Interview With Glenn Danzig

Posted December 26, 2007 in
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Interview with Glenn Danzig, Great Salt Air Pavilion, November 6, 2007

On a brief tour promoting the new Lost Tracks CD, Danzig made a stop in Salt Lake City. They played at the Great Salt Air pavilion—a concert hall built on the banks of the lake. Originally, the Salt Air was a sort of Coney Island of the west—a resort that offered swimming, roller coasters rides and carnival-style entertainment. Gone now are the pier and carnival booths. The main building has burned down or been flooded more than half a dozen times over the years. Its newest incarnation, a sort of exotic barn-like structure right off the interstate, is 20 miles from downtown Salt Lake. The receding shoreline of the lake isolates the building even further—really placing it in the middle of nowhere. If Glenn were to have me killed, no one would ever find my body. Opening for Danzig this night were Horrorpops and Gorgeous Frankenstein.

Glenn Danzig (courtesy of

Halfway through the Horrorpops set, we (me and SLUG metal writer Gavin Hoffman) were led by Danzig’s assistant to the tour bus. We sat on the couch, next to a dining table decorated with a New Jersey sticker and half a box of Whoppers. There was a note posted on the mini fridge reminding people of set times and band order. The note was written in the same monster movie font used for the Misfits and Samhain band logos. The bus’s flat screen television was playing a CMT reality show where five guys with Jennifer Aniston hair are involved in some sort of tug-o-war battle. Has modern country music fallen this far? Hank Williams, we hardly knew thee. The assistant goes behind the curtain, where it is completely dark. A few moments later, Glenn emerges from the back. He’s not smiling, but he’s not scowling either. He’s wearing a form fitting, long sleeve black metal shirt and his dark hair is in its signature, shoulder length coif. His hair is a little thinner than it was the last time he came through town, but his age doesn’t show otherwise. He nods, walks past us, and immediately turns off most of the lights on the bus. This tour has been especially rough on him. He broke his shoulder in Baltimore, and when he performs later, he still seems to be in quite a bit of pain. And where injury and the trials of being on the road would give anyone ample reason to treat us like shit, he is much more pleasant than the rumors would have you believe. Older now, and touring with members of former bands and past Danzig line-ups, Jersey’s metal legend is in a good place musically. An anthology of rare tracks spanning from ’87 to the present day was just released, and Danzig’s touring career seems to have come full circle. He indicates that he’s ready to talk. Our poorly lit conversation begins:

SLUG: This James Bennett with SLUG magazine, here with Glenn Danzig. How are you tonight, man?

Danzig: Alright.

SLUG: Now we heard that there was a mishap earlier in the tour, what exactly happened?

Danzig: As far as what? Oh you mean breaking my shoulder? Yeah, well what happened was that the stage in Baltimore, the first night (the first show of the tour) was really slippery and like, metal, and I slipped and I hit the barricade and I broke my fall with my knee and my hand. I’m laying there in the pit getting ready to get up and this security guy comes over and thinks he’s helping me and he grabbed my arm and goes like this (Glenn makes a few upward jerking motions with both hands). I’m like, “hey” but the band is still playing…but he does it again. So I pushed him, jumped up on the stage. And I knew something was wrong, and I though I’d broken my clavicle, but actually what happened was I had dislocated my arm and had broken my shoulder in two spots. So I did the rest of the show, I came back and did the encore. And I knew it was fucked up, so I was doing all this martial arts and Chinese herbal shit and then I was like, “okay, something’s really fucked up.” So I popped it back in place, and then, uh, I started doing all this crazy Chinese medicine that I do. I saw a doctor the next day in Philly, and he says, “yeah, it’s broken in two spots.” When I get back to LA there’s this doctor that Todd (Youth) my guitar player knows who treats the Lakers and all these other people, so I get back to LA, I went out there and got a, uh, catscan, a 3-D imaging thing, and, he said he couldn’t believe how much it had healed—that it was healing better than a young person—so the herbal stuff I use really works.

SLUG: So you’re getting results there. How much has this affected your performance?

