1982’s Walk Among Us may have been the third full-length album recorded by horror-punk pioneers The Misfits, but it was the first released on a bona fide label (Ruby / Slash Records).
The do-it-yourself quartet founded by singer Glenn Danzig and bassist Jerry Only in the late 1970’s had grown accustomed to pressing and releasing limited-run vinyl singles via mail-order. In fact, they were damn good at self-promotion and distribution. But their first proper album, 1978’s Static Age, didn’t see light of day until twenty years later, when it was included in the Misfits’ coffin-shaped box set (Caroline Records issued a standalone CD a year later). 1980 effort 12 Hits From Hell was never properly released, although certain cuts were subsequently piecemealed for compilations.
Accordingly, Walk Among Us tracks like “20 Eyes,” “Skulls,” “Vampira,” “20 Eyes,” and “Astro Zombies” were the first Misfits tunes heard by a larger audience of people outside the band’s core Fiend Club. The brief-but-bludgeoning songs were irresistible, packaging punk defiance with ‘50s chic and B-movie camp. With his distinct, Elvis-meets-Jim Morrison, Danzig invited listeners into another world—a surrealistic dreamscape populated by obscure comic heroes, outer-space aliens, serial killers, monsters from old-school Universal Films, and slain presidents (and their mistresses).
But it was Doyle’s jagged guitar riffs that sealed the deal.
Groomed by Danzig and Only (his older brother) to become The Misfits guitarist, Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein was still just a teenager when he joined the band in studio and onstage. Like his bass-thumping sibling, he slicked his hair into a signature “devil lock” and pumped weights in earnest, chiseling his physique into optimum shape for the group’s sweaty, raucous, bare-chested shows.
Jerry and Doyle reformed The Misfits in the mid-1990s as Danzig continued his solo career. Recruiting singer Michale Graves and drummer Dr. Chud, the “new” ‘Fits recorded two new albums—American Psycho (1997) and Famous Monsters (1999)—and undertook several tours before Doyle moved on to try other things. He appeared as special guest on Danzig’s Legacy and Blackest of The Black Tours, backing his former Misfits cohort on a medley of classics. In the mid-2000s he struck out with Gorgeous Frankenstein, a band featuring himself and then-wife Stephanie “Gorgeous George” Bellars.
While that incarnation didn’t last, Doyle’s passion for skull-crushing music did. Keeping his core lineup of Alex Story (ex-Cancerslug) on vocals, Left Hand Graham on bass, and Dr. Chud on drums, he rechristened the band after himself and got back to writing. The result, Abominator, is a hard-hitting metal album that furthers the guitarist’s commitment to loud, fast, testosterone-fueled music while keeping one boot firmly planted in Doyle’s punk-rock past.
We spoke with Doyle on the phone in advance of their September 15th show at The Foundry in Lakewood. While he might never be at a loss for an eardrum-collapsing guitar riff, the chiseled titan was quick and to-the-point when discussing his craft.
CLEVELAND MUSIC EXAMINER: Hey, Doyle! Thanks for talking with us about the tour. How’s it going?
DOYLE: I’m great, how you doing?
EXAMINER: Good, thanks! According to the tour schedule, you’re somewhere on the East Coast prepping for another show….
DOYLE: I’m on a lake right now on a pontoon boat. We got a day off; something happened to the show. So we’re fuckin’ off!
EXAMINER: Nice to have some down time. How are the shows going otherwise?
DOYLE: Something like that, yeah. We’ve gotten great receptions, great crowds. We’re getting it together, man!
EXAMINER: I know Abominator’s been out a few months now. What’s the writing process like in the band?
DOYLE: I write all the instruments, I program the drums, record them. I do the bass and guitars, and arrange it, and then I give ‘em to Alex. It’s all on paper. I give him the arrangements so we can figure them out. We talk it through and figure the songs out. He does all the words and all the melodies. I don’t change a fuckin’ thing he does!
EXAMINER: Is that Alex screaming on the opening track, at the beginning?
