~A chat with Misfits project coordinator, Tom Bejgrowicz~
September 29, 2001
Via electronic transmission
Oh! To be involved with the discovery of lost recordings, tributes and the packaging design of one of the most recognized bands of all time. Sounds like fun, right? Well, fun it is, but it IS work, as I recently found out during a most enlightening conversation with artist, producer, and all-around whiz, Tom Bejgrowicz....
TVCasualty: What is the nature of your relationship with the Misfits?
Tom Bejgrowicz: I was put in charge of the campaign we launched starting in 1995 for The Misfits while I worked at Caroline Records in New York. Sometimes the band hates me, sometimes they love me. I represent the enemy (i.e. the record company) so that's to be expected. Therefore I am not great friends with any of the band although I do consider Jerry a friend and Franché was always a great guy to talk to. What I do for them is do my best to create releases that represent an unbiased and fan-like angle. I am very proud of "Static Age", "Box Set" and the upcoming "12 Hits From Hell", to say the least.
TV: What is the nature of your relationship with Caroline Records?
TB: I worked for Caroline Distribution and was hired over to Caroline Records, the label itself, by Lyle Preslar due to - for the most part, I believe - the work I had been doing with them during the acquistion of the Misfits catalog. I worked there as a Project Manager/A&R Rep until 1997. Since that time, I have remained friends with many of the great people who work there and we continue to talk and occasionally we work together on a freelance basis.
TV: Are you a fan of the Misfits?
TB: I think The Misfits have forever changed the face of punk rock, hardcore and metal. They are, alongside the Dead Kennedys, Minor Threat, Black Flag and Bad Brains the true purveyors of hardcore punk rock. Legends, without a doubt.
TV: At what point in your life did you discover The Misfits?
TB: Not right away, although I am in my early 30's the scene was different back then. Bands and labels didn't have national distribution so most of us missed the boat while they were together. I remember my brother, who is four years older, having "3 Hits From Hell" and although I liked it - I didn't fall headfirst in love with the music until years later.
TV: As a fan, did you find it exciting to be involved with the release of previously unavailable Misfits material?
TB: The day I picked up all the master tapes in 1995 after the deal was done, I was like a kid in the candy store! Master tapes of every session you could imagine (except for the Fair Lawn sessions) with many of the boxes having original sheets, unreleased versions/songs and sketches on the boxes by Glenn and the boys. It was a great day and to have all of it transferred to CD for me to review for the first time by anyone was something I will cherish forever.
TV: I see that you are credited in the liner notes of several Misfits-related releases as either "Producer", "A&R" or both. What exactly does a record producer do, and what is "A&R"?
TB: In the cases of my work with The Misfits, "Producer" means that I created the release by conceiving it and overseeing all of its elements; the track-listing and order, what goes into it, choosing artists, how the release will look, locating and choosing photos, if we're using liner notes and who will do them, getting it mixed and/or mastered, etc. "A&R", as in the case of "Violent World: A Tribute To The Misfits", means that not only was I "Producer" but I also picked the bands, contacted them, got them to sign on and worked them through the studio to delivering masters and recording credits. "A&R" stands for Artist & Repetoire, which can also mean babysitter in many cases!
TV: Can you breifly explain what "mastering" and "re-mastering" mean?
TB: They are in itself, the same thing. Mastering is a highly effective process which enhances that of which was recorded in the studio. If you heard a recording without being mastered it would sound really bland compared to after it's mastered. Mastering adds volume, low-end, high-end (or whatever you desire) and helps you clean up the rough edges at the end or beginning of tracks, etc. - it's hard to explain but it basically adds shine to the recording and can make all the difference in the world for an album's sound.
TV: Is your ability to perform these tasks related to, or dependent upon, being a musician yourself?
TB: I tried being a bass player once and I started a quasi-band too when I lived in NYC. We were awful but it was more about hanging out and drinking 40's of Colt 45 in Alphabet City, I think! I love music, it is my blood-line and everything in my attaches itself to music. I am a fan and that's why I am involved with it.
TV: Could we discuss the pressing of colored vinyl as related to the Misfits releases that you have been involved with. For example, tell me how the different numbers are arrived at for each color, and how each color itself is chosen.
TB: Whew, Mark Kennedy is the man for this question. Although I chose the colors and how many were pressed, I always struggle to remember the numbers. Let me think... "Collection II" was 500 on Clear, 1000 on Green and 2000 on Red. "Static Age" had 500 purple, 1000 on Yellow and 2000 on Red. "Violent World" was actually on 500 White, 1000 Green and 2000 Orange. I always want a couple colors and that's essential really, I mean, this is The Misfits - right? I like to run them, as you can see, in increments that run from rare to colors more people can find. It's no fun making them so only a couple people can have the fun of opening their vinyl and seeing color. I love that feeling. The colors are chosen mainly by two methods; colors used in the layout and completely random selections. I tend to think it's more that latter!
