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Guitar World   August 1994


The Passion of Christ
By Jeff Gilbert

John Christ, dark prince of power chords, would love to play
solos. But he can't - and this is his cross to bear.

   Some say Danzig is enamored of evil. It is true that they have
a fondness for upside-down crosses emblazoned with snakes. And
yes, they've been known to slit the throats of plump chickens in
bloody sacrifice. Their album titles, Lucifuge, How The Gods
Kill, and Thrall-Demonsweatlive are a bit suggestive. Yet all of
this evidence is circumstantial. The truth is, the Christian
concept of the devil has about as much to do with Danzig as
little league baseball. Singer Glenn Danzig, a devoted fan of the
Nineteenth Century French symbolist poet Charles Baudelaire,
explains it: "I'm intrigued by Baudelaire's vision of Satan as
more of a rebel than the traditional notion of him as this
totally evil, dark guy." Butthead couldn't have said it better.
   Still, it all kind of makes you wonder. Take the band's latest
album, Danzig 4p. With song titles like "Crucifixion Destruction"
and "Little Whip," 4p is clearly no kindergarten picnic. Danzig
stringman John Christ is bracing himself. "I think we're really
going to catch a lot of flak with this record," he laughs, almost
nervously, citing the album's, uh, potentially controversial
themes. Danzig openly embrace the very things that, well,
frighten the hell out of the rest of us. "That's one side of us
that can be a little scary," admits Christ. "It's not for
   Prior to becoming scary, Christ was a classical guitar student
at the famed Peabody Prep in Baltimore. He later attended Towson
St. University, where he focused on jazz bass, theory and
composition. In 1987, in an almost Faustian career move, he
joined Danzig. Christ's barren guitar work on the band's 1988
debut, Danzig - arguably one of the greatest metal albums of all
time - stood out at a time when everyone else was trying to crack
the sound barrier playing full-on thrash and blitzkrieg leads as
though the hounds of hell were nipping at their overstuffed
   Though Danzig's black atmospherics have over the years been
largely rooted in Christ's desolate riffing, the guitarist rarely
solos. He takes the same minimalist approach on Danzig 4, a
chilling and deliberately rhythm-oriented album whose themes and
always fearsome minor chording will make the hair on the back of
your ears stand straight up. "I guess Glenn doesn't want to
exploit me," shrugs Christ. "He's not into long guitar solos,
just something to comment on the songs.
   "Most of my tracks on the new album were just jams recorded
during the basic track sessions, while we were putting it all
together," continues Christ. "There aren't too many distinct
solos sections, but they liked the tracks so much, they just left
it that way."
   Christ is planning a solo album that will enable him to spread
his mighty black wings. But this will come only after Danzig 4
has its run, more videos are made and released for Beavis &
Butt-head to extol, and another year on the road to meet the
demands of a now huge audience with a taste for the dark side.
The band's surge in popularity can be attributed largely to the
recent revival of 1988's "Mother," but Christ thinks other forces
might be at work as well. "I think people are a lot more
open-minded about Danzig than they used to be," says Christ. He
ponders an impossibly evil thought: "Maybe people have finally
caught up to it."

GUITAR WORLD: Danzig 4 sounds different from your previous
JOHN CHRIST: I agree. To start with, we wanted to introduce some
new textures into the band, so we experimented with several
older, exotic acoustic instruments, including a harmonium [a reed
organ invented in he early 19th century], a recorder and wind
chimes. It's a very moody, atmospheric record.
   We're still using a big ambient drum sound. The drums have
always been a big thing for a lot of Danzig's music, and the
vocals are obviously very prominent in the mix. I have to admit,
I wish the guitar tracks were a bit louder.
GW: You tend to play very economically. Did you take more solos
on this album?
CHRIST: No. Actually there are very few solos on the record. I
did some overdubs, but not like the last record where I
overdubbed everything. A lot of these songs have a looser, live,
jamming-around feel. In fact, the new album reminds me of Glenn's
previous band, Samhain. It's kind of a tradition with him. For
example, on the first Danzig record there were a handful of songs
that didn't have any guitar leads on them either, like "Twist Of
Cain" and "She Rides."
