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Bass Player Magazine
February '97

Jerry Only: Back From The Dead by S.L. Duff

     Few careers in the horror business known as rock & roll have been as
singularly bizarre as that of the Misfits.  Their early records-
self-released singles dating back to 1977- combined a dirtier Ramones
blitzkrieg bluster with songwriter Glenn Danzig's ghoulish lyrics and
baritone bravado.  The Misfits' swan song, Earth A.D. [Plan 9/Caroline],
became a how-to for the thrash generation, and the band's standing was
further boosted by Metallica's covers of "Last Caress" and "Green Hell"
[Garage Days Re-Revisited, Elektra], as well as Metallica guitarist James
Hetfield's frequent appearances in a 'Fits T-shirt.  The fact is the Misfits
became far better known long after they broke up in '83.  Today, bassist
Jerry Only has managed to bring the Misfits back from the dead, while at the
same time staying true to his non-rock career.
     Although Only and Danzig both lived in their respective parents' Lodi,
New Jersey, basements during the band's original incarnation, the two
founding members have led very different lives since the Misfits's demise.
 Danzig has had a celebrated career, first with Samhain and then with his own
band, Danzig.  Though Glenn remains tight-lipped about his Misfits days, he's
kept control of the group's ongoing posthumous output of releases on his Plan
9 label.
     Jerry, however, all but retired from music after the Misfits broke up.
With the exception of 1989's Deliver Us from Evil [Cyclopean] by the
short-lived Kryst The Conqueror, Only was missing in action from the rock
scene.  With his brother Doyle- the most well known of the three guitarists
who passed through the Misfits' revolving ranks- he bought and continues to
run a machine shop in New Jersey.  At 37, Jerry is married, with a
14-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son.
     Fourteen years after the ghoulish gawdfadahs split up, Jerry and Doyle's
newly reformed Misfits include new drummer Dr. Chud and 21-year-old vocalist
Michael Graves, who maintains the difficult Danzig vocal sound without
becoming a slave to it.  The band has successfully toured Europe, and in the
U.S. they've headlined large clubs with Anthrax as their support band.  The
reincarnated group is powerful and entertaining, delivering a knockout
90-minute set of all the fans' fave 'Fits hits.  Currently the foursome is
squaring away the details of a new record deal; meanwhile, Plan 9 distributor
Caroline has issued The Misfits, a four-CD box set (in a coffin, of course)
containing 104 songs- virtually every note the band recorded, with the
exception of 1982's Walk Among Us [Ruby/Slash].
     Only has also started using his machine shop to develop prototype basses
and guitars- some of which he's been taking on the road.  "We've been working
on guitars for about seven years now," he explains.  "Originally, I would buy
used Rickenbackers; I was running through them like water, just smashing them
them up and gluing them back together.  So I started thinking about it: I've
got a machine shop, and I've got the facilities to do the job myself.  Why
not design my own?"
     The new instruments are based on the flamboyant and ornate (to put it
mildly) design for which Only is famous: a bat-winged, skull-headed bass
thing.  Jerry calls his creation the Devastator; Doyle's companion guitar is
called the Annihilator.  The elaborate body wings are bolted on to the sides
of the neck, and they're interchangeable.  "Eventually I want to make a
system that's a slide-on dovetail," Jerry details.  "The neck will have a
dovetail, so you can just push a button and slide the body parts right off."
     "This one has no control knobs," Only points out on one of his
prototypes.  "Control knobs do nothing but cause resistance.  I decided I
shouldn't have resistance from a bunch of knobs I crank up anyway.  They're
all flat out."
     Jerry's graphite-neck bass has a cutaway that allows access to 29 frets
on the G string.  "I don't play that high myself, but I didn't design it just
for me," he says.  "There will probably be some jazz musicians who will use
it for riffs and slides."  Whether jazz cats will go the bat-winged distance
is debatable- but Only's intentions are sincere.  Gothic Guitars may be
taking over production, and Only's designs could be on music-shop walls
within a year.
     After he show's off his creations, Jerry hits the stage rocking,
following a five-minute projected video horror anthology set to a loop of the
Misfit classic "Halloween."  Only blasts his thick, midrange-heavy sound
through four Ampeg SVT 8x10 cabs powered by four Acoustic 370 heads.
 "They've got the real crunchy middle," he remarks.  "I'm pushin' about 1600
watts at about 122 db.  That's where I hover."  Indeed, Jerry puts a new
slant on the concept of a "power trio."
     Only's shirtless, ghoul-eyed image contrasts sharply with that of a
thirtysomething family man crafting stat-of-the-art instruments and running a
machine shop.  The irony is by no means lost on him- nor is that of the
band's resurrection.  He grins, "It's kind of funny- stoneage band has
stellar technology and moves forward in the universe."