“Brutal, Honest, Powerful” – An interview with Jerry A. Lang, the frontman of Poison Idea

Author Mikko Nissinen - 21.1.2023

Just a night before Christmas Eve we had an opportunity to have a nice chat with one of the true West Coast -hardcore punk pioneers. Jerry A. Lang, the vocalist and founding member of American hardcore punk legends, Poison Idea. Even though his main band called it a day a couple years ago, Jerry has had kept himself busy with working on several other music projects including a brand new solo album ”From The Fire Into The Water” and and an autobiography ”Black Heart Fades Blue”. Let’s go and find out what Jerry had on his mind.

Ho ho! Jerry And welcome to Chaoszine interview! How are you about to spend your Holiday Season this year?

Jerry: I’m staying for the Christmas here in Portland, Oregon. It’s all frozen outside here today…  I mean snow… frozen, solid… but nobody can do anything. But on New Year’s Eve Dare from Los Angeles is coming here to play, and I am DJ’ing there with a set of my punk rock songs.

You know, this is the first time we are free from all Covid lockdowns during these last three years. You know what, we didn’t know what tomorrow was gonna happen. – If the World was going to an end. Now we can go out and meet friends after a long time. This is our first time we can join the family after the Covid. That’s what I’m gonna do. –To see my loved ones.

Just a while ago you released a solo album ”From The Fire Into The Water”, which contains songs from several bands you have had and worked with along the years. Can you tell us a little bit more about how the concept of your new album come out in the first place?

Jerry: Well, I am doing music with all these other bands (in addition to Poison Idea)… like Crime Scene. I’ve been working with another bands and I wanted to combine all the stuff I have been working with at the time, so I just decided to put it out. Then I went back to dig up the older stuff that I did with The Hard-Ons and Dare To Defy and just assembled it. It comes out on one record (LP)… It’s good, I like it.

Your new album consists of songs with quite a wide range of musical styles. From 60’s Nancy Sinatra-Lee Hazlewood -pop cover to punk rock, crossover, hardcore metal to goth and industrial rock. Did you ever think that it would be too diverse album in terms of music genres?

Jerry: You know what, that’s the kind of stuff I listen to. That’s the music I listen to at my house when sitting around. The album sounds like a soundtrack record of a big party. You know, I like it. And nothing of it sounds like out-of-place.

Evidently, you have more than 10 spin off -projects along side Poison Idea. Did you ever have a thought that you could have sacrificed more time and effort for some of these band projects included in your solo album?

Jerry: Yeah… You know, I have played with Crime Scene, and decided to make a record, a full album with them. I love that band, I like playing with them. And I’m talking to the guys in The Hard-Ons hoping that they would do a record with me. A full length as well. Hoping that if we’ll do that, there would also be some shows with the band.

And I also did an album with hard rock band BBB. Eight songs in all, and it sounds fuckin’ great. The album is coming out during 2023. So we just keep on doing. And there’s even more stuff (to be recorded). And I will not be turning anybody down, if it’s about good music. Even if it is industrial or country-western, if it’s good, I’ll do it, I don’t care, because I’ll do it.

… Music without borders, right?

Jerry: Exactly! Yes. I like it. It’s fun.

Jerry A. Lang (pic: J. A. Areta Goñi, JUXE)

And obviously even Poison Idea as a hardcore punk band has gotten plenty of influences from different genres of music you listen to. Am I Right?

Jerry: Yeah, I mean I can look at any Poison Idea -record up until ”Feel the Darkness” on, and there’s always something else… like piano parts. – Almost like glammy Hanoi Rocks and also heavy metal parts. There’s all sorts of… you know, slow, bar room, gothic stuff. There’s all sorts of stuff mixed up that all we like. There’s always been that other side in our music.

That’s cool to know that you were a hardcore punk band that is open-minded for all kinds of music genres basically. That’s a very admirable attitude. Are there any favourite songs you want to pick out and introduce of your new solo album to Poison Idea fans?

