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The Many Faces of Glenn Danzig

By Peter Atkinson, Contributor
Sunday, November 5, 2006 @ 8:22 AM

Danzig, Misfits, Samhain, Movi

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Glenn Danzig might not be the most famous or successful man in music, but few people can boast a resume as wide-ranging and multifaceted as his ó and inspire the kind of intense devotion or loathing that he has over the past 30 years. Heís been a pioneer in both the hardcore and hard rock genres, and his foray into classical music with 1993ís Black Aria became an unlikely and unprecedented success.

He launched the adult-oriented comic-book company Verotik and was featured as a character ó himself ó on the Cartoon Network show "Aqua Teen Hunger Force." Heís done some real acting ó and reportedly even was offered the role of Wolverine in the "X-Men" ó although his most noteworthy film moment now seems destined to be the infamous video of him getting his clock cleaned by North Side Kings frontman Danny Marianinho at an Arizona club two years ago. Danzig now is preparing to direct a film based on his own graphic novels, Gerouge. According to the Verotik website, the movie promises "Zombies, snake rituals and some of the most gruesome scenes ever put on film ... dismemberment, bodies burned alive, zombies being hacked into lumbering pieces ..." Sweet!

And now, just in time for the holidays, Danzig is being immortalized in toy form with the "3 Faces of Danzig," a series of three 10-inch-tall figures from different eras in his career ó a "Misfits-version," a "Samhain-version" covered in dripping blood and a "Danzig version" all shirtless and muscle-bound.

The one constant for Danzig through all this has been constant change. The seminal Misfits begat Samhain, which morphed into Danzig. The 1987-1995 period, during which the first four Danzig albums and the breakthrough EP Thrall-Demonsweatlive that yielded the hit "Mother" nine years after the song was first released, were the most commercially successful of Danzigís career. But when the "classic" Danzig lineup featuring guitarist John Christ, bassist Eerie Von and drummer Chuck Biscuits began to crumble, so did the bandís fortunes.

Over the past 10 years, Danzigís lineup has changed no less than 15 times, with members ó and sometimes the entire band ó coming and going with regularity, which is something Danzig himself grew accustomed to with the Misfits, who had more drummers than Spinal Tap. It is no coincidence that Danzig albums during this stretch ó from blackacidevil to 2004ís Circle of the Snakes ó strayed sometimes quite dramatically, and often not so successfully, from the crunching, bluesy/gothy hard rock sound of the "classic" Danzig period.

It was also during the past decade that the now 51-year-old Danzig ó born Glen Anzalone ó turned more of his attention to his other projects, especially of late as he has toured less and less. On Oct. 17, he issued his second thematic "classical" album, the ultra-creepy Black Aria II based on the legend Lilith, "the whore of the desert," on his own evilive label. However, Danzig will headline a brief West Coast run of his "Blackest of the Black" tour, starting Nov. 17 in Seattle, with a crackerjack backing band featuring former Samhaim bandmate Steve Zing on bass, and Type O Negativeís Johnny Kelly and Kenny Hickey on drums and guitar. Lacuna Coil, The Haunted, Belphegor and Asesino will open. On the phone from Los Angeles, Danzig, who has the reputation of being a dick with the press ó often with good reason ó was downright chatty while detailing the ups and sometimes rather public downs of his three decades in the "fucked up" music business and whatís on the horizon for one of hard rockís most polarizing figures.

KNAC.COM: I keep hearing stuff about you retiring, or at least really scaling things back. Obviously thatís not the case at the moment.

DANZIG: I probably wonít do much, if any touring, after this. I know Iíve said that before, but Iíve really cut it back the last couple years and I can see a time where I just donít do it at all. I really just donít like to tour. I love performing, but Iíve been doing this for so long that all of the traveling and everything else that goes into doing a tour is not something I enjoy. It really does wear you down, especially when youíre as involved in as many aspects of a tour as I usually am.

