Flux #1, 9/94 ------------- THE DARK KNIGHT RETURNS (pg. 50) Story by Jeff Kitts Pumped-up prince of darkness or rock and roll egghead? GLENN DANZIG uses brawn and brains on his latest release, Danzig 4p ...AND SUDDENLY, THERE WAS DANZIG. Or so you might have thought. Most of the world got their first taste of this greasy, biker-gang band and its stocky, muscle-bound singer from Beavis and Butt-Head - who constantly give Danzig's performance of "Mother" (pronounced "Mutha") a neck-snapping "Yes!" But the fact is that Danzig has been together for over six years. And though the band has continuously flirted with mainstream success, they've never quite acheived it. That is, until "Mother" - a song that first appeared on Danzig's 1988 self-titled debut. "I'm not exactly sure why we're all-of-a-sudden successful," says singer Glenn Danzig. "Someone told me that it's because we've been around long enough for people to finally catch up to us." As a band, Danzig's past reaches back to the early Eighties, when New Jersey native Glenn Danzig fronted the Misfits, a seminal punk outfit. During his tenure with the Misfits, Danzig wrote "Last Caress" and "Green Hell," songs Metallica would later record and popularize. Following the break-up of the Misfits, Danzig assembled Samhain, a more experimental punk band that later mutated into the current Danzig line-up that includes John Christ (guitar), Eerie Von (bass) and Chuck Biscuits (drums). The recent success of "Mother" came well after the 1992 release of the band's third full-length studio album, Danzig III-How The Gods Kill. For some unknown reason, radio stations across the country began to play a horribly recorded live version of the song that appeared on a 1993 EP entitled Thrall-Demonsweatlive. When the band caught wind of the sudden interest in their six-year-old song, they immediately re-released the original recording of "Mother" (with some crowd noises pumped in to give it that "live" feel). The rest is Top 40 history. So now, with "Mother" still holding steady on the charts, Danzig prepares to release their fourth album, appropriately titled Danzig 4p. "It's definitely Danzig - but it's still going to freak many people out," says Danzig, chuckling. "It's a very challenging record, philosophically, vocally and musically." With the release of Danzig 4p only a few weeks away, Flux had the opportunity to speak with the band's normally reclusive leader about the explosion of "Mother," the making of the new album and his future as a performer. FLUX: Why do you think "Mother" became a hit six years after its initial release? GLENN DANZIG: We wanted to put out an EP after Danzig III, but the record company told us we were crazy because EP's don't sell. As far as I was concerned, it was too soon to do another studio album or record a live album, so I thought an EP with four live tracks and three studio tracks would be the best thing to do. So we went into the studio and recorded "It's Coming Down," "Violet Fire" and "Trouble" in one day. We put them together with some live tracks, and put it out as Thrall-Demonsweatlive. "Mother" was one of the live songs, and it just started getting airplay. So we decided to shoot a live video for it. MTV had to play it because it was doing so well on radio. It was kinda cool because no one called us a "sell-out" since "Mother" was already six years old when it became a hit. [laughs] FLUX: Is it possible that when Danzig was first released back in '88 the mainstream music scene just wasn't ready for a song like "Mother"? DANZIG: That's exactly what happened to us. When we first came out, we were doing things that few bands did - we had to go up against all the hairspray/glam bands of the late Eighties. A lot of people liked "Mother," and some deejays played it, but people called us Satanists and all kinds of crap - they just didn't understand us. That's not to mention the fact that the first "Mother" video freaked MTV out and they pretty much banned us from the station for the next few years. Hell, MTV had a heart attack when they saw our video for "It's Coming Down" - and that was just us on stage! [laughs] FLUX: Did you notice something special about "Mother" when you first wrote it? DANZIG: Yeah, I did. I remember calling [producer] Rick Rubin in the middle of the night and telling him that I wrote an incredible song - probably the best song I'd ever written. It was the song I always wanted to write. The first time we played it, people went crazy. But I never wrote that song to make it a hit - I never wrote that way, and I still don't. I write songs so that they say something and do something, and if people like 'em, great - and if they don't, they don't. FLUX: Did people treat you and the band