Passages: Lux Interior founder of The Cramps

LOS ANGELES — Lux Interior, the singer, songwriter and founding member of the pioneering New York City horror-punk band The Cramps, died early Wednesday. He was 62.

Interior, whose real name was Erick Lee Purkhiser, died at Glendale Memorial Hospital of a previously existing heart condition, his publicist said.

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 band’s antagonistic female guitarist and lack of a bassist quickly set it apart from its downtown peers and upended the traditional rock band sexual dynamic of the flamboyant, seductive female and 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 its 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 the Napa State Mental Hospital in Sacramento.

The band’s influence can be clearly felt among lauded minimalist art-blues bands, including The Black Lips, White Stripes and 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 2006.

Interior was born in Stow, Ohio, on Oct. 21, 1946. 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 his 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.”

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