Metal trailblazer Glenn Danzig lighting new fires
Glenn Danzig hit the road this summer for a monthlong tour that ends at Brooklyn Bowl July 31, with his band’s latest album Skeletons—a covers collection—months away from being released. Danzig’s undaunted though; this was the right time to play live, and after producing a Danzig Legacy performance video that’s part tribute to Elvis Presley’s ’68 Comeback Special, the founder of punk/hardcore-era legends The Misfits has a tank of inspiration fueling his latest career arc.
I read a July 2010 interview in which you said “I won't do some stupid Pro Tools record in someone’s living room where all the drum beats are stolen.” What did it take to get you motivated to record again?
Yeah, I don’t record like that. I don’t sit in someone’s living room recording records, you know what I mean? On a fucking Pro Tools system. I want to go into a real studio with real boards. I want a real studio recording. That’s what I do.
Is Skeletons the first time since 2010’s Deth Red Sabaoth that you put together a recording session?
I don’t to it all at once. I do it over a period of time.
So it was done in phases?
How did you decide on what the selections were going to be for Skeletons? It’s pretty eclectic, and even esoteric in some ways.
I just start thinking of what songs I want to record, especially for the covers record. What do I want to cover? Can I bring a new element to it? Can’t just be songs I like. It’s got to be songs I like and that I think I can give a new direction to, and bring a new dimension to.
I was not able to obtain the full track listing before the interview, and I didn’t recognize a few of the songs among the ones I was aware of. I looked up the Troggs’ “Girl Like You” and I was like “I know that song!” So you’re kind of breathing new life into some of these covers, I imagine.
That’s my attitude with covers. Unless you’re going to do something different with it and give it a new life, like you said, or give it a new dimension, leave it alone. It’s going to be judged against the original anyway. If you just try to record it exactly like the original, everyone’s just going to like the original better because they’ve heard it a million times. Also, why cover it if all you’re going to do is just cover it? At least that’s my opinion, and that’s why if I’m going to cover a song, I’m going to give it a new life, new dimension, new feeling. Do something different with it.
I read the ZZ Topp song title (“Rough Boy”) and had forgotten what song that was. I listened to that, too, and then remembered it. It’s a ballad! I can easily hear your voice singing that song.
Yeah, it’s a cool song. I always thought it was treated like a throwaway song on that record (Afterburner, 1985) and it’s the standout song to me, you know? I like that more than the other ones, so I thought I could do something really cool with it. You’ll hear it. Have you heard it yet?
I have not had access to it yet. Do you know when it’s going to be released?
We were hoping to get it out in the summer but I guess the summer’s too crazy, so we’re going to be releasing it in September.
But you’re going to be bringing some of these songs into your set for the tour.
Yeah, radio’s going to get a three- to five-song sampler in the summer. People will be hearing it in the summer.
OK, I’m familiar with “A Girl Like You,” the Everly Brothers’ "Crying in the Rain." There’s also Black Sabbath’s “N.I.B.” and the ZZ Topp song. Are there any others you can mention?
The Elvis cover of course. It wouldn’t be a Danzig covers record unless there was an Elvis and a Sabbath track. You already mentioned “N.I.B.” and the Elvis cover I did was “Let Yourself Go.” There’s two biker movie theme songs from the old A.I.P. (1950s-1970s low-budget, independent film company American International Pictures) movies that I covered, “Devil’s Angel” and “Satan’s Sadists.” Then there’s a Rascals’ cover on there, an Aerosmith cover. A lot of people have been like, “Wow, this is all over the place,” but it gives insight into some stuff that I listen to.
Now, you mainly worked with Tommy Victor and the drummer for Type O Negative for this recording?
Johnny Kelly. Johnny Kelly used to be the drummer in Type O Negative. Tommy or course has been playing with Danzig since 1996. We have a long history together.
Obviously you enjoy working with him, but can you describe the dynamic between you?
