Danzig: Blackest of the Black - Interview with Glenn Danzig
Danzig decides to take a break after his tour concludes in October.
If there's one thing you can say about Glenn Danzig, it's that he does things his own way—not because he's some Gothic Satanist or scythe-wielding demonic brute, as his detractors make him out to be, but rather because he's intelligently examined his options and decided not to pay attention to mainstream dogma simply so he can blend in.
This attitude has served him well throughout his career but has also gotten him mistakenly labeled and pigeonholed. In fact, his music is no more Satanic or lascivious than an old blues tune. In some parallel universe, Danzig was right there beside Robert Johnson on that old Mississippi road.
Recently, the "Godfather of Punk," as he is sometimes known, sat down to reflect on his upcoming projects and give his thoughts on a variety of subjects from zoning ordinances to numerological theories. Initially, Danzig had gotten tied up and missed the original time for the interview but was kind enough to call back.
UnRated: How are things going?
Glenn Danzig:I had to deal with a bunch of shit and had to miss the interview by about 20 minutes. I've been dealing with the city on a bunch of crap like yard clean-up or something like that. Somebody wants to buy my property and they keep screwing with me. I've been trying to move but I keep getting sidetracked because of touring and recording, you know what I mean? I definitely want to get out of here. It's pretty tough.
UR: Why did you decide that the upcoming Blackest of the Black tour would be your last tour?
GD: I'm just tired of it. I've been doing it since I was a little kid, you know? So I just want to take a break and do
a lot of stuff I haven't done yet. I don't know if that makes sense. I've pretty much been doing the same thing for a really
long time. I just want to take a break and maybe in a couple of years I'll get whatever is in my system out of it and maybe
I'll come back and maybe I won't. Maybe I'll just do records and not tour. I always said whenever touring wasn't fun anymore
I wouldn't do it and it's starting to become not fun anymore.
UR: How do you pick the bands for the Blackest of the Black tours?
GD: First I just put a list together of the bands I like. I call certain people and see if they're interested, and if they are interested, if they're available during that certain time period. A lot of times, people are interested but they're scheduled to do something else. So you really have to do that and see what happens. I'm not going to be on next year's, but we're already planning a bill for next year.
UR: I'm assuming you've seen most of these bands before?
GD: I'm pretty familiar with all of them. I haven't seen Agony Scene yet but I like their record a real lot and I think it's a band that people should hear. It's pretty much like on a Danzig tour, I'll take out bands that I like and that I think people should hear. But on this, it's more like it has to be darker, and more extreme in different ways. Bands that have a really good following and I think people should hear, you know what I mean? I think that bands on this maybe don't get a lot of publicity or mainstream media.
UR: Did the reason for that come about because you wish there would have been somebody like you back when you were starting out?
GD: I wish there would have been. No one would take us out -- Misfits, Samhain, or Danzig. I think when we went out with Metallica in Europe, we had to pay to be on that tour. That's the way it was. It's not like that anymore really, but back in the day, nobody would let the Misfits open up for them, not the Ramones, not the Cramps, nobody. We were just a young
band starting out and I think they were scared. (laughs)
UR: Why do you think they were scared?
GD: Because they would have to go on after us! (laughs) It's the truth. I can't think of any other reason. And I've always vowed I would never do that. I know a couple of bands -- people I know -- and I know they won't take out really good bands because they don't want to be showed up as headline bands. I've always felt like I have nothing to worry about and in
fact, I want my bill to be great. I want people to go, "Wow, what a great bill." We always try to take out good bands. It may not be everyone's cup of tea, but we always think that there's going to be something on that bill that you're going to like. Some of the acts I've taken out over the years were White Zombie, Soundgarden, Marilyn Manson, Type O Negative, Disturbed. There's other bands, too. Godflesh, Six Feet Under. Lot of different bands. Opeth, they were on the first year (of Blackestof the Black); they're great.
UR: The first year was 2003 and then you had a year off, right?
GD: We didn't have the year off. What happened was last year we were scheduled to go out and we had the bill announced and then I had some problems with my manager and the booking agency that was doing it and I decided to just fire everyone when they screwed everything up. I hired new management -- I actually went back to my old booking agent who had off and on
handled Danzig for like 10 years. And now it's back on track and hopefully it will stay back on track. I got new management and it's going great. That's what happened there.
UR: So what do you envision for the future of this tour when you're not on it?
