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Kerby's Exclusive Interview With Glenn Danzig

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Friday, February 18, 2005 @ 3:20 PM

Mother, Tell Your Chunky Child

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Danzig is an enigma of colossal proportions.

The former front man of influential punk/hard rock bands The Misfits and Samhain has over time found himself both admired and vilified by the metal community. Many of the reasons for this polarization of thought seem to center on topics that are ostensibly not music related. For example, many music fans simply donít like the dark, muscle-bound image emanating from the diminuitive singer. For those, this summerís altercation with the lead vocalist of Arizonaís North Side Kings was an amusing aside which only served to fuel the perception that Glenn is all image and no substance. The video taken showing Danzig pushing the corpulent singer and ending with Glenn writhing on the floor seems almost surreal--even upon multiple viewings. Anyone who has ever seen a guy get knocked out in real life knows that itís generally the result of a quick, concise punch that connects cleanly. This fight didnít resemble that in any way, and if Danzig hadnít been on the receiving end of the altercation, I would have thought it was completely fake. It just didnít appear possible that a person could get knocked out by a roundhouse appearing that completely wild and seemingly ill advised. Besides, if you have a guy as chunky as the NSKís lead singer doubtlessly is, chances are that not only would that punch be slow, but that his fingers would have to possess a type of built in padding as well--sort of like a fleshy boxing glove. In the end, this must not have helped Danzig thoughÖin fact, none of this exactly helped him as the Internet went wild with accounts of the ďbrutal beatingĒ that had occurred.

The reality is that sometimes personaóa series of incidents, or even one particular event can overshadow an individualís legacy regardless of the body of work that has been produced. If that ultimately happens with Danzig, it would be an injustice in certain respects since this singer has certainly influenced a wide range of musicians who are still making music today. His current offering, Circle of Snakes, is said to be his best work since the fourth Danzig record, and fans turned off by the techno experimentation of the blackacidevil will be glad to know that Danzig is back and making the type of music that rockers loved about his solo debut. Part of this resurgence may be due at least in part is the addition of Tommy Victor of Prong fame making his presence felt on guitar, which of course means that the axework here is stellar and distinctive. Even though Glenn was supposed to be through with touring as the ĎBlackest of the Blackí Tour reached its conclusion last year, a management shake up has resulted in the singer agreeing to a new string of dates that will keep him on the road through the end of next month at which point in time he may or may not be done touring for good. If that ends up being true, there are a variety of projects Danzig can focus on in the near future as he is looking to produce a comic based movie, promote the upcoming Black Aria 2 as well as possibly create a blues-based rock record with Jerry Cantrell.

Regardless of what happens from here on out, hereís hoping the coming tour rocks and that Danzigís future projects are sound. In any case, after watching that video about eighty-nine times, I think Iím always gonna look at fat people differently from here on inómaybe more suspiciously. As a matter of fact, Iíve decided that itís advisable to always carry a spare Twinkie in case of an altercation with one of these hostile tubbiesóthat way if that situation ever does arise, I can simply offer the chunkster a snack cake and a hugóproblem solved with none of that nasty Internet banter and video tape.

KNAC.COM: When did you first decide that you were never going to be writing songs about the shiny, happy side of life?
DANZIG: Who says Iím not? [Laughs] It just depends on what your outlook on society is. Sometimes when I hear that stuff, it shows a bias like, ďWe are the happy people, and youíre not the happy people.Ē I donít necessarily know that thatís true. I look and see a lot of those people, and theyíre pretty miserable. If youíre asking though about when I decided to write this type of stuff though, it was early onóone of my favorite bands as a kid was Black Sabbath, so there you go.

KNAC.COM: Yet it seems like the American Dream is packaged in pretty much one, colorful box. Your music doesnít seem to mesh with that perception.
DANZIG: It is definitely a conscious choice on my part to write the type of material that I do. Itís also a subconscious choice in that it is simply what I want to talk about and write about. I donít think Iím always writing about that type of thing. As far as the American Dream goes, I think that is what you make it. Donít limit yourself. That is always what I try to impart to people who are interested in what I have to say. If you limit yourself, you are already limiting your options. Never limit your options or your dreams. Fuck everybody else.

