Did you enjoy the rhythm section partnership you forged with Dave Alexander?
“Definitely so. When the band first started out, we didn’t have a bassist playing. We had a Custom bass amp. We turned it all the way up, turned the reverb all the way up, lifted the head up off the cabinet and dropped it. It just made this terrific sound. Dave’s first job was picking up the amp head and dropping it on the cabinet to make that big sound.”
You’ve played with some great bass players, including your brother Ron, Dave Alexander and Mike Watt in The Stooges and Gary Rasmussen in Sonic’s Rendezvous Band. Who was the best?
“Ron’s my favourite bass player. Dave is really important to the band. It’s important that the drummer and the bass player get along. A lot of times, it’s what I mostly listen to. Except when Ron was playing guitar, then I listened mostly to his guitar playing. But everyone you mentioned is a good bass player.”
What are your memories of recording the first album?
“It was just so fast because, from the amp-crashing and 50-gallon oil drum days, we had to change the band overnight. We didn’t have songs; we just did whatever we wanted to. If we were doing that now, it would be interesting and cool but back then it wasn’t cool. The label gave us a week or two to figure out how to record. They told us we had to write some songs. We thought we had songs but they said our material would be too hard to record. So a lot of that first album was written at the Chelsea hotel, New York over two days before we went into the studio. A lot of the songs we recorded, we’d never played before. One in particular is ‘Real Cool Time’. We were going over it in the hotel room the night before and decided to try it. The very first time we ever played it, they said ‘Okay, that’s good. Next.’”
Do you think your drumming on Funhouse differs from the first record?
“As a drummer, I always get better. I’ll always be working on things. Most musicians are never really totally satisfied with what they can play. We’re always looking for something better, something to make it easier, or harder.”
You were dumped out of the band then asked back in for Raw Power. Was the recording of that album an odd experience for you and Ron?
“We were out, and then we were told that they couldn’t find anybody else. Then I think it kind of surfaced that they actually didn’t try anybody else. I got along fine with James Williamson back then. The reason any problems happened in the first place was that he had a girlfriend whose mother was a lawyer, and he had her draw up a contract saying that himself and Jim were the leaders of the band. We found that kind of hard to believe. This was something that me and my brother had worked at for years. It was more our band than it was James’s. We were going to be put in a side-man position in our own band.