7 weeks ago I couldn’t tell the difference between The Ramones and the Misfits. Both have been played in my various households over the past five years, and they just seemed to merge together in my mind. But while on tour a few weeks ago, among the Total Control and Royal Headache being played in the van, there were Attitude and Angel Fuck and suddenly there was real clarity and intrigue, like I was listening to them for the first time. The songs are pop songs, love ballads, played blisteringly fast with subversive lyrics that you can’t help but sing along to. That fast pop punk with that beautiful crooning voice and unconventional and gruesome lyrics seemed like the missing link for what I wanted my own band to sound like. It was perfect.
A few days after getting back from tour I was on the computer working in my studio and had the urgent need to see what they looked like. Again, through their mixed association in my head, I imagined a bunch of stick thin guys in leather jackets with mountains of hair and shades. Though perhaps the seeds of appeal had been sewn by Rammstein and watching quite a bit of wrestling in the last year, when I saw this I was genuinely and instantly blown away:
Misfits – Hybrid Moments & Last Caress (LIVE)
I was mesmerised. The echoing broken vocals, the explosion of blown out but still melodic sound, the skull armbands, the popping muscles, the slick devil locks, the upper arm tattoos, the sweated-off face paint; a total theatrical horror show. Not only that, but the kind of in-your-face aggressive masculinity I’d never before seen paired with pop punk. Masculinity, especially this over-the-top masculinity, scares a lot of people. But I found it thrilling, and not for the reasons you may think.
I realised that the singer wasn’t the same as on the recordings, but, pushing the comparatively child-like Michale Graves and the absent Glenn Danzig to one side for now, I was fixated on lead guitarist Doyle. Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein. Hugely muscled with a permanent long, thin devil lock, a knitted brow under all of that white make up, who plays his guitar by punching it and stomping around the stage. In his youth he was almost boyish and nervous. He refers to this stage as his ‘foetus’ period. He started in the Misfits when he was 14 when the guitarist didn’t show up for practice one day. He is never seen without his make-up. He builds his own punch-able guitars. Having fallen down a Doyle internet hole a few days into the obsession I found him on Instagram. The real Doyle. Posting pictures of baby bats and his girlfriend and how he had a lovely birthday because he got given a vegan peanut butter cake on stage. To a certain (perhaps minor) extent, this convinced me that what hypermasculinity connotes has changed in the last twenty years. It has lost some of its fear factor, while still remaining an impressive performance of the masculine body. These muscles now connote the camp and the kind-and-caring-and-protective and the man-child as much as they once did physical violence.
After this Doyle phase where his Instagram both made him enjoyably real but completely demystified I suddenly remembered Danzig and how he was as yet still unexplored territory. While Doyle has found true love in his fifties and streams blue hearts all over Instagram for his ‘Queenbeast’, Danzig is an unrepentant, angry and, I assume, lonely guy who quit the Misfits before they made it huge to write raunchy rock ballads and punch people in the face at his shows.
Danzig – Mother
It all began to feel just like when I first started playing the drums when I was eighteen, when I was fascinated by the predominantly male musicians and bands I would go see three or four times a week, finding them captivating , some of them attractive (like you do when you’re eighteen), but this attraction and mania was mixed in with a jealousy and a longing to be in a band too. There was a period of confusion and mixed feelings. I would stare at drummers and want to talk to them, which was often misconstrued (I misconstrued it myself too sometimes.) It clicked one day that I was envious of them. I wanted to play the drums. I wanted to be intriguing. I wanted to exude complete confidence.
Discovering the Misfits fills me with that strange jealousy again. I don’t want the muscles, but perhaps the power, the brazen sexuality, the aggression and the subversion, dare I say the pure and designated gender role that has none of the negative connotations placed upon it by society. The Misfits are my male fantasy basically. This is the place that this Misfits obsession has come from. I admit that early 90s Danzig is pretty hot and late 90s Doyle is also strangely thrilling, but I think I secretly want that confidence, that ego and self-assuredness. I would like to be a Danzig or a Doyle.
I am a heterosexual woman, but the ‘male’ is a huge part of my identity and creative life also. I grew up as a tomboy with predominantly male friends, read a lot of male writers, listened to male bands, my brother and I were largely brought up by our dad and physical activities like karate and being in the scouts as the only girl made negative and positive impressions on me from a young age. When it comes to music in fact, I liked the ballads my parents played and later heavy music that had melodic singing. This is probably a throw-back to my mid-teens doing amateur dramatics and having an unavoidably beautiful singing voice for a tomboy.
I would argue that part of Danzig’s appeal for me and how I can relate to him, apart from his Elvis-inspired croon, is his androgyny. Yes, he has those huge muscles but what about his luscious hair and beautiful wide-jawed (think Sigourney Weaver) face. We also share a love of black jeans and black tees or black see-through mesh for stage wear and a permanently passive-aggressive/aggressive-aggressive and evasive nature.
I have a crisis about what to wear before every show I play depending on which band I’m playing in and the kind of impression I’m trying to make; with regards to my gender juxtaposed with the music I’m playing. I genuinely have these thought processes, and I know I’m not the only one. I want people to ‘believe’ the performance and; as Kin Gordon says: “people pay to see others believe in themselves“ (and I would add to see people enjoying themselves), I want to dress up for the ‘show’ but I primarily want to feel confident and comfortable. Wearing women’s clothes still feels a little like cross-dressing to me having owned maybe two dresses when growing up (my clothes were bought with my younger brother in mind). In fact, whether I’m dressed in ‘masculine’ or ‘feminine’ clothes it always feels like I’m dressing up in a way. It’s comfortable wearing a dress when playing drums as jeans are quite restrictive – plus I get a little thrill from creating a schism in some people’s minds when they see someone playing drums really fast in a dress – but I have to remember to either wear little shorts or play ‘side saddle’ for obvious reasons. Black jeans and a black t-shirt or a button-up shirt are what I wear every day, what I feel myself in and what I suppose helps me ‘blend in’ with the rest of the guys in the band and bands in general. It also looks ‘cool’ to me, perhaps through having been accustomed to the typical male musicians I grew up with. All the more reason to wear the dress, I typically think when getting ready for a show. On stage I feel my gender identity is heightened to such an extreme, whereas in day to day life I’m just myself, almost genderless, male and female simultaneously.
Ultimately my being a woman is still ‘given away’ in a sense when I’m singing or playing drums in a loud band with fast music, when I take my shirt off at a show or dance and shove in a mosh pit as all these things still seem strange for a woman to do to quite a few people. But these are all things I craved for a long time without fulfilment due to external pressure before I just went for it, and I still long to do them at every opportunity. Expected normative behaviours according to gender are restrictive, and I like doing things seen ‘for’ men and women, ‘performing’ as people who are men and women.
I thought the Misfits were the missing link I needed with regards to how my music sounds, but yesterday I found this and it’s even closer:
The Misfits playing Astro Zombies featuring Joan Jett