Talks with Tim is a weekly Q&A by Tim Grobaty, who has been a columnist in Long Beach for nearly 50 years. If you’d like to suggest an interesting or influential person in Long Beach for this (unconventional) interview, reach him at [email protected].

Jack Grisham is the vocalist for the punk rock band TSOL (True Sounds of Liberty) and other groups including the Joykiller and Tender Fury, as well as an author, activist, lecturer, former gubernatorial candidate, and, most recently, a filmmaker whose music documentary about TSOL, “Ignore Heroes,” is out now on DVD. He grew up in Long Beach and now resides in Huntington Beach.

Tim Grobaty: It’s early, so my first question is did I wake you up?

Jack Grisham: No. I’m at my office wrestling with taxes. One time I got a letter from the IRS and they said I owed them $70,000. And I’m like “What??” And I took an orange crayon and drew a happy face on it and wrote “I don’t understand.” A few days later I was at the store trying to buy an ice cream cone for my daughter and I went to use the ATM and that didn’t work, so I got out my American Express and that got declined. They had seized everything. I called them up and the guy said, “Now do you understand?”

Q: Where’s your office?

A: I rent an office in a church. I used to work at home, but there’s noise outside all the time and everyone knows where I live. People come and yell up at the balcony.

Q: Your new movie “Ignore Heroes” is out now on DVD and I loved it because, not to slobber all over you, but I can listen to you talk for hours, and that’s pretty much what you’re doing in the film. Just talking about growing up and going crazy.

A: You look at Spalding Gray, Garrison Keillor, people who just tell good stories. Storytelling is an art that’s lost, the ability to tell a story. My grandma was born in the South in the late 1800s  and she’d tell me old stories from the South, about carpetbaggers, wolves, con men and preachers. I love listening to people. I like hearing other people’s stories.

Q: Much of the movie is you giving what Vimeo called “a series of anecdotes that are equal part demented TED talk and stand up comedy.” What theater did you use for the stage that you gave your talk from?

A: I reached out to a friend and we shot it at Brookledge Theater, an old small vaudeville theater in Hancock Park that was used by a lot of magicians back in the ‘30s. It’s a really cool place to film. It was bitchin how it all came together. It was an accident.

Q: The stories you tell about the start of TSOL and the band’s later years come together so seamlessly; it’s like you did it in one take.

A: I basically just told the story. Nothing was scripted; I was just winging it. There have been so many band documentaries and they’re all the same: interviews with the members, then cuts to live performances then back to interviews maybe with other musicians. I said I’m gonna try something different. So that’s what I did. I interviewed the guys in the band in this room that I built for the film for about $10,000. We dressed the room differently for each band member.

Q: Your talk in the movie sounds a lot like your talks that you give to groups about sobriety, including all the wild stuff about stealing and drugs and fighting and being drunk all the time. How long have you been sober now?

A:  I’ve been sober 34 years. It’s not work as much as it’s just sharing the fact that you can have a great life without having to do that. It’s not work, it’s a pleasure. People wonder…they say, “I’ve heard so many terrible stories about you. But you come across as a nice guy. Why are you so nice?” I just tell them I put some principles in my life.

Q: And you’ve dabbled some in hypnotism. How does that work?

A: When I stopped drinking I had a hard time getting up on stage. People think I’m this wild, gregarious presence, but I’m really a wallflower. So I saw a hypnotist to get me onstage and it worked. I tried to do hypnosis myself, but I would get too many creepy people wanting me to make them do something weird.

Q: How long have you been with TSOL now?

A: We started in 1980 and put out our first two records in ‘81. I quit in late 1983 and got back in 1989 and it’s been steady ever since.

Q: I used to hang out at your family’s house on Ladoga with your sister [D.D. Wood] and I knew your mom. She was a nice lady.

A: She was great. My mom had lived in Cuba for a while and after she passed I visited Cuba. I had caused my parents a lot of problems. Later, I asked my mom how she dealt with it all. She said, “Every night I laid in bed and prayed you wouldn’t die.” I called her every morning and every Friday we had lunch at Hof’s Hut. People would see me and stop at the table to say hi. Everybody loved her. She eventually was proud of me. One time I got a call from Michael Zampelli at Zed Records and he said, “You’re mom’s down here doing an in-store.” She had gone in and said “I want everything Jack’s done,” and people were coming up to her and getting her to autograph my records.

Q: Finally, let’s talk about your run for governor [Grisham was among the 135 candidates who qualified for the ballot for the Oct. 7, 2003 recall election to replace Gray Davis]. 

A: I really just did it to bitch about health care. I got on Fox, CNN offered me a job, I got a lot of offers. Look, Trump’s lowered the bar so low that these days I’d be a viable candidate.

Tim Grobaty is a columnist and the Opinions Editor for the Long Beach Post. You can reach him at 562-714-2116, email [email protected], @grobaty on Twitter and Grobaty on Facebook.