Misfits have become so synonymous with punk music that if one were to nominate an official logo to represent the genre, the band’s infamous ‘Crimson Ghost’ skull face would likely run away with the crown. It is as recognisable as any other motif in the history of punk, and serves to unify fans of the New Jersey-based band across the world.
And while the Crimson Ghost made its debut on the cover of the band’s 1979 single ‘Horror Business’, the logo isn’t used in memoriam. Not even close, according to bassist/vocalist Jerry Only, the lone surviving member of the original Misfits.
“We’re going into our 30th year,” says the 54-year-old, speaking on the phone from the band’s touring van on an interstate highway between Pittsburgh and North Carolina. It’s likely the same interstate Only has driven a thousand times throughout his many years as a touring musician. “We’re going to try and stick around until 50. If I can keep a healthy body and mind I think I can do it.”
Only remains incredibly bubbly and upbeat throughout our conversation, considering I’m at the tail end of two hours’ of phoners he’s logged throughout the evening. He answers questions in great detail and often gets lost along his own tangents. Yet there’s a ceaseless energy in his voice, one that bodes well for the future for Misfits fans.
“If I can keep a healthy body and mind I think I can try and double our catalogue in 13 years. This is my cram time,” he says pointedly. “We’re a punk band so it’s a physical job; once you hit 60 you’re pushing it. But I’ve got all my tools, I want to write some really great stuff and go out with a bang. I’ve got one more decade in me, I’ll tell you that.”
There are traces of naivete in his logic, especially given that Misfits have only released three studio albums in the last 12 years. Of course, this can be forgiven; few musicians his age display the same sky-high levels of enthusiasm towards recording and touring.
Only hasn’t settled into a comfortable groove, either. At the turn of the century, the long-time bassist took over vocal duties for the Misfits. And he hasn’t turned back. “It’s funny, I can’t play without singing now but beforehand I couldn’t sing while I would play,” he laughs.
“It was a big transition for me but it helped me grow as a musician. It forced me to pay more attention to my breathing and my concentration. With that comes focus that I can use everywhere. I’m discovering my limitations but I’m figuring how to twist things around as well.”
That focus comes into play when discussing what is truly important to Only and the Misfits legacy. Commercial success has largely eluded the band but he remains unaffected. For Only, happiness stems from the personal connections he maintains with his fans. And he has no intentions of altering this aspect of Misfits, regardless of how long he continues with the band.
“I’m happy with the band because we’re legendary but we’re still underground. One of the things that makes us legendary is that we’re not a commercial success. We’re not out there playing to 50,000 people, we’re playing to 500 or 1,000 people and we have that personal connection with people.
“We hang out with our fans after the shows, take the photos, find out what they like and don’t like. You can learn a lot from your fans, the people you’re trying to hard to entertain. We try to keep it humble.”
BY JOSHUA KLOKE