New Zealand’s Love & Pop interviewed me last week about This Music Leaves Stains. Could be the best conversation I’ve had in a public forum about the book. Take a looky-loo:
Less recently I curated an oral history of the Eddie Murphy disaster Vampire In Brooklyn for Hopes & Fears. Did you know it’s possible to smoke so much pot your eyes change size? Behold:
As always, thank you for your support and patronage. Namaste.
Misfits news lying on a table of filth, Misfits news to which I’ve not yet replied.
Although an exact reason for his departure was not given when Dez Cadena left the current incarnation of the Misfits back in June, it turns out the guitarist is battling throat cancer. You may contribute to the “Help Dez Beat Cancer’s Ass” GoFundMe page here. Bassist and vocalist Jerry Only’s adult son Jerry Junior has been christened as Dez’s replacement; Jr.’s crazy if he doesn’t adopt the stage name Jerry Also (first suggested by Misfits Central message boarder “Mega Man”). In September the Misfits will embark on a U.S. tour wherein, at each stop, they will perform Static Age in its entirety. Why not? Gotta do something to commemorate the album’s 37th anniversary.
By the way, Dez Cadena played with the Misfits for fourteen years (2001-2015), approximately four times longer than his legendary stint in Black Flag. Does that mean he’ll go into the Punk Rock Hall of Fame with corpse paint? Can you even imagine a Punk Rock Hall of Fame? That’s what they should do with that abandoned Burger King on Governors Island in New York. Refurbish it as a shrine to everything Lou Reed wrought.
In July, Jerry Only told Metal Hammer he is in the midst of writing a book about his life. Now I don’t feel so bad about Jer never responding to any of my invitations to lend his voice to This Music Leaves Stains. Jerry’s book will include “a lot of the tragedies,” he says. You’re expecting me to make a Devil’s Rain joke here but I refuse to give you the satisfaction.
On the other side of the tomb: this Friday, Danzig (the band) will release single the first from their long-awaited covers EP Skeletons. Unfortunately, said single, a rousing rendition of the Devil’s Angels theme backed with a version of the Nightriders’ “Satan,” is confined to the European market via a limited edition vinyl run of 500 copies from AFM Records. If there’s a plan for digital release it remains secret for now. There is also no street date in place for the entirety of Skeletons, which shall find Danzig barreling through hits made famous by Black Sabbath, Aerosmith, and ZZ Top. Guys, we wanna buy your stuff. Why make it so challenging? Is that how Lucifer dictates it in the blood oath? I’d have your lawyer renegotiate that parchment.
Meanwhile, Danzig (the man) recently filmed a guest shot for the Peabody Award-winning comedy show “Portlandia.” Details are scarce, but somehow Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen convinced our Hellhound to unbutton his shirt and hit the beach. A vaguely iconic photo was produced, if only because it suggests Glenn has reached a new level of self-comfort.
Coincidentally, this pic popped up the same day “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” co-creator Dave Willis appeared on Tom Scharpling’s “The Best Show” to talk about the “Aqua Teen” series finale…and, at the behest of Scharpling, Danzig. Glenn voiced an animated version of himself on Willis’s cult cartoon in 2002 and famously caused a rigamarole before he could even step in the recording booth. Given final say on his two dimensional likeness, Danzig kept rejecting what the animators drew for not having the correct musculature.
“I’m way more cut than that,” was the Danzig money quote relayed from Willis to “Best Show” listeners. In order to circumvent any squabbling about the singer’s height (or lack thereof), “Aqua Teen” simply made him six feet tall from the start. Strategic move.
Now, on “Portlandia,” Danzig has no qualms about his physical definition (or lack thereof) and even told one news outlet he “had a blast.” Thirteen years can sure change a man. Who knows, maybe the people at “Portlandia” are just that much more charming and/or convincing.
