Thirty-five years ago, 16 year-old Paul Caiafa stumbled into the chance of lifetime. His brother Jerry was playing bass in a band with his buddy Glenn, and along with letting Caiafa serve as their roadie the two musicians also taught the kid how to play guitar. In October 1980 the band canned their guitarist, Bobby Steele, and teenaged Paul Caiafa became Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein of the Misfits.
Doyle still sports the Devilock and his trademark horror punk makeup, but the Misfits are in his rear view mirror. Not that he doesn’t embrace the legacy: Live, his new band, Doyle, busts out some Misfits classics alongside Doyle’s new album, Abominator. It’s an intense show — loud, hard, and most importantly, fun — but here’s a piece of advice: Keep your phone in your pocket.
I grabbed a few minutes with the guitarist while he was in St. Louis, Missouri — just after a nice vegan meal and not too long before showtime. Nobody’s ever going to accuse Doyle of not speaking his mind, but don’t mistake his candor for something else. The man is obviously passionate about what he does, and he’s pretty damned funny, too.
Do you remember what your first record was?
Actually, my mom was a fifties child so we had all these 45 RPM vinyls: Elvis, The Ronettes, Dion, Jerry Lee Lewis — I could go on for hours. We listened to those, and then we started on David Bowie, Alice Cooper, Led Zeppelin, Aerosmith, and all that stuff from the ’70s.
Alice Cooper was a big influence on me. I liked the darkness in his lyrical content, and then I met Glenn Danzig and it was that times a hundred.
So, yeah, that’s what got me into music.
One thing about Alice that you picked up on was the humor. His music and image were dark and mean, but there was a lot of tongue in cheek, too, and I see a lot of that in you. Does your crowd get it? I think Alice’s crowd gets it.
Of course Alice’s crowd gets it — they’ve had 50 years to get it.
I think about 5% of the Misfits fans actually know I have a band, so our turnout isn’t that good. [So far on this tour] we’ve only done the U.S., and as a rule U.S. crowds suck. They’re fucking lame and they want to watch the show through their fucking phones. Nobody gets into it like they do in all other countries.
But when you see the kids that are singing all the words to our new songs, they’re really into it. Just for those couple of kids I get to see, I dig it.
You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you don’t consider yourself a musician. Why not?
I know two chords, man. I have friends that are fucking virtuosos. I just can’t wrap my head around how their mind goes that fast and they know all that shit. For me, you know, I wasn’t interested in learning. I’d rather watch football or do something else.
You just need good songs and a good singer, and you can play with 5 chords. Look at the Ramones, look at the Misfits.
BB King made a career out of no chords.
He’s got soul, brother.
He’s got soul and he’s got riffs. Your stuff’s really riff heavy, too. Is that the core of your songs?
I write an arranged musical composition in song form, record it all, program the drums and then give it to Alex [Story, vocals] and Alex makes it into a song — does all the melodies and all the words. I don’t change anything he does. Every time I get it back it’s like I’m getting a song from my favorite band that I’ve never heard before and I’m the only one in the world that gets to hear it, and fuck, I go crazy. It’s great.
Is that what keeps you going at this point — that sense of discovery?
You write a new song, man, you just get off on it. It’s like making a puzzle out of 12 different pieces going 12 different directions — 12 fucking notes.
You’re very much a band guy, aren’t you? As opposed to a solo artist, I mean.
This is a band. We named it Doyle just to keep it simple, stupid. It’s not a solo project by any means — I’m not a solo guy.
So you are out on the road right now with Abominator. Do you have another album coming soon?
We have it all recorded except the drums, and it needs a title and some artwork — needs to be mixed and needs to be manufactured. Then it’s done.
Speaking of manufacturing and that kind of thing: We are at a point where digital sales are outnumbering physical media. How is that impacting you?
A sale is a sale either way, but I would like people to buy the hard copies.
We did a double vinyl for this record, 45 RPMs, so it’s on two albums: 180 grams, virgin vinyl, 24 bit, so it sounds fucking badass. And it’s a fold out, so you can roll your weed on it like in the ’70s. You can clean your seeds from it, although I hear there’s no more seeds in weed so I don’t know what you are going to do with that. It’s just the nostalgia of it, but it’s a great product and has an extra song on it that‘s not available for download.
So does the CD. We have two kinds of CDs: The one that the distributors make, which is a jewel case, then we have the one we make which is a three-fold digipack. It has all the lyrics, liner notes, and horseshit. You can get it on the website and at the shows.
I love a good vinyl package, seeds and all. What else do you have cooking?
We got hot sauce. It’s called Doyle’s Made in Hell Hot Sauce. It’s fucking good, man.
Last words before showtime?
Yes: Stop watching us through your fucking phone and stop stealing music.
I see kids at shows all the time staring at their phones as opposed to watching the show. I can’t imagine what that’s like for you.
I’ll tell you exactly what it’s like: It’s like I’m a zoo creature and they’re looking at me through the fucking cage like a goddam gorilla, like a sasquatch up there.
I played with Danzig the last 9 or 10 years and he doesn’t allow that, so I’d never been exposed to it. If he sees people with their phones, they get thrown out.
Now we’re doing our shows and I have guys that put phones right in my fucking face while I’m playing, with the light in my eye. I’ve gotten a little older, so I’m not as violent as I used to be. I mean, 15 years ago I would have broken your teeth with that phone.
Can you imagine? You get the chance to see Queen and instead of watching Freddie you’re staring at a little screen —
You’re not into the show, you’re not even moving because you don’t want to ruin your video. It’s fucking stupid. Give us something back, because when you don’t we feel like assholes up there.