The Misfits are an American punk rock band often recognized as the progenitors of the horror punk subgenre, blending punk and other musical influences with horror film themes and imagery. Founded in 1977 in Lodi, New Jersey, the original lineup consisted of vocalist and keyboardist Glenn Danzig, bassist Jerry Only, and drummer Manny Martínez. Danzig and Only were the only consistent members throughout the next six years, during which they released several extended play and singles, and with Only's brother Doyle as guitarist, the albums Walk Among Us (1982) and Earth A.D./Wolfs Blood (1983), both considered touchstones of the early-1980s hardcore punk movement. The band has had several lineup changes over the years, with bassist Jerry Only being the only constant member in the group.
The Misfits disbanded in 1983, and Glenn Danzig went on to form Samhain and then Danzig. Several albums of reissued and previously unreleased material were issued after the group's dissolution, and their music later became influential to punk rock, heavy metal, and alternative rock. After a series of legal battles with Danzig, Only and Doyle regained the rights to record and perform as the Misfits. They formed a new version of the band in 1995 with singer Michale Graves and drummer Dr. Chud. This incarnation of Misfits had more of a heavy metal sound, and released the albums American Psycho (1997) and Famous Monsters (1999) before dissolving in 2000. Jerry Only then took over lead vocals and recruited former Black Flag guitarist Dez Cadena and former Ramones drummer Marky Ramone for a Misfits 25th anniversary tour.
This lineup released an album of cover version titled Project 1950 and toured for several years. In 2005, Marky was replaced by Robo, who had played with Black Flag in the early 1980s and had also previously been Misfits' drummer from 1982 to 1983. This lineup released a single titled Land of the Dead in 2009. The Misfits' lineup of Only, Cadena, and drummer Eric "Chupacabra" Arce released a new album titled The Devil's Rain in October 2011. In 2015, it was announced that Cadena would be taking a break from music after receiving a cancer diagnosis, and was replaced by Only's son Jerry Caiafa II, presented as Jerry Other. That same year Soulfly's Marc Rizzo joined the band, also playing guitar. He filled in for Cadena, before Caiafa would move on to become the sole guitarist for the band.
On September 2016, for the first time in 33 years, Danzig, Only, and Doyle reunited for two headlining shows at the Riot Fest, along with drummer Dave Lombardo and second guitarist Acey Slade. They also reunited for two New Year's Eve shows in Las Vegas and Los Angeles in December 2017, and later performed again at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on May 19, 2018.
In August 1977, guitarist Frank Licata joined the band under the pseudonym Franché Coma. The addition of a permanent guitar player allowed Danzig to phase out the electric piano and focus on singing, and pushed the band's sound in a punk rock direction. Danzig and Only judged Martínez unreliable and replaced him with Jim Catania (surname Catania). The band found a recording opportunity when Mercury Records wished to use the name Blank Records for one of its subdivisions and offered Danzig thirty hours of studio time in exchange for the trademark to the name. Danzig accepted, and in January 1978 the Misfits entered a New York recording studio to record their first album. The band recorded seventeen songs, fourteen of which were mixed for the proposed Static Age album. The band were unable to find a record label interested in releasing it, so they released four of the songs in June 1978 as the Bullet single on their own label Plan 9 Records, named after the 1959 science fiction horror film Plan 9 from Outer Space. Static Age was not released in its full entirety until 1997.
The band performed more frequently and went on short tours in support of the Bullet single. While in Canada in October 1978 Coma quit the band because he did not enjoy touring, and guitarist Rick Riley filled in temporarily to finish the tour. Mr. Jim also quit following the tour, citing a distaste for the horror direction in which the band was heading. Within two months the pair were replaced by drummer Joey Image, under the pseudonym Joey Image, and guitarist Bobby Steele, also known as Bobby Steele. The new lineup of Danzig, Only, Image, and Steele began performing in December 1978 and continued to evolve the horror elements of the band. They released the Horror Business single in June 1979, the cover of which featured a skeletal figure inspired by a poster for the 1946 film serial The Crimson Ghost.
The figure became a mascot for the band, and its skull image would serve as the Misfits' logo for the rest of their career. The band also launched a fan club named the "Fiend Club" which Danzig operated in a do-it-yourself fashion from his mother's basement in Lodi, screen-printing , assembling records, mailing merchandise catalogs, booking shows for the band, and answering fan mail.
