> RICHARD RAMIREZ (Black Leather Jesus, Werewolf Jerusalem) INTERVIEW By Plague Haus
The man behind some of the longest running noise acts in the US, including Black Leather Jesus, Priest In Shit, Werewolf Jerusalem and owner of Deadline Recordings, answers a few questions for Plague Haus.
Plague Haus: Greetings, Richard. For the uninitiated, how long have you been creating noise/PE and under what project moniker did you begin releasing material under?
Richard Ramirez: I started doing my work in late 1989. I first started with a project called, Flesh Puppets. Soon after, Black Leather Jesus came. My first BLJ release came out in 1990.
PH: Is there a particular band or recording that you heard that made you say, “I want to do that”.
RR: It was artists like Nurse With Wound, NON, Merzbow, The Haters that initially got my attention. Shortly after, I heard Emil Beaulieau, Chop Shop, Hijokaidan and fell in love with their work.
PH: Was there a “scene” in Houston when you first began? I’m sure you’re one of the pioneers, but were there any other like-minded individuals when you started?
RR: There weren’t any extreme harsh noise groups around, but there were experimental artists doing shows quite often (Pleasure Center, Turmoil In The Toybox, Ustad Oni, Jesus Penis, Rotten Piece, Infant Mortality Rate, Ure Thrall, & EL7). I think the scene was great from 1989-1994 then once again 2000-recent. There are more noise acts than before. Concrete Violin, Loudspeaker, Melanie Riehle, TEF, & ITLOA are my favorites.
PH: Are you associated with any particular network of artists? Is there any group you have an affiliation to?
RR: I am good friends with a lot of locals (including: Baptist Skin Communiti, Geoff Markoff of Loudspeaker, Concrete Violin, Rotten Piece, ITLOA, Kai/Ros, Crawling Iris, and of course my boyfriend, Jovan Hernandez of ze’r0-sum). I work on several projects with other locals like: S-21, Anatomy Of A Blackout, Are The Volcanoes Still Active?, Meat Shop Rapist, Anal Drill, Last Rape, Private Mouthpiece, and many others. I love our community of artists. For the most part, they are not snobs.
PH: You have an insane number of projects all release material and a few that are not. How do you keep them all separate in your mind or do you?
RR: I do in some cases. I just enjoy doing releases under different names. I get bored with just one or two projects. I know some hate that i do this, but i love it. I also work with so many different people and enjoy doing so. It is funny how some thought that some of the people in my releases were made up. I don’t see how i could pull something like that off. I did one project like that a long, long time ago, but that was only once. Some projects are not as harsh as my known work. I enjoy different aspects of experimental music. Not just the harsh point of view.
PH: How many are active at this moment, both your own and collaborations with others?
RR: That is impossible to say how many are active. Some projects return after many years. Last Rape for example, took several years for a new release to surface (over 10 years). Some are revived with new collaborators. There are some that will not return. There are some projects that are having their releases reissued.
PH: When you record, do you do it with a specific project in mind or do you decide which one it fits best as after?
RR: Both. Sometimes I know what project I want to do something with. Sometimes I record and later decide which project that I think it fits with. Also, the fact that I record with others makes that decision as well.
PH: Do you have a specific structured ‘song’ in mind when you record, or is most of your work improvisational?
RR: Improv is usually my way of recording. I am not too big on the idea of “structure” or reworking and reworking tracks. I do with a small percentage of projects. I love the raw sounds created in one take.
PH: I’ve witnessed you in a live setting once and have viewed several videos of your live performances. You produce a big sound with a very minimal amount of equipment. Does the same set-up apply when you record?
RR: Yes. I only own four effects pedals. That’s it!!!! It has been that way since my beginning. I am not fond of using tons of effects or the latest technology in equipment. That does not interest me at all. I try to utilize different objects for different projects. Vintage radios, turntables, sheet metal, pipes, chains, meathook, field recordings.
