Social Distortion Guitarist Jonny Wickersham on His Troubled Teen Years
Since they formed back in 1979 in Orange County, Calif., Social Distortion have never wavered in creating bold, outlaw music. Throughout their career, the group has blended punk, country, blues, Americana, and more, into their special sonic brew.
Social Distortion’s latest and seventh overall album, 2011’s Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes, proved to be a big hit with both critics and fans alike, entering the Billboard 200 chart at #4. The band has just announced some more shows for early 2013, and Noisecreep spoke with guitarist Jonny Wickersham about Social D’s staying power, along with his experiences growing up as an Orange County punk.
Anyone that has seen Social Distortion live lately knows how passionate your fans are.
I think Social D is a band that has a lot to do with people’s lives on a lot of levels. Culturally, fans can relate to a lot of things Mike [Ness, vocals/guitars] is talking about, and it affects their personal lives. And of course it comes down to the songs. It’s always got to be about good songs and we know this band has a few of those [laughs].
Before you joined Social Distortion in 2000, were you a big fan?
For sure. I’d always go see Social D when I was a kid around Orange County, they were always one of my favorite bands. I thought they were the coolest band around, always. They were more rock ‘n’ roll, there was a swagger there, and this Americana influence that really separated Social D from the pack.
Watch ‘Machine Gun Blues’ Video
What other bands of that era were you into?
I met this kid, playing the video game Asteroids, around summer of 1980 and I was just about 13, when I was a skateboard stoner kid getting into trouble. This guy had short bleached hair and he was killing it at Asteroids, which was not easy by the way. His name was Jeff; he was a punk rock dude, listening to the Clash and the Pistols and Elvis Costello. I was intrigued. I was heavily into Zeppelin, especially Jimmy Page, which was hard for me to play on guitar, of course. And he played me a riff from the song, “I Hate Fast Cars” by the Buzzcocks and it blew me away. It sounds so eerie, wrong and cool. It was gnarly, everybody hated it, which made me love it more, because I was a full-on outsider. Getting into punk rock was a complete natural progression for me. It just made sense. D.O.A. was also one of my first favorite bands. From Vancouver. Just loved D.O.A.
And you had some run-ins with the law as a kid.
I got locked up when I was 14 for about a year, so I missed out on a lot of cool stuff then. Growing up, I was always in a lot of trouble, always on probation, doing stupid shit. That time I had done a lot of vandalism, some really stupid stuff, and they got me and put me away.
When you play today do see kids out there that remind you of how you were back then?
Some shows, it’s all kids down front. I love that. All kinds of kids, punk rockers, greasers, straight kids, older kids. Music like this will always appeal to cool young kids, I think. That’s what they always wanted, this band. Mike’s vision for the band is that it reaches everybody. I can attest to that. I remember reading interviews with them as a kid and they wanted to be huge, but on their own terms. Not pigeonholed as a punk rock band but a true band for the people.
Watch Social Distortion Perform Johnny Cash’s ‘Folsom Prison Blues’
Social Distortion tour dates:
01/03/13 – San Diego, CA @ House of Blues w/ Pass the Axe
01/04/13 – San Diego, CA @ House of Blues w/ Crushed Out
01/05/13 – San Diego, CA @ House of Blues w/ Jason Cruz and Howl
01/08/13 – Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues w/ The Interrupters
01/09/13 – Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues w/ the Cadillac Tramps
01/11/13 – Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues w/ Crushed Out
01/12/13 – Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues w/ Audra Mae
01/13/13 – Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues w/ Henry Clay People
01/15/13 – San Diego, CA @ House of Blues w/ Red Devil Squadron
01/16/13 – San Diego, CA @ House of Blues w/ Sean Wheeler & Zander Schloss
01/18/13 – Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues w/ Cobra Skulls
01/19/13 – West Hollywood, CA @ House of Blues w/ Crushed Out
01/20/13 – West Hollywood, CA @ House of Blues w/ Fiction Reform
01/22/13 – Tempe, AZ @ Marquee Theater w/ Red Devil Squadron
01/23/13 – Tempe, AZ @ Marquee Theater w/ Eddie Spaghetti
01/25/13 – West Hollywood, CA @ House of Blues w/ Cadillac Tramps
01/26/13 – West Hollywood, CA @ House of Blues w/ The Lusitania