Jerry: You know, I listen to every song… Hold on… Let me grab the record (takes the record out of the shelf to take a closer look at the copy of it)…

Alright, so ”That’s My Music” by The Savage Beat. I love that song. They’re just like straight ahead, bumpin’, rock ’n roll guys. Then the Dead Moon -song (”I Hate The Blues” by Jerry A. & The Ransom). That sounds to me almost like The Cramps’ish. I have to say I love each song equally. I really do. There’s no song I would put over the best. Even though theres a song like ”Darling Raven” by Big Stick. Almost like a tac-toe-thing. I like it all, man. I like it all. You know… It’s like as a father one would be comparing which child does he like the best? … Hah.

And the Blitz -cover ”Fatigue” we did with Portland -based band called Soft Kill. I’m a Blitz -fan. I always have been a Blitz -fan. I really love the way they changed sthe style from ”Someone’s Gonna Die” to ”Warriors” to ”Fatigue”. They always evolved and changed. I hope that when Mackie, the guy (founding member, bassist) from Blitz hears our version, he’d love it.

Basically, you already answered to my next question: what kind of music do you listen to on your free time? You also already let me know, that you have a wide musical taste. Is there some kind of music you don’t listen to?

Jerry: You know what. People always ask me, what new bands do I listen to. And I always answer to them that there’s so much older stuff that I have never heard…. I was doing a music pod-cast with a person who introduced me to music from Greece. – The oldest known music to man. It was funeral music from time before Christ was born. It just sounded … Wow!!!(Undiscribably beautiful) … So why am I supposed to be listening to some new music if there’s so much to discover from past: From George Jones to Little Richard to everything. Last night I watched a concert clip by The 13:th Floor Elevators and Roky Erickson. I guess it was recorded on their European Tour, in Germany around 2013.

Let’s get back to your Poison Idea -days. In 2019 you called it a day with the band. How has the time been for you since you split up and what were the main reasons why did you decide to split up?

Jerry: Oh, I wrote a book… (and the story is included in it). You know, there was a time when the band was not doing that good. We were always drunk. We would play bad shows. So I got these guys of the band together and said: ”Listen. I wanna do one year – from January to December, and just go out and do the best shows possible… Just to do the very, very best shows. – Give me one year, and we’ll just fuckin’ bulldoze the places and then we’ll stop on a good note.” Released the record also back then.

So we did the tour. Played in Rebellion festival, Blackpool, England. We did it well and didn’t do one bad show. I mean… We stopped in New York City to play the two last shows. We went to Japan before that and came back from there. Every show was tight ”Bam, Bam, Bam!” Brilliant. So that’s it. Goodbye. No bad feelings about it. We’re still friends with the guys in Poison Idea. That was it. Gone to the next thing.

Jerry A. Lang singing. (Pic: J. A. Areta Goñi, JUXE)

So you mentioned that you’re about to release an autobiography titled ”Black Heart Fades Blue” in early 2023. What can Poison Idea fans and people who have followed your coureer expect from the book?

Jerry: All the people who have already read it have told me, that when you read it, you know Poison Idea’s music then (after reading the book). You know, all representing art is based on honesty, on how you feel. If I write a song, it will sound like this. If I paint a picture, it will look like that. If I write a book it will be like that. It’s brutal, it’s honest as it’s powerful. That’s all I can say.

You know, there’s plenty of books about the musicians. Stories about the touring, stories about fighting… Blah, blah, blah… This book is more from the soul, in the soul.

Are there stories from your childhood, youth, process of growing up included in it or is it just a story of Poison Idea and your coureer?

Jerry: Honestly, Poison Idea is included as a little piece of the whole story. It’s basically the story of my life. And it has been a crazy life.

Anything else you want to tell me about your new book or solo album release?

