September 1, 2010
By David Dunn
In the Darkness, Danzig Sees the Light
An Exclusive Interview with Glenn Danzig
In June 2010, Danzig will release Deth Red Sabaoth, an 11-track collection penned by the purveyor of hardcore / dark metal music. It will be followed by a nine date coast-to-coast tour. The album will mark the group's ninth studio venture that began back in 1988 with the Rick Rubin-produced, platinum-certified Danzig. In addition to the upcoming Deth Red Sabaoth, Danzig has just published a book of select, previously unreleased Misfits, Danzig, and Samhaim lyrics, titled Hidden Lyrics of the Left Hand. The book features illustrations by Simon Bisley, who has painted numerous album covers for Danzig.
JAM: Over the years, Danzig has become one of the most controversial bands in America because of the dark, ominous religious overtones that seem to be deep-rooted in your music. Is Glenn Danzig that misunderstood?
Glenn Danzig: Misquoted, misunderstood, conjecture on the part of the journalist, or imitation journalists. Yep, I pretty much don't like interviews.
JAM: You really feel that way?
Well, there area few people I like doing interviews with, but for the most part, if I don't know the person and I haven't seen their work, I usually won't do one because most journalists, England especially, and here in America, are very irresponsible and makeup a lot of shit I've never said. I don't like that.
JAM: Every year, there's a new genre of horror films that are unleashed on the public that barely raises the eyebrow of the press. In music however, especially heavy metal, it's almost like open season in the press on groups who incorporate the dark side of religion into their lyrics. Has it been that way with Danzig?
We haven't been attacked yet.
JAM: I'm somewhat surprised the press has ignored that part of you. Why?
First off, you shouldn't lump us in with heavy metal bands.
JAM: I'm not 'lumping' you in with heavy metal bands, I'm just saying that when it comes to controversy and lawsuits, that's where public perception begins. Just ask the members of Judas Priest or Ozzy Osbourne.
My response to that is our music is a little more serious than Judas Priest, especially lyrically. My sentences are factual. Of course I thought them having to go to court was a joke, but to get back to your original question, I think the reason that we haven't been attacked is I do a lot of research into my lyrics. Most of our music has a religious background, so if they take us to court, they'd have to also take to court the Bible and other literary works.
JAM: Are you serious about what you just said?
Yes. You obviously haven't read any of my lyrics.
JAM: I wouldn't get the religious overtones of your music, I know that. Besides, shouldn't the Bible be reserved for the church, and music looked upon as entertainment, not religious education?
I look at it that way too, but I also look at it in a far more serious way as well. People want to read interesting lyrics.
JAM: I'm curious, what makes you think anyone is going to understand what you're talking about?
I don't think you give people enough credit. I've always had individuals come back to me after shows who want to know what I'm writing about.
JAM: Is the lyrical content of your songs that focused?
No it's not. Let me explain, because you really don't know what I do.
JAM: This is not a pissing contest between a journalist and a misunderstood artist.
Then let me explain Glenn Danzig. What I do is write about religioun and all its aspects, not just Catholics, everything. There is really nothing the church can attack me on because they would be attacking themselves if you understand what I'm saying. My music doesn't come from make-believe or anything. It's the real thing.
JAM: So you are challenging people's conventional beliefs in religion?
I want to challenge people to think ultimately, but again, it is a song and it does rely on composition and a melody – something your thrash or very heavy bands don't do. Again, this is not a heavy metal band. For instance, some people think of Metallica as a heavy metal band. To me, they're more speed metal. I consider Danzig to be a heavy, bluesy type of group.
JAM: What have you been able to accomplish with Danzig what escaped you with the Misfits and Samhain?
We have a lot more credibility and a more mature sound. We have ten times better musicianship than the first band I was in.
JAM: Did you change your musical philosophy in any way?
No. It's been very violent, very aggressive and very hard-edged.
JAM: Before the tech revolution, most kids in this country were raised on radio. One of the reasons I've always admired English musicians ...
I think English musicians suck.
JAM: English musicians suck?
I think they are trendy. If they try one thing and it doesn't work, they hop onto another thing that's trendy at that moment. That to me is shallow.
JAM: And you're telling me the same thing doesn't happen here?
JAM: Then explain the L.A. music scene of the '80s?
