David Lee Beowülf
Hey, it’s not Halloween yet! But I got a head start on everyone a month ago when I, and a couple of other tremendously important “rock journalists,” were invited to an extremely secret scary pre-release listening party at a mad scientist’s laboratory in the caves of Hoboken, New Jersey. The new album, tentatively called Famous Monsters , will be their first on Roadrunner Records and their second original album since the 1997 release of American Psycho .
The story of the Misfits is pretty well-known but deserves a brief retelling as it is an important chapter in the history and evolution of punk rock and heavy metal. (A darn good place to start is http://www.misfits.com, though.) On the punk end of things, the Misfits, founded by Glen Danzig and Jerry Only way the heck back in the era of ’77, played punk rock in the classic style. That is, their sound was a raw, garage-oriented punk that emulated the Stooges. Their first album, Static Age , though recorded in 1978, wasn’t released until 1997. Static Age is an enigma. Had things gone the way perhaps they should have, the Misfits, with their dark, haunting, gritty punk sound would’ve been mentioned in the same sentence as the Damned, the Ramones and Devo — back in the day no less. But it was not to be.
It wasn’t really until 1982, after a series of (depending upon with whom you speak, e.g., Bobby Steele of the Undead) potentially catastrophic line-up changes and a few seven-inch singles, that their first official full-length album, Walk Among Us , was released. Walk Among Us was an album of horror punk, that is, the songs (all written by Glenn Danzig) created a mood of B-movie horror.
After Walk Among Us , the rest is punk rock history.But it’s kind of hard to tell if another “official” Misfits album was released. The EPs Earth A.D. and Die, Die My Darling (they have metal and punk songs) seem to have come out right around the time the band was disintegrating.The band broke up in 1983, and Glenn Danzig took the name and the songs with him. He formed Samhain, which evolved into Danzig. In the late 1980s, Jerry Only, his brother Doyle, and Robo put together a metal act called Kryst the Conqueror, releasing one album that’s darn hard to find.
As the years passed, Jerry Only was engaged in a bloody(well, on paper)lawsuit with Glenn Danzig over the name “Misfits.” In 1995, the name was awarded to Jerry Only (see Ink Nineteen October 1995), who reassembled a new band with Doyle on guitar, Michale Graves on vocals, and Dr. Chud on drums. Since then they’ve had a few ups and downs, but they released an album ( American Psycho ) of original songs, played musical record companies, toured the world at least three times, starred in a movie, and have even released their own line of action figures.
On the other end of things, Glenn Danzig is in hiding, but it’s rumored that he’s putting together a Samhain reunion. We shall see. In other Misfits-related news, Metallica’s latest release of punk rock and NWOBHM covers includes the Misfits’ “Die, Die My Darling,” and amini-medley of “Last Caress” and “Green Hell”(the latter being previously released on Metallica’s 1988 Garage Days Re-Revisited EP).
After listening to the freshest mix of the new album, I spoke with Jerry Only (who says “I just turned 40 and Glenn’s at least four years older than me”) while the rest of the band and others filtered in to get protein shakes, lift weights, work on the final mixes and any remixing needed.
[My tape begins with me talking with Dylan McLaren, who’s responsible for all the Misfits’ live sound.]
I last caught the Misfits in New York City with GWAR at Roseland…
Dylan McLaren : With GWAR, that was the top five. A lot of industry people around me were going nuts because the sound was perfect, with Joey [Ramone] coming out it just made the whole night. How was the sound?
It was OK. Loud.
Dylan : Where were you?
Right up front, about twenty feet from the stage…
Dylan : Don’t get up in the front! They’re 125,000 watts right off the stage! Twenty feet off the stage is great but you’ve got a choice: you can stand up and be battered off the stage by them or you can stand back and listen. The speakers off the floor were killing kids anyway.
I saw the show with Anthrax and Cannibal Corpse in ’96, too.
Dylan : The sound was terrible then! They want to carry a stadium rig no matter where they go. I was the only one who volunteered to master this. It’s a continual war; if you want to get up close you suffer, but stand back and you can hear it. Jerry will come out after the show and talk to any of the kids afterwards so if you want that vibe you can get it. Outdoor shows are tough. 20 feet and up and you’re in the “forbidden zone,” that’s what the new song [see below] should have been about! You get on stage and it’s like having a brain hemorrhage. You spend any amount of time on stage and you come back retarded! Someone has to carry you off!
Ouch! Here’s me and Jerry talking.
If it’s too loud you’re too old.
Jerry Only : When you get a good mix the volume don’t bother you! What did you think of what you heard, the direction?
