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Mickey Leigh in conversation.

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Growing up as Joey Ramone’s brother, Mickey Leigh has been a figure in the New York City punk scene since the 1970’s founding such bands as The Rattlers, Sibling Rivalry (with Joey Ramone), STOP, and plenty more.

 

This year saw his first solo full-length release under the name Mickey Leigh’s Mutated Music. His new album,Variants of Vibe out on Wicked Cool Records dropped on February 18.

Mickey Leigh in conversation.

In addition to Variants of Vibe, Mickey Leigh is the executive producer of the upcoming Netflix movie based on his book, I Slept With Joey Ramone: A Memoir. The book is based on his experience growing up the brother of Joey Ramone in Forest Hills, Queens. The movie stars Pete Davidson as Joey Ramone.

 

Your correspondent reached out to Mickey Leigh via email to pose a few questions. An edited transcript of that conversation follows.

 

WG: Tell us about the song writing and recording behind your new album. 

 

Mickey Leigh:I re-recorded a few songs that i’d written previously and made demos of but had never been released, and combined them with songs I’d written recently – within the past year or two and wound up with an overabundance of songs to choose from. Most of the tracks that would go on the album had been determined already. But, with all the new songs, in trying to narrow the album down to 14, I was faced with the problem of having too many I felt were really great, strong songs… and couldn’t decide. Of course, that’s a good problem to be faced with.  The people at Wicked Cool helped solve that problem by making the call on which 3 additional songs, from the batch of potentials, should go on the album.

 

I read on your website the quote: “OUR GOAL: TO RESCUE ROCK N ROLL… ONE SONG AT A TIME.”

 Do you feel a sense of obligation to help keep Rock and Roll alive?

 

I don’t feel that it’s my obligation to keep rock n roll alive. I’m just volunteering my services. Doing what i can to help keep the genre of music i love vibrant, lest it totally deteriorates into a reconstituted meat by-product, or something heard only as spare parts of hip-hop/rap songs. I’d also hate to see it become so formulated that new Rock and Roll songs will be like when they re-do the Kars-4-Kids jingle. For me, it’s all about presenting songs that are vital and personally relatable. Giving the listener something meaningful, fun and interesting enough that they’ll hear something slightly different in it with each listen but also, regardless of tempo, still has that inherent groove that causes you to wanna move. The elements that got people excited the first time they heard a great rock ‘n roll song.

 

How do you keep it fresh without compromising your influences?

 

I don’t over think it. Just let it flow.

 

Describe something that made the New York City music scene of the late 70’s and 1980’s a tremendous time and place.

 

Cheap beer, free admission (if you played at the clubs you went to), and the element of surprise. Everything happening at that time was unpredictable.

 

What is something that separates bands that make it from bands that don’t?

 

Luck.

 

When you were a roadie with the Ramones did you ever feel that they would continue to have the impact that they still do?

 

I, obviously, couldn’t foresee that far into the future. But, after a year or so, as they began to become more popular, I did feel that they should give me a raise from my $50 a week salary.

 

Describe one of your personal highlights as a musician.

 

When i was a teenager, in the early 70’s, i was in a cover band that got jobs at “strip” clubs, where girls danced to live bands. The last thing the customers there cared about were the bands on the stage, where the 80% nude girls were dancing. But, one night i played a guitar solo and was surprisingly rewarded with a huge round of applause from the crowd of blue collar clients. In those places, that was a near-impossible feat.

 

What Mickey Leigh song should everyone hear?

 

Everyone should hear everyone of them.

 

What makes those songs great?

 

Your ears.

 

Where is the most interesting place one of your songs has been played?

 

My head.

 

Are you planning on touring?

 

Absolutely.

 

What is something you haven’t done yet that you want to do?

 

Well, i want to finish this interview for you…

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