A New Cycle Begins
CoC chats with Glen Danzig
by: Jackie Smit
I'll be honest here -- I am a huge fan of Glen Danzig; have been since I was thirteen years old. I have never paid attention to any of the media's constant baiting or insistence on portraying him as an oafish, pompous tit. No, for me, it's always been about the music and there are few who can argue that after almost three decades in the music business, Danzig does not have an impressive body work under his belt. With so many ready to count him down after the release of _Blackacidevil_ back in 1995, it is heartening that he has managed to weather the storms with three outstanding albums, the most recent of which is the forthcoming _Circle of Snakes_. Now, being the fanboy that I am, I of course jumped at the chance to speak to the Evil Elvis, and contrary to the many reports I heard from fellow journalists, I found him to be an extremely friendly and open interviewee. What follows is a totally unedited account of what went down during the course of our conversation.

CoC: _Circle of Snakes_ once again sports a brand-new Danzig line-up, so I guess my first question is: what drew you to recruit Tommy Victor to play on this record?

Glen Danzig: Well, Tommy and I had worked together before on the _Blackacidevil_ album and on the _I Luciferi_ tour -- Prong opened up. We kept in touch, and when it came time to do this record, I called him up and asked him: "What are you doing and what's your schedule like?", and he was like "Yeah, let's do something."

CoC: With _Circle of Snakes_ being obviously very different to _Blackacidevil_, what did Tommy bring to the plate in terms of ideas -- how far did his contribution stretch on this record?

GD: Well, he didn't really work on the album, he worked on a couple of remixes and he did the whole tour. Like I said, we had worked together before and when Tommy got Prong back together, I invited them on to the _I Luciferi_ tour. And we've always had a good time working together and being on stage together, so in the end this worked out really good.

CoC: Looking at _Blackacidevil_ for a moment, _Circle of Snakes_ strikes me as a much more old-school, organic record. What prompted you to drop a lot of the electronics and the experimentation following that record?

GD: I don't know that I really did. _Blackacidevil_ was still all done analogue and _Satan's Child_ was the first record that I recorded in digital. For _Circle of Snakes_ we did everything in analogue first and then dumped it all into Pro Tools. So as far as dropping the electronics... I'm not sure, really. _Circle of Snakes_ certainly has a lot of stuff that references earlier material and some of it goes even further back than Danzig. But it also has a lot of new stuff, like the double-kick on "Skin Carver", and it's the first record that we've tuned down below C; there are a couple of songs that are down to drop-D. I just like to break things down into segments that I can experiment with and, you know, see how it turns out.

CoC: _Circle of Snakes_, as you've said in other interviews, is not a themed album at all, but I do get the impression from a lot of tracks, particularly "Netherbound", that it's a very personal record. Did you have anyone in specific in mind when you wrote that song?

GD: It's more about a certain kind of lifestyle and a certain kind of personality. A lot of people have told me that this record is very personal, and it is. They're right on the money. It's a very personal record for me --especially lyrically. There's a lot of things I wanted to sing about and talk about that I may not have done the same way before.

CoC: What made you decide to stop the numerology on successive Danzig records?

GD: It's just something I knew I wanted to do. When I started this band, I had a seven-record cycle in my mind, where each record would do a different thing in this cycle, with the last one being _I Lucifieri_.

CoC: You've chosen to sign with Regain Records for this album -- why such a small label?

GD: Actually everything gets released on my label now [Evillive], and I just license it to various companies for each territory. If I like the relationship, I stay; and if I don't, I leave. Then eventually I get the album back and I can put it out again later on. For me, with Regain, it's basically down to me liking Per's ideas, I like what he has to say and I like his partner over in Germany.

CoC: Where do you see _Circle of Snakes_ fitting into the grand scheme of the Danzig discography?

GD: Exactly where it is right now. <laughs> After the cycle. For me, it's an album where I could breathe again. I had finished a cycle of records that I am very happy about and very proud of, but now I can move on and put that big body of work behind me and just keep creating new things.

