~A chat with former Misfits guitarist, Bobby Steele~
April 25, 1998
Chiller Theatre Expo
The Meadowlands; Secaucus, NJ
Bobby Steele - former guitarist for the legendary horror-punk band The Misfits, is quite possibly the most notorious former Misfit, next to Brian Damage. During this year's "Chiller Theatre", Bobby took some time out of his visit to the horror/sci-fi convention to answer a few questions. As the tape begins rolling, Bobby and I are talking about the recent Mourning Noise reunion shows....
TVCasualty: Yeah, they (Mourning Noise) were playing in Garfield, I think, back in November (of 1997).
Bobby Steele: You're right.. that was the same night that we played CBGB's.
TV: Usually when I do this, I like to go from the perspective of not knowing anything about the band, that way everyone can learn a little.
BS: Right..(laughing) so you just like to be like a dumb shit, right?
TV: Sure, so for the record, you've been in a number of bands over the years.. want to give me a sample of some of them?
BS: I was in the UNDEAD, which I'm still in, TIMES SQUARE, which I'm still in, ZERO PROPHETS, which I'm still in, ahhh MOURNING NOISE...
TV: What was that other band...hmm..unfit or something.. what was it?
BS: uhh... what was that? (laughing) Oh yeah, MISFITS. I played with those guys too. Nice little band...
TV: Ok, so let's go way back. How did you get started playing...what do you play ...
BS: Oh yeah, when you go "way back" you've gotta go like this (hand gestures mimicking Wayne's World flashback effect)..de de de de de de de....
TV: Yeah like Wayne and Garth! (laughing) So, what instruments do you play and how did you get started?
BS: My main thing is guitar. I also play bass which is just basically guitar...and I got started.. well, the first time I tried to start was when I was seven years old, after I saw the Beatles on tv. I couldn't do it back then, man my fingers just couldn't push down those strings. Then when I was about thirteen, was when I really started to concentrate on learning how to play guitar seriously, and you know (laughing), it's been downhill since then.
TV: So what was your first attempt at (forming) a band like?
BS: The first attempt at a band was called "The Living End" and basically it was me on guitar with about two or three chords to my knowledge and a friend of mine on drums... that's about as far as it got. I went through various bands, ahh cover bands, original bands... shit like that, until I got into punk. I had a band called "Paradox" which has really branched out into a lot of stuff. The SMITHEREENS came out of that band, a guy that was involved in the creation of "Mortal Combat" was in that band. A few other classic New York Hardcore bands also came out of that.
TV: So you got into punk... then what?
BS: Then I got into the "Whorelords" for I guess about two or three months, I was in another band called "The Scabs" then I joined the MISFITS.
TV: How did that come about? .... in a nutshell.
BS: I put an ad in the Aquarian, which is like a local music paper, and I was looking for a punk band that had management and a record deal. Glenn called me up and said he was in the MISFITS, which at that point, all I knew about the MISFITS was "Cough/Cool" and I was kind of like "I don't know if I want to fucking play in that kind of band, but ok.. I'll give it a shot." So I went down and it was like..it was a good gamble, because they didn't sound anything like that record.
TV: So you guys hit it off pretty good?
TV: Where was your first gig with those guys?
BS: That was at MAX's KANSAS CITY.
TV: ...and that's where?
BS: New York City.
TV: That makes perfect sense.. MAX's KANSAS CITY in New York City. I can deal with that.
BS: A lot of people get confused.. they think it was in Kansas City, and I'm like "naaahhh. You think we'd play there all the time man?"
TV: (laughing) yeah, you flew out to Kansas just to play one gig!
BS: Every three months we'd drive out to Kansas for one fucking gig, get paid two or three hundred bucks then come back home...
TV: Ok..so offhand, what releases did you play on with the MISFITS?
BS: Horror Business, Night of the Living Dead, Three Hits from Hell, then it starts getting all confusing because it's all mixed up... like in the collections, the box set, stuff like that.
TV: Right.. like different versions, different releases..
BS: I think off the box set, there's somewhere around thirty-five tracks that I'm on.
TV: Wow..of course you were on "Beware"..
TV: ..and you went overseas with them..to England...
BS: Yeah, went over to England and did one show..
TV: One show? Where was that?
