It's not easy being Death Becomes You. The shock-rock troupe from Coral Springs has a tough time earning respect in South Florida, where its antics are often viewed as subMarilyn Manson silliness. As if that weren't bad enough, a long-running dispute with a local club owner recently culminated in a major missed opportunity.
The band drove to Orlando's Hard Rock Cafe Wednesday, October 25, to see the Misfits, the protopunk elders originally captained by Glenn Danzig. Death Becomes You singer John Janos and his younger brother, drummer Christopher Lee, had the pleasure of witnessing the band self-destruct on stage. Just two songs into the Misfits' performance, singer Michale Graves told the crowd he was leaving the band following this current tour. Seven tunes later Graves, guitarist Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein, and a drummer known only as Chud bailed for the dressing room, leaving bassist and bandleader Jerry Only alone onstage to finish the final number, "138," by himself.
Outside the club Lee and Janos report they met up with Only, who explained that Chud was on his way back to wherever he came from and that Graves was also out of the band effective immediately. Lee offered his skin-bashing services for the band's date at the Culture Room in Fort Lauderdale the following evening. When Lee explained that he'd committed the band's entire oeuvre to memory, Only was impressed, instructing Lee to show up at the Culture Room the following afternoon for an audition.
Culture Room owner Greg Aliferis had other ideas. Apparently Death Becomes You has been a target for trouble dating from its first show at the Room back in May 1999, resulting in the band being denied further bookings there. Then, almost a year later, Lee was involved in a washroom-wrecking incident, Aliferis claims, that led to him being escorted from the building and ordered never to return.
Now Aliferis says the club has a no-trespass order against Lee, which quashed the 24-year-old drummer's dream of playing with his idols in his hometown. Lee arrived, drumsticks in hand, excited to meet with the remaining Misfits at the Culture Room the afternoon of October 26. "Looks like I'll be playing drums with the Misfits tonight!" he'd predicted that morning. But Aliferis quickly put the kibosh on those plans, explaining the situation to Only and leaving a dejected, angry Lee to cool his heels outside.
"I'm doing this for his own good," Aliferis told Bandwidth a few hours later. "He's been virtually beaten up by other bands here and outside in the parking lot, and especially with a big show like the Misfits, we don't need that type of aggravation. When you're dealing with a public business, you try to keep your problems down to a minimum."
Given that Death Becomes You's act relies heavily on audience-baiting tactics -- including Lee's between-song, pseudosatanic running commentary -- it's not surprising that the group would earn a few enemies. But, Aliferis points out, "This has nothing whatsoever to do with any band he's playing with. This is him as an individual creating problems when he's not performing. I won't give him the credit of saying we're censoring his band. That's not the case. What we're censoring is a guy who can't conduct himself in public."
Lee's penchant for finding fights with other local bands -- intentionally or otherwise -- leaves few folks willing to stick up for him, both he and Aliferis admit. And Aliferis claims he gave Death Becomes You a fair shake back in the beginning but Lee somehow sabotaged that.
"His band used to play here. I tried to build a good rapport with him like I do with all the bands, but if you get to know him, and you're around him, you get to know..." His voice trails off. "I don't know how to put it, really, but he's a constant problem. He's not a polite person, and he seems to bring out the worst in others." Aliferis explains he's had ample cause to ban Death Becomes You in general and Lee in particular. "He calls me at home and leaves hexes," he claims. "Says he's going to put hexes on me. And I was told by three witnesses that he trashed our toilet."
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Lee's response to all this? "He's a real bullshit artist," the drummer seethes. "I don't know who trashed the bathroom. All I can say is it wasn't me. If people like Greg Aliferis have their way, this band will die."
"The guy's a total dick," adds Janos. "He's got a total hard-on for us. Dude, I swear on my mother. She could get cancer 666 times -- we never did a thing to that guy."
As for the Misfits, tour manager Dylan McLaren told Bandwidth the group will trudge toward a bright future, including a 25th anniversary get-together next year. "This band will finish this tour," he says adamantly. "There is absolutely no doubt about it -- the Misfits will never stop."
With the Misfits' possible plan B shunted aside at the door, McLaren got on the phone to plan C: ex-Misfits drummer Joey Image, who just happened to be holed up in Hallandale Beach, playing in a band called the Mary Tyler Whores. He made it to the Culture Room in time to shore up a three-piece version of the Misfits, with Only handing vocal duties. As it turns out, that arrangement may have been for the best: During the band's sound check at the Culture Room last week, McLaren told Bandwidth that Lee was "absolutely out of his mind" if ever believed he was going to drum for the Misfits. "I was never even told about this," he says. "Jerry told the kid he could, but once we got to the club, it turns out the kid is banned. Sounds like he has some sour grapes."