Last updated: 12/08/2013 06:14:21 AM
It started as a twisted dream"... 25 years ago in a small town in New Jersey called Lodi. It was there in April of 1977, at the dawn of the punk movement, 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 set out to make an impression. They wound up making history and creating a legacy that's power has not only stood the test of time, but transcended into an entirely new generation. Lineup changes followed and by early 1980, the band coalesced around co-founders, Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only along with guitarist Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein (Jerry's youngest brother). Throughout the span of their career, the Misfits audience has developed into an army of "fiends" (the term for die hard Misfits fans) generating more interest today than ever before.
From its inception the music was primitive punk rock, harsh and to-the-point. Yet that aggression was complimented with a strong sense of melody inspired by the roots of rock and roll bred in the 1950's. What further separated the band from their hard-core peers of the 70's punk scene was their inspired fixation on horror movies. It was from that inspiration that they created an entire world out of a passion for the genre. Utilizing B-movie-style artwork, the band appeared with slick, black "devil lock" hair styles and horror make-up. "The Fiend" (a skull icon that became the official symbol of the group) was painted on their leather jackets, boots and equipment. The Misfits cast a fiendish aura of mystery embodied by ghoulish charm and landed themselves a massive cult following. That following continues to expand world wide on a daily basis. The "Fiend Skull" icon, which was once crudely painted on everything the band could get their hands on, can now be found on a limitless amount of merchandise carried in stores throughout the world.
After a split with Danzig in the mid 1980's and a decade long legal battle, The Misfits were resurrected by founding member Jerry Only along with his younger brother and guitarist Doyle. The band returned stronger than ever with "AMERICAN PSYCHO", released in May of 1997 on Geffen Records. Only states: "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."
"AMERICAN PSYCHO" reestablished 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, Rob Zombie, Guns n Roses (who covered the classic Misfits song "Attitude") and more recently Slipknot. The Misfits have inspired many musicians and much of the music people are watching on TV and hearing on the radio today. Metallica emerged as one of the band's strongest supporters wearing Misfits T-shirts on stage and even covering three of their songs on the double CD set entitled "Garage Days Revisited". The centerfold section of the "Garage Days" booklet even spotlights the Misfits as a key influence on Metallica's music. Further, their have been several Misfits tribute CDs released over the past few years featuring contemporary artists covering the bands back catalog. Asked why this hunger for all things Misfits endured, bassist and founding member Jerry Only ventures: "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 music videos for the 1997 Geffen release ("Dig Up Her Bones" & "American Psycho" directed by John Cafiero) could not only be found on music television outlets throughout the world but even on the big screen. Theatrical screenings ran in film festivals both in and outside the U.S. garnering "Best of Fest" nods as well as award nominations from the Horror Writers Association. The videos also created a stronghold in the then, uncharted territory of online entertainment. They have been repeatedly on the top of the charts, listed as the "most downloaded videos on the net" with online outlets like Sonicnet. For several weeks the Misfits "American Psycho" video was listed on the Sonicnet chart at #2, book-ended by Backstreet Boys videos at #1 & #3. Over all the "Psycho" video remained in the top 5 for nearly a year while videos from many chart-topping acts quickly came and went.
1999 brought the follow up to the second coming of the Misfits "FAMOUS MONSTERS", released in Oct. 1999 on Roadrunner records. The record went on to become the biggest selling title ever for Roadrunner Japan. The supporting music video "Scream" (which featured the band as zombies) was directed by George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead) who offered his services in exchange for two original Misfits songs to be featured (along with the band itself) in his film "Bruiser". Prior to that, the Misfits appeared as themselves (along with ICP, The Jerky Boys and WWF's Mick Foley to name a few) in director John Cafiero's feature film debut "Big Money Hustlas". The film debuted in the number one spot on the billboard video sales charts where it remained for several weeks.
Thematically, the bands music continues to focus on time-honored Misfits interests: "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. 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."
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 and even their spiked leather jackets. Creativity rules as they design and construct on site their own elaborate stage sets and wide array of infamous props.
Over the past five years alone the Misfits have released three studio albums, a limited edition live album through their fan club (dubbed "The Fiend Club") and a limited edition glow-in-the-dark 45 covering the classic song "Monster Mash. The 45 was fully endorsed by longtime Misfits supporter Sara Karloff, (daughter of the late Boris Karloff) who gave consent for the use of her father's image in connection with the record. The Karloff estate had shown similar support in 1997 approving the band's use of footage from the classic film "The Bride of Frankenstein" in their first music video "Dig Up Her Bones". The Misfits and their "Fiend Club" were also instrumental in petitioning and seeking approval for the 1997 release of the U.S. Monster Stamp series, which among others, featured Bela Lugosi Sr., as Dracula and of course, Boris Karloff as Frankenstein.