differently once "Mother" became a Top 40 hit? DANZIG: Not really. This band has always had a good perspective on the realities of this business. We've been doing this for six years now, and we pretty much know how slimy the record business is. [luaghs] But it's true that once you have a hit like "Mother," everybody wants to be your friend and take credit for your success. But we know the people who really helped us and tried to push our records. FLUX: Do people ever tell you that your music should be kept underground? DANZIG: Sure, people say it. But I've always said that I'd rather have people listen to us rather than bands like Poison that have nothing to say. We should be heard by as many people as possible. FLUX: Does it ever bother you that some people only discovered Danzig because of "Mother," and aren't familiar with the band? DANZIG: No. People are people, and you're always going to get new fans. It doesn't matter how they learned about the band. And it doesn't even matter if you're on MTV or getting radio airplay - people will find out about you somehow, and they'll show up to your shows and buy your records. That'll never change. In our case, the kids who got into us because they saw the "Mother" video know pretty much what they're going to get when come see us live - they know that you won't see smoke bombs, lasers or stupid special effects - just a band, going crazy. FLUX: Let's talk about your latest album, Danzig 4p. Who did most of the songwriting? DANZIG: I've always done all the songwriting for this band, and this album is no exception. FLUX: When you begin to write a new album, do you have a preconcieved idea of how you want it to sound, or do you just write spontaniously? DANZIG: I always know beforehand what kind of record I want to make. Those ideas dictate how the songs will sound. And sometimes it's not always easy to execute the ideas. For example, writing "Her Black Wings" was a laborious and tedious experience - but that's the way it had to be for the song to come out right. But sometimes I'll just start playing and get an idea and write a song. There are songs on this record that I wrote in five minutes - and some of them are my favorite songs because they were so spontaneous. So it varies. FLUX: Do you want Danzig to stay together as long as possible, or do you think you might someday break up the band and move on to other things? DANZIG: In this band, everyone is free to go out and do anything they want on the side - so, in that respect, we're a pretty healthy band. I don't know if I'll stop playing live, but I do know that I won't want to spend the rest of my life doing these crazy year-and-a-half tours that we always do. I'll probably end up recording an album every two or three years, and doing 30 or 40 dates in America and a few in Europe and Japan - that's about it. One thing I do know is that I don't want to be like Mick Jagger and guys like that - 50 years old and jumping around on stage. There are tons of other things that I want to do, so we'll just have to see what the future holds. FLUX: When did you first start singing? DANZIG: I started singing as a little kid. The first gig I had was as a drum roadie, but I eventually got in a band. I grew up playing piano and clarinet, and I picked up guitar later. When I was a kid, I went back and forth between wanting to be a comic book artist, a brain surgeon and a musician. [laughs] But the music has always been the constant in my life. FLUX: What was it like being a teenage musician? DANZIG: It was weird. Many people don't realize it, but you really have to give up a lot when you want to be a musician. While all the other kids are hanging out and going places, you're in a room practicing. And that continues through the years, too. Even today, people come in and out of your life all the time because they don't want to get involved. But I was ready to make those sacrifices right from the start. FLUX: What kind of music did listen to when you were growing up? DANZIG: I had two older brothers, so I heard everything from Blue Cheer, Cream, and the Doors to Roy Orbison and Bob Dylan - a lot of classic rock. My mom worked at a record store, and she would bring home Beatles and Stones records - so I pretty much heard everything. Then, when I started buying my own records, I picked up things like Black Sabbath, Velvet Underground, the New York Dolls - stuff like that. FLUX: When you started getting into bands, did you play covers? DANZIG: No. People used to tell me that I was crazy for wanting to play my own music. They said I should play other people's music, but I knew there was no future in that. I would say to other musicians, "Don't you want to write your own music?" And they would say, "No." Many