On Earth as it is in court: Only and Danzig in happier(?) times.
The brand new Misfits legal horror business: founding singer Glenn Danzig has filed suit against bassist Jerry Only for breach of contract, claiming Only violated a 1994 legal agreement by trademarking various band logos and images in his own name in the year 2000. Danzig is seeking $75,000, but is also asking the court to figure out how much Caiafa might owe him as a result of lost or blocked licensing deals.
This action comes just five years after ex-Misfits Bobby Steele and Arthur Googy sued Only over the exact same thing. That case fell apart after key evidence on the plaintiffs’ side went missing (according to Steele, his ex-wife purposely destroyed said evidence during their very acrimonious breakup).
Both suits cite the same facts: during the second half of 2000, Jerry Only filed applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to trademark various Misfits logos—including the Famous Monsters version of the Misfits logo and a version of the Crimson Ghost mascot (referred to in the legal papers as the “Fiend Skull”)—in his offstage name of Gerald Caiafa and did so without notifying other band members. The applications were all approved by 2003; Only then began licensing these logos to retailers. This violated a 1994/5 contract in which splintered Misfits factions agreed to share ownership of the band’s name as well as pre-existing trademarks, logos, and artwork. The Misfits were also bound not to use “names, likenesses and visual representations” of each other without written consent.
That contract, of course, was one of the end results of Only suing Danzig in 1992 over various copyrights and unpaid royalties. Another result: Danzig, who broke up the band in 1983, allowing Only the performance rights to the Misfits. Only has had some version of the band going ever since; in this new lawsuit, Danzig calls Jerry’s Misfits an “imitation,” asserting the “vast majority of…Misfits fans associate the [trademarks in question]” with his original stint, wherein Danzig was known as the band’s “creative heart.” The singer also suggests Only’s “primary qualification” for replacing original bassist Diane DiPiazza in February of 1977 is that “he had recently received a bass guitar for Christmas.”
Danzig apparently became aware of Only’s trademark moves around 2005; that’s when the singer first began filing cancellation/opposition proceedings with the U.S. PTO. Danzig last filed an opposition in 2008. Meanwhile, Only hasn’t let up in his quest to put the Misfits logos on every available surface. This would be fine and dandy, allegedly, if he had cleared it all with Danzig, and if he hadn’t bullied stores into not working with Danzig. To wit:
Caiafa has prevented and continues to prevent other retailers, including Hot Topic, which is the largest retailer of the Misfits products, from entering into licenses with Danzig and/or his designee to merchandise products…by falsely instructing the merchandisers that he is the exclusive owner of the marks, and that, if they enter into a license agreement with Danzig to exploit the marks, they must pay Caiafa a license fee and/or a significant monetary penalty…Caiafa’s misrepresentations have proximately caused injury to Danzig by causing merchandisers not to do business with him, and have deceived consumers as to the source of merchandise bearing the marks…Had Caiafa not interfered with Danzig’s ability to exploit the marks, Danzig or his designee would have entered into lucrative agreements to license the marks…”
Danzig (or rather, his lawyer) goes on to call Only’s behavior “despicable” and notes that he’s been “subjected to cruel and unjust hardship in conscious disregard of his rights.”
The most recent action in this case is the April 29 waiver of service of summons from Jerry Only’s attorney, which just means Danzig’s lawyer doesn’t have to send someone to New Jersey or Chicago or where ever Only lives now to serve the guy with papers.
Interesting bit with the “Fiend Skull.” Perhaps Danzig fears the wrath of Paramount Pictures, who currently own the original Crimson Ghost film serial from which the Misfits appropriated that logo. Someone at Paramount knows what they’re sitting on there: when I inquired about using a still from The Crimson Ghost in my book they asked for what amounts to half a year’s rent.
More on this story as it develops…or, maybe in this case, decomposes. Below: the first page of DANZIG v. CAIAFA, all of which I have read. Yes, there is reference to Kryst the Conqueror.
Earlier this week former Misfits guitarist Doyle “Wolfgang Von Frankenstein” Caiafa (né Paul) announced that he (and ostensibly the world) is ready for a touring / album reunion of “the original [Misfits] lineup” and that he is in fact the “only one” capable of brokering such an auspicious event. Quoth Doyle:
You know what? I’ve just decided this week that I am going to make an attempt, and I wanna do it. I’ll put what I’m doing right on the fucking side. I’ll go do it tomorrow.”