CoC: Does _Circle of Snakes_ signal the start of a new cycle in any way?

GD: I guess in a way it does, but not in a regimented cycle. It's definitely a new beginning for me and it's very refreshing in a way.

CoC: You've said that your next tour is going to be your last. What is going to happen in terms of your musical projects?

GD: Well, this is one of the reasons I decided to take some time off. I've had _Black Aria Part 2_ finished for like four years and I have the cover lying in the corner of my room. People are always coming up to me and asking me when I'm going to release it, and I just haven't had the time. I just never get the chance to go into the studio and finish it, because I'm stuck in this cycle of recording and touring, where I think a lot of artists are anyway. I mean, as a journalist I'm sure you know that when a tour is done for most artists they have to start recording again straight away to basically go back on tour. So, that's why I decided to take some off. I also have this other record I want to do with Jerry Cantrell, like a really dark blues record. He and I worked together on _Blackacidevil_ -- he came in and worked on a couple of tracks, and it was just really easy process. He's another guitar player that I really have a lot of respect for, apart from Tommy. He is just a really natural guitar player, which is very hard to find these days.

CoC: Now, you're also taking Doyle out on tour with you in a couple of weeks and doing some of the old Misfits stuff. Are you doing this as some sort of vindication -- to show people the "real deal", so to speak? I mean, as far as I'm concerned, The Misfits right now is pretty much a case of Jerry Only being a prick and making money off something you started.

GD: <laughs> I'm glad you said it. No, actually, Doyle and I have always remained in contact and we've always remained friends. We've also talked about doing this a couple times and I guess now that I'm going to be taking some time off, this is probably the right time to do it. If all goes well, I'll also be producing Doyle's record when he gets out to California. Him and me finally getting together again on stage; it's probably been about twenty years since we've played together, so I guess it will be pretty historic for a lot of people.

CoC: Has there been any way for you to follow up on your situation with The Misfits in terms of who has the rights to what? Again, in my humble opinion, what you have right now is a guy just out to cash in on a name and tainting the legacy of the band.

GD: You know, we made an agreement a long, long time ago that we'd never do it again unless we all did it together. Of course, later on I told them: "If you're going to do it, then just make sure that people know I'm not involved." People know that I'm not in the band and that I have nothing to do with it, but in a way I think that they have tarnished the name. I would prefer for him to just go out as Jerry Only, the way I did -- just using my name -- but he doesn't seem to have the confidence in himself to go out and do it that way. My attitude towards it is that everybody knows the real deal -- I think people know when they see him that it's not the real thing.

CoC: After being in the music scene for so long, are you still as excited about making music today as you were when you got started out in the business?

GD: Definitely. Especially with this record, I was really excited to do some of these songs, because I had just finished up that cycle I was talking about and I just had so much energy, and I think it shows. We had a couple of kids come up to us the other night after we had done the Summer Breeze fest and they said: "Man, I love all the old stuff, but this new stuff just has so much energy."

CoC: Well, the new album definitely sounds very dark and very menacing. Is that something you set out to do from the start or did it just happen naturally?

GD: Both. As I set out to make something, I think that sometimes I tend to go a little extreme. <laughs> But that's okay, because I think that way it ends being more along the lines of what it's supposed to be. With this record the main thing was that I am just so annoyed with the music industry right now and the way now it's almost exactly the same way it was when I started in the '70s. It's even more so now with all the contracts and record company controlling what sort of music will come out of their bands. You know, finally, after so many years, in America we've gotten rid of the whole nu metal thing. There's still a couple of bands left, but for the most part it's dead. And now, a lot of the kids that were into that whole mall metal thing have grown up and they're discovering real music, whether it's hard rock or metal or whatever, which is kind of refreshing, but I have so much anger still that bands would get caught up in that whole record company monopoly control situation. I'm just shocked that they haven't learned that money isn't everything.

CoC: So with nu metal dead, where do you see the metal scene headed toward in the near future?

