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Livewire's One on One
The Misfits
L to R: Jerry Only
Marky Ramone, Dez Cadena

Getting Black With the Misfits

ConcertLivewire's exclusive interview with Jerry Only of the Misfits

Sept. 12, 2003

"It started as a twisted dream." The Misfits rose out of the ashes of all the over produced rock bands of the day. Their music is primitive punk rock with a lot of grease paint and their special brand of hairdo known as the "devil lock." Their legacy has stood the test of time and now with new members Marky Ramone and Dez Cadena the Misfits will continue to celebrate Halloween everyday.
Livewire's Karen Bondowski got the chance to see what makes lead singer Jerry Only tick.

Livewire: What's it like working with Marky Ramone and Dez Cadena?

Jerry: Very, very smooth. They're real professionals and Marky takes his sweet time doing sound check and you have to get out of his way when he does 'cause he doesn't want to be disturbed. He works in the studio, he cut our entire '50s album in about 8 hours, which I thought was amazing. And Dez, well Dez picks up everything immediately and is a great guitar player. So, you know... my mom always had to hang out with the smart kids, you know (laughs) so I try and do that.

Livewire: Are they different then your relationship with Glenn Danzig?

Jerry: Well, not really. We all go out there and play and do our stuff together and Glenn was always fun to work with. We worked well together. I mean, we had a difference in opinion on the last day we were together, but other then that, he was always good to work with. I like people who are creative and that work hard and in each instance here everybody falls into that category.

Livewire: How are your fans receiving your new album?

Jerry: Very very well. Except I think their mothers are stealing their CDs. (laughs) So there ya go.

Livewire: How do you rate it compared to the rest of the Misfits catalog?

Jerry: Well, it's not supposed to be a Misfit record, It's supposed to be uhh... I want to say "Abbott and Costello Meets Frankenstein." (laughs) You know, it's kinda a music lesson is really what it was and for me it was very nostalgic. I grew up as young child listening to my mom's 45 collection and she would play them all to keep me occupied while I was playing with my toys so she could watch TV or hang out with her girlfriends. I grew up listening to all the oldies and always wanted to do them and I finally ran into a lineup of guys who were into the same thing as I was and they all wanted to do it. They all had the right credentials I mean for playing songs like "Donna" or "Diana." You're not really looking for that Slayer guitar sound - the kinda guitar sound that we would normally put on a Misfit record. You're kinda looking for something a little more, I don't want to say jazzy but a little more... classy sounding. I think I had the right guys in the right spot at the right time to where we were able to drop this record and the thing about Ronnie Spector is like a dream come true, ya know?

Livewire: I see that you named your band after Marilyn Monroe's last movie, why?

Jerry: Uhh, well it's a really great name. It's kinda funny because the name and the logo itself and especially the skull we have is everywhere all over the world. It's up there with the Doors, Jim Hendrix and the Stones. We do more merchandising then we do selling records! (laughs) It just... It wound up being perfect for us because we wound up working off the famous monsters logo and our logo really denounces sci-fi and it totally defines it. When you look at our logo and you look at our skull it kind've immediately gives you an image of what the band is about. The name Misfits really applies to a lot of different things. To pay tribute to Marilyn Monroe and I think that was really cool. I think obviously she was an icon. You got her, James Dean and Elvis. I mean she's in the top five. I think it was a good choice of a name.

Livewire: Your style is very dark and Halloween.. Is there a dark history in your childhood?

Jerry: Yeah, well the thing is I used to sculpt dinosaurs. The first art class I ever took was sculpting and I used to sculpt dinosaurs and we used to build Aurora model kits back when I was four years old. I put my first Godzilla kit together and we used to have, when I was a kid, on TV - Lost In Space, we used to watch Chiller Theater which was a '50s horror film show. Zachary was one of our heroes. For the most part you have kids today who come home from school and play video games or hacking away on computers and back then we used to go outside and play in the dirt. You know with toys and action figures like GI Joe and stuff like that, but when horror films would come on we'd drop what we were doing and run into the 5 o'clock Creatures Features show. So for us it was something that was really one of our main interests growing up... so we were able to incorporate that into our band.

Livewire: Do you feel that the Misfits contribution to punk rock is as important as the Ramones or Sex Pistols?

