Q&A: Jerry Only of The Misfits: "A lot of Punk and Metal Bands Came From Our Loins."
In various incarnations over the course of three decades, New Jersey's The Misfits have made a mark in the history of punk rock. Starting way back in 1977, singer Glenn Danzig and bassist Jerry Only had a vision of combining punk rock's roar with imagery from horror movies. What they did was create the horror punk sub-genre.
The Misfits' 1982 effort, Walk Among Us, remains one of the greatest punk rock albums ever made. Featuring Danzig's talented bellowing, songs like "I Turned into a Martian" and "Devil's Whorehouse" never descended into campy schlock. Instead, those songs and many others have influenced Metallica, Guns N' Roses and countless other metal and punk acts.
The original band broke up in 1983, but Jerry Only brought forth a new version of the Misfits in 1995. Various members have come and gone, but Only, along with Black Flag's Dez Cadena, has kept some form of the Misfits in the recording studio and on the road.
Speaking from a tour stop in Toronto and in anticipation of tonight's show at Trees, Only was kind enough to talk with DC-9 about the Misfits' new effort, The Devil's Rain, and how the band's past keeps impacting its future.
After three decades, why should people still be interested in The Misfits?
Well, we've been going at it for 35 years, really. We're shooting for 50. The Misfits is now like Chevrolet and apple pie. This was the creation of a bunch of guys who had a machine shop and worked with their dads. We all watched horror films and liked dinosaurs and played with G.I. Joes in the backyard. The Misfits is based on science fiction. People like to be scared. They pay money to be entertained with things that go beyond the actual reality of the planet. I think we took this and made some really great punk songs. I think it ended up working out well.
Do you have a problem with your brother Doyle recently playing Misfits songs with Danzig?
No, not at all. Actually, Doyle is Glenn's problem now. That's the funny part about it. Now, Glenn has to deal with that. I haven't been freer in my life. We're all doing really really well. I like the guys that I'm playing with. They like playing in the band. Everybody looks out for each other. There's not any bullshit. I needed to get the bullshit out of my life. That was the problem when people that I was supposed to be playing and recording with were always handing me bullshit. That's why I think our new album, The Devil's Rain, is our best album, because everyone now wants to be here.
With so many changes in the band, how is making an album different from the days with Glenn Danzig?
We're much more focused now. We are confident people playing instruments that are probably superior to what we have had in the past. The production, in a digital world, is a lot more advanced. The only major change from the old band to the new is adding a double bass drum. We learned that from Pantera. We don't take any influences from anything current going on. We do exactly what we want when we want to regardless of when it is in the history of mankind.
There's been two tribute albums made in honor of The Misfits. Is that a great validation for the band?
Believe me, you have to look at the bands that cover our stuff. Guns N' Roses covered "Attitude." Metallica did three of our songs. There are a ton of bands that cover our stuff. I think the big four [Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax] end their show with "Die, Die My Darling." Let me tell you something, a lot of those punk and metal bands out there came from our loins.
How did you decide to invite Dez Cadena into the band?
Dez was always a good friend of ours. His family is from Jersey. He moved to California and joined Black Flag. Dez has actually been in the Misfits for 10 years. He is actually our longest running guitar player. I wouldn't trade Dez for anybody. He's a musician's musician.
Besides having an influence on metal and punk rock, how did the Misfits have an impact on fashion?
Our logo, our skull, is everywhere. We are everywhere. And tastefully so. That's the difference between us and a lot of bands. When we decide to do something, we go all out. We want to shine the best light on the band and on any associated product. Not bad for a bunch of manufacturing machinist guys from New Jersey. We try to have the highest quality products so that you get the most for your money with the Misfits.
When you decided to restart the band in 1995, who were the first bands to ask you on tour?
That had to be Anthrax. They invited us on tour with Cannibal Corpse and Life of Agony. It was a great tour because we were more of a punk act and we were still embraced by the fans of Anthrax. We were pulling in the crowds. I know Scott Ian [guitarist of Anthrax] very well, and it was an honor to be on the road with his band.
How do you decide on a set list that features enough classic material to satisfy old-school fans?
We play the first 10 songs right off the new album and then we do a shitload of the old stuff. We are doing some stuff we haven't done in a long time. We are doing "She," and that is a song that featured Glenn playing keyboards. "Hate Breeders" is also in the set. We end the set with 10 heavy metal/thrash songs in a row. It's the hardest set we have ever done. We end with "All Hell Breaks Loose." It's a race to the end zone. That's all it is. We play every classic song you can think of, and we also showcase our new album. I think the band is finally at a place we can live up to our potential.
The Misfits perform with Juicehead, Hoodrat and Electric Revenge tonight, November 14, at Trees