There's a street over there called Sunset Strip that breeds very business-oriented rock bands. There are a few bands like Poison, that ilk, that come from there. Listen, when Stevie Ray Vaughan came on the scene, do you think he was very shallow and trendy person? No! He played around in clubs for years before he ever made his mark in the business. I don't think there's a blues player on the planet that would have stood up and challenged his musicianship.
JAM: Unlike most musicians immersed in the blues, Stevie Ray Vaughan was able to transition his music to mainstream radio and still retain his identity. Would radio airplay be the death for Danzig?
No it wouldn't. We do what we do without any of that in mind. If I wrote songs with radio in mind, yes, that would be the death of Danzig. I never have and I never will.
JAM: Is your music on the cutting edge of reality?
How you perceive your reality, and I how I look at it, are fashioned by two entirely different philosophies. It's that way with everyone, and frankly, I don't even know why you used the word.
JAM: Let me put it to you this way. When Glenn Danzig writes a song, is he trying to draw people into his own particular sphere of influence, or is it just shock and awe you're aiming for?
Why do you limit it to some sort of fantasy land you believe I'm trying to draw people in to? There are so many levels to music that can appeal to people – that's the fact of existence I'm looking for.
JAM: I'm curious about one thing. You've chosen to create music for the masses that actually causes them to seriously think, rather than pump their fists in the air and party hearty.
I would say that pretty accurately describes my thought process when it comes to writing lyrics. Musically, I start with a little verse and make the words simple enough so people listening to the music can make the song personal to them.
JAM: Do you consider yourself more an educator than an entertainer?
JAM: Is your intention ever to intimidate or upset people with your music to make an immediate impact on them?
I never thought I did, but obviously I do because of the way people react when they meet me. Some people actually think I personify evil and I'm intimidating. I don't think my music threatens or frightens anyone.
JAM: Glenn, I was told not to talk about religion with you. I was also informed not to mention The Misfits or Samhain. Now why should your past NOT have any bearing on the present and your future?
We can talk about religion, that's fine. And no, I don't want to talk about The Misfits or Samhain because this is Danzig and that's where your focus should be. If you're curious about Samhain music, then you should have talked to me when I was in Samhain. That is what I tell most interviewers. "Where were you when I was in Samhain?" They will often tell me they didn't think it was important back then. I tell them they were fools. That's my attitude about my previous musical life before Danzig. If they don't like it, goodbye, beat it! I don't put up with ignorance. When it's in my face, I will confront it head on and deal with the situation immediately. I'm a very upfront person and I will tell you exactly how I feel. If that ruffles a lot of feathers and people hate me afterwards, that's fine with me. I'm not out here trying to win everybody's hearts, particularly those of a journalist. I do what I do and that's it.
JAM: Where and when did you acquire your extensive library on religion?
I amassed my collection over many, many years of buying and purchasing literary works on the subject.
JAM: Answer this question for me. Why do you believe people are both afraid, and attracted to, the darker side of life?
I don't think it's so much the darker side of life individuals per se are afraid of – it is the other side of people's life that exists they do not want to acknowledge. Listen, there is a lot more going around us than the 9-5 job that ends up with you coming home and watching television. Knowledge is both empowering and liberating. There is a dark side to life that people don't fully understand simply because society as a whole deems it mysterious and dangerous. That in itself is an attraction – the unknown and how it may affect your own perception on life itself.
JAM: Are your album projects difficult to create? For instance, your debut album, featuring the hit song "Mother" was truly a breakout record for Danzig.
Lyrically, all the songs on my recordings have been difficult to write. First off, every record I've ever done, and I'm including the Misfits and Samhain, had to be better than the previous effort. The momentum has to continue building otherwise I'm not interested in doing it.
JAM: Your particular approach towards songwriting reminds me somewhat of King Diamond, though there's no relationship between you two. He conceptualizes the lyrics to paint a broad 10-12 song album, which I get the feeling you do as well.
There is absolutely no relationship between our styles of writing. To me, he's a cartoon character.
JAM: His music is considered dark and powerful just as Danzig's is.
I have no idea what his trip is, or that of his band.
JAM: Have you ever sat back and thought about what it is you do that disturbs people? For instance, you never see religious organizations getting riled up about slasher movies. When it comes to music, however, and a band dares to take on a dark personification, excuse the pun, but all hell breaks loose.
