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Musician, p.38-45, August 1994

By Jon Young

   He sits in a dark hotel room in Secaucus, New Jersey on a warm
spring afternoon. He is wearing black. He is always wearing
black, except for the massive tattoo on his massive left arm:
"WOLFS BLOOD" reads the inscription (in blue and red), under
which are renderings of various skeletal creatures and a vampire
bat. Yet his features are surprisingly soft: the thin dark hair
that splays toward his shoulders, the frown that strives to seem
menacing but just as often suggests a pout, the speaking voice,
somber but thoughtful as he quietly makes a point.
   "If I take Satan or a murderer, and put him in a song, all of
a sudden I'm supposed to be that person. Whatever happened to
literary license?"
   Who is this guy? In an age of instant celebrity, where the
lines become ever more sharply drawn between the cynically fake
and the achingly sincere, Glenn Danzig remains a figure of
intrigue, and an enigma. His public persona is at once cartoonish
and emotionally naked, his messages cryptic and clear, his band's
music gutbucket primal and subtly sophisticated. Inhabiting that
strange nether space between boomers and genXers, punk and pop,
metal and melody, caveman and crooner, he grabs hold of the
spotlight and sucks it into the black hole of his inscrutable
self. He is, perhaps, rock's last mystery man.
   It's a testimony to the power of his hellish visions of
Danzig, man and band, has inspired adulation and antipathy over
the course of six years, three LPs and last year's
THRALL-DEMONSWEATLIVE EP, which contained the breakthrough hit
"Mother." Backed by brutish henchmen John Christ (guitar), Eerie
Von (bass) and Chuck Biscuits (drums), the singer spins dark,
angry tales like "Twist of Cain," "Snakes of Christ," "How the
Gods Kill" and "Am I Demon" with grim panache. As the players
grind out brusque, bluesy hard rock, he conjures a spectre of
blood, vengeance and supernatural possession in a deep,
authoritative voice that prompts comparisons with Jim Morrison.
   Given his fondness for otherworldly jive, it's not surprising
that Danzig has been suspected even of Satanism, and that some
have been frightened away by the group's aura. He recounts with
amusement how one prominent producer was too scared to work with
the group. Yet he shrugs off opportunities to explicate his
image. "With this band, what you see is what you get," he smiles,
deftly revealing nothing. Asked if he objects to being turned
into a devilish caricature by the press, which is likely to occur
with increasing frequency as Danzig infiltrates the pop
mainstream, he seems momentarily taken aback. "You know I never
really...," he says, then lets the thought go slack and shrugs.
"I can only go, 'Typical.'"
   The band's latest, DANZIG 4P, won't clear the air at all.
Featuring chillers like "When You Call on the Dark," "Goin' Down
To Die" (under consideration for Oliver Stone's NATURAL BORN
KILLERS) and "Invocation," which Glenn cheerfully describes as
"about a demon fucking somebody," the new album is a looser, less
stylized, more accessible work that's sure to build on the
popularity generated by "Mother." Pondering commercial success,
he admits, "I wouldn't mind. All of us have worked really hard,
and if we see something out of it, that'd be fine. But we're not
gonna write a song to get on the radio. We're not gonna change
what we do."
   Danzig takes "Mother" with a grain of salt, since the song was
six years old when the live EP version took off, and balks at
crediting the song for the band's steadily growing audience. "I'm
glad MTV played 'Mother,' but we had a loyal following already.
Actually, I'd rather have it happen like that than the way it
does with some bands, where MTV makes them. When they don't play
the videos anymore, their popularity is gone. Thank God that
won't happen to us. We got our fans the hard way, playing on
   Danzig, 35, had been doing that longer than some of his
video-come-lately fans might surmise. In some ways he's the
prototypical Jersey Guy, replete with muscles and plodding work
ethic--the Bizarro World Springsteen. He went to high school in
nearby Lodi from the late '70s to mid-'80s, he led the Misfits, a
respected New York punk band that put out records on its own
label, called Plan 9 in a nod to bad-movie auteur Ed Wood. "I'm
reticent to talk about that stuff, because it was a long time
ago. It should have been discussed when it pertinent," he says
dismissively, as if trying to wipe away track from his past.
