Dissecting the Wax: Horror Business/Night of the Living Dead (by Adam Rains 9/06)
Dissecting the Wax, the FIRST Icons of Horror Rock feature, takes a look back at the classic works of horror rock along with the artists who recorded them. The edition, we dissect the classic Misfits records “Horror Business” and “Night of the Living Dead” along with Bobby Steel, former Misfits guitarist.
By 1978, The Misfits were solidifying a style and image in which they would become synonymous with. The band adopted a horror movie look, and mostly devoted themselves musically to martian teenagers, astro zombies, Vampira (along with her friends). They embodied the drive-in movie culture with Glenn’s lyrics settling somewhere between cheesy and cool, framed in songs that were violently addictive.
It was the 1978 lineup where Glenn and Jerry teamed with two legit snotty NYC punks – in the form of Bobby Steele and Joey Image – and released, arguably, the bands finest work.
“Horror Business”, and 1979’s “Night of the Living Dead”, produced the tightest sounding recordings of the original Misfits. From these records, and their full studio sessions (all available on the Misfits Boxed Set), come some of the bands more revered, quintessential, and punk fuckin rockin songs.
Thoughts on the band's previous effort "Static Age"...
Bobby Steel: I was completely blown away. I wasn't gonna join just ANY band - I was looking for "IT". When I heard “Static Age”, I knew this was "IT". I told my friends this band was gonna be bigger than KISS - and we could've been, too. IT was just a matter of taking some risks.
Joey Image: On a serious note, I never even heard the material before I joined the band! I mean, I saw the name around at Max’s Kansas City and record shops in the L.E.S. (Lower East Side, NYC), but I never heard any the early Misfits till Glenn gave me a tape [after I had joined]. To tell ya the truth, I was more into a different vibe then the Misfits were doing. I was more into bands like Motorhead and AC/DC and bands from the NY scene and the London scene. I was into bands like the Heartbreakers, The Voidoids, Tuff Darts, The Planets, The Dead Boys, Wayne County and the Backstreet Boys (who later became The Electric Chairs) and from London I liked The Damned, The Vibrators, The Sex Pistols, The Outsiders. I really liked the way those bands were; the early Misfits were a brand new kind of music and it took time before people recognized us! When I listened to that early stuff, I thought it was really cool stuff! I used to play some of those [Static Age] songs when I joined the band.
Thoughts on the shift in song writing and sound with the material Glenn Danzig presented for the "Horror Business" and "Night of the Living Dead" EPs...
Bobby Steel: It all just seemed natural to me. I never noticed any shift. There had already been 'horror' songs, Return Of The Fly...
|On the song writing process with Glenn Danzig...
Bobby Steel: Shit. He seemed to do nothing but write. I'd have to say he wrote about 3 songs a day, and at the end of the week he'd give us the best one to do.
On Working (rehearsing, performing) with Jerry Only...
Bobby Steel: That could be frustrating. We had a lot of practices - just me, Jerry, and Joey - where Jerry directed everything, and told me how to play the songs. He had me doing a lot of extra things. Then Glenn would come in, and tell me to stop doing them. So there was that conflict. Nothing was ever scheduled. Every day, I'd have to call Jerry and ask if we were gonna practice. Sometimes, I'd sit around all day, waiting for him to tell me whether or not we had practice. It was a real pain, since most of the time, I ended up wasting the day waiting for them to decide what they were doing.
There were other times, I'd be out all night and call Jerry in the morning, and I'd go over and we'd run through songs for a few hours. Some of those times, Doyle would come out and join us, and I might play drums.
On Working (rehearsing, performing) with Glenn Danzig...
Bobby Steel: He didn't know what he was doing, or what he really wanted. That's how I saw it - he was totally frustrated. He had a concept of a song, but couldn't get that across. He'd try to show me how he wanted the guitar part played, and when I did the exact thing, he'd say "NO. Not like that!" but it was the best he could do to try to explain what he wanted. For Who Killed Marilyn's solo, he could only explain the way he wanted the guitar to sound was like it was flushing down a toilet... try to play THAT!
