One thing about Glenn Danzig is that he does things his own way--not because he's some Gothic Satanist or scythe-wielding demonic brute, as his detractors make him out to be, but rather because he's intelligently examined his options and decided not to pay attention to mainstream dogma simply so he can blend in.
This attitude has served him well throughout his career but has also gotten him labeled and pigeonholed. In fact, his music is no more Satanic or lascivious than an old blues tune.
"I started singing when I was a kid," Danzig says over the phone from his home in Los Angeles. "My vocal style is very bluesy. I never had anyone come in and teach me how to sing."
His early influences were Elvis, Ozzy Osbourne, Willie Dixon and Jim Morrison, but for the most part, he learned as he went along. His first band, The Misfits, started out as his musical and lyrical homage to his favorite horror films; he then started Samhain, a band that allowed him to explore even darker territory. For the past 15 or so years, he's been performing under the name Danzig and his sound incorporates everything from the blues to metal to classical.
Like Zeppelin axe-man Jimmy Page, Danzig works themes of the supernatural and occult into his music--one of the main reasons he's a favorite target of evangelical crusaders concerned with the morality of today's music. The first seven albums released under the Danzig moniker were sequentially numbered and serve as his take on the 777 numerological/Kabbalistic theory of gematria, which is an attempt to explain the significance of things in relation to each other.
Most of the people who call him a Satanist or misrepresent his music "don't have the brain of an earthworm," he says. "What they're saying is stupid. You can't argue with stupid people because they're stupid! It's not an argument."
What he's really trying to do, he says, is to get people to think for themselves and not reject or accept things out of hand.
There's not enough time in the day for Danzig to accomplish everything on his mind. He's been recording and touring for nearly 30 years now, and when this year's Blackest of the Black festival concludes, he's going to take a break to focus on other projects.
"I've always said this wouldn't be my last tour if I could just mysteriously pop onto stage for my set and then be home," he says. "But that's not the reality. The reality is that you're on stage for two hours every night and the other 22 hours of the day, you're bouncing around on a bus or sitting around in a hotel room. It's boring and it's a drag, and I'm kind of tired of it now. "
The first Blackest of the Black tour was in 2003 and was developed to showcase the heaviest and most extreme bands out there. The festival has its origins in Danzig's desire not to let happen to young bands what happened to The Misfits.
"Back in the day, nobody would let The Misfits open up for them, not The Ramones, not The Cramps, nobody," Danzig said. "We were just a young band starting out and I think they were scared. And I've always vowed I would never do that. I have nothing to worry about and in fact, I want my bills to be great. I want people to go, 'Wow, what a great bill!' "
Several of the bands that appeared on the first Blackest of the Black tour were picked up by the Ozzfest tour.
"It's no coincidence that up until we did Blackest, the Ozzfest wouldn't touch any of these bands," Danzig said. "There's a lot of resistance because they're not corporate bands, so they're harder to control. But eventually people have to start recognizing bands like this or otherwise they're going to get left behind. And I think that's why the Ozzfest started to add some of these bands. We helped to change something, and that's fantastic."
Danzig expects the festival to continue without him; next year, he hopes to have fellow Misfit Doyle Von Frankenstein's new project, Gorgeous Frankenstein, as one of the main acts on the tour. Currently, Danzig is producing Frankenstein's new album and Frankenstein will join Danzig on stage during the Blackest of the Black tour this year, which has inevitably raised the question of a Misfits reunion.
"People ask me all the time about a Misfits reunion, but I can't see that happening," Danzig said. "The thing I'm doing with Doyle is about as close as it will be.
Danzig is also at work on other projects of his own, including an album of unreleased tracks that spans the history of Danzig. His second album of classical music, Black Aria II, is due out sometime before Christmas. He's also writing material for a blues album with Alice in Chains singer Jerry Cantrell, which he hopes to start recording soon. Given that Danzig writes all his own material, he has significantly more of a challenge with each new project. The result is that the first seven Danzig albums sound like different chapters from the same novel--the linear progression is there, but is tempered by different sounds and approaches.
"Writing a song is much harder than doing a classical piece for me, because in a classical piece, I can just let the mood dictate what's going to happen," Danzig said. "But when you get to a song, not only do you have to do a vocal melody, you have to write words and not be redundant and make some semblance of a story. First, I try to stay true to myself and then I try to stay true to what people expect. Sometimes it works and sometimes it works better. You never know until it gets done.
Friday, October 7, doors open at 5 p.m., show starts at 6 p.m., $29.50, with Doyle, Chimaira, Behemoth, Himsa, Mortiis and The Agony Scene, The Big Easy, 367-1212.