MichaleGraves is a busy man.
Sincehe left The Misfits in 2000, he's released more new material than all of hisformer bandmates, combined.
He'scurrently on tour as the singer of the newly-formed band, Marky Ramone'sBlitzkrieg.
Herecently finished filming for a horror movie he starred in, Perkins 14, directed by Craig Singer,for After Dark Films.
Withinthe past 2 years, Graves has been deliveringhis music through an uncharacteristically punk rock approach -- his last tworeleases and tours were acoustic.
Graves is also one of the many artists who support the caseof the West Memphis3. On his first acoustic album, Illusions,Graves collaborated with one of the 3, DamienEchols. Echols wrote the lyrics for a handful of tracks that appeared on thealbum, and Graves wrote the music.
Hislatest album, Illusions Live! 2008: Viretta Park, captures a liverecording from his first acoustic tour, and also includes a handful of "demo"tracks recorded in Romania.
Acousticor electric, Graves thrives in the energy ofthe moment and loses himself in the trance of sound onstage. However, if youhappened to see him on one of his acoustic tours, you were in for a treat. Theremay not have been hundreds of people, packed shoulder-to-sweaty-shoulder, butperhaps that was for the best. Most times, the modest crowd was the perfectcatalyst for the ambience and intimacy of the evening. Whatever cosmic influenceGraves draws inspiration from, his powerful,booming voice resonates above all else when he's onstage, crafting his songsinto emotional, haunting pieces.
Bryan Schillo: Take me back to the timeand place when you decided to do both an acoustic record and tour.
Michale Graves: About two years ago I was at work in VernonValley, New Jersey, Iwas making snow for a ski resort, and I was thinking about how the Illusions album came together. I wasstarting to get into and become more influenced by the music that I wasimmersing myself in as I was working on Illusions; blues, country and bluegrass. I was listening to a lot ofgospel. Things were so tumultuous around me, I was having such a difficult timekeeping a band together. I was trying to simplify things and it seemed like thesmartest thing to do. It seemed natural to go back to the beginning and pusheverything in the world away, and go back to just me, my acoustic guitar and mysongs.
Bryan: When you told your friends, family, or people you knew in the music industryabout your idea, what was their initial reaction?
Michale: Most people thought I was crazy. Especially my wife, because in the beginning Isaid, "I'm going to go out and do this tour by myself in my truck, and I'm goingto write a book." We laughed. I said, "I'm not going to come back the same, I'mgoing to come back very different." To some people, it seemed like a desperateattempt. A lot of promoters were shaky about the whole idea. There was a lot ofhesitancy and a lot of convincing that had to be done, beforehand.
Bryan: Was there any fear in taking this step in your career?
Michale: There was much less fear than I've ever had before as far as going out on tourand putting something up in front of an audience. Going back again aboutpushing everything away, I wanted to do it mostly for me. I wanted to sit on astool to whoever wanted to listen to what I had, and just play those songs.It's as simple as that. There was very little fear, it was a very natural thing.I've had an acoustic guitar in my hands and I've been writing songs since I was11-years-old.
Bryan: You said that that you'd come back from this tour a different person. You'vecompleted the tour, how are you different?
Michale: I'm different in a lot of ways. I'm different because of the vehicle that I've becometo play those songs the way that I have. In order to do that, I had to do a lotof reviewing of my life and think about where those songs came form, why thosesongs were written, and the pictures and mental images that come into my mind.I don't know how to particularly put a finger on how I'm different, but I'vecertainly gained more confidence. I've become, I believe, more sensitive as amusician. By that, I mean by performing those songs this way, with nothing tohide behind, I think that I've sharpened my skills of delivery.
Bryan: Viretta Park, in Seattle, Washington,obviously had an impact on you. Being a Nirvana fan, what was it like to bethere in the last place Kurt Cobain was seen alive in public? How did you take it all in?
Michale: Being there is one of the things that has added to me and has changed me. I wasa huge Nirvana fan. Sitting at that place and reviewing my life and rememberingwhen I was a teenager driving around in my car and listening to Nirvana'ssongs, and knowing and feeling how it was impacting me and how it was impactingmy generation, it felt like coming full circle.
Bryan: Do you believe Kurt killed himself or that he was murdered?
Michale: I walk the line, I'm still on the fence. I look at the evidence that somebodymight have kilsled him and it makes sense. But, I look at the evidence at himcommitting suicide, and the argument for that makes a lot of sense, too. At theend of the day, he's gone and he's dead. If somebody killed him, obviouslythere should be justice. He's gone, I cant talk to him and you can't talk tohim, we can't listen to his music live. Either way, it's a horrible, horribletragedy.