In June 1979, the Misfits performed as openers for The Damned in New York City. Only spoke with singer Dave Vanian about the possibility of the Misfits touring the United Kingdom with The Damned. That November the band released the Night of the Living Dead single and flew to England to tour with The Damned. Upon arriving there, however, they learned that Vanian had not taken his conversation with Only seriously and had not planned on having the Misfits on the tour. Vanian attempted to arrange for the Misfits to take part in the tour, but the band members were unhappy with the situation and left the tour after only two shows. Image then quit the band and flew back to the United States. With their return flight not scheduled until late December, the remaining band members stayed in London. Only spent time with Sid Vicious' mother, Anne Ritchie, whom he had befriended after Vicious' death in February 1979. Danzig and Steele got into a fight with while waiting to see The Jam, were arrested, and spent two nights in jail in Brixton. This experience inspired the later song London Dungeon. Although in an interview on podcast San Clemente Punk, Bobby Steele tells a completely different version of the events.
Upon their return to the United States the Misfits released the Beware extended play in January 1980, then took a four-month break before adding Arthur Googy as their new drummer under the pseudonym Arthur Googy. During this time Only's younger brother Paul Caiafa, a longtime fan of the band who went by the nickname Doyle, began learning to play guitar with help from Danzig and Only. The Misfits began working on an album which they planned to release through their Plan 9 label, recording twelve songs in a studio in August 1980. Doyle practiced with the band and recorded his own guitar tracks for the songs, and Only began persuading Danzig that Doyle would fit into the band better than Steele. That October Steele was ejected from the band in favor of the sixteen-year-old Doyle. Steele went on to form The Undead, while Doyle made his debut with the Misfits at their annual Halloween performance at Irving Plaza in New York City. After several more performances, the band took another hiatus for six months.
After reconvening, the band selected three of the twelve songs from their August 1980 album sessions and released them as 3 Hits From Hell in April 1981. Throughout the rest of 1981 they continued to record tracks for a full-length album, to be titled Walk Among Us. They had planned to release it through Plan 9 but instead accepted an offer from Slash Records, deciding to rework the album before its release. In October 1981 they released two more tracks from the August 1980 sessions as the Halloween single. On November 20 they recorded a performance at Broadway in San Francisco.
Black Flag were also performing that night at the Mabuhay Gardens downstairs on Broadway, and Black Flag singer Henry Rollins, a longtime fan of the band, came up to watch the Misfits' soundcheck. He stayed to watch the band's set and sang guest vocals on We Are 138. The two bands crossed paths again on Christmas in Lodi, where Black Flag wound up playing as the opening band for the Necros and the Misfits.
In September 1982 the Misfits embarked on a national tour, with the Necros as their opening act. During the tour they stopped at a studio to record the instrumental tracks for their next EP. They were arrested in New Orleans on charges of grave robbing while attempting to locate the grave of Louisiana Voodoo practitioner Marie Laveau, but themselves out of jail and skipped their court date in order to drive to their next performance in Florida. Following the tour they released seven songs from the November 1981 performance in San Francisco in limited numbers only to members of the Fiend Club as the Evilive EP.
By this time Danzig was growing increasingly dissatisfied with the Misfits and had begun writings songs for a new band project. In June 1983 he confided to Henry Rollins that he planned to quit the group. In July 1983 the Misfits finished recording their EP, and Danzig decided to record two more songs that he had intended for his new project, turning it into a full album. Earth A.D./Wolfs Blood demonstrated the increased influence of hardcore punk and heavy metal on the band, though they would break up just two months before it was released. After a series of arguments with Danzig, Robo left the band in August and Danzig became further disenchanted, beginning to audition musicians for his next project.
On October 29, 1983, the Misfits played their annual Halloween performance at Greystone Hall in Detroit with the Necros. Danzig had selected Brian Damage (real name Brian Keats), formerly of Genocide and Verbal Abuse, as the band's new drummer. However, Damage became drunkenness before the show and could not play properly. After several songs Doyle escorted him off the stage and Todd Swalla of The Necros filled in for the remainder of the performance. Tensions came to a head and Danzig announced to the audience that it would be the band's final show. Upon returning to Lodi the band members went their separate ways.
Jerry Only and Doyle, meanwhile, moved to Vernon, New Jersey to work at their father's machine parts factory full-time. Jerry Only had married and had a daughter and became more serious about his Christianity faith, regretting some of the things he had done with the Misfits. In 1987, he and Doyle formed the short-lived Kryst the Conqueror, a Christian heavy metal band with barbarian imagery.