And what of Joey Image? Over the Summer the percussionist who plays on the original storied “Horror Business” recorded a new version of that song—plus “Teenagers From Mars” and a couple originals—with Orlando-based punks Awesome & The Asskickers for their free release AAK. Download it here. Sounds like Joey can still rip it the hell up. Adrenalin O.D. drummer Dave Scott provides backup vox on the Misfits tracks (as well as drums on two A.O.D. revivals: “Nice Song” and “White Hassle”).
Speaking of the post-Static Age pre-Walk Among Us Misfits, Bobby Steele’s band the Undead continue to live up to their name: the group has scheduled an appearance at this year’s Chiller Theater convention in Parsippany, New Jersey. October 23-25 with a special performance on the 24th. For more info creep over to their website, TheUndead.com. Also appearing at Chiller 2015: Julie Newmar, Burt Ward, Adam West, and Antonio “Huggy Bear” Fargas!
Having authored a book about the Misfits you’d think I’d write about them here with more regularity. What stops me is concern over becoming trapped as “the Misfits guy” and also a perception that fiend-dom is shrinking as time goes on. Then I see viral stuff like the photo above, a Misfits t-shirt at Wal-Mart, coupled with endless “thumbs down” emojis from disillusioned ghouls of all stripes, and I realize the committed may actually be growing. So I rekindle my own flame. Once again, bonfire burnin’ bright.
Until the next batch of macabre happenings, consider this: the ex-Misfit Doyle is, as of last year, a vegan. No longer is the man who played on “Brain Eaters” a brain eater. Do they make soy brains? If so they must taste terrible.
Jerry Only and Glenn Danzig in August of 1981. Photographer unknown.
Central District of California Judge Gary Klausner threw out Glenn Danzig’s lawsuit against former band mate Jerry Only on August 6th, stating that Danzig failed to specify which exact terms of a 1994 legal agreement between the Misfits Only violated when the latter began merchandising Misfits emblems under his own name in the early 2000s.
Noting that the ’94 agreement does not “address any obligation regarding trademark registration or negotiations with individual retail merchandisers as to licensing,” Klausner stated “the Court finds no alleged facts that constitute a breach of the merchandising provision…the [original paper] contemplates that [Only] has a non-exclusive right to merchandise…and otherwise exploit the designs…[and to] to retain 100% of earnings from such exploitation…the Court also finds no other terms that govern the parties’ conduct as it pertains to trademarking and licensing.”
Indeed, the original settlement clearly states “the parties shall be co-owners of [the Misfits name] and all logo(s)” with no obligation to communicate with each other concerning merchandising deals, but it also says “each party shall retain exclusive ownership of any artwork created by that party.” That’s where Danzig lost this round, it seems: by not emphasizing that he created many of the designs Only’s been licensing. Danzig’s suit merely says it’s his era of the band that’s most closely associated with that stuff. Had he stated, “I created the ‘Fiend Skull,’ I created the ‘Horror Business’ cover and all the other classic Misfits artwork Jerry’s currently selling on his website,” things would probably be moving forward.
Is Danzig afraid of coming right out and claiming to be the hand behind the Fiend Skull, a.k.a. the Crimson Ghost, now that the Crimson Ghost film serial he took it from is owned by Paramount? I’ve mentioned this previously, but Paramount is well aware of that skull’s value. They wanted an astronomical fee to let me print a still from the serial in my book. I imagine this is why every legal paper refers to the logo as the “Fiend Skull.” They’re dancing around the fact they appropriated their most beloved icon from a property that’s now in the hands of a billion dollar company.
Not that Paramount would necessarily bother going after the Misfits; they didn’t own TCG when the band began using that skull, the band has been using it so long w/o repercussion, and how much in damages could they really get? Nothing compared to their weekly budgets, surely.
It’s unclear what will happen from here. Danzig certainly receives his due for making all those album covers Only is putting on t-shirts. However, Glenn did wait a very long time to flex his legal muscles, and although he made some fine points in his lawsuit they weren’t fine enough. To be honest, I’m more concerned about his next album, the covers album. I want that yaz to drop already. My fingers are crossed that it’s close to release and Glenn will hit the road behind it on a “Tryin’ to Pay My Lawyers” tour.