BS: That was in the Montforte Hall in Liecster.That was a trip man. Opening for THE DAMNED. There was an english band called "Victim" that was the first band on that night, and we were supposed to do a whole tour-not just the one show- but things went so poorly, we didn't get paid, we were getting jerked around by the band's management, so we pretty much decided to skip tour..just hang out in London for a few weeks.
TV: Jump ship, eh?
BS: Yeah...we figured "Fuck this shit..let's just hang out in London, get ourselves arrested and write a song about it"
TV: Let's take a little detour now... how did your family handle all of this?
BS: My family is totally supportive of the whole thing..They think it's cool. They'd be happier if I was making more money at it, you know...but they appreciate the music. I've got my recording studio set up in their house, so they know these songs inside and out.
TV: How old were you while you were in the MISFITS?
BS: I was twenty-two when I joined.
TV: So you just took off to England.. in your mid-twenties...must be great.
BS: Went to jail..(laughs)
TV: You and Glenn spent the night in jail there together. yes?
BS: Actually, we spent two nights..it was an adventure.
TV: After you parted ways with the MISFITS, then where did you go?
BS: The UNDEAD.
TV: The UNDEAD. Immediately?
BS: Right then man. I mean, the UNDEAD were basically just like the SCABS, and on weekends when the MISFITS weren't doing anything, we'd get together over at the drummer's house and play the songs and shit. So, when I got kicked out of the MISFITS, it was pretty much ready to go. It didn't take that long, we just had to switch drummers.
TV: Speaking of, Steve Zing (SAMHAIN) played drums with you in the UNDEAD for a while, didn't he?
BS: (sarcastically) No.. he never did any of that.. I did all of that, man. I just let him believe that he did all that, because he's a nice guy.
TV: Let's get back to your other bands.. where do TIMES SQUARE and ZERO PROPHETS fit into all of this?
BS: They've fit in in just the past couple of years now. TIMES SQUARE has my ex-girlfriend Jill..
TV: Jill Matthews?
BS: Yep. World Championship boxer. It's just kind of something that she started as a side project you know, and it's been catching on with people, so we're getting ready to go into the studio and do a second record now, and ZERO PROPHETS is in the process of signing with BMG records label, and right now there's talk of going down and doing a tour of Brazil in the fall..
TV: Sounds good..
BS: Yeah, some good shit's coming up you know. It's gonna be hard trying to juggle three bands, with recording and touring and all that shit. The UNDEAD is supposed to tour Canada in the summertime, so what I want to do is, when the UNDEAD tour is over, just stay there and have Jill (Matthews) and Dave fly up and do a Times Square tour, and do a similar thing with the ZERO PROPHETS. Go down to Brazil and do a ZERO PROPHETS tour, and then at the end of that tour, do an UNDEAD tour.
TV: Do you have a band assembled for the UNDEAD tour? I see that on your site that you're looking for people.
BS: No luck yet.
TV: What about the other people in the other two bands? In TIMES SQUARE, who were the other people you mentioned?
BS: Jill Mathews, and Dave from DEVILDOGS is the drummer.
TV: And it's just you three guys?
BS: Just the three of us.
TV: ..and she plays..bass?
BS: No, she plays guitar. I play bass.
TV: Oh really?
BS: Yeah, she's a really good guitar player. She took guitar lessons from a couple of session musicians, and from one of the guys in Twisted Sister.. she's really good. She needed a bass player and I said: "I'll fuckin' do it." I was into it you know.. it's fun.
TV: Ok. Now.. ZERO PROPHETS is made up of who?
BS: ZERO PROPHETS is: Bernie White on guitar, Danny Rey- not the same Daniel Rey that produced the MISFITS new record.
TV: The who?
BS: (laughing) that other band. so, Danny Rey on sax and rhythm guitar, I play bass, and I don't know who's playing drums right now. We're in between drummers, but we were talking to Jimmy Black about doing drums in that band.
TV: How can people get ahold of sounds from those bands? Just contact you?
BS: Yeah. The ZERO PROPHETS don't have anything out yet, we're just trying to get things worked out to get into the studio and record. For everything else you can just contact me at UNDEAD@JUNO.COM for information.
TV: Tell me about POST MORTEM records.
