Deeper Into Music With Glenn Danzig
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Each week in The A.V. Club, we run a feature called Random Rules, in which agreeable musicians, actors, or other entertainment types talk about the first few songs to come up on their randomized MP3 players. We set out to do one with Glenn Danzig—famed frontman of The Misfits, Samhain, and Danzig, and also the artist behind a pair of classical CDs, including the recent Black Aria II. Then we learned he doesn't own an MP3 player. But he's still passionate about music, as the following conversation reveals.
The A.V. Club: Do you own an iPod?
Glenn Danzig: I hate iPods. [Laughs.] I like albums. I like holding them, seeing what they're all about, you know? I like reading liner notes. Even if it's a CD, you're getting kind of an idea of what the band is coming from. Or what they want you to think they're coming from. I like that.
AVC: When you're a musician on the road, though, iPods are really convenient.
GD: I don't even listen to music on the road, and if I did, it would be classical or whatever, something to chill me out. Actually, CDs sound so much better than MP3s. I'm sure they'll come out with a better format someday. Really, your iPod is just this little temporary go-between. Everybody will have to throw them out someday. I remember when they came out with quad vinyl. That was going to change everything, you know?
It's funny, I'm really into eight-tracks, because it's tape, and it sounds nice and thick. I really like it. I go on eBay every once in a while to look for eight-tracks. But you should see the prices that reel-to-reel tapes go for, those old four-track reel-to-reels that came with the cover artwork and everything. I saw an Elvis one, and Johnny Cash. I didn't get the two Johnny Cash reel-to-reels, 'cause at the last minute they went from, like, $8 to $70. That's crazy. But I think people are realizing that the tape format sounds really good. It's just so bottomy and thick and full. It sounds so different.
AVC: What else have you been listening to?
GD: Mostly my own music that I'm working on. I'm listening to it to review it. But here's something I'm listening to right now: Setherial.
AVC: Which album?
GD: I don't know. [Laughs.] I got it in the mail, and I put it on my CD player. It's the latest Setherial. It's black metal.
AVC: Do you keep up on black metal?
GD: One of the people at my old label sent me this. Some stuff I like, and some stuff I don't. But this is one of the things that I actually liked. I like the song structures.
AVC: So you're into the Scandinavian stuff?
GD: Yeah, actually, the reissue of that old Emperor record, the early one with Mortiis on it, is in my car right now. Oh, and the latest Belphegor.
AVC: Do you ever hear your influence on other bands?
GD: Some of them are pretty vocal about being influenced by this or that. Some of them cover Misfits or Samhain songs.
AVC: Have you rediscovered any old bands lately?
GD: I'm always listening to Black Sabbath. Actually, I just got the eight-track for the first Black Sabbath record. I love all four of the first records.
AVC: When did you first hear Black Sabbath?
GD: I'm actually the kid who turned everybody in my town onto Black Sabbath. I remember going into Sam Goody and looking in at the new arrivals. They had a jillion copies of this and a jillion copies of that, and they had one copy of Black Sabbath. Nobody knew who it was. I'm flipping through the vinyl, and all of a sudden I see this thing. It says "Black Sabbath," and there's this girl in a witch's cloak, and she's in this burned-out fucking electric forest or whatever. I didn't know what it sounded like. They didn't have listening stations back then. I just thought, "This has to be good."
AVC: Your vocals are pretty much the trademark of all your bands, but Black Aria II is an instrumental, classical album. Do you really listen to much classical?
GD: I do listen to classical music, just not lately. I was watching some movie the other day, and I was, like, "Oh, man, I gotta get that soundtrack." I forget what it is now.
AVC: Your new album is based on the ancient Mesopotamian myth of Lilith. It looks like you've been doing your research.
GD: That's my whole life. I read a lot. I've always read a lot. I'm finally finishing up my library in my house. I have so many books. I think that's something the fans know, but not a lot of other people in the media know. I probably know more than most so-called authorities. But that's where I come from. That's part of who I am.
AVC: Conceptually, it's like your music has gone from Tales From The Crypt to William Blake over the years. Have you always wanted to get into bigger ideas?
GD: I always have. In The Misfits, it started getting too crazy with Earth A.D. The concepts stared becoming too brutal and violent. It was less about fiction and more about the real world, the past, present, and future. I think a lot of people got freaked out by that. [Laughs.] People don't want to think about that kind of shit. But now, they're being forced to think about it. On the news, they just showed some child predator who had an ankle bracelet on. He was like some blip on a radar screen, and they showed him pacing back and forth in front of an elementary school, scouting out little kids. The things that I used to get in trouble for saying are now all coming to pass. I remember getting reamed by the media because I talked about priests molesting little children. They were like, "That doesn't happen." Now, with 24-hour news, people just can't ignore it any more. They can't pretend that it doesn't happen. They're being bombarded by it.
AVC: That's the same problem a lot of people had with Black Sabbath.
GD: Black Sabbath was saying, "War is always going to be here." If you look at where the world's been and where it is right now, nothing's changed. The way we kill people is a little different now, but man's inhumanity to man is just as bad as it's always been. I think it's a nature thing. Most people don't realize they have no control over it. When there are too many people, I think nature—whatever nature is—weeds shit out. I don't think it's something we're conscious of.
AVC: Do you listen to any happy, positive music?
GD: Anything that makes you feel good is happy and positive. It takes two negatives to make a positive. [Laughs.] I've always been the person who likes to take negatives and turn them into positives. And if they stay negatives, that's okay, too.