This week I watched the new documentary Living the American Nightmare by Paul Basile. It’s based on the book by The Empire Hideous and one time Misfits frontman Myke Hideous. At the core it’s a sobering look at what it actually means, and takes to be a musician. It challenges the notions of what “making it” means and lays out some of the troubles and turmoil that comes with choosing that profession. There are many notable guests including Peter Steele of Type O Negative just before he passed away, Bill Ward of Black Sabbath fame and members of The Bouncing Souls, Danzig, Samhain, Blitzkid, Christian Death, Mister Monster and Overkill. While I found these interviews to be entertaining and insightful what really interested me about this documentary was the trials and tribulations of Myke Hideous’s brief stint in the Misfits.
The documentary has a short almost mini documentary within it focusing on the origins of the Misifts with key players from their inception like Bobby Steel (who has a humorous story about puking on John Lennon) Franche Coma, Mr. Jim and Kenny Caiafa, Jerry Only and Doyle’s brother. The Misfits original incarnation is legendary and getting to hear about it from some of the members who were there from the start was incredible. They seemed a bit jaded about the whole experience but given some of the info that follows one can hardly blame them.
Jump ahead to their reformation in the mid nineties and that’s where Myke Hideous enters. I remember hearing about his involvement at the time and it was in the infancy of bands being on the internet so news about this was hard to come by. The story goes after the newly reformed Misfits released American Psycho and toured their new singer Michale Graves decided to quit the band to go to hockey camp. Through a series of fortunate (or unfortunate) events, Myke Hideous from the band The Hideous Empire was tapped to be the Misfits new singer for their upcoming European and South American Tour. Hideous had auditioned for them before they chose Graves and seemed to fit the part. Then it all fell apart.
I have long wondered why the Misfits couldn’t keep a good thing going. Their reformation with Graves was incredible and even if Hideous was to replace Graves they could have kept it going instead of crumbling apart existing on in this weird state that they do now with only Jerry Only carrying the torch. The documentary doesn’t paint the band in the brightest of lights and gives some backing to my theory that Only is the true downfall of this legendary band. Hideous toured with them and was unceremoniously let go the day of a performance, being told Graves wanted to come back.
Hideous continued to pursue music with varying degrees of success and at the end of the documentary decides he is calling it quits. There is an air of sadness to the whole film with all the stories of being screwed or run over by the industry and the death of Peter Steele but it comes down to an overwhelming love and desire and it’s hard not to see that after seeing what these musicians have gone through and what they continue to go through just to play music they love. It’s a passion I share as an comic illustrator and it’s easy for me to relate to pursuing something in the face of overwhelming odds. To me it lays it helps reaffirm what it means to be successful personally as opposed to what society thinks the standard of success is and as long as you are doing what you love, how can you go wrong? There is a similar documentary called Indie Game: The Movie which chronicles what it takes to make independent video games which also left me with a feeling of hope and renewed dedication to my craft.
This movie (and Indie Game) is inspiring, insightful and heartbreak. It’s worth a watch if you are interested in how music works or if you are considering pursuing a career in a creative field.