A blend of punk legends

Members of two seminal '80s bands form a reconstituted Misfits

Posted: Thursday, June 02, 2005

The Misfits and Black Flag, two of the most legendary punk bands of the early 1980s, were introduced to each other sometime in 1980 by a young Washington, D.C., punk named Henry Garfield. He soon changed his name to Henry Rollins and became the best-known of Black Flag's lead singers. But at the time of the introduction, both bands were entering the peak of their creative brilliance.

The Misfits had just released the "Beware" EP, and were preparing the material for "Walk Among Us," a neo-zombie masterpiece full of references to B-movies and slasher gore. Black Flag had just put out a four-song EP called "Jealous Again" and was finally beginning to tour the United States full-time.

Twenty-five years later, the bands are still playing together, in a manner of speaking.

Misfits co-founder Jerry Only reformed the band in 1996. Dez Cadena, a Black Flag singer and guitarist from 1980 to 1983, has played guitar for The Misfits since 2001. And Robo, Black Flag's drummer from 1978 to 1981 and The Misfits drummer for a few months in 1982, has recently rejoined the band on drums.

The Misfits play 8 p.m. Thursday at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall. The Bastards will open. Tickets are $30 today at Marlintini's and Capital Records. You must be at least 16 to attend.

Robo replaced Marky Ramone, a former Ramones member who stepped away from The Misfits in April. The Misfits used to add a few Ramones songs in their set, but are now playing a handful of Black Flag covers ("Six Pack," "Jealous Again," "Thirsty and Miserable" and "Rise Above") in their notoriously exhaustive set.

The group's Misfits repertoire still includes some of its late-1970s/early-1980s classics, as well as songs from its recent albums "Misfits Project 1950," "American Psycho" and "Famous Monsters."

"I try and spread out the set: I'll do six or seven Misfits songs in a row, and then we'll throw in a Black Flag one so I don't kill my voice," Only said. "The Ramones stuff was much easier to sing than some of the Misfits stuff. It's more mid-range in the vocals, and you don't have to hit the high notes. You can take a rest doing the songs. It's like the difference between a sprint and a jog. You can jog all day, but you can't sprint all day."

the misfits

when: 8 p.m. thursday.

where: alaska native brotherhood hall.

tickets: $30 at marlintini's and capital records. you must be at least 16 to attend.

opening act: the bastards.

Twenty-eight years ago, Only and Glenn Danzig formed The Misfits in Lodi, N.J. They named the band after Marilyn Monroe's last film, and their songs reflected their shared interests in pop obscurity, death, comic books, horror and three-chord, 1950s rock 'n' roll. Their best-known albums, "Walk Among Us," "Earth A.D." and "Static Age," are considered hallmark punk achievements. Metallica has listed The Misfits as one of its main influences, and even covered a handful of their songs.

With instant classics like, "Mommy, Can I Go Out and Kill Tonight?" and their heavily costumed live sets, The Misfits might have become as big as Metallica. But Danzig dissolved the band in 1983, went on to form Samhain and then launched a highly successful solo career. He and Only were embroiled in years of lawsuits for the band's name, until Only finally won. He reformed The Misfits in 1996, and has turned the band into a merchandising machine - hawking everything from skateboards to iTunes. But the group still headlines festivals throughout the world. After shows in Juneau, Fairbanks and Anchorage, the band stops in Cleveland, then heads off to Europe.

Marky Ramone quit the band in April to concentrate on Ramones business.

"He's the only one left, and it's just so weird that everybody is gone," Only said. "Joe Strummer died. We're not going to get The Clash anymore. And the Ramones have been gone since 1996. We're starting to see the light here at the end of the tunnel.

"It's going well," he said. "You've got bands like Green Day out there topping the charts and setting the pace for everybody. It's nice to see punk music coming full circle and coming into its own."

Cadena and Robo were both in Black Flag when the band began touring nonstop in 1980. Cadena was the lead singer, but soon grew tired of the microphone. He handed it over to Rollins in Aug. 1981 and jumped over to rhythm guitar. Cadena and guitarist Greg Ginn created a furious twin-guitar sound that carried the band into another dimension until 1983. That's when Cadena finally quit, frustrated by the band's unrelenting legal problems.

Unfortunately for Robo, his student VISA ran out during a tour of England in December 1981. He was stranded at customs, while the band returned to the United States. Robo made his way back to the United States, and by then, Black Flag already had a new drummer. Rollins advised him to join The Misfits, which he did. Robo and the band spent late 1982 and the first part of 1983 recording "Earth A.D./Wolfsblood."

For the past few years, Robo has been living on a Colombian beach resort that he bought after the band settled a lawsuit with Danzig in 1995.

"With Marky living in Manhattan, and me an hour from Manhattan, he was coming out here once a week," Only said. "With Robo we go every day. We're practicing seven times as often and we're able to do a much more aggressive set. It's like building endurance for a long-distance runner. The longer you stay out there, the more durable you become."

Aside from its summer tour, The Misfits are preparing two new releases on their label, Misfits Records, distributed by Rykodisc. "The Misfits Meets The Nutley Brass," 11 Misfits classics set to lounge music, comes out June 28. So does the second North American release by Balzac, a Japanese "horror-punk" band signed to The Misfits' label.

"One thing I learned over the years is that you need to diversify what you do, so you're not always relying on one thing to work for you," Only said. "One day the band will stop to function. Hopefully that's 10 to 15 years from now. At that point, I'd like to still be involved in the music scene, still have a label and be able to work and stay on the music side of things. It's a special gig."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at korry.keeker@juneauempire.com.

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