Bryan: From what I hear, Illusions Live! 2008: Viretta Park is doing very well.
Michale: It's doing remarkably well. What's cool about this album and being at Viretta Park, Kurt Cobain, to people our age waslike John Lennon. That's his only memorial. That's the only place that peoplelike us can go and mourn or celebrate his life. There's nothing dedicated tothat man and it's very, very sad.
Bryan: Why did you pick a show from New Port Richey, Florida, to be the live recording?
Michale:I reviewed all the audio that I had and listened to the different shows. Ipicked the one that I sync into the sounds and become detached from being aperformer. When I sat and listened to the audio I was affected, where I heardthe songs and my voice touched me. When I'm removed from that place as aperformer, I know that I have something, instead of me saying, "oh, missed thatnote a little, need to hit that string a little bit harder." That night in NewPort Richey was just one of those shows. The audio isn't that great, but theemotion behind it and the feeling I get when I listen to the record was perfectfor what I wanted to convey to my audience.
Bryan: The album was released on Screaming Crow Records. I'm assuming they're a newlabel, how did you wind up there?
Michale: Yes, they are new and Illusions Live!/Viretta Park is the firstalbum to be released on it. A couple months ago Fuse Network got in touch with EricCorbin, who runs the label. Eric calledme up as a favor to the liaison over at Fuse TV to ask me if I wanted to be onone of their shows that they were developing, The Weekly Riff. Eric and I started talking and I was telling himabout Romania.I told him that I recorded some demos over there and I emailed them over tohim. At this point, I didn't even know he had a record label. So, I sent himover the music and he asked me if I wanted to put out a record. I saidabsolutely, yes.
Bryan: Are you going to continue the acoustic tours, go back to electric, or mix up thestyles?
Michale: I'm working hard and looking forward to putting together a full band. I want tohave the right band together. I want to make sure that it sounds the way I wantit to sound. I will not get into another situation where I'm trying to keepthree or four other members happy. I can't deal with the turmoil, I'd rather doacoustic stuff than deal with that. Until I find myself surrounded by the typesof musicians that I want, and operating in a positive work environment, I'mgoing to do the Bob Dylan thing (laughs).
Bryan: Speaking of touring, you just announced that you're going on tour in Europe with Marky Ramone. Tell me how that came together,I don't think anyone saw that coming.
Michale: I got a phone call from Marky and he asked if I wanted to be involved in thisproject, and I said of course! It wasMarky and his people that somehow threw my name into the hat and I got thecall. We're going to be doing 30 Ramones songs.
Bryan: Will you be touring Stateside, also?
Michale: There's a very good chance. Right now, the plan is to go over to Europe, we're going to do some shows from Novemberthrough December. We're going to do some Latin American shows, we're going togo down to Mexico,we're going to hit South America, and we'regoing to go over to Japanin the springtime. I believe we're going to do some festivals in the summer andthe USwill be hit. I, and I'm sure the rest of the guys in the band, want to makesure that we're tight and ready to bring it to the States.
Bryan: Is there any chance you guys would do any recording?
Michale: I don't think that the door is completely closed on something like that. We'reall committed to taking it one step at a time. The first thing is to get thismaterial down and put together a really great show that's going to pay tributeto one of the greatest rock n'roll bands in the world, the Ramones. Once we getthat under our belt, and we begin to grow together and feel each other out,we'll hopefully make those steps. If not, we'll just keep rockin'.
Bryan: Speaking of being overseas, you mentioned you were in Romania. Inaddition to recording music, you were specifically there to film a movie, Perkins 14. How was that experience foryou?
Michale: The experience waswonderful! It came together after I ran into Craig Singer in New Jersey, probably about four or fivemonths before the process of me being cast in the film began. Craig directedthe movie. When I ran into him, I was reiterating and telling him how vividly Iremembered working with him in 1995 when I first got into The Misfits. I made acameo in a film of his called Animal Room.He was blown away by all the details that I remembered. At the conclusion ofour conversation I said, I've studied acting, I still want to take a serious stab at the craft. Ifthere's anything that ever comes up that might fit my abilities, please get intouch with me. While I was out on the road on the first Illusions acoustic tour, I got a call from him and he put me intouch with Perkins 14. I did myscreen test for the people in Londonand they gave me the part.
Bryan: When will people be ableto see the film?
Michale: It's releasedtheatrically in most major cities, January 2nd-9th. Then,they go right to DVD. Probably by the end of January, or beginning of Februarythe latest, it will all be available.
Bryan: Are you planning onworking with Craig again?