TV: What sort of education does one need to have in order to do this type of work?
TB: I went to college for Graphic Design so you don't need to have one at all to do the business end of things. Like most of society refuses to do, I act logically and think about numbers, budgets and ideas in a more common sense manner and I think that's why projects I have done work out pretty well. Education, if not utilized properly, can sometimes be highly over-rated.
TV: What other albums have you produced, packaged or otherwise had a hand in, besides the following: Collection II, Static Age Promo Cassette, Misfits Box Set, Static Age, Violent World?
TB: I don't consider "Static Age Promo Cassette" anything really, although I know, because of its collectibility (hell, I don't even have one) I am credited with it - but it has no more or no less to do with the "Static Age" the CD/LP to me. I have produced, designed and co-mixed/co-mastered the upcoming "12 Hits From Hell." Besides the Misfits, there's too many records to mention here as I've worked at three different labels over an 8 year span.
TV: Can you tell me the story behind the creation of the Misfits Box set released by Caroline in 1996? I understand it was conceived a number of years before it actually saw the light of day.
TB: That's a big question, but I'll do what I can to be as concise as possible. The idea that Glenn had originally for a coffin box set was mentioned in a couple of interviews in the Samhain years. That was it. Nothing came of it. When we were doing the deal to acquire everything, I wanted to make it happen but on a full-scale, big-money, big-time way. I believe Glenn was thinking about a box set of singles back then, but I wanted it to be a full-on deal. Since it was quite an undertaking, I hired an outside designer. His name was Roger Gorman and he had previously won a Grammy for his David Bowie "Sound & Vision" box set while doing work for John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Metallica, Helmet, Queensryche and tons of others. He's a great guy and we had a blast bringing the idea to life (we worked again on "Violent World"). I hired another great artist, an illustrator and designer named Dave McKean. Dave is famous for many things but mostly for his Sandman comic series covers. I told him what I wanted, sent him some music and he came back with a sketch or two. I had him add a key into the Crimson Ghost's hand to represent the fact that this box set is your key to The Misfits legacy. Lyle and I also really liked the packaging of this import CD by Spiritualized, a UK band. I found who made the boxes and I talked them into coming over, meeting and creating what I wanted for our versions. Those original pressing cases are beautiful and we had fun working on those - the company did a great job. The Fiend Club badges were a necessity to me. I grew up with tons of pins on my shirts and jackets and it seemed like a fun idea to have something extra in there. Of course, there was the coffin itself and that was a big ordeal since nothing like it had ever been done before. It was specially engineered for this project and cost quite a bundle to have done (as did the jewel cases). As far as the interior goes, I wanted the fuzzy red interior to add color since Roger came up with that great black "wood" look to the outside. Basically, it all just came together magically and the "Box Set" is the proudest moment in all of my years with the music industry.
TV: How difficult was it to assemble all of the tracks slated for inclusion in the Box Set? How did you go about the arduous task of trying to track down every song that had been recorded by the band?
TB: It was basically like this... I knew all the albums would be together and to utilize more space on the CDs, I'd put more than one album on each. That way, we'd re-launch "Earth A.D." on CD and premiere "Evilive" as well. Two classics that have since been released on their own but were exclusive to the box. The "Sessions" disc was the biggest task in the entire collection. This took weeks of repeated listening to the tapes we acquired and weeding out things that were already on the albums on Disc #1 and #2, etc. When you're dealing with so many different sessions and versions of the same songs, it becomes quite tedious to say the least. As far as "Static Age" goes, that was a no-brainer - it's a classic and had to stand on its own as Disc #4.
TV: Were you at all intimidated by the sheer number of tracks that needed to be remastered for the box set?
TB: I wasn't, but I can assure you Alan Douches was! I didn't sit in on those sessions due to their lengths and the fact that The Misifts were just one band I worked on at Caroline. I always sat in on single or double album sessions though.
TV: Was there any need to restore or repair any of the original masters used in the Box Set. If so, what degree of damage was assessed, and what was done to restore them? How were/are those master tapes stored?
TB: All of the session tapes went through a process known as "archival baking." It's not complex, it's exactly how it sounds; the tapes are baked in an oven at a lower temperature for so long to help them from sticking to each other in their rolled-up form. They are then transferred over to digital so they're backed up and the tapes themselves are in storage vaults in the NYC area.
