Michale Graves: The Gonzo Today Interview

Interview with Kidman J. Williams

I heard from Michale Graves’ PR man Zak Carter via email stating that Graves wanted to meet before the show around five at the Brauerhouse in Lombard, IL. As I approached the venue, late, all I kept thinking was hopefully he is like every other musician and will be later than me. I walked in and it turned out he was in fact like every musician. So, luckily I had some time to kill. What I didn’t know was that Zak had sent me another email saying that they were going to be about two hours late.

When you wait to meet anybody you know one of two things. You know that they are going to be cool and giving or they are going to be penurious people.

My first taste of what kind of person Graves was came long before even the first band played. I  met a couple who drove two hours to come see Graves play because it was the closest that his tour was going to get to them.

(Left Michale Graves, Right Ashley Lawler)

Ashley and Kevin, a married couple from Mount Morris, Illinois got a babysitter and set out to see Ashley’s favorite performer. I had a few drinks with the couple and they even offered me some of their French fries. They were so genuine in their demeanor and more caring than a Care Bear on Prozac. That is a compliment, really.

I was telling them that Graves was supposed to have met me there about an hour ago. She looked over her shoulder and asked me if that was him. She pointed at a man with a group of five others. The guy had a fleece sweater on with a ball cap. I couldn’t quite tell from where we were sitting.

I got up and Ashley asked me if I was just going to walk over there. I told her yeah, if I’m wrong I only look like a moron to a few people. I’ll never see again. It turned out that it was Graves. We had a talk and I told him about the couple I had met. Some people might have ignored the fact, but Graves welcomed them over.

That is the type of person Michale Graves is: very giving, very talented and a natural songwriter who doesn’t let fame go to his head.

Michale Graves Interview


Backstage with Michale Graves. (Left, Kidman Williams, Right Michale Graves
Backstage with Michale Graves. (Left, Kidman Williams, Right Michale Graves

Kidman J. Williams: First off let me confirm this because the internet can be…

Michale Graves: …A little wonky. (laughs)

On the internet it sure can.

It is true, it is true. It can be really hard to find a trusting source.

So you have been doing this since 1995?

Yeah, if you want to get really technical it was ’94. I came out with the Misfits in October of 1994. It was Halloween of ’94 and it was the Resurrection Tour which was January of ’95 and eventually signed with Geffen and American Psycho. I was 19 when I tried out for them and then 20 when I did my first show; I turned 21 in Germany on tour with them.

I don’t want to dwell too much on the Misfits, I’m pretty sure you’ve been asked every question there is about your time in the Misfits.

Certainly just about every question has been asked. Not every question. (laughs)

Honestly, throughout the years you’ve been with The Mopes, Misfits, Gotham Road, Lost Boys and Graves.

I’ve even done shows with Marky Ramone.

Right! You are like the Mike Patton of Punk!

YEAH! Right on man! I like that.

Is it a conscious effort to change the style that you do?

I try to stay away from boxes. I don’t want to be like some artists where they trap themselves. Me as an artist I just can’t be cornered, I love creating in so many different ways. I love doing the horror punk stuff.

You listen to albums like Vagabond and Wanderer and they are very folk and country and bluesy. The lyrics are so much less abstract than the monster stuff. It is just me being an artist and creating through whatever lens I need to to communicate the experiences that I’m having.

Will there ever be a time when you try your hand at—Hell, what haven’t you tried; Death Metal?

I’ve come close to Death Metal. That was pushed to the back of the room. I’ve worked with 45 King on that Blind Melon track “No Rain.” 45 King have worked with everybody from rap and hip-hop genres. It was interesting to work with somebody that has sensibilities like that.

You and Peter Steele had a history of friendship.

He is a hero of mine man.

You talked about being lost and Steele helped you through those times, but you never really elaborated on it. How did he help you get through those “lost” times in your life?

Even before I got into the Misfits, leading up to Pete getting me into the band I was a huge Type O Negative fan. I told the story about how I used to follow the band around the East Coast and I would watch them. There was one time when I gave him a demo cassette.