Michale: Definitely. I'm workingon a play in New York Citythat Craig wrote. Actually, he's adapting it to the stage and he's lookingforward to developing it as a major motion picture. I'll be working on that,it's called Paradiddle. In January, we're performing it in New York City, and hopefully developing itfor film in 2009.
Bryan: Alright, it's time for meto throw some Misfits questions at you. In recent interviews, you seem to be alot nicer when speaking about Jerry Only than you were in the past. What madeyou change your tone?
Michale: I changed my tone on thesurface of things in the hopes that Jerry would engage in some decentconversation with me. I never, and I will never, let up on my opinion on what's happening. But, I took asmoother tone because I see what he's doing, and I see what Chud's doing, andwhat Doyle's doing. I play in front of our fans, and I talk to fans from allover the country and world that love The Misfits. What I was trying to do wasextend the olive branch as best I could. I tried it with Chud and Doyle, andrecently tried it with Jerry -- to try and get us all in a room, and at leaststart to make steps towards just being decent with each other. Even if we'renot decent with each other, getting together and playing these songs that allthese kids want to hear. What I've always said to them, and what I truly,truly, believe is that The Misfits is bigger than me, or Jerry, or Doyle, orChud, or even Glenn (Danzig). It's not aboutus, individually or even collectively. It's about the fans . It's about thepeople that hold us on their shoulders and continue to buy the music, andcontinue to buy the t-shirts, the shoes, the pants, and everything else thathas the skull on it. What's missing is the music. There's no soul. You're gettingthe body of the music when Jerry is performing, or when Doyle and Chud areplaying. Even with me, you're not getting the whole thing. I was hoping thattone would come back my way. Jerry and I, prior to the change in tone,exchanged a couple of conversations that were decent. But at the end of theday, it's pretty much the same.
Bryan: So, we know you're in.However, do you think that everybody can put the past aside the and makepositive steps together towards the future?
Michale: Not anymore. That'scertainly one of the tragedies of all this, and it's a huge tragedy in my life.I know what the potential is and was. But, those guys crossed so many lines.It's so bad that if it was to come together right now, those guys would just bedoing it just for money. It's so messed up, and that's sad because there's somany fans out there. It's so dysfunctional.
Bryan: Do you think it's weirdthat Argyle Goolsby performs your music in Doyle's band, Gorgeous Frankenstein?
Michale: Yeah, I think it's a loadof crap. It's absolutely ludicrous, almost insane. If Doyle and Chud are goingto walk onto stage and call their band Gorgeous whatever and do mostly a set ofsongs that I wrote, that we as the Misfits created together, why wouldn't youjust call me up and have me sing for the band? Doesn't that make sense?
Bryan: Yeah, to me and probablymost of the fans out there, too. Why they didn't, I have no idea.
Michale: Because they're not goodpeople. They hate me. You know why they hate me? I'm going to enlighteneverybody, I'm not going to step into their band, whether it's with Jerry,Doyle, or Chud. I'm not going to be the "yes man." If I don't like something,I'm going to change it. I'm going to be a leader like I always have been andwill be. Those guys can't deal with the spotlight not being shone completely onthem; Chud and Jerry especially. Doyle's a different story. I don't know why hewon't open his mouth and say something. He lets everybody tell him what to do,or what not to do. But Chud and Jerry need the spotlight so bad, and they sobadly want to be famous for whatever reason. It doesn't matter why they'refamous, they just want it. I'm a completely different musician and artist. I'm a completely different human than them.
Bryan: You were in and out of TheMisfits a few times over the years. During the time leading up to your finaldeparture in 2000, in Orlando, Florida, did you forsee that it wasreally the end of the road? Or was it a situation where you saw thingsstraightening themselves back out within a few months?
Michale: That day, I made aphonecall to the acting manager of the band and I told him that Halloween ofthat year was going to be my last show. Things had become so dysfunctionalwithin the band. All of our personal lives were crazy. I was literally comingapart physically and mentally. I told those guys I was finishing up that tour,and then needed to walk away for a little while. Halloween was going to be mylast show and I needed a break. When I said something that night on stage thatit was going to be my last tour, and that I would see everybody soon, Doylewalked off the stage. Then, I think, I walked off. Then Chud walked off. Theneverybody s wondering why we're not coming back on stage. Doyle and I weregoing at it backstage, arguing very loudly and very aggressively with eachother. It was just coming apart. There were a lot of raw nerves. Every time Ileft that band it was for the same exact reason. That reason was I was alwaystold that if I didn't like things and I wasn't happy, and I wanted this-or-thatchanged and it wasn't happening, that it was too bad and I was replaceable. IfI didn't like things -- anything -- then I could leave. So I did. I wasofficially out of The Misfits in about 1998, and after that I worked for them.I was just an employee of the band. I was separated completely.
