Kerrang! Summer 1990 ---------------------- Tales From The Dark Side By Steffan Chirazi Late on a Sunday night at Glenn Danzig's exquisitely-old Los Angeles residence, and we're stuck on the edge of the word dark. "When you say 'dark' most people are NOT gonna take it that way," states Glenn a touch concerned, "they'll end up taking it as Bauhaus or something like that. They'll take it like a new wave, poseur-y, posturing thing - these people who just throw on white make-up, dress in black and I mean that's their prerogative, but then they go to these dark nightclubs and stand in the corners trying to look like they're dead or whatever. That whole poseur-y thing y'know?" I get the point and so should you. Dark means what you think, but not the above... Something else you should get, is 'Danzig II: Lucifuge'... At a time when most bands will settle back on their root sound and write 10 spin-offs without so much as a tiny stretch, 'Danzig II: Lucifuge' explores and penetrates the boundaries of Danzig's music with care, fervour and passion. It is an album all about the seduction of the innocent, like ourselves, and it has the ability to reach out and surprise us without causing us to think that certain songs sound alien to the band. As separate components you can't fail to recognise the Christ guitar, Eerie bass, Biscuit drums or Danzig vocals: but as a unit they bend and swerve from the blues to the bludgeon. Sonically, the album is superior to the last. Christ's guitar has enjoyed an enormous pump, allowing its heavy tone to engulf you rather than just tap you on the shoulder. The rhythm section sounds filthy tight and squeaky mean, whilst Danzig's vocals are at times warm and passionately rich, velvety croons giving way to woeful cries. Moreover, the album treats old, quality rock 'n' roll ideas with respect and reverance; and whilst many choose to wear the '50s era on their sleeve like some ugly commercial retrohook, Danzig merely incorporates facets of it respectfully into his music. I ask him if it's a concious respect for those times that he shows? "Well those are the singers I like, that's what I like to do. I think a lot of other singers don't do it (croon) because they can't do it. The only thing they can do is screech or whatever it is they're doing. "Not all singers of course, I would probably say more American singers than British singers screech. I think some of the British singers in the HM bands can actually sing, but they choose to screech in that era and end off with, as you say, a croon or a warble or whatever. Like the guy in Iron Maiden can obviously sing but... you know what I'm saying." For someone who carries the dark, mysterious image that Danzig does, there are times when his voice seems totally opposite: warm and encompassing. "To me, 'the dark side' would be the exact opposite of what anyone would think it would be. It wouldn't be scary, it wouldn't shy you away, it would be seductive and want you to learn more about it. "Obviously if there is such a thing as a Devil or a Satan or whatever, he's not gonna want to scare you away. He's gonna offer you the world and offer you everything to get you into his confidence, to make you trust him. "The other problem I have now we're talking about the Devil or whatever - is who necessarily says the Devil's evil? Even God would probably say the Devil's not evil, that he's just something else and that there's a reason for him being that way and eventually he'll be welcomed back into... "There's just so many different religions and so many different ways that Satan or Lucifer of whatever is construed. "In some he's looked at as good, he's the rebel, he's the one who fights for change. So in some religions the Devil is seen as the champion, he's the guy who went up against the power. He's the person that said, 'F**k you, I'm not doin' it that way, I'm doin' it this way!' Now that may be bad, or it may not be bad, but that's how it is. People look at things in many different ways. "You talk about a lot of these 'dark'..." (read 'evil', 'Satanic' etc) "... bands and they're screaming and screechy and all that. I don't see that the vocals should be that, to me that's the opposite. I don't think this record is necessarily like that at all." What first attracted Danzig to that '50s singing style, like Elvis' for example. Was it the rebellion or the voice? "The voice. It was purely good, smooth... what I'm into..." Alright, but but there aren't that many people who are into the style of voice... "I disagree! Look at all the Elvis records and Roy Orbison records and Doors records they're selling. You count up how many records Elvis has sold." Being more specific, there aren't that many people in... "I know what you're gonna say, 'in the genre of music we do'," he storms. What's our genre? Listen to this album, listen to the last Danzig album, then listen to a Samhain or a Misfits album if you want, and pick a genre. "We didn't have a genre in the