- 24 Jan 19
When it comes to American singer-songwriters, few are as prolific and consistently brilliant as Michale Graves. Just over twenty years ago Graves made his debut appearance on the world’s stage when he emerged as the singer for the second coming of The Misfits. Filling the void of the formidable Glenn Danzig was no minor thing, the barely twenty-year old Graves was thrust into the spotlight as the frontman for a legendary punk band, signed to major label Geffen Records and found himself working with legendary producers and engineers such as Daniel Rey (The Ramones, White Zombie, Richard Hell) and Andy Wallace (Sonic Youth, Rage Against the Machine, Nirvana). The first album of the Graves era was 1997’s excellent American Psycho and the band would follow that with 1999’s even better Famous Monsters, a stunning collection of songs and one of the best punk/hard rock albums of the period. Graves’ material for these two albums, such as Dig Up Her Bones, Saturday Night, Dust to Dust, Descending Angel have become as crucial a part of The Misfits canon as anything from their 1970s heyday. Since the resurrected version of The Misfits went their separate ways at the turn of the millennium, Graves has continued releasing material in various guises, with horror punk band Gotham Road and later as a solo artist.
Misfits’ die-hards have been kept satisfied with bassist Jerry Only’s version of the band playing in Ireland on various occasions over the years, while guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein recently stormed Rathmines venue The Bowery with a mighty display of punk rock resolve. However, fans of the legendary group will have something further to be excited about as Michale Graves has announced a concert at Dublin’s Voodoo Lounge for Saturday, January 26. Hot Press caught up with the frontman from his home in New York in advance of the show.
“I’m really looking forward to the Ireland show. I have been home for the holidays for the past three weeks but I just came off of an American tour that started September 2nd and ran through to the beginning of December and it was very good, very successful. I see it growing every time I hit the road; more fans are coming out, the shows are selling out. It’s a really exciting time.”
Graves’ most recent albums are the acoustic Backroads and the plugged-in The World Turned Upside Down. Both are works of considerable song craft, some of the best stuff the artist has released since his stunning 2013 masterpiece, Vagabond. These two albums were written and recorded in the grand tradition of Folk and Heartland Rock, an evolution of Graves’ interest in such over the years, and they duly recall the best of roots rockers such as John Cougar Mellencamp, Bruce Hornsby, Tom Petty, and REM. Having toured an acoustic show in support of Backroads, Graves re-recorded much of the material from that album with a full band for the release of The World Turned Upside Down.
“I was listening to a lot of Tom Petty and bands like Counting Crows and REM before I really dove into the writing of Backroads, so those are definitely the notes I wanted to hit, if you will, in terms of sounds. I really like presenting the music in that stripped back way; on Backroads it’s just acoustic, you get the simplicity and immediacy of the songs in much the same way that I write them here in this house that I live in. It’s just me and an acoustic guitar. I like giving the listener the opportunity to feel their way around the songs in their most basic form. The human voice and an acoustic instrument are powerful tools for communication.”
As with many artists these days, Graves has found a direct avenue to releasing music via the support of his fans, using the likes of Kickstarter as a means of releasing his latest work. Writing and composing new material from his home in rural New York State, Graves doesn’t spend too much time in the studio before the material is ready for release and for the road.
“The way that I’ve produced and released music over the past five or six years has been very fast paced, guerrilla-style record making. I’ll go into the studio for a week and turn over a ready-to-be-released record. That approach has its good points and bad points. It really creates limits on what I can do production-wise...I loved being in a situation like in The Misfits days where we had the resources to have the likes of Daniel Rey or Andy Wallace or Ed Stasium come in, people to whom you can hand off your product and they give you back something truly amazing in return. Those people are just awesome at their job; you can just sit there and watch them work and it is just a wonderful thing. These days you don’t have that luxury and there is such a small window of time to get things done; I have to be the one to make the decision and say ‘okay, it’s done, time to move on now’ and that’s a hard hat to wear because I’m one of those guys who will do something 150 times over and over in the studio before I think I’m starting to get it right. So when there are time issues it creates a discipline, which is good.”
When it comes to preparing for his live show Graves has a wealth of material to draw from, but with a career that stretches across many genres and styles of music it isn’t always easy to compile the perfect set list.
“It can be hard to craft the live show as there is such a wide variety of musical tastes to cater to, having written in so many genres. I consider myself blessed to have such loyal fans, whether I’m playing Misfits material or I’m playing stuff from Illusions or Punk Rock is Dead, there’s always somebody to listen to it. When I put out a collection of new material there’s always a record that’s been released just behind it, maybe six months beforehand, so it really takes people a bit of time to catch up to my new music. There is a lot of music that I have put out that hasn’t really had its due yet, but the material from The World Turned Upside Down has been doing well; everybody digs the tunes and the direction I’m going in. It is a blessing that it has been so well accepted.”
With his significant contribution to The Misfits’ legacy and legend, and having played major tours with former Ramones drummer, Marky Ramone, celebrating the history of that band’s music, life can often feel a little surreal for the singer.
“I have a lot of memories of being onstage and just thinking ‘look at all of these people!’ There have been times with Marky Ramone where we would be playing huge festivals and the crowd would be singing these Ramones songs back to us louder than the band would be playing them. It’s amazing to be able to reach humanity on that level and in that way. I just can’t believe that I’m singing these songs and that Marky Ramone is the drummer...there’s moments where I’ll turn around and look Marky in the eye and make this wonderful musical connection. It is the same with The Misfits, there are moments that are frozen in time for me, moments of being onstage and making this amazing connection with the other guys in the band. I’ve spent a lot of time on the road and there are a lot of emotions associated with those tours and those musicians. When I get back to my house, which is a very simple home, a small farm in rural New York State, I can’t believe that my life is mine. I’m a simple man and yet my life is crazy.”
After two decades on the road, Graves knows how to deliver a memorable show, and the singer’s upcoming gig in the Voodoo Lounge should be no exception. Fans will not only have a chance to see the full band performance, but for those willing there is a VIP package available in which fans can not only meet the man himself, but will be treated to an acoustic performance and other perks.
“I’m really excited to be coming to Dublin; it has been a long time since I was there. The Irish fans can expect a performance like no other. One of the reasons I am touring so much is that I believe I am one of the most dynamic performers on the circuit right now in terms of vocals and stage performance; I give 120% every time. The fans will get to hear the Misfits songs they want to hear, the essential stuff from American Psycho and Famous Monsters, as well as all sorts of material from throughout the twenty years of my career. We decided to do make a VIP experience available for the European tour because there are so many people who have wanted to see the acoustic tours that I do in the States; we said, you know what, let’s make part of that experience be a small acoustic show and totally blow people’s mind.”
Michale Graves will perform at Voodoo, Belfast on Friday, January 25, followed by Voodoo, Dublin on January 26.
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