It was a dark and gloomy night. As if manipulated by an unknown entity, the mass of destruction rolled across the skies in reaction to the baneful yet legendary union that was soon to form. The fury hurled fierce lightning and thunder but ceased its advance when it found its destination and the reason for its creation: a small town in New Jersey called Lodi. It was on that night in the summer of 1977, that the Misfits were born. Taking the title of Marilyn Monroe's last movie as their name in a move to immortalize her image - singer Glenn Danzig and bassist Jerry Only along with drummer Manny, set out to make an impression. They wound up making history.
Their music was primitive, punk-style rock harsh and to-the-point. What separated the band from their hard-core peers, however, was their inspired fixation on horror movies. They created a total world from their passion for the genre. From the B-movie-style artwork, to the band's appearance - with their slick, black devil locks - to the Fiend (a skull head that became the official symbol of the group) painted on leather jackets, boots, and equipment, the Misfits cast a fiendish aura of mystery embodied by goulish charm and landed themselves a massive cult following. Two decades later, the Misfits are back. Their last album, AMERICAN PSYCHO was released in May of 1997 on Geffen Records. It re-established them as one of the most aggressive outfits in music and spoke volumes about their influence on many of today's rock acts.
From neo-punk bands Green Day, Rancid and Blink 182 to metal acts Metallica, Pantera and Slayer to hard rockers such as Marilyn Manson, White Zombie and Rage Against The Machine, the Misfits have inspired many musicians and much of the music people are watching on TV and hearing on the radio today. In order to fully understand the significance of the MISFITS, however, it is important to trace the band's history back to the beginning. Casting their spell on the masses with that first, pre-guitar recording of the 7-inch single "Cough/Cool," released on their own Blank Records, the Misfits began making plans to record a full-length album. The band was offered free studio time under the stipulation that they change the name of their label due to the pre-existence of a Blank Records. The Misfits agreed, renamed their label Plan 9, and recorded (but never released) their first LP, STATIC AGE, in 1978. Lineup changes followed and by early 1980, the band coalesced around co-founders, singer Glenn Danzig and bassist Jerry Only along with guitarist Doyle Von Frankenstein (Jerry's youngest brother).
From early 1978 to 1983, the Misfits spawned a rampage of singles, EP's, a live album and two other full-length LP's: WALK AMONG US (1982) and Earth A.D. / WOLF*S BLOOD (1983). But then, after a Halloween show in 1983, the Misfits broke up. Nonetheless, the fans spoke - the band's posthumous popularity exploded with a force that slit the throat of logic. Original Plan 9 releases began to fetch inordinate sums with 45's earning to this day as much as $1000 each. Two compilations, LEGACY OF BRUTALITY (1986) and MISFITS (1987), an unofficial greatest hits, fueled the Misfits fever. Also keeping the Misfits flame burning was the band's genius for inspiring collectability of anything *Misfit,* making them a phenomenon in pop culture. To interpret their musical treatment of horror and gore, they have used over time a wide array of contemporary visual artists including Basil Gogos (renown for his classic covers of Famous Monsters Magazine), Jurek (who won design awards for his airbrush work of Jim Morrison and Jimi Hendrix), Ed Repka, Boris Vallejo, and Pushead.
Since 1995, the Misfits have released a new T- shirt design every 6 weeks driving collectability. Also available and highly prized among fans, are singles, key chains, skeleton gloves, arm bands (as made famous by Doyle), wall plaques, and collectible model kits - the Jerry kit figurine has just been unveiled. Asked why this hunger for all things Misfits endured, bassist Jerry Only ventures: "If you look at what was happening with music in the '80s, a lot of it didn't make sense. I think we filled a niche we stuck to what we did, and we did it well. We never tried to pull something over on people - we just tried to entertain 'em while rocking 'em real hard. Besides, I think the love of the horror art form has endured." The Misfits and their 10,000 strong fan club (dubbed the Fiend Club) were instrumental in petitioning and seeking approval for the 1997 release of the U.S. Monster Stamp series which among others, featured Bela Lugosi Sr., (Dracula) and Boris Karloff (Frankenstein).
And it was Karloff's daughter, Sara, who in full support of the band offered clearance for the use of clips from the classic "The Bride of Frankenstein," in their first video ever, "Dig Up Her Bones," the first single off AMERICAN PSYCHO. As Misfits mania continued into the 1990's, Metallica emerged as one of the band's strongest supporters citing the Misfits as a key influence on their music, wearing their T-shirts on stage and even covering one of their songs "Last Caress." Also jumping on the bandwagon was Guns N' Roses who covered "Attitude," and the Lemonheads with "Skulls." In February 1997, Caroline Records released VIOLENT WORLD: A TRIBUTE TO THE S, which featured Misfits material interpreted by the likes of Therapy?, Goldfinger, Pennywise, NOFX, Prong and Sick of it All. The growing legion of Misfits fans could only wonder - what had become of the band? Glenn Danzig had moved on to a new outfit, SAMHAIN, and later to fame with the band DANZIG. For nine years, Jerry and Doyle pursued the rights to the Misfits name. Commenting on his resolve to reclaim the Misfits moniker, Jerry said "I didn't know how long it was going to be before I could get the Misfits back on track, but I was going to keep trying because I knew what we had was something special." Misfits once again in January 1995, Jerry and Doyle set out to find a singer.
