Marky Ramone, drummer for iconic New York punk band The Ramones, DJed against a backdrop of vintage rock and pop-culture relics as Hilfiger Denim, Tommy Hilfiger’s first US outpost for his denim collections, recently celebrated it’s opening in Soho, New York. We catch up with the music icon to find out more about their recent collaboration.
So how far back does your relationship with Tommy Hilfiger go? 23 years.
And how did you first meet him? Well, me and a friend were in a band in the mid-80s after I was in The Ramones. Tommy would often come by to the rehearsals. At that point he was just starting out and we’d hang out and have coffee and cake together. Then he eventually became the great Tommy Hilfiger and I joined The Ramones again. He always supported rock and he was always into music so when he approached me about this line, about making leather jackets and jeans that fit right finally, I was very happy to be involved with it.
How does this range differ from the clothes you used to wear in the 70s and 80s? The materials are great: the leather is softer and easier to wear.
The Ramone coats that we used to wear were very hard and pretty heavy. They were made for motorcycle riding, so they took years to break in. When you played in them and walked around in them, they got very heavy and hot so I wanted to make sure that the leather was nice and soft and would sit better this time. This is the result.
Do you live in New York these days? I live in Brooklyn. I lived in New York for a while and it got a little too weird so I moved to Brooklyn, which is only a minute away from New York but right near the water…
And how do you feel New York has changed in the last 20, 30 years? It’s got more gentrified, not as seedy… When I first moved here there were homeless people everywhere and New York was bankrupt. There were no Starbucks, and no major chain stores compared to now. People were leaving New York ‘cos of the crunch, Washington told us to go fuck ourselves and we were left holding the bag so we were bankrupt at one point. That’s why we basically came up from the street. When I joined The Ramones, we had no money, I lived in a cold water flat on the lower-east side. There was no gentrification – there were rats, cockroaches, but it made me survive. The music was a lot more raw and it made people more creative because you had to get out of your situation. We were below poverty… And that’s the difference.
Was that situation reflected in your music? It was reflected in the way we lived, the music and the fashion - the reason we had holes in our pants was because that’s all that we had. I wore sneakers that I had to tape because there were holes in my sole!
Do you think that you influence fashion? I think so. I think The Ramones influence the world of fashion, with the leather jackets and jeans and Converse, because it’s a simple thing to wear and its affordable. It's what we wore in Brooklyn, New York. We didn’t wear stuff off the rack, it was real.
What are your most vivid memories from your early days in The Ramones? Many… The drinking, the playing, Phil Spector, movies, going to England… A lot of English bands that were just starting out around that time were very influenced by The Ramones. We were very grateful for that. Those are basically the memories. I did 1,700 shows with them, and an album so there are plenty of memories.
What bands are you into that are coming through now? Well, I have a radio show in America that I do, and pop rock is all that I play… In England I like The Gallows, I like The River Boat Gamblers from America, I like MXPX, I like Against Me, I like Dona Drake and Her Girl Band. I still like bands like Rancid, I still like The Clash, I still like some of the stuff Green Day does. So I like anything new that hits me. I’ll play it. I don’t care if they’re signed or not, ‘cos I like to help new bands. If the song is good and the lyrical content is cool, I’ll play it. It could be anything – hip hop, rap, rock… if a song is good, I’ll like it. You know, I don’t care who plays it, I don’t care if it’s by a band that wears flowers and beads, I don’t care. If the song is good, then I’ll like it. I’m not into saying everything sucks, because it doesn’t.
I like The Arctic Monkeys… their lyrics and the singing is real good. I like The Verve, I like Amy Winehouse even though she took – I’m not gonna say stole – a lot from the Motown sound of the sixties, but then sometimes you borrow… I like that fact that she’s influenced by that kind of music and not this Spice Girls stuff. She’s cool. The Spice Girls, to me, aren’t.
Do you think new bands are re-hashing the sounds of the 70s? Well, things come in cycles. There’s really nowhere else to go. I mean, so much has been done that cycles come for reasons. It may be because of a lack of originality but if it’s for the greater good and they put their own slant on it and it works, why not?
Can we ask you about being in The Simpsons? How was that? Was it fun? Yeah! We were very happy to be in The Simpsons. Matt’s a big fan of the band. I had to say my line 10 times over because of my Brooklyn accent. So I had to go “Gee, I think they like us!" – that’s my big line! And I had to say it more middle America so people would understand. Pronunciation! It’s like in England, you have so many different ways of saying stuff… not different languages, but different accents.
So what’s next for you? We’re gonna play with Offspring and Siouxsie and The Banshees, and then The Sex Pistols. Some festivals lined up, one in Greece and one in Slovenia. And then home.