of the bands in New Jersey where I grew up, and in New York City, too, were cover bands. I guess it was a steady paying gig - a job. Many of those guys are still playing the same stupid dive clubs. Sometimes we'll check into a hotel, and downstairs there will be a lounge band playing all these popular songs - I look at them and think, "Man, I'm glad I stuck to playing my own music." [laughs] FLUX: It's incredible to see some of the tribute bands; they really do take on the personas of the original groups. DANZIG: Yeah. But it's a little too warped for me. It's as if they don't like who they are, so they decide to get up on stage and be Gene Simmons or someone. I don't even want to get into the psychology of why they do that. FLUX: Do you keep up with current bands? DANZIG: I don't care about what's on the charts, but I do like hearing good new bands. And, to tell the truth, there aren't a whole lot out there. We took shit from people last year when we brought the Genitorturers out on the road with us. But to me, they're exciting. I think their songs are really good. One of my favorite songs of all last year was one from their album. What else is there? I like White Zombie, and Tool's okay. But there ain't a lot out there. FLUX: As a musician, are you always striving to grow and improve? DANZIG: Sure. I like to do things different ways to stay fresh. It's the same with our albums - if I had to do the same album over and over again, it would be too boring for me, and I wouldn't do it. Once you find a certain way to say something, you then have to find a different way to say it. And there's a certain percentage of people who like it when bands try new things - but there are way more people who just want the same thing over and over again. AC/DC is a perfect example of that. FLUX: In the fall of '92, you recorded a classical album entitled Black Aria (Caroline). Tell me about it. DANZIG: Besides the two girls who sang, I played everything on the record. It's cool, too, because when you see the longbox of the CD, it has a big disclaimer on it that says, "This is not a rock record. It's not a Danzig record. If you're expecting to hear 'How The Gods Kill' or 'Mother,' don't buy it." And you'd be surprised at how many people bought the record, even people who had never bought a Danzig record before. It really shocked me. FLUX: It's obvious that you appreciate and play many forms of music: heavy metal, classical, blues, etc. Do you have one true love when it comes to music? DANZIG: This is just my take on music, but to me it doesn't matter if it's Wagner [Richard, classical composer] or Willie Dickson or Ozzy or Elvis or Roy Orbison - a good song is a good song. And a good song will transcend label barriers. The things that I like about a Wagner song are the same things I like about a good Black Sabbath song - the way it builds, the way it's constructed, the way it ends. All that matters to me is if it's a good song. Comic Relief (pg. 53) When he's not makin' records and pumpin' iron, GLENN DANZIG heads his own comic publishing company If you're an upstart comic publisher, it's probably not wise to immediately take on the independent heavy hitters like Image, Dark Horse and Valiant - unless, of course, you're Glenn Danzig. Recently, the powerhouse singer formed his own publishing company and is gearing up to take the comic world by storm. A serious comic reader since grade school, Danzig has always devoted much of his free time buying, reading and collecting comics - he even draws a little on the side. By forming his own company, he can create the superheroes, monsters and villains of his choice and control the worlds in which they live - a dream come true for any comic fan. Danzig's first comic launch will be a collection of new art from famed illustrator Frank Frazetta, due out in August. "The book will be a 30-piece, 9"x12" collection of what is absolutely the best work he's ever done," says Danzig. "It's great working with him because he's probably my favorite artist of all time." FLUX: Do you remember the first comic you ever read? GLENN DANZIG: Sure. I was at a flea market by my house, and I saw this comic book called Black Hawk. I picked it up because it had a giant dinosaur on the cover. All I did at that point was draw dinosaurs. I didn't even care about the guys on the cover - I only cared about the dinosaur. I bought the book for a nickel, and drew dinosaurs for the rest of the day. I don't even know if I read the comic book. [laughs] I remember my friends and I, later on, would buy used comic books and cut out the heroes and play with them. [laughs] I probably cut up a million dollars' worth of comics. FLUX: What comics did you grow up reading? DANZIG: Batman, Legion Of