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METAL MANIA, p.25-27, Spring 1989

by Mariana Zogbi

  Danzig is a) a person, Glenn, the charismatic singer who fronted seminal
punk/metal bands, the Misfits and Samhain. b) a band, whose eviscerating
(look it up!) sound has been compared to The Doors, Black Sabbath, and The
Cult, but whose style is completely its own. c) an LP, produced by studio
whiz Rick Rubin (Beastie Boys, Slayer), that's currently sending shivers up
and down the spines of delighted listeners everywhere. d) all of the above
  Clever readers will know that, as with most multiple choice quizzes, the
answer is "d." Actually, Danzig is all of the above and more.  The very
word has become synonymous with power and darkness, as in grimly potent
music, forcibly sinister lyrics.  Not a pretty sound, Danzig is a musical
force to be reckoned with.  You might react with a grimace; you may find
yourself grinning wickedly.  You won't shrug.
  After being warned by an assistant to a noted photographer that Glenn
Danzig was "difficult" and "a strange guy," I was surprised and relieved
to find him soft-spoken, cooperative and not without a sense of humor (hell,
he laughed at my jokes) for this interview.  He is, however, very serious
about his music and its accompaniments.  At the moment, he's highly
displeased with MTV's refusal to air "Mother," the first video from his
band's debut album.  "It's done like a 1930s German black and white
Expressionistic horror film and I thought it was pretty tame.  With my
background, I could have done something really wild." The video features
some "controversial" images: a chicken being sacrificed, blood, religious
symbols (crosses, a pentagram.) Glenn points to other, worse (to him)
images that are shown on MTV.  "It really pisses me off because they'll
show Freddy Krueger, his bones, and the dog comes over and pisses on his
bones and all of a sudden, his skin comes back and his guts." (promo for
Nightmare On Elm Street, IV.) Perhaps it's the fact that Freddy Krueger,
to most folks, is a big joke, a monster they can almost view with affection.
Danzig's music, like its video, isn't funny at all.  It's fierce, blistering
rock n' roll, led by Glenn's passionate, chill-inducing vocals. His lyrics,
frighteningly intense images of doom, convey their bleak messages with an
eerie grace and intelligence.  It's quite a contrast to Glenn's first
"serious" band, the Misfits, who sang such amusing ditties as "Mommy, Can I
Go Out And Kill Tonight?" and "Braineaters," which, though grisly, had to be
taken somewhat lightly. (Maybe he wasn't kidding around all that time???)
  The New Jersey-based Misfits were a late 70's/early 80's outfit that
caught the ears of such discriminating listeners as Metallica, who later
paid tribute by covering "Green Hell" and "Last Caress." In 1983, Glenn
disbanded the Misfits and formed Samhain, taking bassist Eerie Von with him.
"We wanted to do different, more serious, better songs." Like the Misfits,
Samhain enjoyed a strong cult following.  By 1986, however, it was time
again for a change.  With new members John Christ on guitar and the
celebrated (Circle Jerks, Black Flag, D.O.A.) Chuck Biscuits on drums, plus
a new record deal with Rick Rubin's Def American label, Samhain evolved into
Danzig.  Says Glenn, "This band is the first real band.  In Samhain, I was
playing guitar parts and drum parts, and we. had a guitar player and
drummer... (Danzig) are all real musicians, dedicated musicians.  John is
an incredible guitarist." Live, they're something else. (This band opened
for Slayer and got encores!) "One thing I've always been into is treating
the live show as people paying to be entertained.  They should get a good
show." Apart from being a memorable evening for the audience, "I want it to
be an experience for me.  I don't want to go out there and just sing the
same song every night and just go through the paces." In-concert, Glenn
works himself into quite a state.  He describes his onstage awareness
thus, "You get into your own thing and you see the people there.  You know
they're there, you know what's going on, but at least for me, I'm really
psyched up, I'm like (bulges eyes, clenches fists and teeth.) It could
be dangerous, but it could also be a lot of fun." Fun is something not
unknown to Danzig who recently toured England with Metallica. Suffice to
say, members of both bands raised a bit of offstage hell in some places,
and a good time was generally had by all.
  Vocally, Glenn considers Elvis, Jim Morrison and Bill Medley his main
influences.  He expects some people to be surprised by his third choice,
but anyone who's ever heard the Righteous Brothers' "You've Lost That
Lovin' Feeling" with Medley's soulfully passionate crooning will recognize
that same stirring quality in Glenn's voice. Band-wise, The Doors and Blue
Cheer were early influences, as was the almighty Black Sabbath. "The first
really important record I bought besides Blue Cheer, was the first Sabbath
album.  I just bought it on a whim because it was "Black Sabbath," the name,
and this girl was on the cover in a witch's hood." Even then, young Glenn
was drawn to things of a, ahem ... spiritual nature.  Two books that have
captured his interest lately are "The Forgotten Books Of Eden" and "The Lost
Books Of The Bible." Explains Glenn "These are real chapters from the
original bible, taken out by the Hebrews and the Christians put them back
in, and then they took them out because it didn't fit in with their new
Christian ideology and their vision of Christ." Needless to say, the books
contain some very interesting and not altogether flattering passages that
challenge basic tenets of Christianity as we know it.  Glenn is not thrilled
with present religious institutions, citing their repressive effects that
can later erupt into violence and insanity.
  "It may be good in the formative years, but the way religion is now, I
don't think so.  You'd be better off teaching your kids what they need to
know, like a universal right and wrong." Besides books on religion, Glenn
likes to read true murder cases.  "The more gruesome, the befter.  The more
details they leave in, the better. The more photographs, the better." He
names as some of his favorite movies The Howling, Company Of Wolves,
Excalibur and The Omen movies, "especially The Final Conflict. That's one
thing I'd like to do, direct Omen 4, if someone would come up with the
bucks." (Potential backers can contact Glenn c/o Def American Records.) He's
also interested in scoring soundtracks, especially for horror movies.  He
has already sung on a major soundtrack, namely the title track to Less Than
Zero, which he co-wrote with Rick Rubin, and also had the honor of writing a
song for Roy Orbison ("Life Fades Away") for the same soundtrack. The
multi-faceted Mr. Danzig would also like to write a few books someday.
  Right now, Glenn is happy with his band.  "Yeah, there are other things I
want to do, but I want to do this for a long time.  I could have stopped a
long time ago if I wanted." But he didn't, thank heavens, or whatever place
spawned this guy (oh yeah, New Jersey.) Glenn expressed doubts about living
to a ripe old age, but one gets the feeling that he'll be around for a
while, jolting jaded listeners with his infernal visions.