Poison Idea is, hands down, one of the best bands to walk the hardcore punk scene. Their aggressive, fast, nihilistic approach to hardcore music inspired and still inspires bands over the globe. Recently, I heard about Black Heart Fades Blue, Jerry A. Lang’s memoirs separated into three volumes. Therefore, I sat with the legendary frontman and asked him about the book, the band, his favorite records, partying hard for decades, plans for the future, etc. Enjoy!
Hi, Jerry. Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. How have you been?
Doing great, thanks.
The main reason we’re doing this interview is the not-so-distant release of your book Black Heart Fades Blue. How did you come to the idea of writing a book?
Adam Parfrey, the publisher of Feral House used to live in Portland and we were good friends, we would hang out and get loaded together and we would drive by someplace and I would say “O, I saw a guy get stabbed there” or “My friend O.D.ed and died there” and Adam said that I need to write all this down and he would put it out. I wrote it for years, and the story kept changing, I didn’t have an end. Tom Pig died and I finished it, the first time. Then I felt like my life was over, I was tired and depressed and I thought I was going to die. I wanted to write my own ending, my farewell. And then something else changed. And then Adam and I had a disagreement. A couple days later, Adam had an accident and died. The story kept changing. I found another publisher, and they loved the story.
Is it a memoir or band biography, or have you picked up some other approach while writing it?
It’s a memoir.
You separated the book into three volumes. Is it something you thought was necessary, or is there any other reason for chopping it into volumes?
The publisher said it was too big for one book but they didn’t want to cut anything out. there was no fat to trim, as they said.
How you got into the music, and what was the Portland scene like when you started going to shows?
I’ve been into music since I was a child. it’s the only thing in my life that hasn’t lied to me. When I started going to shows, it was exciting, fun, and freedom. Welcoming all genders and races. Put “scenes” are also cliquey and snobby.
I recently read somewhere that Leave Home by the Ramones was a game-changer for you back then. Are you still into their sound? What are the bands or releases you enjoy nowadays?
Someone recently asked me what “new” stuff I’ve been listening to. There’s so much old stuff that I was either too closed-minded or not so accepting that I’m discovering it now. Howlin’ Wolf, 13th Floor Elevators, Roky Erickson, Syd Barrett, New York Noise, Iranian funk from the ’70s, Psych from South America, German Kraut Rock, Old Nashville country western, 60’s garage…So much music, it’s all been done before, so much better than now, I go back to the original. PURE
As someone who’s been into Poison Idea’s music for 25+ years, I always thought of Poison Idea as a dangerously addictive band formed under mysterious circumstances. Even today, with all the web technology, I can’t find any good article about your beginnings, so can you briefly share your bio with our readers?
We were a cult band. We were honest and pure, people can’t handle pure, they dilute it with sugar so it’s easier to swallow .
To me, Poison Idea played one of the significant roles in shaping the Portland hardcore punk/punk rock scene. Would you consider Poison Idea as a band that changed the course of the punk rock scene in Portland? I mean, The Wipers were one of the best bands, but I always thought many good Oregon-based bands started playing after you guys showed up.
We just played what we felt, we didn’t care about fashion, we loved punk from all over the world and we emulated what got us off. We didn’t have to impress anyone.
Your lyrics were often dark and nihilistic but with a healthy dosage of optimism, so perhaps “cheerful nihilism” is an appropriate term. Where did you get the inspiration for the lyrics at the time? Has (and how) your perspective on life changed over the years?
Like I said, it was honesty. we wrote about what we saw and how we lived. at one time we were all drug addicts and alcoholics and emotional cripples, we knew this, and we weren’t lying about it. Everyone I’ve ever met who is really mad is also very sad.
Rumors are lurking around that Pig Champion’s drug dealing financed most of Poison Idea’s records production. Is it true? What do you think about the hardcore punk scene nowadays? How has it changed over the years, and are there any new bands you enjoy listening to?
It wasn’t Tom, it was one person we knew. He was Toms’s friend . And you have to remember that it wasn’t really that expensive to put out a record, we just didn’t have anyone helping us. We didn’t have rich parents .
We’re sharing the spot in Punks Listen, a book by The Hope Collective from Ireland. After Black Heart Fades Blue and your appearance at Punks Listen, can we expect more books in the future?
Man, I can’t predict the future, I have just learned to never say never. Anything is possible in this life. I’m not the captain of my destiny, that’s out of my hands. if I was I would have been gone a long time ago. The future? Give thanks for being here every day and enjoying life.
What are your other plans? Is there maybe some possible Poison Idea reunion, a new band, or other non-music-related projects on the way? What are your plans for the future in general?
When I was a young kid, I would see people going to school until they went to college. Getting married, having a family, and settling down. then when they’re 65 years old, they retire and try to enjoy what life they have left. I wanted to live life to the absolute fullest, party, live, love, and laugh for as long as I can. Then, when I’m 50 or so, that’s when I start settling down. I got lost along the way and fell off some ledges but that made me who I am today and I plan to keep living.
That’s it. Thank you so much for your time. Is there anything you would like to say to our readers at the end of this interview?
I promise to be the best I can, and not bullshit you. I expect that from you as well. stay safe and keep breathing.