Maximum Rock & Roll, 1992 Interviewers Note: The following interview is the result of what was originally intended as a full length biographical paper on the long defunct MISFITS. As my research dragged on, the number of interested participants and/or information sources dropped to one...Bobby Steele, the first person I contacted when I needed information. Since I couldn't see the point in carrying out my original plan, I asked Bobby if he would do an interview for MRR. The entire interview was conducted through the mail, so there may be a few spots where it seems like I change subjects more often than I change my socks...sorry. Anyway, as regular readers of Mykel Board's column should already know, Bobby is currently the only member of his band, THE UNDEAD, so the interview is one-on-one. Interview by Geoffrey Tilander. MRR: How did you get involved with THE MISFITS? Bobby: I ran an ad in a local paper. Glenn (Danzig) called and set up an audition. I'd only heard of THE MISFITS once before. At an earlier gig, I met a kid who told me about this band that he knew. That was around 1977. I think. the funny part is: I met that kid again in '82. That was how I met Steve Zing (exMOURNING NOISE, exSAMHAIN). MRR: Were you already into the horror thing before you joined? Bobby: Oh, yeah! I was a horror junkie. I just wasn't into all the trivia shit that most of the 'horror snobs' are into. I don't know shit about who did this or that. I just love to watch them. My parents turned me on to that stuff when I was real young. I think the first horror movie I ever saw was Lady In a Cage. Nobody ever heard of it, and for the longest time I thought I'd just imagined it. They showed it on TV once in '84. I have it on tape now. It's kind of like a Hitchcock type film. There's no monster. It's really sick...especially for it's time. MRR: What was the first thing you did-either live or in the studio with THE MISFITS? Bobby: The very first song I ever played with them on stage was 'Static Age'. MRR: What was your impression of them as a band or as individuals? Bobby: It was the most intense band I'd ever heard. And they looked cool, too! I literally went out the very next day and told all my friends that it was gonna be the biggest thing since KISS. I knew if any band could do it, THE MISFITS could. It was exactly the type of band I'd been dreaming of for years. Jerry Only seemed like a nice guy, at the time. I quickly learned that he was a phony. Glenn was strange. At first, I thought he was gay. There were lots of rumors to that extent back then. The one thing about Glenn was that he was real. If he didn't like you, he made it clear. Glenn was very professional. In the beginning, he had things under control. Every week we'd practice three nights. After practice, we'd do pictures. We must've shot three rolls each night...three nights a week. As we got more popular, he lost control. I guess that's why it all died. MRR: Glenn Danzig claims that you didn't play on the Bullet EP, yet on Beware The Misfits, you are creditied for the same versions found on Bullet. What's the story on that? Bobby: Glenn's wrath. He was pissed at Franche Coma, so he refused to give him credit on the record. He has a tendency towards doing that...if ya know what I mean. MRR: So is that pretty much the same thing that happened on the 3 Hits from Hell EP? Bobby: I don't really know. He kinda did a different twist on that one and gave me credit for "xtra guitar on 'London Dungeon'", which is one of the reaons that I really think he really didn't want to get rid of me, himself. MRR: So what all did you play on? I'm sure a lot of people know, but there are probably just as many who don't. Bobby: Fuck...the sixty-four thousand dollar question. I've gotten so tired of having to dig into my memory to remember all the stuff I played on. The first thing was Horror business. Then we did Night of the Living Dead. At each of these sessions, we recorded enough tracks to make an LP, but used only the best tracks for the EPs. The next sessions were for an LP that eventually became Walk Among Us. What they wound up as were the Halloween and 3 Hits from Hell 45s. On the 20 song LP, The Misfits, I played on "Horror Business", "Teenagers From Mars", "Night of the Living Dead", "Vampira", "I Turned Into a Martian", "Skulls", "London Dungeon", "Ghoul's Night Out", and "Astro Zombies". Some of these tracks were from the 45s, while others were from the original Walk Among Us sessions. I think the material from the original Walk Among Us were, by far, the best recordings we ever did. that was the tightest lineup we ever had. that was with Arthur Googy on drums. It was the first time that we worked with a real producer. He never got the credit, but his name was Robbie Alter. He played guitar in the IAN HUNTER BAND. He was the one who was responsible for all the great sounds on "London Dungeon". He played a lot of the subtle feedback on that one. He also came up with the accents on the chorus. MRR: Your last show with THE MISFITS was in July '79, right? What was that show like? Bobby: The last show was July '79, at Exile in Long Island City, NY. We were always trying to come up with ways of making the show more intense. this time, we decided to lock ourselves in the dressing room for the last hour before going on. The isolation... along with the fact that