TV: What level of involvement did Glenn Danzig, Jerry Only (or any other former members of the Misfits for that matter), have in the creation and evolution of the Box Set?
TB: I always tried to bring the band into the fold but I also had to utilize the ideas I had as the main focus. Jerry was of great help with allowing me to go through his personal photo albums and for giving me space to create the project on my own. The "Box Set" was the beginning of my friendship with Eerie when I contacted him about liner notes. Eerie is one of my best friends and that friendship is one of the single greatest things to come from my work with The Misfits.
TV: Were certain tracks left out of the Box Set due to limitations imposed by either Caroline or any other persons invloved with the project?
TB: No band member or employee at Caroline had a gun to my head regarding songs within the "Box Set." As we sit here in the Fall of 2001 there are no songs out now that aren't avaiblable. And when I say "songs", I mean compostitions not "versions." There's a big difference. The only song that wasn't included in the "Box Set" that The Misfits ever recorded was "In The Doorway."
TV: Can you explain why "Walk Among Us" was not included with the Box Set?
TB: Both myself and Caroline have taken such flack for this album not being included and it's quite simple really... "Walk Among Us" isn't a Plan 9 album and the rights are owned by Warner Brothers via Slash, an imprint of theirs. I naturally would have included this classic album but Caroline doesn't hold the rights. In fact, it's the only Glenn Danzig-era record they don't own. I wish I could make this known to every fan out there somehow.
TV: At what point was the decision made to release "Static Age" on its own?
TB: I knew all along it would come out on its own, it's too great of an album to have solely in the "Box Set." The "Sessions" disc is different in that way, that's for collectors and it doesn't stand that well on its own whereas "Static Age" has the whole story and mystery behind it. But hey, you never know...
TV: How had "In The Doorway" managed to remain hidden since it was recorded?
TB: The reason "In The Doorway" was never heard, or boot-legged for that matter like "Return Of The Fly" was, is this - it was NEVER mixed down originally since the band ran out of time in the studio. It was only on 2" reels and to do anything with that tape in the future meant taking studio time out, money and effort for only one song. The band moved on and created new songs while this song collected dust. The band couldn't even tell me how it went when I retrieved it from the tapes! I'll never forget hearing that song for the first time in the studio with Alan, especially knowing I had the only copy of it in existence (yeah, I'm a dorky fan!). I love that song and it's every bit a classic Danzig-penned song.
TV: What was the inspiration behind adding the Static Age "Session Outtakes" to the 1997 release of "Static Age"? Were those outtakes readily available when the project was being assembled?
TB: The inspiration comes from listening to the entire 2" multi-track master tapes. There's so much banter, talk and screw-ups for any band and with "Static Age" being the first big recording for the band, there was going to be some antics of some sorts. Like the "In The Doorway" story, these bits weren't available to anyone since they were only on the 2" tapes. That was a blast putting that bonus track together. There's more of it but that's the best stuff.
TV: Were the tracks included on "Static Age" mixed or mastered differently from those on the Box Set version of "Static Age", or were those tracks simply re-used "as-is"?
TB: Tracks 1 - 14 are the same versions as in the "Box Set" but they were all re-mastered after we completed the mixes of the bonus tracks ("She", "Spinal Remains" and "In The Doorway") where we mastered all 17 cuts in the same mode and levels for continuity.
TV: I read in the "Static Age" liner notes that Steve Zing provided much of the memorabilia shown in the included artwork. Do you normally solicit the help of former bandmembers such as Steve, in the search for such memorabilia? Have you enlisted the help of the top Misfits collectors?
TB: I usually only contact band members or those close to the band at the time. To bring others into the fold is usally a legal nightmare. Putting names like Steve's and Eerie's in the booklet and using their original material makes it even cooler, I think, for the fans to see. Both of those guys have given me great gifts from their collection as well, which was a joy for me.
TV: In the mid-to-late nineties, Misfits fans were inundated with a flood of new versions of old material, as well as tributes. "Violent World" was one such tribute release. Was there any conscious effort to release these projects so close together, or was it pretty much coincidental?
TB: That anyone else put together a tribute is purely coincidental. I looked at "Violent World" as the official tribute as it came from Caroline, a long-time supporter of the band and Plan 9 since the 1980's.
TV: How were the bands picked for the "Violent World" tribute? It seems that some of the bands are well-know, whereas others are aparrently unknown, or even unsigned, groups.