Danzig: I have to sing with my arm in a sling. I can’t raise my arm really high, even though it’s getting better (he lifts his arm about six inches) I could never do this before, I could only do this (he raises his arm only about two inches). It’s been like a week or so…After I got the catscan he (the doctor) said, “We’ll look at these later, you head back to LA, do the shows, just don’t go crazy on stage,” which is hard. I’m going out of my mind. Originally they told me that I could only go on stage if I was going to stand there and sing and that’s it. If you’re going to anything other than that then don’t go on stage. And I said, “Okay.” (he grins big, flashing his yellowed, but perfectly straight teeth. We all laugh). But I’m listening. I’m wearing a sling and I’m not using this arm (lifts his left arm slightly)—this arm’s going crazy (waves his right arm in the air). But it’s healing really well. He said he’d look at the catscan and if I heard from him in the morning then it wasn’t good, and if I didn’t hear from him then just keep doing what I was doing and he’d look at it when I got back. We’ll have a proper MRI, but it looks really good.

SLUG: That’s awesome. Well we’re glad you’re healing, and we’re really happy you could make the show. It’s been 10 years since you’ve played a show in Salt Lake . . .

Danzig: Longer. It’s been longer than that. Cause the last show we did here was Danzig 4, and Ozzfest didn’t come here. We did the first year of the Ozzfest and it didn’t come here. We did EVERY OTHER FUCKING MARKET—Portland, Spokane (which he pronounced Spo-cane, as in Twist of Cane...evil!), Tacoma, you name it (laughs). And of course Ozzy would cancel shows all the time anyway. And on that tour, uh, the first couple years of Ozzfest, we were direct support under Ozzy, and we weren’t allowed to play dates on off-days. We ended up losing a ton of money because Ozzy would keep canceling shows and we just kept getting dicked. But normally we would have come here on an off-day. The last two times we had scheduled shows here, the city council canceled them.

SLUG: Really?

Danzig: Yeah, Satan’s Child was supposed to come here but it got canceled, and we were supposed to come here on I Luceferi and then (Marilyn) Manson was supposed to come here that same month, and both shows got canceled really quick. And so this time we said, “Look, if we book a show here, they’re paying us.” Because what happened was on I Luceferi, we were able to book another show ‘cause they canceled it really quick, because they heard we were coming and they were like, “NO, you and Marilyn Manson, NO.” (laughs) And then, uh, with Satan’s Child they canceled it really close to the show being played and we couldn’t book another date. And so we kinda lost a lot of people lost and a lot of money on that, because you gotta pay your crew, they have to pay their families, and the bus driver and all, so it was kind of a drag. I’m glad we made it here this time because I’m probably not gonna be doing any more shows. This ended up being four shows on the east coast and then like, eight on the west coast. And then I’m done.

SLUG: Yeah, last we heard you were wanting to take some time off and not do anymore shows . . .

Danzig: I’ll do live shows, I just don’t want to tour. You know what I mean? So, me and him (he points to his assistant) are flying back and forth. And we had four Southern California shows so I just drove home, you know. I like doing the shows, but I don’t like being on the bus, and not being around my shit, and it’s kinda like, the way I see it now is, it’s like a waste of my day sitting on the bus for 20 hours, you know what I mean? It’s great being out there and getting the energy from the people, but then the rest of the day is a wash, man. I could be at home, doing all this productive shit.

SLUG: You’ve been doing it for what now, like 30 years?

Danzig: Yeah, and unfortunately, everyone in the midwest and the south hasn’t seen a Danzig show in, like, 30 years (laughs).

SLUG: If they want they could travel to see a show—I’ve flown out for shows before . . .

Danzig: I don’t know. Some people don’t have the money to do that. They can barely afford to come to the show. So, maybe I’ll do something where I’ll fly to Florida, or to the South and do like four shows and then come home. I don’t know. But no more touring for me. I can handle being away for a week, but after that it’s just like, no, no more.

SLUG: So tell me about who you have in the band on this tour.

Danzig: Uhm, well I’ve got Todd back on guitar. Steve (Zing), who used to be in Samhain with me (and he did pronounce it Sam-Hain, not sah-ween or sow-den or one of myriad other Celtic pronunciations), he did the last west coast run last year—it was an experiment to see if I could do just a couple of shows and go home—so Steve was the bass player on that, and Kenny (Hickey) and Johnny (Kelly) from Type-O were in that. So this time I have Todd, Steve and this Swedish drummer named Karl (Rosqvist). He used to be in Sorg and some other band called Steel Prophet, he’s Svaaayyydish (laughs).

SLUG: Now you recently put out this Lost Tracks CD. We were talking earlier, and it seems that musically you’ve always been pushing forward, and this seems like almost a step back. Do you see it as a step back, going back and reworking these songs?