BS: Well, it's basically when Stiff Records went under, and we didn't have anybody to keep putting out "Nine Toes Later" , I just decided I'd start my own fuckin'' label and put it out at this point. Just basically a means for me to get my stuff out.
TV: Is there a lot involved with starting your own record label?
BS: Well, coming up with a name that nobody else has is the hardest part ..Once that's done, you've just got to be ready to work your ass off. When I've got a record out, I usually out in 18 hour days. Calling stores, calling radio stations, calling whatever.. to make sure that the record is selling.
TV: What else do we want to touch on here.
BS: I saw some girls downstairs that I'd like to touch on.. (laughing)
TV: Me too, me too. So, any plans for anything new on the site? Maybe some new sounds?
BS: As soon as I get some more time, I'll be doing some re-working of the website. I've got to put up stuff for the new album, stuff for the t-shirts, and stuff like that, because we never got that up there.
TV: So you have t-shirts now available?
BS: Yeah, we've always had them, I just neglected to put them up on the website.
TV: OK.. and anyone can just email you and inquire about the t-shirts?
BS: Yeah, and probably once we get the catalog on-line, you can just order right from the internet.
TV: Do you have copies available of all past (UNDEAD) releases?
BS: Mainly just cassette copies of "Live Slayer" in stock, and maybe 1 or 2 hundred copies of "Act your Rage" LP's still in stock. Also "Dawn of the UNDEAD" which we've got on CD, cassette and LP right now, and I've still got some "Riot in Tompkins Square" 7-inchers. That's about what's still available.
TV: Oh yeah.. I told you before about my friend that has the white "Act your rage" LP - How could I forget that album..
BS: So, do I look like Bobby Steele?
TV: (laughing) You kind of favor him. I really didn't know what to expect. You said " I'll be the guy that looks like Bobby Steele" but I came here looking for someone who I saw on an album cover from eight years ago, but you don't look like that anymore !
BS: No. I don't have that two-foot mohawk anymore.
TV: THAT was cool man, that was cool.
BS: Yeah, that was man. It was fuckin' cool..
TV: What's your secret? How did you get that thing up there???
BS: Aqua-net extra-super-hold and I used a fucking whole can every day. I was an environmental nightmare!
TV: You went to the (MISFITS) box-set signing - where was that at?
BS: That was at Generation Records in NY.
TV: How was that? Seeing the whole gang.
BS: It was fun. It was the first time I really got to meet Franche' (Coma, original MISFITS guitarist) and Jim (aka Mr. Jim, former MISFITS drummer) and the new guys, it was cool.
TV: Do you keep up with any of those guys?
BS: A little bit. I run into Mike (Graves- MISFITS vocalist) and CHUD (current MISFITS drummer) every once in a while in the city. I haven't talked to Doyle (MISFITS guitarist) in a while and at this point, I 'm not really interested in talking to Jerry (Only-MISFITS bassist and founding member.). Basically me and Jerry are like "Hi, how are you?" and that's it.
TV: Let's talk about "Bobby Steele" the name. Where did that come from?
BS: Actually I came up with that name.. it was kind of like a private joke with me and some of my friends when I was just out of high school, because I used to wear a brace that was made out of steel. Since my real name is like - well, people used to always mispronounce it, and I always wanted to come up with a different name. I was joking around one day and I had this steel brace on and I was like.. "I'll be Bobby Steele" and it stuck.
TV: It was nice to finally meet you, I mean, we haven't kept up a barrage of e-mail between us, but...I'm glad you took time to do this, because I don't know when I'll run into you again, though being from Pennsylvania, I tend to come out here a lot.
BS: It's a heck of a drive to come out here..
TV: Yeah, it's about 3 hours or so, but I don't mind. It's fun.
BS: Better than staying out there.. (laughs).
TV: Yeah, it's boring out there. Hicks, Amish - that's the
wild part. The amish. They really like my MISFITS shirts.
BS: They're some wild, crazy people. You know they probably like the MISFITS.
TV: They just might.
BS: The MISFITS are an amish band. They dress in black.
