Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein has been a formidable presence in Punk Rock and Heavy Metal since first being asked to join the now legendary Misfits by his older brother, bassist Jerry Only and vocalist Glenn Danzig at the age of 16.
Fresh off a wildly successful reunion of that classic line up at last years annual Riot Fest, and back on the road with his eponymous band, Doyle readies the follow-up to his 2013 release Abominator, Doyle II: As We Die.
RockMusic.com’s Dave Burke had the chance sit down with the guitarist at a recent tour stop in Milwaukee WI.
Dave: Welcome back to Milwaukee. If I’m not mistaken this is your third show in Wisconsin this week.
Doyle: Thanks, Ya, that’s pretty ridiculous. The shows were good though, they really were, the kids liked it.
Dave: Starting with the recent Misfits events, you’d always expressed a desire for a reunion with Glenn (Danzig) and your brother (bassist Jerry Only). It took 33 years but it finally happened at Riot Fest in Denver and Chicago last year.
After so much anticipation what was the experience like for you?
Doyle: Frustrating (Laughs)
Dave: In what way was it frustrating?
Doyle: There was a lot of shit, but I can’t really talk about it.
Dave: It’s not unusual for brothers in bands to have tense relationships, The Kinks & Oasis, probably being the most famous.
Before the Riot Fest reunion it had been seventeen years since you’d played publicly with your brother, how has your relationship been since you left the band in 2000 and what was it like to be onstage with him again after so long?
Doyle: It felt normal, we have a good relationship.
Dave: With both you and the fans obviously interested, where do things stand now? Will the “classic line up” continue at some point?
Doyle: I hope so, but there’s no talks right now, so I don’t see any progress on that.
Dave: After the band reformed in the 1990’s with Michael Graves (vocals) and Dr. Chud (drums) the songwriting fell on you and Jerry. What was it like to have that responsibility for the first time and are there any songs that stand out in your mind from that period, either favorites or maybe the first things you brought to the band?
Doyle: Nothing stands out.
Dave: Many fans still hold that period and the two albums you made in high regard. Would there be any interest on your part to revisit that line up at any point?
Doyle: Maybe…(long pause), probably not. Put that as a no (laughs)
Dave: Since Abominator you’ve been working with Cancerslug’s Alex Story, how did you two get together?
Doyle: I put ads out in all of the papers where you’d look for a band, when there were papers, and he sent me a tryout cd, which was a pile of Cancerslug songs and they were all great.
Dave: What was it about Alex that stood out?
Doyle: The songwriting, the singing, the riffs it was all just great.
Dave: Cancerslug is extremely prolific, I think they released three albums…
Doyle: Last week (laughs)
With there being so much material, would you be open to, or have you talked about adding any of those songs to your set?
Doyle: If I can learn them (laughs). He (Alex) showed me one thing and it was so complicated, plus he tunes his guitar really strange so I don’t know.
Dave: You tend to downplay your guitar knowledge, yet you’ve been building your own for most of your career. So how did you initially figure that out with no previous experience?
Doyle: In guitar making I have more knowledge then the factory does. It’s just a mathematical equation, like building a table. If you were going to build that table (points to the table next to me) what would you do if you wanted to make that exact table?
Dave: Take it apart & measure it I guess.
Mine has a longer scale length, but I took my Paul Stanley* and laid it down on the ground and the picture I had drawn lined right up to it and was right to scale. It’s just math
*In his early days with The Misfits Doyle played an Ibanez Iceman which KISS front man Paul Stanley helped make famous in the late 1970’s and was the basis for his signature model the PS-10.
Dave: Are you still playing the same one(s) that you initially built or have you periodically had to make new ones over the years?
Doyle: Yeah, I have all the same ones, I just keep gluing them back together (laughs)
Dave: Oktober Guitars were building them for you for a brief time what happen there?
Doyle: They were doing it, but it just wasn’t a good marriage . They weren’t happy, we weren’t happy so we just went our own way.
Dave: What is it that companies that try to mass produce them just can’t seem to get right?
Doyle: I’ve got to be able to play it, ya know? I don’t like giving people a shitty product. All our shirts use the best ink, you can’t even feel it. I don’t want to sell products to people that are garbage and that just fall apart.
Dave: Your new album As We Die is set for release on May 5th.
Doyle: That’s what they say (laughs)
Dave: Is there something that hasn’t been announced that would push the album back?