DOYLE: Of course it is! You think I can yell like that?
EXAMINER: It sounds like your guitar sound has gotten beefier over the years, from The Misfits’ Earth A.D. and American Psycho albums, and now with Abominator. What kind of gear do you use?
DOYLE: All the same stuff from the beginning, but I’ve made my own guitars and speaker cabinets. I use SVT bass amps from Ampeg. Some Dean Markley strings and [pick grip gel] Gorilla Snot, and some bubblegum!
EXAMINER: You’re a very physical performer, with a reputation for beating on your guitars as much as strumming them. How do you avoid breaking strings?
DOYLE: I’ve gotten really accurate with my picking, so I’ve reduced string breakage a lot, actually!
EXAMINER: Abominator seems to have more guitar solos—or fills, anyway—than the old Misfits stuff. Was that a conscious thing, to play more leads?
DOYLE: When I’m writing a song, if I feel like a solo has to be there, I’ll put it in there. But some songs don’t feel like they need one, so I won’t do one. Whatever feels right!
EXAMINER: Just to be sure we’ve got the lineup clear, the band consists of Alex on vocals, Left Hand Graham on bass, and your old Misfits friend Dr. Chud on drums, right? Pretty much the same lineup from a few years ago with Gorgeous Frankenstein?
DOYLE: Chud left two days before the tour, so Tiny from T.S.O.L. is filling in for him on an hour’s notice. But yeah, we did tour the Gorgeous Frankenstein with that lineup.
EXAMINER: Can fans expect a good dose of the new album along with a bunch of Misfits classics when they go to a Doyle show? You guys mix it up a bit?
DOYLE: That’s exactly it. Everyday we’re learning more songs. We’re up to like ten Doyle songs. The rest is classic Misfits. We learn new songs every day. Tiny puts the headphones on at sound check and we’ll try things, like, “Let’s try this song!” If we like it, we might add it that night. If not, we try again the next day.
EXAMINER: Not sure if it was by design, but the current tour ends on your birthday, right? And that’ll be our show at The Foundry in Lakewood.
DOYLE: Is it the 15th? Yeah, that’s it! The last show. That’s my birthday.
EXAMINER: We’ll have to bring a cake for you, or something! Speaking of food, how do you maintain your hulk physique on the road? What’s your diet and workout routine like?
DOYLE: We brought weights. But if we fly in, I’ll go to the hotel gym or find a gym in town. Or I’ll run. Whatever you gotta do! I’m on a vegan diet. Everybody thinks that’s hard, but it’s not. It’s just vegan food—and you wouldn’t even know it.
EXAMINER: Over the summer you were invited to [Metallica guitarist] Kirk Hammett’s Horror Convention, where you hung out on a panel with him and Kerry King from Slayer? What was that like?
DOYLE: It was great! I was doing some signings there, because we can do signings at horror conventions. We get great turnouts. They came up to me and asked, “Do you want to be on the panel with Slash, Kirk, and Kerry King?” And I said “Are you out of your minds? Of course I do!” I was honored to be up there with them. It was the first time I met Slash, so that was cool. He’s a good guy—I really like him.
EXAMINER: I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask about the meet-and-greet opportunities for fans. What does the VIP package consist of? Hanging at sound check? Photo ops?
DOYLE: No sound check. It’s after the show. We’ve done ‘em before the show, but this is after. You get the meet-and-greet, get all your stuff signed, get your pictures taken with us. You hang out, break our balls a little bit—and then you’re on your way!
EXAMINER: Well, we’re looking forward to the gig here in Ohio in a couple weeks. What’s next after that? Plans for another Doyle album soon, more shows?
DOYLE: We have to do the drums on the second record, and we’re looking at some October offers right now.
DOYLE (with Ashylus, American Werewolves, Bloodsuckers Anonymous). Tuesday, September 15, 2014 at The Foundry (11729 Detroit Avenue, Lakewood OH 44107). Tickets $14.50-$15.50. Doors at 7:00pm.
Advance tickets here: http://tinyurl.com/nm9tt2o