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PHOTO BY: UNKNOWN

John Lawrence Ingram

Drummer for the 80's California

Punk-Rock Band, 

The Circle Jerks

"They were the bad boys of LA Punk."


The Interview

Don Noyes- More, Editor interviews

John Ingram

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Contact the Author

Editor:  John, your stories have been really well received by our readers. Over these months you have gained a reputation as perhaps the new Rod Serling. You write some of the scariest and most psychologically disturbing stories I’ve read in awhile. I’m sure our readers would like a little background on your life. Where did you grow up and what do you believe were your early influences on your present writing? 

John Ingram:  I've lived in several parts of the country over the course of my life.  Originally, I was born & raised in Kansas City, in the Prairie Village area specifically.  I think that gave me a good dose of that Mid-western horse sense which sooner or later helped to keep my head on straight.  I lived in LA for a while when I was 22 - but, we'll get more into that later on I'm sure...

Editor: What authors, books, or media has had the greater influence on your writing? 

John Ingram:  I like to read a lot, so I have a pretty wide range of subject matter, and authors that I read and have had a certain influence on me:  Arthur C. Clarke, Phillip K. Dick, Isaac Asimov, Orwell, Vonnegut, Hunter S. Thompson, Cormack McCarthy, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelly, Anne Rice, Ernest Hemingway, Dan Brown, Tolkien to name a few...  I could go on for quite a bit on various authors.  Remember, you're not just reading their books, you're getting small glimpses into where their heads were at...  It's helped me to sort of gravitate towards a darker style in my own reading, and it seems to have had a great influence on what I write and the way I write.

Editor: What are the difficulties in writing in a “horror” genre?

John Ingram:  I don't know if what I'm writing is true horror genre stuff like chainsaw massacres or sharks or aliens or what ever eating people you know.  I've written stories about corporate situations and this sort of (as you might well define it as...) Rod Serling-esque style where I try and take you 360 into a situation.  I've found where I can go down a story path in a corporate style (look at 'one way conversation' as an example) where I've watched a guy in a crowded airport and he's almost thermo-nuclear pissed at who ever is on the other end of the phone - to people at the typical company Christmas party getting drunk and taking turns shocking each other with a hunting dog's shock collar ("Electroshock Christmas").  A first example of where I tried to get more rounded and psychological is "The Interview" where the interviewee's reflection starts taking her head over.

I do like my Anagram page DTLAL puts my writing on, and if you look at my writing over time it's been an evolution for me.  Then I don't know what took over in my head, but I started writing darker and darker to where I'm using an external influence which brings out a character's own internal flaw's and weakness to bring out the worst or monster within - like "The Corridor and The Janitor" as an example.  The well dressed, sophisticated, Slender Man is sort of a manifest Devil.  He tends to bring the characters' obvious flaws out into the open, and give the character a medium to display or perform that internal flaw.  Other times, I think it's just fun to bring out a character, give him or her no hope at all, and then have the character either kill himself or have the character die.  I think it's not too difficult for me to write like this (after all I wouldn't be writing like this if I didn't like it), but rather, it's trying to weave a story or group of situations into something people (and thanks to everyone of you for reading my stuff) would take time out of the their hectic and stressed lives to read.

Editor:  I know that you have been private about your drummer days with the 80’s LA punk group The Circle Jerks. How did you meet them and get the position as drummer?

John Ingram:  I knew Roger Rogerson before when we were kids and then he ended up going west with his family.  Later he called me about coming out to play, and I did!  I feel at times I wasn't much else except a blip on the radar for the Circle Jerks over the course of time.  I came to meet and play with them at a time when the band seemed to be having a hard time amongst them selves internally.

Editor: What were the most difficult problems playing with The Circle Jerks?

