If you’ve not heard of The Cramps, go look ’em up.
I’m not gonna go into any great detail about them here or list a discography or anything like that, although maybe I will change my mind, we’ll see. I merely wanted to stick in a few lines about Lux. Anything else, go ask the bartender.
Lux Interior, the lead singer of the Cramps, died on the morning of Wednesday 4th February 2009 due to a heart condition, he was 62. It was a very sad day for many people around the world and particularly for me as I had the pleasure of meeting Lux on a number of occasions.
The Astral Ascension of Erick Lee Purkhiser, aka Lux Interior, took place on 21st February 2009 at The Self Realization Fellowship, Lake Shrine in Los Angeles (a favourite hangout of Elvis, I read). In the service program, guitarist Poison Ivy wrote, “Lux seemed like a creature from another world, with one foot already out of this dimension. As much as we might wonder, ‘Where are you now?’ we can also wonder, ‘Where on Earth did you come from?’ Now that’s a mystery!”
Lux created the monster that was The Cramps together with Poison Ivy (Kristy Wallace) in the early 1970s. Legend has it Lux and a friend picked her up as a hitchhiker and they remained together ever since. After moving to New York they became an integral part of the scene that surrounded the notorious CBGB‘s. The Cramps’ music differed from much of the New York punk scene however, with its thick coating of B-movie inspired lyrics and tongue in cheek sexual innuendo.
Needless to say they went on to spawn a whole new genre to which many of us gave our souls.
Coffins and Graveyard hits
I think the text from the liner notes of The Cramps’ 1979 release ‘Gravest Hits’ best sums them up.
‘In the spring of 1976, The CRAMPS began to fester in a NYC apartment. Without fresh air or natural light, the group developed its uniquely mutant strain of rock’n’roll aided only by the sickly blue rays of late night TV. While the jackhammer rhythms of punk were proliferating in NYC, The CRAMPS dove (sic) into the deepest recesses of the rock’n’roll psyche for the most primal of all rhythmic impulses — rockabilly — the sound of Southern culture falling apart in a blaze of shudders and hiccups. As late night sci-fi reruns colored the room, The CRAMPS also picked and chose amongst the psychotic debris of previous rock eras – instrumental rock, surf, psychedelia, and sixties punk. And then they added the junkiest element of all — themselves’ — J. H. Sasfy, Professor of Rockology.
It’s unusually difficult to talk about someone or something that so significantly changes your life and is now gone, but Lux and The Cramps did change things for me in a very pertinent way and I’m still not altogether sure if it was for better or worse. I do know it made my life very ‘different’ and pushed and pulled me to all kinds of strange places and situations, got me involved in fights, kicked out of school and sacked from jobs.
Lux Interior was a wonderful and complex creature. During the times I met him, I only once saw Lux angry and yelling (which was admittedly quite scary). He was mostly very polite and soft spoken. I think most folk who met him along the way will say what a really nice guy he was. I have my own crazy memories of him. I remember delivering coffins filled with booze to his dressing room. You get some looks driving through London with a full size coffin on your roof rack, I can tell you.
Providing him with a coffin somehow became such an expected gesture when visiting him backstage that when I went to meet him before a show in Amsterdam and explained that I couldn’t get anyone to ship it, he threw open the dressing room door and dramatically exclaimed, “What no coffin?!” to Ivy in that booming Lux stage voice.
He showed me how to open beer bottles with quarters, invited me to crazy parties and gave me booze-fuelled rock ‘n’ roll shows. He even named my firstborn son and I still have the album where he scrawled the name in biro – I call it his birth certificate. There were also nice letters, weird phone calls and some other things that carry a hefty jail sentence that I can’t tell you here. It was all a whole lot of fun and will stay with me forever. I also got some really nice hugs and that is an enduring memory.
During one tour in the early 1990s, I was chatting with him backstage and he dropped into the conversation that he had been diagnosed with a hole in his diaphragm. That didn’t stop him giving his all at the gig; the audience would never have guessed that there was anything physically amiss.
Lux Interior was just a lovely guy. He was passionate about life and passionate about what he did and he was someone who was so obviously in love with his woman.
There was an interview by Nicholas Barber in 1998, which I think is one of the nicest ones I have come across and worth reading here.
How did they meet?
POISON IVY: “We were both studying art at Sacramento State College in the early Seventies. It was a very strange art department in Sacramento at that time, too, because the whole student population was made up of hippies, and they were into witchcraft and metaphysics and everything else. We met up in a class called Art and Shamanism.
The textbook for that class was called ‘The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross’, and the subject of that book is how the real topic of the Bible is the Amanita muscaria mushroom and that Christ is a metaphor for this magic mushroom. The kind of instructors we’d have would say: “I haven’t seen you in class for a while, what grade d’you want?” And we’d say, “Well, I guess an ‘A’ “, and they’d say, “Okay.” So those were crazy times. It was just a very loose, very unique situation, and we met in that environment. We met in a very free way, and we fell in love very quickly.
I’d just started college, and one day I was hitchhiking back from the campus to my apartment, when Lux and a friend of his gave me a ride. I’d seen him around the campus, and I thought he was extremely exotic. He would have these pants and each leg of the pants was a different colour. That kind of thing fascinated me. Because it was the beginning of the new term, we had catalogues to see which classes we were going to take, so we were comparing to see if we’d be in any classes together. It turned out that we were, and that’s where our real meeting began.
I was sitting in the Art and Shamanism class when I saw Lux walking in. It was a very large class, too, because everybody knew the teacher got high, and I was sending out psychic brainwaves of, like: “Sit by me! Sit by me! Sit by me!” And he did. He came straight to me and sat next to me. We were making small talk and I said, “It’s my birthday”, and he pulled a drawing out of his portfolio and gave it to me as a birthday gift right then. It was a female figure, but it was very abstract expressionist. It had a lot of physical energy that I can’t describe in words.