GD: It's going to stay pretty much the same. It's going to stay dark, heavy, and extreme. Hopefully we'll have a nice, eclectic mix of those sort of acts every year and hopefully we'll get enough support from the people who like this kind of music that we can become a yearly thing and grow and prosper in the face of mainstream adversity. So hopefully we'll become
not just my festival, but a festival for fans of this genre of music. That's really why I created this. For all of the bands like Danzig, Slayer, and Cradle of Filth who don't get any play. It's no coincidence that up until we did Blackest, the Ozzfest wouldn't touch any of these bands. And then the year after Blackest, all of a sudden half the bands we had on
Blackest were on the Ozzfest. That's great. We helped to change something, and that's fantastic. But I would still like to keep this for acts like Mortiis. He rarely comes over to the United States.
UR: Why do you think there's so much resistance to the kind of bands you have on the tour?
GD: There's a lot of resistance because they're not corporate bands, so they're much harder to control. So a lot of these bands don't come from that nu-metal corporate world. Eventually people have to start recognizing bands like this or otherwise they're going to get left behind. And I think that's why the Ozzfest started to add some of these bands. They don't
want to look like they're out of it, that they don't know what's going on out there.
UR: So what's going on with the movie, Ge-Rouge, that you're making?
GD: I'm in the middle of my third draft of the script. If you know how movies go, you hand in a script, the producers make some comments, you agree with some, you don't agree with others. And then you go back and do another draft, so I handed in the second draft and got some more comments, I went back and did a couple of other things, and added some stuff that I
wanted to add, and so I'll be handing in the third draft in a week or two, and hopefully that will be the one and we can go into pre-production, casting, set design.
UR: So you're working with Rainstorm Productions? What's their story?
GD: They did some horror movie with John Ritter before he died and a movie with one of the guys who was in Swingers. John Favreau, maybe? They're a young company. So what they do is go around and get distribution. They've been talking to
Lion's Gate and some other people. Everything looks pretty promising.
UR: Do you expect it come out in theatrical release?
GD: Yeah, it'll be a theater release.
UR: Do you have people in mind for it?
GD: Yeah, there are some people that I have in mind for it. Actually, my producers know one person that I have in mind for the main bad guy, the villain.
UR: That's the Papa John character, right?
GD: Yeah, how did you know that! And we've told this person that the part was actually written for him. So he's very excited and he wants to see the script so as soon it's done, we're going to get it to him.
UR: Who is it?
GD: Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs. He's in Cooley High, which is one of my favorite movies, and Welcome Back Kotter. He was also in the Jacksons mini-series; he played Joe Jackson, the dad.
UR: The storyline is pretty killer -- New Orleans, voodoo, zombies.
GD: I've added a bunch of stuff that's not in the comic to the movie. It's going to be pretty wild. There's an intro scene that's just really creepy. The only way I can explain it is that it's just really creepy.
UR: Are you thinking about shooting it in New Orleans?
GD: We'll film some of it in New Orleans, obviously, because you can't recreate those streets. I don't think there's a
back lot here in Hollywood anymore that has those streets, like a French Quarter. There's not many (things filmed in New Orleans). There was one Anne Rice thing, Feast of All Saints, that was kind of a disappointment. It was a Showtime series. It
was really bad, the voodoo was just thrown in there for like three seconds and it was so un-voodoo-y. It's really some kind of love story about the Creole balls. It was very unsupernatural.
UR: How did you get into that stuff?
GD: It's just stuff I've been interested in my whole life. Supernatural, different theologies. I've been involved in that since I was a kid. It's just part of what I do. So obviously, you should always write about stuff that you know about as opposed to what you don't know about. If you don't know about it, go and research more about it. God, I probably have about
30 books on New Orleans. I've been down there many times. I almost moved down there a few years ago. Have you ever been there?
UR: No, but it's spooky -- I'd like to.
GD: Go, because it's a city in America that's not like any other city. Walk around in the daytime in the French Quarter and eat and experience. At night, it's a little dangerous. There's a bunch of bars down there that have absinthe. Actually, I know a guy down there and when we play, he brings me a couple of bottles of absinthe because you can't buy it and
I get him into the show.
UR: You're familiar with Crowley's work?
GD: Some I like and some I don't. Obviously, he was at the forefront of a lot of stuff, but once he starts getting bogged down in all the dogma, it starts becoming stupid to me. That's exactly how I feel. It's the same thing with Anton LeVay and the Church of Satan, you know? As soon as it became some kind of church and rules, it became stupid.
UR: Does it piss you off when people call you a Satanist?
GD: No. You have to take that from the source. Most of those people don't have the brain of an earthworm. If a little kid comes up and calls you a name, are you going to be upset? No, because it's a little kid. And that's how I see it. You look at them, and their brain is the size of an infant and what they're saying is exactly what an infant would say and you laugh because it's stupid. You can't argue with stupid people because they're stupid! It's not an argument! You can try to be rational, but they're irrational. You're going to have to step down to their level, and then you're going to be stupid. You
just look at it and realize that these people don't know anything about anything.