John Ingram: Instead of just being difficult as it were, I would call it awkward at times off stage or off gigs with them.    There were a lot of issues I faced while playing.  I was from out of town; no one had ever heard of me; I wasn't the old drummer - who by the way, was really good, but had moved on to doing other things; I wasn't a lot of things - all I could be was myself.  I lost my 'let's be a rock star' real quick - these guys were out of a gig at the time, they were hocking guitars, etc to keep afloat.  But, they're pretty tough and smart!  We got practicing and back to gigging pretty quickly.  Also, at that point, hardcore punk wasn't a moneymaker in the shadows of bands like 'The Police' or The 'Hair rock' scene and or it goes on and on.

Somehow, though, Punk has left its mark, but I guess it's a lot different from where I was suddenly thrust into it!

On the other side of the fence, it was actually quite a rush to play 39 songs in 45 minutes! Damn!  You came out, hit it, and didn't stop til you ran out of songs to play!

From the drum kit, I was in the proverbial 'Catbird seat' as I could watch the people begin to spin around the front of the stage in what now is called a 'Mosh' where in the day it was still 'Slam Dancing.'  I always thought it was cool to see some guy jump up on the stage, then dive back into the crowd; awesome to watch, but even more fun to be playing at the same time.  Most people really watch the guitarists, singers, or others who're up front, but the drummer really see's all from the back of the band...

Editor: What were the “gigs” like and the back-stage environment with the band?

John Ingram:  If you want to hear about some flower-filled dressing room, then you're shit out of luck!  Sometimes you really had to wonder at what was going on, or about to happen.  There was a lot of hanging around here and there.  Some places had a back room, others had no room, and others barely had a trough to piss in.  We'd pull up with a van - and a second car as well, and do our unloading.  We had one guy with us - his name was 'Dream'...  He, was always there to set stuff up for us...

We'd have to get a hotel room sooner or later...  We'd have to send one person up to get a hotel with a couple of beds, and we'd try and get a room with double beds.  Then the beds would get moved around into four mattresses on the floor to sleep everyone.  It's what you did to make it with what little money we had.  It was just part of the adventure of it all!

You had to have been there...  There was one place we played in downtown where all the amps, lights, everything, were connected to one single plug and a power strip!  It was a disaster as at points someone would hit it when stage-diving, or Morris hit it with his head, while jumping up and down, and the power would go off everywhere!  What a mess!  But, it was so cool!  You had to be at a gig like this to understand what the underground scene was all about...  Even if I tried to explain it - I couldn't.  you had to have been there.

Editor: In 1983 you recorded what most punk genre music critics say was the Circle Jerks best album ever recorded, Golden Shower of Hits. How difficult was the recording session with band members?

John Ingram:  It was one of those records which looked to me like it was going to get made, then it looked like it wasn't going to get made, to finally getting made.  We had different sessions in a couple of different locations.  There were sessions where we as a group would record, then of course, we'd have sessions where we'd add overlay for vocals, lead guitar, etc...  Recording can get quite repetitious as some things get one or two takes, and then others get recorded over and over until they're right.

There was a studio on Sunset Blvd we used, but it's been so long for me that I can't remember it's name.  Again, I think there were points where the band looked like it was on shaky legs internally.  I think the difficulty was where I didn't get along with Morris, and it's after the final recordings - which at that point I didn't know if it was going to get made, Morris let me go, and I had to move on.  I didn't even know the album (yep still on real vinyl at that point) had been made.  It wasn't until an old friend of mine showed it to me that I believed it - though that was long after I was gone.  There I was...  There they were...  It was pretty cool. 

Editor:  There were some reported difficulties between you and lead singer Keith Morris. Would you elaborate on that relationship, and what were that difficulties?

John Ingram:  I just never got along that well with Keith, and I think that was apparent in public!  He and I were just destined to not ever get along.  There were times we could happily put up with each other, and other times where we'd have knock-down drag-out arguments verging on fights at a couple of gigs.  Whatcha gonna do?  I couldn't please Morris, so there wasn't much else to do.  At the end of the day it is Keith's band.  He was a legend sort of from his Black Flag days, and I will hand it to Keith that he knew what he wanted; but what that was, shit, it was anybodies guess.