Jerry: I don't like the Sex Pistols. I think their full of shit. (laughs) Their a bunch of rip-offs. They got a really great album, and I say album. (chuckles) They built their whole career off of one record. They want propaganda and hype. I'm sorry I'm not a Sex Pistol fan at all. The Ramones invented the game. A lot of people don't know that. But when the Ramones went to England to do a New Years show in - I think it was '77 or '78 or actually even before that it may have been '74 or '75 and the Ramones went to England to do a show and actually snuck the guys in from the Clash and the Damned and everybody through the windows 'cause none of those guys had money and they all saw the Ramones and all of a sudden everybody was a punk rocker.
The Ramones changed the game but that was the whole point of our new record. That was the Ramones who took the essence of rock 'n' roll and brought it up to speed in the mid-seventies and brought it into a position that the kids of that era could relate to. Oldies stuff was at that point oldies and people were listening to "Donna" and "Diane" and "Dream Lover" and all those songs that we covered and the new youth that came in really wasn't paying attention to that and were listening to Pink Floyd, Queen and Yes and things like this more technical, more advanced playing. What the Ramones did was say hey look there's 3 colors - red, yellow and blue and what were going to do is paint everything red, yellow and blue. That's what they did and they came up with really great catchy melodies and a whole new style of playing that just blitzkrieg the soul and came out and attacked with a uniform look like Paul Revere and Raiders before them and the Beatles before them. The Ramones just reinvented rock 'n' roll and brought it up to speed and that's why if you look at the Misfits - the Misfits are a total byproduct of the Ramones. I mean, we took our uniform look of everybody being these ghoul and horror guys and the way we played from song to song without stopping - from the Ramones. We try to keep our chord progressions as simple as possible and really focus on vocal melodies and I always say if you can't sing a song in the shower it ain't any good (laughs). So, it comes down to that. I think the Ramones really changed the face of music. I think the Misfits took it to a place where nobody wanted it to go and you know - more scary, more dark, more sinister and definitely aggressive.
The Ramones were a little bit on the lighter side like "Gabba Gabba Hey" and "Pinhead" they were kinda more, I don't want to say comical side, but more on the lighter side. The Misfits were like listen we're going to kill everybody you know and everybody they know. It was just the evolution and basically at that point once the Misfits came out the bands from the '80s weren't really copying the Ramones - they were copying us. You had the Slayers and the Metallicas and the Guns 'n Roses guys appreciated it and covered our stuff. Then when Joey died obviously everybody wanted to be a Ramone. We always wanted to be a Ramone. That's the difference between us and Rob Zombie, ya know.

Livewire: What kind of music are you listening to now?

Jerry: Nothing. (laughs loudly) The thing is I just finished this six week tour - six bands every night, ya know total chaos. Ya know, you gotta keep everyone in line and we were the host band and we had to organize everything. When I got back I had two weeks to get my factory back in order before I go to South America. In the car however I do listen to oldies music when I'm doing my vocal lesson. My vocal lesson takes about a half hour and pretty much everything in my driving range, I live in the country, is a half hour or less so I'm very rarely on the radio and it stinks because I really love music. I just don't get to listen to it. I just don't have time in my life. I really do like our '50s record though. We put it back to back against the original versions and I think we took eight out of ten. I mean, Elvis was a little bit hard to top (laughs). I think we gave them all a run for their money.

Livewire: Who came up with the idea of the devil lock?

Jerry: Yeah, me. It started as a punky-blue-spikey haircut. It was fluorescent blue, not this gay turquoise color. It was brand new blue denim jeans color, but electric - it actually looked like it sparkled. As it started to get longer, we weren't playing so I wasn't taking care of it and I just let it grow and I was working at the time and as it got longer I kinda combed it like Superman looking for that little curl in the front. Everyone used to call it Tyranadoo. It looked like the dorsal fin of a dinosaur. As it got to about my nose it started to fade in color and it started looking a little bit cheesy and we were looking to be a little more dark at the time so I dyed it black and when I dyed it black all at once it made sense. We then grew it as long as we could. I think that's one of our defining things. I mean not many bands have their own haircuts. I mean the Beatles did and the Ramones did and we're in that category.

Livewire: Did you think the Misfits would last for over 20 years?

