Glenn Danzig Is a Macabre American Hero
During the Great Seattle Electrical Storm of August 9, 2013, I stood on top of an antenna tower at 19th and Madison listening to "Satan's Child," off Danzig's 1999 release 6:66 Satan's Child. I screamed the word "whore" at the billion-volt flashes blitzing across the night sky. Then a lightning bolt struck the sword I was holding over my head, and when I woke up, I was trapped inside Glenn Danzig's right bicep. His biceps are huge, so there was lots of room. As I walked around, I thought, "So this is where it all happens—the Danzig nerve center." Since 1982, the horror-punk, gothic, and morbid metal of his bands the Misfits, Samhain, and Danzig have left an extremely solid footprint in the phylum of heavy music. He was born Glenn Allen Anzalone on June 23, 1955, in Lodi, New Jersey, and the husky baritone/tenor's uncompromising, no-qualms, quick-tempered ways have made him a cultural phenomenon (with an Adult Swim Metalocalypse cartoon character modeled after him). Entrepreneurially, he's always at work, with 17 studio albums under his occult buckled belt, his own record label called Evilive, and Verotik, his own adult-oriented comic book publishing company. I spent the day in Danzig's bicep, reading a sexual and violent comic called Satanika; then he sneezed, and I was free.
In celebration of my interview with Danzig, I wrote him a summertime campfire ghost story called "The Ice-Cream Man." I read it out loud and asked him to imagine we were in the woods: There's a killer. He's an ice-cream man, and he goes around in his ice-cream truck killing kids. He's way deranged, wears thick glasses, shakes and sweats a lot. Freaky music-box music blares from his truck. He REALLY hates kids who get Drumsticks. When he was younger, his parents never let him get anything from the ice-cream truck. He thinks he's a "genius"—an artistic killer, like Hannibal Lecter. But he's a dumbass and gets discovered when he serves a cop a Push-Up with a kid's pinky finger sticking out. He escapes into nearby woods, EXACTLY WHERE YOU ARE CAMPING. People say, late at night, they can hear the sound of his music-box music. The Ice-Cream Man is out there, Glenn. If you've ever gotten something from an ice-cream truck, he's coming for you. And he's pissed.
Way too soft. It needs more gore [laughs].
How about a twist? Jodie Foster goes undercover as her 12-year-old character from Taxi Driver to catch him, and then kills the shit out of him with a baseball bat. Then something draws her in and... SHE TURNS INTO THE ICE-CREAM MAN KILLER. Jodie Foster haunts these very woods.
That's a start. It's more of a comedy, though. I don't know about Jodie Foster. Study up on some Verotik.
It's the 25th anniversary of Danzig. Congrats. For this run of shows featuring Doyle, how's it working?
Thank you. Well, Danzig comes out: me, John Kelly on drums, Tommy Victor playing guitar, and Steve Zing on bass. Then Doyle comes out at some point, and we go into a Misfits set. I think this will be pretty much the last time we'll be doing anything like this. It's really cool, and it's always great with Doyle onstage. But after this, it's time for new ground.
What's the latest on your covers album?
It'll be out sometime before Christmas. Got a new deal for distribution. I've been wanting to do a covers record for a long time. There'll be some weird ones on there. Maybe a ZZ Top song [laughs]. Got a Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra duet from 1967 called "Some Velvet Morning" that I'm singing with Cherie Currie of the Runaways—she sounds so good on it. Also did one by Davie Allan & the Arrows called "Devil's Angels," from a biker film in the '60s starring John Cassavetes. We were going for the sound I was doing in the late '70s, and I think it came out pretty good. There's also gonna be some Black Sabbath on there, and Elvis, of course.
Is punk music dead?
Bands that call themselves punk these days aren't punk. It's someone's idea of punk, but it's not punk.
What got you into playing music?
My hatred of everything [laughs]. When we started, we hated disco and FM arena-rock shit by those terrible '70s bands so much—Journey and Foreigner and all that crap. Corporate bullshit shoved down people's throats. I started putting people together and playing in New Jersey and New York. Max's Kansas City was a good spot to play in New York.
How does Glenn Danzig write a song?
Different ways. Sometimes it'll be guitar lines first. Other times, I'll come up with lyrics and build the structure of the music around that. I'll pick up a guitar and start messing around, and something will come to my head. Sometimes I write on the piano or come up with the drum pattern first. It changes around; I'm always wanting to expand. For the band, I'll bring the parts in and show everybody, and we'll work on it until it's ready. I recorded a new song with Doyle. We'll see what happens with that. Also been working on some new Danzig.
You've written songs for Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison.
Yeah, that was an honor for me to get to do that. They're true musicians. The fact that they thought enough of my musicianship to ask me to write for them was a big honor.
You're doing some shows in Europe as well. How does Europe differ for you from the United States?
In the United States, there are crazy, violent pits. Huge pits. Pits are sort of just now starting to happen in Europe. They go crazy, don't get me wrong—we actually did a show not long ago in London at a smaller club, maybe 500 people, and pits were breaking out. Great show. Was glad to see that happening.
What does Glenn Danzig do during downtime?
Downtime is rare. I actually run a few different companies. I try to work out, if I'm touring, but that's hard because sometimes hotels won't have gyms. Touring can be a drag sometimes. I like to read, so I'm always reading or going to bookstores—if I'm touring and have a day off, I'll find a bookstore. Bookstores are better than gyms with dudes on steroids.
When did you start getting into martial arts? Are you a hand-through-a-cinder-block type of guy?
Don't mess with cinder blocks [laughs]. I started doing muay Thai in the '80s, and started doing Jeet Kune Do somewhere around '92, I believe.
When did you start appreciating horror?
Growing up, while everyone else was reading stupid shit, I was reading Edgar Allan Poe and Baudelaire. I loved horror movies, and I really liked underground comics. At some point, I discovered comics from Italy and Japan—none of this spandex superhero crap. There was this one older horror movie, Plan 9 from Outer Space. You see it now and might think it's pretty bad, but as a child, man, the monsters got me.
You have some thoughts on Jesus from the Bible.
Who's Jesus? [Laughs] I don't buy into Jesus stuff. The Bible is just stories. Christians have killed off other religions for centuries, and their priests rape kids. They accuse people who think differently and think for themselves of being evil? I don't accept that. I think for myself. We should all have the right to individual thoughts and beliefs without being brainwashed.
Your songs deal with morbid, violent subject matter.
We used to get tons of shit for our videos because they're really powerful, with the imagery, you know? The words, the erotically charged images, and the music—it does deal with an ominous side of things at times. And it's usually not agreeable to video and record execs [laughs]. But I don't want to do bland, safe, mainstream shit. I want to do uncensored things. I make my own decisions about my own music, and I only want to put things out the way they're supposed to be.
What do you think about during shows?
If I told you what I think about some of the time, they'd probably put me away [laughs].