The name Glenn Danzig has lived in metal and punk fans' vocabularies since 1977, when he started the legendary horror-punk group Misfits. But to music fans who didn't dwell in the underground, Danzig became Danzig in 1988, with the release of his eponymous band's self-titled debut. That album was a direct punch in the face to all hair metal bands, and a departure from the reverb-heavy goth punk of Samhain, Glenn's band between the Misfits and Danzig -- thanks to some crisp, direct production by producer extraordinaire Rick Rubin and a focused, bluesy metal sound. It featured the irrepressible "Mother," which didn't become a hit until MTV put the 1993 live version of the song in its Buzz Bin. Thanks to heavy touring and Metallica talking about the band, having just covered Misfits' "Last Caress," Danzig became an unstoppable force that year.
Now, Danzig is celebrating the milestone of their 25th anniversary with a special tour that stops at Myth on Saturday. "When you go onstage, the energy from the people and from the audience changes a lot of it," he explains. "When I go out there, I just take their energy and send it back fiftyfold." Gimme Noise caught up with Danzig to talk about his legacy and his forthcoming covers record, which features a duet he did with Cherie Currie of Lee Hazlewood and Nancy Sinatra's "Some Velvet Morning." Luckily for us, he didn't mind looking back.
What do you remember about the beginning of Danzig?
There wasn't really bands like Danzig. There were a lot of big poofy, poseury hair bands. And Danzig was just, like, T-shirts with cut-off sleeves. [Laughs] We had no poofy hair. And we were loud, like metal-punk, I guess you would call it. And most people just said, "This is going to be gone in a week." And here I am 25 years later. It's great. [Laughs] And all the hair bands are pretty much a joke, so that's great, too.
The first Danzig album sounded pretty different from your previous band, Samhain. Why did you tighten it up?
Rick [Rubin] was probably important in that. He helped focus some of my ideas. Of course he had his own ideas about producing. Half those tracks were songs I was writing for Samhain anyway.
What songs evolved from the Samhain demos?
"Twist of Cain" was pretty different. "Mother" was a song I wrote about the PMRC [the Parents Music Resource Center, spearheaded by Tipper Gore]. But I think we'd already been working with Rick when I wrote it. So it was much different. We tore it apart and put it back together.
Metallica's James Hetfield made some uncredited appearances on the album. How did that come about?
He was hanging out with us in L.A. I had to go back to the studio. He said he wanted to come along. I was like, "Oh, sure! Don't worry about it." [Laughs] It was much different then. Because everybody hung out a lot. As bands get bigger and stuff, I don't think there's enough time, or people get families and things. And they don't hang out as much anymore.
I've read that he did some howling on "Possession." Is that what you asked him to do?
I'm pretty sure he just sang the "possession" parts. [Laughs] Yeah, he's on "Possession," "Twist of Cain" and probably one other one. He's not on "Mother." But he's on probably one other track.
You mentioned that "Mother" was about the PMRC. Were they a problem for you specifically?
Yeah, you know, Al Gore wanted to tell people what they could listen to and what they couldn't, what they could record. It was basically coming down to the idea that he wouldn't let anybody record any music that he didn't think you should be doing. There was going to be an organization that would tell you what you could and couldn't record. And certainly if you couldn't record it, you couldn't put it out. It was really fascist.
My view on Democrats is that they're fascists disguised as liberals, or liberal moderates. You're not allowed to say anything that they don't agree with. You're not allowed to do anything. Also, the whole Obama, "I can kill anybody with a drone with no trial," is kind of disturbing. I'm surprised that more people who are supposedly liberal aren't more disturbed by it. I think whatever Obama does is OK with them, because he's Obama. It's bullshit.
It's the same thing with the PMRC telling you, "Bands can go on trial for their music." What's next, Wagner is going to get arrested? What? He's dead. [Laughs]
Why did the album come out with a "Parental Advisory" sticker, but without any F-words?
That's because of its content. We're making people think. You're not allowed to make people think in the United States. You're not allowed to have them question the government or authority.
From what I understand, stickering albums is voluntary for record labels. Do you remember discussing the sticker with Rick Rubin?
Well, actually, back then it wasn't voluntary. There was a group that would listen to it and sticker it. Now it's voluntary. Back then, it was a group that would listen to your records and say, "Well, it needs 'Parental Advisory.'" It was kind of like the PMRC.
In other words, they kind of gave in to the PMRC a little, even though they wouldn't do what the PMRC wanted, what they did agree to was that there would be a group that would listen to a record and give it a "Parental Advisory." But really, what they didn't realize was that by giving it that sticker, it meant that it was approved for every kids who hate everything to buy it. [Laughs] So a Danzig and a Slayer record had the sticker, they were like, "Oh, it's got to be good because it has the sticker on it." You're not gonna see that sticker on a fucking Bon Jovi record.
When is the covers album you've been working on coming out?
It's done. I'm just waiting for my new deal for it to come out. I'm hoping for late fall. But we'll see.
How did you get together with [The Runaways'] Cherie Currie?
I recorded "Some Velvet Morning" with her. These managers that I fired wanted me to use some hip, new dorky chick. I was like, "No." And they were like, "Who were you thinking about?" And I was thinking of Cherie Currie. They were like, "What? No. No." I was like, "Yeah, it'll be cool." And of course they were so wrong, and I was so right. [Laughs] She's got a great voice. And you know her history. She's really easy to work with and really excited. It was great.
She's playing with me here in L.A. at the Universal Amphitheater. Gibson bought the rights to the name a while ago. We've played there a bunch, and they wanted us to play the last week before it got torn down for a Harry Potter ride. She went crazy when I asked her to do it and said, "Yeah, I've always wanted to play there. I never have." It's where she first saw David Bowie when she was 14 and it made her want to be a singer. And she's just so excited, it's great. I love that venue. It's one of my favorite places to play.
Your covers album also contains a Black Sabbath cover. Which song did you choose?
"N.I.B." I did an arrangement for it, back when [the 1994 Black Sabbath tribute album] Nativity in Black came out, and they couldn't work out a deal with Rick. I think they wanted singles rights and he wouldn't give it to them. So I did an arrangement for "N.I.B.," and for this album I retooled it and showed it to Tommy [Victor, guitar] and Johnny [Kelly, drums] and we did it.
I always liked your "Hand of Doom" cover.
Yeah, my "Hand of Doom" cover is crazy. I change stuff up. If you're not going to give a cover your own stamp, why cover it?
Do you have any favorite memories of coming through Minneapolis?
No. [Laughs] I remember all the gigs. I remember Samhain playing downstairs at the 7th St. Entry. I remember doing the upstairs with Danzig, a lot of different memories. There's been so many shows that we've done.
What were those Samhain gigs like? Misfits shows were so legendarily violent. Were Samhain gigs the same?
Yeah, in the beginning of Samhain, of course, and probably toward the end, there was no barricade. Sometimes you actually played on the floor right there with the fans. So anyone who got out of line, you had to deal with them yourself. There was no security or anything. I remember having to elbow people in the face and take people down while I'm singing and things like that. [Laughs] And there was a lot of cool stuff, too, where everyone would just come in and you'd put the mic out and everybody would just sing along. It was much different later on.
Read the review of Saturday's show at Myth here.
The 25th Anniversary of Danzig. 6:30 p.m., Saturday, August 17, at Myth. Info here.