   The big difference on this album in terms of my playing is how
I use sound and texture. I experimented with several different
types of stereo chorusing and pitch-shifting. For example, my
tone on "Son Of The Morning Star" constantly evolves throughout
song. It starts off jazzy and then kicks into this real heavy Led
Zeppelin thing. The guitar tone is real bassy, with just a touch
of soft chorus. Then it kicks into this real loud, raunchin'
groove. But most of the songs are fairly simple. Some only have
two parts.
GW: What soloing there is leans to a more bluesy style.
CHRIST: Yeah, Glenn prefers the more bluesy style. It turns him
off if I start adding any heavy chromaticism or play too many
notes. For one song, I had a solo worked out for the end part and
Glenn didn't like it because he thought it sounded too polished -
too fancy.
GW: Which song or songs work for you on a guitar level?
CHRIST: "Going Down To Die" is probably the song for me because
it has a guitar solo. That's the only solo on the record!
[laughs] I, of course, wanted to re-record it a few more times to
make it perfect. But I think Glenn and Rick [Rubin] have it the
way they want it.
GW: Does the sparse nature of Danzig's arrangements make it
easier on you in live performance?
CHRIST: Not really; I look forward to the songs with the solos in
them. The tougher the solos, the more fun it is for me to play
night after night. When there's not much guitar work going on,
then I go into show mode. [laughs] But in Danzig, we've never
really had involved guitar solos, unless they were very brief.
GW: Do you see that situation changing down the road?
CHRIST: No, I don't.
GW: Too bad, because you're a very underrated guitar player.
CHRIST: Well, I'm gonna be putting out my own record soon, and
all the "underrated' stuff will go away. [laughs] I have some
tracks that I've been working on for a couple of years now.
GW: Are you singing on your solo project?
CHRIST: Yeah, but I'm gonna mix it up; the first record is going
to have a lot of things that I've been playing on my own for
years and years and have always wanted to record, but never had a
chance to do right. There will be one or two classical pieces -
one on electric, the other on a classical guitar - and some vocal
songs. People are gonna go, "What the hell...?" [laughs]
   I was brought up on those big arena concert metal bands from
the Sixties and Seventies, so I want to do some of that music,
too. I haven't decided exactly if I'm going to go for one
particular direction or just blow out everything that's been in
my head and start clean.
GW: Do you have a release date?
CHRIST: No, it's not gonna happen until after the Danzig tour.
We're going to be out on the road for quite a while. I have a few
demos recorded, but I still have to write some more songs and see
who'd be interested in picking it up.
GW: You shouldn't have any problems attracting a label.
CHRIST: You don't think so? I love hearing that. I'm hoping to
cross over a little bit on my own. I like radio rock - that type
of feel and groove. I'm more comfortable doing that than I am
doing the dark metal thing. I mean, it's fine, I'm used to it,
I've been doing it a long time. But it's not me, really. The gig
is cool, and I like playing the part, but I've been doing it a
long time now and I need to get out on my own a little bit.
GW: What do you think about "Mother," a song recorded in 1988,
becoming a hit, a big hit, today?
CHRIST: It was wild the way that thing came about. Our label
wasn't too busy and didn't have any projects going so they
decided to take some time and focus on Danzig for a while. The EP
was out and selling, but not selling great. And at some point,
they decided to remix "Mother." I heard about it out of the blue.
I was happy that they remixed it because they fixed the last note
on my solo that always went to a noise that I hated. I wanted to
fix it when we did it for the first album, but never did. They
added delay and made it sound more like the live track, then they
added some crowd noises....
GW: You mean "Mother" is the original?
CHRIST: Yeah. They used the studio version, added the crowd
noises and sweetened up the mix. Then they re-released it, put a
whole bunch of money behind it, and radio started picking it up
all over the place.
GW: Radio stations that never acknowledged Danzig before are
playing it in heavy rotation.