TB: Every group on that compilation was signed to someone at the time. I love that record and when people have a problem with it, I say to them that it's not supposed to be or sound like The Misfits. I have those records already at home, I want to hear how other's will interpret the songs that I love. My personal favorites vary from time to time but Pennywise, Earth Crisis, Sick Of It All, Prong, Therapy?... shit, I love it all but mostly I love the ones that took the songs and made them their own. The record, as it stands, kicks ass but with some more cooperation we could have reserved some bigger names which I believe would have made The Misfits name even larger. I had Pantera doing "London Dungeon" first, but then Metallica posted the street date for "Load" so Pantera went into over-drive to get their album out first (thus, cover songs were put on the back burner). Those guys are cool and are very big fans. We could have had White Zombie and I had C.O.C. on the table too but there were a few things that could have been done but weren't. Should of, could of, would of...
TV: To your knowledge, were there any other tracks recorded for inclusion on the "Violent World" tribute? If so, what has happened to those tracks that didn't make the final cut?
TB: There was no cutting room floor for "Violent World" - every master someone created for inclusion on the album was used. I spoke to Scott Ian in Anthrax and they wanted to do it. Hell, I wanted them to do it, that's a classic band and I would have loved to have heard them do a song. But they never called me back to let me know what song, what money they needed, etc. It's not their fault and it's not mine - it just didn't happen. No worries. There weren't any other instances like that but possibly people wanted to do it but didn't make the right calls. The only other oddity that came up is that I had to ask Goldfinger to edit their cover of "Ghouls Night Out" since they inserted a bit at the end that had the riff of "Mother" in it. I thought it was clever as hell but "Mother" doesn't have anything to do with The Misfits so we had it faded out.
TV: When did the plans for the latest Misfits album, "12 Hits From Hell" first come to light?
TB: I wanted to do a project like this a few years ago but Caroline Records were shifting over to Astralwerks and the eletronic music they have helped pioneer (Fatboy Slim, Chemical Brothers, Air, etc.) and their concentration was elsewhere so it didn't happen. Recently they have opened up more to rock music again and I convinced the GM there to allow this project to happen.
TV: Where were these new tracks discovered, and when, and by whom?
TB: The tracks have always existed, just not in this fashion. I simply needed a theme for the release for it to be make sense. Recently, in my archives, I found a copy of a sheet of MSP letterhead that listed all the songs from those sessions but it had them listed as "Side One" and "Side Two". They wanted this to be an album just like "Static Age" was supposed to be one as well. And after matching it up to their 1980 press release, it states how they indeed were recording an album that Fall. This was what spawned this specific idea. In many ways it's like "Static Age" where "12 Hits From Hell" brings you the session in the entirety of which it was planned to hopefully come out. Except this time, we utilized Bobby Steele's guitar work as the back-bone since he was kicked out after these sessions and they decided not to really use his work when they did the "3 Hits From Hell" and "Halloween" singles. His stuff is great and when it's combined with Doyle's style - it creates an amazing sound, unlike any other I've ever heard. I also threw on the second take of "London Dungeon" as a bonus song and that rounds things off quite nicely. Eerie supplied 7 unreleased photos of the band and both he and I wrote detailed notes regarding the sessions.
TV: What condition where these master recordings in when they came to you?
TB: These tapes were in great condition although they were baked slightly for the reason they had been around without being spun for 21 years! I think, without much room for argument, "12 Hits.." makes for the best sounding album in their Glenn Danzig-era careers.
TV: Why were plans scrapped for the release of the collection of 7-inch Misfits singles?
TB: Again, it was a timing issue with Caroline and the fact that vinyl isn't as much a commodity as it used to be. The plans were a lot of fun but there's only the one mock-up in existence. I was calling it "Enter At Your Own Risk," a title Glenn had come up with in the 80's for a possible "Collection II" record.
TV: Are there any plans on the table to produce any future Misfits compilations, whether they are tributes or tracks done by the Misfits themselves?
TB: I can assure you that there won't be another tribute, what a nightmare to put together they are! Anything further in the future for The Misfits is totally up in the air.
TV: Seeing as how you've had great success in bringing these gems and rarities to light, is there any chance we'll see any Samhain outtakes or alternate versions hitting the stores in the future?
TB: Samhain and Glenn's "Black Aria" album are his property. You'll have to ask the man.
TV: When you aren't working with Caroline or Misfits projects, what do you do with your talents?
TB: I do freelance design and project co-ordination for various record labels. I've created another box set recently for Century Media Records that's coming out this November and I will always be meddling in label's business, whether they like it or not! I simply love music and putting together albums whether that be producing a release and/or designing it.
TV: My thanks to Tom, for this fabulous look into the ever-unfolding history of the Misfits.
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