisham: Yeah, but I didn’t pay attention to it. I was such a self-centered, fucked up kid that I didn't even realize what was going on. I didn't even realize that this was a job and that these people were being hired. I would just go through clueless until someone stopped me and says, “Hey, did you ever think about this?”, and then I'd think, “Oh, hey, you're right.”; totally fucking clueless.

Now, once they would stop me and get me to look at it, then I can exhibit some sort of intelligence, but until I'm stopped and have to look at it, I basically have no idea what's gong on; like a mentally-challenged whatever, just wondering around like “Hey, dude, put your pants on! Put your pants on!”

So, going back then when T.S.O.L was in Suburbia and some of these other movies, I didn't even realize that these were real people. There's this scene in Suburbia where I'm saying, “Cut, cut, cut!”, and at the time I had forgot the words so I was telling the director to cut the shot. So, imagine that, that's how clueless I am. I don't even realize that this is a movie and I'm telling the director to cut. It wasn't that I was ego-ed out, it was the fact that I didn't fucking understand what was going on, like no one sat down and explained it to me. That's the same thing with making records, I just never even knew what was going on.

ZR: I was reading up on your political run for Governor of California in 2003. I was very interested in your running points; being mainly pro-healthcare and for legalization of marijuana.

Grisham: Yeah and these are all issues now. I did have the guys at CNN say to me, “You know, Jack, you don't have a chance in Hell at winning”, and we were all laughing, “but you're the only one that even sounds like he knows what he's talking about.”

These were issues that were important. Now, what happened, the big healthcare issue went all over the place, but at the time no one was really discussing healthcare, at the time not a lot of people were talking about this taxation and legalization, they're not talking about what we're doing with the school systems. There was no chance for me running, just Google me, you're going to get a hundred pages of just fucking crazy, but the real issue was to bitch about healthcare. I said, “Hey, I'll do this, but I really want to talk about healthcare.”

ZR: I saw that you had gone in for treatment and they denied you coverage, then you brought up the scenerio that if you weren’t married or had a child, if they would cover you under those circumstances, and they basically said yes?

Grisham: They hinted at that! I remember telling them, “So, you're telling me if I left my wife and kids, then you can help me?”, and she goes, “Well, yeah.”, and I though that was just unbelievable.

The other problems that we have in California is with the homeless. Now, there's two kinds of homeless, there's the homeless that want to be homeless, and then there are the homeless that don’t want to be homeless, and what are we doing about them?

Some people love to be outdoor adventurers, I'm not talking about them. The pain in the ass kid that has a place and decided to pimp money at the liquor store because he thinks it's punk when he's got a fucking Mercedes parked in the driveway back at home, we're not talking about that; we're talking about families that are struggling and need help.

I was turning in paper work for my kids at school one time, and on the questionnaire -and we're talking California, which is one of the largest economies in the world, I think we're right behind Brazil! - and on the school forms for “Where do you live?” it used to ask, “Do you live in a house or an apartment?” Now it says, ”Do you live a house, an apartment, a car, or a park?” That's on a state form!

I just thought to myself, are you fucking kidding me. That is on a state form in one of the richest states in this country, and this what we're saying, do you live in a car or a park? Those were the issues I was talking about. They thought I would come on and talk about some crazy punk rock or the sensationalist. No. I'm wearing a nice suit and all the people working on my campaign were women in nice suits, and they would be like, “Wait, we don't get any of this. This is the guy that’s supposed to be a punker, misogynist, prick. What is this?”

 

T.S.O.L. at Punk Rock Bowling 2015.

T.S.O.L. at Punk Rock Bowling 2015.

 

ZR: So, what's up next for T.S.O.L.?

Grisham: After Punk Rock Bowling we have nothing. I think there’s a couple of shows further out, but really nothing. We were trying to make a record for a long time, but it's hard because everybody is in different spots.

To successfully make a record, you have to be able to just sit and work on it, at least that's how I'm figuring it. It's like let's all just take two weeks off, let's go to the fucking mountains and get out of here. Just spend two weeks together banging out a record. Have everybody bring what they like to listen to, let's get some ideas, let's go through stuff, and then let's just get in a room and fucking start playing.

That's what we used to do when we were kids because none of us worked! We'd go surfing, fuck off, go to the studio, and dick off. Now, one of our guys lives in Iowa, another is a tattoo artist at Hart and Huntington in Vegas, so we can't really get together. So, it's like we can't get time to get together and make a record.

In a sense T.S.O.L. has been getting ready to do a record. I've made a record with The Manic Low, and another with The Joy Killer, then the movie, and the book. You just have to be able to get together and work, and if you can't nothing really gets done. So, after Punk Rock Bowling, I'm not quite sure what's next.

One thing that is definitely up next for Jack Grisham is the release of Code Blue. Shooting is planned for July, so keep an ear out towards the end of the year for news about the release. Along with the discography he's released with T.S.O.L., Jack's work with The Manic Low and The Joy Killer is definitely worth checking out.

 

 

T.S.O.L. at Punk Rock Bowling 2015 Photo ©George Rodriquez - Used with Permission

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