Pete was one of those people that once I got into the Misfits and things were so crazy that when I spent time with him and talked to him, he would bring me back to neutral. He would tell me things would be alright. He would say things like, “It seems crazy, but you are alright. Just stay grounded in your music and don’t try to figure it all out right now.”

Even people like Dave Mustaine would say you are young right now. Don’t try to figure it all out right now, just stay true to you and your music.

You’ve never come right out and said it. You talk a lot about spirituality. How do I put this? You’re looking at me like, “I ain’t revealing shit!”

(Laughs) No, I don’t really hide anything.

Where are you in your own spirituality?

I’m a believer, Jesus Christ is my savior. I believe in Jesus Christ the son of God.

Was there ever a point where you waivered?

Sure, yeah!

Michale Graves live on stage at the Brauerhouse in Lombard, IL.
Michale Graves live on stage at the Braurhouse in Lombard, IL.

What made your own faith waiver?

Of course! Yeah. There was a time in my teenage years, 16, 17, 18, that I think everyone kind of goes through. I had a lot of questions and a lot of doubts. After that, as far as my faith and life with God and Christ, I’ve never lost that faith. If I never had that spirituality in my life I would have went over the edge of the boat a long time ago.

That being said, I think that when I talk about these things I think people automatically think about the Roman Catholic Church and organized religion. THAT’S NOT ME! I’m not one of those people that think you need to go to church every Sunday and Wednesday, this and that and if you don’t, you go to Hell. I’m not like that. If the door is open and someone wants to talk about it I will. I love it.

You sing about a lot of dark things though.

Of course I do. The more you understand about the light, the more you’ll know about the dark. You got to know both sides. There are just as many creatures of the light as there are in the darkness. You got to know Lex Luthor and Cobra to know about Superman and Batman. (laughs)

What did you think of Batman V Superman?

I loved it!

Even with Martha?

(He paused and gave me a huge grin) My guys all said the same thing. They were all like, “COME ON!” I liked it though. I enjoyed the complexities of the script and whatnot. It was great, I like it.

I didn’t even know you did The Daily Show. Did you know what they were going to do?

I knew exactly what was going on before I did it. At that time it was a very tense time. There were a lot of serious things being talked about. It was just a very tense time. When the producers of The Daily Show called me up and asked me to be on the show I said look I know what you’re going to do just let me know how bad it is going to be. My experience with them was just so fun. It was just a nice breath out. You have to be able to laugh at yourself, you know?

(We were interrupted by one of the guys in the dressing room talking about guns with Michale Graves).

So, you are a gun man?

Yes, from my cold dead hands.

You are an outright Republican?

At this point I am a registered Independent, Constitutionalist pro human. I don’t care if you are a Republican, Democrat, or an alien. As long as you have the values and principals and you understand what our country is about, I’ll vote for you.

Coming up, one of the things I’m going to get involved in is environmentalist organizations. I am an outdoor guy. I love animals and have surfed for many, many years. There is an organization I’m hoping to get involved with called Rock the Earth. They are dealing with a leaking nuclear power plant up by where I’m from in Indian Point, New Jersey. I’d also like to get involved with the Surf Rider Foundation and some of the animal therapy organizations.

Don’t get me wrong now; I’m not one of those global warming people. It’s a hoax.

Well now. Not really. It is, but it isn’t.

Well, man-made global warming is a hoax.

That’s it! Right there. That’s the real question. It isn’t the fact that there is or isn’t climate change; we know there is. The question is how much of it is natural and how much of it is caused by man.

Of course there is climate change. I don’t think anybody really understand what they are trying to do with the Green Taxes and the CO2 emissions. They want to put a tax on everybody’s carbon footprint. And to be able to do that, the plan is, that’s what the smart meters are for; every drop of water you use, every time you open the refrigerator, every time you turn a light on and off, every mile you drive, everything will be taxed. And when you have that much control you are all seeing and all powerful!

