Bonfires Burning Bright

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Posted October 26, 2007 in Feature Story

Some of these things you already know as fact: Satanism is a minimal evil next to ignorance—the only difference being that evil possibly doesn’t exist at all. Geraldo Rivera is a ratfink, George W. Bush didn’t start the War in Iraq, Quincy Jones doesn’t know jack about punk music, George Lucas owes Jack Kirby some royalties or at very least a thanks, and Dan Brown stole his best conspiratorial ideas from The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail. Some of these things you suspect: The creators of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force are scumbags, Johnny Cash was as down to earth as his songs, and Frank Frazetta could change the whole world with a sketching pencil. And some things you didn’t have any idea about: His Utter Darkness, Glenn Danzig, says he’s more vital now than he’s ever been, he’s daintier in person than he is on any of the YouTube clips where he’s delivering (or receiving) punches—and he knows what’s going on behind the scenes, too, he simply knows.

We are talking at an Indian restaurant on Melrose in Hollywood, and Danzig can speak on any of the above, at length, while spinning plates and breaking down the Filmi music in the backdrop. He can just as suddenly pop his head behind the curtains of World War II. “I started reading about the whole reason for it, and how it all ties into Atlantis, the United Nations, the Black Sun, the Black Stone, Lords of the Left Hand, the occult, the Nazis . . . Japan believed they descended from Aryans—you know, the story is that the Japanese are descended by blonde-haired, blue-eyed people . . . which is Aryans.” 

Glenn Danzig is saying the damndest things, and if he comes off like Tournier’s Ogre in terms of all the collusion and conspiracy going on, he could give a fuck if you believe him. While keeping his volume down, he sounds like Ed Burns with his Jersey accent and gravelly voice, not the bellowy Jim Morrison or Elvis you know from his songs. His nails are pointed like the claws of the stuffed black Canadian timber wolf he has mounted in his living room, and his marmoreal skin, as somebody once mentioned, looks completely divested of blood.

Nazism is one topic that interests Danzig, insomuch as Hitler is interesting, but not just Hitler but the world Hitler inherited, Otto von Bismarck, the Teutonic knights, Nietzsche, all the preceding factors, because—is it not obvious?—Glenn Danzig is into origins. This much is certain. If you mention Adam & Eve, he points out Lilith, Adam’s first wife (whom he centered Aria II around). You mention the film Barfly, he points out Storie di ordinaria follia (or Tales of Ordinary Madness), the European Bukowski film that predates Barfly and “is almost an exact rip-off,” before mentioning that he got into Bukowski by reading a column by Lester Bangs in Creem. He wants to know—has to know—the origin of everything, the more far-fetched and outlandish the more he digs in. Including etymology, which is one of the reasons he uses Latin in a couple of his hellraising songs. When touring foreign countries (back when Danzig toured real tours), he likes nothing more than to know where a native tongue ties into the native tongue. “There are some Japanese words that are almost Italian words, they’re all linked. So what happens is, somewhere there is a nucleus of how everything started and where it went. Looking at the similarities of how to communicate with these people.”

Perhaps this last bit is a small insight into how his late-’70s/early-’80s horror-pop band the Misfits has cultishly transcended punk, pop and rock, or why Rick Rubin (“Mr. ZZ Top” in Glenn’s idiom) was quick to spot the possibility when Danzig was already Danzig, and signed him to Def Jam Records (later American). It wasn’t that he spoke fluent ghoulese to comic book fetishists using astrozombies, green hells, bloodfeasts and Martians as his choice nouns, or that he opened the kitschvats for vampires or even that he had an interest in shagging the occasional corpse—though these things couldn’t have hurt. “You know what, music at its base is communication, as well, and it’s also an art,” he says. “If you forget the art part, it becomes a pop record, it communicates for a certain amount of time but then it’s done, because pop moves on.” He waves his papadum at me. “Hey, at the end of the day, a great song is a great song, okay?” 

Danzig’s greatest passion is for comic books—and you cannot mention his pioneer comic book company Verotik without him first giving you its proper heredity, the Robert Williams’s and S. Clay Wilson’s that he discovered when he was nine years old and “was like ‘what the fuck,” or the Ajax comics from the 1950s Voodoo and Strange Fantasy, “which were just incredible, people getting their head’s ripped off, witches, corpses, headless women, you know, just the coolest shit.” 