Misfits, we had to have a class of our own because nobody was doing what we were doing. Then with Samhain the same thing, people didn't even know what to call us! They'd call us Metal-punk-horror-doom... They had 18 different titles for us because it was a music all its own. "We were our own classification, we made our own class of music which eventually other people tried to imitate or whatever, or just decided they liked that and that was the vein they wanted to go into. I think it's the same with Danzig." Just how worrying is it that Danzig are seen and promoted as a hard rock/HM band, when it's a whole lot more? "Well, if you do good music people will like it. If you don't do good music, you'll come off as a poseur band and be here today, gone tomorrow." But how frustrating is it to think that some people may never get near the album due to classification? "That's that guy's problem! My only concern is to go into the studio, put out a new record, go out on the road and give people a good show. That's it. I don't care. There are people who haven't heard Elvis!" I balk at the thought. "I'll take you around this world, there's places where they don't even know who Elvis is. What about these places in Africa and the Amazon jungle that don't have radios? These people don't have TV, you've got your room... they have no media. They get up, kill animals, eat them and go about their life, they really don't know what 'Elvis' is! You get so stuck in this life you don't know that there are other lives out there. "But to bring the point around, there are people that haven't heard of a lot of bands. So it doesn't bother me, we have our audience and it grows and grows OK." Can Glenn remember just the first time he ever took to Elvis? "I think I was just sittin' at home, playing hooky from school and I saw the 'Jailhouse Rock' movie, it was back to back with 'Blackboard Jungle'. I didn't even know what they were about, but I see 'Blackboard Jungle' and it's this teen rebellion movie and then 'Jailhouse Rock' comes on and that was great." With Danzig, it's easy to get lost in the vast corridors of conversation that spring from nowhere, but there is an album to discuss and tracks to be talked about. One of the more intriguing titles is 'Tired Of Being Alive'. Does it get to be that way? "Sure! There are definitely times when you're 'tired of being alive' and tired of religion and... just tired of everything. It gets to the point where either you wanna check out or you wanna check other people out - and I don't mean lookin' at 'em, I mean, 'Your time's up buddy!'" So that came from a personal thing. "Most of the songs, well all of them, are pretty much personal. You shouldn't write something that's just a phoney thing. if you can't put a little of yourself in it, then you shouldn't be doing it, you should be writing fantasy books." I sidetrack to ask Danzig about the popular misconception he receives. Doesn't he ever feel like teaching those people something about himself? Do things like that make him tired of life? "No, that's just their level of intelligence. Right away I know that person's an asshole and I know how to deal with them. I'm not their teacher, okay? And if my songs aren't gonna teach them then what do I do? I have other things to do, do they wanna pay me to be a teacher? I still don't have the time because they don't have enough money!" Isn't there anyone who Danzig has felt like putting straight? "You mean is there anyone I've ever tried to teach on an extended basis? Or for five or 10 minutes? I think my attention span would be for about five or 10 minutes, and if they didn't get it then, they wouldn't get it ever." Which explains one of the most important of Glenn Danzig's characteristics. There isn't anything you could think about him that he would particularly care about. Going back to song titles, I ask about 'Her Black Wings'. Glenn sighs uncomfortably, he doesn't particularly enjoy going over songs. "Basically it is, of course, about women, taken to whatever power I wanna take it to and then some personal experiences in there and some personal feelings..." The good and bad of women? "No I wouldn't say the good and bad of women, it has nothing to do with whether women are bad or not, that has nothing to do with the song, that's not part of the song." He is indignant. I ask about 'Devil's Plaything'. "That's about a man talking about a woman." We both decide it might be an idea if I were to see the lyrics, give them a read and continue in 10 minutes. With lyrics quickly looked through, I ask Glenn whether a Danzig song is an expression of feelings or a venting of frustrations; which is more important when writing? "Well, sometimes neither of them even come into it. Sometimes I just wanna write a good song. Sometimes it has nothing to do with anger or frustrations, sometimes it does. On this album, none of the songs were written like that." 