we hated each other...was intended to inspire us to play as aggressively as possible. The club's manager kept coming back and telling us to wait another hour, unit we were in there for about four hours. We started busting up the dressing room. We were climbing the walls. When we finally went on; it was like all hell breaks loose. I'll bet it was the loudest, fastest set we ever did. I have a tape of that show, somewhere. the sound is awful, but you can hear how fast we were. At the end of the night, the owners didn't want to pay us at first. The club's booking agent warned the owners not to fuck with us, or they'd regret it. We got paid in full. And these guys were Mafia! We had a reputation. MRR: They (THE MISFITS) claimed in an interview that you were replaced because you "couldn't play fast enough", Arthur Googy said that you were never around come time for rehearsal and Glenn said you didn't show up for the completion of the 3 Hits from Hell EP. Would you like a chance to clear that up for us? Bobby: If any of that were true...do you think I'd be where I am now, despite their slander campaign? I've alway been a hard worker. That's why nobody can last with me. Nobody's got the stamina and determination that it takes to overcome the setbacks that I've been hit with in my life. Believe me, it'd be a lot easier for me to kill myself. But then I might miss out on an opportunity. I was always on Glenn's case for his procrastination. MRR: Not many people know that Jerry and Doyle are brothers. How much do you think that had to do with his replacing you? Obviously it had something to do with his being inducted as a member. I've seen some of the live videos that are floating around out there...his playing skills, or lack thereof, are more than a little less than equal to yours. Bobby: That was the only reason he got in. I think Jerry wanted to control the band, and the best way to do it was to have a majority on his side. Doyle was perfect. He'd always agree with anything Jerry said. Jerry used to tell me that practice was off. So I wouldn't show up. I never knew that there was a practice. I used to wait all day trying to find out if we were gonna practice. You can't imagine how dedicated I was to that band. MRR: I've heard recordings of both the Ritz, NYC and Hittsville, Passaic, NJ shows from late '81 where those guys cut loose on you (by changing the lyrics to 'Teenagers From Mars' so they said, "Bobby Steele's an asshole", etc.). How provoked were those attacks? Bobby: Sounds magazine, from England, did an article about THE UNDEAD in October '81. It said that I'd accomplished more in six months than THE MISFITS had in seven years. That's when the shit hit the fan. Up until then, things had been fairly civil, though they had been telling people I couldn't play, etc..... MRR: So, as far as they were concerned, it was cool until THE UNDEAD started to get off the ground. Bobby: Definitely. They had put their feet in their mouths and it was a blow to their egos. MRR: Glenn claimed that the infamous "San Francisco Show" (where Doyle smashed his guitar over some kid's head) was a result of the work of "Bobby Steele's cronies". What do you think of that. Bobby: It's as if I had the kind of money that it would take to send a bunch of thugs out to fuck with them. At that time, I was living on $240 a month and my rent was $135. Of course he was lying. I couldn't find a lawyer to handle a lawsuit against him and Thrasher for slander. He was accusing me of committing a series of felony crimes; crossing state lines for the purpose of committing a crime. MRR: At the time of those shows, how long had THE UNDEAD been together? Was that before Nine Toes Later came out? Bobby: If you're talking about the aforementioned show, I think it was less than a year. I really don't know, 'cause I don't know when that happened. MRR: That EP was supposed to come out on Plan 9, right? Bobby: Originally, yeah. Glenn was at a couple of the sessions, too. He laid out the initial $300 for the session. When I think back to that we were still friends at that point. That's one of the reasons why I think Jerry had a lot more to do with kicking me out than they ever admitted. MRR: When did you start Post Mortem Records? Was it spawned because of record companies refusing to deal with you due to the bad press you received at the hands of Danzig and his pals? Bobby: I started Post Mortem after Stiff Records went belly-up. There was still a huge demand for Nine Toes Later, and I was hoping to take advantage of it by putting the record out myself. I wound up getting fucked by all the distributors on all the 45s that came out on Post Mortem. I can't really say why the labels keep avoiding me like the plague, but you gotta admit there's something sleazy going on. Act Your Rage, with virtually no distribution, has sold nearly twenty-thousand copies, and I still can't get the interest of a label that'll do any kind of promotion. I've been told, and I've denied it to myself for too long, that the only reason that I'm being ignored by the industry is because I'm crippled and they don't believe that a cripple is capable of entertaining. This industry is so righteous about not being racist, when they won't think twice about excluding a person just because he walks funny. Even MRR, in all its talk about equal rights always mentions blacks