City Of Angels: Glenn Danzig

City Of Angels: Glenn Danzig

FOUNDER OF THE LEGENDARY PUNK ROCK BAND MISFITS, AND METAL BANDS SAMHAIN AND DANZIG, TALKS HIS NEW ALBUM, DIRECTING HIS FIRST FILM, AND THE BIGGEST CHANGES IN MUSIC

FOUNDER OF THE LEGENDARY PUNK ROCK BAND MISFITS, AND METAL BANDS SAMHAIN AND DANZIG, TALKS HIS NEW ALBUM, DIRECTING HIS FIRST FILM, AND THE BIGGEST CHANGES IN MUSIC

Photography: Hedi Slimane

Text: Natasha Stagg

Congratulations on the new album, Skeletons. How did you pick what songs to cover?

GLENN DANZIG It wasn’t that hard. Of course there were a lot of songs to pick through, but it really came down to that I have a direction and a vision.

It’s cool that you chose who you’ve said in the past are your ultimate idols, like Elvis Presley and Black Sabbath, but you didn’t go with their singles.  

GD Yeah, you know, a lot of artists would probably pick the big hits but to me, the more interesting songs are the songs that got looked over.

And the first two songs are themes from films.

GD Yeah, they’re biker movie theme songs. [The theme from the 1969 film Satan’s Sadists] sounds a little obscure, but if you’ve heard it, you’ll recognize it. But if you heard [the theme from the 1967 film Devil’s Angels,] my version is so much different.

Did you change any lyrics?

GD Pretty much what I tried to do was put my own stamp on it and take it in a new direction because that’s my attitude, if you’re doing covers: to either have something new to say with it or just leave it alone. When people have heard the original so many times and you try to copy it, people are just going to judge it against the original. To me that’s just like being a fan.

Do you consider some of these “skeletons” guilty pleasures, or did you at one point?

GD So, the skeletons thing. When I decided I was going to call the record Skeletons, it was on so many different levels—not just songs that you may or may not have thought that I listen to. A skeleton in some instances is like the foundation of something. A lot of times you’ll call the rough structure a skeleton, like the human body’s frame is a skeleton. And without Elvis and Black Sabbath, there wouldn’t be Danzig, that’s for sure.

Were there any “skeletons” you had to leave out?

GD There was a track that I did with Cherie Curry, but the publisher didn’t give us clearance for it. It’s a shame. And there’s an Ennio Morricone Spaghetti Western theme song I covered, but I didn’t like the way it came out at the end. Maybe I’ll play with it. Maybe it’ll get released on a B-side or on a deluxe package or something. We’ll see.

Had you worked with Cherie Curry before?

GD I hadn’t work with her before that, but then afterwards we closed out the Universal amphitheater before they destroyed it for a Harry Potter ride. [laughs] That was my favorite place to play in L.A. I’ve played there seven or eight times. But anyway, Cherie has always wanted to play there—she said that’s where she saw David Bowie for the first time, which made her decide she wanted to be a singer.  And then I asked her to come and do the show. She was like, “I can’t believe it, that’s great.” She did a great job. Her band was really good. She came out on stage and was the best one.

Do you consider yourself a big part of the scene that laid the first foundation for punk rock?

GD You know, there were so many people that were involved at the time and I think that there were people that were doing something a little different at the time, trying to take it in the wrong direction, and I think those people stood out, while the others—and other music—unfortunately, they get forgotten. I don’t know necessarily that it’s still out there because I hear bands that are supposed to be punk but don’t really get it. They’re like, “You’re just…whatever,” and I’m like, “Well you know what? I was there.” [laughs] That’s how I feel about it.  It’s not just the sound, it’s an attitude; it’s so many other things. It’s not just like, “Oh, I have a punk shirt on so I’m punk.” That’s not punk. Know what I mean? It was like an us against them thing back then. In many ways it still is. It hasn’t changed. Heavy metal music or whatever kind of music still gets dogged by everybody but people still steal stuff all the time.

Have you heard any good covers of Misfits or Danzig songs?

GD Jeez, I hear so many all the time. Some black metal bands have done some good Danzig covers, Misfits covers. I think of course my favorite is probably the early Metallica ones. It’s cool when someone takes it in a different direction—tries to remain faithful to it but screws it up at the same time.

I heard you’re directing a movie.

GD I’ve been trying to do the movie thing for a while but it finally looks like it’s really gonna happen, 2016. So that’s one of the things I’m clearing some time away for, to do that.

Are you in it?

GD No.

Is it straight-up horror?

GD Yeah, it’s gonna be horror. It’s based on one of the Verotika comics. I see so many terrible horror movies out now—people think they can just slap together a horror movie and people will watch it, unfortunately. But it’s like making any movie. Unless you really put your heart into it…Well, I’m going to definitely do my damndest. It’s going to be violent.

Do you identify with the Misfits now?

GD No, that was a time in my life, and I’m still proud of all the songs I wrote, and the stuff that I did, but I moved on with Samhain, and then for the last 25 years plus: Danzig. And it’s been successful for me, so I’m pretty happy about that, also.

Are the Misfits fans split between the Danzig Misfits and the Jerry Only Misfits?

GD I think the consensus is no one likes the new one, everyone likes the old one. [laughs] Look, I’m proud of what I did back then, but you know, that was back then.

How connected are you to the hardcore punk scene? You were coming from New Jersey, but a lot of the guys you ended up playing with were big parts of the L.A. punk scene, like D.O.A. and Black Flag.

GD I was never really friends with the guys in D.O.A. One of them ended up being in Danzig but if I remember correctly, this was very early on in our crew. We played up in Toronto and my old drummer knocked him out. He was an asshole. [laughs]  And you know, just shit like that. Some of the guys in Black Flag, we did shows together. They were pretty cool guys; I’m still friends with a lot of the original people and when I see them it’s great to see them. But everybody moves on; they have a life; some of them have families now. They’re dealing with their own stuff.  But it’s nice to see them again when they come to town.

Linda Ramone says that Ramones t-shirts are the best punk shirts, but I have to disagree. I’d take a Fiend Skull shirt any day.

GD I think visually we took it in a different direction. I mean, you know, I designed all the stuff back then and I actually printed the t-shirts in my basement, so I think we’re more in tune with…I knew exactly what I wanted the look to be. I think they had a guy doing it for them, if I’m not mistaken.

What’s the biggest change you’ve witnessed in the music industry?

GD There was no money in it. You just did it because you loved it back then. You didn’t think that there was this big gravy train at the end of the road, you know?  You were just hoping to play and move up the ladder and eventually headline your own show at Max’s Kansas City or the Plaza or wherever.  It wasn’t like it is now, where people think they can just put together a punk band and make tons of money. That’s not why we did it back then.

What was it really about then, for you?

GD Us against them. It was just changing music. We hated the music that was being played at the time. It was like, four-minute guitar solos, ten-minute drum solos, bass solos; it was arena rock, obnoxious eighteen-, twenty-, thirty-minute songs, and we wanted to strip it down and make it exciting again, put our own stamp on it. We were angry kids that were broke and, you know, screaming at the world. [laughs] That’s what it was.

Do you still feel that way?

GD Yeah, it never changes. There’s always something to be angry about.

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