Still, he admits the group "was a lot of fun, although eventually
it became very limiting"--partly because Glenn could sing
melodies, a talent rarely in demand among punks.
   Nearer to Danzig's heart was his next group, Samhain, named
for a Celtic ritual. Including bassist Eerie Von, another Lodi
alumnus, Samhain was "a coming of age, a deeper approach to
music" that laid the groundwork for his current band. Samhain
toured constantly, attracting up to 2000 people a night and
generating a buzz at the 1986 New Music Seminar in New York.
Following a midnight set, Danzig recalls, "we were talking to
some labels in the dressing room after the show, and this wild
card shows up, saying, 'You guys were incredible! I want to sign
your band!' I didn't know who he was. He looked like somebody
from ZZ Top."
   He was Def American honcho Rick Rubin, who'd signed Slayer at
the same venue one year before. Danzig came by Rubin's office on
lower Broadway to learn more. "The company was still a
street-level company and he was running it out of his loft
apartment, which was a typical New York place: garbage
everywhere, stacks of records tipped over, phones ringing
constantly, speakers blasting. It was pretty cool.
   We went out had some pizza, walked around town. He told me he
saw us as a real band, not trendy band, and though we could get
little more focused, he thought we had more to say than some
groups. I liked that."
   So Samhain became Danzig, and Rubin and Glenn set about
sharpening the focus. Out went the deadwood and in came drummer
Chuck Biscuits, a veteran of punk institutions Black Flag and the
Circle Jerks, and guitarist John Christ, who was knocking around
Baltimore in bar bands while pursuing a music degree. The lineup
hasn't changed since.
   Not that everyone's real chummy. There's obvious friction
between Danzig and Christ, a tension that's been great for the
band's musical vision, but hasn't exactly bonded their
relationship. Control is essential to Glenn, who writes the songs
alone and tells the others how to play, even the lead guitarist.
"As far as John's ideas, I don't know of any ideas he has," he
says baldly. "I write most of the guitar parts--always have, in
every band. You might see that as control. I see it as more of a
producer's role. Sometimes John does a bunch of different lead
tracks and I piece them together. It's like conducting."
   Others might think such dominance reflects a lack of
confidence in his players. "We're not concerned with what some
people think," he shoots back. "We know what works for the band.
If someone wants to get his rocks off in a different way, he goes
   Love or loathe the music, there's no denying Danzig can strike
a nerve. The horror-movie stuff is amusing enough, if you're
attuned to the flamboyant excesses of "Hellraiser" or "Texas
Chainsaw Massacre." But he's also adept at evoking the confusion,
frustration and disappointment of mundane life. From "Mother"'s
invitation to an intimidating new world of adult experience, to
the furious assault on mainstream religion in HOW THE GODS KILL's
"Godless," to the new "Can't Speak," a stunning depiction of
helpless desperation, Danzig throws an emotional life preserver
to those who feel overwhelmed or unloved, letting them know
they're not alone.
   He isn't surprised that his listeners, especially younger
ones, relate to his evocations of rage and loneliness. "Most kids
are really frustrated. They're living under things I didn't have
to live under when I was a kid, like AIDS and guns in school. We
had guns and knives in school, but not 9mm's. It wasn't like
today. Why do you see so many people end their lives so young?
Life looks bleak now."
   He describes his own upbringing as stormy. "I wasn't a nice
kid, but I wasn't the worst kid. The worst kids I knew are now
dead or in jail. I could have been one of them if I'd made the
wrong decision. I ended up on that road on a number of occasions
and had to steer myself back."
   What made the difference? "Who knows? Maybe a force that you
don't know about. I believe in controlling your destiny, but you
hit crossroads where you have to make the ultimate decision.
