(Warning Explicit 18 or older) – “I stepped onto your world in the Bay Area of San Francisco in 1961, but I didn’t stay there long. I was quickly shuttled down to Long Beach—a working-class town chock-full of blue-collared laborers, retired navy men, hustlers, homosexuals, and squares.
My human father was in the military, so they’d moved often. He was a junior officer with, at the time, three other children—two boys and a girl. Biologically speaking, I was the sport: a spiritual mutation that crawled out of hell into humanity.” – Jack Grisham (Author of an American Demon and Singer of T.S.O.L.)
I could clearly remember in 1982 hearing T.S.O.L.’s Dance With Me album for the first time. It was after a high school football game as I lay prone after just shotgunning two beers and taking a few bong hits of some chocolate thai. I was in my Rockabilly buddy’s 21 window Volkswagon van that I kid you not had one of the loudest sound systems in the city of Anaheim.
The guitar and drums pumped out an eloquently vicious sound at a speed and in a way that I never heard before. It was as if it was coming straight from the underworld and grabbed hold of my soul. The songs came out one after the other harder, faster, and louder than the next.
The words one some of the songs were equally shocking to my virgin ears as I heard the singer belch out his dreams of necromancy saying that he wanted to fuck the dead.
The Code Blue lyrics read;
“I never got along with the girls at my school
Filling me up with all their morals and their rules
They’d pile all their problems on my head
I’d rather go out and fuck the dead
‘Cause I can do what I want and they won’t complain
I want to fuck I want to fuck the dead
Middle of the night so silently
I creep on over to the mortuary
Lift up the casket and fiddle with the dead
Their cold blue flesh makes me turn red”
To be honest, at the time in my young punk career, the lyrics were a bit unsettling, but also a welcome invite for my initiation into the Southern California Hard Core Punk Scene. These guys were locals from a neighboring city and their band, True Sounds of Liberty – T.S.O.L. with their flamboyant singer, Jack Grisham, was now one of my favorites.
Over the years, I would see T.S.O.L. in concert and hear about their off-stage antics. It was well known in Orange County that Jack was one of the biggest assholes in the punk scene with an enormous ego and bad drinking and drug habit. Many other bands and punks had run-ins with Jack and despised his transvestite stage costumes. But at 6 foot 3 and as crazy as anyone, he would be able to withstand the criticism and still crossdress when he wanted.
More importantly, his band kicked ass so they got a free pass as good bands often do.
Being evil or what we can simply call a human piece of shit was normal punk rock behavior back then. I know because I embraced my own excrement, which I vomited onto the world for their payback so I was not shocked to read about Jack Grisham’s outrageous antics. The tales of abuse, crimes, sexual ambiguity that borders rape, and his spiritual embrace of demon hood, were no surprise which he explained in an aptly titled memoir, An American Demon. This is a cautionary tale, but he also weaves his personal history into the sex, violence, and chaos of the 80’s punk scene, without apology or psychoanalysis.
Jack tells us that his thirst for destruction and need to do such terrible acts of violence shows us that the American Demon is written under the premise that he must be some kind of demon to create such mayhem on Earth. But you know what, I believe him. At least he’s honest. In the same vain, he makes you want to falsely believe that some of these tales are made up and cannot be real.
However, anyone who knows the real Jack Grisham and the 80s punk scene like I do understand that this book reads more like a biography. An authentic narrative by a man who was not only behind the scenes, he was one of the main demons who created it.
Jack was not only a master of shock and awe, he was a narcissistic sociopath. That is why he had no problem making a Faustian bargain with the devil in order to release his inner demon upon the world. His payback from Satan for raising hell and abusing countless victims would be what allegedly kept him safe all the years from prosecution for his many crimes and even death.
To some people, reading An American Demon is like stunning them with an electric shock, but to many of us punks who were there with boots on the ground, it gives you a comprehensive account of Grisham’s childhood, onto the present day. Jack puts his demon self out there with his blood dripping horns, sweat, and semen, allowing you to see the world through the first-hand account in the eyes of a sociopath.
Jack takes you on a journey with his shadow as your guide through the underworld of his life, showing us that the actual demons are not to be found in the movies, but they are the beautiful people sitting right next to you, showing that good looking people you would never suspect can be genuinely evil for no good reason.