Morris and I didn't always see eye to eye, and it came to a point where we couldn't agree on what the color of the sky was.  It didn't matter, I started to get the idea I wasn't going to be around that much longer - towards the end of our recording sessions.  I played with these guys just about a year. I think he was having a rough patch in his personal life and at times it showed.  We just always seemed to rub each other the wrong way, and it started to really show.  I think in the end I had my own ideas on what I wanted and it wasn't going along with what Keith wanted.

Editor: What finally prompted you leaving the Circle Jerks?

John Ingram:  That was easy!  Keith told me I was out...  pretty simple...  He was trying to move the band into his own direction.  At some point after I was gone, Rogerson left or whatever as well.  That's where you see Morris evolve the Circle Jerks with Hetson.  Hetson was gigging with other bands as well.  Oh well, so I played a couple of extra gigs at that point for them and then moved it on over.  After that, like I say, I didn't even know 'The Golden Showers of Hits" had made it out to vinyl, and that was many months later... 

Editor: What are your best and worst memories of your time with the band?

John Ingram:  I really enjoyed gigging in various venues around LA and other places and cities.  I got to play with a lot of different acts over that time, and met a lot of different people.  It was great.  I was in my early twenties and was doing what I thought I wanted to do.  It was pretty awesome at that age...  I'd do it again - even if Keith didn't like it or not, and never look back! ...

It wasn't just getting let go, it was trying to find other things to do.  Suddenly, you're not in any circle of people, you're out on the streets!  That was hard for me.  I didn't know what I was doing and was not a thinker at that point either...  I was young and stupid, and didn't have my ducks lined up for the day that it would end.  I think it was an eye-opener for me.  It does color you a certain way in your future actions as you can take the experience for what it was, or take the little lessons out of it so you have some building blocks.  It dawned on me that it was all about me - what do I want to do with myself?  So I had to pull myself up by the proverbial bootstraps and change.

Editor: So John, there you are in LA, alone, no longer with the leading edge Punk band of the ‘80’s, and you are “on the street”, what did you do next? Did you try out for other bands?  Did you go through a period of “burn out”?

I think I sort of just burned out, or better said, I just had enough.  I even tried getting a regular job -if you can see me in a regular sort of job- but even that didn't seem to work for me.  So I just left the area and attempted to move on.  Maybe if I would have gotten more creative or really though about how to do things I might have still been playing somewhere, somehow.  You know the old saying of 'woulda-coulda-shoulda'  right?  None the less, here I am now.  Like I say I wouldn't trade the times or the places. I did what I wanted to do.  I think few people really try to follow something they want, and even fewer ever really get what they want.  I found I wasn't destined for the band business - no, really Ingram?  This is a point in my life where I turned to writing as an outlet and now I have a great outlet here in the pages of Downtown LA Life.  I've had a lot of encouragement in writing, in all directions, like development, like mentoring my style.  I've been fortunate to have the 'Anagram' section here. It's great!

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THE CIRCLE JERKS



MORE CIRCLE JERKS INFORMATION:

Everything you love about legendary Californian punkers the Circle Jerks is gloriously displayed on Golden Shower of Hits. Obnoxious humor (Keith Morris' vocals, the album cover), disjointed guitars courtesy of Greg Hetson, and excited rhythm work (bassist Roger Rogerson and drummer John Ingram) all add up to perhaps the ultimate punk rock party. The band never excelled in subtlety, as evidenced in the song titles "When the Shit Hits the Fan" and "Parade of the Horribles," but the Jerks were one of the first bands to play lightning fast, yet still memorable punk (the 41-second classic "In Your Eyes"). Included is Golden Shower's title track medley, which upset longtime fans for the covers (albeit very tongue-in-cheek) of such middle-of-the-road schlock as "Close to You," "Afternoon Delight," and "Love Will Keep Us Together." But all the faves are here -- "Under the Gun," "Bad Words," "Coup d'Etat," and "Product of My Environment," among a host of others. Golden Shower of Hits is the ultimate introduction to this one-of-a-kind band. ~ Greg Prato, All Music Guide

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