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WARP MAGAZINE (Vol. 6 #1), 4/97

[This article was taken from the April 1997 (Vol. 6 #1) issue of Warp
 magazine (a skateboarding/snowboarding/surfing rag).  All text has been
 preserved in its original form and nothing has been modified.  All text is
 copyright Warp magazine and is credited to the author.]


Words & photography by Miki Vuckovich

Jerry Only - Bass
Michale Graves - Vocals
Doyle - Guitar
Dr. Chud - Drums

"It started with a twisted dream and ended with the world in heat." --
 Misfits   poster, 1978

        When the Misfits broke up in 1983, the world had yet to recognize
 them for what they were: a band - an act - so unique, so calculated, and so
 prodigal that only years after they broke up did the rest of the world
 finally come to its senses.  Few bands have been so fervently collected,
 and so prolifically bootlegged.  The Misfits became an underground legend,
 the mystique compounded by their early demise.
        Well in advance of the pop-wave of the 90s, the Misfits were
 producing their own brand of schlock-pop punk rock - blending biting
 guitar, pounding bass, tom-heavy drums, and howling vocals into a cavalcade
 of catchy riffs, tribal beats, and sing-along verses.  With their
 monster-movie motif, spooky lyrics, and sheer mass (the Misfits - gasp -
 worked out), they had trouble finding their place in a scene intolerant of
 "rock-star" imagery and still swimming in the monotony of buzz-saw guitars
 and screaming political diatribes. The Misfits did their own thing, and the
 world would have to take it or leave it.

"This street we walk upon
this corner full of piss and fear

This street won't bear it long
It slants, it tilts, it's brought outside

-- "Cough/Cool"

        By the time the Misfits formed in 1977, New York City had already
 put a number of theatrical rock acts on the musical map: the New York
 Dolls, Iggy Pop, Kiss.  The young three-piece from neighboring Lodi, New
 Jersey got busy and in just a few months put out the jazzy "Cough/Cool"
 seven inch, where silky vocals and electric piano betrayed the (much) more
 emphatic guitar and screaming vocal style they'd introduce with their
 second EP, Bullet (1978).  Released on their own Plan 9 label, this record
 established what was to become the definitive Misfits sound and format. 
 For the next four years the Misfits would be available exclusively in the
 seven inch format. 

"I walk down city streets
On an unsuspecting human world
Inhuman in your midst ... This world
Is mine to own"

-- "I Turned Into A Martian"

        The band would also go through a number of lineup changes with
 singer Glenn Danzig and bassist Jerry Only surviving a cast of guitarists
 and drummers before settling down with Jerry's brother Doyle on guitar and
 a fellow named Googy on drums.  In 1982 the band ventured West, bringing
 with them recordings for a new album - their debut LP, Walk Among Us.  With
 a record sleeve crammed with lyrics and photos, the world finally had proof
 that these guys were serious about this stuff.  Their menacing looks,
 however, coupled with sometimes tongue-in-cheek lyrics and their musical
 assault, obscured their true intent.  The Misfits were about having a good
 time, but those ofus scarred for life by Kiss' descent into disco
 couldn't see past the makeup and costumes.
        The Misfits endured hardcore's heyday as punk rock's monster squad,
 a band whose cult following - a pseudo-secret coven known as the Fiend Club
 - inspired them to write, record, and tour.  The Fiends were privy to an
 exclusive catalog of EPs and merchandise now very much sought after, and
 the band reciprocated their devotion with blistering performances that
 weren't always tight, but were always inclusive and interactive. 
 Chorus-friendly lyrics and a singer who spent more time in the front row
 than on stage made for one hell of a good time, if not a clean performance.
  But that's what the records were for, any true Fiend would tell you.

"Oh, boom when you feel like you're
going too slow
I bet you're gonna like it in
A.D., A.D.
People gonna talk about
A.D., A.D.
Living hell is not so bad"

-- "Earth A.D."

