End Of Time
18 August 2006
Words by Justin Donnelly
There are few artists that can claim to have achieved success fronting three completely different groups within three distinctly different musical genres, but then Glenn Danzig is like no other.
Having first announced himself onto the New Jersey punk rock scene with The Misfits (Which Danzig fronted from 1977, before disbanding the horror punk act in October 1983), Danzig soon shifted his creative talents towards his new act Samhain, which saw his advance beyond the thrash based punk mould more towards a far darker and more experimental sound that was far more gothic/metal influenced. Although having only managed to produce two albums and one E.P. throughout their four-year existence, Danzig managed to develop a larger cult following with the underground Samhain than what he had achieved with The Misfits, which still remains to this day.
But it was Danzig's move to Rick Rubin's newly founded Def Jam Records (Later re-named American Recordings), a change of name (To simply Danzig) and a new line-up in 1987 that saw Danzig make one final genre transition, this time towards a straight heavy metal sound, and one that propel him from out of the underground and onto worldwide success.
Over the course of nineteen years, Danzig has weathered numerous line-up changes and label moves to produce eight full-length studio albums, one E.P. and a live album, with his last release being 2004's acclaimed Circle Of Snakes.
But for all the extensive touring Danzig has undertaken throughout his career as front man for all three groups, he's only managed to make it to Australia once (Which was back in 1993 when his group featured the classic line-up of guitarist John Christ, bassist Eerie Von and drummer Chuck Biscuits) while in support of Thrall - Demonsweatlive.
However, all that is set to change, with Danzig making his almighty return after a thirteen-year absence this month on what will undoubtedly be his second and last visit ever here.
Speaking from his office base in Los Angeles, I caught up with the quietly spoken man in black about his upcoming plans to release two new albums, his return to Australia, his involvement in former The Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein new project Gorgeous Frankenstein and his various other works in progress outside his own band Danzig.
“I'm always busy! (Laughs) I don't even sleep anymore. Outside of Danzig, I just finished working with Simon 'Biz' Bisley (Renown British artist) on a graphic artwork adaptation of John Milton's Paradise Lost for my comic company Verotik. That was amazing. Since then it's just been movies, which includes Ge Rouge (The voodoo zombie Verotik comic book feature film that Danzig plans to direct). I think that's enough for me at the moment. It's crazy. We (Verotik) have so much shit going on, I don't even know where to start.”
In amongst Verotik's busy release schedule, Danzig has managed to finally schedule the release of his two long in the works projects, with the first being his follow up to 1992's Black Aria (Namely Black Aria II, which is conceptually based around Lilith, the first wife of Adam) due sometime in September.
“Yes, that's true. It was supposed to come out last year, but I was switching distributors at the time, and I didn't want to give it to the old distributor. So basically I waited. Now that my distribution deal is done here in the U.S., it's finally on a release schedule. The album itself has been already been recorded for some time. I started recording it at the end of 2004, and into the beginning of 2005. But I've had the album written since 2000, or early 2001! (Laughs) Finishing it was really a matter of finding the time in-between tours, making other albums and all the other crazy shit that I do. I actually had to sit down and actually force myself to do it! (Laughs) That's really what I had to do. Once the album was finished, it was more the question as to whether or not I wanted to turn it in to my old distributors. I simply decided not to. But what I've since then was to spend a little more time refining it a bit more. I went back into the recording studio and recorded another track for it, which I would have to say is very creepy. It's all vocals. There's no music on it. There are so many layered vocals on it that it almost sounds like there's keyboards in there. It's just the way the vocals are layering and working with and against each other. It's a very creepy effect.”
With fourteen years between the release of the original Black Aria and the upcoming sequel, if not hard to expect a few changes in style and sounds, and Danzig couldn't agree more.
“I would have to say that this album is even creepier than the other one. It's a little more Eastern flavoured because there's a lot of drums on this one. That's because it's all based around the time and place of Lilith. I tried to inject that flavour in there. But there are also some similarities to the original. You'll hear it. I'm pretty happy with it.”
When asked as to whether people will understand the premise of Black Aria II compared to his other work in his solo band, Danzig remains confident that history will to some extend repeat itself.
“I think those who enjoyed and understood the original Black Aria will like this one just as much. I mean, Black Aria did really well here in the U.S.! (Laughs) I wasn't expecting that. It seemed to be very well received by the fans, and there were a lot of people who wouldn't otherwise normally buy Danzig albums who went out and bought it. So I was pleasantly surprised. I think we've passed the Gold status, and approaching close to Platinum. That's still a huge shock for me.”
