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joeyramone2012 introInterview with

Mickey Leigh (Brother of Joey Ramone)

Posthumous albums are notoriously difficult to assess. It’s inevitable that they’re broadly judged with a sense of finality and retrospection, and all too often prompt musings on the context of their recording and what might have been. That both of Joey Ramone’s solo albums have emerged after his death is perhaps telling, not least of all where ‘Ya Know?’ is concerned. It is, after all, eleven years since the punk legend passed away, aged just 49. Why so long? Maybe Joey’s brother Mickey Leigh has the answer…

Reflections of Darkness (RoD): It’s been eleven years since Joey’s untimely death, and a decade since ‘Don’t Worry About Me’. Why now for the release of ‘...Ya Know?’
joeyramone2012 01Mickey Leigh (Mickey): Somebody that my brother had made some of these demos with would not turn them over to us unless we paid him an exorborant amount of money. My mom, who was the executrix of Joey’s estate,  had to file a lawsuit against Daniel Rey who was holding the remaining demos - which although Joey had recorded in Reys  home studio, and had already paid Rey for his work recording the demos, Rey wanted a ridiculously exorbitant amount of money to turn the demos over to us. That is what took 9 years.

RoD: How much work did the material need in order to make it “complete” for release?
Mickey: We kept the original vocals from the demos and built everything up around them. As you can see  from the liners, there were a lot of musicians involved.

RoD: How did it feel to go back through all of this material, and what did the selection process entail in terms of what to include and what to leave off the album - assuming there are songs that didn’t make the cut?
Mickey: It felt great to go thru all of the songs, especially ‘I Couldn’t Sleep’. There were a few that didn’t make the cut. I didn’t feel they were on par with what was released. Those were some of the tougher decisions I was faced with, but had to make. I prefered to play it safe and include only what I knew I would have absolutely no regrets about later on. My goal was to make a great album, and have nothing about it be mediocre.

RoD: I read the album was originally supposed to contain 17 tracks: what happened?
joeyramone2012 02Mickey: Those two songs Joey had  co-written with Dee Dee. Though all things financial were to be split equally between the two, John Cafiero - who manages both Dee Dee’s and Johnny’s wives  careers and business interests- refused to sign off on them to be included on this record.

RoD: You collaborated with Joey on ‘I Couldn’t Sleep’. Did being brothers make working together easy, and what was the dynamic there?
Mickey: Well, I was never not his brother, so I can’t say if being brothers or not made working together easier or harder- but, as we were so deeply embedded our entire lives I gotta believe it did. There was an abundance of mutual respect between us, and we always had a great time working together. We’d  been working together since I was 12 years old and he produced a record for my first band, Purple Majesty.  We could speak to each other with nothing more than a look, or a look accompanied with a “...ya know?”

RoD: Joey’s status as “punk icon” requires no qualification, and the significance of THE RAMONES in terms of the impact they’ve made on music - and not only punk rock - is unquestionably immense. What do you think is the most important part of their legacy, and why do you think their popularity is so enduring?
Mickey: Great art endures. Pure and simple.

RoD: What does ‘...Ya Know?’ add that’s unique to the Joey Ramone ouevre?
Mickey: It, more clearly than ever, diplays his abilties as a prolific songwriter who, when unrestrained by the  more confining structure his former band adhered to, was able to freely explore, create, and express his diverse love of music.  

RoD: Is Rock’n’Roll the answer?
Mickey: It could be, depending on the question.

We thank Mickey for the interview!

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