CHRIST: Funny thing is that it immediately sparked the sales of
Thrall-Demonsweatlive. Then stations started getting phone calls
from people saying, "Hey, this version of 'Mother' isn't on the
disc." So we were in a spot. The label had to put "Mother" on the
disc somewhere, so they added it six minutes and 66 seconds after
the last track. That seemed to help things a lot.
GW: Because of the success of "Mother '94," I've noticed AOR
radio playing more stuff off your first record. It's odd to hear
"Twist of Cain" sandwiched between Eddie Money and Blind Melon.
CHRIST: And the mood is so different.
GW: But for some reason, it sounds really good on radio.
CHRIST: Yeah, it sounds better on the radio - the way it gets
compressed and pushed out over the airwaves, it comes off
sounding smoother and little bit richer. It's the same thing with
"Mother." When we were on our little minitour, we opened up for
Slayer and we were out in Los Angeles playing the Palladium. I
was driving around with some friends and "Mother" came on the
radio. I thought, "Wow, it sounds better than on my stereo at
home!" The only way to get it to sound like that at home is to
crank it.
GW: Volume cures all.
CHRIST: [laughs] Basically.
GW: The video must have helped, too.
CHRIST: We shot footage for that video all over the world. A lot
of it was done at Irvine Meadows in California. But some of it
was shot in England and a couple of other places, maybe Scotland.
The editing is really good, but when you look at it, you'll
notice a change of clothes. Sometimes we have different shirts
on... except Glenn. [laughs] Yeah, that video came out really
well. We blew a big wad of dough on the Irvine Meadows show with
the big lights and all the cameras, the video truck, the remote
recording.... It was a big production.
GW: The first Danzig record was recorded in a way almost opposite
from the way that metal records were being done at the time.
CHRIST: It's very dry. It actually could have been recorded much
better than it was. The guitar sounds are horrible, the bass is
nonexistent, the snare is really distorted and the drum sound is
weak. Basically that record was just a way to get a band
together. I mean Glenn and Eerie [Vonn, Danzig's bassist] have
been together a long time. Chuck [Biscuits, Danzig's drummer] and
I had just joined and Rick Rubin played a big part in pulling
everybody together and making it sound like a band. Rick, at that
point, was trying to make everything sound like Back In Black. He
did that with The Cult record - a really flat drum sound and
clean, punchy guitars that were really tight-sounding, a minimal
amount of reverb, and a good loud vocal. That's pretty much what
he did with us.
GW: Danzig is viewed as a landmark album in metal and hard rock
CHRIST: I think it was the combination of songs. The way the band
looks at it is, we like a lot of the songs; we just don't like
the sound. We've been playing them live for so long now that we
like the way they sound better live than they do on that record.
That first record didn't sound like us. Maybe it did at the time,
but now we're more aggressive and not so stiff. That's a very
stiff-sounding record all the way through.
GW: The songs have become stronger over the years.
CHRIST: There are three songs off that album that I still like a
lot: "Twist Of Cain," "Mother" and "She Rides" - people still
love that one. You go into a strip club and you'll hear that song
- strippers all over the world love that one.
GW: Girls taking off their clothes to your music. It can't get
much better than that.
CHRIST: That's for damn sure. [laughs]
GW: Are you the last guy on earth to play a B.C. Rich?
CHRIST: [laughs] Some of the Slayer guys still play 'em. Seems
like in the last three years, B.C. Rich has kind of disappeared.
Ibanez is working on some stuff for me, but I'm still going to be
playing the Rich.
GW: What attracted you to that guitar in the first place?
CHRIST: The B.C. Rich posters with the naked chicks on 'em.
[laughs] You remember those posters? The headstock fit right up
between the chicks' legs. Then there was the killer blonde
holding the black guitar, and she had a little B.C. Rich necklace
between her boobs in her cleavage. Oh man, that was the start of
it for me. I thought, "These guitars are great!" So I worked for
about a year at some stupid steak house to save up the money to
get the guitar. I never did learn how to use preamps and
everything. Eventually, after I joined Danzig and did the first
record, I disconnected all that microwave shit and put in some
PRS pickups. Just last year I finally refretted it and changed
the Kahler. I've been playing that guitar for 11 years.