Great, I say with one hundred percent earnest, even though by “original” I’m sure Doyle means his early ’80s era of the band, which if we’re being polite was at least the fourth Misfits iteration. I am coming at you honest and true from my heart of hearts when I say it would really be something special to see founder Glenn Danzig, founding bassist Jerry Only, Doyle, and drummer Arthur Googy doing anything together, even if it was just twenty minutes on the side stage of some bullshit-ass festival. If you pressed me I might even use the term “magical.”
I am burying the lede, though. Scroll through the many comments on the aforelinked article and you’ll find a couple accounts from singers who tried out for the Misfits reformation that began in 1995 (and continues to this day with Only as the sole original member). I’m sure it will surprise absolutely no one familiar with the muscle-bound punk band to learn there was, allegedly, a weight lifting requirement.
“I was trying to get an audition with the Misfits back when they were looking for a replacement for Danzig,” writes Paul LaPlaca. “I answered an ad in the [Village] Voice…[and] I was given a machine gun series of questions on everything from my influences to how much I could bench press. I blew the interview when I asked who I was talking to. He said, ‘Jerry.’ As I took it down with pen and paper I asked, ‘And your last name?’ ‘Jerry ONLY. The BASS player.’ click.'”
“I also remember being asked how much I could bench press,” replied Edward Martin.
Disclaimer: LaPlaca and Martin might be trolling us fiends, feeding into the meathead Jersey Boy stereotype some people like to believe the Misfits embodied / still embody, but I don’t think their claims are too far-fetched. Physical stature has long been a key component of the Misfit image, and it’s not like they’re saying Jerry asked them to name their favorite New York Giants place kicker. If this bench pressing thing is true, one must wonder the exact number for entry into this legendary band (250? 300? A Buick?). Also, how much could Michale Graves bench in 1995? He clinched that open vocal spot despite looking no stronger than any given Baldwin.
Oh, and since I’m sure everyone reading this remembers the “Saturday Night Live” skit the the top image is taken from there is absolutely no need to discuss it beyond this sentence.
Rewriting Misfits songs as Christmas carols: before this year I’ve known of only two bands to tackle such a concept. In 2006 Calgary’s ChrisFits served up the lo-fi noel LULZ with one-offs such as “I Turned Into a Reindeer” and “Yuletide Business” (shiz was so good I had to bookmark their Myspace page). Three years later, Cincinnati-based Two Inch Winky proved candy caned horror punk could be spread across an entire album by dropping the riotous and brilliantly titled Legacy of Nativity. If any actual former Misfits objected to these non-secular projects the public didn’t hear about it; hence, the playing field seemed clear for such trends to continue.
While I was personally hoping 2013 would finally yield the Hanukkah-themed parody of Walk Among Us the world so desperately needs I was not disappointed at all with 11 Hits From Heaven by Misfitsmas. Perhaps the richest-sounding and most lovingly crafted of all the Xmas / Misfits mashups, 11 Hits could pass for an honest Christmas album and not just some tongue-in-cheek novelty appealing mostly to those who can pick Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein out of a lineup. Unfortunately, you can’t hear this aural treat anymore: on December 20, eight days after the Misfitsmas (who hail from Illinois) made 11 Hits available for streaming, lawyers representing founding Misfit Glenn Danzig issued a cease and desist. The album has since been wiped from the Internet.
“I just don’t know why you would go after fans [over] a Christmas-themed parodies album,” the Misfitsmas wrote to me via Facebook after I inquired about the situation a couple days ago. The band also makes sure to note they never sought and were never going to seek any profit from their work (Misfitsmas gave 11 Hits away for free on Bandcamp.com). Still frustrated by the situation, this Danzig-bashing Vine was posted by the Misfitsmas to their Facebook page yesterday.
What’s happening here is obvious: Glenn Danzig is only now cracking down on Christmas-related Misfits parodies because he’s secretly cooking up his own Misfits Christmas album, and he’s planning to drop it December 25th with no promotion, Beyoncé-style. Once again, mainstream R&B is dictating Danzig’s career path! I mean, that makes sense to me. It’s just too bad for Misfitsmas—they made something really cool in 11 Hits From Heaven.
