Poison Ivy and Lux Interior (far right) are the guitarist and singer of the Cramps, the seminal "psychobilly" group. Ivy was originally Kristy Marlana Wallis, and grew up near Sacramento, California. Erick Lee Purkhiser was born near Akron, Ohio, and tried out the names Vip Vop and Raven Beauty before arriving at his true identity. The Cramps played their first concert in 1976 in New York City. Their outrageous showmanship, and their obsession with obscure rockabilly records and horror B-movies made them an overnight sensation. However, despite making 10 albums they have had only one hit single, "Bikini Girls With Machine Guns". They live in Los Angeles, in a house next to a cemetery
POISON IVY: We were both studying art at Sacramento State college in the early Seventies. It was a very strange art department in Sacramento at that time, too, because the whole student population was made up of hippies, and they were into witchcraft and metaphysics and everything else. We met up in a class called Art and Shamanism. The textbook for that class was called The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross, and the subject of that book is how the real topic of the Bible is the Amanita muscaria mushroom and that Christ is a metaphor for this magic mushroom. The kind of instructors we'd have would say: "I haven't seen you in class for a while, what grade d'you want?" And we'd say, "Well, I guess an 'A' ", and they'd say, "Okay." So those were crazy times. It was just a very loose, very unique situation, and we met in that environment. We met in a very free way, and we fell in love very quickly.
I'd just started college, and one day I was hitchhiking back from the campus to my apartment, when Lux and a friend of his gave me a ride. I'd seen him around the campus, and I thought he was extremely exotic. He would have these pants and each leg of the pants was a different colour. That kind of thing fascinated me. Because it was the beginning of the new term, we had catalogues to see which classes we were going to take, so we were comparing to see if we'd be in any classes together. It turned out that we were, and that's where our real meeting began.
I was sitting in the Art and Shamanism class when I saw Lux walking in. It was a very large class, too, because everybody knew the teacher got high, and I was sending out psychic brainwaves of, like: "Sit by me! Sit by me! Sit by me!" And he did. He came straight to me and sat next to me. We were making small talk and I said, "It's my birthday", and he pulled a drawing out of his portfolio and gave it to me as a birthday gift right then. It was a female figure, but it was very abstract expressionist. It had a lot of physical energy that I can't describe in words.
I don't know if it was past lives or what, but I felt like I'd known him all my life. It wasn't like we'd just met. We were just together constantly, and we were pretty much out of our minds constantly, to be honest. We didn't come to the surface for quite a long time.
In certain astrology, both regular astrology and Chinese astrology, there's some things that say that Lux and I, we shouldn't be together, and the reason is that the function of the astrology was to maintain social order. It had to do with arranged marriages and how a certain man would belong with a certain woman because it would fit in with the social order and they wouldn't cause trouble. And combinations that they said were bad, it didn't mean that they wouldn't get along or wouldn't enjoy each other's company; what it might mean is they'll start a revolution or that they'll cause trouble or that they'll set things on fire. I think we're definitely the kind of pair that they would have tried to keep apart, because together we cause a lot of upheaval. From our point of view, it's creation. We're creating things.
We're not married. I don't know what you'd call what we are. We're deeply in love and feel like we've been together for more than this lifetime, but we're not aware of any particular ritual that would consecrate it in a way that makes sense to us. We sure don't need to make it any kind of institutionalised situation. Nature upholds our bond.
There's not anything that we deny each other. I'll always hear somebody say, "Oh, I'd like to buy that but my wife would kill me", or vice versa, and I'm, like, "God, what is that?" We don't feel that either one of us has any right to say anything about the other's needs. We just have to trust that person and what that person is entitled to. Fortunately, we happen to like a lot of the same things, but even if we didn't, that shouldn't matter. We're both real free-thinkers. We're nice to each other. There's all those reasons why we're together, but I think it's also karmic. We're karmically entwined.
He's easy to love. He's someone I can get crazy with, I knew that about him right away. I thought: "Oh boy, what's gonna happen now? Something exciting!" It's still happening.
LUX INTERIOR: First time I saw her she was walking down the street, hitch- hiking, and she was wearing a halter top and short shorts with a big hole in the ass with red panties showing through. I was with this other guy, a friend of mine, and we both just went, "Who-o-o-oh!" We pulled over and I think I had a hard-on about three seconds after I saw her.
It was 1972, and we were at Sacramento State college, although saying it was a college is stretching it a bit. You'd get credit for going there and everything, but it was just a bunch of weirdoes. It was crazy. Half the teachers were just fucking the students and getting paid for it. It was really a great time, those days. Really a creative environment.
We had to register for our classes and we had this pamphlet in the car that told you what classes you could take, and one was called Art and Shamanism. I remember I said: "What is shamanism?" She explained it to me, and I thought, boy, that sounds pretty interesting, I think I'll take that. And then when I showed up for that class she was there.
I remember the first day of that class, the teacher had us all sit around in a circle on the floor and hold hands. It was some kind of weird exercise, some mumbo-jumbo crazy cult thing where there was supposed to be energy which would fly around clockwise, and then he made it go counter-clockwise. It was great, it really worked, but just holding hands with her I felt about a thousand times the energy that I was getting from him.
She's incredibly beautiful, that was the first thing I noticed. And then when I talked to her she was incredibly smart, too. We just had a bond. A week and a half, maybe two weeks later we started living together. We just couldn't hard- ly stand to be away from each other. People would even tell us: "That's not right, it's not healthy, you guys shouldn't be spending all your time together." And they tell us that to this day.
It was a while on before the group actually happened. All my life I'd been to see rock'n'roll bands, but I'd never quite been in one myself until I met her. I remember her saying, "Well, we should do that", and I'd say, "Well, yeah, I guess we could do that", and she'd go, "Of course we could do it!" I think we just talked each other into it. Sometimes you have friends and they'll talk you out of doing things. They'll say: "You? Oh yeah, sure." But the same thing can happen, you'll meet someone who'll talk you into doing things, too. If I hadn't met Ivy I might just still be going to rock'n'roll shows.
She's really courageous and she's really smart. At first, when we started out we just wanted to have fun and we didn't want to have anything to do with the business part of all this band stuff, but every time we've tried to have somebody manage us it's been some kind of a bad experience, so she's taken over managing the band and she really does it great. That's why the Cramps are still around after all this time, because she cares about it and she's capable of unbelievable acts.
This is our dreamchild or something, this is something that we make and we do together, and we're real protective of it. And we're also appreciative of the fact that we invented this thing called the Cramps, and from that has sprung a subculture of people all over the world, and we feel we're representative of them. We take that real seriously. We've thought about having children before, but we've always been so busy doing this, and this seems more important to us. We have three cats and we can't even stand to leave them to go on tour. So I don't know how we'd deal with a child.
We're different in a lot of ways. I tend to fly off the handle and go crazy and start screaming and she tends to be a bit wiser and calmer and more patient than I am - before she starts going wild, too. I think she's a lot classier than I am, but I think I've gained a lot of class from her. It's hard to figure out how we're different because we're together all the time and we always do everything together. In a way it's kind of one thing, me and her, but she's also very much an individual and very strong. She grows like a tree. She's faceted like a diamond. There's a million sides to Ivy and I just love all of them.
! The Cramps' 10th album, 'Big Beat From Badsville' (Epitaph), is out now. They play the London Astoria, WC2 (0171 434 0403) on Thursday and Friday.
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