Here is an excerpt explaining this fact from his book in the chapter, The Education of the Damned.’
“The most successful serial killers are always the boys next door—gentle children of summer, flashing smiles like soft breezes through a park, sharpened knives wrapped in grass-stained Levis. I was akin to these monsters. I was camouflaged and deadly, a viper smiling in the dark,” Jack Grisham had written.
He continues, “To be a truly great demon you’ve got to be attractive—no one sensible gets taken in by a goon. I was born with summer-blond hair, a soft evening smile, and the sweetly dark taste of defiance slashed across my lips—a scrawny, scuffed up teddy bear with a voice that could string words like lights across a carnival midway. Believable, that’s what I was: a perfect distraction for the careless mark.
They never saw me coming.
Some of the evil fucks I later ran with were way too ugly to be of any real use. The cops read them like a beacon flashing on a street corner. But not me—the code of the demon, my code, was to fit in, to move from the inside out, to slide into their world, to lodge myself against their love, and then to attack from beneath the skin,” Grisham had written.
He says, “When people refer to demons, they invariably claim we come from the underworld. God, I hate that cliché. It makes us sound like we’re all hanging around in a bondage cavern, trying on leather gear and waiting for tricks. And while I do love the smell of leather and I thoroughly enjoy caves, I tortured people for fun, not profit. The concept of a demon coming from underground is pure shit.
If you want to know where demons truly come from, I’ll tell you: we’re from right here. We exist in a shadow that lies over your world—a kind of transparency of evil that some demented teacher laid out on an overhead projector. We move around you, through you, in you. We are your fathers, your sisters, your lovers. We are your next-door neighbors.
We come and go as we please—although it’s a bit harder to leave when we’ve taken residency in a body. The old Hebrews used to call their angels “Those who stand still,” and the name they gave themselves was “Those that walk.” If a demon was ever called anything, it was usually prefaced with a very terrified “Oh my God!,” Grisham concluded.
Jack Grisham has called his book a “memoir of selfishness,” but it is more than that. The American Demon reads like a true biography of a real-life Son of Satan who reveals his sins and crimes to the world as a type of predeath bed confession of sorts towards the end of his life.
The demon – Grisham is possibly doing so to atone for his sins.
A way to purge all the unadulterated violence, abuse, mayhem, and chaos to everyone who was unfortunate to cross his path. As someone on the fringes of the hardcore OC punk scene back in the day and knowing Jack personally for a brief time, I would say that there is no doubt that most of the incidents he mentions had most likely occurred.
In 2013, I befriended him, and we formed a short relationship. At the time, I started an internet marketing agency and was creating websites and producing videos so I offered my services to him. I recorded this interview at a record shop in Huntington Beach with the former Dead Kenedy’s drummer, D. H. Peligro.
After I met him and shook his sweaty hand, he made a fleeting comment that why some fans and old punk rockers act like meeting him is no big deal, as if other people and I are supposed to act as if we are a good Catholic who just met the Pope. So let’s just say that I was not at all impressed by meeting one of my all-time favorite old punk rock singers.
He was still selfish and loud but had a fake sheen to his demeanor. When comparing the old Jack to when I was a young teen in my punk rock heydays watching him play onstage with T.S.O.L., today, he was much less intimidating and a lot fatter.
Our relationship didn’t last long.
Shortly after that, I sent him a message on Facebook in an old punk rocker and classic Moe fashion telling him, “Fuck You, Jack! You are a selfish asshole!” We have not spoken since, but I’m sure he could care less, and maybe I should count myself lucky that I didn’t know him when I was younger.
There is not only natural narcissism and pathology in how Grisham thinks, lives, and writes – there still may be a real demon in control of his soul.
As for Jack, he wouldn’t want it any other way.
For me, the old T.S.O.L. is still one of the best old-school punk bands of all time, regardless of my distaste for Jack Grisham.
Hell, sometimes the worst of demons put out the best music.
Moe is the founder of GnosticWarrior.com. He is a father, husband, author, martial arts black belt, and an expert in Gnosticism, the occult, and esotericism.