That’s what global warming is all about. Corporations stand to make billions upon billions of dollars. Of course the climate is changing. It is always changing. We need to be the stewards of our planet. We can’t at the same time fool people into thinking that we are breaking something and that we need to pay the price and give up our freedoms and liberties. That is criminal.

Michale Graves at the Brauerhouse
Michale Graves at the Brauerhouse

I knew you’d be an interesting guy. That’s why I didn’t want to jump on the Misfits questions. We all know that Doyle is a nice guy, I did an interview with him, yes Jerry Only is an asshole, I refused the interview with him, and I didn’t want it.

You are right! Next time, you should do an interview with Jerry. When you do, ask him some hard questions. Get it on tape or video. Nobody asks him hard questions. I give you things clear and transparent.

I love being connected with the Misfits. One thing that crosses over with the Misfits, it is a shame about the state of the Misfits and my relationship with them is that we are truly talking about making positive changes in our souls, hearts, and minds. We work hard to work with groups that want to be stewards of the planet and teach and learn about the world around them. It is a shame because these things are not new to me and channeled through the bigger, wider audience and reach that the Misfits have. However I’m very blessed with the fans and reach that I have. It has to be more than just being a rock star.

Are we going to see more acoustic albums in the near future?

Oh yeah!  Yeah, yeah, yeah! I am going to be releasing this summer, the acoustic version of Worlds Collide. I’m going to be playing a bunch of live dates this summer. The next album, I’ll be in the studio in November and that should be out around Christmas time.

That’s a lot of material. Would you consider yourself a natural songwriter?

Absolutely, yes. I am a composer. I love to challenge myself. My wonderful friend, the CEO of Hydraulic Entertainment Mark Stewart is constantly challenging me to challenge myself and to push the limits of what I believe I can create and achieve. I want to constantly put out art and music.

Gonzo is about the experience. I’m looking to know what your most memorable personal moment on stage?

There was one particular moment; I don’t know where I was. It was when I was on tour with Marky (Ramone of the Ramones). Learning all the Ramones stuff, to perform, I need to be able to tap into the emotional side of it.

So, I would ask Marky a lot of questions about Joey and their relationships when they wrote these songs. I just tried to figure out the psychology behind it and the environment that those songs were written under. In doing that I found a lot of sadness and a lot of hurt in Joey (Ramone). I would just feel Joey on the stage.

We were playing “Poison Heart” in Serbia and I remember being overwhelmed with emotion. I can’t describe to you the way that it felt physically. It is like every single particle is alive in you. Some people would call it God, some might call it a euphoria. It is just this perfect moment where everything is coming together and I’m feeling everything I’m supposed to. Maybe that’s what I’m chasing every night on stage, that singularity with everything. There was that one night where I was zapped by lightning and Joey was there.

Were you shooting for a certain theme with Worlds Collide?

Umm, you know I think it is a lot of things. It is obviously the Sci-fi movie When Worlds Collide. There is a societal thing when worlds collide with all the violence.

There wasn’t necessarily a theme. I guess a theme developed. It only took me three weeks to write the music. It took a couple of years to conceive it. We were literally tracking and I was still writing. There is a lot of relevancy in it.

It isn’t really a political record. I just took snap shots because of how quickly I wrote it. It is just very real.

Crowd surfing at the
Crowd surfing at the Brauerhouse in Lombard, IL.

Anything you want to say to your fans?

I say it a lot. What I want to say to my fans and any upcoming musicians, and young musicians and people in general, in order to find truth in anything it is important to know about the world. There has to be an intellectual side to punk rock or anything you do. Learn about other societies, religion, history, and the more you know about it the more you’ll be awake.

I think if people got outside and just really understood the magnitude of everything and are humbled by it, that’s when we will get closer to a Renaissance if you will.

Michale Graves is on tour right now with his band Graves. Check his website for tour details and his newest album “When Worlds Collide.”