Interviewing Jack Grisham is always a trip. Now 50, the T.S.O.L. singer/political candidate/professional rabble-rouser has lived several lifetimes' worth of punk rock excess and insanity. Fortunately, he has thrown himself just as hard into sobriety and a committed relationship with fiancée Kate Kieve.
Last year, he released a semi-autobiographical novel entitled An American Demon: A Memoir, which touches on substance abuse, relationships, cross dressing and punk rock, and he recently recorded an album with new band the Manic Low.
At his home in Huntington Beach, Grisham (along with Kieve) shared some of his most personal anecdotes and feelings about sex, love, drugs and putting things back together after they all fall apart.
LA Weekly: You were married when you were 25 years old to an underage girl while you were in Mexico. Did you really love her?
Jack Grisham: Looking back on it, it was very selfish of me. I don't know if you would say I loved her as much as I did not want her taken away from me. It was basically like, “Hey, let's go get married, so they won't take you.”
You know, she died three summers ago of a drug overdose. I cared for her, and, at the time, I thought it was love. But was it really that? Or was I just hanging on to something because somebody else said it was not all right? It was like, 'Even though I don't really want this, I don't want you telling me that I can't have it.'
Why did you think she was going to be taken away from you?
JG: Well, she was 16, and I was 25. [Laughs]. That's probably a good reason. At the time I was drinking quite a bit — and getting married seemed like the right thing to do. Caring for her was a real drag, but I stayed in contact with her until she died.
I also made amends to her mom for my behavior. She asked me to be a pallbearer at the funeral, and this was a woman who hated me. My ex left two kids, and it was really rough because her daughter looked exactly like her. She walked up to me at the funeral and said, 'I know you. You're my mom's first husband.' It was a hard thing to deal with.
When did you get divorced?
JG: Well, it was a Mexican marriage. I never went down there. You know? I wouldn't even know where to go. I don't speak Spanish, and we got married in a lawyer's office.
How many times have you been married?
JG: Well, if you count the Mexico marriage, I've been married twice. The second marriage was in 1995. Kate was 10. She was actually the flower girl at my wedding.
Kate Kieve: That's really fucked up.
Was it hard to have real relationships when you were addicted to drugs and alcohol?
JG: I think having the relationships was part of the addiction. Maybe the relationships were just another thing I was addicted to. You know, drinking, doing drugs and involving yourself in crazy relationships — and you're not just seeing one person, you're seeing another person, too.
Anything I was trying to stick in me to make myself feel better you could call addiction. You may be addicted to drugs, alcohol, sugar, sex, relationships — whatever it is you are trying to do, you just do it to not be alone. And I was one of those guys. I could not be alone.
Do you still feel that way?
JG: Every once in awhile I will feel like that, but nowhere near what I felt before.
You've been sober for 23 years. Do you still struggle with keeping clean? Has this affected your current relationship?
JG: Not at all. It's not even an issue. I tell people it's like picking up a wood burning set — you're too young to know what that is — but it's a really dangerous toy. It had a wand with a super-fucking hot end on it, and you could burn wood and carve your name with it. They would never let kids play with shit like that now.
So, I picked up the set on the wrong end one time, and it burned the living fuck out of my hand. I never picked that wood burning set up again. So, once you reach that same point with drugs and alcohol, you realize you're fucked — every time you try to drink it goes south. Every time you get loaded you are going to go to jail, you know, fuck things up. When you realize you are going to get burnt every time you do it, and you really accept and believe that, it becomes really easy to never get loaded again.
Was it hard to accept you were an addict?
JG: Once I really looked at myself and realized it was a problem, I never did it again. Right before I got sober, I got arrested twice in three days. I haven't been arrested since. This was Thanksgiving in 1988.
What's the difference between being in a sober relationship and being in a drug-induced relationship?
JG: It hurts more. When I was a baby and I got upset there were two things I wanted: the bottle or the tit. That was it. When I got older, nothing changed. I still wanted the bottle or the tit. So now being sober, you can't run away and you can't sedate yourself. You are totally vulnerable and wide open. You know? The littlest thing hurts so much. You have to learn how to fucking grow up.
Have you ever cheated on a woman?
