A small excerpt from an interview I did recently with Ryan Rousseau for a Lost Sounds article I'm working on. This is about Ryan's early days in Yuma and meeting the late Jay Reatard. On an unrelated note, the new Destruction Unit video is amazing.
Interview by Ryan Leach
Ryan Leach: Have you always lived in Phoenix?
Ryan Rousseau: No. I grew up in Yuma, Arizona.
Leach: How did you end up in Memphis?
Rousseau: I lived in Memphis when I was young from about '84 to '88. I didn't know anybody there then. I was just a little kid. My family moved to Yuma because my dad was in the military. He also flies for FedEx. He would fly fighter jets in Yuma. After that he flew for FedEx.
Leach: You're a little older than Jay (Reatard), correct?
Leach: How did you and Jay end up crossing paths?
Rousseau: I had The Wongs in Yuma. We played in Phoenix with The Oblivians in '97. We also played a few months earlier in Phoenix. It was our first show there. It was for the premiere of the film Sore Losers. Have you seen the movie?
Leach: It's the film with D'lana (Tunnell) and Jack Oblivian in it.
Rousseau: Guitar Wolf is in it too. We played that premiere and I talked with (Sore Losers director) Mike McCarthy for a while. He was a cool guy. I told him we were playing with the Oblivians in a couple of months. At the show (with The Oblivians), I talked with Jack Oblivian. I told him my family was moving back to Memphis and that I was thinking of moving back too, just to get a job. I asked him, "Is Memphis cool these days?" Jack said, "Yeah. Things are picking up. And if you do go you should call this kid Jay. He's has this 7" out on Goner." I said, "Fuck, that's cool. I'll call him." I wasn't too into The Oblivians or Crypt records. Eventually I learned to love that stuff. I was a Killed By Death kind of kid.
Leach: The Wongs were more Killed By Death.
Rousseau: Yeah. I was going to move to Phoenix but I partied too much and couldn't find a job so I moved to Memphis to work for FedEx. They'll hire anybody. Memphis was the hub of FedEx. There are a lot of jobs there because they have a lot of turnover. It's hard work. I started going to Shangri-Las records. I did call Jay with the number Jack gave me but the phone was disconnected. I recorded a bunch of demos on a 4-track recorder before I left Yuma. A lot of them ended up being Wongs songs. Some of them became Reatard songs. I put up a flyer at Shangri-Las Records. It read, "I want to start a band. If you're into Dead Boys, Teengenerate, New York Dolls and the Pagans, give me a call." I had never done that before in my life but I didn't know anybody in Memphis. I got a call on my answering machine from some college kid. He said, "Oh, I see you like The New York Dolls. I also like Phish." I thought, "Oh, now way." I didn't call that dude back. He sounded like a dork. A couple of days later a kid called me. He said, "Let's start a band." I asked him, "Hey, what's your name?" He said, "Jay." "Reatard?" "Yeah, dude." He was in Mississippi at the time. He was recording with a band he was in called The Eunuchs. They were recording their LP. Jay said, "When I get back to Memphis we'll practice; see what we can do." I knew nothing about Jay. When he got back into town, he told me he didn't have a car. I had a '78 Datsun pickup truck with a camper on it (laughs). It was sick. I went to this shitty neighborhood and picked up this scruffy longhaired kid up. I thought, "Oh, fuck, what did I get myself into?" But he had a leather jacket on so he looked pretty cool. The first thing he tells me is he has to go to this girl's house to get his 4-track. Next thing I know we're driving twenty miles to Millington (Tennessee). Some far ass drive to nowhere. I didn't have the gas for this. We got his 4-track. I played some of his songs; he played some of my songs. He played drums on my shit; I played drums on his shit. We recorded a demo called TV Eye.
Leach: You guys recorded Teenage Hate not long afterwards, huh?
Rousseau: Yeah. We recorded the stuff on Bedroom Disasters first. Then Jay said, "I've got to record this album for Goner. Let's record it. You play drums." I was good at drums and Jay wasn't. He was a lot better at guitar than I was. Although I could play drums well I had trouble with the caveman style of drumming he wanted. I eventually got the hang of it. I thought Teenage Hate (1998) sounded sick. We did Reatards for a while. I'd fly to Phoenix for a weekend and do a Wongs show. Then I'd fly back to Memphis and do a Reatards show.
Leach: Were you living in Memphis still?
Rousseau: I was living in Memphis. I moved back to Phoenix shortly afterwards. I didn't like living in Memphis. There weren't enough girls there and I like Mexican food. I grew up in Yuma. I hung out in Mexico half the time. I like the desert. Memphis is cool but I belong in Arizona. Whenever I could I'd fly back to Memphis for Reatards shows.