TSOL Singer Jack Grisham: 'That's Right--I'm Supporting the Arts. I Got a Fucking Award For it. I'm An Award-Winning Artist.'

TSOL Singer Jack Grisham: 'That's Right--I'm Supporting the Arts. I Got a Fucking Award For it. I'm An Award-Winning Artist.'
Danielle Bacher/ OC Weekly

Jack Grisham's life has taken more twists and turns than the PCH. The 49-year-old gained early notoriety as the lead singer of seminal Orange County punk rockers TSOL. After five years fronting the group, Grisham left amid rumors of substance abuse and acrimony from the more mainstream hard rock direction in which the group was heading. 


His personal life grew increasingly wild, culminating in a marriage to a young, drug-addicted Mexican teenager. He began his road to recovery, which has lasted to this day and has become his career.

Now based in Huntington Beach, Grisham works as a personal recovery assistant and neurolinguistic programmer, helping others to work through their own issues. In what must be quite the 180 for the former punk who was arrested multiple times, the Allied Board of Huntington Beach has given him an award as a Distinguished Performing Artist. He sat down with me at IHOP after the award ceremony at the Huntington Beach Art Center to sort through the surreality.

OC Weekly (Danielle Bacher): How does it feel to be selected as a distinguished performing artist from the Allied Board of the City of Huntington Beach?

TSOL Singer Jack Grisham: 'That's Right--I'm Supporting the Arts. I Got a Fucking Award For it. I'm An Award-Winning Artist.'
Danielle Bacher/ OC Weekly



What do you feel has been the greatest achievement in your career?
I don't know.. that sounds bad. I don't think I've done it yet. I'm always looking for something new--I just finished a book that comes out in May, which was a big deal. I will probably make a couple of more records and write a movie. I'm still alive...that's a big achievement. Especially since all my friends are dead. You know what the cool thing about being alive is? When your alive, the kids actually show some respect for you because you've been around for so long. They say, "Fuck, he may be a prick but he's still alive." You want to know a funny story?

Sure.
I was doing an interview one time at my mother's house. Growing up, my mother's house was always crazy. My grandmother got Alzheimer's, but my mother didn't want to put her in a home. So, we tied her to a chair in the living room--like a seatbelt. It was a bathrobe tie, and we tied her to a recliner so she couldn't get up. We were trying to take care of her.

[Grisham's manager]: It's called elder abuse!

Well, she's roped in and these journalists were coming over to do an interview. It's 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning and I'm in a navy-blue Japanese dress--I wore it to piss my dad off, and I forgot they were coming. The journalists showed up and I tell them to come in. They turn around and see an old lady tied to a chair, and she's looking at them and growling. So, I'm still in a dress talking to them on the couch and my mother comes downstairs and she goes, "Oh, great. Oh, great. Another interview where ever word is fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck." Then, she just walks out of the house. When the article came out and it described the scene, it said, "Jack had no idea we were showing up. There was an old woman tied to a chair, and all of a sudden--what we think is his mother, suddenly walks down the stairs screaming 'Fuck."' When the interview came out, I gave it to my mother and said, "Damn right, another article where all they say is fuck in it, Mom!"

You're a clinical hypnotherapist and a master neuro-linguistic programmer. Has your past helped you to help others? How is your Huntington Beach practice doing?
Yes. I think a lot of it is a matter of empathy. I see and help a lot of people. Do you know who Soupy Sales is? He's a famous comedian. His sons, Hunt and Tony Sales played with David Bowie and Iggy Pop. Anyway, I played with Hunt Sales for a long time. He's a total character with gold teeth, and the best drummer in the world. So, he had a birthday party and his mother goes, "Hey Jack, come inside. I want to show you some nice cake I got for Hunt." She shows me the cake, and it says: "Nigga please, you are da' cheese." She was 90 and clueless.

Your first book, 'An American Demon' is slated to be released in 2011. How long did it take you to write your memoir?
For the last six months, I've been writing my book. I had the idea to write a book in 2005. I spent a year on it and gave it to an agent who said it was shit. I sent it to a friend of mine and he said, "Jack, I know you and I really like you, but I'm 15 pages in this book and I want to shoot you. You are an asshole and I hate this character." I said, "Well what am I going to do?" A big shot manager around here sent a tape of me giving a reform talk to prison inmates to a person in New York. They got someone to help me, but then the entire economy collapsed. Then, I had no one to help me because there was no money. I'm stuck writing it by myself, but I didn't want to make it fucking boring and I had a deadline. I was writing this book and it was still a piece of shit. So, I was walking in the wetlands out here and I got my idea. I thought, " Oh my god, this is it!" I came home that day and starting rolling with 10,000 words the first day. I sent it back to the agent in New York who said, "It's intelligent, dark, humorous. It's fucking everything." It's funny because the ECW publishing company that's out of Toronto is located in a country that I'm not allowed to visit. I'm not welcome in that country, so I can never go to the offices to talk about my book. 

What can we expect to read in it?
I'm in my office all day writing. My family actually did an intervention on me, because I was always locked up in the office for 20 hours a day eating bad food.They thought my methods had become unsound. My daughter said, "Dad, you need to come live with me because you've completely lost it." I was 48 at the time and she pictured me in a pair of Depends on the sofa. That's what she was thinking. You know, once you get an idea for a story, it won't stop. The book is done, but its being typeset for print, and now I'm going through the pages word by word. Now I'm tearing it apart again. I'm thinking, "Fuck, did I really write that?" It doesn't make any sense... Getting the editing done has been my focus. The book is really trippy. There are people snatching bodies in the book and gods that turn into demons. It's a novel based on my life, but it has nothing to do with me. It has to do with me, but it really has nothing to do with me--if that makes any sense. It's like the three sides of man. The character has multiple personalities.

