The West Memphis 3 (Damien Echols, Jessie Misskelley and James Baldwin) became a household name thanks to the “Paradise Lost” documentaries, which cast grave doubts about their conviction for murdering three young boys in 1993.
The trio’s cause has also been taken up by the music industry; Henry Rollins recorded an album and launched a tour to help pay for the men’s defense fund, and Pearl Jam included a song with lyrics penned by Echols, “Army Reserve,” on its 2006 self-titled release. And now, ex-Misfits frontman Michale Graves is showing his support by touring to support the WM3 and collaborating on a full album with Echols.
Inspired by a viewing of the “Paradise Lost” documentaries and visit to the WM3 Web site, Graves reached out to Echols’ wife via email, who then put the two men in contact. “Damien and I started writing back and forth,” Graves tells Billboard.com. “I challenged him to continue writing lyrics. I said, ‘You can articulate what you’re hearing and what kind of mood is happening, and I would put it to music.’ And that’s what he did. I would kind of meditate on it, pick up my guitar, and we wrote six songs together.”
According to Graves, the music promises to be a departure from the singer’s usual “horror punk” style. “It’s, dare I say, kind of Simon and Garfunkel-ish. It’s very folkie,” he says. “It’s powerful stuff though, because of where it came from. Damien will definitely be on the album — he’ll say something. I don’t think I can get him to sing [laughs]. But I can certainly get him to talk.”
While the album is still untitled, it will include “Frost Bite,” “Nothing,” “Worm Wood,” “A Thousand Cracks of Daylight,” “Silent Partner” and “Ascension,” among others. Although a label isn’t in place yet, Graves plans to release the album in June of 2007, to mark the 14-year anniversary of the arrest of Echols, Misskelley, and Baldwin.
In the meantime, Graves’ next solo release, “Return to Earth,” is due on Halloween, and he says it reaches beyond Misfits-style punk. “I wanted to show a creative evolution — I wanted it to be a much more mature record, both emotionally and musically,” he says. “I think it’s much more of a David Bowie record than it is anything else. It totally runs the gamut.”
Lastly, Graves offers this update on Echols. “Damien is waiting the results of the second round of DNA testing — it’s still at a state level as far as the courts are concerned,” he says. “He’s awaiting the DNA results to present to a judge, which is the last part of his appeal process at the state level, before he has to go to federal courts. All his efforts have to be exhausted on the state level before he can petition a federal court.”