Metal Mania, 1/91 ----------------- DANZIG: "TWIST OF NOVOCAINE" By Jeff Kitts Almost every Danzig article I've ever read has basically been the sad efforts of some journalist turned psychiatrist for a day attempting to peel off the face of Glenn Danzig and reveal all that lies underneath. In all honesty, who the hell are we, the rock media, to try and unravel the threads that hold this artist together and publicly announce the diagnosis? Sure, the fact that in nearly every aspect of his band, including lyrics, image, vocals and music, Danzig is shrouded in almost complete darkness, which leaves him more subject to full-scale journalistic attacks as opposed to your average, run-of-the-mill metal dudes. But let's be realistic; as interesting a man as Glenn Danzig is, he is still just a man, and while I'm quite grateful that he's not my son, I really don't think he poses any threat to the human race. When the assignment of interviewing Dr. Danzig fell into my lap, I did a little poking around the metal industry in hopes of finding some insight about handling such a task from those who had already had the experience. Suffice it to say that I was besieged by horror stories about what to ask him and what not to ask, what he is like, how he responds to certain questions, etc. The general consensus was that, ask or say the wrong thing, and Glenn will have me for breakfast, my writer's blood dripping from his fangs. I decided to handle it my own way, and contrary to popular legend, I found Glenn to be a pleasant, thought-provoking interviewee who was willing to converse on almost any subject relevant to an article about a musician. And by relevant I don't mean comic books, religion or the Occult. The topic I wished to open our discussion with was the one I felt was most important to Danzig in 1990, their second album, DANZIG 2/LUCIFUGE [Def American]. "It's definitely the best album we've done to date, of the two," Glenn says. "The first one I really like and it's a great debut album, but this one is just miles ahead of it. The band has been playing together for a while now and is very tight, and kind of has a second sense about stuff. I also think Rick [Rubin] is a better producer for this kind of stuff now. It's not just all fast songs or all slow songs or all mid-tempo songs, it's a really good blend and it gives you a really good idea of what Danzig is all about. "A lot of people confuse slower songs with a lack of power, and that has nothing to do with power. The lyrics are way more intense, and I think musically it's way more intense, too. Maybe it's not a thrash album, but we don't do thrash. I don't consider thrash bands powerful anyway. I dare you to even name me a band that's as powerful as we are or even takes the chances we do, and doesn't do it in a goofball, comic-booky way. If you can, tell it to me." While shying away from a blatant dare or a question about music is not exactly my style, I felt it best to steer clear of Glenn's challenge and move on to safer ground... Album number two for many bands often becomes a poorly- timed outlet for pent-up experimental tendencies, and can easily send fans into a state of total confusion. Glenn takes a very natural approach to writing songs, and basically decided to allow the band to progress naturally without sacrificing anything substantial. "I think we expanded our borders with this record and still retained our sound. I think the first Danzig album for a lot of people who were into what I was doing before Danzig [Samhain and the Misfits] was probably more of an experiment, [well, not really an experiment, I don't experiment, I just do] and it was more of a departure than this record is from the first one. There's nothing drastically new, but probably just taking it further and expanding more and more. "I don't do what people like to hear," Glenn states. "I don't write a song just because I think someone will like it. First off, I do what I have to do as a writer to get my rocks off, but also I want people to like it too--it's a total thing, not just one thing. I have to be happy with the song as a songwriter, that's why I say I don't experiment. Experiment is where you really don't know where the song is going and what it's going to do, and if I don't like it, I throw it out. Just because I write a song it doesn't mean that I'll put it on the record, and that's a problem I have with a lot of bands--they think that just because they wrote a song, that it's great and they should put it out. I have a little more control than that. "I mean, it would have been really easy for us to do the first Danzig album again, don't you think? I could've written about 40 songs like that, and have four albums worth of material. We could just sit back on our asses and go out and that's it. I could've written a real commercial song and that's it, but that's not what I'm about, and it's not what this band is about. We don't do the hit-and-run stuff. I'll let all the other bands do that." After chatting with Glenn for a little while about the new album and his system of writing songs, I began to get the impression that preparing the material is not a total team effort, and Glenn is somewhat of a musical dictator. With that in mind, I asked him if there is ever dissension in the