MISSDEMEANOR: A (Heavy) Metal Ladies Night

Back To The Past (37)

Not too many magazines in Europe have interviewed the all-female band MISSDEMEANOR and Metal Maidens is an exception to the rule, I guess. Where else can you read about long forgotten names with a good story, like MISSDEMEANOR? We got in touch with guitarist Linda McSherry to tell us the complete story about this very promising band, who never really got the attention, they so much deserved. We only heard a few stories, listened to some songs and saw a couple of pictures, but we never got all the facts right. So it’s about time to introduce you to this band, which was almost forgotten to mankind, until we saved them from falling into a deep black hole of obscurity. Ladies and gents, we bring you....MISSDEMEANOR!

When did MISSDEMEANOR get together and who were in this first line up of the band?
Linda McSherry: “The band was first put together by Jacki Lombardo (bass) and Linda McSherry (guitar), however we didn’t have a name and at that time MISSDEMEANOR was not yet conceived of. We were just two girls looking to form a band, so we put an ad in the local music paper looking for a drummer and a singer. After various forms and different members, we then found Cathie Coleman (vocals) and JoJo Lori (drums). This was around 1985-86. We began writing original songs. I left the band after a brief falling out with Jacki Lombardo (we were young and got into a stupid fight) and then was asked back. During my brief exile, they had another guitar player named Melinda B. Whitly (if my memory serves me right), who was from Texas. I came back to the band and Melinda eventually was out. Our first gig as MISSDEMEANOR was at the famous NYC club CBGBs. That was around 1986. The line-up was Jacki, JoJo, Cathie (Kat), and me.”

Who came up with the name of MISSDEMEANOR and why did you actually choose this name?
“It was Melinda who came up with the name MISSDEMEANOR. She was a huge UFO fan (she loved Michael Schenker), and I believe, they had an album named “Misdemeanor”…. We added the play on words with the “Miss”. Melinda did not last in the band, although the name stayed.”

Did any of the band members play in other bands, before they joined MISSDEMEANOR? And did they record anything with their previous bands maybe?
“Not really. Other then jamming with other people, we were all relatively new to our instruments, and this was basically the first band for all of us. We were all very green, but were very young and hungry, and had a great determination to try and make a name for ourselves.“

How did you actually meet up with each other, and was the fact that you were an all-female heavy metal band an obvious choice, or did it happen just like that?
“We all met through various ads placed in the Aquarian (now the EC Rocker) and the Village Voice. These two papers were popular among musicians. They were both a good resource for finding bands and band members to play with. We knew that we wanted the band to be an all-female band. It was just a matter of finding the individual pieces of the puzzle, that would make up the final line-up of the band. Jeddie Jones was in another all-female rock band named BRAT. It took repeated tries to finally get her in our band. I wanted her to fill the bass player spot after Jacki left the band. But, we had to go through two more bass players, before Jeddie finally joined MISSDEMEANOR. The drummer of BRAT, Laura went on to play with WENCH. Jeddie and I went to high school together, and unbeknownst to us our fathers were friends. Jackie Cerone was playing in a cover band with her now husband. We heard her singing at a rehearsal studio, that we were also rehearsing at. I heard her singing and asked the owner of the rehearsal studio to ask her to come to the office. I asked her, if she would be interested in trying out for MISSDEMEANOR, and the rest is history.”

How would you describe the music of MISSDEMEANOR?
“At first MISSDEMEANOR was a heavy speed metal band, then after some introspection, we decided we were playing that type of music just to show off our musicianship. Our hearts were aligned more with the hard rock vein of music, so at some point we headed in that direction and that is when our popularity really took off.”

Didn’t you think that it would be much harder for an all-female band to become successful rather than for an all-male metal band?
“We knew that there would be some obstacles to overcome, but we all felt that we were up for the challenge. We did not look at ourselves as anything different from the all-male metal bands. We were just a band having fun and doing what we loved—playing rock and roll. Any prejudices or preconceived notions about woman musicians were external, we just focused on the music and tried to be the best band that we could be.”