The warring parties of Only and Danzig in 1983. Photo by Bill Daniel.
You bet your life there’s gonna be a fight: Misfits bassist Jerry Only and his lawyers have moved to dismiss the lawsuit Misfits founder Glenn Danzig brought against Only in May for trademark infringement and breach of contract, claiming Danzig has no evidence to back his myriad allegations and also that the singer waited too long to make this legal move.
“By his own insistence, Danzig has had no association with the Misfits since at the latest 1994,” Only’s filing state, going on to make the accusation that the singer is attempting to “unfairly profit” from “belatedly recogniz[ing] the [Misfits’] value” (Danzig is seeking $75,000 in damages from profits lost due to Only’s activities). The term “naked money grab” is also used at one point, which conjures up quite the image if you’re not expecting it in relation to Glenn Danzig.
Danzig’s original suit alleges that in the early 2000s Jerry Only fraudulently put his name on various Misfits logos/trademarks that, per a previous legal settlement, were supposed to be co-owned by band members. Only now claims that original settlement did in fact grant him full use of those logos and trademarks, and that even if they hadn’t, Danzig waited too long to do anything about. The statute of limitations in a situation like this is six years; Danzig had patent objections pending against Only for “nearly ten years” with no conclusion, and his lawsuit comes “approximately fourteen [years]” after the disputed breaches of contract.
Danzig concedes that by 2005 he even had actual knowledge of the underlying facts to exercise his purported rights…yet chose to wait nine more years before bringing his claim.”
This could play into Only’s other serious counter: that Danzig can offer no concrete evidence Jerry’s merchandising activities have cost him business. Indeed, there is no specific example cited in Danzig’s claim of a licensing deal gone south thanks to Jerry Only’s interference.
Touching on the aforementioned legal settlement, a.k.a. the 1994 Misfits Agreement: it states that “the parties shall be co-owners of the name and trademarks of the Misfits and all logo(s) and artwork…previously associated therewithin.” However, Jerry now argues that in “renouncing” the band at that time Danzig also renounced his claims to these logos and trademarks. Although there is no specific language in the ’94 Agreement that covers the contingent of a Misfit abandoning his rights, the “Merch” section ends by saying “the plaintiffs and Danzig will each retain 100% of what each earns from the exploitation of merchandising rights and neither [party] has any obligation to account to the other for revenue derived…”
That sounds like it might be tough to beat. Do note the entire merch outline in the ’94 Agreement is but a paragraph long. It would seem Danzig (at that time the defendant) had little idea as to the exact windfalls of cash the Misfits logos would yield in the following decade—thanks, mostly, to his letting Jerry get out there and reform the band without him.
Not everything with Jerry is rock solid here, though. The bassist’s legals throw out a few sentences that are sure to rub longtime fans as dubious at best. To wit: the part about the Crimson Ghost (a.k.a. “the Fiend Skull”) being “uniquely developed by and identified with” Jerry’s ’90s version of the band, a logo he’s claiming “the 1977-1983 incarnation of the Misfits never used as a trademark.”
If he’s referring to the weird 3-D Crimson Ghost that popped up around 1997, sure, that’s undoubtedly a “NewFits” logo, but there is no staggering difference between that emblem and the “Fiend Skull” that appeared on the front of the 1979 “Horror Business” single and the back of the 1980 Beware EP and on the back of 1981’s Walk Among Us album and all over the Misfits’ amplifiers and wrist bands and guitar straps circa ’82.
[Never mind the fact that every “Fiend Skull” in Misfits history is a shallow derivative of something “uniquely developed” by Republic Pictures for a 1940s film serial.]
Even stranger: Jerry’s motion literally says that what is even worse than Danzig making all these claims is the fact the singer filed his papers in California. “[Danzig] seeks to drag [me] 3,000 miles across the country to defend against his deficient claims.” Methinks the $75k Danzig seeks in damages is more crippling than a plane ticket, but who knows, maybe Jerry’s got some paranoia about earthquakes.