ranks when it comes to some of his ideas. Glenn replied: "That's never happened. Basically I write the songs and the lyrics, and we take it from there. We pretty much all know if a song isn't working, and I'm probably the first one to say 'this ain't happening.' No one really has to say anything--we all know when a song is working or not working. Everybody does their job, but when it comes down to songwriting, I pretty much write the songs, then we bring it down to pre-prodution and Rick gives us his input. I would say that Rick's input on every record is probably about 20% to 30%, as far as arranging, not as far as writing. That's what we have a producer for." From there our conversation became a little less technical and a little more theoretical. We digressed into a discussion about Danzig's place in the music society, and what it came down to was that Danzig is one of the few bands whose essence revolves around sincerity and honesty, and a touch of evil thrown in for good measure. "Danzig is Danzig--we do what we want to do and that's what we've always done. And in that aspect, if we're not as commercially successful as these jump-on-the-bandwagon bands...we don't do that. We do what we do, and I think that's why other people and other bands view us in a totally different light. There's probably nobody else who does what we do. "I bet there are a lot of people who would love to get to the level that we've gotten to. I don't think we haven't made a mark or a statement, and that's good enough. It can be better, of course, but just to have done what we've done is fine to me. I mean I still want to do more, it's not even half over. And besides music, there's other things I can get involved with. There's so many different avenues to go I can pretty much do whatever I want to do--anybody can, really, if they just take the chains off their imagination." Sincerity and honesty are certainly commendable traits, but judging by the corruption and injustice in the rock scene, qualities like these can easily do nothing to enhance the progress of a band's career, and can even weigh a band down. I asked Glenn if this bothers him. "I don't really care and I don't think of it in those terms. All we do is go in to create a great record, and go out and do a killer tour and be the best live band people are going to see. We don't use a lot gimmicks and we don't pretend to use our instruments onstage and use a tape like you see a lot of these bands doing. You'd be surprised at how many bands use tapes, and they're not even playing, especially the lead guitar parts. We don't do that. "In the meeting I had with Rick, we said we want this to be a great band that puts out great albums that people ten years down the line will still be buying," Glenn continues. "We don't do all this trendy stuff or jump on bandwagons. If I write lyrics and it puts me in a certain category because people's minds are too small, then that's fine because I don't give two fucks--I have to do what I have to do, and that's it. And if people are scared of me, then that's fine too. The band doesn't really care." The topic of the status of Danzig led us into a brief discussion about money, and how it has become one of the most influential factors in useless bands churning out meaningless music, some of which actually seem to thrive on the absence of talent. "Money is a great A-side from the music industry, but it shouldn't be your motivating factor to do it. A lot of bands, especially those in Hollywood, are motivated by money, and that's the only reason they form a band. When I first started, it was just to do it. I thought maybe eventually we'd get a record out and things like that, and to me that was making it. And there are so many other ways to make money--more money than in the music business. Maybe I don't have as much money as some of these bands, but that doesn't matter to me--it's not about money. I like money, and it gives you a lot of freedom, but..." Okay, so now we know that Glenn's drive to create music is not fueled by his bank statements. Based on the fact that terrible bands only make me appreciate the good ones more, in addition to Glenn's blatant lack of enthusiasm for other metal bands, I had a hunch that his creative juices are often sparked by the pathetic efforts of his musical inferiors. Was I right? "Of course, I think it's like that with any artist. To begin with, I don't think there are a lot of good bands out there. They're all trying to be this or that, and to me that's not what being in a band is all about. If you go and see a band that everybody is talking about and the show is totally sold out, and the band totally sucked, and even people who like them think they sucked, what does that say to you? To me it says 'I'm gonna go home and fuckin' write a couple of great songs.' I think you always have to stay hungry to do that stuff, and if you don't keep challenging yourself as a performer or songwriter, then there's no point in doing it--then it becomes a money thing." At times journalists and musicians work well together, cooperating and respecting each other's position. Other times it's a battle, the interviewer trying to get the musician to confess to some musical crime and the musician trying to dodge the verbal razors. For