[Grisham's manager]: It's a novel based on your life.

Yeah, just as much as the World Trade Center is based on Bush blowing it up [laughs]

Do you identify with this character who is a sociopath?
Well, I wrote the shit. There has been times when I've beaten people. It's pretty funny to hit someone in the back with a bat or something...Sometimes that's funny. You laugh when people get hurt, right?

 
You've run for Governor of California. What was it like running against Arnold Schwarzenegger? What would you do differently if you were in office now?
We didn't have any money. It was more just to bitch about health care. The cool thing that happened was that I got to go to schools and talk to kids on how to get involved. I went to an elementary school to teach kids how to organize. In 2005, my daughter was four years old, and I took her to this school with about 200 third-and fourth-graders to give a speech and she wouldn't let go of my back. The kids were stoked, but my daughter was hanging on my back like a fucking chinchilla, like a mink wrapped around my neck. Well, she bit me in the ass and I yelled, "Shit!" [laughs]. These kids were laughing and going crazy. After  the teacher said to me, "I wouldn't vote for anyone but you." But, health care is a joke here. You can't afford to get sick. There wasn't a lot of talk about health care then. Now, it's a big thing. I had an opportunity to have a platform. I was on CNN and Josh Gibson said, " I'm really surprised, but you are the only candidate out there that even sounds like he knows what he's talking about."

Back in the day, though, you sang about anarchism. How and why did your political views change?
They haven't changed.Less government...they need to stay out of our business. I'm also for totally secession. California should become it's own country--the entire thing is a mess. What do you want me to say? Oh man, when this story comes out it is going to read: "Asshole." You know, the best record review I ever got in my life was on If Anger Were Soul, I'd Be James Brown. One kid wrote as his only review, "If shit were money, Jack would be rich." That's my favorite review. It's a Spinal Tap review [laughs]

Are there plans for TSOL to play again in the near future?
We are going to Europe in January, and then we are playing some local shows with Youth Brigade in November and December. 
​​
The original members of TSOL did a reunion tour in 1989, but there were rumors for serious drug problems in the group then. Was it hard remaining clean, and do you struggle with those temptations these days?
Not at all. The problem has been removed. It's not really about temptation, because drugs and alcohol are just a solution. People think those substances will solve a problem that they are having sober--that's the issue. When I finally realized that it wasn't a solution to any problem that I had, there was never any temptation again. I don't get in a place where I say, "I'd really like to slit my wrist, shit my pants and go to jail right now." Getting loaded like drinking and taking a couple pills means exactly that...a total fucking rampage. I go downhill fast, and my thoughts now are not always sound. I may have a thought like, "Hey, drop your pants." But as soon as I do drugs, that thought becomes a reality. For instance, I was walking out of a Bob's Big Boy one time, and there was a family eating. I just bellyflopped on their table. They were screaming and shit.

How long have you been sober?
Almost 22 years. It's better that I just stay off drugs.

Were you greatly affected by drummer Todd Barnes passing away?
Yeah. I was really mad. We had been friends for a long time--he was my best friend. He was drinking, taking a lot of drugs and had arthritis really bad. He was also taking a lot of speed. He and I slept in the same room together. One time, Todd threw my dog in the pool and I kicked him in the back. Todd got mad because he was just like a big kid. He was walking home crying, and I ran after him to tell him that I was sorry. Todd said, "You could kill my grandparents and I wouldn't hurt you." So yes, I was bummed when he died.

Do you think that drugs and alcohol addiction is more prevalent in younger kids now than when you were growing up?
Not amongst my friends. Everyone I knew when I was a kid was getting loaded. I didn't know anybody that wasn't getting loaded. If anything, it's less than it was back then, because there is more drug and alcohol awareness now. I mean, I was doing inhalants not even knowing what the fuck an inhalant was.

You were married at 25 years old to a teenage girl who was using drugs heavily, too. Has that experience affected your relationships now?
She died last year of a drug overdose. She struggled for 20 years with it. I didn't grow up. The crazier I was, the more my friends liked it. You know? I don't think I started growing up until this year. It's been very recent.

How long did you spend in jail?
Never long. When I was running for Governor, part of the campaign slogan was: "Charged but never convicted." I'm unbelievably lucky at catching breaks. Everyone would get arrested but me, or I just happened to walk out of party just before the cops raided the place. We went down the list of what I should be locked up for and it was almost three consecutive life sentences. I was actually driving down the street one time with a sawed off shotgun and a guy in the trunk of my car, and a cop waved at me when I went by.

You've been in bands like the Joykiller,  Tender Fury, Cathedral of Tears and your newest band, Jack Grisham and the West Coast Dukes. Are you planning to release another album with your band or go on tour with them soon?
Yes. We just started writing it now. We are just figuring out what we are doing but we are playing October 30 with Tiger Army at the Grove.

Why have you steered away from punk with the West Coast Dukes?
Well, it's not totally. Sound has nothing to do with it. If I was playing disco, I would still be a punk. It doesn't really have anything to do with the sound of the music. It's the attitude. Anyone can grab a couple of guitars and make a punk rock sound. It's a willingness to destroy yourself.

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?
I had a boss once tell me, "You belong in a jungle of jail." Hunt Sales said to me one time when he was getting loaded: "Jack, you know what?" and he takes a hit, "One day you are going to find yourself." He blows the smoke out and looks at me and says, "You're not going to be too happy about it."

Do you have anything you want to tell your fans?
My Paypal address is Jack@JackGrisham.com. Hey, you never know when someone is sitting around bored and has some extra money to send to me. They have to support the arts somehow.

That's what your award is all about.
That's right--supporting the arts. I got a fucking award for it. I'm an award-winning artist. At least they are not dumping the money to some fucking kid with a lemonade stand on the corner.


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