With American Psycho , I noticed that you’re moving to straight horror instead of the sexual content that Glenn seemed to like. Although those songs, like “Hollywood Babylon,” are great, the lyrical content kind of makes them ugly.
Jerry : It’s funny, when Mike’s [Graves, vocals] not around and we’re rehearsing “Last Caress,” I just leave words out that I don’t like to sing. It’s kind of a shock sell. A lot of the bands today are trying to shock you. With Glenn, I could understand with the sexual stuff, because we were coming from Manhattan and the punk scene in a lot of ways was also a sexual revolution. There was a lot of sex, S&M, and a whole underground scene, Glenn was kind of reflecting off that.
He was into it?
Jerry : No, that would be a funny thing, but he was writing about what was going on around town, the ugliness of it. With American Psycho , we went totally horror. There’s no swear words on the new record. When we worked a toy fair in February, I talked with a guy from Toys-R-Us and he says, “listen, are you guys trying to go mainstream?” and I said, “look we’re not trying to compromise the music and we’re trying to make a great toy, but I guarantee there won’t be any swear words on the record.”I don’t want to write a great song and be a wise guy and say one stupid word that keeps it off the radio. Because if I can write a song and sell it to you without resorting to that it shows much more involvement in thinking about your lyrics and still keeps your interest without being repulsive or vulgar.But that’s what a lot of the kids buy today, stuff that their parents hate. They don’t have to like it. If their parents say it’s bad, they want it…
Let me ask you this: How old is a parent today?
Jerry : About ten years younger than me!
What do you think these people who are parents today were listening to, say, ten years ago?
Jerry : Ha-ha! Well, it’s kind of weird because I would have thought that a lot of the close-minded parents would have been weeded out, but they still seem to find their way into society even after all these years. Buddies of ours, the Insane Clowns, draw well because they’re very shocking.
Are all the songs on the new record are about horror movies?
Jerry : Pretty much.We finally got into a position where I don’t hear about the old band so much and the legacy and all that kind of crap. People are much more interested in the new band, which is where we are today. We want to be living in the now instead of the past. With American Psycho , we had to play it safe and stay within a lot of the borders that people expected us to be in.I think with this album, we tried to do a couple of new things. You wouldn’t hear [excellent power-punk new song] “Descending Angels” on the radio and turn around and say to me “…ah, that’s the Misfits…” You wouldn’t, but it’s a great song. The thing is, you have people now who are willing to hear what we’re writing now. But we also feel that to play a couple of the old songs is very important.
“Vampira” and “Teenagers From Mars” will fit in with the new stuff, I think.
Jerry : I agree. With the new record we took the Misfits and put it on a professional level. If you listen to the sound it sounds like somebody else’s record! Let’s say it, all right?! Instead of our records, which are always like real crass and real just “thrown together,” we’ve had the chance now that we’ve been together for five years to gel and write.The problem with this album was that we didn’t do anything in the last year, we only had three songs and we had to put out an album! I said, “we are in deep shit.” So we all started arguing and yelling at each other, and finally we started banging out the songs. It’s the sophomore’s curse. When you’ve been writing songs all your life and you put out your first album, it’s great, because you’ve had your whole life to write the damn thing. Then you wind up going on the road to promote it, and you don’t write. Then you go home and you’re home for a couple of months and you want to relax since you’ve been on the road for a year. And before you know it, you have very little time to put together your second album and you’re scraping for songs and thinking of what we may have to cover! And this is not where you want to be in your life as far as your career goes: you don’t want to be thinking of covering other people’s songs! So we sat down and said “what do you want to write about?” andDoyle came up with a song about Planet of the Apes that we called “The Forbidden Zone.” Then we wrote “Descending Angels,” which was about the Prophecy movie, which was big. Then we wrote “Them,” something I’ve always wanted to write about [i.e, giant radioactive ants destroying Los Angeles], and I actually drew a logo that uses the Misfits’ lettering, because at that time, I didn’t know if we were going to get the name back.That is, “Them” was going to be an alternative band name, even though Van Morrison used it first! Right, OK, and I was going to call the band “Them,” we didn’t have to do that, thank God, but we did write a song called “Them.” So it was nice, because I got to reflect what I wanted to do with music. It was really funny because all of a sudden these songs started falling.
[Doyle walks in, he’s a large man, as is Jerry. Arms like tree trunks…]
Doyle : They’re ready to kill us. If we suck, we can suck really bad.
The songs are great!
Jerry : What the fuck are these guys?
Doyle : “This ain’t the Misfits…”
Jerry : We play about thirty or more songs at a show. We’ll do “Green Hell,” “Blood Feast.”