Meanwhile, the current active Misfits assembly (lead by original bassist Jerry Only) just released “Horror Xmas,” a seasonal single proudly offering the band’s by-the-numbers cover of “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch.” No word yet of any comment from the surviving families of Dr. Seuss, Boris Karloff, or “Grinch” music composer Albert Hague.
From the message board postings of fans who claim to have spoken with Jerry Only to your surely fatigued ears: The Misfits (at this point still a trio with Only on vocals) will release yet another live album in January. Entitled DEA.D. ALIVE!, the disc is rumored to cull fourteen tracks from a Misfits gig recorded in 2011 at Manhattan’s B.B. King’s Blues Club. The cover image will apparently feature an artist’s rendering of Only’s face, because hey, why not? While no immediate explanation has been given concerning the album’s oddly punctuated title scuttlebutt suggests the band couldn’t use Evilive III because founding Misfit Glenn Danzig (who you will recall left the band in 1983) legally owns the word “evilive” and supposedly read his former cronies the riot act when they titled their 1998 live outing Evilive II.
Also in the works from Jerry Only (pictured) and pals is a reissue of the 2003 oldies cover album Project 1950 that will feature one or three or five newly recorded tunes, including Elvis Presley’s 1963 hit “(You’re The) Devil in Disguise” (which rocketed to number one in the United Kingdom upon its original release). Depending on your level of Misfits fandom, this is either a massive relief or crushing disappointment in light of earlier rumors the band was working on an entire album of Presley-specific material. Who knows how close humanity will ever come to hearing Jerry Only put his huffy mark on “In The Ghetto.”
The Devil’s Rain
When asked about the state of his band shortly after singer Michale Graves and drummer Dr. Chud both quit on the same night in 2000, bassist Jerry Only said something to the effect of “Anything concerning the Misfits is between me and my brother, Doyle.” These days, anything concerning the fate of suburban New Jersey’s most storied punk rock band appears to be secured firmly between Only’s ears. Brother Doyle was replaced on guitar by Black Flag legend Dez Cadena in 2001, but it still took a decade for this latest incarnation of the band Only founded in 1977 with vocalist Glenn Danzig to release an album’s worth of new material. Nail-biting fans must wonder—did Jerry Bear spend the Aughts trying to convince Danzig to return to the fold?
If so, he clearly didn’t wave enough money in Glenn’s face. The Devil’s Rain, lucky seven in the Misfits discography, finds Only assuming lead vocals. The monstrous bass player has a commanding and tuneful bellow, but the vampire bite of the two who came before him seems generally absent. Musically, the Misfits have stripped away here many of the heavy metal elements that punctuated their 1990s releases, barreling away in a mid-tempo rockish manner that only occasionally breaks into something Judas Priesty. This proves to be both positive and negative: While it’s great to hear a Misfits record that cruises more or less at the same pace as their dusty ’70s classic Static Age, even that record punched the hardcore throttle once in a while. Nothing on Devil’s Rain comes within a mile of matching the speedy theatrics of that album’s “We Are 138” or “Bullet.”
But what of theme? Anyone expecting The Devil’s Rain to offer biting commentary on the geopolitic or our nation’s planking epidemic will be crestfallen to learn the Misfits are continuing to simply swipe horror movie titles and write songs around them. “Land of the Dead,” “Dark Shadows,” “Death Ray,” and “Ghost of Frankenstein” all offer reasonable if not rousing tributes to their celluloid predecessors, although that last one is almost felled by a handful of corny monster grunts to drive home the point we are listening to a song about Frankenstein (or rather, Frankentein’s ghost). Similarly, “Death Ray” closes with album with—you guessed it—a sputtering of lasery death ray noises.
Only once do the Misfits of 2011 stray ever so slightly from their ooky spooky trick-or-treat tableau: “Where Do They Go” is a do-woppy lost love song centered around infamous murder burg Juárez, Mexico. The band fumbles a tad as they try to address such a shockingly real social horror in their quasi-cartoon style, but there’s enough hook to sink the chorus of “Where Do They Go” firmly into the recesses of your brain. Those gooey female back-up vocals, by the way, come courtesy of Joanna Powers, Jerry Only’s ex-wife.
