#617: Jerry Only of the Misfits on playing Boston on Halloween, the scariest moment at shows, and all his Horror Business
Welcome to the inaugural edition of Vanyaland 617. We’ll be hitting up everyone from musicians to actors to comedians with a simple premise: Answer 6 questions, give us 1 recommendation, and list 7 items on a topic of our choosing.
There couldn’t be a better person to kick off Vanyaland 617 than Jerry Only, whose band the Misfits were true innovators when they hit the scene in the late-’70s, mixing horror, theatrics, and striking melodies with a punk rock frenzy. Two members from the most memorable lineup, Glenn Danzig and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein (Only’s younger brother), are no longer on board, but Only carries the torch for the Fiends with his devilock leading the way.
Thursday, Halloween fittingly, the horror punk trio plays The Wilbur. Only was more than happy to take part in the 617, touching on the holiday, his favorite costume and the marketing of the Misfits.
:: SIX QUESTIONS
Michael Christopher: You’re playing Boston on Halloween. You obviously must have some pretty memorable instances on October 31. What does Jerry Only remember about Halloween?
Jerry Only: Halloween, for us, is really an epiphany for what we do and is an homage to our fans. The last time we were in Boston for Halloween was at a place called The Channel which I believe was in 1982 and it was just a carnage of skinheads and thrashers and stuff. That was during the Earth A.D. era and it was really a turning point in music; there was a lot of hardcore, thrash bands coming out at the time and when we picked up on it we kind of put it in the spotlight and it turned the way music went in the future.
From there on in, speed metal, death metal and all these other kinds of things kind of derived that album and songs like “Green Hell,” “Death Comes Ripping,” “Mommy Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?”
“Die, Die My Darling” was on there, those classic songs.
What’s the best costume you had as a kid trick or treating in New Jersey?
[Editor’s Note: We can’t tell if the clip above is from the show Only is referencing, or from March 1983. Either way, it’s fucking awesome. Feel free to educate us in the comments.]
My mother made a costume for me when I was five, and I was Dracula. It’s funny because I looked just like Dave Vanian from the Damned in it. My mom always made our costumes; she made me a robot costume that came together really, really well. It had a silver jumpsuit and we made a box for a head and cut it out and covered it with cloth — that was a really good one. A few years ago we played at L’Amour in Brooklyn for Halloween and my mom made me an Elvis costume that tore off so that I could get back into my gear about halfway through the show.
Mom always helped; she was actually the oasis for the punk scene in the ’70s and the ’80s, we used to have all the bands stay over. Social D stayed there when they were 14, Black Flag, Circle Jerks, Negative Approach, Necros — anyone you can think of that was affiliated with us.
From imagery in music to films and television shows, what do you think it is about this horror business that people love so much?
Well, I’ve always said that your imagination is probably the most entertaining thing about the human race. Phantom of the Opera, the original silent film with Lon Chaney, is as popular today as some of the newer films. You kind of hit a nerve when you start developing monsters. The human race is afraid of being devoured so you get your Aliens and your Jaws and these other creatures. I think there are a lot of primal aspects in the human being for fear, and I think we find that entertaining.
What’s the scariest thing to happen to you onstage?
Scariest thing that’s happened to me onstage is when somebody gets hurt in the crowd. I’ve seen people get really damaged jumping off the stage; we had one girl at The Trocadero in Philadelphia that had seizures and I actually had to jump over [the guardrail] and clear everybody out and we had to get the ambulance in — to me, that’s scary.
When I send my kids to a show, I want to make sure they’re coming home. We’ll stop fights, sometimes I get in the middle of them. We kind of police our own thing.
I can’t think of any band, besides maybe KISS that has more items branded out there. What is your personal favorite Misfits item?
My personal favorite thing is what’s coming down the pipe. We did a joint venture with Marilyn Monroe’s estate, and we have all these Misfits/Marilyn Monroe designs coming out; we’ve got her in a devilock and a Misfits jacket, we’ve got her with a devilock and skull logo where she’s standing there in her bathing suit, we have her on the beach when she’s very young with a tank top on and we put the Misfits logo on it.
Especially since the name of the band was taken from her last movie, to me this is a milestone. To me, this is more important than being number one on the charts or getting album of the year or being in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Your former bandmate Glenn Danzig seems to have an issue with people taking pictures or video at his shows. Do you share his anger?
No, no — I have no anger. The only thing is I don’t like people putting them up online. I don’t care if you’ve got your own stuff. The thing is, we’re a down in the gutter kind of band; we’re not a band that comes out and brings lights and sound and has 15 and 20 people on — we’re down with the average Joe.
But I don’t care; kids can pretty much do whatever they want. We try to stop people from filming, but I’m not going to throw a fit or cause a problem.
:: ONE RECOMMENDATION
We asked Only for one recommendation, and it could be about anything. Here’s his response:
“I recommend that people spend as much time with their family as they can and not focus so much on getting ahead and financial levels and spending their life on something that you’ll eventually leave behind. That’s the one thing I’m finding out.
I’ve got a little girl and I spend a lot of time on the road and want to make a good life for her, but at the same time I’m missing out on so many things. That tears me apart every day. Don’t let things tear you apart, like me and my brother.
Be the best you can be — especially with your blood and people that you love. That’s more important than success.”
:: SEVEN OF SOMETHING
There have been approximately 20 members to rotate in and out of the Misfits over the years. Can you name seven of them?
I can probably name everybody – are you ready?
[From here Only goes into a detailed history of every band member up through the mid-’80s — where they met, when they came into the group, and when they left. After around a frenzied dozen or so:
Now that you’ve gotten at least seven out of me, I just want to say that the hardest thing about being in a band isn’t touring and recording — it’s being in the band; actually working with the people and holding it together.