JG: Yes. I used to have trouble with that. My relationship now is the first relationship that I've ever been physically faithful. It took a long time. Well into sobriety. I had to learn to be true to myself.
*Turns to Kieve*
JG: OK, can you stop Kate? Or go into another room? This is not easy for me when you are over there huffing and puffing and stressing out a little bit.
KK: Well, I'm interested to hear what you have to say about this.
JG: You can click the article and read it when it comes out.
Did you feel bad when you cheated?
JG: Sometimes I would rationalize it. I would think I would do this because they did that. I could always blame them. If she wasn't such a bitch, I wouldn't have had to do it. It was always her fault. There was a lot of blame. In the past, if my partner did something that upset me, I would just act out. I got to the point where I could just black out and pretend it didn't happen.
Did you tell the women after you cheated?
JG: When I first got sober, I would tell the girl I was dating that I cheated because I felt bad. It's harder to hold in a lie, especially when you are not drinking or using. I would tell them thinking I was doing the right thing. This old guy told me once, 'Hey, son. We don't dump your guilt on somebody else so we can feel better. Why don't you hold it in? Maybe you will feel so uncomfortable that you will stop doing it.' I mean, it didn't work, but it was good advice.
You are a certified hypnotherapist and master NLP practitioner. Do you think you could make someone fall in love with you?
JG: There's actually a hypnotic script for that. Kate thinks I hypnotized her. She thinks I like her because she's half my age and more attractive than I am. So she figures she must have been hypnotized. You can't make someone do something they don't want to do, but you can confuse them into sleeping with you.
You have two daughters: Anastasia and Georgia. Do you plan on having any more kids?
JG: We have talked about it. (to Kieve) OK, how far can I go with this?
KK: As far as you want.
JG: We lost a child last year. And it was really hard. Kate was here, and I was going to Europe when it happened, and there was difficulty with the pregnancy and we ended up losing the baby. There was also another time after that. The first baby was farther along and the last baby wasn't. There is a willingness to have kids, but it's been very hard on both of us.
Are you planning again?
JG: I'm throwing a lot of semen around.
KK: I have health stuff going on that makes it more difficult right now.
JG: She's on birth control now because of the health issues and losing the babies.
How long have you been dating Kate Kieve? How did you guys meet?
JG: Since Oct. 4, 2009. We met on the program. Kate and I were not supposed to be dating.
Because you were both on the program?
JG: No, because I was already sober and she was basically sober zero days. If you know anything about the program, they say, “Don't do that!” We basically did it anyway. I can tell you, it was a whole room full of judgment. If you want to get judged, you don't have to go to church. Go there. All these people who have fucked their lives up are judging you for something. I went from poster boy to scumbag overnight.
KK: I wasn't even planning on being clean. I went to him because things were rough, and I spent the entire previous day weaning off three grams of coke so that I was sober when I saw him.
JG: Yeah, she didn't want to be loaded around me.
Does Kate have any jealousy issues? I mean, because you are a celebrity and are constantly in the public eye.
JG: Yes, do I even need to answer that? It took a bit of time to realize what's real and what's not real. People come up to me and say, 'Oh, I love you.' It's not real. They don't really know you or love you. Kate may trip on that. I know the difference. You're taking photographs with these people and signing their boobs. For me, I've been doing this a long time, and I'm good at separating it.
Kate, do you ever get worried because he's cheated on every girlfriend?
KK: Yes, a lot. I would think, 'Yeah, I'm just another girl.' I've gone crazy jealous. Not only am I half his age so there is a level of immaturity there, but it's also routinely dealing with women saying stuff to him. Seeing someone who has a following is really hard and rough.
JG: Sometimes I laugh because it's like 'Look at me: I'm 50 years old, I'm overweight. You really think someone wants to hit this shit?'
You have a bit of an age difference between the two of you. Does that affect your relationship at all?
JG: There is a 24-and-a-half year age difference between us. Kate wasn't even born when I was making records.
KK: The worst is when old hags ask if I'm his daughter. Ah, these jealous women.
JG: OK, take it easy. Women my age will sometimes say smart-ass shit to Kate. I trip out on it more than Kate does. Sometimes I'll see a picture of us and think, 'Ah, fuck, man.' I have more of a problem with the age than she does. I mean, my older daughter is 24 and Kate is 26. Everyone likes Kate, though. Even my ex-wife likes Kate.
