Michale Graves may describe himself as the kid from Dumont, New Jersey that didn’t feel like he belonged in the heavy music world, but 23 hard-hitting years in the business tell you different.
While the vocalist is most well-known as the ex-frontman and a chief songwriter of horror punk pioneers Mistfits, particularly during the American Psycho (1997) era, his influence is far reaching. From hosting his own radio show ‘Radio Deadly‘ to creating and starring in short films, Graves thrives on multiple outlets – that culminates into a drive to mentor young creatives in the business.
Ahead of his gigs at two of the country’s most respected rock bars, Melbourne’s Cherry Bar and Frankie’s Pizza in Sydney, Graves sat down to remember touring with Marky Ramone, turning a curse into a blessing, and being backed by Type O Negative‘s vocalist and bassist Peter Steele during his first gig as lead singer of Misfits.
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Since you’re playing two of our most iconic rock bars, what’s your experience of either going to the venues or hearing about them?
“I keep hearing about how iconic these venues are, and it’s an honour to be praised the way that I am. The excitement surrounding these shows is amazing. I’m overwhelmed and thankful for it all.”
What’s your personal relationship with Australia been like? Have you been able to get down here as often as you’d prefer?
“I played Australia with Misfits. It was many years ago and I was very young, so I don’t remember much. I do remember walking around Sydney a bit, and I also had the opportunity to play a handful of cities years back with Marky Ramone. It was a really great experience, the shows were fantastic and the fans were amazing.
“To be able to now come on my terms, with my project and music is awesome. I’m so stoked to come out and do what I do.”
That’s definitely a testament to how much passion you have for the job and the tenacity that you have.
“Oh thank you. It’s funny because for years, I couldn’t figure out if this was a blessing or a curse (chuckles). But I’ve embraced it more as a blessing over the past five or six years.”
What made it seem like a curse for you? I know things had been a bit rocky with Misfits before you left in 2000 – is that what you would put it down to?
“Yeah! I was a very young man when I joined Misfits, and it was a whirlwind. Life wasn’t very easy when I got out of the band. I had to start my career again, and it was not an easy path at all. Then further down the road, I started a family, and it was increasingly difficult to be away from them. It was always difficult for me to be on the road, for lots of different reasons. So life hurt.
“There were a lot of dark times, and it became so dark that I had to make a decision about what my life was going to be. So for many years it was like Jacob wrestling with the angel. I gave in and said different things to myself, and it turned the curse into a blessing. Since I’ve done that, my life has been more wonderful than I can even begin to communicate.”
Something that I chat to a lot of musicians about is the fact that they join bands so young, when they haven’t even fully matured yet. Then adult life just catches up to them.
“Yeah, and I was 20 years old when I joined Misfits. All I knew was that world, how to be a musician and be on the road. But you know, it is a difficult life and world, so it’s hard to come in and out. Some people get pulled into the vacuum of it. It’s easy to do.”
Definitely. Now I know that your current state of having full creative control with your solo work certainly wasn’t how you left Misfits. You felt like you weren’t getting the respect you deserved, or even the opportunity to contribute to the band’s artistic direction, right?
“That’s true! I often compare myself to a natural resource that Misfits were just plundering. I was contributing a lot, and nobody cared about my future as an artist. So now having creative control and being the master of my own destiny is a wonderful thing. The vote stops with me, and when we fail or succeed, it’s on me and the team that surrounds me.”
That’s something that really resonates with me, having started my own music podcast after doing university radio.
“For sure! One of the things I love to do outside of music is talk to other artists and individuals, and give them the tools and leadership skills that I find are lacking throughout the business. They’re certainly what a lot of young people need to achieve what they want. I often find that younger folks will rely on others when they don’t need to. They just need that encouragement to take that step, and be the master of their own destiny.”
Did that mentality spark your move to radio as a platform to connect with people? I saw that some episodes have been re-broadcasted this year.
“One hundred percent. It gives people my world view, and allows them into my inner thinking and how I view the world. It’s also an example of being a free thinker, or an independent mind or a musician… I love working on the radio show, and can’t wait to get back to it.”
An episode that really intrigued me was one from February 2011, where you were talking to the guys on the show about facing your mortality. Considering you’ve explored death and being subject to it so much throughout your music, did being in Misfits make it easier to face your own mortality?
“Being a believer in Christ helped me faced my mortality, mostly. But I’m human, so being able to look that mortality in its face and go down that rabbit hole is an incredible thing. But you’re right! In Misfits there’s a lot of that in those lyrics. Again because I was a young man, there was a lot of angst and energy. I was on the cusp of being completely out of control in those days. So when you’re going at 150 miles per hour, there are definitely calculations about living or dying.”
Yeah! Finally, let’s go back deeper into Misfits’ history – your first performance as lead singer was on Halloween in 1994 during Type O Negative’s encore, at a venue called The Roseland, New York City. Take me back.
“Oh man! It was all so much, I wasn’t even in the band yet a couple of days prior! They had asked me to teach Peter Steele [lead vocalist/bassist for Type O Negative] the songs that he was going to sing for the encore, because Misfits didn’t have a singer. While I was teaching him these songs, it was Peter who actually said, ‘This is your singer. Michale sings these songs better than anybody’.
“So walking out on that stage with Type O Negative, through Peter sticking up for me and ushering me into that world – he was this huge dark angel – was amazing. I remember smelling the smoke and hearing the crowd, and just saying inside, ‘Just remember the words and keep calm, man’.”
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You won’t want to miss it when Michale Graves hits our two most renowned rock bars with solo material, as well as Misfits classics – tickets and dates below.
Interview by Genevieve Gao
Michale Graves 2018 Australian Show Dates
Saturday 8th December – Melbourne – Cherry Bar
Sunday 9th December – Sydney – Frankie’s Pizza