Doyle: It may not, so we’ll see. (laughs)
Dave: At the time of Abominators release you’d talked about having what would become “As We Die” recorded as well.
Doyle: Ya, we recorded them both together, all at once & just re-tracked the drums & vocals.
Dave: Occasionally bands seem to second guess themselves when they have material setting in the can for an extended period. With several years between these two releases how did you feel digging back into that material?
Doyle: If you second guess it, it’s wrong, ya know? Say you have a double chorus at the end and you start to second guess, “should that be one”? Then it was wrong, it should be one. That’s what I think.
Dave: Being that Abominator and As We Die were recorded essentially at the same time what can fans expect from the new album?
Doyle: I think they’re the same, but Alex seems to think that it’s different. It’s all the same to me.
Dave: What is it that he thinks is different between the two releases?
Doyle: I Don’t know, he just goes crazy, I don’t know what he’s talking about (laughs).
Dave: You’ve recently signed with Dave Ellefson’s (bassist of Megadeth) EMP Label Group.
Doyle: Ya, the record is still going to come out on Monster Man (Doyle’s own label), and hopefully we can sign some other bands to Monster Man. That’s the plan any way, but I’m not sure how it’s all going to work yet.
Hopefully we’ll get better distribution and promotion and money. Instead of me having to pay for everything, which sucks.
Dave: With the tour starting before the albums release, what if anything from As We Die can fans expect to hear?
Doyle: Right now we’re just playing “Run For Your Life” , but you can pre-order the album through EMP (www.empmerch.com). I’d like to add more as we go. I’m still not sure when it comes out, we’re still mastering it.
Dave: Are you the type of person that can go back and listen to your older material, or does it bother you hearing things from the past that maybe you’d change now?
Doyle: Well some of it does, there’s some stuff that I don’t even recognize, like the Michael Graves era. Like if that shit comes on I’m like “ what is this? I’ve never heard that song before in my life”.
It’s like I don’t even recognize those songs, but this new stuff is so good because I don’t write the words, I don’t write the vocal melodies. I just give him (Alex) the music and when I get it back it’s like a song I’ve never heard in my life, like it’s not even me playing it, so I can listen to it.
Dave: Can you describe how you and Alex write together?
Doyle: I write all the music and give him the arrangement written down so he doesn’t have to figure it all out and just tell him to do whatever the fuck he wants with it.
Dave: I’ve read that there are some guest appearances from members of both Arch Enemy and Lamb of God on the record. Can you talk a little about that?
Doyle: Alissa (White-Gluz – Vocals) and Michael (Amott, – Guitar) of Arch Enemy came about because I was trying to write a solo for the song that they’re both on called “Kiss Me As We Die”. I was trying to write it inspired by the way he plays because I really like his style.
While I was doing that I had one note, just the first note and I couldn’t really grasp ahold of what the fuck he does, you know what I mean? It’s very epic the way he writes solos.
I was trying to write it like that and as I’m doing it & having a really fucking hard time, he texts me and says “hey save me a spot on your album for a solo”, so I was like “ok, I got one for you” (laughs). So I sent it right to him and he knocked it out in two days and it was perfect.
I told him “don’t go really fast and don’t go past the 12th fret, because I have to play it” (laughs). He went past the 12th fret though, which in turn helped me learn how to play up there because I had to figure out what he did.
Alissa, I had just wanted her to do one part on the song and she ended up spending three or four hours on it and ended up putting a bunch of really good stuff in.
With Randy (Blythe – Vocals: Lamb Of God), I just called him up and said “hey you want to sing a song on here? I’ll send you a couple of songs and just pick one out”. He ended up picking the one Alex wanted him to do and it turned out really cool.
Dave: So both Randy and Alex share vocals on that track?
Dave: In that vein, who are some other artist that you’d like to work with? Either guesting on their album or them on yours?
Doyle: That’s a tough one ….
Robin (Doyle’s tour manager): Paul Stanley
Robin: PAUL STANLEY
Doyle: (big laugh) Ahhhh, that would be to sassy, I think the world would explode!
There’s a lot of people but I don’t want to name them because then it won’t happen.
Dave: You recently finished your first tour of Europe how did that go?
Doyle: Great! Very receptive.
Dave: Do you find it different touring overseas as compared to the US & if so, how?
Doyle: I think there are more fans there, more actual music fans.
Everything from the promoters to the food to the hospitality, they seem more into it.
