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The Weekly interview: Glenn Danzig

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Chris Bitonti

You seem pretty busy lately—multiple tours, upcoming covers album Skeletons, an Elvis-inspired EP, TV appearances. Have you felt a renewed energy lately? No, I’m always busy (laughs). It’s the same me, it’s just maybe more people are hearing about it. But I’m constantly working. I don’t think there’s a day that will go by that I’ll just get to relax and not do anything.

Was the goal in making your covers album to run those songs through the Danzig filter and bring certain elements out? Of course. My attitude with covers is if you’re just gonna try and do it exactly like the original artist then just leave it alone, because it’s just going to sound like a bad copy of the original artist’s version, and everyone’s already heard the original artist’s version a million times. My attitude is to bring my sound to it and my take on it. For example, [Dave Allan & The Arrows’] “Devil’s Angels” or The Troggs cover [“With a Girl Like You”]—I just made them really punky.

How did you pick the songs? It wasn’t easy, because there was so much stuff that I thought should be on there. I could probably do a Skeletons 2 or a Skeletons 3 if I really wanted to. I just whittled it down. I always wanted to do “Devil’s Angels.” Actually, the arrangement you hear on this record is one I did back in ’79—that’s how long I’ve wanted to cover it. And of course Elvis and Sabbath have to be on there. Everything else is just stuff I thought I could do a good job on and songs I wanted people to hear. Maybe they’re not familiar with The Litter or maybe some newer fans aren’t familiar with The Everly Brothers, although that’s incomprehensible to someone like me.

There are a ton of Misfits and Danzig covers out there. Do you have a favorite interpretation of your work? I like the original Metallica version they did on Garage Days—“Last Caress” and “Green Hell.” Cradle of Filth did a nice cover of a Misfits track (“Death Comes Ripping”), and I know Behemoth did a Danzig track (“Until You Call on the Dark”). I don’t know if the [Johnny] Cash and Roy Orbison songs apply here, because I actually wrote those songs for them.

Do you think the Misfits disbanded before you guys really got your due? I don’t think any punk bands really ever got their due (laughs). So many big magazines just dissed the whole punk thing as nothing, but really it was a big thing. It really changed, and that’s what we wanted to do—change the system. We still don’t get the kind of credit that a lot of bands should. There was no glory and money in it back then.

When I read about those early days of the Misfits, you were just playing and touring but you were also the one mailing out all the Fiend Club T-shirts from your mom’s basement. Yeah, I was screening the T-shirts, hand-painting them, sending out the mail, bringing the records to the pressing plants, all that stuff. There were other bands doing similar stuff as well, but only a handful on the level we were doing it on. It was a cool time, and it got me where I am now. That’s how I look at it.

You’re playing Las Vegas with Rob Zombie which feels like a pretty fitting way to spend Halloween weekend. Have you guys performed together before? Yeah, we’re old friends. I took White Zombie out on the Danzig III Tour, and White Zombie did some dates with Danzig in New York, too. The people that put out Misfits records—Caroline [Records]—also had Zombie on their label, and they said, “Can you put this band on the bill?” That was my first exposure to White Zombie.

Should be a good show. I know we’ve come out during each other’s sets and sung together. Most recently we were on a festival together in Montreal or Quebec and Rob came out and sang “Vampira” with us.

Will the set here feature some of the cover songs off Skeletons or will it be similar to the Danzig Legacy shows? We’ll play some stuff from the covers record, and we’ll do a really good selection of stuff from all the past Danzig records. I might just throw the setlist out the window and ask people what they want to hear.

You recently filmed an episode of Portlandia. What was that like? It was a lot of fun. It was very last-minute, so I had to learn all my dialogue really quick. Fred Armisen emailed me and said, “We really, really want you to come up and do this episode; we’ve been trying to get in touch with you.” Actually, Rob Zombie gave them my contact info, which is kind of weird because I met Fred at Rob Zombie’s birthday party (laughs). He was a major Danzig fan and I’m a fan of his work also. I put Fred up there with Bill Murray and some of my other favorite comedians, Jerry Lewis, stuff like that.

Are you okay making light of some of the more outlandish aspects of your style and what you’ve inspired? That’s the tough thing: When you’re doing something like this, it’s a fine line between it being not cool and very cool, and I think they got it. Fred and Carrie [Brownstein] really got it, so it wasn’t a tough decision at all. I read it and I was like, “Yes! This is hilarious. I would love to do this.”

I get offered stuff sometimes that’s more stupid, and this was not like that. I’ve seen a bunch of the Portlandia episodes and they’re pretty hilarious. I mean, I don’t know how it’s gonna turn out, but some of the comedy lines in it are just classic. The whole premise of the episode I’m on is just hilarious.

Danzig & Rob Zombie with Witch Mountain with October 30, 8:30 p.m., $50. The Joint, 702-693-5000.

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