        With 1983's Earth A.D., the Misfits took one step further out on the
 long twisted limb upon which they were perched.  Googy was replaced by
 Black Flag drummer Robo, and even Fiends were baffled by what was to become
 the seminal speed-metal album.  It was a new, blatantly noisy direction for
 the band, completely devoid of the catchy melodies that were the guts of
 their otherwise explosive music.  Compared to Walk Among Us, Earth A.D. was
 demonic.  Even the lyrics spoke more directly to topics like possession,
 cannibalism, murder, and - of course - death.  It was no longer about fun
 and games.
        Earth A.D. was the Misfits' last record to be released before they
 broke up on Halloween.  Of course a slew of albums, CDs, and now the
 complete box-set collection have come out since, but without live
 performances - the participation - these releases are just relics of a
 legend come and gone.
        We all know what became of Glenn Danzig.  He went on to become a
 full-fledged heavy-metal icon, and currently holds title to all original
 Misfits music.  Since the breakup, the other members seemed to have either
 fallen off the face of the Earth of relegated themselves to a quiet life in
 the New Jersey countryside.  Actually they've been in court, fighting Glenn
 for the right to use the Misfits name.  Ten years and several thousand
 dollars later, they've reached a settlement - Glenn owns all the music
 publishing rights, and Jerry Only gets the name and the logo.  "A lot of
 people told me, 'Hey, there's a lot of money in music publishing,' and all
 this kind of stuff," says Jerry.  "And I said to them, 'Look, there're two
 things in this world: there's the guy who can go out and play the music,
 and then there's the guy who gets the check in the mail for the music.' 
 When Guns 'N' Roses or Metallica play my stuff and I don't like the way
 they did it, I don't want no fuckin' money for that." 
        The band now earns its keep via performing live and selling
 merchandise.  While they develop material for a new album, the Misfits are
 restricted from recording or videotaping any of the music now owned by
 Glenn - effectively being locked out of their past.  Undaunted, Jerry
 focuses on what's ahead of the band, rather than dwelling on its sometimes
 brutal legacy.  "We are forced to go forward," he says.  "We cannot step
 back into the past."
        With the path now open and their mission clear, Jerry and Doyle can
 finally don their guitars and makeup once again, Dr. Chud can sit behind
 the towering drum kit where so many have sat before him, and 21-year-old
 Michale Graves can stand on hallowed ground - center stage - where Glenn
 Danzig once stood and delivered the verses he wrote.
        For the time being, the Misfits' performances are dominated by the
 songs of yore, Glenn's lyrics, and much of Glenn's music.  But some new and
 promising material is making its way onto the band's set list, and Jerry
 says the creative process can continue: "When we used to write with Glenn,
 we would work on something together so everybody would have their input. 
 Without knowing who the singer or who the drummer was, me and Doyle could
 have sat there and wrote the next ten fuckin' Misfits albums.  But without
 everybody's input, it really doesn't feel like your stuff."
        The Misfits' live show is still a visual feast of amplifiers,
 skulls, leather, face paint, devilocks, and muscle.  The music is as fast
 and loud as ever, and 37-year-old Jerry and 32-year-old Doyle race around
 the stage nonstop, pausing between songs just long enough for Jerry to
 count off one-two-three-four!
        "The one thing we got is that we're hungry for it," says Jerry.  "If
 you look at a lot of people who have gone through the scene with us,
 they're no longer hungry for it - a lot of them are just going through the
        If the Misfits are just "going through the motions," then the
 motions would have to include not just the very animated live show, but
 everything that goes into it.  Jerry and Doyle build almost all of their
 own equipment: their guitars, amps, and drums.  Their family's Vernon, New
 Jersey tool-and-die shop is the Misfits' sound lab, where they play with
 concepts and design their instruments with unique materials and properties.
  The guitars are made from graphite, Doyle's amplifiers are completely
 built from scratch, and Jerry's SVT bass cabinets have been totally
        The drums are another work of art.  "We have a 32-inch bass drum,"
 says Jerry.  "We have Robo's original 28 mounted inside of a 32, then we
 got the big spikes that go around the front with the name on it.  Then the
 two floor toms - each one is two 22-inch bass drums strapped together.  So,
 our drums are theoretically twice as big as anybody else's, since each drum
 is a double drum.  We use bass drums for floor toms."
        Despite the wasted time and lots friendships, Jerry doesn't regret
 the fact that he and Glenn couldn't settle their differences and keep it
 together all this time: "What happened had to happen, I wouldn't go back in
 time and keep this band together, I would have broken it up.  Whether it
 would have been down as long as it was is quite another story, but at the
 same time, Michale walked into the place, and he was nineteen.  So if we
 would have come up with someone sooner, Michale obviously wouldn't have
 been our singer.  We would've had somebody else, and maybe we were meant to
 wait for Mike."
        Consensus among fans is that the new guy is pulling it off.  He
 sings well, puts out for the entire set, and his youth adds a vitality to
 the band that many older groups don't have.  He's not Glenn Danzig, but
 maybe that's just as well.  Jerry seems sincere in his belief that with
 Michale and Chud, the Misfits are finally complete.  "Everybody's got their
 potential," he says, "and if we all live up to our potential, we're gonna
 be better than we are now, which is better than we were.  We'll hit that
 level of greatness that I know we can hit.  And it's not how many records
 we sell, and it's not how many gigs we play, or how many songs we play in a
 set.  If we hit our potential, we'll be the best band of all time.  And
 that's my goal.  So, you know, we're hungry.  I think that's the most
 important thing.  I think that most of the bands are really great until
 they make it, and then they get ruined because all of a sudden it's not
 about music anymore, it's always about fuckin' money.  And that's the
 problem.  I hope we never get like that.  I really hope."
        The twisted dream lives on.

        Check out the Misfits online:

        Misfits Fiend Club Homepage

        Caroline Records Misfits Homepage