Dave: You’re almost as well-known for your physique as your music. How do you stay in shape on tour?
Doyle: (affecting announcer’s voice) We’re sponsored by Powerblock Dumbells. They give us benches and stands and dumbbells. The dumbbells are adjustable so there about the size of a pair of shoes, but they go from I think 2.5 to 90 lbs. They’re the last thing on & first thing off the bus everyday and I can just work out in the club.
Dave: In addition to the new album you also have a movie coming out called Deathward 13
Doyle: That’s what I hear.
Dave: What’s the status of that?
Doyle: I don’t know, I don’t even have a script yet, but I’ve signed the contract.
Dave: How did you get involved with that project?
Doyle: My manager did it. I was doing the record and this (tour) and he came to me with it.
Dave: Since the early days of your career you’ve been associated with horror imagery. What horror movie made the biggest impact on you when you were younger & do you consider yourself a movie buff at all?
Doyle: King Kong, starring Fay Wray and her delicate satin draped frame (laughs)
Everybody likes movies, but no I don’t go crazy out of my way to watch them.
Dave: Having been in the business for a long time you have a multi generational appeal. As far as the live shows, do you see a consistent demographic from city to city or does it change nightly.
Doyle: The demographic is from 5-60, so it’s pretty good. You see older people come and little kids come and they’re just going crazy,
The kids are all excited to meet you, until they meet you then they’re like “agghhhh” (feigns terror).
There was one time when I was on tour with Danzig and one of their friends had this little cute fat girl that was maybe 6 years old who wanted to meet me really bad, she had the doll of me and everything.
So they bring her in and I don’t have any of this shit on (gestures to his signature monster man make up) and her dad says, “there he is, go talk to him”, but she was just hanging on his leg and wouldn’t come over.
So later I get dressed and he asks if I can come out and meet her, and I’m like “ya, sure”. So I come out in all this and she comes running up like “ahhh”, she was scared of me when I was normal. (laughs)
Alissa was also on that tour and the little girl came up to her because she has blue hair and was like “are you a princess?” She was so cute.
Dave: You’re very active on social media, particularly Instagram. What are some of the pluses & minuses of being so accessible to your fans?
Doyle: The pluses are just being able to tell everyone when I’m on tour and what I’m doing. The minuses are that it just takes so long, you get stuck doing it. Before you know it you’re like what the fuck, what am I doing?
Dave: With that level of accessibility do you have any problems with over eager fans?
Doyle: If anyone gives me shit I’ll just erase them, but I don’t really have to because everybody else tears them a new asshole before I get to it. Somebody said something today and by the time I even had a chance to look it was gone.
Dave: In addition to the direct access, thanks to the internet there are so many more media outlets than in the past. Does having to do so much press get tiring or is it something you like to break the monotony of touring.
Doyle: Ya I like it, as long as the questions don’t suck. If they suck then they want me to, you know, “tell us about this or that”. Ask me a fucking question, I’m not going to sit there and bullshit.
Sometimes they ask you three questions that suck and are like “well what do you want to talk about?” Get off my bus, that’s what I want to talk about (laughs). Do your fucking homework.
I tell ya, yesterday I was supposed to do “phoners” (phone interviews) and I call the number for the other people to get on the line and the first two people don’t answer and I’m listening to this asshole music for twenty or thirty minutes.
Then finally on the last one two people get on at the same time and are like “who’s going to get off”? So I say “who’s late”? This British lady says “I am”, so I’m like get the fuck off the phone, you’ve gotta call back. Turns out she was from Metal Hammer and I’m like “oh my god” (laughs).
Dave: I’d like to wrap up with just a couple of simple “fun” questions.
Dave: Do you remember what the first album that you bought with your own money was?
Doyle: I don’t, I really don’t. That was a long time ago.
Dave: What was your first concert?
Doyle: Queen & Thin Lizzy at Madison Square Garden.
Dave: On stage you usually are chewing gum & blowing huge bubbles. What’s your go to gum?
Doyle: (picking up a pack of sugar-free Extra Classic Bubble sitting in the bunk next to him) Extra.
Dave: How many pieces for those big bubbles?
Doyle: As many as I can fit in my mouth. Depends on how big the show is.(laughs)
Dave: Thanks for you time.
Doyle: No problem
Doyle will be back on tour across the US throughout the month of June. Head over to his official site and follow him on Instagram to keep up on the latest news.