Latest release: Horror Xmas EP
Band site: www.misfits.com
When you think of a band that is defined as being outside the realms of what is punk rock, one of the first acts to spring to mind must be the Misfits. The Americans have left their darkened imprint on many a soul worldwide, blending punk intensity with themes and imagery from horror films and literature for more than 35 years. They’re also making their long-awaited return to Australia in January. Loud donned the make-up and sported a devil-lock in preparation for speaking with mainstay and bassist/vocalist Jerry Only about plans to keep rocking for many years to come.
Q: You’re kicking off the New Year with a return visit to Australia, which is a few years in the making now.
A: Yeah, we only have nine shows left before the Christmas break and then we’re off to see you guys; which we’re pretty excited about. We’re playing really well and I think we’re probably going to be doing about an hour-and-a-half. We got the new vinyl and stuff that we’re going to bring with us for you guys. We’ve got some Christmas songs that are coming out; I don’t know if we’ll be playing it then though since it’s after Christmas, but we’ll see. That’s about it; the Misfits is the Misfits. It should be fun.
Q: Christmas songs cop a rather negative wrap from some people. Were there any feelings of trepidation about tackling such a concept?
A: No, to be honest with you, I don’t know if you can print this, but I don’t give a fuck what anybody says (laughs). It’s a funny thing… It took a long time to get to this point; I went through a lot of people and a lot of record companies. We’re at a point right now where we have total artistic control over what we do, and for me there’s a lot of things that I wanted to do that really have nothing to do with any band or anything, it’s just my personal musical taste and stuff, and stuff that I thought would be fun to do with our sound and our imagery behind it. And I’m doing it; I’m trying to pick up on as much of that as I can, because to me, that’s the fun part of being in a band, is to make crazy things. And we’re working on them.
Q: Interesting. What’s the latest on a new Misfits record then?
A: Well, right now I’ve got four or five songs that are about, I think, 75 per cent done. I’ve got verses and choruses, I need to put together intros and really cool stuff to make it tasteful. I always felt that, songs that we do, if you have an A, B and a C part, you’ve pretty much got something that’s worth knowing. And if you can put tasty intros and outros and cool things in the middle, then you’ve got something great, that’s when the song takes a whole different dimension. So it’s a matter of me putting the seven-course dinner together on a certain tune, as opposed to just coming up with a verse and a chorus. Which has happened; I mean, some songs, you write a verse and a chorus and you say to yourself, ‘well, that kind of covers it, we’re there’. Like if you remember the song the ‘Monster Mash’, it’s the same thing, over and over and over, the verse and the chorus is the same. It’s got a stupid little break in the middle, but other than that, it’s the same riff over and over. It’s just the way it’s sung. And the Ramones taught me a lot about that, and I realise that sometimes the simplest songs are the songs that stick in your head for a longer period of time.
So we’re working, but I’ll be honest, we’re going to be doing demos; we’ve got our own studio, so now we do demos. Gonna listen to demos for probably about another year, and then we’ll probably be recording. We were going to record this year coming, but it’s not going to be like a full-length album, I don’t think we’re making any more full-length albums. I think we’re going to make EPs, get all different kinds of artwork and then take three or four EPs, smash ‘em together with a couple of new songs and then make an album. Either keep the recordings ‘cause we like ‘em, or re-record them because we can do them better. So we can do what we want now; the sky’s the limit.
Q: Is that the band also responding to the current state of the industry, and acts needing to regularly issue new product?
A: Yes, yes. I don’t think there is an industry anymore. I think it’s a free-for-all (laughs); it’s just chaos. So I think what you have to do is understand that the strength of your product is no longer only based on one track on a record, and you try and sell an album when you’ve got one or two good songs. I think people are only going to buy the good songs on the Internet and they’re going to leave the crap behind. I think that having a bunch of different releases allows you to have a bunch of different pieces of art that you can market, that you can do merchandising and different things with, and really give the fans a presence that is strong. I think that’s really where we come into play. I mean, that’s what we’ve been doing as a band all along. We’ve always been releasing our own releases, and doing really cool artwork, letting our fans draw for us, taking up things as we go along. And the more you’re on the street, the more you’re able to see, the more you’re able to absorb and use for your benefit… I think we’ve come to a point where we’re not down to be something that somebody perceives us to be, that we can do what we want and be accepted. I like that, and that’s why the Christmas record is important, I think that’s going to prove it… But, you know; we’re going to get back to our roots and kick some stuff.
