Misfortunes of Virtue

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I bought the Misfortunes of Virtue demo tape on eBay a few years ago and was blown away by the crossover sound, it was unlike anything I’d heard before. Since then my tape player broke and I haven’t replaced it, as a result my tape collection has sat for a while gathering dust. I recently bought a converter and have been ripping some to my computer, the first being the Misfortunes of Virtue demo. It has the sort punk / metal sound you’d expect from a mid-80’s punk band. Around this time a lot of punks were moving in a metal direction and this tape’s a perfect example, with a bit of goth influence as well.  I was in touch with original member Doug through Facebook towards the end of last year and he gave some background into the band. I kind of lost touch with him but below is a partial biography of the band from Doug’s perspective.

Misfortunes of Virtue were a punk band from Mays Landing, New Jersey named after a book by the Marquis de Sade. Their origins date back to 1983 when Chuck introduced Doug to the bass. The two founding members were high school friends and avid fans of new wave. Duran Duran, The Vapors, and Ice House were notable favourites. Chuck had already been playing by this point and had a natural gift for it. Doug states that “Chuck was one of the best players I’ve ever known, cobbling together gear, literally, and making it sound good.” While the two were learning to play together their musical tastes drifted away from new wave into the darker world of underground punk rock. They discovered Christian Death’s Only Theatre of Pain (1982) and the Dead Kennedys In God We Trust, Inc (1981). The latter they played at 33rpm until as Chuck states, “One day we realised it was actually 45, that’s when we woke up.” From then the two delved deeper into punk and death rock while the early discovery of Christian Death was heralded as the main influence for what became Misfortunes of Virtue (MOV).

The initial band was Chuck on vocals and guitar with Doug on drums. MOV went through a few singers early on, Chuck gave up vocal duties to Bryant for a gig or two until Mr Jinx sang. In these early incarnations Doug played drums because he was decent and it was hard to find a drummer. During this early period the band started to develop their style, Chuck and Doug were into serious and often dark subject matter, no Ramonesy or political topics. Chuck wrote lyrics in which he pondered quasi-religious questions and introspective explorations in a fashion not too far removed from his beloved Christian Death. For the track ‘Suicide’ Chuck writes, “She stands above me, tall and thin, kiss after kiss gave me rotting skin” about a syringe.

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The style both visually and musically of Misfortunes of Virtue was a mix of different influences. The band also had a base where they would listen to music and work on the band. Doug states that, “We were all hanging out sorta squatting (safely and lamely) at an apartment owned by my grandparents, which came to be known as the 3D House of Oi.” Chuck was leading the goth direction of the band not only musically but also in appearance, wearing eye makeup and lace, inspired by US death rock along with the UK goth scene with bands like Alien Sex Fiend. Doug saw eye to eye with Chuck on Christian Death although he had a mohawk and was really into UK punk like The Exploited, Discharge, Amebix, GBH, and the English Dogs. Doug brought the punk edge to the band, this mix of influences and a willingness to branch out musically would be constant throughout the bands career.

In early ’85 Misfortunes of Virtue played their first gig in a friend’s basement when their parents were out. Doug states that it was “Real raw, me on drums, Bryant singing, Jeff Augustine on bass, Chuck on guitar. We played with the More Fiends from Philly.” The other bands on the bill all contained Mr Jinx who would later join MOV for a short stint. Doug recalls one of these acts being an industrial band called ‘Spritle Loves Chim-Chim’ and another the ‘Dixie Pig Dick Executioners’ which he filled in drumming duties for. In the latter Mr Jinx was going for a GG Allin thing, Doug said “We did a shitty set, insulted everyone, threw firecrackers in a trash can and ran out in the ensuing chaos.”

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After going through a few singers Misfortunes of Virtue found Redd Skarre a punk whose vocals were heavily influenced by Lee Ving of Fear. A big Crass fan, Redd changed the vibe of the band with his straight forward punk approach. He clashed with the elusive Chuck and his experimental goth leanings. Doug feels that Chuck didn’t care for the addition of Redd to the band, he continued to play guitar until he moved to Chicago. With Chuck out, the band looked for new players, landing on drummer Ben Brower and guitarist Bob Jetton.

Ben and Bob had been playing in an Iron Maiden cover band and it’s their heavy sound that gave MOV its distinctive metallic edge. Doug was also into metal at the time, such as Iron Maiden, Metallica’s Kill ‘Em All (1983), and Judas Priest. Therefore it was only logical to incorporate a metal influence as they had players who could all ready play the style. The band really started to take shape with the addition of Ben and Bob. When 16 year old Ben (later of Philadelphia punk band Stuntmen) came in to try out for bass, according to Doug “He mentioned he played drums. He sat behind this crappy kit of mine and started playing. We looked at each other and said yeah that’s where you must stay.” When Ben took over as drummer Doug moved back to bass.

In 1986 Misfortunes of Virtue was Redd Skarre on vocals, Doug on bass, Bob Jetton on guitar, and Ben Brower on drums. This line-up recorded and released their 1986 demo tape. The clash of punks (Redd and Doug) with metalheads (Bob and Ben) made for a memorable punk metal hybrid. On the demo Bob essentially covers Chucks parts, but with more aggression and much tighter. The tape contains two songs about heroin addiction and another about acid although no one in the band did drugs. These were written by Chuck (also not a drug user), and when they were recorded Redd and Doug were Straight Edge but the band loved the songs so much they kept them.

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As the band built a following playing locally, MOV landed a kind of residency at Mel’s Centerfold Lounge, owned by a crazy foreign guy named Mel. MOV gigs were never during opening hours though. Doug recalls a show there that was “Hot steamy, playing ‘Something I Said.’ Just as it kicked in after the bass and drums in the beginning, Bryant (no longer singing just stage diving) let loose a can of fake snow. It was magical.” One of the largest gigs MOV played was opening for GBH on their ‘87 tour in Philadelphia. Colin Abrahall invited MOV to hit a bar with them after. The members of MOV were in heaven although they spent two hours looking for said bar and an hour and a half moaning on the way home over the lost opportunity.

The band played a club called The Dunes over the bridge from Ocean City, NJ headlining a hair metal bill to a huge wild crowd. The club banned slam dancing because they thought the crowd looked rough. Doug recounts the events of this show, “To this day, I recall the moment, magical… we took the stage, everyone was really excited, a sense that something was about to happen. We opened with ‘I glow,’ a brief series of drums pops… then it hits. On that moment the place fucking exploded with bodies flying.”

That’s the insight into Misfortunes of Virtue that came out of my chat with Doug. I’m unsure how the band broke up but this gives some background to the demo tape. If anyone was around then and has any information feel free to get in touch.

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