Interview: Richard Dev Greene of Pale Moon Gang Talks New Single “Strongest Dream” and Opening for Legendary Punk Bands Like The Clash

Luke Miller and Richard Dev Greene of Pale Moon Gang started out as two old-school, New York punks with a bad attitude. Back in the ‘80s, Greene played in the band Pale Face of Youth, a punk band who, after being spotted at a show at the legendary CBGB in New York, were given the opportunity to open for their idols: the one, the only, The Clash. This led to other opening gigs for big names including Public Image Limited, Billy Idol, The Cramps, and even the original punk band themselves, The Ramones.

That was when Greene met Miller and, eventually, recruited him into the band. But, at the time, the drug use and bitter arguments got in the way and, once the band’s management declared Greene and Miller “unmanageable,” the band split up and the pair didn’t talk for a long time. That was until 2004 when they reunited to form a new band, or perhaps an extension of the old band, called Pale Moon Gang.

Pale Moon Gang put out their self-titled debut album in 2006, playing off the original punk sound that Greene and Miller knew from their CBGB days. Recently, the band became active again and recorded a bunch of material right before the pandemic. They gave us a little taste of what’s to come with their new song “Strongest Dream” that was released February 24, a psychedelic bluesy rock tune that still shows evidence of this having once been a punk band. What will come of the rest of the material they recorded remains somewhat of a mystery.

Richard Dev Greene took some time out of being a bona fide living piece of rock history to sit down and talk with us about the new single, his relationship with Luke Miller, and the experience of opening up for the only band that mattered, The Clash.

Let’s start by talking about your new single “Strongest Dream” because you just put that out. What is that about, exactly? And how did it come about?

This is always happening, but in the past couple of years (especially), you see these people who other people are blindly following. It happens in all walks of life. It could be a rock singer, it could be a religious figure, could be Donald Trump, which is the most insane example. So it inspired me to write that song. Obviously, the, the character in the song is not a politician, but they have a lot of ideas of how this other person should be, and the other person is falling in line.

That’s the theme of the song. If you don’t know who you are or what you believe in, somebody can easily fill that in for you. And that can be, in some ways, good, but, a lot of times, it’s really not good. So really, the song is (saying to) beware of charismatic leaders who often don’t know what the hell they believe in, but they just have confidence in a vision, a dream that they have. It’s not necessarily a consistent idea, as we see with many fucking people, but that’s what the song is about.

It seems like you have a punk rock pedigree, but then I listen to the song and it’s got a little bit more of a blues-rock vibe.

Yeah, that first record, that was definitely more inspired by the late 70s/early 80s New York punk rock. We opened for The Ramones and a lot of those early bands. So that album was very much inspired by that kind of rock. We basically recorded a whole new record before the pandemic, a whole album. But I don’t really know how to market the whole album. And I think it’s a mistake because you just put one thing out and that’s it. So I’m going to put out singles.

But the sound of the (new material), I wanted it to be different. There’s no point in doing the same thing again. So I thought of it as a psychedelic blues riff that doesn’t repeat very much. It’s not a traditional song with a chorus. It was just a spontaneous recording with the guitar, because I have a certain way of playing guitar. Luke, that driving bass riff that he plays in it, we just started playing that fundamental riff at a rehearsal and I thought it was not really like other things we usually do. So that’s one of the reasons I wanted to do it.

So you’re not going to be putting out another full-length?

I don’t know. I want to see how putting out a few of the songs as singles works, and maybe then at the end put the whole thing out. Or maybe just put out singles; I’m not sure. I mean, I would prefer to just put out an album, but it’s just hard to get attention for a whole album. It seems like people listen to it and then your cycle of promoting it ends. We do have a whole record’s worth of songs. And they’re different. (On) the first album, it’s more about the bass lines he wrote, so they’re more rhythmically-oriented tracks. Luke writes a lot of bass licks. And even on the first record that’s true, (but) this one is more so more based on his stuff than the guitar.

Is that why it’s been 18 years since the last album?

(laughs) No, it’s been 18 years, because we don’t get along that well in a band, including in the 80s. But that was more about drugs and alcohol, I got to admit, in the first band, although there’s been relapse situations. So Luke and I have a contentious relationship. We did get back together; we put out that first record; we started recording new music, and we really disagreed on the direction of the first round of stuff. I didn’t speak to him for three years. It’s ridiculous. But there’s no good reason why except that we just don’t get along. But now that we’re older, he’s been clean for at least five or six years now, and the kind of crazy fights we’d get into are not happening anymore. He’s got twins; he’s growing up. I don’t have any twins; I am my own child, and (I) figured out how to parent myself.

You jumped into what I was going to ask next, and that’s fine, but I was going to talk about how your relationship with Luke has evolved over the years, because you said you met when you were 14?

Yeah, we met at St. Mark’s Bar and Grill, we actually got in a little confrontation. And that dissipated quickly because we were just very similar types people. They had an old jukebox, and they had a lot of punk rock. And this is 1983, I think. So that was a punk bar, it was on the corner of St. Mark’s and 1st Avenue.

