Suburban Kid Meets Arturo Vega
As a bonus to my Ramones cache, here's a bunch of questions I fired at Arturo Vega, the Ramones designer & legendary artist.
trakMARX - When did you first hear about/see the Ramones?
AV - I met DeeDee in 1973, he told me he was forming a band with his friends, he was a little embarrassed to say they were all from Queens. Later in early 1974 he invited me to see their first show ever, they were a trio, with Joey on drums. That was March 30th, 1974.
trakMARX - When was your first involvement with them?
AV - Besides DeeDee telling me all the time that he wanted me to design their first album cover, which didn't come out till 1976, the first real item they needed help with was carrying the equipment to CBGB for their first shows there in August 1974. Johnny and DeeDee would take care of their little amps and guitars, but Tommy needed help setting up his drums - that was my first assignment. My first visual/artistic job was the first ad for the village voice.
trakMARX - How did you become the Ramones designer?
AV - After DeeDee, Tommy, who was the decision maker, came to my loft to "check me out" and see what I was about. He reported back to John that I was an artist with a Warhol like sensibility, and that I would be good to work on the band's image. For my part I was very much willing and able, I decided Rock n' Roll was the best vehicle to influence young people. I thought I would do "the Rock thing" for a few years and then go back to painting.
trakMARX - Was the initial brief to brand the group?
AV - Too many people were describing the Ramones as cartoonish, I decided they needed a strong logo to work against that.
trakMARX - Were all 4 members happy with the results?
AV - Yes, I think I managed to please each one of them.
trakMARX - Are you pleased with the longevity of your Ramones designs?
AV - I am very pleased, but looking at what's around I am not surprised.
trakMARX - It must have been a designer's dream working with one of the most iconic Punk Rock groups of all time.
AV - Their style and personalities were so specialized, as were their song's lyrics, that it was very easy to remember them, they were instantly imbedded in people's minds.
trakMARX - What was your most 'no one's ever gonna believe this shit' Ramones moment?
AV - In 1975, both DeeDee and Joey lived with me at "The Loft", which is around the corner from CBGB, so every night after CB's closed the party would move on to my place, which is on a second floor. Most people didn't bother ringing the bell they would climb the metal gates from the store at the street level and come through the windows, which is what three guys that came together did to nobody's surprise. In those days New York City was on a loosing battle against crime, the city was at one of it's lowest points ever neighbourhoods like the East Village were heroin supermarkets, the Bowery was "free for all" territory, we liked it. Any way these three guys came back to the loft a few times after that, and one day one of them confessed to me that the first time they came in they intended to rob everybody, but found the party so cool they decided to join us instead. SEE! PUNK ROCK DOESN'T PROMOTE CRIME, IT STOPS IT!
trakMARX - How difficult did it become within the Ramones camp, with the various feuds etc?
AV - It wasn't difficult at all for me, while we were working I got along with everybody, plus they knew I was 100% loyal to the Ramones, to the band, that took priority over individuals.
trakMARX - What Ramones events are planned over the next 12 months, if any?
AV - This year is our 30th anniversary, we will do some kind of event both in New York and Los Angeles, were Johnny lives. The long awaited film version of "It's Alive" is finally being worked on and will come out after that.
trakMARX - What are you up to at the moment, Ramones wise and non-Ramones wise?
AV - I am putting together an image-based book about the band's career. It will have new text by Tommy Ramone, Danny Fields and myself - amongst others. I stopped running (I did several marathons including NYC's), and took on mountain climbing, I did my first over 17,000 feet peak a month ago and I'm going for an 18,600 footer in November.
trakMARX - Do you know of any new Ramones re-releases that are scheduled?
AV - Oi Records just put out BRAIN DRAIN, MONDO BIZZARO, ACID EATERS and ADIOS AMIGOS.
trakMARX - We understand there is a major Ramones film/documentary that is almost finished, is this true ?
AV - Yup. That's "End of The Century" - it's a documentary - it's gonna be coming out soon.
trakMARX - What's the latest on Johnny?
AV - Johnny is at home and getting stronger right now. His health is fragile but he is already active in Ramones business and on personal projects.
trakMARX - How would you sum up being involved with the Ramones?
AV - Wouldn't change a thing, it's been fuckin' amazing, it allows me to be proud of myself.
Suburban Kid - tMx 15 - 06/04