By Clare McCabe
Our good friends the Misfits are touring NZ and Australia in a few weeks (welcome back guys). I sat down for a phone chat with Mr Jerry Only earlier this week. We talked about the book he is currently writing, his son playing in the band and, of course, The Ramones.
After a bit of chat about earthquakes (who knew Jerry was so into fault-lines), we got into the serious stuff.
Ok questions. What have you got for me Clare?
Ok well firstly I'm very interested to hear more about the book you are currently writing - how's that going?
Ah not well. I'm writing stuff that is really quite fucking interesting, but I have to come up with a way of presenting it to show that life has been like a lesson in some way. I think that's really the key of why I wanted to write a book in the first place. It isn't to tell you a whole bunch of crazy stories about doing drugs and screwing up, but more about philosophy and the way you approach things and how to survive in different situations.
I mean being on the road with some of these crazy guys is kind of a survival course in itself, staying healthy and stuff like that. I could tell you about how we got arrested in a cemetery in New Orleans - about how we got out of jail. I mean I could tell you these things but I don't just want to tell you stories that make it seem like I know cool people. Because everybody likes to tell those stories you know, who cares. I think the moral of the story is what dilemmas we were faced with and the solution to the problem, what your solution would be.
Right, so you would get some lessons out of the book, rather than just a life story?
That's the point. I want it to be a lesson. I want you to say, "oh I remember Jerry Only's story, it sticks in my mind". And this is what they did. And that's how they did it right. And that's how they got out of the jam. And that's how the show went on.
There's a way over everything if you're determined about it, but being intelligent about it is the most important thing that you can do. Right off the bat, as soon as you've got a problem you've got to sit down and think about what you're going to do. That's what I want my book to be.
So right now I'm on the road and I gotta write a new album. I'm going to work on the book when I get a block in my head. If I'm working at a new song and all of a sudden I get a brick wall, then I'll sit down and I'll just start rewriting the book. I'm going to write old stories, and then I'm going to come up with a way of presenting them and leading into them and then leading out of each one.
We've been around 40 years and as of now we're into our fourth reincarnation of the band, and the beginning of the second era of the band.
That's the beauty of doing what we're doing for you guys now, we're starting from the beginning and reviewing everything, and getting ready for the future. So we figured we'd start with Static Age. I'm sure that's one of your questions...
Absolutely. Very exciting that you are playing the whole album...
Well that's the whole point. I mean what happened was our band formed in '77 and in '83 did Earth AD. And Earth AD just tore everything apart. Earth AD has yet to be understood by the human race. And that's how far ahead of its time it was. So that was '83 - you're talking 32 years ago. And that album, the people who got it, the people who understood it, wound up being Metallica and Rob Zombie and Slayer and Anthrax and Megadeth and bands like them. These were the kids that heard Earth AD and thought "wow, how far out there is that"?
When we came back, my objective was to pick a young writer who could take the band beyond my time - you know I want the band to continue beyond me.
Oh yes, I understand that your son is playing the band now, is that correct?
That is correct. And that is the beginning of the second era of the band. We are into our fourth century of Misfits is what I'm thinking. I'm thinking 100 years of Misfits. That's my goal.
Have you got any more children you could include in the band?
I have a nine-year-old daughter and I actually spent my afternoon Christmas shopping because I have to come see you guys and all the toys will be gone.
And we have an all-girl band (She Demons), and my grand-daughter may be able to be the second wave of the She Demons. I'm really proud of them and they're on tour with us. We can't bring them down to you guys because the expense to transport them is too high at this point. But when they have a hit record, I'm sure we'll be down there with them. That's one of the things I'm working on too - I really enjoy that.
Oh yeah, I checked them out on Facebook yesterday ...
Oh what did you think?
I loved them - I see they've been playing support with you in the last few weeks on the US tour...
Yeah they've been touring with us since the beginning of October. We did some showcase shows in California. We did four shows on the West Coast in June and one place hired us for three days and paid extreme money for us to perform the first three albums. So the first night the doors opened and we played Static Age and a whole set. And then the second night we did Walk Among Us and a whole set and then the third night we did Earth AD and a whole set. And we took it to San Diego and did all three albums in one night. It was too much.
Yeah it was just too much. I mean you couldn't do it every night. It's like running a hundred miles you know, you're not going to do it tomorrow, but you can do it today. But that's what we did.