Although the band has seen several lineup changes throughout the years, the common thread that has kept the Misfits thriving is founding member Jerry Only. In addition to a huge catalog of music over the past 25 years, Only and the Misfits have toured relentlessly across the globe and celebrated Halloween 1999 with two Sold Out shows at Madison Square Garden in NYC. In addition to their countless TV appearances worldwide, the band appeared in four feature films, as well as a stint in professional wrestling with Ted Turner's WCW. The band's now classic "fiend skull" logo can be found on a plethora of top selling merchandise throughout the world and the collectibility of anything Misfits continues to grow on a daily basis. Even the toy industry took notice bestowing the honor of "Action Figure of the Year" to the 12" G.I. Joe-styled Jerry Only action figure released in 1999. In the year 2000, the Misfits were named #91 in VH-1's "100 Greatest Hard Rock Bands of all Time". The segment included interviews with Alice Cooper, Rob Halford (Judas Priest), James Hetfield, Jason Newsted & Kirk Hammett (Metallica) and Kid Rock commenting on the fiendishly legendary band. The impact of the Misfits on pop culture has become a phenomenon in itself. The power of the horror-punk icons transcends into the most unlikely of places. Most notably, teen-idol superstars N'Sync were photographed, prominently sporting Misfits logos on their attire. The photos ran in an issue of "TV Guide" (2000) and the year end issue of "Entertainment Weekly" (2001). Now that is truly scary!
"We've survived 25 years now," 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 again, we were surprised to see how many fans both 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."
2001 brought the launch of the Misfits 25th Anniversary. In celebration of 25 years of Misfits (and 25 years of classic punk rock in general), founding member Jerry Only has recruited what is truly an all star line up of punk rock. Special guests performing within the Misfits line up for this historic current tour include punk pioneers Marky Ramone of the world famous Ramones - (recently inducted into the "Rock and Roll Hall of Fame") and Black Flag's Dez Cadena. To commemorate the 25th Anniversary, artwork of Jerry Only and the classic Misfits "fiend skull" was commissioned from "Batman" artist Butch Lukic whose unmistakable style is showcased in Warner Brothers "Batman the Animated Series" and "Batman Beyond" among many others. The 25th anniversary Lukic artwork has quickly become a #1 seller in the Misfits popular T-shirt line. Most recently the power of the Misfits has transcended into a new record label "Misfits Records" housing all current and future Misfits releases as well as a few acquired bands under development with the label. Also planned is the first ever, Misfits home video and DVD, which will include extensive documentation of the history making 25th Anniversary tour and much more.
The first release under the new label is unique in that the Misfits have teamed up with Japan's premiere horror punks; "Balzac" (a Misfits influenced band) for a split CD single/EP. The Misfits M25 line up (featuring Only on bass and lead vocals with Marky Ramone on drums and Dez on guitar), perform a cover version of Balzac's "Day the Earth Caught Fire" and Balzac perform a cover medley of the Misfits tracks "The Haunting" and "Don't Open 'Till Doomsday". The split CD is now in stores in Japan (under the title "Don't Open 'Till Doomsday") and North America (under the title "Day the Earth Caught Fire"). Most recently the all-star lineup recorded a Misfits stylized side-project showcasing punk covers of classic 1950's era rock and roll hits. Some of the tracks included are "This Magic Moment" (Jay and the Americans), "Dream Lover" (Bobby Darin) and "Donna" (Richie Valens). Only, who has had the project in mind for some time now, states: "the backbone of punk has always been the 3-chord progression which was ultimately inspired by classic rock and roll of the 1950's. I've always wanted to record some of the music that inspired the Misfits to show fiends where it all began. With this album...I will." The new CD entitled "Project 1950" is slated for worldwide release summer 2003.
In closing, Only surmises: "The Misfits have been preserved on determination and the sheer will to survive. That determination has been bound by the unequaled loyalty of our fanbase of fiends. Our goal is simple, to be the best. In resurrecting this band I risked all that I'd done in the past and I dared to challenge a legacy born in my youth. Today I am stronger, smarter and faster than I have ever been. We plan to continue as always, eclipse the past, block the sun and drag humanity by the throat into a world of darkness filled with ghouls, goblins and creatures of the night, where we are king."
One thing is certain, The Misfits are here to stay and once again everyday is Halloween.