Michale Graves on the Misunderstood Genre of Horror-Punk and Life After the Misfits

The second incarnation of genre-defining horror-punk band the Misfits was (and probably always will be) a polarizing thing for punk-rock fans, but one thing that was never really in question was whether the band's second singer, Michale Graves, was anything but a true talent. An athletic vocalist and electrifying frontman, Graves never quite got due credit amid the in-fighting and drama that has plagued the Misfits organization since the band originally split in the '80s. While a version of Misfits endures as an embarrassing shell of that band's former glory, Graves has kept extremely busy since his tenure with the group ended in the '90s, and he's back again with a new record and tour that will speak to any fan about what made the Misfits so essential.

"I loved my time in the Misfits, and I love those songs."

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The new album – When Worlds Collide – was paid for by crowdsourcing and seeks to expand upon what a horror-punk record can be. Each of the album's tracks takes direct inspiration from classic sci-fi and horror films, but all are far more than just a retelling of the stories told in the films. New Times caught up with Graves ahead of his impending Miami performance to find out just what makes his new album so special, his relationship with the Misfits, and what he thinks the horror-punk genre needs in order to grow into something greater.

New Times: For those who haven't been keeping up, please tell us what you've been up to.
Michale Graves: I just released a brand-new record called When Worlds Collide. It's actually something like my seventh release in the past two or three years. It's a total rock record, and I've been keeping really busy working on that. I've also been very busy with my company, Hydraulic Entertainment, which I release my records through. I've been funding my releases through the crowdsourcing platform Kickstarter. My partner and I have actually raised over $100,000 in capital for new releases over the past three years, and it's been really great. So I'm just charging ahead and doing everything I can with my music and keeping active spreading the word of positivity through my art.

It certainly sounds like you've found some independence in a post-Misfits world.
Yes, absolutely! That's the truth.

I've read that the new album's songs are all directly influenced by classic horror films. Do you have a favorite song on the album?
Well, that's a tough one to answer simply. All of the songs are inspired from really old sci-fi and horror movies, and creating through that lens can be pretty challenging. What I've tried to do with these songs is use these old films and extract the allegories that exist within them as a means to make music. The one song that really sticks out to me is "Things to Come" because it actually echoes something similar to what's happening in the world today and has a relevancy to it that I think applies. And I think it's a really great tune too. But what's happening to the Earth in that song and film really works as a mirror with what's happening to the world currently or might happen in that there's a bioweapon that's been released upon the Earth by a cabal of shadowy characters, and it just really applies to the scariest sides of our reality. I try to stay true to the narrative the film was trying to get across while injecting my own experience and my own world perspective. It's not like I'm just lifting titles and retelling a story.

What can one expect of a Michale Graves gig in 2016?
High energy! It's a super-high-energy show, and I do a fine mix of material. There's a lot of folks who come and want to hear the classic Misfits stuff – "American Psycho" and "Dig Up Her Bones," etc. – and I do a really wide swath of material from throughout my career. It's a good time. I'm extremely approachable at shows. I'm out in the crowd, I sell my own merch, I want to hear the fans' stories and interact, so if people want to come out and say hello, it's a very easy task.

So it's safe to assume you have a good relationship with your Misfits past if you're still doing those tunes live.
Oh, yes, absolutely. I loved my time in the Misfits, and I love those songs. They mean just as much to me now as they did then, and I think it's important for somebody to be continuing that legacy with true musicianship and a real firm grasp on what that material is and how it affects people. I proudly take that mantle up.

It's amazing the amount of folks who actually go and see the current incarnation of the Misfits – and Jerry, in particular – butcher those songs these days. I think it's a very young audience that's attracted to that and may not know the history of the group that well.

What I find at my shows when I talk to people is that these Misfits songs are just so, so important and ingrained in people's lives and experiences over the past 20 years. I've heard the most profound things about life and love and loss and how they're connected to those songs. While I can't abandon them for my own love of the material, I also have an obligation to the fans who are electrified by hearing these songs live. I just can't abandon that – those songs are just too important to too many people, and it's my pleasure and my honor to play them.

As a fan and champion of the horror-punk genre, as well as an artist who works within the idiom, do you have an opinion on a band like Ghost being acknowledged and applauded by the establishment and winning a Grammy?
I don't know enough about those bands to even really comment on it. I don't think I would recognize a Ghost song if I heard it, but I'm an old theater kid, so when I see bands incorporating theatrics into what they do, I think it's awesome. I have a lot of local support that opens for my bands when we're on the road, and unfortunately – more often than not – it's kids who just put some makeup on and sing about haunted houses and ghosts and the most ridiculous, base-level things. What I strive to get across and try to inspire in younger bands that might be attracted to this genre – whatever that may be – is to actually say something. I always tell these kids we need to become more of a thinking movement. The bands need to extract more from what they do. For example, Godzilla isn't just the story of a giant monster smashing buildings in Tokyo; it's a story about the fears of a nuclear attack and what the effects of that are and the psychological conditioning that happens to people afterwards. So I just want people to dive a little bit deeper beneath the surface in what they do, and there's not a lot of that in horror-punk, or whatever you want to call it, these days.

Michale Graves 8 p.m. Sunday, March 6, at Churchill's Pub, 5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; Admission costs $5. Ages 18 and up.

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David Von Bader