Q: That free-for-all you referenced, where do you primarily place the “blame” for that – the record companies, the public at large or a combination of both?
A: Well, I’ll be honest with you; I think it’s the Internet. I think the Internet is such a powerful sway of knowledge and, what do I want to say, social aura. That what happens is music is free. So you’re not gonna see those, not everybody’s going to have gold records anymore. That’s not going to happen, that’s going to be a thing of the past. Where a million records (once) meant something, 100,000 records means something now. But it’s also based on your packaging. I mean, you’re still gonna get your, go walk into Walmart over here and buy an Eminem record, because that happens to be what’s being played. You’re still going to be able to do that, those numbers might get hit. But for bands like us, or metal bands and stuff like that, it’s not going to be the same market. You’ve got to really be creative, you can’t just… You can’t sit back and let others push the wagon. You’ve got to get behind it and pull. It’s a different game, it’s the reality. It kind of levels the playing field in a lot of ways I think.
Q: Have you therefore embraced avenues such as social media to try and forge a stronger connection with your existing fan base?
A: The thing is, the Misfits have always been a word-of-mouth band. That’s why, for example, the Christmas record that we’re putting together, you can only get it on our web-store and through things like iTunes or things like that, because we didn’t meet the deadline to get it into stores. But we do have it on different coloured vinyls, which the collectors like, and I think the word-of-mouth of people playing these tracks during this Christmas season, they’re going to turn everyone they know on to it, and by next Christmas season it’s going to be in demand… And we obviously subsidise what we do by going out there and playing, which is at this point very important. I mean, the band’s been around for 38 years and I’m hoping to go another 13 to 50, and then kind of lay off being on the road, then work in the studio. But right now, my goal is to try and double our catalogue in the next ten years.
Q: You’re aiming to reach 50 years – do you view the band as punk’s answer to The Rolling Stones then? (laughs)
A: (Laughs) I think The Rolling Stones is still the punk rock Rolling Stones (laughs). But no, we’re the same old band. I think the 13 years, (what) I’m looking to do is based on being physically able to do it, staying in shape and not to turn into a sloppy mess. And I think that almost 40 years in, I don’t see that being an issue because I don’t have any reason to try and promote something that I’m not pushing, or that I’m not working hard towards. I think a lot of it has to do with physical training. I think if I stay in the gym for the next 13 years and out of the bar, we’re going to be fine. I don’t see an issue. Unless I get hit by a meteorite or something like that, I should be fine.
Q: You’re nearly 40 years into your career – what are you most proud of throughout that time? Is it the albums you’ve released, or seeing someone like Wednesday 13 that you’ve so clearly influenced carry the torch, the fan dedication, or something else entirely?
A: Well, my favourite thing is to see some young kid come to the show, for his very first show, and see the smile on his face and happy he became part of something he heard about. I don’t feel the fame and all the other stuff; I don’t let that affect my vision. My vision is to just get out there and kick it. That’s what I’m most proud of; as a band we’ve refused to yield, over the whole course of time. We could have done a lot of different things, and tried for a lot more success at different levels, and we don’t. We just do what we do, and you take it or leave it, and I think that’s really in my opinion the punk attitude. You get out there and do the best job you can and if the world doesn’t love you, then fuck the world. That’s pretty much it. We just happened to hit something that everybody really likes. It wasn’t by design; it was just because that’s who we are and what we do. And I like our band; I think it’s a really cool band (laughs). My mum likes it, does that help? (laughs)
Q: Any famous last words?
A: Yeah, never surrender, (from) the great Winston Churchill. I think that we all have dreams, and those dreams are worth fighting for. Just remember that not everybody’s going to get their dreams, so you got to make sure that you pay attention to what you got to fall back on as well. I’ve always had my family and my machine shop, and that really fuelled my attack on my dream. I was able to build what I wanted out of it, and I’m fortunate enough to have success. But if not, I’m just as proud to have tried and go back to work with my head held high, so it is what it is. Don’t be afraid to take your shot, that’s what I’ve got to say.
You can catch Misfits on the following dates:
Thurs, Jan 16 – The Zoo – Brisbane
Fri, Jan 17 – Corner Hotel – Melbourne
Sat, Jan 18 – The Factory Theatre – Sydney
Sun, Jan 19 – Amplifier – Perth