Misfits: Four Decades Of Horror
As another incarnation of horror punk forebears the Misfits surfaces, mainstay Jerry Only tells Brendan Crabb about their impending 40th anniversary, his child joining the ranks, and new material.
When BLUNT converses with Misfits mainstay Jerry Only (real name Gerald Caiafa), his cheerful demeanour throughout is perhaps partially attributable to this scribe not feeling compelled to delve into the now-tired topic of estranged former banmate, original frontman/songwriter Glenn Danzig, with whom Only was recently engaged in a legal tussle.
Although possessing a healthy respect for their legacy (including performing classic material during their upcoming Australian tour – more on that later), there is sizeable motivation for their original bassist, and now also vocalist, to not solely dwell on the US punkers’ past, as Misfits recently unveiled a new line-up. Guitarist Dez Cadena (ex-Black Flag) is no longer in the band due to throat cancer, and Only’s son Jerry Jr. has stepped into the role. Is the devilock-sporting one a strict task-master regarding his offspring?
“He’s tough on me, this is the problem we got,” he good-naturedly laughs, audibly gratified. “He was our stage manager, tour manager and front of house guy, and he’d be yelling at me all the time; ‘Oh, we need this, we need that’. So I’m happy he’s in the band now, because now he’s off my back a little bit. The kid really cares; he’s really talented. He went to sound engineering school, and learned how to do everything. I put together an all-girl band called the She Demons, and the vision there is The Runaways meets the Ramones. He just got done recording their album and is mixing it. He recorded our new single… I have a very talented kid.”
Some latter-day Misfits releases have adopted a more metallic bent, and this incarnation’s inaugural studio material is aforementioned single “Zombie Girl”. The younger Only is recording the new LP, and the band leader is tenatively aiming to lay down the tracks during the northern hemisphere’s spring and then release in early summer.
“Right now I’ve got maybe about six or seven things that are shaping up. I think I got the title track… It’s coming together pretty well. I’m going to take my time. I want to try and get maybe three or four things finished before we go out on tour, and while I’m on the road I really want to start refining lyrics and stuff like that, getting things together and coming up with some other parts. I write my best stuff at soundcheck,” he laughs. “I really can’t wait to get down there and write some new songs while I’m there. For some reason, it works for me. I come up with the riffs at soundcheck, then I’ll bring them home, put them together and turn them into songs.”
“We don’t have any bad songs. We don’t have walls full of #1 hits, but we don’t have any shit songs, and nobody else can really say that.”
The horror punk outfit’s music and instantly recognisable “Fiend Skull” insignia is inextricably linked with the genre’s genesis and beyond, their merchandise even becoming a fashion accessory for clueless A-List celebrities. Having parted ways in 1983, the New Jersey crew enjoyed a career second wind as a new generation gravitated towards their music following Metallica and Guns N’ Roses’ takes on Misfits songs. Only maintains that although closing in on their 40th anniversary in 2017, the hunger remains.
“We’ve always been ravenous to go out there, play and write. It’s [the album] really coming along. The imagery is coming along really well, and we’re not under anybody’s thumb. We’ve got our own record label, so we’re not in any rush to put anything out. And people know who we are, so we can do a tour, and we can do three or four shows and not play the same song twice. We’ve got a lot of songs, we’re closing in on 150 songs. So it’s a good position to be in. We’re not under any pressure to really release stuff that’s not done. I really want to make sure that everything we do from here on is top-notch.”
Only currently splits time between Misfits and the family’s machine shop, where amongst other tasks he crafts the metal spikes which adorn their stage wear. The trio will perform classic albums Static Age (their debut, recorded in 1978 but not fully released until 1997) and 1983’s Earth A.D. in their entirety, plus other favourites in Australia.
“When we were at school we worked out, we were athletes, we played sports,” the main-man ponders of their longevity. “So we came into the band in shape, and we’ve never let it go. If you see pictures of my brother Doyle lately he looks like Hercules. He’s amazingly ripped up. That was one thing I felt that we brought to the music scene, that people understood that being buff and in shape wasn’t something to be looked down upon. Back in the day, if you were all cut up and stuff, everybody was like, ‘Oh, what are you doing playing music?’ I think we changed the outlook of what people looked at as far as being in top shape to go out there and play.
“We do 40-50 songs a night, that’s not an easy thing. We don’t stop – we go out there and play. So in 90 minutes we do 40-45 songs. I think this band is going to be around a long time. I think as long as we write great songs and continue to write great songs… We don’t have any bad songs. We don’t have walls full of #1 hits, but we don’t have any shit songs, and nobody else can really say that. I think it’s just a matter of keeping integrity and not settling for anything less than we can be.”
Misfits Tour Dates
Wed Dec 9th – The Triffid, Brisbane (18+)
Thu Dec 10th – The Gov, Adelaide (18+)
Fri Dec 11th – Max Watt’s, Melbourne (18+)
Sat Dec 12th – Manning Bar, Sydney (18+)
Sun Dec 13th – Rosemount Hotel, Perth (18+)