Jack Grisham is the frontman and founding member of Orange County punk pioneers True Sounds of Liberty (most commonly known by the acronym T.S.O.L.). With a nearly 30-year career under his studded belt, Grisham has struggled through failed gubernatorial bids and drug addiction to find himself back where it all began. The band, boasting a near-original lineup and a recently released live album, will play Santa Barbara’s Velvet Jones this Friday, September 19. Grisham recently took time out from his daily surf routine to discuss everything from his anarchist roots to his music collection, all delivered via phone in his signature eloquent-yet-erratic speak. No surprise, considering Grisham’s tongue has spat some of the most energetic and radical music West Coast punk has ever offered.
The scene you came up in, Huntington Beach, seems pretty conservative. How did that influence your music? My dad was 30 years in the service and I would have to salute him when I was a kid. But then I had sisters and brothers who were hippies, so stuff might’ve been conservative around me, but I was raised on anarchy. Everything was conservative when we started playing. The only people who had tattoos were sailors or criminals. So imagine the colored hair, the clothes, the style, everything. When punk rock first started, everything was completely new.
What year did punk rock start for you? Well, I started listening in ’77-’78; the Sex Pistols, The Damned, you know. I listened to a lot of the English stuff-the Germs, X, the Weirdos. The later bands like Circle Jerks, Social Distortion, and Black Flag, those guys were like our peers. I just didn’t think of putting on their records as much.
As you grew up, you got into politics and, with the exception of Jello Biafra, there aren’t a lot of guys from your era who took that route. The only reason I got involved in the politics was the bitch about healthcare in California. I think the personal politics is so much more important than working on a global or even national scale. I’m a real big fan of volunteerism, breaking down stuff. If we could disband the union, I would. To bring it back to a community level and police ourselves. If you look at the line in the Bible-“Don’t worry about the mote in your brother’s eye, worry about the beam in your own”-what are you doing for the people around you? All these people want to enact this change on such big scales, but it never happens because you have to start at the root and work up. Let’s look at the [Barack] Obama thing, which is great for what it’s worth, but the bottom line is you’re just putting another coat of paint on the house. The foundation is rotten to the core. What do you really think he can do in four years? These people are so nuts with what they think they can change. So for me it’s more about what am I doing around me? What can I do right here?
What about T.S.O.L.’s whole metal band phase? I left the band. So after I left, it got out of hand. Everyone’s drinking and greed comes in, [and] ego problems; it basically turned into a nightmare. They decided to keep using the name because, business-wise, it was good for them because all the work had been done. After a while, the music started getting changed. They started catering to the radio, trying to get hits. Then the guitar player leaves and there’s only one original member, and he sells the name for drugs so it just got out of control. Once everybody got sober and cleaned up, that’s when it changed. We did our first show back together in ’89.
Excluding that era, how would you describe the band’s sound and the changes it has been through? We just do whatever. We don’t really put a lot of thought into it. What comes out comes out, but our sound is our sound because of what we grew up listening to.
T.S.O.L. will play Velvet Jones (423 State St.) this Friday, September 19, at 8 p.m. Call 965-8676 or visit numbskullshows.com for details and tickets.