Dear Guitar Hero: Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein Talks 'Abominator,' Misfits, Danzig and Homemade Gear
He’s been pumping iron for 39 years and is most famous for being the Misfits’ guitarist. But what Guitar World readers really want to know is …
Is it true that you’re [Misfits bassist] Jerry Only’s little brother and that you were a roadie for the band when you were 16? — Frankie Boy
All true, yeah. What happened was, I got a guitar for my eighth-grade graduation, and Glenn [Danzig, vocals] showed me a barre chord and my brother showed me the 12 notes on the big string, the E. And that’s still pretty much all I know.
So when their guitar player wouldn’t show up—he lived in Manhattan and sometimes he couldn’t show up for rehearsal—I would just play with them, and I picked it up really quick. One day he couldn’t make it to rehearsal, and Glenn just turned to me and said, “You do it.” I was like, “Fuck yeah I’m doin’ it!” and I did.
Abominator is your first album since Gorgeous Frankenstein back in 2007. What have you been up to for the past six years? — Sarah Ainsley
I’ve been writing like crazy, basically. We’ve actually written almost three albums. We’re just about done with the second one now. They’re waiting on me to finish it up, but I’ve been doing the Danzig Legacy Tour and I haven’t been able to record because Glenn has all my guitars with him in his storage.
I think I have four songs left to finish on guitar and bass and that second album will be ready to mix. We were going to make the first one 18 songs, but it was 70 minutes long and I never got through it once while driving anywhere. But it was awesome! Every song was great. Eventually we decided to record six more songs and then split it into two albums.
What amp head and cabinets did you use on the new record, and how does that differ from your classic Misfits setup? — Lucas Hidalgo
I made the cabinets, as well as the guitars. I fill the cabinets with 25-watt Celestion Greenbacks and Vintage 30s. My amp is an Ampeg SVT classic bass head. I run a Demeter preamp through it, and the rest is me.
Is it true that you’re trained as a machinist? Do you ever take jobs to pay the bills between tours and records? — Dylan
Yeah, you’d be surprised how many well known musicians have regular jobs. And yes, I’m a machinist. That’s how I made my guitars—at a machine shop.
I’m from Patterson, New Jersey, and as far as I’m concerned, the Misfits put Lodi, New Jersey, on the national map. Do you still live in the area? — Tony Sancarlo
I live about 50 miles from there. I moved all over and then I had to come back. But I still I live in Jersey, yeah.
What was it like to have Metallica cover the Misfits’ “Green Hell”? Were you able to make money from it? — Kenny
I didn’t get any money for it because Glenn owns all the publishing rights on that stuff. But I think Metallica did a great job with it, and it definitely helped us with our careers. They also did a great version of “Die, Die My Darling.” I couldn’t believe it when I first heard it!
When did you first get into weightlifting, and how do you stay so jacked when touring? — Nick Velez
I’ve been working out since I was 10, and I’m 49, so that’s 39 straight years. My dad was a boxer, so he was in pretty good shape, and we had weights around. I don’t know why I started—I just did it. You just have to watch what you eat and be consistent. I just do it every day that I can, and when I can’t do it, I don’t do it.
And I don’t give a fuck if I don’t do it for a day and I’ll go have a pizza. I don’t care. You can’t let it bother you, and you can’t make it like, “Oh, I’ve got to go on a workout program.” No, just be on one and have a diet. It has to be part of your life, not a chore. Actually, I’m pretty lazy about it. I should look a lot better than I do. I should look like the Hulk by now.
What led to your departure from the Misfits in 2001? — Robert Wilson Jr.
My brother wanted to go in a different direction, basically with him singing [following the departure of singer Michael Graves in 2000]. He didn’t want to get Michael or [drummer] Dr. Chud back in the band, and he didn’t want to get a new singer or a new drummer. I can’t sell you something if I don’t believe it, know what I mean? If I don’t believe it, how can I make you believe it? So with him singing…let’s just say it’s not my taste.
What’s the story behind your devilock hair style? What is the secret ingredient that you use to hold it in place? I heard you use egg whites. — Stuntman James
No egg whites—fuck no. The history of it is Elvis, Dracula and Michael Landon as a teenage werewolf [in the 1957 film I Was a Teenage Werewolf]. Those guys were the pioneers. I keep it in place with K-Y Jelly and electrical tape.
I saw you play a set with Glenn Danzig recently, and it was fucking amazing. Have you two managed to stay friends all these years, and have you all talked about a Misfits reunion? — Ben Green
Yes, we’ve always been friends, which is why I continue touring with him. The last time we talked about a reunion was in 2002. Jerry and I flew out to see Glenn and his manager to discuss it. Everything went really well. And then I drove back to the hotel with Glenn and he dropped us off, and we were talking about writing songs and doing a record and everything.
He basically asked Jerry to stop doing what he was doing: “Let it die, and then we’ll do it.” It was all planned out and everybody was into it, but the next day there was a problem and it just didn’t happen. But I was into it then, and I’m still into it. Right now, I’m the only one who is into it. Everybody wants to know who’s stopping it from happening, and it’s not me. I’ll drop the Doyle thing right now and go do it because that’s what these fans want. I’d love to make a Misfits record where I’m writing with Glenn.
Does wearing the makeup help you keep your anonymity in your day-to-day life? — Gino SanBruno
I try to not take pictures with people without it on. It’s like my Clark Kent as opposed to my Superman. I don’t like to be in Wal-Mart and some dude starts flippin’ out. That really sucks. It happens once in a while, not as much as you would think, and I’m always like, How the fuck did you know it was me? Sometimes they won’t leave you alone, and sometimes they’re cool. But if you’re having dinner with your family it’s like, Come on!
What advice would you give to a young, aspiring musician looking to make it in the industry? — David
It’s not the music hang-out-and-have-a-good-time industry—it’s the music business. And don’t stress so much on being a great musician. Write great songs. I’m a horrible musician, but I’ve been fortunate enough to play great songs.
Who were some of your early guitar and songwriting influences? — Sean Quincy Adams
My first influences for playing were Johnny Ramone and Jimmy Page, the same as everybody else. Joe Perry. The guys in Alice Cooper’s band, whatever their names were. Mick Ronson from David Bowie. You know who really influenced me to write songs? Iron Maiden.
When I heard Iron Maiden for the first time, I’m like, “If I could write songs, that’s what they would sound like,” and that’s what got me started. That, and my cousin came over one day and said, “Do you like Van Halen?” and I’m like, “I don’t even know who that is. I’ve never heard of them.” He hands me a cassette of the first album and goes, “You listen to this and then let me know what’s up.” I had stopped playing guitar, and after I listened to that tape, I picked that guitar back up. It made me want to play.
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced as musician, and how did you overcome it? — Chet
I’m not really a musician yet, so maybe the biggest challenge for me is actually becoming a musician. One challenge is guitar solos and understanding what the hell they are. I don’t really give a shit about playing them. I’ll put them in songs if I feel they have to be there, but I have to write them out. I have to sit there and hum them in my head and figure out the notes.
I don’t know any scales, any arpeggios, any G clefs, or any of that horseshit. All I know are the songs I play. I think I know three Ramones songs, two Iggy pop songs and that “Smoke on the Water” riff, and I don’t even know if I play it right. That’s all I know. When people say to me, “Hey, let’s jam,” I’m like, “I don’t jam, bro. I don’t know what you’re talking about. There’s no jam.”
Photo: Travis Shinn