The second planned release this year from Danzig is the long talked about compilation album Lost Tracks Of Danzig, which compiles a host of previously unreleased material from Danzig's early beginnings, through to the present day.
“Lost Tracks Of Danzig is old stuff that dates right back to the first Danzig album (1988's Danzig) right through to now. I was only able to start work on this album when the court case was finally sorted out. When I left American Recordings in 1994, Rick Rubin (Label founder and renowned producer) sued me and I sued him. I ended up winning all my unreleased material back. Anything he never released, including any live shows we recorded that he never put out, I won back and own. There was some stuff that he has yet to turn over because he can't find them, well he says that he can't find them, but I have most of the recordings. He still has the rights to the albums that were released through his label, but we're trying to get them back now because he hasn't been accounting back to us properly. So we're trying to get those back from him. But that's a whole other story. We actually just shot a video for one of the songs on this new album just last week. That's called Crawl Across Your Killing Floor. That was a song that didn't make it onto Danzig 6:66 Satans Child (1999). This album wasn't planned as a way of clearing out the vaults just for the sake of getting new material out there. It's something that fans have been asking me for. I always get questions from fans as to how they can get a hold of this track or that one. There are a lot of old second-rate demo cassettes of songs that were half finished floating around out there. So I just sat down and sifted through the songs and just seeing which ones were good enough to be on an album, and which ones weren't. So far there's about twenty-six or so songs.”
While a lot of the songs to feature on Lost Tracks Of Danzig have rarely been heard outside the recording studio (Namely the covers of David Bowie's Cat People and Marc Bolan's Buick Mackane), the tracks that have been in the hands of fans for some time are generally the unfinished versions that have managed to mysteriously find their way into the hands of bootleggers.
“God knows how they get a hold of those. Sometimes I would leave the studio with a cassette and you would loan it to a friend, and they would borrow it and copy it. And then they would give it to their friend, and so on. So all the fans have tenth generation copies of the songs that weren't even complete. Some of those songs didn't even have the right lyrics. Those songs were all at different stages of completion. Some needed guitar tracks, some need bass tracks or some even needed lyrics/vocals. A lot of the stuff that I did with the original line-up was primarily just Christ and I going in and doing the bass and guitar tracks ourselves. So some needed proper bass tracks.”
The compiling of Lost Tracks Of Danzig hasn't been without its dramas, with time and engineering mistakes making the putting together of the album a challenge from the word go.
“Some of this stuff was so old that I had to have the tapes baked. What happens is that when tapes get really old, it will no longer play on the machine. It slides all over the place, and all the actual sound recordings on there start falling off. So you have to take it to a special company, who will then bake those tapes in a special oven. It's then that you have one play to transfer it to another twenty-four track, or in this case, all onto the hard drive. We've had to go through some thirty-two tapes in the baking process so far, and I think we'll have to start doing some more next week in order to finish the album. The other problem we've had is engineering problems. We found this out when we were trying to put together the acoustic version of Come To Silver from the recording sessions for Danzig 5 - Blackacidevil (1996). The vocals on the original were sung through an old '40's/'50's microphone to get that creepy/weird sound. We were experimenting a little with the song at the time, and I ended up recording an acoustic version that had this nice straight vocal on it. So when I went in to remix it with my current engineer for this compilation, we found out that the old engineer that worked on that album didn't think that we were going to be using it, and went and wiped the track. So I had to sing the whole song again. You just never find out about this stuff until you put the tape up on the machine! (Laughs)”
Looking more towards Danzig's future, he admits that there are no definitive plans for a follow up to Circle Of Snakes any time soon.
“We'll see. I mean eventually there will be another album, but not right now. I've really been concentrating on releasing Black Aria II and finishing up this Lost Tracks Of Danzig compilation. I have to have this done by the end of August if I want it to come out in late November. That's what's really been taking up my time of late. I've also been writing scripts for movies and a few other things as well. So my life is a little crazy at the moment. I know that eventually I want to do this blues album that I've been talking about doing for a while too. I'm hoping to work with Alice In Chains' guitarist Jerry Cantrell (Who in the past guested on Danzig 5 - Blackacidevil) on that album when he gets back from tour. If that doesn't work out, then I'll talk to Hank Williams III about doing it with him. I just did a show with him, and we recorded the rehearsal at my friends recording studio live, and it came out really good. We were both kind of really happy. Perhaps that's maybe the way I'll end up going. We'll just have to see what happens.”