Producer Ed Stasium gives the Misfits (a trio now consisting of Only, Cadena, and drummer Eric “Goat” Arce) a full, engaging sound on The Devil’s Rain, and there are moments where enough melodic horror flares up to remind skull jockeys of the band’s original intangible magic. Unfortunately, at fifty minutes, this outing is padded with too many so-so tunes that end up running together like trickles of lukewarm blood. Had they sliced the thing in half, the Misfits may have had something strong enough to shame devilocked doubters into corpse-like silence.
Then again, there’s nothing as stupid or embarrassing on The Devil’s Rain as that song Glenn wrote about his penis from the last Danzig record, and here it sounds like they actually paid to have the damn thing mastered. So the point in this round of “Who’s Working Hardest Not To Ruin Their Legacy?” goes to Mr. Only, unless it turns out “Curse of the Mummy’s Hand” is some kind of masturbation joke. In that case, well…anything concerning Jerry Only’s masturbation habits is between the man’s own meaty, leathered paw and his wang.
FINAL SCORE: Two Ghosts of Frankenstein (out of four).
In case you haven’t been paying attention, here’s the cover of The Devil’s Rain, the Misfits album that’s due sometime in October. In case you really haven’t been paying attention, no, Danzig is not back in the band. Hell, they couldn’t even get Dr. Chud on this shiz. It’s just eternal Misfits champion Jerry Only, Black Flag legend Dez Cadena (who’s been touring with Jerry as the Misfits since George Bush’s first term), and Goat from Murphy’s Law. Depressing, sure, but let’s reserve judgment until we actually hear The Devil’s Rain. You never know. Even Battle for the Planet of the Apes had its moments (and they shot that thing mostly in a public park).
The rock never stops here in JG2Land. Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein, the six foot pile of muscles who currently pounds his bat-shaped guitar for similarly-named horror punk outfit Gorgeous Frankenstein, dropped a bombshell in the Cleveland Free Times yesterday—apparently his former band the Misfits came this close to reuniting with fussy founder Glenn Danzig in 2002. ZOMFG! Unfortunately, Doyle’s brother and longtime Misfits bass player Jerry Only screwed the undead pooch on the whole deal. Read:
“We were actually going to do a Misfits reunion with Glenn,” says Doyle. “But Jerry put a fuckin’ monkey wrench in it. [In] 2002, we had meetings … And [Jerry] kind of fucked it up, him and his manager. We were going to do a record, do a tour and everything. So let all the Misfits fans put that in their pipe and smoke it.”
The full article doesn’t elaborate any further, but independent research conducted by yours truly uncovered the rumor that Jerry pushed too hard for the inclusion of original Misfits drummer Robo in this proposed reunion. Glenn, who I’m pretty sure fired Robo from the Misfits in 1983 (precipitating the band’s initial breakup), was apparently not about that. Danzig was only willing to participate, my source* tells me, if the drummer from his long-running eponymous band, Joey Castillo, was behind the kit. Including Castillo, of course, would be totally wrong. Joey’s from California, and federal law dictates every single person who plays in the Misfits has to be from a working class suburb in New Jersey.
Would I pay money to see a Misfits reunion featuring Glenn Danzig? Ten years ago, absolutely, without question. I wouldn’t care if Bozo the Clown was drumming and they were doing an exclusive tour of McDonald’s Playlands. Today? Oooh, I’m not so sure. Glenn would have to promise to actually sing the songs instead of just barking and howling the lyrics like a horny, dying wolf. He’d also have to give me a no lycra guarantee. If I could get those two on lockdown, I’d certainly clear my schedule to make sure I could go if I felt like it that night.
In a related story, I recently read an interview in which Michale Graves, the singer who replaced Glenn Danzig in the Misfits, stated he’d gladly make another forty albums with the band if they could get together and work out their problems (man, those guys are some tumultuous motherfuckers!). Can you imagine if the Misfits reunited with Michale Graves and made forty more albums? Just think about that for a second. Forty Misfits albums with Michale Graves. How far do you think they’d get before they’d have to start writing songs that aren’t about or named after horror movies? Can you imagine a Misfits song about Caddyshack or The Gods Must Be Crazy? That would be the definition of LOL.
* = the filthy hobo who practices karate moves all day outside Bagel World.