Speaking of “Green Hell,” how’s the Metallica connection treating you?
Jerry : It’s great for us. I always say we do stuff better, but you know, we don’t sell as many records doing it better! Glenn made all the money off that. Glenn did really well.We had a buddy of ours who recently passed away, an older guy George Germaine, who lived across the street from us who used to repair our amps. We were at his funeral and we saw Steve Zing from Samhain [drummer and now front man for Chyna], and he said that Glennwanted to get Samhain back together. And Steve said that Glennwas getting ten cents a song off the Metallica record. So thirty cents an album times four million albums is a million two! But that’s what we gave up to get the name.We gave up any publishing rights to get the name of the band.So now we got to go out and do it! But I’d rather be here trying to do something than to sit at home not being able to do anything.
What are your touring plans?
Jerry : We go to Europe, then we do a show with Marilyn Manson in Japan. One show at the base of Mount Fuji! It’s called the “Manson Festival,” and we go on right before him. It’s going to be great. Toys-R-Us Japan was the first to bite at the Misfits’ action figures, and if we can do a couple of in-stores in Japan, that’ll be a great move.
Do you hang out with Marilyn Manson?
Jerry : We did and we didn’t know it was him![Someone says “it was Twiggy”] Oh, it was just Twiggy.We were in Florida, and one of the guys from the band was there.Do you think he’ll lay low with the Denver thing?
I think he’ll capitalize on it like a motherfucker!
Jerry : Well, I know his tour did really bad.
It’s the music…
Jerry :He tried to make the big step into pop music. But his stuff reminds me of the Plasmatics, it’s all shock tactic. But us and Manson is a good bill. We were in Japan in December of ’97 and we did really well, we got on the cover of all three of their major rock magazines. I look at it as more of an angle to promote the band than as a chance to hand Manson his head on a rack! Japan will be really big.Japan is the kind of place whereyou can go and make a lot of money in a short amount of time. Which is the perfect thing to do right around tax time. You know, when you don’t have any money and you need to pay your taxes! You need the money right away! Play in Japan for two weeks, come back, pay your taxes and you’re off the hook! We’ll go a day or two earlier and promote the toy line.
What happened to the Welcome to the Monkey House or whatever it was called movie?
Jerry : It was released in Europe only. Doogie Howser was doing acid and going to titty bars… I brought my kids to the premiere, right? And I’m there with my kids and this chick’s taking off her clothes! Doogie’s doing acid and smoking dope and I’m like “Oh, no!”
Aren’t your kids proud of their father, the moviestar?
Jerry :Well, it’s funny, because the “Dr. Phibes” song from Kryst the Conqueror is the track they use! So it’s Mike singing to Dr. Phibes!We’re in the upcoming Insane Clown movie, and my son plays an altar boy! If you get to see it, my son’s the first guy you see in the movie, it’s in a church…
What do they do in the church?
Jerry : It’s a shoot out. The Insane Clown movie is called Big Time Hustlers , and it’s like a ” Shaft ” ghost coming and help one of the Clowns clean up the neighborhood. They did it up in Harlem and the NYPD had to come down with an arms expert and he fills the guns with the fake charges and they yell “fire in the hole!” The Insane Clowns are really nice guys! Mankind, the wrestler, is in the movie, too. He had no place to stay while we were filming so he stayed in my Winnebago! We got to meet the Jerky Boys, who were really cool, they live by us, too.
No Hollywood offers to do horror movies?
Jerry : I think after this album there will be. We did “Mars Attacks” [on American Psycho ] and we got a nice letter from Tim Burton, who said “hey, great song, but it’s too late, we’re in the final edit.” So we missed out on that, but we tried to do “Scream” last year, but it didn’t pan out. Since we have Zomba publishing with us now, they’re supposed to get out and hustle the songs. The thing that aggravates me is that you got a movie coming out and they don’t want to use our song? That one finally got there ahead of time, which was rare!
I saw you on MTV a year ago reviewing old horror films, that’s got to catch a few eyes in Hollywood…
Jerry : That was a couple of months ago, may daughter came on with me and we were on Jesse’s show. A lot of people don’t know this but I actually discovered Jesse.
It’s your fault?!