The Blackest Tour thatís coming up should be OK because, for one thing, itís real short, 10 shows in two weeks, and some of them are near enough to where I live that I can come home at night after the show. If I could do that all the time, Iíd tour forever, but thatís just not possible.

KNAC.COM: Will you at least try to put together an East Coast leg of the Blackest Tour?

DANZIG: I donít really know. Since everyone else in Danzig now lives on the East Coast, and thatís where Iím from, it would make sense. But Johnny and Kenny will be touring with Type O Negative, probably for the next year, and I donít really want to have to put together a whole new band again just to do a few shows. We might do a show in New York or somewhere near there around Christmas because Iíll be coming to New Jersey to visit my mother then. But that might be it.

KNAC.COM: But youíll continue to make music?

DANZIG: Definitely. I donít think I could stop doing that if I wanted to. But before I start on anything new, Iíve got all this other stuff to put out. The second Black Aria just came out and in a couple months thereíll be The Lost Tracks of Danzig, which is a double album of unreleased Danzig tracks that does back to the beginning of the band, so Iím pretty excited about that.

It was cool getting all that material together and revisiting all those songs. Thereís some really cool stuff on there, some of the most evil shit Iíve done (laughs) that I think the fans will really dig. It was like putting a puzzle back together, because some of the stuff hadnít been properly mixed and some of the songs needed parts rerecorded here and there.

And there was one song, an acoustic version of "Come To Silver" from Danzig 5 [blackacidevil, Danzigís otherwise rather dreadful "industrial" experiment] that I had written originally for Johnny Cash, where the vocal track was missing. When we went back in to mix it, we found out that the vocals had been wiped out by the old engineer. So I obviously had to do the vocals over.

KNAC.COM: How come Cash didnít end up using the song?

DANZIG: I was asked to write another song for him after he recorded "Thirteen." But about that same time I left American Recordings, which obviously was the label he was recording for, so I didnít end up giving him the song. I showed "Come To Silver" to him but I never gave it to him. It was nothing against Cash, because his version of "Thirteen" was incredible; it was because I didnít want to give the song to my old label.

KNAC.COM: It seems like "Come To Silver" would have been a good match for him, too.

DANZIG: I think so, unfortunately now weíll never know. With "Thirteen" I tried to capture his essence, his darkness, and the way he performed it that came across so perfectly. I, personally, think its one of his best songs because it really embodies him, just like "Hurt" did when he did that. That was part of his greatness, being able to inhabit a song. "Come To Silver," I think, was suited to that was well.

KNAC.COM: Roy Orbison also did one of your songs, did anyone else of that ilk ask you for any songs over the years?

DANZIG: Nah. Who else is there? Everyoneís dead. I donít mean to make light of it, but Cash is dead, Orbisonís dead, Elvis is dead. Those are about the only people I could think of that Iíd write a song for if they asked.

KNAC.COM: Will you be doing any more Danzig albums?

DANZIG: Yeah, I will probably start working on another one next year, at least thatís the plan now. Iíve got a lot of other things going on and I need to make some time to sit down and think out the ideas. Iím fortunate that I have my own label and can do things on my own schedule, at my own pace, although if my managers had their way Iíd be doing a new record every year.

KNAC.COM: By doing it on your own again, your career really has come full circle, itís almost like your Misfits/Samhain days from that aspect?

DANZIG: Weíll Iíve always done things pretty much on my own, my own way, no matter what label I might have been on. Iíve always tried to maintain as much control over things as I could because that way at least I know theyíre being done right. And thereís a big difference between in how things were done then and how things were done now.

With the Misfits and with Samhain, we did it on our own because we had to, we had no other choice. No one was going to help us out because no one wanted anything to do with us. So we learned quickly to be self-sufficient and did a pretty good job of it. Now I do things the way I do because I can, because Danzig eventually did earn some success, mostly from all the work we put into it ourselves.

