Lux Interior, the frontman for iconic punk band the Cramps, died today, February 4th, at the Glendale Memorial Hospital in Glendale, California. Interior, born Erick Lee Purkhiser, was 62 and is survived by his wife of 37 years, Cramps guitarist Kristy “Poison Ivy Rorschach” Wallace. In a statement released by the band’s publicist, a preexisting heart condition is named as the cause of death.
The Cramps first made their mark in the mid-1970s, when Interior, Poison Ivy and a revolving door rhythm section frequented the stages at famed New York punk clubs like CBGB and Max’s Kansas City alongside artists like Television, the Ramones, Blondie and Patti Smith. The band eventually recruited drummer Nick Knox in 1977, who remained with the group until 1991. During those years, the Cramps were credited with creating both the term and musical style “psychobilly,” a synthesis of punk rock and rockabilly that was gloriously raw and over the top. Their lyrics examined American culture at its most campy, often citing bad jokes, science fiction films and sexual fetishes.
The Cramps went on to record singles with Big Star’s Alex Chilton and signed to I.R.S. Records in 1977. But it was the stage where the band truly made its name, with Interior grabbing the spotlight with Iggy Pop-esque antics. The band famously played a free show for the patients at the California State Mental Hospital in 1978, which was probably their perfect venue. “Somebody told me you people are crazy, but I’m not so sure about that. You seem to be all right to me,” Interior screamed from the stage (watch footage from the gig above).
In his 1984 review of Cramps comp Bad Music For Bad People, Kurt Loder wrote, “This is rock & roll the way it never really was on the radio, but the way you always dreamed it could be — drooling horrorama lyrics, great cheesoid guitar riffs, postlobotomy drum-bashing and a singer for whom inhibition is the dirtiest ten-letter word of all. Slurp it up, sleaze fans.”
The Cramps released classics like 1979’s Songs the Lord Taught Us and 1981’s Psychedelic Jungle. The group’s last album of new material was 2003’s Fiends of Dope Island. Over the years, the Cramps’ music has been covered by the Jesus & Mary Chain, Queens of the Stone Age and the countless more bands the Cramps inspired.
“Lux was a fearless frontman who transformed every stage he stepped on into a place of passion, abandon, and true freedom. He is a rare icon who will be missed dearly,” the statement reads. “The family requests that you respect their privacy during this difficult time.”