Danzig: No, they’ve never been released, and it something that the bands…actually I did this more for the fans than for myself. They’ve been requesting this stuff for a million years and I said I would get around to doing it, and ‘cause I cut back on my touring schedule I was able to find time to sit and do this project—‘cause it took a long time. Yeah, I don’t see it that way at all. It’s more like a retrospective of stuff no one ever heard. Someone described it as an alternate Danzig universe that no one ever knew about (laughs).

SLUG: That’s a good description, and for what my opinion is worth, it’s very, very good.

Danzig: Well actually, that’s one of the things that everyone was pleasantly surprised with. Some people thought they were going to hate the record, that it was just an excuse to make money, and I don’t need to make money, you know what I mean? And to be honest, you don’t really make money off of records anymore. Everyone just downloads it anyway. It’s really for the fans. That’s why we made such a nice package—the package cost a lot to put together—there was only one place that could do it. So we had to go outside the regular system and get it done up in Canada because no one else could do the packaging. So it wasn’t cheap. But everyone seems to enjoy the package, the liner note, you know, and so I’m happy. When the fans are happy . . .

SLUG: Now you also worked on the Gorgeous Frankenstein record with Doyle?

Danzig: Yeah, I produced Doyle’s record for him.

SLUG: Now is it just the two of you that played on it?

Danzig: Pretty much, yeah (laughs). And Landon, this guy who’s not even in the band anymore, sang on it, but I had to coach him through the whole thing, so…Doyle’s very specific in what he wants from a singer, so it was tough. It took us a long time to find a singer for him, because everybody, he was like, “Nope, I don’t want that, no, no . . ..” Two years, three years go by and I’m like, “You gotta find a singer, dude.” Me and Craig found this guy and thought, “This guy can do the record and I think he’s the guy you want. Give him a chance.” Then eventually it didn’t work out, the guy couldn’t sing live Doyle said, or he couldn’t sing in time. Whatever happened there, Doyle ended up going out as a three piece with his wife dancing around as well, I don’t know if you saw the show (the band was: a drummer, Doyle on guitar, a bassist/singer with a cordless, blue-tooth style mic—wife dancing on a pole and getting the crowd involved). I don’t know if you know the history of Doyle, but we were in the Misfits together, but his wife is an ex-pro wrestler, ECW, that was her name, Gorgeous George. So you have Gorgeous, and then Doyle goes by Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein, so it became Gorgeous Frankenstein. So that’s what it is. So she kind of, she sang back up on the record, but she’s scared to sing back up on stage, so I told her, “Well, you gotta,” but she’s out there kind of instigating everybody and so far it’s been pretty good. They’ve been getting pits every night and it’s really hard to get pits on a Danzig tour—I’ve seen audiences turn their backs on Soundgarden, and start chanting “Danzig” and make them watch the Danzig colors on their backs while they play. It’s a tough audience—it’s not easy to get them going. And so, you know, he’s got them going.

SLUG: Yeah, it was a really good set. Now, there’s been talk of you working on a film or some sort of script?

Danzig: Well I’m always…I’ve got about four scripts I’m working on right now. The Ge Rouge movie is a movie that we’ve had in different forms of production. We were working with this one production company and I did like five rewrites on the script and finally I just said, “You know what, either this goes into production—this is the last rewrite—or the contract is null and void.” And that’s what happened. We pulled it and started shopping it to other people. And right before I left for this thing I had a meeting with Lion’s Gate, so that looks pretty good. I have another meeting when I get back and I think we’re going to do something there. I don’t know if it’s Ge Rouge—it might be Drukija, which is this crazy…my version of Countess Bathory. It’s pretty violent. If I do it I’ll probably have to go to Hungary or Slovakia or somewhere for like three or four weeks and shoot this thing. We’ll probably have two trucks of fake blood (laughs). Gas tankers full of this fake blood (laughs). It’s very, very violent and very brutal and very true to the true story. This guy was like, “No one knows if she really existed.” And I’m like, “You fool I have like eight books and old court records where they’re testifying, and I have her assistant testifying as to what happened.” She was a real countess and they walled her up and she was never allowed to interact with people ever again until she died. It’s so retarded…anyway, that could be a possibility of actually happening.

SLUG: And what about the other scripts?