From the beginning of rock and roll – not that Danzig is a rock and roll band despite what some people think – religious groups have always had this vigilante style of thinking when it comes to heavy sounding, aggressive playing bands. It's useless to get into an argument with any of these people because they live in a warped reality. Let's face it, any person that sends their money to a preacher on a TV set – who is having sex with a ton of women and is a total hypocrite – they need psychological help to begin with. They are looking for something to give their life meaning, and I promise you their soul isn't going to be saved with a sermon coming out of their television set.
JAM: How do you deal with ignorance when literally, it's all around you?
Usually I ignore it, and most times don't even acknowledge the person's existence. I might even get violent.
JAM: So stupid people can actually get to you?
Maybe violent is too strong of a word. There are only so many ways you can be diplomatic and nice to an idiot. After awhile, you have to take a harder stance with them.
JAM: Does your music help you cope with hypocrisy?
In a way it does. People who come to our shows, or listen to the music, know it's going to be very aggressive, very rebellious. That's what music should be about. We have kids at our show that range from 11 or 12 all the way up to 40-45 years old and beyond. This band attracts a wide array of people.
JAM: Do you think the music of Danzig forces people to face certain aspects of their life they've sort of pushed aside, or buried within their self-conscious?
JAM: Is that a healthy thing to do?
I think it's very healthy. It's irrelevant to me whether kids come up and say my lyrics have changed their life. That my lyrics have forced them to face their life, that is relevant. All I want to do with my music is put out good records and put on great performances. Anything else that happens after that is fantastic. If I achieve my first two levels, then I'm happy. If I achieve other levels, it is even better.
JAM: When your music is critiqued, or analyzed, by people who don't understand where you are coming from, does it bother you?
It doesn't affect me one way or the other. Those people don't pose any threat. The lies that the Catholic and Baptist church are founded on – I think that's more dangerous than anything I'm saying.
JAM: If you're convinced these two churches are based on lies, why haven't they been exposed?
Over the centuries, people have tried to expose these two religions. Martin Luther challenged the edicts of the Roman Catholic Church and it didn't go over too well in Rome. He and his followers were ex-communicated from the church, and it started the Protestant Reformation in with the Lutheran religion was formed. The Catholic Church tried to assassinate Martin Luther, but they never got to him. Some of his followers, however, weren't so lucky. This type of behavior has been going on for a long time with the Catholic Church. It's not like no one ever knew what was going on, they just don't care to publicize it. There's a very good book out that exposes the dark side of the papacy called the Vicars of Christ. It is a historically correct book that documents the sins of the papacy from it's inception to now.
JAM: Redemption and life after death are two dominating themes that have fueled debate and hope in humanity for hundreds of years. Do you believe that religion has maintained a stranglehold on societies the world over by pounding into their head from birth to death that the only road to redemption is your acceptance of God's word?
Yes. It's not so much afterlife as it is redemption. People want to believe they can commit almost any type of evil in the world, ask for forgiveness, and they will receive the glory of God. The quest for that acceptance isn't wrong, but to do evil, to commit heinous acts in the quest for immortality in the hereafter, that's totally wrong.
JAM: Would you consider the Inquisition an act of total deceit and fraud perpetrated on the masses by the Church to control them?
Let's see, the Inquisition was a court set up by the Pope sometime in the late 1100's to try people accused of not following the teachings of the Catholic Church. Bishops, who were emissaries of the Pope, were empowered to torture people to get confessions and the accused had no rights to a fair trial when they were charged. Yeah, I would call that fraud and deceit. This unholy tyranny subjugated the people of Europe for hundreds of years.
JAM: Religion has left a bad taste in your mouth.
To commit brutal acts against humanity in the name of God, then to absolve your self from these acts by hiding behind religion, which is supposed to be pure and free from all sin, that's more evil than I, or anyone else can do. The Inquisition was based solely on lies just so they could further the causes of the church. That is the personification of evil.
JAM: Your second album, Lucifuge, had a picture of a goat's head and upside down cross clutched between a pair of hands that I am assuming belong to you. Why?
You know, no one ever asked me about the concept of that cover, or the inclusion of the scene on my video "Am I Demon" from the first Danzig record.
JAM: Maybe the journalists were afraid to broach the subject.
Maybe they are. Here's the thing. There's no satanic connotation associated with the images. The scene there is pretty much how the Christian religion has created a Satan that never existed, to further their membership drive and instill fear in the hearts of people.
JAM: So, the church created this image of bad in order to enhance their ability to create good?
