Your 2015 covers album, Skeletons, gives some indication as to the music that’s soundtracked your life, but which artist was your first real musical love?
“I liked so much stuff: everything from Elvis Presley to The Everly Brothers to doo-wop, but then I also liked stuff like Blue Cheer and Steppenwolf and punk rock and classical music. There was a lot of music in my life when I was growing up, a lot to absorb.”
What do you remember of your first time performing on a stage?
“I remember that people were shocked that this little kid had this big deep voice. The first time would have been at some local dance in New Jersey that bands got to play. I was a bass player and a roadie before I sang in a band, but eventually some people heard me singing and asked me to try out for their band, and that’s how I got promoted to being a singer.”
There’s a lot of mythologising around the early American hardcore scene, particularly among those who weren’t actually there to witness it first-hand. Do you remember the early days of Misfits being a fun time?
“I just look back on it as another period in my life. It’s true that people don’t understand what it was like, though, and a lot of what’s been written about that time doesn’t tally with my reality and my memories.”
Did you feel any sense of community with the other bands on the hardcore scene at the time? Misfits, Minor Threat, MDC, Black Flag, would have crossed paths quite a bit in those days…
“I don’t know, I mean, at the beginning there weren’t any other bands like the Misfits. We were angrier, we were faster, we were louder, we didn’t dress the same, and people were taken aback by us at first, particularly when we were smashing shit up at our shows. To be honest, we didn’t really know that there were other bands like us until we went to check out a band who wanted to play our big Halloween show at [New York venue] Irving Plaza and Bad Brains were opening for us. We were like, ‘Wow!’ It was only then that we realised there were other bands around the country playing hard and fast.”
For a lot of metalheads who weren’t schooled in the punk rock underground, Metallica’s championing of the Misfits played a huge part in opening up that world. When did you become aware that the band had a cult following among fellow musicians?
“I knew about Metallica and some other guys in bands because they’d get in touch with me. Metallica were cool. They blurred the lines between punk and metal, and they were good guys, particularly in the beginning.”
Is it true that it was late Metallica bassist Cliff Burton who encouraged Def Jam/Def American label boss Rick Rubin to check out your band Samhain for the first time?
“I don’t know about that. Rick came to see us at a big New Music Seminar show in New York. We were representing New York, Celtic Frost were representing Europe and D.O.A. were representing Canada. Rick had signed Slayer at a similar show the year before, so he was just checking out all the bands I think. I had other label people there because the band was getting too big for my small label [Plan 9], and he came in and introduced himself. I didn’t know who the fuck he was, he just looked like he was in ZZ Top. But we had some friends in common and I took a couple of meetings with him and I liked what he had to say, so I went with him.”