TV: I don't know if that would go over well with them, but they do like my sideburns though. They think I''m one of them. They walk up to me and go " Oh.. where are ye going now?" and it's like "I'm going to a MISFITS show.." "Oh geez.. It's the Devil in ye!" it's kind of funny. Let's shift gears a bit - Steve Zing.. did he play on anything (from the UNDEAD) that was officially released?
BS: Yeah, he's on a good part of the "Act your Rage" stuff.. He did Never say Die, ahh..Social Reason, the Way we Behave, In Eighty-Four, Eve of Destruction, .. probably half to two-thirds of that album.
TV: He's been in a LOT of bands.
BS: He's a drum whore! What are you on? All drummers are whores!
TV: Steve Zing the drum ho. I can't picture it. He's quite a nice guy.
BS: Yeah, he's a good guy.
TV: I remember the one time I came out. It was actually on my birthday (see the Steve Zing interview), and I was looking to get some of the CHYNA stuff from him, because I hadn't heard it, and I wanted to pick it up to add it to my collection. Well, he talked to me for about two hours there, drove me around and showed me where Eerie lived, where Jerry and Doyle lived, all those places - it was great. Then the next time I came up, I got to see his collection of MISFITS and SAMHAIN stuff.
BS: He's got some good shit, man.
TV: You've got some good shit too.. you've got quite a stash of .. what was it.. the "Bullet" sleeves?
BS: I've got the "Horror Business" sleeves, I've got some of the bullet posters, and I 've also got a lot of the original silk-screened gig posters.
TV: Oh yeah? Now there's a find. There's a treasure. Interested in selling any of the covers?
BS: The covers, yeah. The covers and the "Bullet" posters I have for sale.
TV: Of course, anyone can contact you about those?
BS: Just email me..
TV: So how did you manage to score those?
BS: We were at Glenn's house cutting them up, and for some reason I think Glenn had other things to do, so he just gave me a big stack of them and said "Here, take these home and cut them up.." I was sitting at home cutting these things up, and all of a sudden I said to myself.. "WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING!?" I had already cut up almost all of them and I was like "What the fuck am I doing..these are gonna be orth a lot of money!" , so I just took the rest of them and put them away.
TV: Did you even keep the ones you cut?
BS: I've got the cut ones too man. I used to write song lyrics on the backs of those.
TV: Must've been pretty wild growing up with all that stuff..
BS: It was pretty fucking wild man. It was a crazy time. You could do things then that you wouldn't dare do these days.
TV: For instance...
BS: Well, you could catch AIDS if you went screwing around these days..
TV: Ok.. I don't really want to delve into touchy things, but what kind of person is Glenn? On a one on one basis - not now, not then, more like: you and he are in this band, and he's what, a commandeering asshole or what?
BS: Glenn's a complicated person. When he's in a good mood, he's like the coolest guy to be around. He's really fun, he's like a big kid. But when he's in a bad fuckin' mood.
TV: Get out of the way!
BS: You'd be better off sitting next to the devil himself, man. That's basically my summary of where Glenn comes from.. From what I've seen from working with him.
TV: Let's see now, you guys practiced at Jerry and Doyle's place?
BS: In the garage, freezing in the winter. No heat.
TV: Cops come around much?
BS: After ten o'clock they'd be there. We were fucking loud.
TV: The first record that you put out with them (MISFITS) was..?
BS: Horror Business.
TV: When did "Beware" come along?
BS: Beware came along in January of '80.
TV: How was it to go in and record a whole album.. as opposed to.. when you released the singles, did you go in and do a whole lot of stuff at once and release them a little bit at a time.
BS: Oh, we would go in to record and we'd record like seven or eight songs and pick out the three or four best ones and put them out.
TV: So it wasn't any different going in and doing a full-length album.. even though there's only what - five... seven songs on that album.
BS: No, there was never any difference. Beware wasn't even like an album.. We already had the two singles done, so we just pulled those tracks and threw them on there. They wanted to put something out in England.. and twelve-inchers were really getting hot at that point, so if we wanted to get a twelve-incher out, here's our chance to do it. So, we did it. The title literally came up at the last minute. Glenn had the artwork all done, and we were in London, and they have these things called bollards.. do you know what a bollard is?
TV: I read somewhere that it was a concrete block or curb of some sort..