And that's one of the reasons why we're on the Static Age thing. It gives us time to bring my son into the picture, because he's going to be a permanent member of the band obviously. He's been here through this incarnation of the band, he was born in '85 and we started the band up again in '96, so he was eleven when the whole thing started again.
We're also focusing on writing some new material and getting the girl's record out (She Demons). I mean the girl's record, some of it's done, but they want to write a couple more songs and I agree with them. I'm in no rush to launch something if I can make it better beforehand you know, so I agree with that. So we're going to work on a new song, that's our next thing after we see you guys.
Cool, can't wait for it. Now I have another important question to ask you - I was just recently watching the video on YouTube of you guys and Joey Ramone doing "Sheena" live. How much do you miss the Ramones being around?
Oh are you kidding me? You know I never got to play with them and I never got to play with The Cramps and two of the things that I really wanted to have in my life was to play with them.
But the Ramones have been gone for almost twenty years... '96, they've been basically gone almost twenty years. And I'm thinking twenty years ahead. So from a musical standpoint, they're definitely our foundation, they started it and we immediately grabbed it, right out of the gate and turned it into something ourselves. We were there a year and a half/two years after they started the whole thing. I miss Joey a lot and Dee Dee. Johnny I met a couple of times but we didn't know each other and Marky was in the band for years. So as a band I miss them incredibly.
But you know I heard some of their later, live stuff and they played so fast, that Joey can't sing, he can't sing it. And to me it was like "waaaahaaaaa"... you can't hear the words if you're playing so fast - it sounds like somebody's taking a record and spinning it faster than it can actually go. And I think they lost something, and I think that happened to us a lot too.
But I think because our songs are darker, I think that we can play faster and it doesn't affect us dramatically, you know what I mean. The words are spaced out better for us to play faster, I mean from a technical standpoint, our stuff could be sped up and not lose its value. We play probably 20-25 per cent faster live anyway then we do in the studio. It's just that when you ‘re in the studio you relax, you have a cup of coffee... when you go out to play, you've got the spikes on your back, the makeup on your face and people jumping around - it sets the pace. It's a different place.
I think the Ramones mastered both. I mean their studio catalogue is insane and their live stuff is great. I think they were hanging out with Rancid a little bit too much... And I think that what they thought is that they should try and be speed metal as opposed to punk metal.
I would give Joey a lot of time, I mean I played with Joey a lot of times and we worked on his solo record with him and to me that was like a crowning achievement in my career. I considered myself one of the punk inner circle when I worked with Joey. All of a sudden I worked with Joey and now I was accepted. I didn't need that, I mean the Misfits are the Misfits, but in my mind, I mean for me, he was one of my heroes. So when I worked on his record, Marky played and Joey played and Chud played too and it was good. And we hadn't been around in awhile, we were kicking back then - but yeah I miss him a lot, to answer your question.
Oh I do too - saw them many times around the world myself.
You know I'm still friends with CJ. I mean we see CJ from time to time. I wouldn't mind coming to South America or Australia with CJ, playing with his band. You know he joined the Ramones when things were kind of het up. I think that CJ was an asset - he was actually the glue that kind of held things together.
I tell you what Dee Dee writes hit songs. End of story. Rockaway Beach, I Wanna Be Sedated, you know what I mean. I tried to write with Dee Dee one time. I would go up there once every two weeks for a day. He would just write something for you - he'd come up with a song and then he'd go "you like that one Jerry, if you don't like that one I'll write another one".
Good times, good people. God bless their souls.
You know I think they would be very proud of what they did. I think that they're going to be remembered as the greatest oldies band of all time. People will always go back to listening to the Ramones. I mean you hear Hey Ho, Let's Go all the time if you're at the ball games. You can't go to a football game without everyone yelling Hey Ho, Let's Go. You know punk is the mainstream today. I think a lot of people don't understand that. But musically you know between Blondie and some of the other stuff that came out, punk is everywhere. It's part of the world.
Well I suppose I better let you go, you've got a lot of interviews to do today.
Yeah I do, I've got the day off so ... Clare, thank you so much, it was a pleasure telling you about the band. Come down and catch the show and make sure you introduce yourself.
Oh I will Mr Only, I will. And thanks so much for your time. What a pleasure it was talking to you.
Guys, if you can, grab yourself a ticket to the Misfits when they visit us in early December, dates listed below. And sing along to all your horror-punk favourites - I got something to say....
Thursday December 3rd: Allen St, Christchurch
Friday December 4th Wellington: Bar Bodega, Wellington
Saturday December 5th: Galatos, Auckland
Tickets via Metropolis Touring