When I listen to your four track demo with songs like “Reckless”, “Love Hurts”, “Ladies Night” and “Gone Forever”, I am quite impressed about the heavy sound of the band. Did you practice a lot to sound so tight and yet very heavy?
“Yes, we practiced at least three nights a week and worked very hard at becoming a tight band. It’s funny , I don’t think that I even have that demo anymore.”

Did you try to sign a record deal with these four tracks, or was it still too early for this in your opinion?
“We didn’t try to get a record deal at that time, although it was always in the back of our mind. We were trying to get management and we were also learning about the music business. The goal was to eventually get signed, but I don’t think we were ready at that time. We were still developing as a band.”

Why did bass player Jackie Lombardo leave the band so soon already, and how did you get in touch with new recruit Sandy Tyler?
“Jacki left the band after she became engaged to the bass player from the band SAVAGE THRUST. Jacki was a great bass player, but decided she wanted to pursue other career paths. Kat left the band, so we added a bass player named Yvonne Parenteau and a singer name Chris Crash. Yvonne didn’t work out, so we found Sandy Tyler also through an ad. Her time in MISSDEMEANOR was short lived. JoJo, Lori and I were the only original members left in MISSDEMEANOR. We used to joke, that our bass players would fall victim to spontaneous combustion. We finally found the winning line-up with singer Jackie Cerone on vocals and Jeddie Jones on bass.”

From the information that we have here, you switched from (speed) metal to a more commercial sounding style, after Sandy joined the band. Is this true, and can we see the coming of Sandy as the main reason for this change?
“Like I mentioned earlier, JoJo, Lori and I were the only original members left in MISSDEMEANOR. I believe, we made the switch in musical style after Chris Crash and Yvonne Parenteau left the band. It was a conscious decision made by JoJo and me. Hard rock (“commercial”) music was the style we ourselves were listening to. Sandy didn’t really have anything to do with it. We did switch to a more commercial sound, but that was due to the switch in vocalists, bringing Jackie Cerone into the band, and looking for a new bass player after Yvonne’s departure. JoJo and I sat down and did some soul searching and we made the decision to switch to a more commercial style. We looked at what we ourselves enjoyed listening to and made the decision to take our music in that direction. Also, my writing style tends to be innately hook oriented anyway, so it made sense.”

Which bands can we see as a major influence for MISSDEMEANOR, and maybe you can also tell us a little bit more about the personal influences of each band member individually?

Who wrote the lyrics for MISSDEMEANOR and what were they about?
“Once the line-up was finalised, Jackie Cerone wrote most of the lyrics. A lot of times I would write the lyrics to a chorus and sometimes some of the verses as well. JoJo would also write lyrics on the song “Separate Ways”, she wrote most of the words (it was about growing up and the different paths she and her school buddies would take). I wrote most of the words to “Walking Alone” (JoJo wrote the second verse) and that was written after a colleague of mine told me that her granddaughter’s fiancé died in his sleep, just days before the wedding. He was only twenty-two years old. I was moved by her story and wrote that song. Jeddie Jones wrote “Have Mercy”, and I can only guess what was her inspiration for the lyrics.”

Let’s take a look at your live shows, if we may. With which bands did you share the stage back in those days?

Did you always play your own penned material or did you also play covers during your live shows?
“Yes, we went into it as an original band. After we recorded the album, we did add the cover of “Crosstown Traffic” (JIMI HENDRIX). Early on, we used to do a cover of “Love Hurts” (NAZARETH).”

The New York metal scene was quite rich in those days, with bands like CYCLE SLUTS FROM HELL, MEANSTREAK, PRECIOUS METAL and WENCH. Did you have much contact with all these other all-female metal bands? Were you friends, or did you see them as competition for MISSDEMEANOR?
“We played with all of them. At the time we were on friendly terms, however, we did look at each other as competition. Looking back now, it would have been nice to have more contact with these other female musicians.”

Wasn’t it difficult to play live in the overcrowded area of New York City. There must have been so many bands in that area in that time?
“The music scene was really exciting at that time. Playing out was tough. We did play out regularly, with the only downside being the pay. Because of the fierce competition the salaries came down, because club owners could get bands to play at their clubs for relatively cheap.”

Did you play much outside the New York City area, and where did you like to play the most?
“We played up and down the east coast and also in Canada. Our mainstay was in the tri-state area, which included NYC, New Jersey, Connecticut, etc.”