Destiny will try and take you in certain direction, but you've
gotta help it along." Today, he says, "I definitely believe in a
yin and yang, good and evil. My religion is a patchwork of
whatever is real to me. If I can draw the strength to get through
the day from something, that's religion." And the supernatural
stuff? "There are definitely forces at play that people could
tune into, but don't. If you think that all that exists is what
you see here, you're not seeing it all.
   "Religion is such a big part of the world," he goes on more
philosophically. "It's caused some great things and some terrible
thing. It motivates people to commit murder, to commit actions
normal-thinking people wouldn't do. So any time you question
religion, you're sticking a piece of metal in the spokes,
stopping the wheel from turning. You want people to reevaluate
things and think for themselves, and they want you to stop
thinking before you realize it's all bullshit. If I accuse the
Catholic church of genocide--and we have history to back it
up--they don't want that known."
   Does he really believe "they," meaning the powers in control,
are monitoring what Danzig says?
   "You better believe they are! That's why they'll try to write
me and other people off as Satanists. You lose credibility if
you're a cartoon character. If they'd found a way to market us
like they did a lot of the alternative bands, nobody would be
scared of us."
   Informed that MUSICIAN stands to lose advertising for putting
Danzig on its cover, he seems momentarily surprised, then
grumbles, "That's typical of America, a repressive society
bordering on a fascist society. That's covert censorship, where
people don't know that things are being censored around them."
   Danzig espouses an elaborate network of theories, some of
which will be familiar to conspiracy buffs, to explain our
screwed-up world. But we digress. He's equally passionate about
music. "I like so many different singers. Roy Orbison [who
recorded Danzig's 'Life Fades Away' for the LESS THAN ZERO
soundtrack], Bill Medley, Johnny Cash, of course. I remember as a
kid being in a record store and seeing this Cash album. He had a
guitar slung over his shoulder, a scar on his chin and he was all
in black. Even then I could tell he had been through some shit.
There was a rebelliousness there that you knew wasn't hype."
   He was understandably delighted when the Man in Black included
Danzig's "Thirteen" on his recent AMERICAN RECORDINGS, produced,
not so coincidentally, by Rick Rubin. Glenn beams, "I wrote
another song for him recently and he liked it too."
   Elvis Presley also rings Danzig's bell. "Eerie's the big Elvis
fan, but I really like his voice. For me, the best record is the
Memphis record, when he had to prove he wasn't a joke. The Sun
stuff is good, but his voice is better on the Memphis record.
There's real maturity there."
   As for comparisons to others singers, he says, "The Morrison
thing I can see. Orbison, maybe, in some of the phasing. Howlin'
Wolf would be more accurate than all of them, 'cause I don't
think any of those other guys ever screamed the way I scream, and
Howlin' Wolf did."
   Danzig's got other irons in the fire these days. A comics
fanatic, he's starting his own company, beginning with a book of
illustrations by Frank Frazetta. "He's a very cool guy and he's
been dicked over by a lot of people. I'm gonna make sure he gets
paid." He speaks proudly of his friendship with the late Jack
Kirby, of "Fantastic Four" and "Captain America" fame, recalling
how he gave the legendary illustrator moral support in his legal
battles with Marvel. At the same time he seems oddly defensive
about his passion, taking pains to explain that he reads books,
   The phone rings, twice. The rest of the band is waiting on the
tour bus, ready for the soundcheck at the Garden State Art Center
a few miles down the turnpike in Holmdel. By the time Danzig
arrives at the open-air amphitheater, however, four hours before
their scheduled 8:30 p.m. set sandwiched between opening act
Suicidal Tendencies and top-billed Metallica, the odds of getting
a soundcheck are shrinking. With the doors scheduled to open at
6:00, the headliners are still sorting out their own mix,
scrambling to cope after seeing a digital system crash.
   Looking around the room dominated by Metallica's bustling
staff, which seems to be in a state of mild panic, he muses, "My
oldest brother--I have two older and one younger brother--used to
be a road manager, so I can see how much things have changed.
