It’s a little jarring to hear the former frontman of the Misfits compare himself to the frontman of U2.
Michale Graves, best known for his stint with the first reunion of horror-punk progenitors Misfits from 1995 to 2000, was discussing how he wrote “All the Troubles,” the song that kicked off the sessions for his introspective acoustic album “Backroads,” released this year.
“I was thinking about my children, and I was playing these chords, and I started to think about that song, (singing) ‘I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,’” Graves said while on the road in Fairfax, Minnesota. Graves and his four-piece band bring their Beginning of the End Tour — complete with classic Misfits songs and makeup — to the Domino Room on Friday.
“I’m like Bono: I’m constantly trying to save the world. So I was thinking about that song, and I started to sing: ‘I’d like to teach the world a song that makes all your troubles feel like they are gone.’ And I built it off of that. So I think that my compassion for the world and this longing to save my children from any harm or any — you know, like all parents, like all fathers. I have two daughters and a newborn son, and I want to protect them from all the bad things, whether it’s a cold or World War III.”
Fair enough, but U2 — and Bono especially — is known for supporting liberal causes, and as anyone who’s followed the Misfits’ ’90s incarnation and Graves’ subsequent solo career probably knows by now, Graves is an outspoken libertarian. He contributed to the now-defunct ConservativePunk website and has appeared on “The Howard Stern Show,” “The Sean Hannity Show” and, quite memorably in 2004, “The Daily Show” (Graves still laughs about the segment when it comes up).
The incongruity was not lost on Graves, who called U2 his “favorite band ever.”
“I guess I could call him a hero of mine,” Graves said. “I like to believe that, regardless of someone like that — our divisions when it comes to things that we might agree or disagree on — that a man like that, his heart certainly is in the right place.”
This attitude seems to extend to the stage, as well, although once again, Graves doesn’t shy away from speaking his mind.
“I’m able to tuck all of that commentary and those themes in there, but in a way where it’s not necessarily in-your-face and preachy,” he said of his live show, before laughing and adding, “which I can be, trust me.”
The theatric Beginning of the End show, which follows a main character diagnosed as an “American Psycho” (the name of the first Misfits reunion album Graves was involved with, in 1997) and also includes roles such as the Gasmask Man and The Lost Skeleton, finds plenty of parallels with the current social and political climate in the U.S. today.
This is familiar territory for horror films, stretching back to the much-lauded allegory in “Night of the Living Dead.” In 2012, Graves began working with horror producer Mark Allen Stuart and his Hydraulic Entertainment company, kicking off a career renaissance that has seen Graves release upwards of three albums per year.
“One of the good things about working with somebody like Mark Allen Stewart, who is just the Rain Man of that genre, (is) I can pick his brain, and we talk about the directors and the writers’ intent and the allegories that they were creating in their art,” Graves said. “And then what I do is take that allegory and stay true to what they were doing, and try to find something that is current in our times and in my life and then put that into song.”
Last year’s “When Worlds Collide” is a prime example of this: Each song on the album is named after a horror film. Graves also released an acoustic version of the record titled “Bedlam” and an instrumental version, a release pattern he’s repeated for most of his albums since 2012.
“Backroads” departs from the usual formula a bit. The roots- and country-influenced songs recall his earlier releases “Vagabond” and “Wanderer,” which were originally recorded with a full band and then redone acoustically. He took the opposite approach with “Backroads,” and is currently working on the full-band version to be titled “The World Turned Upside Down.”
“We were really trying to, and I really wanted to put out the ideas first,” Graves said. “This album came out so naturally and so — just really from my heart and my soul. We really just wanted to give the straight shot first, and let the songs burrow into the listener that way.”
Graves will stick to the horror punk in Bend. He’s been at the forefront of the genre since joining with original Misfits members Jerry Only and Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein at age 19. At the time, Graves was unfamiliar with the Misfits beyond a song or two heard in passing.
“I’m an old skate rat, so the days where we would skate to mixtapes, that was my childhood when I heard ‘Skulls’ and ‘I Turned into a Martian,’” Graves said. “… But yeah, I didn’t know the music, and so when it came time for me to audition, I had to go to the record store. I bought ‘Collection 1’ and ‘Walk Among Us,’ and eventually all of them. Because once I started to listen to the songs, I knew that it was destiny and all I had to do was hold on and do my best.”
After Graves and drummer Dr. Chud left in 2000, Only soldiered on as the only original member until last year, when the band’s first vocalist and primary songwriter Danzig reunited with Only and Doyle for two performances. Another reunion is slated Dec. 30 at The Forum in Los Angeles.
Graves said he celebrates the reunion and is “very, very proud.” He’s also hopeful for a similar reunion with Only and Doyle.
“I have great hope that as we approach the anniversary of ‘American Psycho’ that we as well, that those guys will be able to — and those guys, I mean Jerry and Doyle and myself — will be able to, in our own way, put down whatever guns we have pointed at each other, and sit down and move forward and celebrate our great legacy and what we’ve done together.”