some, Glenn Danzig is the ideal target for a journalistic assault, and he recognizes this and has no appreciation for it. Being a member of the journalistic troop, I asked Glenn to give me some of his views on the press. "You'd be surprised at how many journalists I talk to who are doing it because they just want to hang out with bands. Especially in England. One of the reasons I hate doing interviews in England is because most of them don't know shit about music, and all most of them do is try and get a sensational interview out of you--try and goad you into saying something dumb, which I usually don't do and it frustrates them. It's not about music there, and that's a drag. My problem has always been that, if you're an interviewer, you should be a journalist, and that means that you should be trying to get something out of whoever you're interviewing that's a little different. "I've been doing this for a long time, and I've seen the press credit me with quotes that I've never even said. I've also had people, and the British are famous for doing this, although it still turns up in a few American magazines, where they'll ask me a bunch of questions, then put a question that they did ask me, but then put an answer to a question that came two paragraphs later right after that question. It has nothing to do with the question this person just asked me, and it's something totally out of context. On the whole, I'd have to say that about 65% of journalists are totally unethical. So in that aspect I'm going to be a little bit guarded about doing my interviews, and when the other guys in the band do interviews I'll tell them to be careful of certain people. If this guy tries to put words in your mouth or gives you a question that's really tough, just don't answer it, or ask him a question instead. Just think before you answer it because you don't want to put your foot in your mouth. A lot of these guys that'll talk to them are very ruthless." While I was doing my homework in preparation for this interview, one of the most frequent bits of advice I got was not to even mention the names Samhain and Misfits, much less ask him about being in those bands before Danzig. After hearing it time and time again, it only peaked my curiosity. What I decided to do was to ask Glenn why it is such a taboo subject, and what I got was a very realistic, sensible answer to a question blown way out of proportion by some of my colleagues. "It's not fair to the rest of the guys in the band. This is Danzig, and even though Eerie was in Samhain, this is Danzig and that's their attitude and that's the way they feel. I kind of feel that way, too. That's old stuff, and we're not an oldies band. We did a few of the old songs on the last tour, but that was mainly because I think we needed to fill up the set [laughs]. And also because there were a few people that wanted to hear how we would do 'em. After a while the guys were like 'when can we stop doing these songs?' you know what I mean? I told them that I wanted to stop doing them too, but we would have to wait until the second record. For the most part I think that part of our audience is very small right now. Most people want to hear the new stuff. I had great times in both of those bands, and I'm very proud of those albums--I think they're great, but this is Danzig. I mean, I talk about that stuff all the time--just not to journalists because that's not what I want being printed right now, and the other guys would rather me talk about John, or Eerie or Chuck." Glenn Danzig may not be normal, average or typical in any way, shape or form, but like I said earlier, he is still just a man. Because of the frightening image he projects in his persona as well as in his music, I'll admit that it is rather difficult to picture him doing anything not related to the black arts. Glenn recognizes the fact that his fans are sometimes thrown when he is caught in a "normal" situation. "I think that for the most part, when kids bump into me on the street or at a comic show or something, they're just like 'wow, what are you doing here?!' And I'm like, 'I'm buying comics.' I guess it's pretty wild when you see somebody at a comic show that you go and see and go crazy to the music--it just blows you away. I can remember that kind of shit too when I was a little kid, and that's life." My conversation with Glenn ended on a very jovial note. A few weeks prior to our interview his publicist told me that he couldn't make it on a certain date because he was at the dentist. Now this was an interesting vision--Glenn Danzig strapped to a padded dentist's chair with a paper bib clipped around his neck and the shaking hands of some petrified D.D.S. probing inside his mouth. I used the previous portion of our interview as a guide and asked him about the experience, and it only reinforced my opinion that Glenn Danzig is just a normal mortal human being. "Basically, all he said was 'don't bite my hands off.' I think I scared him--he was very nice, but I can kind of tell from the way he acts that he's scared of me [laughs]. I'm not doing anything to scare him, I'm just walking into the office and going 'hi, don't do this and don't do that, and I don't want Novocaine.' It's funny because this way they won't fuck my teeth up."