Sunday, February 8, 2009

Lux Interior R.I.P

Lux Interior, the awesomely ghoulish frontman for sleazed-up New York rockabilly OGs the Cramps, died today in Glendale, California, as the Daily Swarm reports and an official statement confirms. He suffered from a heart condition. UPDATE: Though various publications list different ages for Interior at the time of his death, his publicist confirms that he was 62.

Interior, born Eric Lee Purkhiser, formed the Cramps with his wife, Kristy "Poison Ivy" Wallace, in 1976. Although the band played CBGB a lot and was a part of the whole NYC birth-of-punk thing, but they didn't really fit in with pummelers like the Ramones and the Dictators or art-school types like Television and Blondie. Their sound was a slow, deranged, almost sensual take on 50s rockabilly: lots of guitar fuzz, no bass, tempos slowed to a slithery crawl. Before even the Misfits, the Cramps jammed their songs full of allusions to trash culture and long-forgotten B-movies.

The chemistry between Interior's halting, insinuating growl and Ivy's snakey surf-informed guitar lines remains one of the great iconic pairings in American underground rock. The Cramps even coined the term "psychobilly." Their 1981 sophomore album Psychedelic Jungle is a very serious must-have.

Onstage, Interior was always a proud member of the Iggy Pop school of self-sacrificing showman: climbing all over the stage, stripping down, rolling on the ground, generally showing no regard for his physical well-being. But he also had absolutely nuts timing and some truly great, theatrical facial expressions. He was a showman, not a performance-artist. And no less an authority than Ian MacKaye has often named a late-70s Cramps gig at a DC college as a hugely formative influence on the DC hardcore scene, even though those bands really couldn't have sounded more different than the Cramps' greasy throb.

Over the Cramps' three decades years of existence, Interior and Ivy plowed through a small army of supporting musicians, always remaining as the band's center. Against all odds, the band remained active up until very recently, though they weren't playing live shows too often anymore.

(Thank you for the pic Rev. Frost)


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