What could people expect, when they came to see a MISSDEMEANOR live show?
“A high energy good-time.”

Did you use any show effects during your gigs, and what was your favorite song to play?
“Not really, we used whatever was available at the clubs, ie. lighting, smoke, etc. We really didn’t have a whole lot of money in those days to buy special effects.”

What is your favorite MISSDEMEANOR song in general?
“Definitely, “Walking Alone”, because it was based on a true story, and that is the song that convinced CNR records sign us. They felt it could be a hit during a time, when power ballads were big. I also liked some of the new material we were writing for the second album, such as “365 Degrees”. We were growing as songwriters. “Ruby” was another song that I and Jackie Cerone wrote, that had great potential (also for the second album). I brought that song with me to the band SAGE and always got a great response from it.”

I can imagine that you have a lot of nice stories to tell about life on the road with MISSDEMEANOR. I hope, that you would like to share a couple of these hilarious, funny or interesting stories with our readers here?
“One funny story happened on the road. Our manager booked us at a hotel without a swimming pool. It was a really warm night, so we decided to go pool hopping at the Holiday Inn down the road. We all hopped the fence and jumped in the pool. The night manager came running outside chasing us away. We were then walking on the side of the highway heading back to our hotel, when the cops came. They asked, if we were the ones who had been at the pool. Someone said no, as we stood there dripping wet (alcohol was involved in this incident). After talking to the cops, they let us go with a warning.”

What’s your most precious memory about the live shows of MISSDEMEANOR?
“One of my most precious memories was the show we played at Gallaudet University for the deaf. They put us in a huge cement loading area and cranked the volume, so the students would be able to feel the vibrations. One of our friends was learning sign language at the time, so she and another friend signed the lyrics to one of our songs (“Walking Alone”). They really were touched, that we took the time to out to learn their means of communication. I think, that was a pretty special moment.”

And your worst live experience?
“Getting too drunk to play my guitar properly.”

Did you ever play outside the USA and if yes, where was that?
“We played in Canada. I think, it was Ottawa and possibly Toronto, although I am not sure.”

What do you remember about your last live show?
“The last show, that MISSDEMEANOR played was at a place, called Shannon’s in New Jersey. It was pretty much a dump and the last show was sad and uneventful.”

Were there any major disadvantages or advantages about the fact that you were an all-female band?
“I think, we had to work harder to prove ourselves.”

Did you have to deal with male groupies, or was this something that didn’t really exist? I can imagine that there were men, who wanted more than just an autograph or a drum stick from you four lovely ladies?
“Yes, male groupies do and did exist. We even had some stalkers, who were a little scary.”

We also heard the twelve songs, that should have appeared on your debut album “Once Upon A Crime”. And again I must say that I was quite impressed with them. The only negative thing are the horns, that I hear (especially in a song called “Concrete Jungle”). Who came up with the idea to use horns on songs for a melodic metal album?
“Now looking back the album may have been named “First Offense”. I think, we were trying to decide what to call it. I prefer “Once Upon A Crime”. We wrote the song “Concrete Jungle” with our producer Menace, who was very into R&B and more dance-oriented music. The horns were his idea. They were a major sticking point for many of the band members, including myself, who felt that any additional instruments should take a back seat to the four members of the band.”

We also see, that Katie Hess replaced Jeddie Jones on the bass guitar in the meantime. Why did Jeddie leave the band, and how did you get in touch with Katie?
“Jeddie left the band to start a family. Jeddie would not have been able to leave the U.S. to do the European tour, that was scheduled, so we had to replace her. That was really one of the hardest things that we had to do as a band, because we loved her playing and also loved her as a person. She took it well and was a real trouper regarding our tough decision. She now is the mother of four children, and owns a few health food stores.”

Bass players seem to be the weak link in MISSDEMEANOR, or was it just a coincidence that you switched bass players severla times?
“Yes, they definitely were our weakest link. They really had to be top notch, because we were only a three piece.”

I was also quite surprised to hear the cover “Crosstown Traffic” (JIMI HENDRIX). What’s so special about this song, that you wanted to record a version of your own?
“That was also Menace and the records company idea to have us do a few covers.”

