Teenage Werewolves are the world’s best Cramps tribute. Welcome to their psychobilly circus! Way Out Radio caught up with lead singler Jack Atlantis who’s wild and styled to rock ‘n’ roll perfection.
- Tell us about the role music played in your life growing up. What did you listen too and how important was music to you as a kid/teen?
Music was my escape and daily bridge over a tumultuous childhood. I don’t know how I would have avoided the trappings of life-long depression without music. In a way, music saved my life and taught me to let the dirt of life, roll off my back. I would blast-off to far-away worlds through my headphones every night, falling asleep with them on.
2. How did you start putting your image together? When did you know you had the right look to make you feel complete?
A disciple of clothes & music videos since childhood, I’ve always been in fashion in one way or another. From making my own clothes as a teen, to modeling for rock & roll designers on and off LA Fashion Week runways or having my own clothing label, the image I drape in for this band, is not far from what I normally wear as a DJ or frequent club-goer. I have been a featured performer on the same bill as The Cramps at a L.A. Fetish Ball event so the look of the Teenage Werewolves was already waiting on hangers in my closet.
3. What was the UK tour like? Where were some of the highlights?
Our 2019 tour was a big risk that tour manager Gary of Mutant Movement Productions & I took. I had already proven this show a success on the unforgiving stages of Los Angeles. Bringing it to the UK was the biggest challenge I had undergone with this band. Putting together a permanent London band over internet alone, was only the first challenge. It took a lot of trust between Gary & I to do this on opposite sides of the pond!
In L.A. we developed a loyal following of Gore-Hounds and celebrities over years, but word travels much faster here. The audiences embraced the show and we developed a “Wolf Pack” of fans who followed the tour to as many as six of our 11 city tour. Fans would keep us at venues beyond closing time, raving about our show and giving personal accounts of the many Cramps shows with Lux & Ivy they attended back in the day. We found the same enthusiasm in every place we played and converted hard-core skeptics who said a Cramps tribute was blasphemy.
One early barometer of the tour’s snowballing effect was all the professional photographers who came out to a show. Coming from the fashion world, I regarded that as sort of an honor. Our first celebrity spotting was the lovely and funny, actress & artist, Jayne Bickerton. She played Yana in “Coronation Street” and co-starred in “Funny Cow”. She graciously opted to be our photographer for our Manchester show. By the time we reached our closing show in London, our t-shirts were sold out 3 cities ago. We were visited by a un-expected celebrity; Lady Stephens, Patricia Quinn who starred as Magenta in the Rocky Horror Picture Show. She came back stage to say she’d seen our YouTube videos and wouldn’t have missed this show for the world.
Naturally, this was a honor since I and everyone in the Underworld (“World’s End” in Camden), were stanch Magenta fans. I asked if I could introduce her to our audience who are all Rocky Horror fanatics. She did us one better and came up on stage 2/3rds into our show got the entire audience to all sing “The Time Warp” with her & the band, the crowd went mad. I can’t imagine a better way to end the tour.
4. How did you decide on a Cramps tribute band and how did you all get together?
A tribute of The Cramps or anyone else, never crossed my mind and not a good career move for any serious musician wanting to make a name for themselves. To do a tribute for The Cramps, seems like a ridiculous idea on paper, especially because they were so far underground to begin with, what size audience could I expect and could it even sustain itself? But the more I thought of it, the more I was compelled to do exactly that. Either it would be a colossal failure or the coolest weird idea that other weirdos would find as compelling as I did. If I was ever to do a tribute, it was going to be of the most uninhibited front man in Rock & Roll.
I am from the same hometown as the singer Lux Interior. Growing up in Akron Ohio, the former tire factory capitol of the world, had seen it’s heyday during the first half of the 20th century, only to exist in history books. By the time I was a kid, it had become a dirty, depressed & rusting factory town who’s abundantly grey wet & cold weather, reminded me of the song “Everyday is like Sunday”. A place where dreams don’t come true unless the dream is to escape to a brighter future.
