Forty years ago, something unholy spawned in a small town in New Jersey. It was 1977, and punk music was on the rise but nothing looked or sounded like the horror-themed style of the Misfits. In 1980, guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, aged 16, joined the band while simultaneously starting his own band, simply called Doyle.
Misfits reunited late last year, and there are rumors of a new album. And though this new album is still uncertain, fans do have a little something to look forward to. Doyle announced that his band will be releasing an album, called As We Die. It’ll come out in Spring 2017 via EMP, the label owned by Megadeth bassist David Ellefson.
Doyle sat down with us to talk about his musical influences, approach to songwriting and why he doesn’t give a shit about shredding.
Which song inspired you to pick up an instrument?
Once I learned that I wasn’t gonna be an NFL star (laughs), I picked up the guitar and learned, of course, what you learn first, which was Smoke on the Water. They actually teach you that in school now by the way – they taught it to my daughter. She came home, showed me and said “I had a guitar lesson in school!” She started playing and I was like “Holy Shit… “ (laughs)
I first got a guitar for my 8th grade graduation. My brother Jerry bought me a guitar; it was a nice ’55 Les Paul. Like a Jr. or something like that. I learned how to play a bit, and Glenn [Danzig] showed me these bar chords, you know the two bar chords: the one on the E and the A strings. Jerry showed me the notes, and within months I was rehearsing with the guys.
Their guitar player wouldn’t show up half the time, because he lived in the city and it was hard for him to get out there. So we were just jamming all the time and I was in the studio with them recording the 3 Hits From Hell 45, but for the Walk Among Us Record. I brought my guitar and amps and it sounded better than the other guitar player, and he never showed up! So Glenn just turned to me – I was 15 – he goes, “You play it”. I was like “Fuck yeah, I’ll play it!!” (laughs) This was 1980.
Is there any particular tune that you’ve written that has challenged you technically, or pushed your abilities to the edge?
The only thing that challenges my abilities is the shit I’m playing now. You know, if I write something that’s too hard for me to play live, and it’s gonna give me a panic attack when that part’s coming up – which is pretty much every solo I write – I’ll throw it in the garbage. I won’t even fuck with it, you know? I’ll try and dumb it down if I can, but mostly I’ll throw it in the garbage and forget I even wrote it.
What’s your favorite chord?
I know two chords. They’re both bar chords. My favorite trick is just bending the neck so I can dive-bomb without a whammy (laughs). As far as chords go, I don’t know a G clef from an arpeggio, or whatever that shit is. Basically, whatever is comfortable for my hands to move to, works.
When did you start writing your own songs?
After the Misfits broke up the first time, my cousin had come over wearing a Van Halen shirt and I’m like “Who the fuck is that?”, he’s like “You don’t know who the fuck this is?” (laughs)
So he gave me Van Halen 1 on cassette and said “Listen to this.” So I started listening to it in my car. I was retired from music at that point and fine with that, until I listened to Van Halen and I was like “Oh my God, this makes me wanna fuckin’ play – it’s insane!”
Then I got into Iron Maiden, at the same time when Run To The Hills was out, and The Trooper was on TV. I went out and I bought that shit and I was like, “If I wrote songs, that’s what the fuck they would sound like.” And that’s what started me writing, really. My cousin got me playing again actually, just with that cassette.
Favorite song you’ve written?
From the Michael Graves Misfits era, probably Helena or maybe something from my new record that we haven’t mixed yet; Kiss Me As We Die and Night Of Sin are two of my favorites.
Do you still play songs written by other artists?
I’m blown away by great musicians playing great songs. But if you’re a great musician and you’re just wanking around, you know, playing all these scales, I don’t give a shit about that.
It’s like that 10 year old kid on youtube playing Eruption. Woop-dee-doo… Go out and write it, then I’m impressed. But worse than that, you’re not creating your own style, it’s somebody else’s, and you’re not making yourself into yourself, you know?
People ask me, “What do you listen to when you write?” I don’t listen to anything! If I’m listening to something I’m not writing.
Any advice for aspiring rock stars to inspire them to keep on playing?
Don’t sit in your room your whole fucking childhood and learn how to fucking shred, and learn everybody else’s songs. Learn how to write songs, and get a good singer. You could be the most sorry sap fucking musician in the world – such as myself – and play great songs, that’s all you need.
And you gotta be able to perform once you get up there. You gotta be able to bring it. All that shredding shit? I keep thinking I wanna learn that shit you know. I see those guys from Arch Enemy and I’m like, I wanna take lessons from them. But then I think: “You know what? I’m gonna use brute force. I’m not gonna sit there and learn all that shit.” (laughs)
I just did the Metal Allegiance. Those guys were rehearsing, and they’re all really great players. You’ve got Alex Skolnick there and Gary Holt along with Dave Ellefson. These guys are great players, and we went to do my song Last Caress, and they were blown away by the way I was playing and most said they couldn’t play it. And I’m like “Holy Shit; this is a whole different world”, ya know? I can’t play what they’re playin’, but they can’t play what I play either. So it’s crazy.
They were like, “Oh my God, your right hand!” And we’re playin’ the shit at half-speed, I’m like, “Whaddya mean, my right hand?” (laughs)
But ya know, if I knew what I was doin’, I’d be doin’ really great right now. I don’t know what the fuck I’m doin’. (laughs)
The key is to get people around you that can do things better than you. When I was writing the Abominator music, I’m like, “I suck at writing vocal melodies. Let me get somebody who’s better at it than me.” So I got one of my favorite guys to do it; he’s so into it and he’s great at it, so I just let him do it. We just did the drums with our new drummer; I gave him the skeleton – just the kick patterns I came up with – and I said: “You’ll know which roles to play, just make this your own.” He just fuckin’ blew it out of the water. It’s so fuckin’ insane. He did a great job. You also need good management. You need someone who knows what the fuck’s goin’ on. If you don’t have that, you’re fucked!
Jam along with Dave Grohl’s PLAY – ‘The reward of putting effort in an instrument is to play’
Chordify Backstage: Tom Strandberg