Jerry: You know what. Honestly I can say that whatever I have put out; albums with Poison Idea, my solo record, my book. It’s always been honest, from my heart. I like it, I enjoy it. I think the book is equivalent to Poison Idea’s songs, and I can tell you from this point that you will not be disappointed. That’s all I can say about it. As you read the book, you can come back telling me if I’m lying… Or if you don’t like it, I’ll buy it back from you… Hah.

Is there any chance for Poison Idea to get together on stage some day?

Jerry: You know what. I’m not gonna say no because I don’t know. Like I said, It’s not up to me. It’s up to powers… Who knows… I would say, some day something’s gonna happen. You know, in the meantime, I plan on playing with Crime Scene. And I’m planning on making new stuff with BBB. I also plan on continuing the work with anybody open mindedly, if the music is good, and just to keep on playing.

Poison Idea is a highly appreciated influencer to many great bands from international punk and metal scenes like Turbonegro, Machine Head, Pantera and thousands of others. Do you have any thoughts, why Poison Idea as a nihilistic DIY hardcore-band became as one of the forerunners, most remarkable and well-known American punk bands of all time?

Jerry: I think people can understand that it’s honest, it’s pure, it’s true, something that’s original and that we were not copying somebody else. Like I said, we speak the truth, we play the truth. It’s the same way I feel about Roky Erickson or same way I feel about Syd Barrett (early Pink Floyd).

Original and fucking mad?

Jerry: Oh yeah!

How has international punk rock scene changed during these rough 40 years, since you started with Poison Idea?

Jerry: Well You know, It’s (just a) name now. It’s easier and more accessible now (than how it was in the early days). You can see anything you like. But as I see, some stuff in the internet they advertise as ”New punk rock”. As I look at it I go ”what is this? Machine Gun Kelly? – punk rock” – And as I listen to it, I’m like ”That’s not punk rock – what is this?”  I’m the ‘King of Punk’. I’m the fucking punk rock, but what the hell is this? You now the media has also changed. Back in the day we didn’t call Duran Duran punk rock.

You know, for me the stuff needs to be pure… like the Finnish stuff like Lama. It was such good, so great. It was rock ’n roll but it was snotty, aggressive, kick ass – rock’n roll. And there was other great great stuff coming from Finland too. Like Terveet Kädet. One of Pig Champion’s (late Poison Idea -guitarist) favourites from the mid ’80’s. I love it. And of course, there’s still punk rock today, but it seems like it’s already been done before. Hah.

Jerry A. Lang (Pic: J. A. Areta Goñi, JUXE)

Please pick 3 to 5 artists you have been listening to lately on your home stereo.

Jerry: Here we go again. I listen to anything. If I go to wash my car, in my car’s CD-player there’s a David Bowie -CD. Because he had everything. Bowie’s like Poison Idea. From psychedelic to funk and soul to pop to glam to scarry. Like ”Diamond Dogs”… goth almost. His music has got everything. I also listen to three the first three MC5 -records (“Kick Out The Jams”, Back In The U.S.A.” and “High Time”). There’s also a new band from England called Janus Starck. English Dogs and The Damned -drummer Pinch used to play for them. It’s all fucking great. You can spend hours and days listening to all this.

Are there any plans for you to come over to Europe do an European-Tour with some of your bands In the near future?

Jerry: Right now I’m actually planning to do a Rebellion festival in England for the book promotion. Once I get there, I can grab up a band and play.

If you do and have a chance, please come over to play in Scandinavia and Finland as well. There’s plenty of Poison Idea -fans here as well.

Jerry: Thank you. I’d love to.

What are your free time hobbies or what do you feel like doing when you’re not working with music?

Jerry: I try to do something new every day. –Something I don’t already know to keep my mind exercising. I just got back from Paris, France, and I was taking cooking classes of it. In a couple months or so I have planned to go down south and planned to go scuba diving. I’ve never ever done that before in my life. My wife teaches me about cooking, about flowers… there’s so much in World to try new stuff. You can do new things every day.

Thank you Jerry for the great interview and wish you all the best for the future endeavours!

Jerry: Thank You!