Glenn Danzig on Skeletons, Comics, and Why the Internet’s Destroyed the Music Industry
The former Misfits frontman talked to us about his new covers album, out on Friday.
Glenn Danzig can really fill a room — even on the telephone. I made myself so nervous on the day of our interview that I had to add a shot of whiskey to my otherwise fortifying protein shake, but once I got him on the line our time together flew by. The New Jersey native has led bands like the Misfits, Danzig, and Samhain — all of which remain staples of any respectable record collection — and also runs his own record label (Evilive,) and erotic comic book publishing company (Verotik.) And his brand new covers album, Skeletons, comes out this Friday (11/27). But I mainly wanted to ask him if he likes me, like, as a person, based on our time together, since I get the sense that he doesn’t like very many people. I chickened out. You don’t fuck around with Glenn Danzig.
So what made you decide that now was a good time to release a covers album?
I’d been wanting to do a covers record for a really long time, so I kinda just made time and did it. I realized that I’d never find time if I didn’t just make time. So I did.
The songs you chose for the album are more or less your musical biography, showing what inspired you throughout the years, and in anyone’s biography there’s always those embarrassing things that get left out. So I’m curious to hear if there were any songs where you were like “naw, I’m not gonna put this on here.”
No. Well, the reason I called this album Skeletons is because it’s kind of a framework for everything I’ve done, but also because of the phrase “skeletons in the closet.” So those for me would probably be the ZZ Top and Aerosmith songs. No one would think of me as liking ZZ Top, or of a ZZ Top song as being a good song, so I wanted to do it my way to show that it is.
People have compared your vocal style to that of Elvis. Do you think you like Elvis because he sounds like you, or do you sound like Elvis because you like him? It’s kind of a chicken or the egg type thing.
None of the above. Growing up, just singing in bands, I didn’t have the same kind of voice as everyone else. I had more of a deep, howling (makes howl noise into phone) kind of beastier voice. And that wasn’t the kind of voice most other metal singers had, who were more high pitched and screechy (makes screechy noise into phone). So early on I knew what kinda voice I had. So yeah, that’s probably why I gravitate to singers who have a voice more like mine, like Elvis, Howlin’ Wolf, that kinda stuff.
Is there anything on the radio now, not like anyone listens to the radio, or online, that particularly inspires you?
I haven’t heard anything recently, but I do listen to the radio. I listen to Sirius Radio, so it’s real radio, not like that crap that’s out there. On Sirius I can find anything I want. They have about four or five different metal channels, rock channels, there’s a whole Elvis channel. So yeah, I haven’t heard any really new stuff that’s been knocking me out.
What do you think of the internet, in terms of the role it plays in a musician’s career these days?
I think it’s a good way to get news out to your fans, and the people who care about you, but I think it’s destroyed the music industry. A long time ago Prince said that no musician is ever gonna make money off the internet, and he was right. They just printed his quote somewhere the other day because it’s so accurate. It’s just destroyed the music industry. People get screwed on their royalties, and when people do get paid they get paid a fraction of what they should be paid. Pretty soon the only bands you’re gonna be hearing are the pop crap, because the other artists are not gonna be able to squeak out even a tiny living. And YouTube is just the worst, they just trample of copyright and trademark laws. So all of a sudden you have to pay for your copyright and trademark laws, but it doesn’t mean a thing because YouTube and these other places can just steal your stuff.
A lot of people may not know that you’re a huge fan of comics and actually own your own publishing company. Have you been watching Jessica Jones?
No, I haven’t watched it yet. Is it on Netflix?
Netflix. Yeah. The whole season. 13 episodes. It’s awesome.
Yeah, I haven’t seen it. I watch The Walking Dead. It’s pretty graphic. It’s pretty cool.
The internet was all a flutter during the summer when it was revealed that you’d be appearing in an episode of the next season of Portlandia. Why do you think people are surprised to find that you have a sense of humor about yourself?
Not people that know me. Probably outsiders. Anyone who knows me, and most of my fans, know that I have a sense of humor. A lot of time people just don’t know who you are because maybe in an interview once you told someone to go fuck themselves. You know, I have no problem telling people to fuck off because I don’t give two fucks.
Well, you have to sometimes. It’s good to live your truth.
A lot of people don’t think you should stick up for yourself, and that you should just take crap and not say anything. And I’m not one of those people.
It was Halloween not too long ago, which is the one day out of the year when you’re guaranteed to hear The Misfits’ “Halloween” at least 125 times. When you released that song in 1981, did you have any idea that it would be part of every Halloween mix from then till the end of time?
(Laughs) No, I didn’t. I wasn’t even aware of this.
Oh yeah, I’d say it’s like “Monster Mash” #1, and then Misfits’ “Halloween” #2.
(Laughs) Yeah, I haven’t heard that.
Getting back to the covers album: a lot of bands have covered Danzig stuff, and definitely The Misfits. Does it feel weird when that happens? Can you recall some of your favorites where you were like “oh, they didn’t mess that up too bad?”
It’s not weird, actually I always say that I’d rather people be influenced by what I was doing than the crappy bands that we all started punk to destroy. You know? Some of the bands have done a good job though, like some of the black metal bands who have covered Danzig. And as far as The Misfits, I’d have to say the early Metallica garage based rendition was really good.
So now that Skeletons is coming out, what’s next for you?
The Danzig Sings Elvis record is done, and I’m going into the studio in the next few weeks to finish up the new, all new material, official Danzig record, which is about 80% done.
You can keep track of upcoming Danzig tour dates and releases over at the band’s official site.
Photos by Paul Brown / Evilive