UR: Given that you've always been independent and followed your own way, what do you think of the current state of affairs in our country?
GD: I see two retarded political parties in our country that don't represent the masses. The Democratic party has gone so far to the left that people just can't relate to it anymore and the Republican party is trying to go totally to the right. And I think that both parties are retarded. And it irritates me that there are only two parties vying for the presidency in this country. People don't realize that they're being played by the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, but more so by the Democratic Party because the Democratic Party does not want another party in there. They tried to discredit Ralph Nader this time, by saying you'd take a vote away from John Kerry. Who cares? There should be FIVE parties! People should have a real choice. If you're meant to win, you're meant to win -- no whining! When somebody wins, they win. If
they don't, they don't. That's the way this country was set up; it's called a democracy! If George Bush would have lost, the Democratic Party would have been so happy that we had an Electoral College. When they win, they're happy, and as soon as they lost, they said, "Oh, we have to get rid of this Electoral College." The bottom line is that both parties are in agreement
about one thing: They don't want a third, a fourth, or a fifth party in there. They want it Democratic and Republican. Both sides are corrupt, both sides are pieces of shit.
UR: So do you think the Green Party or the Libertarian Party ...
GD: I wish the Libertarian Party would get more play in the media but they don't. I think the Democratic Party has picked a lot of the wrong candidates, the kind that Middle America, or people who are more down the middle and more rational,
can't side with. I think that's been the problem.
UR: I'm crossing my fingers.
GD: As far as other countries go, I cross the world all the time and if you think it's bad here, go to other countries because it's really fucked up there. I'd say the only place that's maybe less fucked up is Japan. They don't have a lot of Christianity and a lot of Islam or any of the other crazy religions that have caused the wars. Wars have always started over
religion. Name me a war that hasn't started over religion. Bosnia? What was that about? Muslims vs. Christians. Every war, you know what I mean? Israel. World War II. Name it, name me about a war. It's all about religion, but what can you do? You just sit back and watch it.
UR: When you're writing songs, do you incorporate any of that?
GD: I do a lot of stuff. I'll base something on some kind of fact, theology, or something I've read about it. And then
I'll just go off with it. It's no real set thing with me.
UR: Is it the same way with the classical stuff, like Black Aria I and the upcoming Black Aria II?
GD: The classical stuff is easier because there's no vocals. Well, I shouldn't say no vocals because there are vocals, there's just not words. So writing a song is much harder than doing a classical piece for me, because in a classical piece, I can just let the mood dictate what's going to happen. But when you get to a song, not only do you have to do a vocal melody, you have to write words and not be redundant and make some semblance of a story.
UR: I've read you do all the writing, so how do you keep it fresh?
GD: I just try to put a new slant on it and expand on what I've already done. First, I try to stay true to myself and then I try to stay true to what people expect. Sometimes it works and sometimes it works better! You never know until it gets done.
UR: One thing I like about the Danzig records is that they're all like chapters in the same book.
GD: That's how I wrote it. Now, I don't know if they're so connected, but the first seven records are a numerological journey. 777, that's why the second record has 777 on it, just a hint of what's coming. When I tell people that I had it planned out from the beginning -- 777 was actually written before the second record came out and we played it on the first
tour. But it was always my plan to have the records come out like that and stop titling them like that after the seventh record. With Circle of Snakes, some people are calling it Danzig 8 but it's not. It's Circle of Snakes. The next record I'll do of more material is a dark blues record.
UR: With Jerry Cantrell, right?
GD: I think so. I don't know if his schedule is going to allow him to do it. We both want to do it, so I'm waiting a little while longer, but then I'll probably do it with someone else. I'm waiting for Jerry's schedule but I can't wait much longer. If that doesn't happen I'll maybe do it with someone else. I have a bunch of material written. Originally we were
both going to write some material and then write some together. So I kind of stopped at a certain amount of songs, but now I'm going to start writing some more songs. I know that I'm also going to be doing this lost tracks of Danzig record, which will have material from Danzig I up until now on it.
UR: Is this the record that everyone is talking about as the B-sides record?
GD: Yeah, but it's not really B-sides because they've never been released. I don't know why people are saying B-sides.
UR: People tend to pigeonhole your work, but I don't think that's accurate.
GD: My vocal style is very bluesy. There's nothing I can do about that; that's the way I like to sing.
UR: Have you had formal training?
GD: No. I learned just by singing. I never had anyone come in and teach me how to sing. I just started singing when I was a kid and here I am. When I was a kid, there was Elvis, and as far as my phrasing, that's Willie Dixon. There's a couple Jim Morrison things, Ozzy. That's my favorite band. To me, there is no Black Sabbath without Ozzy.
UR: Do you ever see yourself going back?