After some 200 auditions and many months later, Michael Graves (ex-Valmont) was awarded the job of singer in October. "We were particularly impressed by his aggressive, maniacal ways but at the same time his vocals were real melodic," says Jerry. Drummer Dr. Chud (formerly of Dan Kidney, Sacred Trash and Sardonica) had been asked to join the band two years earlier. Aside from an inventive approach to music and its visual presentation, their all-encompassing DIY mentality was and continues to be their strong suit. From their Misfits compound in the far reaches of North Jersey which includes even a family owned machine shop business, they craft their own instruments: guitars and bass down to the studded leather straps. Chud makes his own drum sticks. Creativity rules as they design and construct on site their own elaborate stage sets and wide array of infamous props. In 1996, on their first world tour in over 13 years, the Misfits demonstrated renewed vigor with shows even more spontaneous and incendiary than those of the earlier Misfits. Armed with their self-crafted instruments, Jerry and Doyle were wild wolves, thrashing and crashing.
Already having proven his vocal skills, Michael displayed a dynamic stage presence (he's been known to climb venue walls without ever missing a lyric). Dr. Chud proved himself "a master behind the drum kit," as Jerry calls him. And new songs like "Mars Attacks," "Blacklight," "The Haunting," and "The Hunger" (all of which appear on AMERICAN PSYCHO ) thrilled the faithful. The year 1995 saw two monstrous Misfits releases from Caroline Records: COMPILATION II and a coffin-shaped box set comprising virtually the band's entire output including their previously unreleased first album, STATIC AGE.
For the many who snapped up these older collections, learning that the Misfits would soon be recording and releasing the new material was a more than welcome surprise. In December 1996, the Misfits recorded basic tracks for AMERICAN PSYCHO at Woodstock, N.Y.'s Dreamland Recording Studio in just two and a half weeks. As with every other album they had recorded in the past, Jerry and Dr. Chud laid down the rhythm tracks in just two days (that's 17 album cuts, B-sides and bonus tracks). The album was produced by Daniel Rey, who is known for his extensive collaboration with the Ramones. Andy Wallace (Nirvana, Rage Against the Machine, Slayer) mixed. "We had 35 songs to choose from," Jerry recounts. "We narrowed those down and then really analyzed what we were doing. We tightened everything up as much as possible. Sticking to our punk roots, the longest song on the album is three minutes and nine cuts are under two. We've still got the classic backup vocals, the '50s sounding chord progressions, the different beats - 4/4 time can turn into a major thrash beat in the same song. But the sound of our instrumentation is so much better than on our previous records. We worked really hard."
Thematically, AMERICAN PSYCHO is a return to time-honored Misfits concerns: "Vampires, monsters, alien invasion, Frankenstein - we are the Misfits after all," warns Jerry. Of the band's refusal to address weightier issues, he explains: "People who buy our records and come to see us perform - from the guy all the way back in the balcony, to the guy getting his head banged around in the front - they come to have a good time. And we make sure they do you can hear about social and political issues somewhere else. See, when you come to a Misfits show, you get a bunch of guys who go out there and give 110 percent (they've been known to rip through 55 songs a night) take it or leave it. That's what we have always been. At a show, everyone's just part of the crowd there's no them and us - we're all us."
This fits with what Jerry says is the key to the new Misfits: team effort. All the band members participated in the writing of AMERICAN PSYCHO. "When we decided to come out and play as the Misfits again," Jerry says, "it was going to be all about the new band, taking what we had that was special and moving it forward without sacrificing what we knew the fans would want. It was great having everyone bring something to the table." "We've survived for 20 years," Jerry reflects. "Maybe the times have caught up with us. And 40 years from now, people will still be playing our albums because we won't water down what we do. Our goal is to keep perspective on who we are and where we're going. When we started playing out, we were surprised to see how many fans, young and old still go nuts for the Misfits. It shows that we have a very strong following and we can still stay true to ourselves and grow as a band."
The band signed to ROADRUNNER Records in September of 1998 and are all set to record their first effort for the label. This follow-up to AMERICAN PSYCHO is due in the second quarter of 1999! So with that, kill the lights, let the candles burn behind the pumpkins' mischievous grins, and let the skeletons dance. For one thing is certain, The Misfits have returned and once again everyday is Halloween.