KNAC.COM: There is a song on Circle of Snakes entitled ďBeware of HerĒ where the female is actually the empowered party and doesnít seem like the type of misogynistic fodder than metal artists get accused of producing.
DANZIG: I donít think Iíve ever done that type of material, but it also depends on who your accuser is too. If someone doesnít understand something due to lack of intelligence, is it up to you to defend yourself? I donít think so. Over the years, metal has been called this or that. Danzig, of course, has been one of the bands victimized by MTV saying, ďWeíre not going to play this because itís too Satanic or itís too this or too that.Ē Then, you turn on their channel, and there is this hip hop video with a girl who has her rear end in the camera just shaking it while they are saying the most crazy, ill, misogynistic stuff youíve ever heard in your life. Thatís fine for MTV, but itís bullshitóitís a double standard, and itís a bias. There are people out there who just hate metal. It could be the best metal album in the world, but there would still be people out there who would go to review it and go, ďThis sucksóitís metal. I hate metal.Ē If youíre in a metal band which I happen to be in, youíre gonna get slammed. Some people just canít stand metal, and they canít stand that itís still alive and prospering now more than it has even in the last few years. They hate it. It is killing them. Itís like they just hate for it to be successful. They just want to destroy it by making sound like itís ridiculous or stupid. Itís only because they donít get it or they canít get it or they never will get it. These guys would never go to a metal show because they would probably figure they would end up getting hurt or something. Whatever their reasoning is, it isnít making any difference because metal is back stronger than ever.

KNAC.COM: A great example of that would have to concern the recent murder of Dimebag. In that instance, you not only had your regular metal press covering the tragedy, but you also had the mainstream writers as well. More than once, it was alluded to that musicians who dabble in this type of music should expect violence and that in some way the shooting was justified because of it.
DANZIG: Thatís ridiculous. Itís funny though that you mention that the mainstream press covered it, but Rolling Stone hardly mentioned it at all. There was just a little blurb in there, and that was it. That just lets you know where Rolling Stone is at. Thatís another one of those magazines that just hates metal. However you feel about Dimebag, this is one of the most influential metal guitar players of the Ď90s. I was just talking to someone that I am hiring to bring on the tour who said that when he was at the funeral that Eddie Van Halen came and put his striped guitar in the coffin. Thatís a pretty big deal. The shooting was totally unnecessary, and it was retarded that it even happened. It was fucked up. Thatís what Iím saying though is that there is a bias among many of the mainstream music magazines that just donít want to see metal survive. Rolling Stone never even covered punk bandsóit was like it was the worst shit in the world.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, but now everyone that works there has a Ramones t-shirt on.
DANZIG: Yeah, but really annoys me though is that theyíll turn around and put Green Day on their cover which has stolen riffs from The Misfits to the Ramones to you name it. Itís bullshit.

KNAC.COM: Why do you think metal would be such a big deal though that people would want to shut it out?
DANZIG: Metal is still pretty rebellious and kind of a middle America ďfuck you, letís go and have a good time.Ē It canít be controlled.

KNAC.COM: Is it also a class issue or an issue of education as well? Metalheads are generally perceived as mid to low-level economically and poorly versed scholastically, right?
DANZIG: Of course. There is that perception, but itís retarded because they are probably more well-versed than most. Youíd be surprised the type of people who are into metal when you see them. Sometimes Iím even surprised, but itís cool. Thatís the reason itís still around.

KNAC.COM: Is it difficult for you to keep any air of mystery at all with the advent of the Internet and the way certain events such as the one this summer have been portrayed ceaselessly in cyberspace?
DANZIG: Usually, most of the stuff spoken about me is bullshit anyway, and that was true even before the Internet. There is nothing you can do about it except try to live your life and enjoy it. If people want to say fucked up shit about you, then fuck it, just let it roll.

KNAC.COM: Did it take you a lot of time to come to that realization? Iím sure at first that you may have wanted to take a swing at anyone who had anything negative to say.
DANZIG: You know, you get used to it. That is especially true of when I was in punk bands. Some people would just say the worst shit about punk bands. You get used to it. You have to realize that it is just one personís opinion, and if you are doing it for that one person, then youíre doing it for the wrong reasons anyway. I play the type of music that I do because that is what I like. I have just been lucky and fortunate enough to have people who are interested in it and what Iím singing about. A lot of people ask me if I have any words of wisdom for people just starting out, and what I would tell them is to just stick to their guns. They also need to be objective enough to realize when theyíve written a shitty song to throw it in the garbage rather than throwing it out there hoping that other people wonít think itís shitty. If you know itís shitty, itís shitty. Be objective and stick to your guns and just know what you want to do.

