Before we begin our conversation, TSOL frontman/author/OC Weekly columnist Jack Grisham jokingly asks, "Is there anything we have to talk about that I can't talk about with my daughter?"
The topic of the day was Code Blue, Grisham's third and latest book on all the typical issues that arise within the confines of a high school: bullying, the parent-child dynamic, isolation, gossip, death ... and maybe some necrophilia. Presented much like a children's book might be presented--hard cover, full-page illustrations by Scott Aicher, large font presented on an approximate 30-40 pages--Code Blue is based on what might be TSOL's most notorious song of the same name. (Sample lyrics? "I never got along with the girls at my school/Filling me up with all their morals and their rules/They'd pile all their problems on my head I'd rather go out and fuck the dead")
"Well, it's not a bad story," Grisham says with a laugh. "It's a well-written story."
Grisham first got the idea after a friend gifted him a particularly irreverent short story titled Bring Me Your Love,
written by Charles Bukowski and illustrated by cartoonist R. Crumb.
"And then for some reason--I don't know why--I said I was going to do a short story based on 'Code Blue' by TSOL."It was just, 'Oh, that'd be a fun story to do.'"
But Grisham is quick to clarify that the story didn't really exist until recently, over three decades since the release of TSOL's debut album, Dance With Me.
"This story just came. So what I did was I kind of looked at the lyrics and the guy in the song. And I wrote the song when I was 16," Grisham adds, laughing again. "It's really childish and kind of funny. And it was never really about necrophilia, it was about, 'Hey, I have such trouble with having relationships with these girls at school, and I'd rather just go sleep with a dead person because they're not going to give me any problems."
OC Weekly (Vickie Chang): Did you run that idea by anybody before you started writing?
: No, I finished it and I told them I'd done it. [Laughs
] I get pretty out of control--like, once I get an idea in my head, it doesn't stop. It was the same thing when I wrote An American Demon
, they were trying to commit me because I got so obsessed with the writing that I wasn't leaving my office.
It's like the minute I got the idea in my head, this is what we're going to do, it was over. I was typing and calling Iris [Berry] the publisher [of Punk Hostage Press
] and calling Scott Aicher the illustrator at the same time saying, "Hey, you will do this for me now." I had to call Iris back to apologize to her. And I had to get a hold of Scott Aicher to apologize to him, too, because I get stuck in my head and I forget that other people have other lives. [Laughs
Was there anything else to your inspiration behind presenting it as a children's book?
Just that Bukowski book--but I've always liked that stuff. I grew up as a kid on R. Crumb comics so I've always thought of having a child's book not for children. 'Cause all the Grimms' fairy tales aren't for children...I mean, I'm not saying Code Blue is for children, [Laughs], but it's along those lines. You know, people getting killed, death and stuff. The subject matter that is heavy like that but not really made for children.
Anyway, I'm just trying to rationalize pushing soft-core necro porn to people. [Laughs] And I do put out warnings for people.
Do you ever have second thoughts about putting something out like that?
I don't care, i mean what's the point? It's just that... What would the second thought be? That this was a bad idea? [Laughs] That's like asking a question you have to ask me in like, a year.
I mean, no... if it's well-written. [Pauses] That's what's important to me: I'm just learning more and more how to write. I've been doing the little Weekly column there in the paper there and I really like it because it's a 500-word exercise every week to get people to care about the characters and get involved in 500 words. And 500 words is not a lot of words to tell a story in.
A rough draft of an illustration from 'Code Blue.'
Courtesy of Jack Grisham
How involved were you with the illustration process?
Actually, what happened was pretty cool. I went through the Internet and started picking characters out. These are the people I'd pick: Here's the mom, here's Trevor the jock friend. Here's what the girl would look like. So going through, I just went on the Internet and I grabbed photos and I'd send scott like 15 photos: Here's what the wallpaper looks like, here's what the carpet looks like, here's what the candelabra on the wall in the funeral home looks like. So, it's almost like casting a movie or being a set director. And then basically just sending it over to him and he went and used that as a base.
Is there anything you think you have learned from the book writing process of the first two books?
Learning how to be a fan of letting the reader create their own image of what's happening--to not reveal too much and to trust their minds in the process that their minds will fill in the blanks.
So is there any topic you wouldn't write about, that you think is a little too taboo?
I mean some people got bummed out at me because I got a couple of not-exactly-happy emails after my last OC Weekly column
, it was about a young boy who's a teenage prostitute. But it's like, you know, that goes on all the time. I've had friends involved with that.
What's next for you? are you working on another book already?
Yeah, I've got a bunch of books. I'm working on three novels at the same time. When I get tired of one, I just move onto the next. And then I do the [OC Weekly] column every week, and I got an idea for a couple more of these short story books.
So you think it might be a series?
Yeah, that's what I'm thinking about, doing a series of them. So I got a couple ideas for those
What about music? Anything going on?
I'm doing two records, I'm working on a TSOL record and a Joykiller record. So that's still going on and then we're still working on getting financing for the [An American Demon] movie
. Just trying to keep as busy as possible.
How far along are you guys on the new TSOL material?
It's hard to get together, because everybody lives so far away so it's really kind of a drag. We're not in the same room so we have to send each other tapes and stuff, so that's hard. I mean, I told the guys the other day I can get an idea for a book and have it pressed and come out before we get more songs done! So anyway, that's harder to do. Writing is so much easier because you're the only person you have to deal with.