Michale Graves was the lead singer of Misfits between 1995 and 2000. The American singer was only 19 years of age when he got his great opportunity and since then he still rocks on stages all around the world – but we had to wait so long for his first concert in Budapest, even though the ice was finally broken: the legendary punk rock musician made his first show on April 24 at Robot Budapest.
“The whole Misfits journey started for me when I was 19 years old” – Michale Graves told us about the beginning of his career. “I joined the band when I was 20. It was a difficult transition into the world that I knew. All my friends – back at home in America – were going to collage and having a very-very different life than I had.”
We toured so much with the Misfits, and when we weren’t touring we were making a record, or I went home and write for the records.
So, I was always working. I was taking out of… I don’t wanna say a ’normal’ world, but the world that most people understand as the norm. The experiences that I had, the good times and the bads, the difficult ones… The times that I went through had a profound effect on me. My life is not different than anybody else’s. Everybody along the way has to make decisions about their integrity, and their values and who they want to be.
Everybody has an idea of what their destiny is, or everybody should have an idea what they want their destiny to be.
And I’ve always had a pretty clear vision of what I wanted to be, what I wanted to. The difficult thing is how to get there. And so the times in the Misfits – looking back now as a 43 old, father of 3 children – it’s been a very long road, looking back on those times, I see how much they’ve affected me. Probably more so than I even realise.
It’s well-known that there were many misunderstandings between the members of Misfits. But it was a very long time ago – so we were curious about the big question: have they discussed the problems since then? “I still do the best of my abilities to remain in contact with the other guys. For me, I forgive all the things that I held onto back then, what is done is done.
For me or for anybody in their life it is very important to move forward and be able to forgive. Because if you constantly looking behind you and holding onto those things that anger you – like ‘I’m gonna get you’, ‘how could you do this to me?’ – it’s easy to get stucked in those things. So it takes the chains off of you.
And instead of looking behind now we look forward. What’s past is past.
I’ve lived in an incredibly, extraordinary, unbelievable life, and those were some of the best times of my life. So it’s a wonderful feeling instead of a resentful or terrible feeling.
Together we did that, the music that you hear, that’s not just me. Sure, I wrote a lot of it but without Jerry, Doyle or Chad… Together we did that, together we made those sounds and we brought it to life for everyone. And that’s a beautiful thing.
I’ve always been a believer. Jesus Christ has always been my savior.
My beliefs have never changed. When I was in my teenage years, like everybody, I began to look into other religions out of curiosity, but I could have never been a non-Christian. Now when you say Christian in punk rock or rock music people kinda go ‘wait a second, how can you be?’
But I do not belive that you necessarily have to follow the rules of a certain religion, if it makes you feel sad in your heart.
My relationship with God, and my spirituality is in my music. But I don’t necessarily wear it on my shoulder, if somebody asks me about it, I love talking about it.
I don’t think that anybody, who believes differently from me, is any better or worse.
Even just questioning and seeking the face of God is exactly what God wants us to do. I think, I believe that there needs be a lot more. And even the idea of Christ – if you don’t believe that he was an actual man, just the idea of Christ, and what he was just trying to do, or what he did, is a beautiful thing to teach your children and to teach the people. In my country especially. I see what happens when there’s an avoid of a moral anchor.
When people or communities don’t have a moral anchor in things, it could become very-very bad.
After I left Misfits, I lost everything. My friends were gone, all my money was gone, I didn’t have any contacts in the record industry, I had nowhere to go, I had to start again.
Which is okay. Because in my life, even since I was small, bonded in my spirituality and in my belief in Jesus and in God. I live my life in victory. I belive that we are the head, not the tail, we are above and not below.
So, I don’t measure my life on the adverse times, the times when I lost everything and I had nothing – those things build you up.
But the mark of success, and the mark of victorious moments like now, where I could look back and remember those tough times, and saying: everything is going to be alright. Everything is going to be alright, because I believe that I’m in a palm of God’s hand, and as long as I believe and live my life, and bring goodness and joy, and don’t get mired down in a bag of hate and anger, and resentment.