The most surprisingly fact however is that the album never got released. What happened? Why didn’t record companies want to release these great songs?
“We were told that the divison of CNR records went bankrupt. That is all we know. We couldn’t get our master tapes back and really were left with out getting the whole story. It was a crushing blow to the band.”

Why did the band actually split up, and when did this happen?
“After spending a year trying to get our tapes back from CNR records, we realized that it was a lost cause. The disappointment of losing the record deal was setting in and we didn’t want any finger pointing or blame to start seeping into the band as to why things didn’t work out. We decided to disband and leave the MISSDEMEANOR experience as friends.”

Can you tell what happened to the former band members of MISSDEMEANOR? I can imagine that they didn’t quit from the music scene right after the split.
“Jackie Cerone went on to form HAIR OF THE DOG (a cover band with her husband). They still play out to this day. I went on to form another original band, called SAGE with Lenya and Sabrina from PANTARA. JoJo went on to play with THE CREEPS, which featured former members of the CYCLE SLUTS FROM HELL. Then after those projects, JoJo and I started a very successful all-female cover band called the SCREAMING VIOLETS. We did that for four-five years and played out 4-5 nights a week. It was a gruelling schedule. JoJo now plays with a band called THE JUICE in the Asbury Park, NJ area. Jeddie no longer plays in bands any longer, Katie Hess moved to Texas and I am not sure what she is doing today. As for myself, I retired from the music business.”

You started a band called SAGE, together with Leyna Pagonis-Michell and Sabrina Lavren of PANTARA and George Pagonis on drums. How did you meet each other and how would you describe the music of the band?
“We met when this guy from NY wanted to put together and off broadway play, which featured an all-female band. Auditions were being held for the band and MISSDEMEANOR beat out all the other bands for the job (this was right at the end of MISSDEMEANOR). They then added additional four singers - one of them being Lenya. Katie Hess decided not to do the play, so they brought in Sabrina to play the bass. The play never happened, but Lenya, Sabrina and I formed SAGE, JoJo went on to play with THE CREEPS, and Jackie formed HAIR OF THE DOG.”

Why was the band called SAGE?
“We liked the meaning of the word. One showing great wisdom, and also throughout history, the mysticism, that surrounds a sage.”

Leyna, the lead vocalist of the band, sound very much like Ann Wilson, the singer of HEART. Was this the main reason, why the music also sounded very much in that direction?
“Yes, Lenya was always compared to Ann Wilson and was a major influence on Lenya. At that time the music became more progressive sounding. I was in a place where musically I was expanding. I felt that my playing moved to another level, when I started playing a 1960 reissue of the Gibson Les Paul. I feel this guitar helped me open up as a player, something clicked and it just felt much easier to express myself musically. I don’t want to make it seem like it was just the guitar, however I believe that it was also where I was at that time in my life. It was a very exploratory time for me. Both positively and negatively.”

Have you got any idea why PANTARA split up?
“I think they also decided to call it quits, because of lack of a record deal, although I am not really sure. I wouldn’t want to speak for them.”

Was it very different to work with a male member in the band now, because you were so used to the fact of playing in an all-female band?
“It was pretty much the same, although it may have been easier because there was less emotional attachment.”

Did you play live with SAGE as well, and if yes, with which bands did you share the stage?
“We did play live, but I do not remember any of the bands except for THE YARDBIRDS.”

Did you also play any PANTARA and MISSDEMEANOR songs with SAGE, or did you leave the past behind for the full hundred percent?
“We did play two songs from the PANTARA days. I thought, they were really strong, so we decided to use them.”

How long did SAGE exist?
“SAGE existed for approximately two and a half years. It was fun, while it lasted.”

Why did the band split up?
“I was booking, managing and writing a lot of the music, plus working a full-time job six days a week. It just got to be too much for me. I then lost my job, moved back home and needed to earn a living. That’s when JoJo and I decided to start THE SCREAMING VIOLETS. It was basically a vehicle, where we could make money from playing music and have fun while we were doing it.”