and women, but rarely ever mentions the handicapped. It's something that people aren't eve aware that they're doing. I only blame it partially on THE MISFITS. After all, they were the only ones in this whole business that ever gave me a chance. A lot of people like to criticize them fro being so evil, but it was the only band that ever put a cripple in the spotlight. Most people don't know this, but THE ROLLING STONES had a keyboard player from the very beginning, Ian McLagen, I think was his name. He was never allowed to pose in pictures or be seen on stage. He was a cripple. I don't care what you might think about PC, they're full of it. It's a trendy movement. They care more about forcing their doctrines down our throats than they care about our rights. You'd be hard pressed to find one of them that's ever attended a handicapped demonstration. It's not cool. PETA's cool. Protesting racism is cool. Women's casues are cool. But fuck the cripples. There's this club in Detroit, 404 Willis, they've refused to book me because I'm not politically correct. What's not politically correct? That I'm a cripple? That I wrote the first song abut the homeless problem in 1983? that there have been three females in the band at various times? They don't know what they're talking about. What's not politically correct is to deny work to a cripple who has a reputation for being honest and sincere in his work. If the PC had their way, they'd eliminate the constitution faster than you could say, "George Bush". MRR: You don't think THE MISFITS and their associates had much to do with your being blacklisted by almost the entire underground music scene, then? Bobby: They weren't the only ones. They got things against me, but everybody involved is equally guilty in my opinion. Chris Williamson, who's one of the owners of Rock Hotel, had a big part in it. He manipulated the scene, through his control of the CROMAGS. A lot of people don't like my independence. They don't like a guy who breaks the rules and comes out on top. Honestly, I don't give a fuck. At least when I die I'll still have my integrity. MRR: Some of the earlier UNDEAD songs sound a little like older MISFITS songs. Was Glenn much of an influence on you as a songwriter? Bobby: Certainly. MRR: What do you think of Danzig as a person and as a musician? What about SAMHAIN and his latest band, DANZIG? Bobby: I think he gets too much criticism for the wrong reasons, mostly from people that are jealous. He's one of the most intelligent clever lyricists in the business. His lyrics make you think about the hypocrisy in religion these days. MRR: You don't consider him a sellout for turning his back on the punk scene in favor of the glitter and gold of heavy metal? I know that's why a lot of people give him so much crap. Bobby: The thing about the punk scene nowadays is that they treat musicians like shit. We're the niggers of the scene. We're expected to work our fingers to the bone; entertain and bring pleasure, but we're never allowed to profit from it. If we do, we're 'capitalist pigs'. We have a right to earn a living. The punk scene turns its back on us first, and theny they bitch when we change. If his heart's in it, he's not a sellout. I'm not gonna judge him on that. Then again, I know of some hard-core anarchist punk from years ago, who's making $35,000.00 a week as an investment broker. I don't hear anyone bitching about him. Face it, most punks sell out by the time they're 25, so I advise them to stop criticizing other people. Punk rockers are all sellouts. Selling out is a matter of compromising yourself in order to gain popularity and make money. That could be countless hundreds of bands who went for the generic speed thrash "Fuck Reagan" trend of a decade ago. MRR: It's kind of funny, if you know Glenn's influences and his idols and look at some of his recent stuff, you can see where he just flat out ripped off artwork, music, lyrics, etc., yet he still pisses and moans about people ripping him off! Bobby: Yeah, I know what you mean there. He does put his foot in his mouth a lot. MRR: In the kit you get from his fan club they bitch about the problem of MISFITS bootlegs and are bold enought to say that they receive no money for bootleg merchandise and ask, "Who deserves it, the band or the bootleggers?". Don't you think that question is a little misleading, seeing how the only person in THE MISFITS that ever got anything for their work was Danzig and everyone else got fucked? Bobby: Yeah. It is. A lot of people don't realize this, but I've never gotten anything out of being in THE MISFITS. Go ahead, buy the bootlegs. At least then I'm not the only one getting fucked. It's his own fault anyway. If he didn't want the bootlegs, he could just release the shit himself. What bothers me is that some of the bootlegs I've heard don't have the pressing defects that the originals had. Which means that whoever put them out had access to tapes that only Glenn and Jerry had access to. MRR: That's pretty weird...somebody told me once that Glenn Danzig actually did some MISFITS bootlegs himself. I thought it was a joke, but you're right...some of the bootlegs I have are actually better in sound qualtiy than some of my originals. Bobby: My intuition is almost always on the mark. I just got to hear the Horror Business and Bullet bootlegs, and they're right on