KNAC.COM: Given all of your other pursuits, is music still as important to you now as it was in the past?

DANZIG: It will always come first. I wouldnít be putting all this time and effort into getting the Lost Tracks together and working on Black Aria II if the music wasnít still important to me. Itís in my blood. And itís because of the music that I have the opportunity to do all these other things.

KNAC.COM: How do you divvy up your time?

DANZIG: It really comes down to planning the projects. If I know I have deadlines for Verotik, Iíll concentrate on that. If Iím working on music, I will focus on that. When I have stuff to do for the film, Iíll do that. Itís just a matter of organization.

It used to be a lot harder when I was touring a lot. For a long time with Danzig we were in a cycle of being on the road for so long that it was time to do another album when we were done and then weíd have to go on the road for that, so it was difficult to do anything else. Thatís not to say things always go smoothly now, because Iím not the only one who has to meet deadlines. One of our artists at Verotik, Simon Bisley, was really late with his last project, which was an illustrated version of Miltonís "Paradise Lost." And I donít mean days or weeks, I mean like eight months late, which was really driving me crazy. But when he finally turned in the illustrations they were absolutely amazing. It was definitely his best work, so in the end it was worth the wait, but thatís not the kind of thing I have much patience for.

KNAC.COM: Since the first Black Aria was based on "Paradise Lost," do you have any plans to package the two?

DANZIG: You know, I hadnít even thought of that (laughs). I guess it would be a logical thing to do, although Black Aria is 13 years old.

KNAC.COM: Were you surprised by the positive reaction to Black Aria?

DANZIG: I really was, because the music was so different from anything else Iíd done, so not rock. I figured some people would be into it, but did I think it was going to end up at No. 1 on the classical music chart? Fuck no (laughs). I just put it out, did no promotion, no advertising. I knew some of my more hardcore fans would get it but a lot of people who would never buy a Danzig album, and probably still wouldnít, picked it up too, which was cool.

I pretty much did the same thing with the new one, just put it out there. Obviously Iím doing some interviews to coincide with its release, but Iíve also got the Blackest tour coming up and if thatís what people want to talk about, thatís fine.

KNAC.COM: Wasnít Black Aria II finished like two years ago?

DANZIG: Just about. It was supposed to come out last year, but I was switching distributors, and didnít want to give it to the old one. So I held onto it. I had the music written in 2001, but wasnít able to start recording for a couple years because I was making albums with Danzig and touring and all that other shit. I started recording it at the end of 2004 and worked on it when I had time between everything else.

While I was changing distributors, spend some more time refining it a bit more, and added one more song. So it was a long, slow evolution. But since it had been more than 10 years since the first one, whatís another year or so (laughs).

KNAC.COM: The new Black Aria has a more ambient, Eastern feel.

DANZIG: Thatís because itís all based around the time and place of Lilith. Even though I think every song about a woman Iíve ever written has had Lilith in mind, Black Aria II is her story alone ó or at least my version of her story, which is an amalgam of the various legends about her. The percussion, the chanting, the ritual is all ancient Mesopotamia. I did the same thing with first one, trying to capture some sense of the setting, so it had more of a classical feel. This oneís definitely darker and creepier.

KNAC.COM: Do you think youíll ever play the Black Arias live?

DANZIG: I donít know. There has been some talk of doing Black Aria I and II together as some sort of theatrical production in Vegas, like a Sarah Brightman sort of thing, but it would have to be such a big production. Youíd have to have an orchestra for one thing. And then thereís the song I added to Black Aria II right at the end, "Unclean Sephari," where thereís like 12 vocal tracks layered on top of the other. So youíd have to have a chorus for that and all the chanting and lamentations.

I was doing an interview the other day and the person was saying how they liked "the simplicity" of Black Aria II (laughs). I wish it was so simple. Along with all the vocals on "Unclean Sephari," some of the songs have more than 30 instrumental tracks, so there is a lot more going on than you might think.

