TSOL frontman Jack Grisham talks about his demonic memoir
Deep back in a punk past almost too hazy for me to remember, TSOL was headlining an outdoor concert in downtown Los Angeles. The concert may have been slightly political -- was it May Day? was it a protest against nuclear weapons? -- or it might just have been a loud, sunny occasion for outdoor music.
But this time, there was a little too much alcohol and anger mixed into the teeming crowd. There was a riot. I'm not sure if TSOL got out more than a few songs, or if they even took the stage. The event was shut down, immediately and permanently.
TSOL was founded in Long Beach in 1979 and has played, on and off, ever since. And there are still riots: In January, there was one outside the Key Club where TSOL and Youth Brigade were playing.
In "An American Demon," Jack Grisham spins tales of the highs and lows of his life in the punk scene with a strong edge of surrealism. The stories are told from the point of view of, like the title says, a demon. He talked to our sibling blog Pop & Hiss about the book.
Pop & Hiss: Did approaching this memoir from the perspective of a demon allow you to express your true thoughts about your life without being trapped into a conventional writing style?
Jack Grisham: A lot of the writing is the way it is because I just don’t know any better. Other than writing a 50-word song that just said “… the government,” I’d never actually written anything. I didn’t take writing classes, so I didn’t feel like I had to do it a certain way. No one was really babysitting me. Some of those stories I talk about in the book, I don’t think I would’ve been able to write in first person. What people don’t realize is that the majority of the stories in that book are true, sadly. And then to revisit them at this time in my life, I’ve been sober for 22 years and do a lot of community work. So to relive a lot of the violence and abuse issues and the drinking, writing from a demon persona made that easier. It’s also to illustrate the selfishness and that we’re our own demons and we cause our own hell ....
How much of the book deals with your life as a member of TSOL? Is there much of that?
It really doesn’t get into much of the day to day of being in TSOL. Although that’s what the publishers paid for. They wanted nonfiction stories of Jack Grisham, TSOL and the West Coast punk scene. But I took their money and gave them something else. The publishers were stoked, but they didn’t expect this. The book is not really about dates and times. Most of the names in the stories are even changed.
-- Carolyn Kellogg
Photo: Jack Grisham. Credit: Dani Brubaker