Of course, the whole point of this conversation is Danzig's impending return to Australia after thirteen years, which is something the man in black and fans both agree is long overdue.
“I think the reason for me being away so long was a combination of timing and promoters. I had a management company back in 1996 that received an offer for us to come back over there, but I didn't know that until I fired them and got all the files back from them. That offer they turned down was for a tour of seven cities. That did piss me off a little. It would have been nice for us to have gone back down there after three years away, and especially with the prospect of playing seven different cities. I mean last time I was there I had a good time. I mean I don't have any bad memories of the place! (Laughs) There were a lot of old bookshops there, and I managed to find a couple to add to my collection (For those who don't know, Danzig is keen book collector). But besides that, since then I don't know that we've actually had any real offers that made sense in the timing, or at least not that I'm aware of. I'm pretty much the one who O.K.'s the touring side of things for the band.”
Although having been rumoured for some time, Danzig confirms that following his visit to Australia, Danzig plans to retire from life on the tour road and focus solely on his creative output.
“That's true. I'm not touring anymore. This Australian tour means that I'll be able to do these three shows and be back home in five days. That way I don't have to bounce around on the bus. The only other plans I have at this stage is one more show in London, where I'll be playing on my own festival Blackest Of The Black. So that's it. I'll stop touring after the Blackest Of The Black show. If I can hop on a plane and be somewhere and be home that night, or the next morning, then sure, I'll do that. I'm just not going to do the long endless tours of the U.S. or Europe anymore. I've been doing that my whole life, and I'm just tired of doing it. It's just the travelling. It's not the shows on stage, because that's what I love. But that's only two hours of every night. The problem is the other twenty-two hours of the day when you're not at home but on some bus somewhere. It's fucked. I just don't enjoy it anymore. There was a time when I was a kid and I enjoyed it, but I have always said that when I stop enjoying it, that's when I'll stop doing it. I stopped enjoying being on the bus. I enjoy being on stage, but I just don't enjoy being on the bus.”
Prior to his touring retirement, Danzig will be doing three shows here in Australia, which he promises will make up for his absence.
“I guess last time we were there you only saw songs being performed up to Danzig III - How The Gods Kill (1992) and Thrall - Demonsweatlive (1993). So we really only had three and a half albums worth of material to showcase from. Fans haven't seen anything from 4P (1994), Danzig 5 - Blackacidevil (1996), Danzig 6:66 Satans Child (1999), Danzig 7 - I Luciferi and Circle Of Snakes. I mean that's a lot of albums to choose from. We'll put together a set list that's a combination of everything from the first Danzig album right up until now. We'll try to add a bit of everything so that way people get to hear all sides of Danzig.”
Apart from himself, Danzig is also bringing down former The Misfits guitarist Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein, which Danzig claims will be the closest fans will get to a reformation of his old band.
“Well I know that the original Misfits never played down in Australia. Fuck, Danzig has only played down there once! (Laughs) So fans will get to see Doyle come out, and the pair of us will do around seven or eight Misfits tracks together. We generally split the show into quarters, and Doyle will find in around the three quarter mark. The set builds up to that, and then when he comes out, everybody just goes crazy. I've always had a good relationship with Doyle. Even during that weird period where it was just himself and his brother (Where the pair formed Kryst The Conqueror), we talked every now and then. I guess he doesn't even speak to his brother now. It's weird, from the other end if you know what I mean. But we get along.”
Taking their association beyond some live performances, Danzig is slated to help Doyle out on his own project Gorgeous Frankenstein in the future.
“I'm going to be producing his upcoming solo album. He's got a band called Gorgeous Frankenstein with his wife Gorgeous George (Who's real name is Stephanie Bellers), who's an ex-pro wrestler! (Laughs) The also have a bassist named Argyle Goolsby, who is also in Blitzkid. So I'm producing their album. We've already hired Steve Bisley to do the cover artwork. So right now he has his band together, but they're just trying to find a vocalist, and he's really picky. The sound is kind of a cross between Danzig and Marilyn Manson for the lack of a better description. It's really heavy. But it does have its own style. There's no other way I can explain it. It's pretty cool. I think people will be shocked at just how musical it is. When the album is finally finished, it'll be released through my own label (Evilive). That is if he ever finds a vocalist of course! (Laughs)"
Danzig play the following Australian dates: September 8, The Palace, Melbourne; September 9, The Arena, Brisbane; September 10, Big Top Luna Park, Sydney. For more information on Danzig, check out www.danzig-verotik.com.