Around the time of the "Horror Business" EP, the band's horror image became more solidified and overt...
Bobby Steel: Yeah. I think it was more the introduction of the Crimson Ghost into the picture, than it was that song. Horror Biz is about Sid and Nancy, and the analogy to PSYCHO - but it was the Crimson Ghost that really made us a 'horror band', I'd have to say. Damn... I'd love to hear that session with a better mix.
Bobby Steel: My first memory was getting to the studio - on time - and finding a 'buffet' of alcoholic beverages. I made myself a drink.... and another.... and another. Somehow - the rest of the band showed up 4 hours late, and by then I was feeling pretty loose.
Everything I did was LIVE - I wasn't allowed any retake, punch-in or overdub. I don't know whose idea it was, but 'someone' decided I wouldn't be needing my Ampeg V4 amp. The studio had a 'massive' 12 Watt Musicman amp that I had to adapt to using. Jerry had his Acoustic 300 watt monster. Again, some genius came up with the idea that me and Jerry should have our amps about 3 feet apart - with no physical separation - facing each other. This means that you probably hear more of Jerry's low-end roar in my mike, than you do of my guitar.
||When it came time for the mix, it was right after Sid Vicious died - you can get a fairly accurate description of this out of the STATIC AGE insert - where the engineer mistakenly describes this as being during the S A session. If his account were true - I'd be collecting all of those S A royalties by now. What happened here was that Jerry had been chauffeuring Sid's mom around - to lawyers, funeral arrangers... whatever needed to be done after her son died a few days earlier.
We were all feeling pretty down in the dumps over losing Sid, and it was reflected in our consumption and attitudes that evening. As the mix session began, I started to roll a fat joint. A friend offered some hash to add to the joint, and then the engineer threw in some coke. Glenn had a huge bottle of 151 Rum and Coke, and I can't recall what was in the bottle that Jerry and Ann brought in. The bottom line was that we were M.U.I. (Mixing Under the Influence).
Our goal had been to get a sound similar to the WEIRDOS 'We Got The Neutron Bomb', which we thought was the greatest-sounding record at the time.
What happened was, we forgot you could actually turn things DOWN, we just kept making things louder... can't hear enough snare? Don't bring other things that're masking it, down - turn it up! When it got to where everything was as loud as it could ever go - that was our mix.
Bobby Steel: I can only rememebr watching Joey overdub some parts, and we were all just staring in awe at the power he had back then. His arms were fucking HUGE, and he moved around that kit like a machine.
Children In Heat...
Bobby Steel: We were either listening to a playback, or it was at the mixdown, but during this song, this guy came into the studio - and promptly began goose-stepping around the control room. He looked like he must've been in his 40s, and definitely NOT someone who'd appreciate punk rock. His name was Jack Urbont - he wrote the theme for THE YOUNG AND THE RESTLESS, and was in the studio workingon his own project when he heard CHILDREN blasting for our control room. He met with us a few more times, managed to convince EPIC RECORDS to sign us for $50,000.00 - which was incredible at a time when labels were losing money. Glenn wouldn't go for less than $100,000.00, though.
Who Killed Marilyn? (recorded during the "Horror Business" session, but cut from the EP)...
Bobby Steel: Glenn actually took me back to the studio to redo the guitar solo. You can faintly hear the original one on the Legacy tracks, but he wanted sometihng less 'musical'. The way he described what he wanted was to 'sound like a toilet flushing'.
Recording with Glenn Danzig....
Bobby Steel: He was impatient with everyone, but himself. I was only allowed one take on anything I did. If I flubbed it - there was no retake. If i was trying to get a certain feedback effect, I had to get it on the first try, or Glenn would say, "it's no good", and it was the end of it. If I tried to explain that I didn't get it right, he'd challenge me to "go outside" with him. He was, I guess, a fucking bully. The fat kid that nobody liked in high school now had someone he could feel brave around, I guess.