KK: I wouldn't say she likes me.
Have you ever slept with a man?
JG: What do you mean 'slept?' How far are we talking about? Fooling around, yeah, but not actual penetration. If I were going to be with a man, I would want to be with a man that looked like a girl. And I wouldn't sleep with a guy my own age.
What do you mean?
JG: He was a much, much older man. He paid me for it.
You were pretty wild and crazy in your days touring and playing with T.S.O.L. Did you have a lot of sex with groupies or famous celebrities?
JG: I mean, probably. Is that a good answer?
JG: [Laughs]. I was a kid. I was a kid in a candy store. Any young guy would do that. I was playing in a band and getting paid to have women wanting to sleep with me and guys telling me how cool I am. Wrecking stuff, stealing, destroying things and getting paid for it? I used to trip on the straight-edge guys who didn't have sex and stuff. That's suspect, man. It's going against nature. I'm confused when an 18- or 19-year-old boy who has it laid out in front of him says, 'No, thank you; I'll wait for marriage.' Especially if they are in a punk band. That just doesn't seem right.
What kind of lover would you describe yourself as?
JG: Selfish. I'm kidding. I don't know where the fuck that came from — once a guy does his business, something inside his body says, 'Break away.' I always try to make sure my girl is taken care of before I'm taken care of. I just want to make sure she is OK. [Pause]. I guess, 'playful?' Sometimes fun.
Is there a song that best describes your sexual style?
JG: [Laughs]. I don't fucking know. I think it really depends how vulnerable I am willing to be. When I first got sober and even when I was drinking, I could sleep with anybody — but I didn't want to be touched. Don't touch my face. Don't show any tenderness or kindness. You can use the body, but don't show me love. Even now sometimes, it's easy to be loving, kind, holding, touching, squeezing and kissing without having intercourse. Once it crosses the line of having intercourse, I sometimes still struggle with having to step away from that intimacy.
You describe yourself as a Christian now, how does this affect your outlook and philosophy on life and love?
JG: There's a difference between a Christian and what people think a Christian is. I don't think homosexuality is wrong and I don't think people experimenting are wrong. Selfishness and hurting people — to me, that's wrong. Those are against my principles. I believe in having fun.
With two consenting adults, fuck, anything goes. Right? Except cold pee play. Warm pee play is OK, but not cold pee play. It's never OK. And I'm sure a lot of Christians don't want me saying that I'm a Christian — as far as they are concerned, I'm not. You know, I enjoy the teachings of Christ. And what was that last commandment? That we love each other? Yeah.
Are you two planning on getting married?
JG: Well, she has a ring on her finger. We haven't set a date yet, but we are engaged.
KK: Yeah, he called me his 'finance' today.
How did you pop the question?
JG: Before Christmas? Um… Well…
KK: What, did you black out?
JG: Uh, I don't remember how I asked exactly. We were sitting on this couch [points to couch], which was the first place we ever kissed.
KK: He never actually asked me. I said to him, 'Are you going to marry me?' And he said, 'I think that's what it's for.'
How did you know she was 'The One?'
JG: I don't know. I just thought that. At first not wanting to hurt her — I looked at her as injured a little bit. Just like 'Hey, she needs to be protected.'
What is the weirdest or most disturbing thing a woman has said to you during sex?
JG: I don't find much disturbing. For me, I get off when someone else is excited. No matter what weirdness she said, I would be stoked because she's into it. If she said, 'Fucking beat me over the head with that dog's fucking leg,' I would do it. And then I would throw feces on her, if she wanted. I would think, 'God, she is so out of control, she must be enjoying it!'
Prostitution: should it be legal? Have you ever paid for it?
JG: Yes. It's a woman's or man's body, he or she can do whatever with it. I've never paid for it. Wait. Actually, that's not true. I paid money to talk to one. I was going to have sex in Europe in '95, and I gave the girl money, but I just couldn't do it because I knew she didn't want to. You know, I want my partner to want to do it. I handed the girl money and I just walked out. And yes, I was paid to have sex with a guy and his wife.