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Jeffrey Lee Pierce; Leader of Gun Club Rock Band

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jeffrey Lee Pierce, founder, composer and vocalist of the seminal swamp-blues post-punk band Gun Club, has died at the age of 37.

Pierce died Sunday in Salt Lake City of a brain hemorrhage, his friend and fellow musician Keith Morris said Monday.

Popular in Europe as well as the Los Angeles area, Pierce reconstituted his group several times. He had lived in Europe for a decade and recorded his last major album, “In Exile,” there in 1992.

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Originally from El Monte and a critic for underground Los Angeles rock magazines such as Slash, Pierce created Gun Club in 1979 under the name Creeping Ritual, which he quickly changed.

The band initially was meant to be a “horrible nightmare . . . to go up and play and make everybody want to go out afterward and commit suicide,” Pierce told The Times in 1981 when Gun Club began to emerge as one of the most influential bands of the 1980s.

Its first album, “Fire of Love” recorded in 1989 for Ruby Records, a division of Slash Records, spread the group’s fame and attracted bigger recording companies.

Pierce’s lyrics for “Fire of Love” were depressingly downbeat, a mood that soon became his trademark.

“I write a lot of despair songs,” Pierce said. “They’re ‘Oh-God-why-have-you-forsaken-me’ songs with themes about shut-off emotions and a loss of faith. That’s just part of the human condition, being so jaded that the soul dies. It has nothing to do with living in Los Angeles. T.S. Eliot said the same thing. . . .

“Not believing in anything can be very depressing, but it can also be very creative,” he said, “because then you can look at everything with objectivity. There’s a feeling that you can do anything because nothing really matters. A lot of people take drugs for that reason but drugs just inhibit the creativity. If you’re trying to produce something artistic, you can come up with some very realistic, scary stuff.”

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In the 1980s, Pierce was a user of drugs and alcohol, but he later said that he gave them up.

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