That psychological climate creating bands like U2 or the Smiths, in Akron Ohio, it created The Cramps, Devo, The Pretenders & The Dead Boys. Great music often comes from places of by-gone stature and bleak futures. Kids who grow up here, carry the hopes of the distant past and tight-rope walked-away from that town with their ambitions of a future. I left my hometown for Los Angeles at age 18.
With our first show 10yrs ago, I didn’t start this band to be the first Cramps tribute. I wanted to celebrate all things weird & outside the box, which is how I like seeing the world, through weird glasses. I don’t mimic the trademark mic-eating or floor-humping of Lux, that would be pandering to our savvy audience, our show is “in the spirit of” The Cramps music videos, their lifestyle and taste, with a dose of the counterculture world of trash pop art, the Munsters and 60s 70s go-go visuals.
Since the first show, we’ve included, “rock & roll showgirls” for my love of the 1960’s and the classic go-go genre. This tour we have legendary “Miss Exotic World” Kitten de Ville who tours Europe & the UK as a burlesque headliner and is credited with helping bring back old-school burlesque to where it is today. She & I met 20+yrs ago on the same stages together in various shows. On the other side of the stage, is freelance Bettie Page model and rising stage star, Jessica Habit. Her man who was photographing our 2019 Derby show, asked me if she could come up on stage with us for one song (2hrs before the show), how could I say no? . . . Our London band of exceptionally talented players, I found all from searching on facebook or asking friends of friends.
Helen Storer of “Jack Off Jill”, lead me to Toni Haimi (All About Eve) who lead me to our Poison Ivy & lead guitarist, Vyvyan Wyld. She is a Cramps protege’ who sold her soul to Rock & Roll while attending Pub & Bar academy all over North West England. On the other side of the stage is the mysterious & beautiful Jess Furneaux. She was recommended by Gavin, singer of England’s “Guns 2 Roses” tribute. This rock & roll overachiever, graduated with top music honors at London’s prestigious ICMP while secretly having one foot in Elvis’s Graceland. Can a show have too much eye candy? Of course not, so on drums we have beat-keeper Camille Phillips from the Ramonas, who we made a deal to let us have her for this tour. Our U.S. Werewolves alumni (2013) and bass player Billy Miles Brooke, found Camille through facebook.
5. It’s the band’s ten year anniversary – what have been some of the ups and downs of your journey so far?
The downside to this big show is living out of a suitcase and torn-ankle stage injuries. Also, our show has so many moving parts, much of my time is spent in maintenance and oiling this machine. I wish I could just roll out of bed and onto stage. Other bands make it easy on themselves but what are offering our audience so much more. Ultimately, I created a show I’d want to see & hear, it has to be big, outside the box and action-packed. Great for the audience but challenging to keep this production running behind the scenes. The advantage is meeting all the Cramps fans. We have a fiercely loyal following that grows every year.
6. Do you write your own songs and can you tell us why you do/don’t?
I write my own songs, I had one on an LP for United Nations called “Artists United Against Human Trafficking”. It is track #7, right after the band “Garbage” on the album. I now have a manager for my coming solo career, Vicky Hamilton who discovered and signed Guns & Roses. . . My day-job is a sound-engineer. I’ve mixed and produced for other bands since I was 19 years old. I love it.
7. Aside from Bauhaus and Cramps can you name a artist you love and are inspired by and why?
David Bowie has always been at the top of my list. I knew his songs as a child. When I got my first look at his photos and videos, I realized the power of combining sound & vision.
8. What do you have lined up for the rest of the year?
The UK has been so good to us, I could get very use to only performing here. As long as the fans want our Cramps show, we will be back every year. We get dozens of requests from other countries that we can’t ignore. Venues in South America, Canada, Mexico, even Singapore. After this April’s tour of England, I will work on a tour of Europe as our next venture. We’ve have invites from all over Europe. Putting it together in the proper order will be a challenge that I will seek help to do. Time permitting, then more shows back in LA & San Francisco California.