Although the Misfits' popularity did not extend beyond the underground punk scene during their seven years of activity, public interest in the band increased in the years following their breakup. The success of Danzig's post-Misfits' work led to interest in his past work, and several high-profile rock bands professed fondness for the Misfits. Most notably, Metallica cover version the Misfits songs Last caress and Green Hell on (1987), and Guns n' Roses covered Attitude on The Spaghetti Incident? (1993). Several albums of reissued and previously unreleased Misfits material were issued between 1985 and 1987, the first being the compilation album Legacy of Brutality (1985) which included many of the songs from the unreleased Static Age album. Danzig overdubbing many of the album's instrument tracks in order to avoid having to pay royalties to the other former band members. Collection I, more commonly referred to as Collection I, followed in 1986. The Evilive EP was reissued as a full album in 1987 with five additional tracks.
Only contacted Danzig about receiving a portion of the royalties from these albums' sales, beginning a legal battle that lasted several years and involved other past members of the band. All of the Misfits material had been credited to Danzig, and though Only later conceded that Danzig had written nearly all of the lyrics and most of the music, he contended that he and Doyle "wrote 25% or maybe 30% of the music" and deserved compensation. Danzig, however, insisted that he had written all of the songs in their entirety and that the other members' creative input had been minimal. Eventually Only ceased his pursuit of songwriting credits and sought the rights to use the Misfits name and imagery, including the now-famous "Crimson Ghost" skull face logo.
In 1995, the parties reached an out-of-court settlement that allowed Only and Doyle to record and perform as the Misfits, sharing merchandising rights with Danzig. Collection II, a third compilation of Misfits songs, was released later that year.
In 1996, The Misfits coffin box set was released, containing nearly all of the band's Danzig-era material recorded from 1977 to 1983 (with the exception of Walk Among Us). The set included the complete fourteen-song Static Age album, released for the first time in its entirety, as well as the overdubbed and alternate versions of songs that had previously been released on Legacy of Brutality, Collection I, and Collection II. Static Age was also released as a separate album the following year, including all seventeen tracks that had been recorded during the January 1978 sessions. The release of the box set and Static Age made the Misfits' complete early catalog widely available for the first time.
A tribute album was also released in 1997 titled , featuring numerous punk rock and hardcore punk bands covering their songs. Another tribute album, , was released in 2000 featuring death metal, hard rock, and gothic rock acts.
The new incarnation of the Misfits released their debut album American Psycho in 1997. They filmed for the songs American Psycho and Dig Up Her Bones. The band toured Europe and North America in support of the album and appeared as characters in World Championship Wrestling. Graves took a hiatus from the band in 1998, during which Myke Itzazone of Empire Hideous filled in as singer during tours of South America and Europe. After Graves' return the band signed to Roadrunner Records, releasing Famous Monsters in October 1999 and filming a music video for the single Scream! They made additional film appearances in Big Money Hustlas (2000), Bruiser (2000), and Campfire Stories (2001) and continued to tour, but tensions between the band members began to grow. During a performance at the House of Blues in Orlando, Florida on October 25, 2000, Graves and Chud both quit the band and walked off stage. The two later released an album under the name Graves before splitting up; Graves went on to sing for Gotham Road and then launched a solo career, while Chud formed Dr. Chud's X-Ward. Meanwhile, Doyle took an indefinite hiatus from performing as he divorced, remarried, had a fourth child, and dealt with tendonitis in his elbow.
Also in 2001 Caroline Records announced that they would release recordings from the Misfits' August 1980 album sessions as 12 Hits from Hell. However, both Only and Glenn Danzig abruptly called off production of the album, citing concerns with the mixing, mastering, layout, and packaging.
Only and longtime collaborator John Cafiero soon launched their own label, Misfits Records, and released a split single featuring the Misfits and Japanese horror punk band Balzac. The Only/Cadena/Ramone lineup of the Misfits released the covers album Project 1950 in 2003, performing renditions of classic rock and roll songs from the 1950s and 1960s. The album featured guest appearances from Ronnie Spector, Jimmy Destri, Ed Manion, and John Cafiero. The band toured intermittently in support of the album until 2005, when Ramone left the band and was replaced by Robo. They booked a full European tour that year, but problems with Robo's visa led to the cancellation of all dates in the United Kingdom. A rescheduled UK tour followed in September.
joined Danzig onstage during tours from 2004 to 2006 for half-hour sets of early Misfits songs.]]Doyle had meanwhile reunited with Glenn Danzig, joining Danzig onstage during performances in December 2004 to play guitar for 30-minute sets of old Misfits songs midway through the band's setlist. It was the first time the two had performed together in over twenty years, and the first time Doyle had performed since his hiatus. Danzig called the performances "the closest thing to a Misfits reunion anyone is ever going to see". These sets featuring Doyle continued through Danzig's 2005 Blackest of the Black tour and 2006 Australian tour. Glenn Danzig had announced his intention to retire from touring following these, though he later contradicted this by announcing a Danzig 20th anniversary tour in 2008. In 2007, he produced Doyle's new project Gorgeous Frankenstein. Doyle later indicated that plans had been in place for the Misfits to reunite with Glenn Danzig beginning in 2002, but that Jerry Only and his manager had "put a fuckin' monkey wrench in it."