Jerry : It is. I’m sorry! Check it out: he’s a nice guy, though! We were playing with Megadeth in Pittsburgh in an ice hockey rink and it’s pouring out. Now, before the show we pull out the weights, put up the tent, start lifting outside. So I’m getting ready to do all this stuff. And there’s some dude standing outside at twelve in the afternoon in the pouring rain. So I go over to the guy, who looks a little fucked up…
Jerry : But, but I can’t leave this guy standing out there. So I say “c’mon in.” And we feed him and he hangs out in the Winnebago all day with us and comes out and sings “Skulls” later on. Hey, by that time, he was my friend! So it winds six months later being the guy who wins the MTV VJ contest! But I don’t remember this guy much. And I keep hearing about “Jesse this” and “Jesse that,” and “Jesse wants you guys on his show,” etc. So, he calls me up — and this was on my daughter’s sixteenth birthday — and they wanted us to come down to the MTV beach house down in Seaside [New Jersey]. And I’m like, shit, I can’t even go if I wanted to. Your daughter’s sweet sixteen birthday is a big thing. So I said to her, “listen, Jesse wants us to come down and be on this beach house. Would you want to do that your birthday?” And she was like “I want to go,” so we dragged all her friends down there and we did a show and I walked up to Jesse and I wanted to not like him at first, after hearing all this stuff about him and I go, “it’s YOU! What are YOU doing here?!” Later on, I’m like, “OK, for me this works.” I thought I was going to go down there and get into an argument with him, but it wasn’t the case. He wound up getting us on that show for my daughter, for which I was very thankful. Then we went back down again last February to review movies. And we wouldn’t have been on MTV if I hadn’t of brought Jesse in the Winnebago!So it worked out. When you’ve got kids and you can do something big for them like that, it’s the coolest thing!Jesse is really, really good. He does things in one take that are fifteen-twenty thoughts, he surprised me. He’s throwing a party for Joey Ramone soon that my daughter’s going to as well. Speaking of that kind of stuff, my son got to cover [Anthrax guitar player] Scott Ian in a basketball game when we were on the road with Anthrax! They beat us in the first game! And I was like “how the hell was this going on?!” [Jerry is well over six feet, Scott, well, he isn’t.] He got to play video games with the guys from Cannibal Corpse, too!
What was touring with Anthrax like?
Jerry : We wanted to go out on the road with SOD, and I hope that goes down. Anthrax is a really great band. Every night they take it to the limit. Every night you try to out do them. They went on tour with Pantera a while ago, which put them in big arenas, which is where Anthrax belongs. We were doing a convention over here a while ago, and I recognized someone in the crowd; if that don’t look like Charlie from Anthrax and he’s all wigged out from partying with Pantera. So I’m like “Charlie, what did they do to you?!” and he was dragging his ass the whole way, and I’m like “you’re nuts to drink with those guys!” We played the Dynamo Festival in Holland with Pantera, and we got there about ten in the morning and the whole back parking lot was filled with vans and buses and everyone was drinking! Pantera was the last act on, but Anthrax was drinking for ten hours!
Now, on your official web site there’s a video of the band playing “The Monster Mash.”
Jerry : Yeah, but it’s not there any more. We got pounded on the internet! We had a provider who charged for everybody’s downloads and we had a million hits in a month! It was a cool video, though. I want to give “The Monster Mash” to Toys R Us at Halloween and donate the proceeds of sales to charity.John Cafiero hooked us up with the movie Mad Monster Party . Heworks below the Rankin/Bass people, and he’s been telling them about us for years, so one day he runs up there and says “we need to cross-promote!” So if you go out and buy a Mad Monster Party video, our video is on there! I have a song called “The Island of Misfit Toys,” it’s a rocking kind of Chuck Berry Christmas tune, and because we dealt with Rankin/Bass, I wanted to use a picture from Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and superimpose the Misfits as puppets. That’s hitting a main artery in American Culture, which is what we’re doing now, aiming for arteries!
You’ve also been seen in the company of a good many professional wrestlers, speaking of American Culture.
Jerry : The wrestling thing is big, and we wanted to cross-promote product wise, but the thing is that the Misfits belong in that kind of thing. We’re a band for kids and adults, because the music is good. I’m forty and can sit here and listen to the songs and say “hey, these are great fucking songs,” but I’m not the guy who goes out there and buys the records. The wrestling connections really strengthen the acceptance of the band in a younger audience without sacrificing the music.We do well live and with merchandise, but we don’t sell the vast amount of records we need to, but this new one should do that. We want to associate the Misfits with well-know things.We’re writing a song for the [wrestling team] Headbangers. I think we should be writing wrestling songs! We also wanted to manage the Undertaker and Mankind when they became a team. I want to wrestle because I’m a fan, even for one day just to say “I did it.” But we’d fare not so well against those guys. They got me by 40-50 pounds!
That’s plenty! Look for their new album in September and watch the skies for any sightings of tour information!