Bryan: So, you're out of theband that final time and you go home. When does reality set in for you tocompletely comprehend what had happened?
Michale: I knew that it was overway before it was over. It was like watching someone you love, die. I reallyfeel that I went through all those emotions, where it wasn't real at first. Ithink it really hit me when I woke up one day and I was back at my mom's house.I had nothing. I had no money. I had a mattress. I had some of my gear, thestuff that I didn't sell, or try to sell. It hit me like, "Oh my God, I'm rightback at the beginning. I'm back at my mom's house, all the same ghosts of thepast." But I just had to do it again, that's all. I just had to dream it all upagain.
Bryan: What have been the bestthings to come since your time with The Misfits?
Michale: Meeting my wife. Beingable to look at myself and my life from an extraordinary perspective, andhaving all the opportunities that I've had and gotten from The Misfits.
Bryan: How about on theflipside, what have been the worst things since leaving?
Michale: I lost my best friends, Ilost my family. I loved those guys, they were my whole world. The Misfits weremy whole world, every bit of it. I lived and breathed The Misfits. As much aspeople hear that I didn't care, or didn't want to be in it anymore, I lovedthose guys and I loved our music and the times we had together.
Bryan: After The Misfits andprior to your solo career, you had two other bands, Gravesand Gotham Road.Was there ever any point where you got sick of the drama and runaround oftrying to keep a band together, and just wanted to hang it up and quit?
Michale: Yeah, Gotham Road. Before I left for themilitary, I had fallen in love with a beautiful woman that I was making planswith. I was trying to get back on my feet. I was trying to do all these things,and it seemed like every time I did something the whole world would come down.It was hard. It started from the beginning, and the guys that I took out ontour, worked with, and still work with. They were babies, but to me they'restill babies. What I mean by that is J.V. and Loki, and Paulie Lifeless hadnever been out on the road and toured before, really. We just piled in a van.We would sleep on the side of the road. It was rough for them. We'd all pileinto one motel room if we could afford it.
Bryan: When did you realizethen, that this is what you had and wanted to do.?
Michale: After I left for themilitary and came back because that didn't work out, I dabbled in trying to goout and play again. Then the whole Winnebago thing blew up. I really had anepiphany two years ago after I got my EMT license. I started practicingemergency medical work. In my town, I was volunteering for the ambulance andthere was a call one day where this man stepped in front a train. He was tryingto kill himself and got banged up really, really bad. I was the first medic toarrive on the scene with two other police officers. Looking down at that manand trying to keep him together, something clicked inside me that day. Something in me just said, go out and use mygifts that are inside me, and save people in a different way. It was crazy.
Bryan: When will we see Gotham Road again?
Michale: Gotham Road, for the record, never actuallybroke up. Me, J.V. and Loki are good friends and constantly in touch. We'rejust waiting for the right time to sit down, realize, write and record an albumthat we'd be proud to call GothamRoad.
Bryan: Around the time you recorded Punk Rock is Dead, you re-recorded Web of Dharma, also. That never gotreleased, but that was something a lot of your fans were looking forward to. Isthat ever going to come out?
Michale: No, the re-recordings arebad! They're not good. I really want to release Web of Dharma, but Chud doesn't have the spine to call me. I don'tknow what his problem is. He doesn't want to, or can't work something out withme. I leave the ball in his court. I want the record out, and I don't want togive him a penny of it. But I respect the law. If he wants to play the gamethis way, when he copywrote the material, then that's the way it is. I respectthat, as much as I disrespect what he did to me. However, he's just being hisselfish, stubborn self, and just holding onto that to spite me or something.When you're dealing with The Misfits camp, Jerry, Doyle, or Chud, that's whatyou get. I'll re-record them someday, or you can go on MisfitsCentral.com andfind the link and download the album for free.
Bryan: It doesn't bother you ifpeople download and share your music?
Michale: It really doesn't. Someof the sites bother me. Sure, you can look at it and say it's taking money fromme, but at the same time there's a lot of people that I meet who say, "I downloadedsome of your stuff and I think it's great." Then, they come out and they buyshirts and CD's. They do their fair share of supporting and contributingmonetarily to my business. I don't mind it, it keeps me on my toes and keeps mecreative. It makes me continually compete with myself and the stuff that'sbeing downloaded. I can't avoid it. What am I going to do, sue everyone? That'swhat The Misfits do.