Yeah, you know what? I think it’s a mutual respect. To me he’s the most underrated guitar player out there. He’s incredible. He’s just … I would put him in my top five, and in my top five is Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page, ok? (laughs). He’s in my top five, and I’m really picky about guitar players. He’s just a virtuoso. He’s incredible.
I agree. I had the good fortune to meet him at two Prong (Victor’s band) concerts. Up to that point I had never met a more down-to-earth guy in the music business.
I’ve known Tommy through … not all of his phases but most of his phases, and he’s just like you said. Down-to-earth, really nice guy you can get along with. At least I get along with him. We’ve both experienced the music industry for just about the same amount of time, so we have a lot in common.
Did you know him during CBGB/Max’s Kansas City days?
No, actually The Misfits never played at CBGB. We did three audition shows. They never paid us, never gave us billing, and we moved to Max’s Kansas City where they gave us billing and they paid us, and made us the house band. That’s really the scene The Misfits made it out of, Max’s Kansas City not CBGB.
Yeah, Tommy was the sound engineer at CBGB, so I thought you might have met while running in the same circles.
When Tommy was the sound engineer over at CBGB, I think the Misfits was already breaking up and I was doing Samhain.
He’s a really great fit. His style already included pinched harmonics that characterize your older Danzig material, but as a musician, yeah, I agree he’s one of the most underrated guitarists and I think, on the tour, people that hadn’t seen you (playing with Victor) before are going to pick that up.
He’s also really good onstage too. Like you say, he’s a seasoned vet. There’s nothing like being on the road and being on tour, and getting that experience.
What kind of presentation are you planning for this tour? Are you going no-frills or do you have a theatrical concept?
What do you mean “theatrical concept”?
Well, is it somewhere …
Danzig goes out, and we’re trying to do some of those songs we covered on the record, which we will. We’ll pick at least three or four we could do. We’re trying to get a nice selection of older and newer Danzig songs everyone wants to hear, which is difficult because there are so many records. And we’re going to go out there and just explode the stage.
It’s going to be all about the music.
About the music and making everybody lose their minds.
I saw you on the first Danzig tour, and it was one of the most hard-hitting shows I had ever seen. Still is. It was so powerful it made a permanent impact on me as far as what a live show needs to be in hard rock music.
If you haven’t seen us since ’88-’89, you should go to this show (laughs). People are more insane, though. You’re really going to have a good time.
Are you comfortable with this touring schedule? It’s not long but there are a lot of shows.
I don’t really tour that often. Last time I toured the States was two years ago, and so this should be OK. I think I’ll be able to handle it. I don’t really like touring anymore. I like being onstage of course, going crazy, but the rest of it, you know, sitting at a bus stop, sitting around for 18 hours a day, it’s not fun.
A lot of musicians tell me they make most of their money playing live nowadays. It’s that a problem for you, not liking to tour extensively?
Nah, it’s not about money for me, you know? Obviously you have to pay your bills and stuff. Everyone has them, especially as you get older. A lot of responsibilities, a lot of bills. It’s not about that for me. If it was, I’d be on tour constantly. I’d rather go out the way I do it and enjoy going out there. This way, people get what they paid for. They get a great show. If you’re just out there and you do it by the numbers to get a paycheck, people will see that.
How much do you split your time between music and comic book publishing? Before you got the momentum going with this latest arc in your music career were you putting a lot more emphasis on comics and other interests?
No, it’s about the same. I probably spend more time on music than I do on the comic company.
Are you happy with how your Legacy special came out? Are we going to see that released some time in the future?
I know you can’t watch it on Vimeo anymore so hopefully we’ll can try and work a deal with somebody to try and put it out on DVD. That would be cool.
It was a great idea and it came off well.
Yeah, Mark Brooks, the guy that does (Adult Swim animated show) Metalocalypse, it was his idea, and he came up to me with it. I thought it was also a good idea, and we ended up doing it. I’m happy with the way it came out.