BS: It's a concrete block, that's about this big around (gestures with is hands) , about two feet high, and they've got them all along the curb so cars can't run up the curb and onto the sidewalk and run people down. So, all over London, you've got parking, and they've got signs warning people not to pull up too far.. it says "BEWARE: BOLLARDS" We didn't know what a bollard was, we just saw these signs, we were thinking of some demonic creature and always joking about that.. so Glenn just, almost as a joke, pulled out a piece of paper and wrote "BEWARE" and stuck it on the artwork for the twelve incher and left it there.
TV: ..and now it's a piece of history..
TV: What was your first live show like with them (MISFITS) ?
BS: It was insane.. we were opening for Trixie Sly, who never showed up. So we wanted to play headlining. What was supposed to happen was, we were supposed to go on at 9:30pm, originally, and when Trixie wasn't gonna show up, Peter Crowley came down and said "Look, we want you guys to go on an hour later" At that point we had been drinking and partying, thinking we were going to be going on at "this" time, so at that point we wouldn't be too fucked up, but now we had like another hour to drink and party. By the time we got on stage, we were pretty much a mess. I just remember Jerry going "One two three four.." and jumping up, then I jumped up and lost my balance and fell into the drum set the drums were all flying all over the place.. and Jerry had made his own pair of spandex pants, not knowing that you can't sew spandex on a regular sewing machine, so as soon as he jumped the fucking stitches just came out of it, man. There was a lot of really comical things that happened back in those days.
TV: What was your last gig with the MISFITS like?
BS: That was at EXILE in Long Island City, and that was a new club.. a really nice, big room. What we wanted to do was build up the tension, so we said 'a half-hour before we go on, we'll lock ourselves in a dressing room so we don't have anybody else to see but each other." So we did that, and we were literally climbing the walls, punching out the walls and shit like that, when the owner of the club came in and said "Look, there's not too many people out there, we want you to wait just a little while longer." Well, we waited a little bit longer, and wound up being in this room for about two-and-a-half hours before we went on, so when we went on, it was like we just broke out of that fucking room and charged the stage, did the set back then it was like, those sets went by so fast.. for me it felt like, you got on the stage, went "bang-bang-bang" and we were off. It was so quick. The sets usually lasted fifteen or twenty minutes, but it felt like five seconds to me. That was the loudest show we ever did, because Jerry always had these big bass amps, and this time I came out there I had a Marshall and I had two V-4 stacks with everything on ten.
TV: .. and blew his ass away?
BS: (laughing) NO!
TV: He STILL blew you away?
BS: No, I couldn't hear anything! I never heard the drums in any MISFITS show I did. It was real hard keeping time, because you couldn't hear. All I would hear was this "roar" out of the bass amp, you know.. nothing giving me any indication of timing, and I had to watch out of the corner of my eye .. I had to watch Joey's hand hitting the snare drum to figure out what we were doing.
TV: So, that was when?
BS: 1980. July, I think.
TV: .. and immediately Doyle was in?
BS: No, I was still in the band. Doyle didn't join the band until October, and we had started recording the Walk Among Us tracks.
TV: So, now, you're just trying to balance things between THE UNDEAD, TIMES SQUARE, and ZERO PROPHETS ? I'd love to see all three of those at once!
BS: (laughing) I don't know if I could do that.. That'd be a real challenge .. do three sets in one night. Especially at that kind of energy level.
TV: What about the gig where you guys, as THE UNDEAD, played before the MISFITS? Where was that?
BS: That was at the RITZ, in November or December of 1981.
TV: How did that go over?
BS: Pretty wild. It turned into a riot.
TV: You guys stuck around to watch them, and they were there to watch you?
BS: Yeah, they heckled us, and they couldn't take it when we heckled them. I thought it was all just in fun, but they weren't doing it in fun. They were serious .. I guess. They threw shit at us, and I thought it was fun, so when they went on, I threw shit at them. They got upset.
TV: Boys will be boys, eh?
BS: More like "bullies will be babies" . It was OK when they were doing it.
At that point, all hell breaks loose in the hallway as dozens of people exit the exposition hall for dinner. The conversations turns to the day's events and eventually ends as we head for the "Big Bash" in the lobby of the hotel. Many thanks to Bobby Steele for this very enlightening conversation. Contact Bobby at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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