I don’t know if it was past lives or what, but I felt like I’d known him all my life. It wasn’t like we’d just met. We were just together constantly, and we were pretty much out of our minds constantly, to be honest. We didn’t come to the surface for quite a long time.
In certain astrology, both regular astrology and Chinese astrology, there’s some things that say that Lux and I, we shouldn’t be together, and the reason is that the function of the astrology was to maintain social order. It had to do with arranged marriages and how a certain man would belong with a certain woman because it would fit in with the social order and they wouldn’t cause trouble. And combinations that they said were bad, it didn’t mean that they wouldn’t get along or wouldn’t enjoy each others’ company; what it might mean is they’ll start a revolution or that they’ll cause trouble or that they’ll set things on fire. I think we’re definitely the kind of pair that they would have tried to keep apart, because together we cause a lot of upheaval. From our point of view, it’s creation. We’re creating things.
We’re not married. I don’t know what you’d call what we are. We’re deeply in love and feel like we’ve been together for more than this lifetime, but we’re not aware of any particular ritual that would consecrate it in a way that makes sense to us. We sure don’t need to make it any kind of institutionalised situation. Nature upholds our bond.
There’s not anything that we deny each other. I’ll always hear somebody say, “Oh, I’d like to buy that but my wife would kill me”, or vice versa, and I’m, like, “God, what is that?” We don’t feel that either one of us has any right to say anything about the other’s needs. We just have to trust that person and what that person is entitled to. Fortunately, we happen to like a lot of the same things, but even if we didn’t, that shouldn’t matter. We’re both real free thinkers. We’re nice to each other. There’s all those reasons why we’re together, but I think it’s also karmic. We’re karmically entwined.
He’s easy to love. He’s someone I can get crazy with, I knew that about him right away. I thought: “Oh boy, what’s gonna happen now? Something exciting!” It’s still happening.”
LUX INTERIOR: “First time I saw her she was walking down the street, hitchhiking, and she was wearing a halter-top and short shorts with a big hole in the ass with red panties showing through. I was with this other guy, a friend of mine, and we both just went, “Who-o-o-oh!” We pulled over and I think I had a hard-on about three seconds after I saw her.
It was 1972, and we were at Sacramento State College, although saying it was a college is stretching it a bit. You’d get credit for going there and everything, but it was just a bunch of weirdoes. It was crazy. Half the teachers were just fucking the students and getting paid for it. It was really a great time, those days. Really a creative environment.
We had to register for our classes and we had this pamphlet in the car that told you what classes you could take, and one was called Art and Shamanism. I remember I said: “What is shamanism?” She explained it to me, and I thought, boy, that sounds pretty interesting, I think I’ll take that. And then when I showed up for that class she was there.
I remember the first day of that class, the teacher had us all sit around in a circle on the floor and hold hands. It was some kind of weird exercise, some mumbo-jumbo crazy cult thing where there was supposed to be energy which would fly around clockwise, and then he made it go counter-clockwise. It was great, it really worked, but just holding hands with her I felt about a thousand times the energy that I was getting from him.
She’s incredibly beautiful, that was the first thing I noticed. And then when I talked to her she was incredibly smart, too. We just had a bond. A week and a half, maybe two weeks later we started living together. We just couldn’t hardly stand to be away from each other. People would even tell us: “That’s not right, it’s not healthy, you guys shouldn’t be spending all your time together.” And they tell us that to this day.
It was a while on before the group actually happened. All my life I’d been to see rock’n’roll bands, but I’d never quite been in one myself until I met her. I remember her saying, “Well, we should do that”, and I’d say, “Well, yeah, I guess we could do that”, and she’d go, “Of course we could do it!” I think we just talked each other into it. Sometimes you have friends and they’ll talk you out of doing things. They’ll say: “You? Oh yeah, sure.” But the same thing can happen, you’ll meet someone who’ll talk you into doing things, too. If I hadn’t met Ivy I might just still be going to rock’n’roll shows.
She’s really courageous and she’s really smart. At first, when we started out we just wanted to have fun and we didn’t want to have anything to do with the business part of all this band stuff, but every time we’ve tried to have somebody manage us it’s been some kind of a bad experience, so she’s taken over managing the band and she really does it great. That’s why the Cramps are still around after all this time, because she cares about it and she’s capable of unbelievable acts.
This is our dream-child or something, this is something that we make and we do together, and we’re real protective of it. And we’re also appreciative of the fact that we invented this thing called the Cramps, and from that has sprung a subculture of people all over the world, and we feel we’re representative of them. We take that real seriously. We’ve thought about having children before, but we’ve always been so busy doing this, and this seems more important to us. We have three cats and we can’t even stand to leave them to go on tour. So I don’t know how we’d deal with a child.
We’re different in a lot of ways. I tend to fly off the handle and go crazy and start screaming and she tends to be a bit wiser and calmer and more patient than I am – before she starts going wild, too. I think she’s a lot classier than I am, but I think I’ve gained a lot of class from her. It’s hard to figure out how we’re different because we’re together all the time and we always do everything together. In a way it’s kind of one thing, me and her, but she’s also very much an individual and very strong. She grows like a tree. She’s faceted like a diamond. There’s a million sides to Ivy and I just love all of them.”
Rest in peace Lux.
“Rock ’n’ roll has absolutely nothing to do with music. It’s much more than music. Rock ’n’ roll is who you are. You can’t call the Cramps music. It’s noise, rockin’ noise.”– Lux Interior.
We all have our special memories of Lux. If you have any, please feel free to share them below.
Byron Auberon Death (gravedigger and poet)