Basslines and Protest Signs Part 55: A Misfit Makes a Grave Error of Judgement

By | July 29, 2020 at 1:00 PM
Misfits (photo: themockstar)

Nearly three years ago, I interviewed former Misfits singer Michale Graves for a piece for another publication that ultimately never got used. The concert it was supposed to coincide with was cancelled or something. At the time, it felt like a bit of a shame. Graves was a charming interviewee — likeable despite the fact that I knew he was a vocal conservative; a voice on the conservativepunk website, in fact, until that ceased to exist a decade ago. 

“I think I use the same tools that I’ve always used when I write music,” Graves said in December 2017. “I think that now as I gain in age, I’m in better control of my emotions, I’m more able to focus my brain and my emotions and the things that I’m going through in a way that a 42 year old man can, as opposed to a much younger man. So I’ve grown spiritually, emotionally, so I believe that makes me a better songwriter because I’m more skilled at putting those emotions in the music that I’m writing. I’m only really a mediocre player when it comes to guitar and piano. There’s nothing I’m really great at. It’s like the Ramones. Three chords and melody. And so extracting the melody from all those things I described is really the key to everything, and I think that I’ve grown in my ability to do that.”

See? He was humble and introspective. The two Misfits albums he appeared on, 1997’s American Psycho and 1999’s Famous Monsters, suffered only because long-time fans struggled to accept Graves as a Misfit in the absence of the now-returned Glenn Danzig. But both were actually great albums, taken at face value. “Dig Up Her Bones” is one of the best tunes in the Misfits catalog. 

Michale Graves (photo: Gaudencio Garcinuño)

But shit, this week Graves posted some stuff that made his politics impossible to ignore, much less understand. 

Maybe it’s naive but I’m still hopeful that there are people on the other side of the political aisle from me that I can get along with. Those fiscal conservatives we hear about, who abhor bigotry and prejudices but believe in a smaller government. I can disagree with that but at least understand where they’re coming from and resist the urge to demonize. I want to be able to debate without hate. And I guess the fact that Graves was easy to like in conversation—a conversation, I add, where politics didn’t come up at all—and the fact that I enjoy his Misfits efforts, allowed me to turn a blind eye to the other stuff. No more!

This week he posted on Instagram (all caps): “I AM A PROUD WESTERN CHAUVINIST… AND I REFUSE TO APOLOGIZE FOR BUILDING THE MODERN WORLD.” This was posted alongside a photo of Graves flashing the “ok” hand sign that has been co-opted by white supremacists of late. 

A screenshot of Michale Graves’ Instagram post (via punknews.org). His account has since been deleted.

He then closed with a bunch of hashtags, including #trump2020 and, more worryingly, #proudboys. So let’s be clear: Graves has leaped over the line that separates “we have a difference of opinion but he’s allowed his and it’s easy to ignore” to “Graves is a full-on bucket of human waste with zero backbone and zero moral compass.”

The word “chauvinist” is an interesting one, and it’s been widely used by those Proud Boys of late. Prior to that, in recent years, it was more commonly associated with “male chauvinism” aka misogyny. Yet the dictionary defines it as “exaggerated or aggressive patriotism.” Either way, it means “dickish.”

So if Graves was being genuine when he told me that he’s grown spiritually at the age of 42, he’s severely regressed to goop-status at the age of 45.

“I look back on them fondly,” he told me when I asked him for his thoughts on the then new reunion of the classic Misfits lineup. “When I play those songs, when I hear those songs, it’s emotional. For me as well. I see and remember all the little tidbits of things that I went through, recording those songs, writing those songs — we had so much fun and we really were so close. It’s kind of a shame that most people, what they extract from all the information that’s available to them about my era of the Misfits, they get all the dysfunction and the drama, and that bit of it. There was so much more awesomeness, and happiness. I look back fondly. I’m still deploying all of the things that I learned back then. That’s always there.”

When I complimented “Dig Up Her Bones”, Graves said, “Isn’t that the most incredible thing? When I was a young boy, I stole my brother’s Misfits t-shirt
from the dryer. I had no idea that it was a Misfits skull. My brother really almost
beat the crap out of me for doing it. All these years later, I’m that guy. I’m just a kid from Dumont, New Jersey, who wrote a song one day when my heart was broken, and it’s like, when you think of the Misfits, you think of that song now. That’s something. Boy.”

He wasn’t sure when or if he was going to be able to catch a Misfits show: “I was really thinking about going to the New Years show in Las Vegas. But I’ve been on the road for three months and over the Christmas break, I have three small children and I might have to have a New Year’s Eve party with my babies and try to catch a Misfits show later. But yeah, I love those guys. I’m a fan as well as part of the team.”

It all makes his recent nonsense so much more heartbreaking. Because for many of the Misfits faithful, Graves is still a part of the team. And what came out this week feels like a betrayal. We know that about half the country is in the conservative camp. But for somebody in the Misfits family to expose themselves as a fundamentally bad person is devastating.