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Jack Grisham (TSOL) doing a reading/signing at Vacation Vinyl on Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Jack Grisham is a talker, a writer and a reader, but he said he was uncomfortable doing a reading in a store in front of quiet people, because he was used to people not paying attention, fighting and getting hurt front row at his shows. The TSOL frontman has written a book, ‘American Demon’ and, contrary to what he said, he seemed totally at ease when doing a reading and signing at Vacation Vinyl on Wednesday night; I thought he would not stop talking, he must have been reading half his book through a series of terrific-horrific excerpts.

Seeing his passion when he was talking, I could guess he has been wanting to write this book for a long time, something he definitively wanted to spit out for years.

The idea of the book came to him when driving with a friend on the Highway 40 and its miles and miles of nothing. But once the book was written, it was rejected many times by publishers, something he said he was used to, being a punk. Some of his friends had read the manuscript and had warned him about the danger of what he had written, telling him he was a ‘lovable asshole’, although the book was nothing like this.

And listening to the excerpts he read, I could understand that: the book is full of harsh, tough stories about his difficult childhood and adolescence, shocking stories about an American Demon, doing whatever he wanted to do, hurting people and enjoying watching people suffering.

Ironically, the book got accepted by a Toronto publisher, ECW, whereas Grisham is not allowed in Canada anymore! He laughed when he said that the Canadian government, which has a program for the arts, paid for the book of a guy banned from the country.

And through the reading, Grisham built little by little this horrific psycho character, this selfish and rebellious kid who got abused by his parents and later on did not accept any authority, putting things on fire or blowing them up and getting away with murder each time.

Yes, there was the abuse, the sexual and physical abuse, Grisham exposed everything but did not want to blame his parents because ‘some people he knows had an even worst childhood’… He takes full responsibility of what he became despite ‘an emotionally unavailable mother’ and ‘an abusive alcoholic father’, ‘the only one who beat his ass up’, and you just have to applaud this in spite of all the horrors he admitted to have done.

‘I was raised as a serial killer’ he said, explaining that all he did was ‘straight pay back’,… ‘I wanted to hurt’. He goes into a series of stories about him as a kid making bombs and blowing a garage up because he could not enter a show, putting things on fire and enjoying watching the suffering created. A pyromaniac child, a demon teenager, I thought he had rewritten American psycho, except that it was hardly a fiction this time.

In fact, it’s some kind of miracle he is still alive, he pissed off so many people, that lots of them wanted him to be dead, they blew his car up, and tried to shoot him. Most of the people in the book are dead anyway, ‘I wrote about ghosts’ he admitted.

Grisham was sweating a lot during his lecture, it was indeed quite hot inside the store, and I guess all these stories about fire were not helping.

‘But I was a cute kid’, he said, ‘I was a nice surfer kid, and nobody saw it coming’, this explains why he was charged multiple times but never convicted… he got away with murder every time!

He even made an allusion to the recent riot on Sunset Boulevard after a TSOL concert, and the fact he was able to walk out from the club without any trouble with the police.

Grisham is definitively a great storyteller, he talked with passion, having recently realized that words are much stronger than hands.

‘I have always been a punk’, he continues describing this rebellious behavior that seems to be a second skin for him, ‘Guys now, they want to be punk, but I did not want to be a punk!’

He used several times the term psychopath to describe the young man he was, unable to relate or connect to people, having no feeling toward people, but trying to fit in society and getting involved into punk rock for this reason, something much more risky back then than now.

But he also said he did not want to hear this stories anymore, he has been clean for 22 years, and even if the book is about his demon days, it’s also a story about redemption. And strangely, this was made possible by his alcohol addiction: when he became an alcoholic, he began connecting with people, and realized what a horrific person he had been. Non-sedated he was a violent, vicious animal, but he got an awakening once he was sedated. That was the first time I was hearing a redemption-through-a-drug story.

Naturally, he could not deal with the immense guilt, and has been trying to ‘clean his shit’ since.

But ‘American Demon’ is not about his guilt, nor his new life with his young girlfriend Kate, it’s a brutal tale of a fucked-up kid, it’s about the dark days of an ‘asshole’ when it was still dangerous to be punk.

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