THE RECORD, June 20, 1997 ------------------------- [features band photo in electric chairs behind a table that has skulls on it] Misfits - from left, Doyle, Dr. Chud, Michale Graves, Jerry Only: still in schlock-horror mode. BACK FROM THE DEAD The Misfits Rejoin the Speed-metal Game ---------------------------------------- MUSIC PREVIEW Misfits: With Killing Time and Blank 77. 8 tonight. Irving Plaza, 17 Irving Place, Manhattan. $15. (212)777-6800. Box office or TicketMaster ---------------------------------------- By Jerry DeMarco As Doctor Van Helsing once learned, death isn't necessarily permanent. Ask Lodi native Jerry Only, the bassist and driving force behind the Misfits. He and his brother, Doyle, could have returned to tool and die making after lead singer Glenn Danzig disbanded the Misfits on Halloween 1983, taking the band's name with him. But 14 years and several thousand dollars worth of litigation later, Danzig is a heavy metal icon in decline, and the thrashing siblings have brought their brand of speed-metal back from the dead. "It's a gamble," said Only, 38, who surrendered the Misfits' somewhat lucrative publishing rights to Danzig in return for the band name. "But it seemed to me I had a chance to totally eclipse my past. Now, either we go out and make it happen, or we go pump gas." Armed with the 1995 court settlement, the new Misfits aren't staging a typical reunion. Sure, there's still plenty of heavy makeup, massive-muscle flexing, and the ghoulish trappings that helped make the band a popular underground alternative to the turn-of-the-1980s punks. The schlock-horror songs remain, full of vampires and alien invaders. Classics such as "Astro Zombies" and "Return of the Fly" have been succeeded by "From Hell They Came" and "Don't Open 'Till Doomsday," from the Misfits "comeback" album, "American Psycho." The buzz-saw sound is still loud, hard, and fast. Call it Kiss meets the Cramps. This time, however, there are no egos. "We're working as a unit," Only said. "We're a whole new band." Only believes 22-year-old lead singer Michale Graves has erased Danzig's shadow, bringing a vitality that most hard-rock retreads lack and attracting a new horde of 16-year-old fans. To those hard-core faithful who can't forget what was, Only warns against romanticizing the past. "A lot of people we used to open for are dead now," he says. Only, however, is thriving. Soon after the breakup, he and Doyle moved to Vernon Township and created a machine shop where they build high-quality guitars from graphite. Although the idea was to create their own instruments, 10 years of research and development have the brothers also ready to produce a line for others. They hope to make coffin-shaped guitar cases, among other projects. "We've been making synthetic guitar bodies out of a rubber epoxy," Only said. "If you throw it on the floor, it's going to bounce." Only rebounded from his legal battle with Danzig by signing the Misfits to Geffen Records. Having learned the music business from the inside, he asked for minimal start-up costs. "We own the entire project - that makes them leave us alone," he said. "If you don't like a song or the way the artwork looks or you think we're a bunch of sissies, you come talk to me. If you can't get our record at your local record store, you talk to Geffen." If that weren't enough, Only also has dived into merchandising a series of Misfits trading cards. A first-run pack of five chromium cards sells for $10. With a 14-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son, Only might seem too old for a comic-book band. But the Misfits play up to 55 songs in a 45-minute set - and he's still making music from the heart. "I lift weights every day, I play basketball with my kid, then I go out and blast with the band," Only says. "If on any night I feel like I can't do another encore, that'll be it. But right now, I feel like I'm in 11th grade."