In this respect, Glenn Danzig has not matured at all; he is the same strong-willed kid from Lodi, New Jersey, who grew up as Glenn Allen Anzalone with a Scotch Catholic “Kennedy lady” for a mom, and a Protestant father that didn’t want him becoming a musician. “I think the cool thing about the Protestant religion that appealed to me when I was a kid,” he says at the memory, “was that Martin Luther told the Catholic Church that they were the Anti-Christ—and they tried to kill him.” He hangs on that a minute, then laughs. “And that was cool.” 

Glenn Danzig is different. He’s neither a liberal nor a conservative, he’s “an indie—I hate them all,” nor is he so much radical as he is bored by dumb people, or “people who don’t think.” This is most abundant in his religious beliefs, as he says “I see religion as supernatural, very hard to believe, all that crap—Jesus, Muhammad, Allah—it’s supernatural crap.” Not ten minutes later he leans in to tell me that the Philadelphia Experiment, “you know, where they made the ship disappear and reappear in the time thing and when it reappeared the people had all melted into the ship?—that’s true.” He loves the idea of anthropomorphizing (wolfmen, avatars, etc.), enjoys a curvaceous mistress being pierced by sharp things, and recognizes human beings as savage animals (especially in the media). He hasn’t dabbled in drugs or alcohol for years, but finds Peter Moon’s entire catalogue intoxicating. It is nothing for him to pop this out over tikka as if discussing his day at work, “if Satanists killed as many people as Christians maybe they’d get the respect they deserve,” or, when asked what he thinks of Halloween nowadays, “I’ve always loved it. Everything dies, it’s just a special feeling that I get.” 

One could say fuzzy. 

That Danzig had hit songs in the early 1990s with “Mother” and “Her Black Wings” in the eponymous band’s heyday is not surprising at all, but what might be for the casual orthodox who court the American Dream is that he never gave a damn about reaching the mainstream populous and or selling himself to the glued-in X-Generation. “I don’t do it for MTV,” he says now, “In fact, the only time the Misfits were on MTV was in 1982 when we got arrested in New Orleans for graverobbing.” He chuckles as he did when he thought of Martin Luther. “They flashed our picture and said ‘the notorious New York horror-punk band arrested last night,’ and a young Pepper Keenan [Corrosion of Conformity] was with us that night we got arrested.” Good times, good times.

As for the origins of his indomitable strength of will he says, “I really had a strong grandmother. She was very independent, she rode a motorcycle, and she was very constant—think for yourself, be yourself, and if people don’t like it, screw them.” 

Danzig is certainly independent, willful and as entrepreneurial as P Diddy. It’s one of the reasons he won’t get the Misfits back together despite being offered “a lot of money” and public demand—because his relationship with Jerry Only is unmendable. Jerry is still parading the Misfits around the world in the Danzig-less form, but “it’s just really bad karaoke,” Danzig says. “We don’t have a relationship. Even his own brother won’t speak to him.” 

So Danzig will just have to continue being Danzig, who is: A) Foremost, the Dark Force of Metal, having released a double-disc The Lost Tracks of Danzig in July, which is comprised of songs (wrested from the tight grip of Rick Rubin, whom Danzig is still battling for money) that were meant for past records but didn’t make the cut for one reason or another, B) a comic book geek and innovator, having released Drukija with illustrator Simon Bisley (“the heir to the Frazetta throne”), coursing the dark paths of the Contessa de Grimstonia, C) a Jeet Kune Do practitioner, which was Bruce Lee’s martial arts form and centers his being, calms his temper and works his already bulging guns, D) a film writer, as he’s in talks with Lionsgate for Gerouche, a New Orleans voodoo movie based on his Verotik comic, which he’s written and intends to direct, E) an inspiration for musicians ranging from Johnny Cash to Soundgarden to AFI, et al and F) insatiably hungry for knowledge and already smarter than you think.

“The cool thing is that you can never stop learning until the day you die—there’s always more knowledge, something to read, something to think about, something to do.” 

Does he regret the graverobbing, the violence, the squabbles with bandmates, the missed opportunities. 

“No.”

 

Danzig’s “3 Weeks of Halloween” tour hits The Grove in Anaheim (2200 East Katella, Anaheim) November 1, 8:30pm; tickets TK


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