In October 2013 publisher Rowman & Littlefield published This Music Leaves Stains by James Greene, an unofficial Misfits biography, which tells the story of each incarnation of the band as well as spin off projects such as Samhain and Danzig.
In late 2015, they released the two singles Vampire Girl and Zombie Girl.
On June 17, 2016, the Misfits released an EP titled Friday the 13th. The EP was written by Jerry Only and features the lineup of Jerry Only (bass/vocals), his son Jerry Other (guitar) and Chupacabra (drums).
On September 4, 2016, the Misfits with Danzig, Only and Doyle (along with drummer Dave Lombardo and guitarist Acey Slade), performed the first of their two reunion shows at the Riot Fest in Denver. The set featured 25 songs.
In an interview with Rolling Stone following the first reunion show Only was asked about the future of the Misfits, and if there were plans to continue and possibly record new music. "I want it to continue. I know Doyle wants it to continue. I know Glenn wants it to continue. We just have to be big-enough people to make it continue. And that's where we're at. Whatever it takes. We're going into our 40th anniversary so the timing couldn't be more perfect. Eventually Doyle's got to write a new album; I've got to write a new album; Glenn's got to write a new album. Why don't we work together and make the greatest album ever? Now we've got different elements. We've got Doyle playing more of a metal kind of thing. We've got Dave, who we're trying to figure out what the fuck he's doing. And Glenn's got his own thing. And Acey (Slade, second guitar) fills in good, too. And I've got the band where it is today. So it's a matter of re-molding and using all the different elements that I've got." When asked if Danzig would want to record new music Only said, "I think it's got to evolve naturally. The thing is we've tried to plan things, and then we stand there and wait, and as it comes we'll just do it. When we go back — I don't know about Glenn — but I canceled our touring and everything for this, so I'm going to go home and write and lift."
In 2017, the reunited lineup performed two additional concerts at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on December 28 and The Forum in Inglewood, California on December 30. They also performed at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey on May 19, 2018, with an additional show planned for April 27, 2019 at the Allstate Arena in suburban Chicago. The reunited lineup continues to perform into 2019 with a planned concert scheduled for April 27 at the Allstate Arena in Chicago.
The early incarnations of the Misfits are associated with the hardcore punk movement of the early 1980s, though author Steven Blush notes that "though crucial to the rise of hardcore, they were in fact in a league of their own...The Misfits delivered a hyper-yet-melodic assault based in 50/60s-style rock, taking the Buddy Holly/Gene Vincent foundation and making it nuclear." Jon de Rosa of Pitchfork Media describes how the band's sound was different from the punk rock coming out of New York at the time: "New York punk was just punk, simple and static. When Glenn started the Misfits, he mutated the punk sound and image into something darker and more sinister, a punk-metal hybrid that later found bloom in the Black Metal and the death metal. Punk belonged to the media/celebrity hubs of London and New York. Ghoul rock was for the kids in the suburbs where nothing ever happens."
Andy Weller of the Necros recalls the band's transition from traditional punk rock in the late 1970s to hardcore in the early 1980s: "(You) could hear it on the records. It went from this Ramones-type stuff, to nine months later, where they put out records that were so fast it's unreal." By the recording of Earth A.D./Wolfs Blood the band were playing faster, more aggressive material. According to Blush, "The Misfits' strengths as a hardcore group lay in non-hardcore attributes–melodic songs and larger-than-life-aura–but by the time of Earth AD Glenn was writing hyperspeed blasts that sounded very standard." The new version of the Misfits launched by Jerry Only and Doyle in the 1990s had a style that was much more heavy metal than punk, an outgrowth of the brothers' experience with their short-lived Christian metal act Kryst the Conqueror. Reviewing American Psycho, Stephen Erlewine of AllMusic called the new incarnation "a kitschy goth-punk outfit that relies more on metal than hardcore", while Rolling Stone remarked that the band's new style blended "some old-style punk, a little metal and an occasional all-out thrasher." Greg Prato, reviewing the 2001 album Cuts from the Crypt, noted that "the latter-day Misfits are much more heavy metal based than in their earlier work – as their punk roots have all but been erased." The Misfits have also been described as pop punk.