Cheetah Chrome

Interview by Dennis Morgillo

An Interview with Cheetah Chrome
by Dennis Morgillo

Cheetah Chrome is the founding guitarist of the Punk Legends ‘The Dead Boys’. They came out of Cleveland and took NYC and CBGB’s by storm. Hilly Kristal became their manager and they are a highlight of the CBGB movie. Cheetah released his first solo album in 2013, garnering amazing critical success. 

Madhouse: Facebook is giving you a hard time about using the name Cheetah Chrome?
Cheetah Chrome: Yes but life is too short to deal with that now. Maybe someday I will fight with them. 

Madhouse: Who were your musical influences?
Cheetah:  First it was the Beatles and Rolling Stones when I was 8 or 9. The Whole British Invasion. Then Mc5, Alice Cooper, The Stooges.

Madhouse: What was the music scene like in Cleveland circa 1975.
Cheetah: It was like Long Island NY. A bunch of cover bands. Cleveland had great radio and a great concert scene. Every band came through Cleveland. When “Rocket From the Tomb” first formed we were not the usual band in the Cleveland scene. After our first gig the audience would stand there with mouth open after every song.  

Madhouse: What was your favorite period of your career?
Cheetah:  I enjoyed when the Dead Boys first formed. We were doomed from the start and we kind of knew it.  The Dead Boys first reunion in 1987 was great.  We played well and had a lot of fun. But personally the happiest I have been is my most recent stuff. I have been touring and writing new material. 

Madhouse: I loved the CBGB movie and thought that it was a lot of fun. What did you think?
Cheetah: I thought it was funny, their heart was in the right place. It was “Punk” magazine come to life. It was not a documentary, or “Titanic” it was a fun movie about CBGB, about Hilly. 

Madhouse: What did you think of the actor that portrayed you?
Cheetah: I thought he was great. He had me down perfect. He sounded just like me, he had my walk down and everything.

Madhouse: Did the Director take artistic license or did all the events in the movie really happen?
Cheetah: They all happened. The scene where I proved my hair was red, when Stiv was serviced on stage, all of that happened. It was all pretty accurate. The only thing that did not happen was when we crashed Hilly’s truck. That was actually the Stooges. I was a terrible driver and no one would have gotten into a truck with me behind the wheel! 

Madhouse: Can you dispel some of the myths surrounding the Johnny Blitz stabbing?
Cheetah: Well basically there was a fight with 4 guys and Johnny was hit with a bat and then stabbed 4 or 5 times. The doctor saved his life, he was pretty much gone and they brought him back to life.

Madhouse: Tell us about the famous Benefit for Johnny Blitz at CBGBs.
Cheetah: It was a great spirit of community, everyone wanted to help out. John Belushi wanted to come down and help out, I knew he played the drums so I said lets do that. And he did a pretty good job. It was a great night. 

Madhouse: What is your favorite place to tour?
Cheetah: Spain. The crowds are great, the people are great. The food is great and it’s a beautiful country. 

Madhouse: Were there any fellow artists you did Not care for?
Cheetah: Me and Patti Smith kind of rubbed each other the wrong way. I never hated her but I thought she was pretentious. We never got along, we sniped at each other a lot. And of course Nancy Spungen, I was not crazy about her. She was the most miserable person I ever met.

Madhouse: How beautiful was Debbie Harry in person back in 1977?
Cheetah: Just like her pictures, she was beautiful and still is. 

Madhouse: Any parting words?
Cheetah: I am going to be on tour with my regular band. Great bunch of guys, I think everyone is going to be impressed. Bring your earplugs and merch money.

Original Dead Boys Cheetah Chrome & Johnny Blitz are on the road and coming to a town near you to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the bands debut album. 

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