Tracy Thornton ('Pan For Punks')
'Flavoring The Rock 'n Roll Pan'!
Just imagine if CBGB's were located on one of the Caribbean islands – it would sound exactly like Pan For Punks – A Steelpan Tribute to the Ramones, a one-of-a-kind tribute to one of the most influential bands of all time: punk-rock legends The Ramones.
Imagine 14 punk rock classics ripping through your speakers at warp speed, complete with the trademark “1-2-3-4” count offs, chants and shout-outs in pure punk, fist raising abandon, all performed on the steel pans (or steel drums) straight from the Islands!
This unique CD is the brainchild of TRACY THORNTON, a heavy metal drummer turned nationally renowned steelpannist who produced and performed all instruments on the disc. Pan For Punks captures the fun and melodic essence of the Ramones through TRACY‘s clever and creative use of the steel drums while staying true to the rhythmic speed and attitude of punk music. This amazing musical feat is made possible only by relying on TRACY ‘s chops as a drummer from his heavy metal bashing days.
Chatting recently with Tracy, I first wondered when he had first gotten
inspired to create this wonderful new steel drum tribute album to The Ramones? "Back in 1994 when I was recording my first steelpan CD
"Tracy Thornton's Steeling Christmas", we were in the
studio doing the soundchecks and expirimenting with
microphones and all that and the song I recorded to do
that was "Blitzkrieg Bop" (just for fun) and to my
surprise it sounded amazing on the pans. So it was
right then that I had told myself that one day I will
have to do a full steelpan Ramones tribute."
For the Average Joe who may not have heard of your
prior work and was thinking of buying the new 'Pan For
Punks' CD, how would you yourself describe the
experience that they are in for? "You will be pleasantly surprised and blown away! The
idea in thought seems kinda like.....Ramones on
steelpans?....what the hell! But when you here it I
think the listener will be tripped out on hearing the
Caribbean steepans rocked out this hard. The speed,
the energy and the melodic sense of the Ramones music
comes screaming and shining through. It's Ramones
music on steelpans, how can you not have a smile all
over your face after hearing that?"
Your album title 'Pan For Punks' is a
tell-it-like-it-is title for sure, but perhaps it
originates from a more personal standpoint for you?
Was it always to be called that or did it have another
name always lurking in the background? "Actually that was the only title I had thought of and
it just stuck."
And with all those classic punk bands out there,
why The Ramones? Why not a tribute to all the bands on
the one CD? "Well, I just love the Ramones and they were such an
influence on me and I just wanted to pay tribute to
them in my on way. It really wasn't about just doing
a punk only cd, it could've been any style of music.
To me the Ramones weren't really "punk' per say.
Their songs were so poppy, catchy and so melodic along
with that agressive energy and speed. A perfect
recipie for steelpan music (to me anyway). It really
goes to show how amazing their songs were that they
could shine through on such an eclectic instrument as
If there was one track on 'Pan For Punks' that
truly encapsulated Tracy Thornton at his musical
finest, which one would it be? "'Sheena Is A Punk Rocker' is my personal favorite."
Noting that you produced all the songs and played
all the instruments on this album, was there ever a
time when it became a little overwhelming, perhaps? "Actually no. It was such a fun project and the more I
got into it the better it became(far better than I had
anticipated). It never felt like work. I looked foward
to waking up everyday to get in the studio just to
here what would happen. The trick was when to stop and
call it a day."
And please tell us more about your artwork for the
CD and what it was patterned on "I wanted to capture the feel of the Ramones first 2 or
3 cds. Just gritty black in white with the red type.
I had the pan in front of a brick wall intstead of a
band. I wanted to convey that I really tried to
capture the the whole Ramones' package, from the
music, the drum parts strait down to the artwork. Even
down to keeping the track list at 14 songs like their
first 3 cds."
So, just why are the steel drums more workable,
more interesting to you in the first place? "I have been playing steelpan since the early 90's and
just love the instrument. Most people (here in the
states anyway) think of steelpan as calm, relaxing
music you here while your drinking a fruity coctail
under a palm tree somewhere my the sea. But I travel
about every other year to Trinidad(the birthplace of
pan) to perform in "Panorama"(the world's largest
steelband competition) during the county's Carnival
season where the bands consist of 120 members and play
10 minute calypsos at 120 beats per minute or faster
at 130 decibles acoustically. It doesn't get much more
intense than that! So with my heavy metal background,
this music isn't much of a stretch. And with all the
instruments being made of metal, I would say it's the
true heavy metal music!"
What '80s (and possibly cheesy!) pop/rock song
would you love to cover today on steel drums if asked
... and why?! "A great one would be "The Way" By Fastball. A
perfect pop song and melody line (but that's 1990's) or "Kashmire" By Led Zepplin would be pretty intense. I
love the Moroccan scales and haunting feel of that
one (but that's the 70's)! So I think a steelpan ABBA cd would be kinda funny, but it would totally work! Their melodies and harmonies
kinda like the Ramones just stick on you. (70's again,
sorry). So, "Reign In Blood" by Slayer would be my 80's pick!"
Lastly, I like Penguins ... do you?! "How could you not like anything that is always dressed to kill!"
Interviewed by Russell A. Trunk
If you would like to win an AUTOGRAPHED copy of 'Pan For Punks' by Tracy, just answer this easy question: Back in 1988, Tracy was playing drums with a heavy metal outfit and working part-time as a courier when his co-worker Mike turned him on to The Ramones. What was the name of that heavy metal band?
Send me your answers and if you're correct you'll be in the running to win one of these great new and AUTOGRAPHED CDs! Just send us an e:mail here before July 1st with your answer and the subject title 'PAN FOR PUNKS' SIGNED CDs to: email@example.com
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