But it would be pretty cool if they could get some big Vegas production together, whether I had any involvement in it or not. It could be a real horror show, you could really go over the top with the stage show: lots of sex and blood and demons. A little something for everyone (laughs). But at this point, thereís been nothing more than some talk.

KNAC.COM: To go back to metal, with Blackest of the Black youíll be taking some more pretty obscure underground bands (Asesino and Belphegor), just like you did with the previous ones (Nile, Behemoth, Mortiis). Are you tuned in to the metal underground, or do you have people who suggest the bands to you?

DANZIG: Iíve got the new Belphegor CD [Pestapokalypse VI] in my car right now, Iíve been playing it the last few days. Real brutal stuff. So, yeah, I do listen to these bands and I like these bands. Iím happy to be able to give them a chance to be seen. And you look at a band like Lacuna Coil and see how theyíve grown. They were way down the bill they first time they did Blackest of the Black, now theyíre second from the top and theyíre doing really well. And someone like The Haunted, theyíre a great band that could break through too if more people could see them.

KNAC.COM: Iíd also heard Mayhem and Marduk, who supposed to be part of earlier aborted Blackest tours, being mentioned for this one, what happened to them?

DANZIG: Marduk still canít get into the country. Danzig toured with them in Europe and I liked how primal and raw they were. I like that kind of black metal. Itís too bad people canít see them here, but apparently someone feels they pose some sort of danger. Who knows anymore? I wanted to have Mayhem on this tour too, but when it got pushed back from October to November, they couldnít do it because they had another commitment. But even without them I think we have a strong bill. Thereís no rap-metal, no nu metal or any of that corporate metal crap. Itís just pure metal!

KNAC.COM: I remember seeing Danzig years ago with Korn and Marilyn Manson opening when they were nobodies, so in some small way you did have a hand in unleashing nu metal on us.

DANZIG: Well thatís when what became "nu metal" really was something new, before all the copycats that came after them and turned it all into shit. No one would take them on tour at that time, except for Trent (Reznor, Nine Inch Nails) who took out Manson because they were on his label. No one could figure out what they were all about, which is something I can relate to. Thatís been the story of my life. I donít know what everyone was afraid of. And it wasnít much later that they were two of the hugest bands in the world. Itís funny how fast things can change in this fucked up business. Danzigís taken out more bands that went on to be big than I can even count. Weíve been a launch pad for a lot of people.

KNAC.COM: Whatís happening with your movie, Gerouge?

DANZIG: Well right now Iím in pre-production hell. Iíd hoped we would have started filming earlier this year. The scriptís about ready and Iím going to direct it, but thereís still some detail shit that needs to be taken care of before we can start moving forward, and now Iíve got the Blackest tour coming up, so it probably wonít start until next year. But Iím really anxious to get going.

Weíve got a good story and a pretty decent budget, by some standards, so Iím confident we can do this right. You see all of these incredibly gory zombie movies people are making now for next to nothing, but I want to this to be more professional and sophisticated than that, while still being pretty horrifying.

KNAC.COM: Youíre probably sick of talking about this, but has "the punch" video that was all over the Internet for a while had any impact, for better or for worse, on you professionally?

DANZIG: No. What would have is if I had hit back. Thereís always some asshole who wants to provoke you into doing something they can sue you for, and Iím not gonna let that happen.

I know they (the North Side Kings) milked it (the video) for all they could. But that was two years ago. I donít know how much good it ended up doing for them. Are they even still around? [They are indeed. According to their website, North Side Kings have a new album, Suburban Royalty, coming out in November of Thorp Records. And they still have a link to "the punch" video on the "Links" section of their site, although itís not very prominently displayed.]

The only people who keep bringing it up are you people (music hacks). And, yes, I am sick of talking about it. But the people who have always liked me probably still like me, the people who hate me probably still hate me. It didnít change anything.

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