Jerry: Yeah, I thought what we were doing was really good that became most evident to me when we settled up with Caroline and Glenn and then put out the Static Age album. I recorded the Static Age album when I was 17. I didn't realize on how great of a record it really was. "Attitude" is on there Guns 'n Roses covered that one, "Last Caress" is on there - Metallica covered that. We had "Teenagers From Mars" which is a classic song. The whole album from beginning to end is a masterpiece. Especially for that time. I mean, at that time the only people who were really coming close with that kind of stuff was the Adverts from England. I really can't name anymore. I mean Iggy's always been there. It was just hard and it was nasty and it was aggressive and it touched on things. Peoples mouths dropped when "Attitude" came out. Today with rap music every other word begins with F. Back then people were like "oh my God, what are you saying?" It was kinda groundbreaking. We came back in the '90s and put out two albums. One on Geffen and one on Roadrunner and we didn't swear at all. The point of that was like everybody thinks it's cool to swear and now that it's cool to swear we're not gonna (laughs). We went the other way. We didn't get parental stickers on our albums and I was really happy about that 'cause normally we would immediately fall into that category.

Livewire: Do you see a difference in your older fans then your younger ones?

Jerry: Other then age, no. I feel like I've been in the same state of mind my entire life. My interests change, but for the most part it all feels like one big day to me. The funny thing is a lot of our fans are about 15 years old now. We have the ability to regenerate our audience which is the key to survivin'. Obviously, I'm into oldies so I sometimes watch Channel 13 and they have these raising money for cable access and they'll have a bunch of oldie acts come up and sing. Smokey Robinson, Jay and the Americans, Johnny Maestro and the Brooklyn Bridge and all these oldies bands will come up and do their songs and the guys in the band look like they've never aged but the audience is a bunch of old ladies and old men. (Shouts) OK, WHO ARE THE SAME AGE AS THE PERFORMERS EXCEPT FOR ALL THE EXTRA HAIR AND THE PLASTIC SURGERY AND THE TANS. So, the thing is that we don't do that. We obviously wear make-up that gives us an advantage in that aspect of aging. I mean Andy Warhol went with the white hair just to avoid looking aged, but with us we stay in shape. We hit the gym everyday. My bench press is in the 400s. I'm 44 years old and my brother Doyle is going to turn 40 and we've been playing for more than half our lives. The thing is we really haven't lost appeal. We haven't lost a step - if anything we've become faster. Our equipment is better. The way we conduct ourselves is much more efficient. Where most bands come out with a bang and slowly fizzle into oblivion we're doing just the opposite. We're getting more turbocharged as we go on.

Livewire: Is there a lot of booze and drugs on tour?

Jerry: None, Marky is AA 18 years now. I don't drink or smoke while I'm on the road. When Im home I'll drink wine with my dad and have a beer if I go out for dinner but for singing, now that I'm the lead singer alcohol dries out your voice and you need a four day period after you had a drink to get rid of the effects of alcohol on your voice. And for those of you who don't understand, smoking is fire. Its like breathing in fire, so (laughs) its bad. That's the bottom line. Dez does smoke cigarettes but he did cut down immensely on the road - I mean he'll have one or two a day when we stop the bus to get gas, he'll step out to have a cigarette but we don't allow smoking on our bus, we don't allow booze on the bus. Many people who come to visit us and come on the bus will bring in a couple of beers if they walk out the door and leave them the beers go out the door and into the garbage. On the list that you give to the venue for stuff that you need we have protein powders and protein bars. We got rid of all the cupcakes and all that kind of crap. When my daughter comes out on the road I try to get some of that stuff. I don't want that stuff lying around so I can get fat. We have a whole gym on our Winnebago that we set-up. Actually, the other day we were liftin' in the streets of Philadelphia. In Chinatown, the cops were passing us. It's a real positive thing and that's what I really want. Anyone can go out and do a great concert and blow things up and spotlights and all kinds of glamourous stuff but not everyone will get to workout in the streets and bench press 400 pounds. People will remember that.

Livewire: What happens backstage after a particularly great show?

Jerry: I never go backstage. I usually sit right on front of the stage and sign all the kids' stuff. I leave backstage and the dressing rooms to the other bands. I leave the room for everybody else. Marky and Dez usually go right back to the Winnebago and chill out and watch TV.

Livewire: Tell me something really strange that has happened to the Misfits?

Jerry: We got arrested in New Orleans for grave robbing. (laughs) Let's see Robo got kidnapped in Colombia for two months and held hostage. I just got arrested for trying to bring switchblades back for the kids from Holland. I had about 7 of them in my bag, so that didn't go over to well.

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