Recording with Jerry Only...
Bobby Steel: Jerry was a clown, I guess. Everything was 'okay with me' on his end, most of the time. He was the same when it came to printing t-shirts. If a shirt was rushed, and the print was shitty, Glenn'd complain abut wasting shirts that no one would want to buy, and Jerry would always say, "I'll wear it", so it became a running joke that whenever something was fucked up, Glenn'd say, "give it to Jerry"- kinda like Mikey in the LIFE cereal commercial.
|On Engineer Dave Achelis...
Bobby Steel: I just remember he was a laid back type guy. I doubt punk rock was his thing at all, but he was into what we were doing.
The Horror Business Cover Art
Bobby Steel : As I remember, Glenn found an 8x10 of the Crimson Ghost at one of the millions of junk shops in NYC at that time. The picture on the back of the original was taken in Jerry's garage - where we practiced. For lighting, we used streetlights that Jerry had 'acquired'. The pictures that were on the released copies were probably shot in Jerry's bedroom. We practiced taking pictures as much as we practiced playing.
The recordings came back sounding somewhat altered, and the band was not able to fund another studio session, so they included the following insert with copies of the 7" to explain the "strange noises" heard on the recording:
"On February 28, 1979, the Misfits and a mobile recording unit entered an abandoned haunted house in northern New Jersey. They recorded and left. While mixing the tapes back at a NYC recording studio, strange voices and noises were heard in the background. No explanation of these sounds could be given by the band or the recording crew."
Bobby Steel: It was, either come up with a good story, or me and Joey were so offended at the sound that we were threatening to quit.
Night of the Living Dead
||Bobby Steel: This was done at SONGSHOP STUDIO, in midtown. I remember walking to the studio in the rain - it must've been late spring / early summer 1979. Even though Danny Zelonky was the producer, Robbie Alter was there to help with part of the session. It was a small studio - especially in comparison to C I where we'd done HORROR BIZ, and the STATIC AGE sessions. We only had 8 tracks, as opposed to the 16 in the previous sessions, too.
The original mixes weren't as muddy. Glenn wasn't happy with one little thing in the mix - the snare wasn't loud enough, and went back and ended up with a worse sounding mix.
Bobby Steel: The studio had a small collection of guitars and amps - so I took advantage of it, and layered five guitars for RAT FINK.
Recording with Glenn Danzig....
Bobby Steel: He tried to act as if he knew what he was doing, but we were actually better off when he just stuck with singing.
Recording with Jerry Only...
Bobby Steel: I guess it was like he wasn't there. He did his bass part, and any vocals and that was the extent of his input. At least, in this session we had more control over his sound, and he wasn't bleeding all over my tracks - which meant a much better guitar sound.
On Producer D. Zelonky..
Bobby Steel: He was my choice. I met him through THE MAD - he was their guitarist and producer. I was impressed with the production on their I HATE MUSIC 45, and recommended him to Glenn. He chose the studio.
The Night of the Living Dead Cover Art…
Bobby Steel: It took me awhile to figure out what that was on the front. For the back photo, we did these photo-shoots in the West Village. It was a loading-dock on Washington St. About ten years ago I went back with some friends, but things have changed so much - you can't recognize it anymore.
[All IMAGES used from the first and best Misfits resource on the net, www.misfitscentral.com]
After NYC’s Bobby Steel graduated from The Misfits, he formed The Undead which went on to become a staple of the city’s underground punk scene. They released their debut single 9 Toes Later in 1982, and their first full length Act Your Rage in 1989, which at one time held the record for highest selling independent release. The band recently celebrated Steel’s 50 th birthday at CBGBs (photos available here: http://www.myspace.com/iconsofhorrorrock) , and are gearing up for their next full length release.
The UNDEAD on MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/54441044