KNAC.COM: When did you realize that there were people interested in what you had to say? What were your expectations first starting out?
DANZIG: Uh, when we first started outÖ our only expectation was to fuck shit up. [Laughs] I just wanted to write crazy music that said something. I hated all the hippie bandsóthe Rolling Stone bands, basically.

KNAC.COM: You werenít rockiní Kansas?
DANZIG: No, it was like a mission. Turn up the amps real loudógo crazy and fuck shit up. You also want to say something though at the same time. Itís sort of still like that in many ways for me. I definitely want people to get something out of the music, and I want them to get something out of the live show when they come to that. I just want them to walk away exhausted because they had a great fuckiní time.

KNAC.COM: You want them to have an experience, then?
DANZIG: Exactly. Not like me just performing a bunch of songs and getting on the bus and going home. I want them either fucking drained or so full of energy that they are out of their fucking minds. I want them to have the best time of their lives.

KNAC.COM: With that being your expectation for them, how do you end up feeling? If you want a Danzig show to be a singular event, how do you keep the festivities new for you?
DANZIG: Itís always different on stage. Iím totally drained when Iím finished. I am exhausted because I am still a music fan. Iím doing what I hope they are doing which is just going out of my fucking mind.

KNAC.COM: Does that mean youíre just on shutdown mode afterwards?
DANZIG: Yeah, pretty much. Anyone who has ever been to a Danzig show knows that it is crazy and that there is a lot of energy there.

KNAC.COM: Is that why you believe Danzig fans may have a closer connection to the music than say Maroon 5 fans have? Is there something deeper going on?
DANZIG: I would hope so. If they do, thatís cool.

KNAC.COM: Do you put more pressure on yourself because that is your expectation?
DANZIG: No, I just go out and do what I do. I enjoy it, and hopefully everyone that goes out to the show will enjoy it too.

KNAC.COM: Are you going out on these current dates though with the mindset that these will be your last shows?
DANZIG: Yeah, the only reason we are doing this ĎCircle of Snakesí tour is because I pushed my ĎBlackest of the Blackí festival back until next September. I fired my management and hired some new management. If we didnít do this, there would have been no tour for the new record, so I agreed to do a month here in America. Really that is the only reason Iím doing it. I am in the middle of a bunch of stuff right now.

KNAC.COM: Is it true that the recordings for Black Aria 2 are completely finished?
DANZIG: Yeah, theyíre done.

KNAC.COM: That music has been said to be represent the sounds of Satan falling from heaven. Do you consider that to be the quintessential story of good versus evil or is the devil just an entity that many can identify with?
DANZIG: I donít see it as good versus evil. Whether or not the devil is really good or evil is something that we donít really know. Again, you have to really buy into the theology of it. The way I look at it is that that particular role whether it be in Miltonís Paradise Lost or the Bible is that of sympathy. Basically Satan and his army were fighting against the evil. The were standing up to something they thought of as corrupt, and thatís how I see it. When someone says, ďYouíre gonna do it this way, and youíre not gonna ask questions.Ē Iím just like, ďFuck you.Ē Thatís how I see it. Thatís pretty much how it is said without reading anything into it. I can really relate to that because it sounds like my life. It sounds like the type of life that many can identify with as well. Obviously, some people donít want to hear that, but a lot of people especially in America do identify with that. It almost sounds like government and people to me.

KNAC.COM: That hasnít gotten any better either, has it? I mean, people can talk all they want about the McCarthyism of the Ď50s, but we have our own brand right now.
DANZIG: You know, I had a situation where Bill Clinton sent the F.B.I. after me. They wanted me to turn myself in.

KNAC.COM: Because you are a threat to society?
DANZIG: I guess they thought I was a threat to Bill Clinton or something. Itís like, ďGo fuck yourselfócome and get me. Talk to my lawyer. Letís go to court on this.Ē

KNAC.COM: Okay. Turn yourself in for what though?
DANZIG: Whatever, I donít even know. Supposedly there are supposed to be like five files on me, and two of them can only be accessed by upper echelon government officials.

KNAC.COM: Doesnít that seem like a horrifying misuse of resources to you?
DANZIG: I think itís funny. People always ask me how I can find it funny, and the reason why is because itís fucking stupid. There are people flying planes into buildings, and theyíre worried about me? A lot of people in power just arenít that learned. Then, you have people like Rolling Stone who donít know what in the fuck they are talking aboutóthey certainly donít know metal or music. That would be like someone being called into court to testify about something, even though they arenít an expert on the subject. Rolling Stone doesnít know anything about metal, yet theyíll review a metal record. Usually, if they do review it, they just take the person rather than discussing the music.