'I'm the One', the excellent bluesy cut, sounds pretty painful to me. Glenn laughs heartily. "Really? I think it's happy." Happy and melancholic in one fat ball. "Well, I don't see it as melancholic at all, I don't see any of the songs like that." Glenn Danzig sighs, and prepares to explain a point. "To a lot of people this would probably be a negative album, to me it is not. Although I would have to say that a person who has the lyrics and has read them, and listened to the record, unless they have a bug up their ass they wouldn't think of it as a negative album." Does it ever seem like people are only interested in finding the negative in you? "Sometimes I don't even know if it's that personal, sometimes I just think if it's anything that's remotely not 'pop', this goes for anyone not just me, if it's not really cutesy, they automatically just give it a negative tag. Immediately it's terrible. "it's like calling Ozzy Osbourne a 'Satanist' and all that shit. But not Anton Levay, just Ozzy Osbourne. Anton Levay will tell you he's a Satanist y'know, and here's Ozzy Osbourne just goin' up there and... what does he do? Put a bit of make-up on? That and his intro-piece 'Carmina Mirana'... "That's a great song, I wish he never had used it because I'd love to play that. Actually, for the intro we're gonna go with a piece I wrote, it's a bunch of shit put together and it's called 'Black Aria', which is very classical." We get around to talking about the superior sonics of the albums, and I point out my pleasant surprise at the increased volume of the guitars and other instruments. A concious thing to show that the band now work better together? "I dunno, it could've just all been in the mix. Rick (Rubin) was discovering new things in the studio. "We came away from the first record saying, 'Well we don't want the guitar sound that we had on the first record, we didn't like it then and we hate it even more now'. That was the only problem I had with the first record the the guitar sound just wasn't heavy enough..." Not compared to this album's. "...Or even compared to what we were like onstage. I think it had a lot to do with Rick, and now his coming around to playing around a bit in the studio and discovering things. "Rick likes the AC/DC guitar sound a real lot, which is okay if you're doing an AC/DC record. But this new record is far closer to Danzig, not songwise, but mix-wise, it's far closer than the first. "I mean if you played the last record loud enough it was pretty wild, but this record... it's really hard to get a good guitar sound in the studio but we did." Is it annoying to know that an album with so much soul will inevitably be handled somewhere along the line with impersonal music business hands? "I think it's stupid and f**ked, but I can't do anything about it short of blowing those people's heads off. What I do is, I make it a point that if anyone I know is f**ked up when working a song or the record I will tell them. "Whereas most people won't rock the boat or shake the tree, y'know, when I have to do this record schmoozing shit after the show and someone goes, 'Oh Glenn you're so great bah bah bah', I'll say 'Oh yeah, well why didn't you work our record? I don't just sit there and shake people's hands and I never will do that. If people wanna f**king shake my hand, tell me this and that then... y'know." Just have a free beer and stay out of my face? "No, don't have a free beer on me and get the f**k out of my face! "See, you're either with me or you're just complacent and don't give two f**ks, well, that's fine too - but just don't pretend you're this or that." There is one line hidden in the album (I believe during 'Tired Of Being Alive') that reveals one of Glenn Danzig's most common thoughts: 'Never easy, never clean to be a beast among human sheep'. "I think that every day, every single day, 20 million times a day! Some are leaders, most are followers." What makes people leaders? "First, you've got to have the guts and tenacity to stick behind what you're doing, and you've also gotta know that what you're doing isn't bullshit either. "You've gotta also take it upon yourself that for a lotta years you're going to be cutting down what you do yourself and restructuring it. Making sure it's the best it can be. Making it so perfect that when someone says something negative to you you know they're bullshit. "You know already, you've taken it apart a million times and put it back together. You know it's that finely tuned machine, you know it's gone where it's supposed to go and you know it's doing what it's supposed to do. That's why I know that most of my detractors are so full of shit that they don't know what the f**k they are talking about. Everything's already gone through my personal standards and regulations... it's gone through the mill okay." By now it's obvious that Glenn Danzig's standards are higher than most, and in a business stuffed with inconsistencies, we can be sure Glenn Danzig is true to his word. The proof is here for all to hear.