Back then a roadie just moved the equipment; there was no
high-tech stuff. Metallica has a 50- or 60-man crew. That used to
be audience," he laughs.
   I ask Glenn how his parents feel about his career. "When I was
a kid, they didn't want me to be in music. Now they're proud," he
says, adding that he got his dad an autographed photo of Johnny
Cash. Will the folks attend the show? "I won't let 'em," he says
tersely. "They wouldn't get it."
   Polishing off his greens, Danzig heads for the upstairs
dressing room. "We've gotta go over a new song we're gonna play
for Eerie's deceased uncle." The rest of the band mills around
the building, shooting the breeze with the worker bees and
schmoozers. In the tiny Danzig dressing room, where a modest
buffet of fresh fruit and candy bars brightens the scene, I grill
laconic drummer Chuck Biscuits.
   He scoffs at the likelihood of big-time success. "We'll see.
I've heard that so many times. People are expecting a big
explosion after 'Mother,' but it never seems to work that way."
He's happy with his contribution to the new album, however. "I've
had problems with the drum sounds on previous records. They've
been too flat, too controlled. In the past, Rick has been into
that dry, tight AC/DC sound. This one was looser, with more
spaces, more noise--all the good shit I like."
   Chuck and Glenn go back to the days when Black Flag and the
Misfits shared a bill. Asked to compare playing behind Danzig and
former Flag frontman Henry Rollins, he snickers. "It's like the
difference between night and day. Henry doesn't really sing, does
he? This band has melodies."
   He feels closer to his current bandmates--some of 'em, anyway.
"Me and Eerie and Glenn have a certain amount in common because
we all collect toys and we were all punk-rockers. But we would
never have known John. We come from two totally different worlds.
When I was in punk bands, he was in heavy metal bar bands. If I'd
gone to Baltimore and met him on a bus, he and his friends
would've beat the shit out me."
   As we talk, a member of the Danzig crew decorates the dressing
room with brightly colored Elvis Presley tapestries, the kind
found at cheesy roadside souvenir stands, as well as a portrait
of Christ (Jesus, not John) with arms outstretched. Some zany
graffiti artist has drawn a cigarette in the Savior's hand.
   Glenn's oldest friend in the band, Eerie Von, is responsible
for the portable Elvis shrine. The two go back to the latter days
of the Misfits, when Eerie drummed with his own band, Rosemary's
Babies. Eerie switched to bass at Danzig's behest--"He said I had
too much personality and ought to be out front"--and hasn't
budged since, though he's lost some of his youthful zing over the
years. "I used to headband like a maniac, but now I have to wear
a back brace onstage. If I made a lot of sudden movements, I'd
probably kill myself."
   More than a dozen of Eerie's relatives are on the guest list
for this evening's show. "My Uncle Tony would have been here, but
he just died, which is a drag," he says softly. "He was a big fan
of the band and promoted us everywhere he went. But my crazy Aunt
Barbara, his wife, will be here. They've been behind me since I
started playing. They always said to me, 'You're gonna be big
some day.' If that ever happens, I'm gonna come back with a car
carrier full of Cadillacs and say, 'Pick your favorite one.'
There's a lot of people I'd love to do that for." Just like
   Does Eerie's family have a problem with Danzig's more gruesome
   "I told 'em to ignore that. My mom's pretty high up in her
church--I think she's an elder--and I told her, 'You might hear
somebody say something bad about us, but you know what I'm
   Just before they're set to go on, Glenn storms into the
dressing room to rally the troops. "We're doing our full set and
if anyone wants us offstage, let them come and get us! You guys
know we're doing 'Goin' Down To Die' for Uncle Tony, right?
   "All right, let's do Eerie's relatives proud!"
   Despite no soundcheck, the show cooks. Limited to less than an
hour, Danzig storms through old stuff like "She Rides" and, of
course, "Mother," and a few new ones, including the first-ever
live rendition of "Goin' Down To Die," which he dedicates to
Uncle Tony. The crowd may be there mainly to see Metallica, but
Glenn and his posse compel their attention.
