MY INTERVIEW WITH TOMMY RAMONE OF UNCLE MONK IN 2010

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Copyright 2010 -> for everything on this page by Jari-Pekka Laitio-Ramone and Tommy Ramone.

I do mention first of my earlier interviews with Tommy Ramone. You can find Tommy's long interview from my Rock In Peace: Dee Dee And Joey Ramone book and opening text written by Tommy and his 3 interviews from my third book Ramones: Soundtrack Of Our Lives book.
Ramones: Soundtrack Of Our Lives feature Tommy Ramone interviews of the Ramones, his studio works, and Uncle Monk. Also the book contains a long discussion between Tommy and Seymour Stein (founder of Sire Records) about the early days of the Ramones.




BACKGROUND INFORMATION OF THE UNCLE MONK

Tommy Ramone's and Claudia Tienan's duo band is called Uncle Monk. Interview in Ramones: Soundtrack Of Our Lives is 2,5 pages long and it has things of Uncle Monk in 80's and of current Uncle Monk. This is only about what is current with Uncle Monk. You can visit Uncle Monk homepage here.
Lot information you can also find from my Uncle Monk section.

The debut CD for Uncle Monk was available on March 16, 2006. The CD has 14 songs and you can buy it here.
The musical style was a bit of a surprising mix for some Ramones fans, and also for many others, a refreshing acquaintance. Uncle Monk is an alt-country bluegrass with some other influences as well. Tommy said that there are a lot of similarities between punk and old-time music.




INTERVIEW

Questions and answers 1-3 are from Ramones: Soundtrack Of Our Lives (you can buy it from Interpunk (USA) here).
Questions and answers 4-9 are new which Tommy replied in April, 2010. I did this interview to promote Uncle Monk's first tour in Europe in April 29-May 8, 2010. People in Ireland and North Ireland are lucky ones to welcome Tommy and Claudia to Europe.

1) Jari-Pekka Laitio-Ramone: Let's talk about the Uncle Monk CD released in 2006. Besides the guitar, you do play mandolin, banjo, and dobro on the tracks. How long have you been playing these instruments?
Tommy Ramone: I have been playing these instruments since 1994-1996. I have always liked that kind of music. I also have always wanted to take this music and put it into a rock or a pop band; but as I was doing that through the years, I realized that it was more fun just playing it acoustic. I enjoyed playing acoustic and it sounded better acoustic.
So from the beginning of new Uncle Monk, it was just the two of us, Claudia and me. This is because I didn't want to get a drummer and things like that. That's too much of a hassle. So, I decided to make it so that we could do it just the two of us. Make it simple, we can travel easily and it sounds good.

2) Jari-Pekka: What new challenges have you experienced during recordings? What instrument was the most challenging for you?
Tommy: All bluegrass instruments are challenging. I have spent many years learning these instruments, practising, and I enjoy them very much. The mandolin has no sustain so one has to develop new techniques to compensate for that. The banjo has a drone 5th string and is totally different from the guitar. The Dobro, uses a slide and is in open tunings, the fiddle has no frets; but they are all rewarding to play as they make wonderful music.

Some days after the show at the BB King Blues Club in New York, USA on October 17, 2007, Tommy and Claudia wrote: "We just did a show with the legendary Earl Scruggs at the BB King Blues Club. We cannot put into words the feelings that we experienced having the honour of meeting him. We also got to meet his sons Randy and Gary, what a wonderful night!"

3) Jari-Pekka: Tommy, it has meant a lot for you and Claudia to play as the opening act for Ralph Stanley and Earl Scruggs. Stanley is the survivor of the Stanley Brothers, one of the few remaining figures of the first generation of bluegrass musicians.
Tommy: Right, Ralph Stanley and Earl Scruggs are two pioneers of bluegrass and we were very lucky to have a chance to open for those classic, great artists. It was wonderful opportunity. Something that no-one could have imagined would have happened. It was just incredible. They were really nice people and very friendly to us and they were great shows. We had a great time.