No, pretty much the beast is Satan according to the Bible in Revelations, if you believe in it. The Catholic Church and Baptists have built their version of Satan around Revelations, which is totally unrealistic. With these two denominations, their version of Satan never existed in the Bible. In fact, Satan is hardly mentioned. It is Lucifer, the fallen angel. Their vision of him is so distorted, what I'm trying to say to you is this is a cover up. The beast is being crucified for the sins of the Church.
JAM: Do you believe in UFO's?
I saw some when I was a kid in New Jersey.
JAM: So you believe there are other forms of life in the universe?
Yes. I don't know where they come from. These ships could have been U.S. or Russian craft. They could have been alien. Where I grew up, there was a radio tower. That's where I saw them.
JAM: Does it bother you when your ideology is questioned?
I don't give two shits about what anyone thinks. I would just as soon not do interviews. It's not like my life's goal is to be talking to someone with a cassette player. I don't like explaining, or talking, about myself. I'm a very private person.
JAM: When you make demonic inferences in your music, album covers and even album titles, you are inviting criticism. That in turn leads people to question just who is exactly is Glenn Danzig. You've been able to keep critics at arm's length because you operate on knowledge backed by fact. Sound good?
It sounds theatric. Again, I really don't have to defend myself. When somebody states something about me that's inaccurate, I correct them.
JAM: What inaccuracies in the press have been reported about you that have been particularly upsetting?
That Glenn Danzig is a Satanist. I have been quoted as saying things that I've never said. That is irresponsibility on the part of the journalist who wrote it. A lot of times I may have said something, and then some journalist added conjecture to it and came up with something different than what I originally said. I say what I say, period. I don't need people putting words into my mouth. I've had journalists ask me a question then take my answer and put their own question in there that they never asked. It makes me say something worse than I said in the beginning.
JAM: On the video "Mother," was a chicken really sacrificed in a ritual toward the end?
No. That was a pagan ritual that goes back centuries and centuries. It has nothing to do with Satanism whatsoever.
JAM: The portrayal of the virgin laying on the altar being readied for a sacrifice, what significance was behind that scene – shock, denial, what?
I don't know about shock, but the power there is great. Did you notice the transferal scene there in the end?
JAM: I'm not quite sure what you mean?
The girl standing on my side, the assistant, becomes the girl on the altar, and the girl on the altar becomes the assistant. What I was trying to portray there was knowledge, the coming of age. The song's lyrics deal with keeping knowledge away from kids so they never grow up to be dumb, stupid, 9-5 mother fuckers. Nobody has ever asked me about the concept of that video or that particular sequence. I don't think anyone even notices the girls switching places. Originally, what we wanted to do with the first album and on this video image wise, was mimic what German impressionists of the '20s and '30s did with their art, produce powerful imagery.
JAM: Was the "Mother" video too clever for its own good?
No, because to do it any other way would be selling out, compromise my values, ideas, and I won't do that.
JAM: Was there any particular meaning behind the album title, Lucifuge?
No, I just recalled seeing the name in a book I have.
JAM: How would you go about finding the book?
Find a Latin dictionary. It means different things to different sects of people. If you are a Satanist, the 'lucifuge' means many different things. If you are a Roman Catholic monk or whatever, the word means something totally different to you than it would a Satanist.
JAM: What happened to you in the past to make you want to explore the other side of life?
What other side of life?
JAM: What made Glenn Danzig curious enough to want to delve into the world of the dark arts, religion, the balance between good and evil, God and Lucifer?
There's only one experience that makes me want to search for the truth. I don't think it is a combination of life experiences.
JAM: So growing up in New Jersey had nothing to do with your world viewpoints?
Seeking the truth, searching for knowledge, those things shouldn't be all inclusive to what's right and wrong. I started reading books on the subject, and in the course of doing research, I built up a fairly large library on the subjects that intrigued me. I've always been intrigued by religion.
JAM: Even at a young age?
JAM: Did something happen when you were young to spark your interest in religion?
JAM: Listen Glenn, it sounds kind of weird to me that you decide you are going to explore the darker side of the Catholic religion, the Baptists, for no particular reason than you were curious.
I don't think there's anything wrong with seeking knowledge at all. It's the only way to see the truth.
JAM: You obviously have an extensive library collection on the subject. Was it all bought here in the States?