   Back in the dressing room after the encore, Glenn is
shirtless, drenched in sweat and feeling cranky. "All I could
hear was Chuck's cymbals and Eerie's bass," he growls. "I didn't
hear much guitar or snare. There wasn't much beat for me to get
into. It sounded like shit!
   "All in all, I guess it could have been worse. We're real
critical of ourselves," he adds, accenting the obvious.
   As the room empties, guitarist John Christ agrees to talk. The
"serious" musician in Danzig, the quiet Mr. Christ--a surname
bestowed by his disrespectful mates--is the odd man out. Sitting
apart from the others on the bus, he's the one who perks up when
the new Boston album comes on the radio. Where the others went to
school on punk, John admits, "I like the guitar gods, even the
ones nobody else likes such as Yngwie Malmsteen. I grew up in the
era of Ted Nugent, Angus Young, Frank Marino, Eddie Van Halen,
Tom Scholz. That's what I wanna hear; that's what I wanna write."
   There's no room for that kind of flash in Danzig, though.
Glenn won't permit extended solos and dictates what the guitarist
plays [see sidebar]. Asked if the lack of freedom is frustrating,
John concedes, "It used to be. But it doesn't bother me anymore.
If I do a good job and everybody's happy, fine. It's not my band.
I have to keep reminding myself, 'It's not my band. It's not my
band. It's not my band...'
   "When I first joined the group, I was so technical they'd
laugh at me. I had to completely restructure the way I played. I
got really raw and dissonant, stopped playing complete scales,
made sure I dropped notes at weird intervals. I'll practice for
hours and hours before entering the studio, then Glenn will say,
'Too much. Play fewer notes.' He likes the talking guitar stuff,
bluesy string-bending, things like that."
   Having written TV promo music for ABC, Christ is looking for
more work in that vein, and pursuing soundtrack gigs. Then,
record of his own. "I want to do an EP first, and see how it goes
from there. It'll be a totally different vibe--my own thing. I
need to do something in my own style," he says, sounding almost
desperate. "If everyone hates it, fine, but at least I'll have
gotten it out of my system."
   In the darkness outside Danzig's tour bus, Eerie's Aunt
Barbara runs up to Glenn, gushing thanks for the dedication to
her husband. If the sight of this middle-aged woman in a Danzig
T-shirt sharing a hug with the Master of Darkness seems odd, so
be it. Glenn Danzig unselfconsciously embodies many such
contradictions, portraying primal villains yet remaining
scrupulously polite to awed fans, reveling in sensationalism
while encouraging audiences to look beyond the obvious,
simultaneously projecting empathy and paranoia.
   It's all part of the eternal wonder of rock'n'roll, where nice
boys project scary shadows and vice-versa. With Danzig, more than
most, what you see is up to you. That's the way he wants it.


   JOHN CHRIST's main guitar is a 1983 B.C. Rich Rich Bitch,
strung with custom D'Aquisto strings. "It's a freak, a really
good-sounding B.C. Rich," he says. "When they were originally
coming out, they were loaded with DiMarzio Super Distortions,
which was the style at the time. But the sound was a little bit
too hot, so I loaded it up with some Paul Reed Smith pickups, and
all of a sudden, that guitar came to life."
   The Bitch goes through a Custom Audio 4x4 Audio Controller
(with a Boss GE-7 seven band graphic EQ in the effect loop,
integral to Christ's sound) on its way to a VHT Pitbull built by
Stevie Freyette. "It has a really strong low end and good, full
power," he observes. The 4x4 is connected to a Rocktron
Patchmate, a switcher/processor that handles audio routing to
Christ's effects, channel switching for his amp, noise reduction
and pedal-activated volume control.