the mark...right down to the inscriptions on the inner groove. MRR: What about Jerry and Doyle, have you heard their new band yet, KRYST THE CONQUEROR? Bobby: Hated it... MRR: It looks like they're tryng to cash in on the success DANZIG is having. The tape has a big metal sound to it. Bobby: It's like IRON MAIDEN meets GWAR, with JIMMY SWAGGART writing lyrics. They're about as born agian as Anton LaVey. MRR: How are the Slave to Fashion EP and Live Slayer LPs doing? Bobby: Not bad at all. Slave to Fashion is a limited edition UK release. I only got 100 copies to sell in the US, and I know of only one other distributor who brought in another 100 copies, so that might be all that's available here. Live Slayer has sold over 5,000 copies so far. MRR: Is the title of Live Slayer a play on SLAYER's Live Undead album or just a coincidence. Bobby: Certainly. It was a coincidence that it came out the same week as SLAYER's new live LP, though. Some stores actually wound up putting it in the SLAYER section by accident. Fuck 'em. I've been getting a good response on it. MRR: What's this I hear about a new 7" coming soon? Any details about it you'd like to share? Bobby: It's called The Invisible Man. It's about how people turn a cold shoulder on other people who don't have it so good. I think everyone can relate to having been in a city, and walking past a homeless person, a bum, or a cripple. For some reason...that you just can't explain...you just totally ignore them, even if they try to get your attention. Imagine how that must feel. It's like you're invisible. MRR: Who's putting that out? Bobby: No. Who's on first. Oh, you mean what label? In the US it'll be on Skyclad. I'm trying to negotiate a release in Europe, and I'm looking for a label other than Shagpile/Shock to release it in Australia. I'm not happy with the way they handled Dawn Of The Undead. I still don't have any of the LPs from them. MRR: What are your live shows like? I know you don't have a backup band. How do you play, do you have a tape of drums and bass or what? Bobby: I'm still getting used to doing this. I don't use tapes. They don't sound good enough. I have everthing sequenced, and it plays on a drum machine and sampler. It sounds just like it would sound if I had a band up there. The only problem that I have is that all eyes are on me. I have to carry the whole show. It's like those dreams where you go to school, and you realize that you forgot to put your pants on. Hopefully I'll be able to find a band, but for now this is great. I don't have people holding me back. When I had a band, I put out records every couple of years. I've had four releases in five months without the band. I haven't changed my sound at all. MRR: So are you planning to get actual members, or are you officially a one-man-band? Bobby: I hope to find a band, eventually, but I'm not gonna settle for second best. I get a lot of people offering to play with me, but I can tell in an instant that they're not into it. They're just whores-they'll play anything. I need true punks. They have to have the right look; kind of Saturday morning cartoon/Road Warrior look. They have to be nonsmokers. And they have to sing lead and harmonies. They have to be easy to get along with, and they have to show that they have the drive. Most people blow it in the first minute by showing up drunk (I hate drunks), or by saying shit like, "We'll party, dude". This ain't no fucking party. This is the hardest working most despised band in the world. You gotta be a real trooper to make it in this band. THE FEW, THE PROUD, THE UNDEAD! WE'RE LOOKING FOR A FEW GOOD MEN (OR WOMEN). MRR: Do you have any plans to tour soon? Bobby: By the time this comes out, I'll be on a two-to-three month tour, if anybody reading this is interested in setting up a show, call me at (201) 262-7558. MRR: Anything you'd like to add in closing? Bobby: Yeah. I get a decent number of threats. In the mail and on the phone. A lot of it has to do with allegations made against me by a band that I did a lot for. People are so fucking eager to believe anything negative about me just because I'm so different. It's funny. City Gardens, in Trenton, NJ, has refused to give me a gig. I think THE UNDEAD is the only band of its stature that hasn't played there. Anyway that band, for years, was telling Randy that we were great and should get a gig. He wouldn't believe them. But as soon as they told him some bad shit, he was repeating it to whoever would listen to him. I'd like for bands, especially the bigger bands such as FUGAZI and BAD RELIGION, to get in touch with me. It's time they started boycotting clubs that discriminate. I'd like to hear from other people, too. I want to know how you feel about what I'm exposing for the first time. I can be reached at: Post Mortem Records PO Box 358 New Milford, NJ 07646 Please don't ask for free shit. I can barely keep afloat right now. As soon as I can afford to, I'll have goodies to give out. That was one of the things about being in THE MISFITS. We always had cool shit to give away. Anyone wishing to correspond with a die-hard MISFITS/UNDEAD fiend can write to me, Geoffrey Tilander, at: PO Box 1380 Ukiah, CA 95482 I hope that you had as much fun reading this interview as I had conducting it. It was a lot of work and took almost six months to complete...I hope it was worth it.