Some people look behind themselves in their whole life, and they never look forward, and see the future. In my country a lot of people look to the past, and live their life from there, live their life in the past. And then there’s other people in the culture, like myself, who stand up straight and say: we want to talk about our future, that what our future is. So, those times when I left Misfits were very difficult, but at the same time I look back and sure, the difficulties were there, but that’s why I met Loki, that’s why I met some people who are still part of my life – they are treasures to me, I would never ever had been able to get to this point without them. And so it was a blessing to loose it all. Because then I found all these treasures that are still here with me now. And that’s victory!”
Michale’s career didn’t stop after he left Misfits – he created his own band, called Graves (the recordings were never finished due to disagreements between the members), then with Loki he formed Gotham Road, and shortly after that Michale released solo albums also, wherein he tried different styles. The main question is: which was his favorite style – beside of punk rock, of course? “The favorite questions are toughs. (laughs)
I don’t put any of the styles or anyhthing any higher than any of the other styles.
Because for me it’s the creation part of searching, and trying to find it, and extract the sounds from my heart and soul. So, whether I’m writing a hard music or acoustic music, or a country-folk style, I think it’s just the colors that I’m using for my emotions. It’s just… I’m using different colors, I’m painting different pictures.
I’m giving parts of my life, I’m emoting and trying turn it into music. When I write sometimes I just can hear melodies or mumbles. Usually it sounds like mumbles, it’s hard to hear – but it doesn’t necessarily make sense. As I’ve gone older and become more of an artist, you learn to trust it, just make the sounds. And then start to listen, and as I connect myself my heart and my soul with the sounds what I hear and I make, and I’m true to it, it starts to become clear and clear. It’s almost like etching away stones, and then there it is. They’re the same emotional tools, just using different colours. So, it’s hard to say which is my favorite.”
In the 90’s the audience was so different: people were fighting on stage, however nowadays many people enjoy the shows through their phones. A question’s coming up: how does it feel for an artist to see that? “I feel like I’m old. (laughs) It feels like I’m getting older when I see things like that. But I don’t necessarily judge. I do see the difference in human behaviour, when I first started in the past, and now we have these all inclusive devices that people are capturing, and experiencing reality throught.
I don’t know what’s in people’s heart or in their heads, I don’t know if it’s any better or worse.
My job – whether they have a phone up or not, however they’re experiencing – is to somehow get into their heart and their soul, and make them feel the certain way.
Bring them back to their high-school days, or have them remember their first love. And if you need a phone to do that, if it’s gonna help you, then you can hold up your phone, that’s totally fine.
When I first started, as opposed to younger people than I’m coming contact now, it’s very-very different, the mindset is different, their view of world is very different. I don’t wanna say that I’m worried about the generations behind me, but… This might be off-subject but I think it’s a perfect opportunity to throw it out there: a couple of days ago we had an opportunity to visit Auschwitz -Birkenau, and I was on an acoustic tour a couple of weeks ago during a Holocaust Remembrance Day. And the Holocaust Remembrance Institution did a study in America, and turned out that 2/3 of millennials don’t know what Auschwitz is. They can’t identify what that place was, and the significance of the World War II. Amongs other parts of that study that were kind of scary. And so, again the difference when I was young, to where we are at now is very different.
And again: I feel blessed about my part of life and my mission is hopefully to bring points like that.
Because punk rock has always been admired in that debate, it has always been admired in culture, and able to have conversations about polictics and religion, culture and country.
And I think we still need to do those things, it’s very-very important to do those things, and have civilized debate. Because there’s younger kids that are looking up to older kids, like me, and we have knowledge to help the next generation to come through, to make the world a better place. Because I have children. I want them to have a beautiful world, just like everybody else’s wants for their children. And have a good, incredible life. It’s about the younger folks.”
And fatherhood how much changed the legendary punk rock singer? “It changed me profoundly. Since I have children a lot of my focus and my purpose, the things I do, the way I live my life has been changed, because it all flows back to my children, especially because I am away.
I have to answer their questions, I have to be their father from thousands of miles away. I am not in an ordinary situation. My girls go to school, and the other fathers are not rockstars who toures two or three hundred days out of a year. And so that’s an incredible challenge and there’s a blessing in it all. There was a time in my life when I had been coursed. This was a nightmare I was living. And I would say prayers to God, like ’what did I do? What have I done to deserve it?’ And since I’ve had my children I realized all the wonderfulness, and I realized that this is a blessing and certainly not a course.”
Interview: Afrodite Szeleczky
Photos: Tepliczky Péter
Art: Fausto Dalla Chiara
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