GD: I don't know, because I'm not sure where I fit into that whole scene. I think that I have carved out a little niche for myself over the years. I don't know. Like I said, people want the real stuff now, and I think that's always been true; not just of metal, but of music in general. People will always continue to discover Led Zeppelin, if you know what I mean? Bauhaus, Misfits, Minor Threat, Danzig or whatever it is that people are discovering -- if it's real, it will stand the test of time, and I think in the long run if a band plays real music that's from the heart and not based on some trend, then I think they'd be able to survive in this crazy musical world. At least that's what I think.

CoC: Considering the amount of extreme bans you take out on the road with you (Behemoth, Marduk, Nile, etc.), do you see an increased interest for this sort of music in future from kids who got into the scene through bands like Slipknot or Korn?

GD: In America, definitely -- I see a lot greater demand for this type of music. It's something I would certainly see growing in the future, for sure.

CoC: Talk to me about your relationship with Johnny Cash.

GD: I was asked to write a song for him, and I said: "Of course I'd write a song for Johnny Cash." You know, my dad was a huge Johnny Cash fan and I knew his records from my dad. Getting back to what we were talking about -- people playing real music -- there's always been something in what Johnny Cash has done that I was really drawn to. He did things his way. If it was a hit, great; if not, that's okay also. That attitude is a great attitude to have. You have to be true to yourself; whether you go through good or bad times, you have to be true to yourself. This why when I was asked to do the song for him, I was honoured and it ended up taking me all of twenty minutes to write the song ("Thirteen"). That was basically my perception of Johnny Cash -- that song. I think it's probably one of the best songs that I've ever written, and I taught it to him and he loved it. I don't think there's a bigger honour than to sit down and be able to sing a song with Johnny Cash. After that a couple of Johnny's friends called me, one of which was Kris Kristofferson, and he told me that the song was incredible and that he wished that I had written it for him. <laughs> I did actually write him another song called "Come to Silver", which ended up on _Blackacidevil_ because I didn't give it to him. That's actually the song that Jerry Cantrell plays on, but that was written for Johnny Cash. I wasn't ever really good friends with Johnny. We worked together on the song and we spoke on the phone from time to time, but I would never want to intimate that we were the best of friends. He invited me down to the "House of Cash" things he used to do, where a bunch of people would get together in his living room and play music. But I have to say that he was one of the nicest guys that I have ever met. He's a true gentleman. And so many of the old musicians are like that. I had the good fortune of writing a song for Roy Orbison and it was the same vibe -- just a nice, humble gentleman. And these guys are just so talented. I mean, you start playing and they start singing and their voices just fill up the room.

CoC: Why do you think that Johnny Cash caught on to such an extent in the metal scene?

GD: It's like I said to you before, it's real. When something's real, then people will find and discover it. You know why Wagner is so listened to by so many different kinds of artists? Because it has a reality to it that's undeniable. There's so many musicians that are like that, and no matter what genre of music they play, if it's real, then people will appreciate it and it will be around for a long time to come.

CoC: When you finally decide to hang up the microphone so to speak, what would you most like people to remember you for?

GD: Uh... Jeez. <laughs> I guess I'd like people to remember me for music that they could appreciate and music that they wanted to go back to, and for never giving in to the pressures of the labels and doing what I wanted to do. I could have been far richer if I didn't have this stubborn attitude, but that's who I am and that's something that I like about myself -- that I stick to my guns. And, you know, I'll give here or there if it's not important -- that's part of life. Working with a producer like Rick [Rubin], for example, taught me that if something is important enough, then people can fight for it; if not, then let me try it my way. It's a good learning experience and it's great to see new kids coming to shows and discovering my stuff, but I doubt that it's any stranger than it is for Jimmy Page or Robert Plant or David Bowie. And when they then go on to discover the old stuff, I'm honoured. That's why I wrote it to begin with.

CoC: Any last words?

GD: Thanks for a great interview, man!

(article submitted 30/9/2004)

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