Horror business

Ex-Misfits vocalist Michale Graves performs at Dayton’s Rockstar

Michale Graves performs at Rockstar on December 21

By Gary Spencer



Some names are synonymous with certain styles of music, whether it be Beethoven with classical, Robert Johnson with the blues, Duke Ellington with jazz, or Black Sabbath with heavy metal. When “horror punk” is brought up, usually the first name that comes to mind is the group that is usually credited as the OGs of monster anthems set to three chords, The Misfits. Some 40 years after the band’s debut, Misfits still have a loyal, almost cult-like following among fans who were around since day one, as well as millennials just discovering the charm and the magic of horror punk’s fab four. With a band with such magnetism, historical significance, and a musical catalogue as heralded as Misfits’, how awesome would it be to help bring this long dormant band back from the dead, like Dr. Frankenstein did to his monster? Such an opportunity happened to a random New Jersey young man known as Michale Graves when he became the lead singer for the Misfits rise from the grave in the mid-1990s. Since parting company with the group in 2000, Graves has become an artist in his own right, running with the horror punk ball he was handed in Misfits. He has taken it in several different directions without losing his identity. But long before that, as an adolescent, he already had a predilection for punk music and culture that influenced his personal philosophy.

“Punk, to me, has always been the codename for living free and being me unapologetically,” Graves explains. “It really harkens back to those Revolutionary War days where folks didn’t want to and rejected a central system that dictated what to wear or not to wear, what to believe, how to feel—tyranny over the mind of man. It’s the reclamation of oneself and the revolt against the oppression of that liberty. Being an emotional, and at times, rowdy teenager is a macrocosm of that larger reach for freedom.”

With this spirit in mind, Graves would go on to perform for local punk bands, until a once-in -lifetime opportunity presented itself in the mid-1990s that would change his life and career forever.

“I was recording vocals for a Mopes record at Reel Platinum Studio in Lodi, NJ and (studio owner) Bob Alecca says to me, “’You gotta get in touch with these guys called The Misfits because they’re looking for a singer.’ I got in touch with (Misfits bassist and founder) Jerry Only and scheduled an audition. I was continually asked to come back, always working hard to be better and irreplaceable, waiting for that break.”

“An opportunity was offered to have the band come out during an encore portion of Type O Negative’s Halloween show at Roseland in NYC. The Misfits had no singer so they asked (Type O Negative vocalist) Peter Steele to sing. They called me and asked me to come to rehearsal so I could teach Peter the songs. Halfway through rehearsal, Pete makes a speech that I was the one who should be singing these songs—got me the chance of a lifetime.”

Thus began Graves’ wild ride fronting the most famous horror punk band of all time. Graves and Misfits recorded two albums of new material together and toured the world before inner tensions within the band prompted Graves to walk out in 2000. Since parting company with Misfits, Graves has gone on to record over a dozen albums with groups such as Gotham Road, The Lost Boys, and Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg, recording under his own name as well. While his solo work has comparison points with the band that made him famous, Graves has been able to put his own personal stamp on his myriad musical projects.

“All the same ingredients are still there in the music I make, and what I mean is that my heart, soul, and life experiences are poured into my compositions regardless of genre,” Graves elaborates.  “My music has spread itself into several different styles—horror punk, acoustic, rock, and folk rock. I am still developing characters that exist throughout my music—Scarecrow Man, Skeleton, Crimson Ghost, and now with the new tour we have Gas Mask Man. I am so profoundly inspired by all of the souls that I meet when I am on the road and I feel things so intensely that I NEED to let it out in song.”

Speaking of being on the road, Graves continues to tour relentlessly with a live show that delivers those characters and energy in spades, including a return to the Gem City this week.

“My live show is nonstop power, a musical and visual journey that I take you through as we play,” Graves says. “All of my heart, soul, energy, and life comes flying out of me as I croon and belt. My character is a diabolical mix of Freddy Mercury, Dean Martin, Johnny Rotten, Jim Morrison, and Tony Hawk, with a dash of Michael Jackson. I am trying to set the rock and roll performance bar as high as I can. If you want to see emotion, dedication, and power like you’ve never seen before, I invite you to the show.”

Michale Graves will perform next Thursday, Dec. 21 at Rockstar Pro Arena, 1106 E. Third Street in Dayton. Gee Gee’s Punk Rock All Stars, Transylvania Hellhounds, and Bundy and The Spins open. Tickets are $10 in advance and the show is for all ages. Doors open at 7 p.m. For more information, please visit www.RockStarProArena.net

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Gary Spencer is a graduate of Miami University and works in the performing arts, and believes that music is the best. Contact him at GarySpencer@DaytonCityPaper.com

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