JAM: I suppose there is some sort of meaning behind the image of the upside down cross?
There sure is – a lot more than Satanism. Did you know that St. Peter was crucified upside down?
Pretty much, the only reason Satanists use the upside down cross is to mock Christianity.
JAM: Do you believe people take religion for granted?
I have no idea. Religion has become engrained in all societies around the world and nothing will ever change that. That's one of the things I like to get across to people. There are certain things you can change, and some subjects better left alone. Religion has been scrutinized for centuries.
JAM: I'm surprised your religious curiosity hasn't made you want to study Judaism?
Their religion has more to do with their denial of Christ as God's son.
JAM: Does the Jewish viewpoint on religion parallel your outlook on the injustice you see in religion, particularly Christianity?
I don't know if it is an injustice. Honestly, I don't feel that strongly about Judaism to write about it. There are a lot of subjects I have strong opinions about I won't use as subject matter for songs.
JAM: Does your music always have to have some sort of religious overtone to it?
No. You see, that's another misconception I have to deal with – that all Glenn Danzig does is write songs based on religion. I've used all types of subject matter in my music.
JAM: You set people up to believe your music is dark and ominous. For instance, the song entitled "Ye the Devil." What's that all about?
Do you consider yourself a writer?
JAM: Listen, I will freely admit religion is not my thing.
It doesn't matter about religion, just read the words.
JAM: Okay, here are some words from "Ye the Devil." 'Ye are of your father, the Devil, and the less of your father ye will do.'
What does that say to you? Think about it for a second.
JAM: It says that just because you father behaves one way, it doesn't mean you will too.
It says that you are destined to commit the same great things and idiocies that the generation before you did. In other words, the world hasn't changed because a new generation has a different viewpoint. Your bloodline is your bloodline, do you understand that? There are things in this world that will never, and can never, change because of the order of the universe. There are certain things – war, famine, hunger, suffering – nothing can change those things because human nature is human nature. If a dog gets hungry, he will eat you. Do you understand what I'm saying?
JAM: I freely admit that my knowledge of religion is severely limited. Still it doesn't make me stupid.
That's fine, but in the same sense, I don't like people attacking me who don't know what they are talking about. This world has been screwed up by the teachings of the Catholic Church, or any religion for that matter. They need to strike fear in the hearts of their followers so they have control over them. They constantly use the image of Satan and preach about sin to keep their followers in line; to keep them supporting their particular ideology.
JAM: Does your music serve as a shield of protection for you?
No, I protect me. Music is my hobby, my living. It doesn't protect me. My body and mind protects me.
JAM: Do you mind signing merchandise that isn't Danzig?
Not at all. I'll sign Misfit or Samhain stuff as long as it isn't bootleg.
JAM: Is there a totally different message between Danzig and the Misfits?
I don't even want to talk about that.
JAM: As a musician, don't you feel as though your life has a purpose?
JAM: What about a sense of obligation to the people that buy your music and attend your shows?
What about it? For them, Danzig has a purpose, but that's not their whole life coming to see me. They have a lot of other things going on in their lives. I'm just something to do for a particular night. When people are down and depressed, they might put my record on and it helps them through whatever they are going through. It's nice to know my music can do that.
JAM: Why do you think people need to believe in a higher form of life?
They need the faith, the power. A higher form is a good thing to believe in.
JAM: Do you believe in a higher form of life?
Yes. It gives you faith, it gives you power, it gives you strength in times when you need to really draw on those beliefs.
JAM: Have you found yourself in situations where you were reaching out?
Sure. I have come to the conclusion that I am the master of my own destiny, but there is a higher source that you can pull power from to help you chart your destiny.
JAM: Is knowledge dangerous?
Depends upon what you're using it for.
JAM: Is your knowledge dangerous?
For some people, I guess it is. You see, most people don't want the burden of knowledge. As the old saying goes, with knowledge comes responsibility. And that responsibility includes being held accountable for your actions. When you don't have to think about everything, you lead a simple life. You go off to work then you come home, kiss your wife, eat dinner, watch TV, fall asleep, wake up in the morning and start your daily routine all over again. A lot of people really like that simplicity in their lives. That's great for them and I hope they are very happy. I've never done anything like that nor would I ever. For other people, they need to constantly quench their thirst for knowledge. They need to search out the truth, find the light to learn what life is really all about. There are searchers and there are those just happy to exist. I prefer the former.