Social Distortion’s Jonny Two Bags Rides on “Clay Wheels”

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Like many musicians who grew up in Southern California, Jonny Wickersham — better known as Jonny Two Bags — fell in love with the energy and freedom of punk rock. He’s now the guitarist for legendary punk band Social Distortion, but in his free time, Jonny Two Bags likes to chill out with roots-rock.

On his new album Salvation Town, Wickersham indulges in relaxing melodies and acoustic instruments, reminiscing about his glory days and pondering big questions along the way.

“The difference in what I’m doing on this record and what I do when I’m playing punk rock is the type of energy involved and where it’s directed. It’s really fun to be able to focus the energy more into the subtleties of this music,” he tells CMT Edge. “Even though a lot of the record is still very much rock ‘n’ roll, it does involve more dynamics and diversity. That’s really cool to me.”

On “Clay Wheels,” the musician turns the corner toward country music with lonesome accordion while making an interesting comparison between a life out of control and a crappy skateboard.

“It is something I have felt a lot in my life … in a universal way, I guess,” he says. “Just not being able to get to that point where I feel like I really have a handle on things. It’s also partially about a friend of mine who has been living a very crazy life for many years and can’t pull it together.”

Looking back on his own youth, he adds, “I pretty much grew up on a skateboard. The first one I ever had, like many of my friends that are around my age who grew up in SoCal, was a Black Knight. It was a very small deck with cast iron trucks and the wheels were made of clay — basically the second evolution of the skateboard wheel. The first were pulled off roller skates and were made of metal.

“There really wasn’t a lot you could do with that setup. Obviously, skateboarding was still very young, and nobody had invented any real tricks yet. So you could just cruise down the sidewalk doing little tic tacs or try to bomb a hill on the street. But on those clay wheels, anytime you hit a small pebble, that was it. Everything came to a grinding halt, and you were flying through the air.

“The next step in the evolution was urethane wheels, and that was a whole different thing. Now, people were starting to really advance quickly in the sport. So that’s basically the metaphor. Being stuck in some kind of rut, relying on bad habits you can’t shake, being unable to move forward in any way is like riding on clay wheels.

“If you can picture a 46-year-old man trying to pull today’s tricks on one of those Black Knight skateboards,” he concludes, “it would be absolutely ridiculous and sad.”

Meet the fragile character who can’t find his footing in Jonny Two Bags’ “Clay Wheels.”

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