There are two types of Misfits fans: those who feel that the band died in 1983 when then-leader Glenn Danzig split, and those who understand that, years later, founding bassist Jerry Only was able to resurrect an entirely new beast from the ashes of the original. True, the current Misfits are an unlikely entity. The journey that led Only to a new album of fresh Misfits material includes a temporary layover in a Christian heavy metal band (Kryst the Conquerer), a drawn-out legal battle for the rights to the Misfits’ name, and a series of seemingly unending lineup changes that, at one point, included Marky Ramone on drums. But Only feels as if the journey is finally complete, and now – 34 years after first forming and 28 after initially disbanding – the Misfits have only just arrived. The new album, The Devil’s Rain, will be released on October 4th, featuring Black Flag’s Dez Cadena on guitar and Eric “Chupacabra” Arce on drums. Both players have been involved with the Misfits for a decade, and Only claims that this lineup is, at last, here to stay. He also tells Rolling Stone that the new album – the first since 1999 to feature Misfits originals – is the band’s best. Ever.
In the press release for The Devil’s Rain, it says, “In a sense, this is the debut album from the legendary Misfits of this decade.” Is that a fair assessment?
Entirely. There’s a whole brand new monster we created here for this, and I’ll be honest with you – I’m more proud of this than anything I’ve ever done. To me, this is my finest moment.
Your ex-bandmate Glenn Danzig performed mini-sets of Misfits material, with your brother (and ex-Misfit) Doyle on guitar, during Danzig concerts in the mid-2000s. Did you see any of those shows?
I may have at one point, but I’m not really sure. I really have no animosity towards Glenn. You know, Glenn and I were really good friends when we were together. It’s just that when it came time to split, it was really time to split. We had two totally different directions in which the band was going, his being the more extreme and ours being the more traditional.
My brother had gotten himself into a couple places that were really tight with his new wife and things like this, and he wound up not really wanting to continue along the lines here. And the thing was, look, if you don’t want to be here, then you shouldn’t be here. And that goes for me too. And so he was kinda offered a lot of different things for his band and I guess, as one of the side things, he’d go up there and do that with Glenn. You know, Glenn had some problems for awhile. There was some crazy stuff that went down, and he really needed to save face. My brother stepped in for Glenn right at the right time, and I think it really kept him from floundering. So I’m happy my brother was there for him.
I don’t agree with the lifestyle. With us, I have a little girl, and both my wife and my daughter help, and my son’s in a band. And we run a tight, clean ship. And now we’re trying to keep working out and really, really getting into excellent shape for this album. We call it the “Our time to go!” album, so this is our moment in the sun. The thing is, some of the older guys from the ’80s still think it’s about groupies and parties and all that kind of stuff. And what they tell you is that it’s a dog-eat-dog world. We don’t do that stuff out here. It’s a different philosophy.
When was the last time that you talked to Glenn?
That’s a pretty good question. I don’t even actually remember. It must’ve been at one of his shows where I just said hi, because I have gone to see him when he plays out. Glenn’s shows are like a dark metal kind of show. Glenn’s got a little bit of a different atmosphere. I think that he needs to spice it up a little with some of that old Misfits stuff to fill the venues he’s in, and it works. Misfits fans seeing Misfits stuff – it’s always a fun thing for me.
In every interview, you must get asked if you’re ever going to reunite with him again. Would you just say that the whole “never say never” thing applies?
I would say that if Glenn went and got baptized again, maybe we could talk. The thing is, I know Glenn, and he’s very much about what he’s doing. I’ve seen that. And me, I’m very much about what I’m doing, and I wouldn’t want to – I don’t want to say the words “watered down” – but I wouldn’t want to take away from the enthusiasm that we’re running on with these new projects. These new projects are, in my opinion, a pinpoint on a laser beam of Misfits thought.
Doing it with Glenn may work on a short-term basis. I could see us getting together and lining up a bunch of big festivals and a bunch of big shows. But then, when you think about it, where would it leave you when you’re done? It wouldn’t leave you in a position where your credibility would be half as good as it is. Sometimes it’s better to be small and secure than it is to be extremely large and totally volatile. And I think our fans are owed the respect of one thought and one vision, and it’s not a parade or a circus for the rest of the world to throw money at. I’d rather be touring happy than rich and miserable.
One surprising fact about you is that you’re friends with a lot of punk rockers’ mothers. Weren’t you friends with Sid Vicious’ mother, as well as Glenn’s?
Yeah, Sid’s mom and I made him dinner the night he died. We cooked bolognese spaghetti sauce for him. And then I helped her, because I was the only guy with a car. I had to take her to the morgue and to the coroner. I had to take her to all of these places to get her things in order once he was dead. And I actually drove her down and helped her sneak through a fence to put his ashes on Nancy’s grave. I guess I was a pallbearer for Sid Vicious for a little while there, and I tried to do the right thing. I didn’t know how her parents would accept the fact that his ashes were on her grave, but I felt that they were so much of a Romeo and Juliet kind of story that it would be a shame to abide by rules after you’re so far down the road.
What do you think your reaction would be to your new album if someone could travel back in time with it and play it for you during your CBGB days?
I would’ve been very excited and said, “Hey man, I can’t wait for that!” It reminds me of when people were first playing Black Sabbath albums and stuff like that to me. We’re not as dark as those guys, nor do we intend to be. We try to have some more hooks and ’50s oriented doo-wop kind of voice stuff. But it came out really, really well, and I wouldn’t change anything about it. That’s the album, that’s the way it is, it’s done. And I haven’t been able to say that about too many things in my life, so I’m really happy about that.
The main thing is, now that my little girl is about to start kindergarten, we’ll be touring the album but also starting to write a new one. Because now that we’re in a new era, we’re back on ground zero. We’ve got the lineup and we’ve got the good sound. We’ve totally got perspective on where we’re going, and perspective is probably the most important element that you can have in your project – knowing where you are and where you’re going. And we have that. And that’s the one thing that we’ve always managed to lose with other people in the lineup, because they let their personal problems outweigh the problems of the band. And we’re trying to do that the other way.
It’s a big grind, but I’ll tell you what – nothing has been more gratifying than being able to work on this record with my kids. It’s put this band into a position where people can look at me and say, “Hey, listen, he never gave up, and this is why.” And there it is.