The Batusis! As in Syl and Cheetah’s new punk band.
With Sylvain Sylvain (New York Dolls, the Criminals) and Cheetah Chrome (Dead Boys, Rocket From the Tombs) at the helm, the Batusis boast more than 30 years of punk pedigree.
The Batusis, named after a dance move Batman busted out in an old episode of the ’60s-era TV show, also features members of Joan Jett’s backing band the Blackhearts, and its self-titled debut EP is equal parts raw punk, power pop and garage rock.
Chrome, who currently lives in Nashville with his wife and 5-year-old son, recently checked in to discuss instrumentals, video games and life on the road at age 55.
How long have you known Syl Sylvain?
We’ve been friends since 1975—a friend of mine knew the guys in the Dolls, and once when they were playing in Cleveland, he took me down to meet Syl. He’s just a really fun human being.
Why did you finally decide to start a band together?
The [band] was sort of like a blind date. Frank Mauceri from Smog Veil Records and [Sylvain’s] manager were talking, and Frank was like, “Well, Cheetah’s got a lot of time off,” and Sylvain’s manager was like, “Well, Syl’s got a lot of time off.” So they suggested we collaborate, and we agreed. Originally, we were just going to put out an EP, but it went so well that we’re now working on an album.
Had you ever performed together before?
No—I’m sure the Criminals and the Dead Boys must’ve played together, but that was a long time ago and I can’t remember (laughs).
What was making the record like?
Syl came down to Nashville, and we called [former Wilco drummer] Ken Coomer to help us find a studio, and he ended up producing the record. We went into the studio and did a few takes, and it all just came together very quickly.
You and Sylvain both play guitar and sing and write songs. What was the songwriting process like?
We pretty much [wrote] two each. One of mine was an instrumental and one of Syl’s was an instrumental, so we decided we could do that—it’s nice to not have to sing all the time.
In November, we go into the studio to record a full album with the same team. We’ve already started writing.
What’s life on the road like compared to back in the day when you were touring with the Dead Boys? Have things changed much?
Well, we’re all older and married now—I have a 5-year-old son—so our schedules don’t really provide for going on the road a lot. It’s also a lot less of a party scene.
The Dead Boys would go out, and I had tons of energy. I’d get to the club and see all the opening bands and hang out at the bar. But now I spend more time in the hotel than the club. I don’t drink or go out as much. But doing the shows is great—meeting the fans is great, and that’s the whole point of it. It’s the other 23 or 22 hours that are the hard ones. Luckily, we have a nice vehicle to drive in, and we’ve got an Xbox and Wi-Fi. I play a lot of Call of Duty and Blazing Angels.
You’re playing with a lot of younger bands on the road. Do you have any advice for them?
Stay away from the drugs—that’s the biggest thing. It’s the main thing I’ve learned. It was the biggest time waster in my life. I’ve been clean in two stretches. The first time was for 12 years, and then I relapsed after my mother died. It was bad, but my wife was able to get me into a rehab facility very quickly, and now I’ve been clean since 2007.
You just wrote an autobiography …
Yeah, it’s called Cheetah Chrome: A Dead Boy’s Tale From the Front Lines of Punk Rock [Voyageur Press; $24], and it’s got all the dirt. Revisiting some of it wasn’t so fun, but I’d already dealt with the hardest parts.