   A Custom Audio RS-10 MIDI Foot Control Pedal controls the
Patchmate, allowing Christ to switch in and out of Boss SE-70 and
Rocktron Intelliverb multieffect units. Audio outputs from the
effects are routed (via the Patchmate) to a Custom Audio Dual
Stereo Mini Mixer whose stereo outputs are fed to a two-channel
VHT 2150 power amp.
   Reproducing the sound of the Pitbull and the 2150's stereo
output requires three cabinets, each loaded with four Celestion
Vintage 30 speakers. Onstage, Pitbull's sits in the center,
flanked on either side by the wet stereo mix. A tap on the foot
controller can change Christ's sound from a dry mono blast to an
echoing cathedral. "I can program in sounds for HOW THE GODS KILL
and make it sound almost exactly like the record," he says. "I
just have to hit one switch there, and boom! The changes are as
tight as can be."
   EERIE VON plays a Fender Jazz Bass strung with D'Addarios,
plugged into an Ampeg amp paired with an SVT speaker cabinet.
   Gripping Promark sticks, CHUCK BISCUITS pounds away on a
'70s-era Ludwig kit with a Ludwig piccolo snare drum and Zildjian
Earthride cymbals.
   GLENN DANZIG sings through whatever mike is available.

By J.D. Considine

   Playing guitar with Danzig is a fairly simple matter, says
John Christ. All you have to do is understand what Glenn Danzig
doesn't like and work around it.
   For instance? "If it sounds too normal, he doesn't like it,"
explains Christ. "If it sounds too rock'n'roll, he doesn't like
it. If it sounds too happy, he doesn't like it."
   Which leaves--what? "The guitar parts in Danzig are all very
simple," he explains. "But once the basic idea is there, then I
make it Danzig--which means an extra chord change here and there,
short fills to break up the parts, and some of the artificial
harmonic things in single notes and in the chord structure with
some sustained feedback thrown in, to make the individual parts a
bit more interesting and full."
   Things start with Danzig's demos, which are, erm, basic.
"Well, the way he did it this time, he'd have a song on one of
those little microcassette recorders, just his voice going
duhnn-duhnn-duhduhduh-DUHNN-duhnn-duhduhduh--you know, stuff like
that. Then he and I would sit there guitars; once we got one or
two guitar parts, Eerie and Chuck would come in, and they'd kinda
start jamming to it. We do a lot of mid-tempo songs," he notes.
"Danzig likes to go from really soft to really loud. We like the
big power that comes when everything is crashing in."
   But the band can throw curves. "On 'Son of the Morning Star,'
we actually start out with jazz chords and a funky jazz beat. All
of a sudden, we kick into this heavy riff pattern. Then we come
back to the original jazz feel, but in a rock version. It's nice
for me, because out of all this powerchord stuff, there's some
real harmony going on."
   Christ, it turns out, is a harmony fiend. Glenn, of course, is
not. "Once in while, he'll throw in harmony vocals, but it's not
like Alice in Chains, where it's built on that minor-third vocal
harmony sound. Also, when you get into powerchords, it's hard to
inject a whole lot of harmony."
   So Christ opts for color instead. "The parts that I do are
almost afterthoughts, to highlight some of the implied keys and
harmonies that do exist. Slightly dissonant harmonies are what
work with Danzig, usually 7ths and 4ths. I'll also throw in some
dissonant type of patterns--half- steps, weird diminished 5th
intervals. Every record, we have a 5th in there somewhere. 'Brand
New God,' from the new album, is the same thing; that B to D to B
to the F is the tritone that gives it that sound. So there are a
lot of weird things in there."
   Except in the solos, which are generally straight pentatonic
blues. "It doesn't always start out that way, but that's really
Glenn's favorite style. Sometimes I'll play the blues scale, and
put in variations which imply different modes that apply to the
chord structure, just so you'll hear something different. It's
funny because when I see people transcribe some of the solos,
they'll say, 'Well, here he shifted to such-and-such mode.'"
Christ laughs. "No, I just played a couple half-steps in between.
But you can notate it anyway you want."