KNAC.COM: Yeah, but you know youíre into Nelly too!
DANZIG: Yeah, whatever. [Laughs]

KNAC.COM: How significant was it for you personally to pen a song (ď13Ē) that was performed by Johnny Cash? I know you were both on the same label at the time.
DANZIG: Well, when they came and asked me if I knew who Johnny Cash was, I was like, ďFuck yeah, of course.Ē Then, they asked if I would consider writing a song for him because he heard that I had written one for Roy Orbison. I wrote it in about fifteen minutes, and for me, it was just about my perception of him. You know, who he was and what he representsósort of his legend. I just went down and showed him the song, and he loved it. I taught it to him there, and we played it a couple of times. A couple to me is like five, but it worked out really good.

KNAC.COM: Were you always cognizant of his influence on music?
DANZIG: Oh yeah, when I was a kid, my dad was a Marine and used to listen to Johnny Cash and all that stuff. One of my favorite songs is ďRing of Fire.Ē

KNAC.COM: His legacy and influence lives because of the authenticity of the emotion present in his work, donít you think?
DANZIG: Itís one of those things where if you write from your heart, it should stand the test of time. I think that could be why a lot of people caught on to Johnny Cash later on too.

KNAC.COM: Do you think many people have gravitated towards older music because there isnít much of the authentic article being offered these days? Record companies arenít paying to cultivate careers over the long term, right?
DANZIG: I see more people writing to a formula. It definitely isnít the norm for people to write about what impacts them. Rap and hip hop today is just basically based on money--who has more gold or cars or that type of thing. That is even truer today than it was years ago. At least they used to sort of be singing about something that was important to them, but now itís just about money. The labels are like that too, and they have been that way about the nu metal which I am so glad is dead. All that was just about the record deal and making money. Iím just glad itís gone. Those bands all became pawns of the record label. It was just so obvious because every song was the same--it was all the same formula. Eventually, they just started putting bands together to create product. There was a bald guy, a fat guy--you know what I mean?

KNAC.COM: The guy with the baseball cap--
DANZIG: Yeah, yeah. They were all dancing around on the stage in all the same way. It was almost like metal aerobics or something.

KNAC.COM: Do you also think that amidst all the commercial success that the genre experienced that those bands didnít give proper respect to those who came before?
DANZIG: Thatís for sure. Iím happy as fuck that itís over. Everyone that Iíve talked to feels the same way. It was really like a form of music that only twelve or thirteen year olds were buying. Itís that much cooler now for me to see kids and the rest of those guys tuning that music out now and coming to our shows. They just seem to be discovering real music for the first time.

KNAC.COM: Donít you think that the lack of quality music coming from the popular sector is contributing the upswing metal is seeing among the youth?
DANZIG: Yeah, I think we also went through a phase with discos and raves and things like that. On the last tour people would come up and say how great the show was and all that. Then, they would go on to say that it was their first rock show. First rock show? Theyíre like ďI used to go to raves! Now I go to rock shows!Ē Now they are actually discovering real music that is played live for the first time.

KNAC.COM: So youíre saying that fans donít have to suck various drugs from balloons to enjoy a Danzig show?
DANZIG: Yeah, exactly! [Laughs] It is cool though in its own way.

KNAC.COM: Will you always record if this really is the end of the live performing for you?
DANZIG: Yeah, Iíll always record. Jerry Cantrell and I are talking still about doing this blues record which is cool. Hopefully either we can make the time to do it or the managers can get together and block out some time for us to work on this.

KNAC.COM: Are you looking forward to that just from the standpoint of a new collaboration?
DANZIG: Yeah, but there has always been a blues influence in my stuff. I think Iíve been pretty upfront about that. I got to work with Jerry a little on Danzig 5 when he came in to do some leads for like three songs. Itís going to definitely be a bluesy record. I donít think it is going to be a band either. I think it is just going to be him and me.

KNAC.COM: Donít you think any time a blues influence is mixed effectively in rock that it lends a more timeless quality to the music?
DANZIG: Thatís kind of been something Iíve wanted to achieve throughout my career. Iíve always wanted to create music that people would want to pick up years down the road. So far, Iíve been pretty fortunate with that with both the Misfits and Samhain as well as the Danzig stuff. Iím pretty happy that people want to pick that stuff up years down the road. Thatís what is satisfying to me.

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