(Luke) wasn’t in the band yet and he didn’t even play bass yet. But what he would do is come to all our shows and tell people he’d meet when he wasn’t at our shows that he was in the band, which he wasn’t. And (people said) “I met your bass player, Luke!” I’m like, “No, Chris is the bass player.” This went on for a while. And then we had a meeting with Robin Danar, who was producing our demos, this guy who was a sound guy at CBGB. We had a meeting, and only me and the guitar player showed up. Chris, the bass player, and the drummer did not show up. So I fired them immediately. If you didn’t show up, then I had no room for you.

So, obviously, Luke was ready. “Oh, I’ve been working on the bass,” and he actually turned out to be a good bass player. Weirdly, he just took to it real fast, and he was in the band in a matter of months. He just was a natural bass player and really good on stage as a performer. So, there’s some video of that band on YouTube doing (The Stooges’) “Raw Power” with Luke and me from 1988 at CB(GB).

Then he got heavily into heroin. He was like 16 or 17. And he didn’t show up at a rehearsal once. He was very into the band, so, when he didn’t show up for the rehearsal, I was like, “What the fuck man?” I was pissed that he overdosed in a shooting gallery. So he was fucking dead. They brought him back with an electrocardiogram thing. But of course, he went right back to doing drugs for a few years. So that band ended with problems.

And we played many of the best shows where we weren’t even speaking to each other. But we were good on stage, and we would relate on stage singing the same mic. The energy was good, but I just wouldn’t talk to him the minute we get offstage. Now that can’t last for a long time because we had managers at the time, and they basically gave up on trying to manage us. But we’re not like that now. We’re much more together like reasonable people.

You opened for a lot of big-name bands like The Clash and The Ramones. What was your favorite one to open for?

I’d have to say The Clash, because the best band I ever saw live was The Clash. I saw the first couple of tours they did in ’79 and ’78, and then at Bonds (International Casino in New York City). I saw them every time they came to New York, but we got to open for them on that last “Out of Control” tour. We did three shows, which was because we were playing CB(GB) and somebody was booking that tour (who) just happened to see us. We played there all the time. But I was living with my mom, I come home and my mom’s like, “Carol called from CB(GB)s. She wants to know if you guys are interested in opening for The Clash.”

I noticed in your bio, it mentioned that it was what became The Clash’s farewell tour. Does that mean Cut the Crap-era Clash?

That’s right. So it was Joe (Strummer), Paul (Simonon), (Nick) Sheppard and (Pete Howard), so it wasn’t with Mick Jones, yeah. But, live, the band still kicked butt. It was before the record came out. There’s a song called (“Are You Red…y”) that they would open with live, and it was pure punk, like something from the second Clash album, really hard. And then that album came out and they had turned it all into computer synth shit with drum machines and stuff. And I was like, “What the fuck?” And Joe was like, “Yeah, this records sucks,” and he just disbanded the whole thing right after that. He let their manager produce the album.

Bernie Rhodes, I know. He wanted to be in the band at that point.

I think he always wanted to be in the band. But Joe realized he fucked up and it was too late.

So I know that wasn’t the original band with Mick and Topper, but Joe was still great and Paul and the guys they had backing them up were really good. And Kosmo Vinyl (the Clash’s on-again-off-again manager) says right before we go on stage. “I just know you guys are going to get booed off the stage. You might get two songs in.” We played our whole set at every show, so I know we were doing something right.

Billy Idol. We used to see Billy Idol before “Rebel Yell” came out. He just used to go to clubs; he was always at Peppermint Lounge or Danceteria to see other bands like The Cramps playing. He’s in the audience all decked out. So he kind of knew us. So when we got to open for him, that was that was fun because he gave us a trailer loaded with beer and stuff. He was generous. He’s a very easy, very cool guy, actually. So that was fun.

The Ramones experience was weird because I was really excited to do it. It was out at a club in Long Island called Heartbeat late 84/early 85, I can’t remember the exact date. And backstage the vibe was very down. They’re just eating pizza, smoking weed, and not talking to each other. Smoking weed to play that music seemed weird to me. I was like, “I wonder if they’re going to be any good?”

That’s such a classic, old-school punk mentality of being like, “You can’t smoke weed because it’s punk!”

(laughs) If I did that, I wouldn’t be able to play that music that well. People slag on the Ramones, (but) it’s really difficult to play that constant energy for 40 minutes. Hardcore bands obviously do it, but it’s not that easy to do. So they were fucking amazing though. They were great. One of the best shows I ever saw. I was dancing for the whole show. It was like, “Wow, the Ramones, man! That weed really worked.” Yeah, it was fucking great.

But I didn’t know really what was going on. I heard they had problems but, that movie, End of the Century that came around 1999-2000, it was the story of the Ramones, basically. It went into the whole thing about Johnny stealing Joey’s girlfriend early on and how they basically didn’t speak to each other for 20 fucking years. I didn’t know the level of what was going on. But when I heard that I was like, “Oh, that explains the heavy, weird vibe.” It wasn’t a fun feeling backstage but, live, they were great.

So you just put out the single and you said you’re not quite sure how you’re going to release the rest of it. Do you have any plans near future?

We’ll see because it takes a lot of dough to promote stuff these days. And hopefully, we can get the labels to put something out because we haven’t put out a record in years. So we need to get some interest in the thing and see how it goes. We’re just going to keep putting out singles, basically. So look for our YouTube thing. We’ll try to make a video for this song as soon as possible. And keep on playing, keep on doing what we do, get back into it.

Follow Pale Moon Gang on Facebook for future updates.

Photo courtesy of Moon Gang 

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