Danzig: Some of the scripts I’m doing are pretty crazy: stoner kids who drive around and all they listen to is black metal and stoner rock and they look for people who cut them off in LA and they pull them over and beat the shit out of them with baseball bats (laughs).

SLUG: Nice! (big laughs)

Danzig: And then I’ve got this movie I’m writing about a serial killer back in the 70s when I was a kid, well teenager, and he never got caught. They don’t even know if it was a guy or a girl doing it, but this serial killer killed people in a very unique way, and uhh (long pause).

SLUG: So what was the unique way?

Danzig: I can’t tell you, you’ll have to see the movie, dude (laughs). It’s very fucked up, I can tell you that. Well there’s another serial killer I can tell you about that never got caught in New York—this isn’t the one I’m writing about, but they called him the Ice Pick Killer. During rush hours in Grand Central Station when it was all crowded, I mean wall to wall people walking this way and that way on the street. He would just walk up and he had this ice pick and we shove it up under the sternum (Danzig makes a stabbing motion to his heart), it would hit their heart and would keep walking. So they would just go like this (clutches his chest), and it would take them however long, and then they would fall down and people would go “are you alright?” and then people wouldn’t even realize what was going on. And then they’d see the blood, they’d finally realize and know these people had been killed. And this guy would be blocks away. So obviously they figured out this person had at least some kind of medical knowledge to know that you could stick an ice pick, or knife or something up under the sternum, hit the heart and cause it to stop. And this person did about 28 over a year and a half period and then disappeared, and never did them again.

SLUG: 28? Really? That’s kind of unheard of that he stopped….

Danzig: Well don’t forget the Zodiac. There’s a lot of them that just all of a sudden stop. The Unabomber. It’s very common actually; it freaks people out. People try to profile them and catch them . . .

SLUG: Here’s another question for you: You did the Blackest of the Black tours, what brought that about?

Danzig: Well, new metal sucked and I hated it—it was an abomination. And so it was my way of bringing what I felt people should at least get a chance to hear, here in America. The first Blackest was Danzig, Superjoint Ritual, Opeth, Nile, Lacuna Coil and Behemoth. And I had met Behemoth a year before on the I Luceferi tour and they were playing before me on a regional tour and Nergal gave me his record and a bunch of t-shirts. And it was Zos Kia Cultus.

SLUG: Such a good record…

Danzig: Best fucking record they ever did. And I listened to it and was like, “This is incredible.” Because it wasn’t just like “very extreme black metal” it also had riffs and grooves and cool shit—it was heavy but it had substance too. It was just like, wow. And Lacuna Coil, also, I was so pissed off that this new metal producer formed Evanescence and ripped off their whole…I thought I’ve gotta have Lacuna Coil on tour, so we brought them back on the last tour, and they’re like the coolest people also to hang out with. So it’s just been great seeing bands like that when they do Black, and then they’re offered Ozzfest and then…you know what I mean? And now they’re all doing their own shows…

SLUG: And Behemoth is blowing up over here…

Danzig: And Lacuna too; they’re doing their own shows now.

SLUG: Now you went on to, the last one you had Mortiis on with you?

Danzig: That was the time before that. Yeah we took out Mortiis, that a lot of people don’t know, but he used to be in Emperor.

SLUG: And people who do know that, or people I know who know that, can’t stand his current stuff. Which I think is interesting because I like his current stuff.

Danzig: The new stuff is different than the other stuff is, the dark wave stuff.

SLUG: Yeah, it’s much more straight industrial—and he does it well, for what it is.

Danzig continued talking about later Blackest of the Black bands for several minutes before his assistant gave me the sign that it was time to go. As we worked our way back to the venue floor, we chatted briefly with both Steve Zing and Doyle. The history of these three men touring together was not lost on us. It was truly a special night. The band took the stage 20 minutes later. They plowed through a set that spanned the entire career of Glenn’s namesake band. There were even a few songs off of the Lost Tracks CD. As the set came to a close, Doyle came out onto stage—still wearing his traditional fright make-up and his 18-inch “devilock”. This was the first time that Glenn and Doyle had shared a stage in Utah (the original Misfits never played the beehive state). With Doyle added to the Danzig line-up, the band banged out three songs from the classic Misfits record Walk Among Us – “Vampira”, “Skulls” and “Astro Zombies.” The encore was only about six minutes long, but they were six minutes that were a long time coming. For fans of the Jersey devil, it was an unforgettable experience.