Lux Interior dies at 60; founder, front man of punk band the Cramps
Lux Interior, the singer, songwriter and founding member of the pioneering New York City horror-punk band the Cramps, died Wednesday. He was 60.
FOR THE RECORD:
Lux Interior obituary: The obituary in Thursday’s California section of Lux Interior, the founder and front man of the horror-punk band the Cramps, said he died Tuesday. He died Wednesday morning. It also stated that he was 60 and was born on Oct. 21, 1948. In fact, according to his family, he was born on Oct. 21, 1946, and died at the age of 62. The obituary also said the Cramps had toured as recently as November; they have not performed since November 2006.
Interior, whose real name was Erick Lee Purkhiser, died at Glendale Memorial Hospital of a heart condition, according to a statement from his publicist.
With his wife, guitarist “Poison” Ivy Rorschach, Interior formed the Cramps in 1976, pairing lyrics that expressed their love of B-movie camp with ferocious rockabilly and surf-inspired instrumentation.
The band became a staple of the late ‘70s Manhattan punk scene emerging from clubs such as Max’s Kansas City and CBGB, and was one of the first acts to realize the potential of punk rock as theater and spectacle.
Often dressed in macabre, gender-bending costumes onstage, Interior evoked a lanky, proto-goth Elvis Presley, and his band quickly became notorious for volatile and decadent live performances.
The Cramps recorded early singles at Sun Records with producer Alex Chilton of the band Big Star and had their first critical breakthrough on their debut EP “Gravest Hits.”
The band’s lack of a bassist and its antagonistic female guitarist quickly set it apart from its downtown peers and upended the traditional rock band sexual dynamic of the flamboyant, seductive female and the mysterious male guitarist.
The group was asked to open for the Police on a major tour of Britain in 1979 and reached its critical apex in the early ‘80s with such albums as “Psychedelic Jungle” and “Songs the Lord Taught Us.”
While the Cramps’ lineup revolved constantly, Interior and Rorschach remained the band’s core through more than three decades. The Cramps never achieved much mainstream commercial success, but instead found a reliable fringe audience for more than 30 years -- they even played a notorious show for patients at Napa State Hospital in Napa, Calif.
“It’s a little bit like asking a junkie how he’s been able to keep on dope all these years,” Interior told The Times some years ago. “It’s just so much fun. You pull in to one town and people scream, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you.’ And you go to a bar and have a great rock ‘n’ roll show and go to the next town and people scream, ‘I love you, I love you, I love you, I love you.’ It’s hard to walk away from all that.”
The band’s influence can be clearly felt among lauded minimalist art-blues bands, including the Black Lips, the White Stripes, the Horrors and Primal Scream, whose front man, Bobby Gillespie, allegedly named his son Lux.
The Cramps’ most recent album, a collection of rarities, “How to Make a Monster,” was released in 2004, and the band continued to tour well into the later years of its career, wrapping up its most recent U.S. outing in November.
Interior was born in Stow, Ohio, on Oct. 21, 1948. A Times report in 2004 said that he and Rorschach (born Kristy Wallace) met in Sacramento, where they bonded “over their enrollment in an art and shamanism class and a shared affection for thrift-shop vinyl before hitting the road for New York City.”
In 1987, there were widespread rumors of Interior’s death from a heroin overdose, and half a dozen funeral wreaths were sent to Rorschach. “At first, I thought it was kind of funny,” Interior told The Times. “But then it started to give me a creepy feeling.”
“We sell a lot of records, but somehow just hearing that you’ve sold so many records doesn’t hit you quite as much as when a lot of people call you up and are obviously really broken up because you’ve died.”
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