GD: People ask me all the time about a Misfits reunion. I can't see that happening. The thing I'm doing with Doyle is about as close as it will be. We're going to take it across the country and that's the closest people are going to get to it. The band going crazy, it's very pure, very simple, the energy on stage will be great. There won't be some guy in a crimson
ghost mask or cape running around on stage. The music speaks for itself, you know what I mean? And I think that's what people like about it. We had a blast last time. Doyle is a nice guy, easy to get along with. When I'm on stage, I love that time. I've always said that this wouldn't be my last tour if I could just mysteriously pop onto stage for my set and then be home. But that's not the reality. The reality is that you're on stage for two hours every night and the other 22 hours of the day, you're bouncing around on a bus or sitting around in a hotel room. It's boring and it's a drag and I'm kind of tired of it now.
UR: Do you ever play a local show unannounced?
GD: We kind of do that here in L.A. every three or four years. At the Whiskey. We usually don't advertise it, or just put the skull in the slot. One year we advertised it as Black Acid Devil was playing. You let some of your fans know about this private, little show. We do that kind of stuff. It was $6.66 to get in or a couple of times it was free at the Whiskey.
We did it in New York once, where we did a show at Irving Plaza for $1. The first people that got in, got in for $1. Usually if you give back to your fans, they'll remember it and support you.
UR: Are you working with Doyle on his new record?
GD: Yeah, he has a band called Gorgeous Frankenstein. He played me a bunch of the demos and it's really cool. He's
auditioning singers, and he's not really happy because he's really picky, but eventually he has to decide on one and then he
can start on those tracks and mix it and get it done. The cover's already done; I had Simon Bisley (Verotik comic
illustrator) do it and it's incredible. I'm hoping that next year, his band will be on Blackest of the Black. He's married to
a female wrestler; her name is Gorgeous George. And so she'll be on the stage doing all this crazy stuff.
UR: You've got a CD coming out, Black Aria II.
GD: I'm in the middle of switching my distribution. It's been done for awhile now. I'm just waiting to find out who
I'm giving it to. Everything stays on my label now so if I'm happy with my situation, I stay, and if I'm not, I just leave
and go somewhere else. So I'm not happy where I am now for distribution so I'm talking to a bunch of other people. I'm hoping
it comes out before Christmas, that would be the best. The first one, at least one movement on it was based on Paradise Lost
and the rest was Celtic stuff, but this one is based on (the Biblical story of) Lillith. It's a little different than the
first one. It's still dark and everything, but it's a lot more tribal; it has eastern drums on it and different stuff on it
here and there.
UR: Does other world music and film inspire you?
GD: I like old Italian horror movies and old and new Japanese horror movies. Especially the Japanese stuff because
their stuff is so creepy. They have such an aesthetic for horror. It's more creepy. Some of the stuff is so truly suspenseful
and terrific. The new stuff, and even the older black-and-white stuff is so slow and creepy, just builds this dark, creepy
feeling, whereas in America some of the stuff is not so creepy. It's typical of the American market, it's just like a
product, churn it out. Everything's the same except maybe they have a different monster. I like the blood-guts-gore stuff,
except I like the indie stuff not the studio stuff.
UR: What do you think of Rob Zombie's films?
GD: I haven't seen the new one, but the first one was definitely Rob's homage to that kind of stuff with his own twist
on it. That's my opinion. You can see in there all the old horror movies that he loved; they're all in there. But yeah, he's
doing good. He's doing what he wants to do and there's nothing better than that.
UR: Is there anyone influencing how you're approaching your movie?
GD: This movie isn't just going to be some gore-fest, but it's pretty gruesome. It's also my take on Once Upon a Time
in America meets New Orleans voodoo, so I'm approaching it from more of serious level than a schlocky level. There's
definitely going to be a ton of violence in it, but it's going to be real. I want people to see the movie and I want them to
either love it or hate it, but I want them to say, ‘It's pretty real,' there's nothing hokey about it. I'm hoping it turns
out half as good as I'm thinking it will; if it does, then I'll be happy.
UR: When I look at the DVD and listen to the songs, you must not only hear a song, you must see it as well?
GD: Sometimes. Some of the videos I don't direct, you know, and some of them I do. And then unfortunately, the ones I
get to direct, I'm always under a budget constraint. If it's one I direct, then you're only seeing about a tenth of what I
wanted to do. I try to do something that's interesting and that's with the budget I have. When we let Fred do the Cantspeak
video, we talked about a lot of stuff that was going to go on in there and unfortunately, some of the stuff I wanted to do
CG, he wound up doing claymation, and I thought it didn't look as good as I thought it would have with CG, and it wound up
costing way more with claymation. But anyway, I was still happy with the way it turned out and it wound up being a lot of
people's favorite video.
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