4) Jari-Pekka: What I guess, Ireland is probably best area in addition to Scotland to start Uncle Monk journey in Europe, when you go back to bluegrass related history in Europe?
Tommy: We are really looking forward to touring Ireland. The Irish are huge music fans and it is a beautiful country. Yes, bluegrass music has it's roots in Ireland among other countries so we are really thrilled to be going there.
We will be traveling through the beautiful country and maybe we will have time to see some sights, we have a tight schedule so we will try to enjoy as many things as we can.

5) Jari-Pekka: Uncle Monk has not only bluegrass influences.
Tommy: Yeah, I want to make clear is that Uncle Monk is not a traditional bluegrass act. We are an indie-acoustic duo that has been influenced by bluegrass and old-time music as well as alternative and Americana.

I saw the fourth Uncle Monk show at the Parkside Lounge in New York on May 15, 2006. It was an intimate acoustic show at the Parkside Lounge. I have to say it was a bit confusing for me to just sit and watch the show of a Ramones member. You know what I mean? Uncle Monk doesn't play music in the rhythm you can pogo to etc. My feelings were happy after Tommy counted off the show with 1-2-3-4, and Claudia and Tommy played first traditional bluegrass song My Long Journey Home. It was a faster song before we heard the next beautiful ballad Mean To Me from the Uncle Monk CD.

6) Jari-Pekka: Do you choose some certain traditional bluegrass songs to the set because shows are in Ireland/ North Ireland? Some shows you have played in the USA are lasted around 70 minutes. Do you think sets in Europe are for example 45 or 60 minutes?

Tommy: We will be doing our usual songs with maybe some extra lyrics to some. We will be doing some new songs in our set. We don't have the show schedules yet but should get them soon and I will let you know how long the sets are when I have them.

7) Jari-Pekka: You are going to include to the set also your wonderful bluegrass version of (Ramones song) I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend?
We have been doing the song in our sets, so there is a good possibility.

8) Jari-Pekka: Are recordings of second album got finished? When you expect record coming out?
Tommy: We keep coming up with new songs so we keep recording. We hope to have it finished soon, but there is no set date yet. Our new record will have some unique songs on them mostly based on our lives and philosophies. there will be indie songs, bluegrass songs, old-time songs, romantic songs, and unclassifiable songs.

9) Jari-Pekka: Are there any new instruments you use in a studio when you record second album (in addition to first: guitar, mandolin, banjo, and dobro)?
It is mostly the same instruments but we are better musicians now so we can do more with them.




TOUR DATES IN IRELAND/ NORTH IRELAND

Uncle Monk shows in Ireland/ North Ireland are listed below:
1) April 29, 2010, Whelan's, 25 Wexford Street, Dublin, Ireland.
2) April 30, 2010, The Crane Bar, 2 Sea Road, Galway, Ireland.
3) May 1, 2010, Dolans Pub, 3/4 Dock Road, Limerick, Ireland.
4) May 2, 2010, Kilkenny Rhythm & Roots Festival, Kilkenny, Ireland. Also playing for example: Jason & The Scorchers, Ben Reel Band, Caitlin Rose, Pete Molinari, Josh Ritter And The Royal City Band, The Duke And The King and Jason Isbell And The 400 Unit.
5) May 3, 2010, Colfer's Pub, Carrig On Bannow, Wexford, Ireland.
6) May 4, 2010, DeBarras, 55 Pearse St., Clonakilty, West Cork, Ireland.
7) May 5, 2010, The Pavilion, 13 Carey's Lane, Cork City, Ireland.
8) May 6, 2010, The Deers Head, Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival, Belfast, North Ireland. Show begin: 8PM. Also playing in that festival for example: Sharon Shannon, Sly And Robbie, Basia Bulat, Kevin Doherty and John Etheridge.
9) May 7, 2010, The Playhouse, 5-7 Artillery St, Derry, North Ireland.
10) May 8, 2010, Barry's Public House, Grange Co. Sligo, Ireland.