Jerry Only Brings the Misfits Back From the Grave
There are two kinds of Misfits fans: those who fiercely argue the seminal horror-core band died when then-leader Glenn Danzig split in 1983 and are horrified at the shameless plundering of his legacy, and those who cling to old Misfits songs but welcome the second coming of the group as imagined by bassist and now-lead singer Jerry Only, determined to raise the dead 30 years down the road. Only supporters, rejoice! Your patience is about to be rewarded: The legal conflicts with former members are over, Only's embarrassing Christian-rock phase has ended, and now there's an all-new, all-original Misfits record—the first studio album since 1999's Famous Monsters—dropping Oct. 4 on Misfits Records.
In 1977, Danzig formed a band built on horror-film imagery, sci-fi themes, and primitive rock & roll. With drums faster than the Damned and melodies reminiscent of 1950s rock & roll, they created their own brand of hardcore that their now-massive cult followers call "horror-core." Though they broke up after making only a couple of records and a few singles, the Misfits inspired a generation to wear all black, flip their mullets 180 degrees into a slick devil lock and plaster everything with the Fiend skull that appears on countless pieces of Misfits merch. The recordings of the first-generation Misfits—featuring Only and Danzig—have inspired several generations of punk, metal and rock musicians, and everyone from AFI to Alkaline Trio to Dropkick Murphys to Balzac has covered classic Misfits songs.
After disbanding in 1983, Misfits lynchpins Danzig and Only went on very different paths. Danzig launched his heavy-metal Samhain project before crafting a solo career, while Only spent the next 30 years trying to re-create the success of the iconic, Danzig-helmed horror-punk band. "It's what we are . . . eternal," Only says. "It lasted almost 35 years to date, and now that I'm back, I'm going for 50 years and at least three more original albums."
But now, after 30-plus years as a member of the Misfits, Only has found that the best way to approach the iconic group's legacy is by looking forward. He won the Misfits name after a decade-long legal battle. He added some new band members—recent incarnations of the Misfits featured about 16 different players, including former Black Flag drummer Robo and Marky Ramone—and scheduled a 25th-anniversary tour (without Danzig) that somehow managed to last three years. Now, 34 years after first forming and 28 after initially disbanding, Only shakes the Misfits from the grave once again to celebrate the release of The Devil's Rain, their first record with new material in almost a decade, with a frighteningly long U.S. tour.
The follow-up to 2003's all-covers Project 1950, The Devils Rain is a set of 16 originals and the first to feature the newest lineup: Only, veteran guitarist Dez Cadena (Black Flag, Misfit since 2001) and Eric "Chupacabra" Arce (Murphy's Law) on drums. This time, Only drew from the 1975 low-budget horror film featuring William Shatner (who was in between Star Trek projects at the time) for the title and themes, though no band members melted in the process of making this record. "The concept behind it is that the Misfits are sort of a prophecy," he says. "It's the judgment of all others who stand before us, as if the heavens opened and swallowed our enemies.
"The Devil's Rain is the natural progression of the band," he continues. "The rest of the catalog is and always will be solid, but this is my best work all the way around. It's my favorite and has the best album cover ever. We've even got a taste of double bass drumming on this one—a modern provision."
Long-delayed due to what Only calls "unstoppable elements," the time for a new Misfits album has finally come. "People cause problems," Only explains. "I didn't want to invest a piece of my soul into a project when I couldn't rely on the band. Now I can, so now you have our new album—our most 'classic-sounding' Misfits record yet."
But can there be 'classic Misfits' without Danzig?
"Glenn is and will always be my friend," Only says. "He chose his path, and I mine. I will always respect him. He was like an older brother to me. We protect each other. The perception of us as enemies just fuels the chat rooms, sells papers."
"Without Danzig," he says, "I have to work twice as hard—that's all."
This article appeared in print as "Raising the Dead: The Misfits are clawing their way back from the grave."
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