Superheroes, Spider-man, Captain America, The Avengers - the full Marvel line. And, of course, I liked Jack's [Kirby] "Fourth World" and New Gods stuff - that, to me, is when comic books really became something more than comics. I was also into this character with a mohawk called OMAC. FLUX: Do you have a favorite superhero or villain? DANZIG: I like Magneto and Sub-Mariner - you know, anti-heroes. As far as villains, I like Darkseid, a Jack Kirby character. FLUX: How do you think your publishing company will be different from some of the other comic publishers? DANZIG: Many people who run comic companies don't even read comics, but everyone involved in my company is a big comic book fan. You have to love comics to know what's good and what's not, and to know which artists are good for which job. Take Marvel; they have great characters, but they don't give them to the right artists because the company is too corporate. The most important thing about a comic book is the artwork; if the art sucks, the kids won't buy it. It's the same thing with video games; if the graphics suck, it won't sell. Many companies don't understand that. FLUX: How did you and Frazetta start woking together? DANZIG: It started when I got to meet Frank. Normally I don't like to meet people I admire because sometimes it's a letdown, but he was a really cool guy. Frank was having some of his more recent work published by other companies, and I guess he wasn't happy with them, so he asked me if I ever thought of getting into publishing, and I said no. Then he showed me some of the paintings he'd been working on, and they were just incredible. So I started thinking about it. His new paintings were so good that I decided to publish them. FLUX: It must be nice to know that you've established a working relationship with a personal hero like Frazetta. DANZIG: Yeah, it's kinda cool. He's a really nice guy. You know what? I actually got to meet two of my favorite artists: Frazetta and Jack Kirby, before he died. Frazetta changed the face of modern illustration, and Kirby changed the face of comics. A friend of mine was Kirby's agent, and I used to go up tp Kirby's house a lot. We'll be publishing some of Kirby's work; we're working on it right now with his widow, Roz. You know, Kirby's funeral was the first one I'd been to since my grandfather's. FLUX: Have you hired other artists? DANZIG Simon Bisley, who worked on Melting Pot, Batman/Judge Dredd and Lobo, and Sam Keith, who did Maxx, Rob Zombie from White Zombie will also be doing some work. We'll also be publishing comics based on characters that I've created. One's called Satanica, about this bad-ass demon girl, and the other is a character called Goth. I've already sub-plotted the first 20 issues of Satanica. We'll also be publishing a comic based on a Frank Frazetta character called Death Dealer. And I've scripted the first two issues of Dark Wolf, another Frazetta character. FLUX: As a publisher, how do you feel about polybags, foil covers and such gimmicks? DANZIG: One thing that Image does that I don't like is they'll release a cover in silver foil and the same one in gold foil, but they'll only send the gold to retailers as gifts, who'll turn around and sell them for like 60 bucks. I also hate hologram covers - they're terrible. That's not cool. I do like it when comics have raised covers, like a recent Conan The Adventurer comic I saw. I don't like it when foil is used as a gimmick, but it's okay when you think about it beforehand and put it on all the covers - not just a few limited-edition special covers. I mean, it's either foil-enhanced or it's not. And there should be a good reason for it - not just that the artist was too lazy to draw a good background. None of our comics will have foil, but some will have raised covers. But they won't be special editions - they'll all be the same. FLUX: What's your impression of Image Comics? DANZIG: Right now, I'd say that Image is the standard for comics. It's funny because they could have the crummiest artists in the world but their stuff still looks good because it's computer colored. Image also takes care of their people, and that's the way it should be. Record companies should learn from Image. [laughs] I like Spawn, but I don't like Youngblood. The Todd McFarlane/Frank Miller Batman/Spawn crossover was great, but I knew the DC version would be crummy as soon as I heard they put Klaus Janson on it. [laughs] FLUX: How would you assess yourself as an artist? DANZIG: I really don't have the time to devote to it, but I wish I did. I do know that I'm a much better penciler than an inker. [laughs] I draw all the time, like when I'm on the bus or in a hotel. I draw monsters, big muscle guys and chicks with big tits.