Two other bits of interest:
– Jerry Only boasts that he and his company Cyclopian Music “have developed the Misfits into an iconic lifestyle brand”; that translates to “we got the Misfits logo on shoelaces”
– “it is legally irrelevant with what person or entity, if any, consumers associate a mark and, more precisely, this cannot constitute the likelihood of consumer confusion”; Jerry’s missing the point here in the sense that Misfits fans aren’t worried with marketplace overlap, they just want to make sure they’re giving their money to the Misfit they agree most with artistically (even if Danzig is found guilty of framing Jerry for everything in the past three decades there will still be a loyal army of spenders who live to dump their paychecks into his wallet because of How The Gods Kill)
Said it before, saying it again: justice should prevail in this war. May the guilty be punished and the innocent spared. Also, maybe one side or the other could think about putting Googy on a t-shirt? Need to show my pride.
Jerry Only in 1979. Photo by John Rynski.
“Danzig’s lawsuit can only be described as a sour grapes tantrum based on outrageous allegations, the majority of which are completely false,” Jerry Only announced yesterday in a statement to Alternative Press, continuing to say the accusations of breach of contract and trademark infringement brought forth by his estranged band mate are “ill conceived and grossly misguided and will be proven false in court.” Let’s start making bets on whether or not Only will show up for the trial with his devilock.
Jerry’s statement also claims Danzig’s lawsuit is packed with “falsehoods” and that the whole thing is born from the fact “[his] own product line doesn’t sell as well as he might like.” My favorite part is where Only refers to Glenn Danzig as “former co-founder” of the Misfits. Maybe this is semantics, but you can’t quit having founded something. You can quit being a member, which Danzig did, but creating something isn’t an ongoing process you can walk away from. If you shoot somebody, you can’t say, “Oh no, I formerly shot that guy. I’m not a part of that anymore.” You did it, that’s part of your life and everybody else’s.
A more important point: Jerry Only says he is “under no obligation, legal, contractual or otherwise, to obtain consent, or approvals of any kind, from former member Glenn Danzig in connection with their use of the Misfits name or logos.” This is true, technically, simply because Only registered himself as sole owner of almost all of the pre-existing Misfits marks circa 2000, ignoring the mid-’90s agreement between band members that said they share ownership of said marks. Forgive the U.S. Patent Office for not being terribly familiar with the ongoing saga of punk rock’s most ghoulish.
Maybe there wouldn’t be an issue with Danzig or other original Misfits if Jerry was mainly licensing images from the non-classic version of the band he’s been performing with since Clinton was in office; one look at the official Misfits.com store, however, and you can see that isn’t the case. The front page is laden with accessories boasting Danzig era artwork, including the classic stencil of the Crimson Ghost and the ’80s Fiend Club logo (there’s even a section of t-shirts on the site labeled “vintage series”—all with images created before 1994).
Excuse me for stating the obvious, but it will be very interesting to see how this all plays out and/or what facts further legal action uncovers. One would assume Jerry worked out some deal to use the pre-existing marks on the handful of Misfits albums he made in the late ’90s before getting his name on the logos in 2000. What’s Danzig’s story with that? There has always been an enormous amount of confusion over who owns what in this band, particularly in regard to the artwork. With any luck this case will actually go to trial and we’ll see the clearest picture possible of the imagery lineage.
Also worth noting: Glenn Danzig is not exactly an angel when it comes to business or his business relationships. You don’t have to go very far to find proof of that. He may have told Jerry one thing about these trademarks and decided he had another opinion later. As I’ve stressed since the publication of This Music Leaves Stains: yes, I have my own biases and opinions when it comes to the Misfits, but I try hard to look at all this stuff objectively, and as in any other matter I hope the truly wronged find their justice.
Meanwhile, Black Flag managed to settle all their legal issues, because summer’s coming and they don’t want to harsh that beach mellow. We really wouldn’t want any of those guys to have a [puts on sunglasses] nervous breakdown.
[cue Roger Daltrey scream]
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.