What did you do after you quit SAGE? We read that you played in a cover band, called THE SCREAMING VIOLETS. What kind of covers did you play with this band and who were the other band members of this band?
“We played hard rock, BLACK SABBATH, LED ZEPPELIN, WHITE ZOMBIE, MOTORHEAD, etc. The other members of the band were Irene Wholman on bass (formerly of the band XENON) and Sarah Dunlap on vocals. They were both extremely talented musicians.”

Are you still active in (rock)music nowadays?
“No, I just play for my own amusement.”

To what music do you listen yourself, and which bands do you like a lot?
“My favorite band is STONE TEMPLE PILOTS. I also loved ALICE IN CHAINS. Today I listen to a wide variety of music. I currently love the new SHERYL CROW album, “Wildflower”. I’ve also been into the BLACK EYED PEAS and I love POE. I’ve been getting into electronic music and playing with garageband on my Mac computer.”

What would you do differently, when you had to start all over again?
“I would have gotten a better manager.“

Are you still in contact with the former members of SAGE and/or MISSDEMEANOR and do you know, if they’re still active in the music scene or not?
“No, I have lost touch with most of them. I talked to Jackie Cerone about two years ago and Jeddie and I send each other holiday cards.”

What would you do, if the other girls would ask you to reform MISSDEMEANOR for old time sake, to tour America for a couple of weeks and release the record you never got to release?
“Hmmm. I guess I would only do it, if I were paid well, travelled in style, and didn’t have to eat at McDonald’s. Oh yeah, and only if someone else was paying for it. I would also want to re-record the album.”

Do you have any other hobbies or interests besides music?
“Today I am a freelance graphic designer specializing in pharmaceutical advertising, so I basically am my own business. Now instead of booking the band, I am booking myself for freelance gigs. As far as hobbies, I love to play with my two dogs, I also love to read and watch movies, cross-country ski, go biking and hiking, and I also love (and hate) politics. Quite a far cry from my rock-n-roll days. And I almost forgot, I am back at University getting my degree.”

We’re an online ‘zine, that is completely focussed on the female musicians in the (herd)rock and (heavy)metal music. Do you think, that the female rock musicians of today need the special attention, that we give them? Or do you feel that female and male musicians are treated equally in 2006?
“I still believe, that female musicians need to have a ‘zine like yours. It is still hard to get attention as a female musician. Many of the female artists out there are pre-packaged by the record companies. They do not write any of their own material with the exception of a few. So yes, I do think it is important to have outlets like yours that do shine a light on female musicians.”

You got in contact with us after reading the name of MISSDEMEANOR in our ‘encyclopedia of ladies metal bands’. And you were very positive about our site. Were you surprised to find something about MISSDEMEANOR on the internet?
“To be honest, it was extremely difficult for us to find some more information about MISSDEMEANOR in the huge pile of metal magazines, that we have here. I was shocked to find the band on the internet, that is why I wrote to you. I was curious as to how you knew about us. Your site is great and you both do a wonderful service to the female musicians out there.”

We are based in The Netherlands. What else do you know from our country, besides the facts that we have beautiful tulips, lovely windmills and great cheese?
“I know, that I would love to visit your country. I know that you are a very tolerant society and that marijuana is legal. Our representative from CNR records was also from the Netherlands. His name is Ronald van der Meiden.”

Are you disappointed or just reliefed, that MISSDEMEANOR never got as big as VIXEN, GIRLSCHOOL or HEART?
“Being a well-known rock star can be very nice, but it can also have its negative sides. At the time I was very disappointed with every thing that happened. Looking back now, I am a little relieved, because I know how hard of a life it can be.“

Do you have any children? And if yes, would you encourage them to become a musician?
“No, I don’t have any children, but I do have two dogs.”

Is there anything you’d like to add to this interview? Maybe we forgot something, that is essential to the story of MISSDEMEANOR?
“I think you covered everything.”

Do you have any (personal) messages for our readers?
“I would just like to thank all the people who support your ‘zine. Their interest and support is what gives inspiration to all the budding female musicians out there today.”

The last words are for you....
“I do want to thank you both, Toine and Rita, for your continued interest in MISSDEMEANOR. This experience was a very positive one. Your questions were thought provoking and allowed me the chance to think about, and review the past in the context of an older and hopefully wiser person. Thank you for giving me this opportunity.”

Interview by: Toine van Poorten/copyright Metal Maidens February 2006.