By Sarah Bennett
By Adam Lovinus
By Jena Ardell
By Nate Jackson
By Gustavo Arellano
By Nick Keppler
By Nate Jackson
By Alex Distefano
As guitarist for the legendary TSOL, Ron Emory not only helped shape Southern California’s earliest hardcore punk scene, but he also lived through every rock & roll cliché imaginable. He battled drug and alcohol addictions, went to jail—and survived. After a decade of sobriety, Emory shares his stories on his solo debut album, Walk That Walk.
OC Weekly:You’ve been part of a band dynamic for so long. What brought about this solo album?
Ron Emory: I’ve written songs that weren’t necessarily TSOL songs; they were very personal songs I’ve had since about 1983, and I just kind of shelved them. Over the years, I played a few of them, and I was really encouraged by people I have a lot of respect for to record these songs. Tim Armstrong from Rancid heard some of them and wanted me to record at his house. I never considered myself a singer or anything, just a guitar player and songwriter. We recorded a few songs with just an acoustic guitar and me singing.
Is there a story you’re telling with this record?
I’ve been in trouble in the past with addictions and jail. . . . Some of these songs were written when I was locked up or deep in my addiction. I’ve been sober for 10 years now, so with a clear head, I saw how I was searching for answers and crying out for help. That really made me take a look at some of the songs and put them together in a way that takes you on a journey.
It sounds like you’ve been subconsciously working on it for years. It also sounds like a few people helped along the way.
I wrote the song “Walk That Walk” in 1985. I was sitting in for Social Distortion when Mike Ness broke his wrist in 2006, and I played it for a second during sound check. Mike jumped out at me and wanted to know what it was, he liked it so much. I recorded it, sent it to him and said, “I hear you singing it.” I sang the first verse and the chorus, and he sang the second part. It just worked so nice together.
I’ve also got Dexter Holland [of the Offspring] singing a song written in 1986; he credits TSOL as his breaking point. Fletcher [Dragge] from Pennywise plays guitar on “I’m Still Alive.” It’s really neat to have someone that you influenced to pick up the guitar participate on a record with you; Fletcher claims he started playing guitar because of “Superficial Love.”
Does the record sound like it could be work you’ve done with TSOL, or is it unique to you?
It’s definitely unique to me. You’ll definitely hear my guitar sound on the whole thing. You’ve got to remember that this is 27 years of songs. They are very heartfelt, very gritty, very dirty, very moody, very soothing, very angry. It’s everything—all in one.
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This colum appeared in print as "The Soundtrack of Life."