PH: Is there anything that influences you when laying down something new, a painting, a film, a book, etc? Where do you draw your inspiration from?
RR: I draw most inspirations from horror films (especially Asian and Italian). Also, painting gives me energy and excitement to record.
PH: Being as prolific as you are, do you keep up with all of your own releases or have some of them been lost along the way? It seems it would be easy to do.
RR: Lots have been lost along the way. I am so amazed to see some collectors with my releases from the early 90s. I don’t even have most of them. I’ve lost a lot of masters throughout the years.
PH: Have you ever considered doing a definitive Richard Ramirez box set? It would have to be huge, I’m sure.
RR: There are talks of one in the near future for both my solo work and Black Leather Jesus. There have been tape/cdr box sets, but these that are in talks are on vinyl and pro-cd format.
PH: While most PE/Noise releases usually take some kind of violent or misogynist view of women, you’ve kind of flipped that around. A lot of yours have heavy homoerotic or S&M imagery. Is there a specific reason for it and have you ever received any negative responses?
RR: I was tired of seeing so many releases based on women in submissive roles. Being gay, I decided to use men. I got a lot of negative responses in the beginning. I even got death threats and tons of hate mail. I still get some hate mail or comments. I don’t give a shit though. If they’re uncomfortable with homosexuality then they might want to question why that is such an issue for them. Most don’t care that I use those images. Some even like it. The S&M images are also a part of me. That is something that my boyfriend and I are into.
PH: Do you believe the packaging and the music go hand in hand? Yours range from the fairly extravagant to minimal. Is the artwork important to you, or is it only about what’s inside?
RR: I am more focused on the material rather than packaging. I love the whole DIY way of doing things. I’m not really into the polished look. It is nice in some cases, but I rather have a release with cheap packaging, but great noise. There are some that have both. That’s cool too. It’s a matter of opinion.
PH: Tell us a bit about the history of your label, Deadline Recordings. When did it begin and why?
RR: I started deadline recordings in 1992. Initially it was called, dead audio media. It became deadline in ’92. I wanted to release my own work since i was not being ask to really do releases for other labels at that time. I also wanted to release items for my friends and new artists that i liked. I don’t release products according to how much money i can get from them, like some other labels. I think it is sad when labels do not give new artists a chance. There are some out there that do so and I applaud them for it.
PH: Anything in the works from Deadline you’d like to comment on?
RR: I am starting a new sub-label of deadline recordings based on only pro-cd releases and maybe some vinyl later. The first release will be a Werewolf Jerusalem cd. Then, a PBK/Richard Ramirez collaboration/split cd. Later, releases with Thurston Moore, Sudden Infant, The Rita, and more.
PH: There can’t be much free time for you between the amount of projects you’re involved in and running a label. When you do find yourself with some, are there any hobbies or projects outside of music you’re into?
RR: I am also a fashion designer (under the alias, Richard Saenz). I have been doing fashion for 10 years now. That takes up a large portion of my time. I also paint when I can, but that’s rare.
PH: What’s in your own personal ‘Now Playing’ list at the moment?
RR: If you’re talking about outside of noise/experimental music that would be: The Jesus & Mary Chain “Psychocandy”, Foetus “Damp”, The Mighty Lemon Drops “World Without End”, Mono “You Are There”, Liars “Drums Not Dead”, And Les Georges Leningrad “Sangue Puro”.
As for noise, I’ve been listening to The Rita “Thousands Of Dead Gods”, Sewer Election “Sex/Death”, The Cherry Point “Black Witchery”, And Incapacitants “Pariah Tapes” box set.
PH: Are there any new special releases, tours, etc coming up that you’d like to comment on?
RR: I am doing a show in October with Sonic Youth (Marfa, Tx). Then later, I am doing a show in Atlanta, Ga. A northeast tour is being planned, possibly with Thurston Moore. In 2008, I want to do some UK shows.
PH: Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. The last word belongs to you.
RR: Thank you for the interview. Play safe!!!!