POP MUSIC : He’s No Walk in the Park : There’s dark, there’s angry and then there’s rocker Glenn Danzig. His music is not designed to make anyone feel good, or even feel better. Basically, he says, ‘I hate the world.’
Knocking on the heavy wooden door of Glenn Danzig’s Los Feliz-area house, you half expect Lurch to answer.
The wrought-iron-fenced front yard is a patch of dead weeds, and the braces propping up earthquake-damaged beams make the place a cross between the Addams Family mansion and the House of Usher.
The dark and musty interior, a clutter of kitsch presenting some disturbing contrasts, furthers the impression: A real stuffed wolf stands menacingly near an incongruously cute Snoopy telephone; a collection of jack-o-lantern figures shares shelf space with a vast array of Looney Toons items.
And there, amid this cultural chaos, sits Danzig, railing against the evil he sees in the world.
It’s what he’s been known for since his days leading the late-'70s punk band the Misfits, through his current role fronting the dark hard-rock quartet that bears his last name.
“The world is a (messed)-up place,” he says, steely-eyed and matter-of-factly.
“I’m angry at everything,” Danzig, 35, continues, his eyes softening and his mouth curling into just enough of a smile to make it clear that he’s given it a lot of thought. “I hate the world.”
It doesn’t take long with Danzig’s music to figure that out.
The band’s new album, “4,” covers typical Danzig thematic territory with such songs as “Until You Call on the Dark,” “Bringer of Death” and “Stalker Song,” all in a focused, metal-tinged style marked by an elastic yowl reminiscent of Jim Morrison’s ( see review, Page 70 ). Capping it off is an unlisted “bonus” track that sounds like an excerpt from a Black Mass, with creepy organ and chants to the “demon.”
It’s the kind of thing that’s gotten Danzig branded a satanist--something he doesn’t deny but won’t discuss at length--and has made him a perennial outsider with a me-against-the-world attitude.
It’s also won him a fiercely loyal following that has made him a touring favorite and has pushed several of his albums past the 500,000 sales mark.
But, Danzig says, it’s also gotten him many enemies in the music industry--people put off by his brash manner and insistence on doing things his way at all times.
“Glenn’s not anybody’s friend,” say Rick Rubin, the head of American Recordings, which releases Danzig’s records. “He’s Glenn Danzig’s friend, and sometimes his biggest enemy as well.”
Now, though, the outsider is moving in.
The new album is one of the most hotly anticipated releases in hard rock of late, following the surprise MTV and radio success last year of “Mother,” a live track from Danzig’s 1993 EP “Thrall-Demonsweatlive.” And after a career of self-management, Danzig has signed up with the same management firm that represents Guns N’ Roses.
He’s also started a publishing company to put out both prose and his beloved comics, and he has plans to expand into the world of video games and other multimedia ventures.
This comes after more than a decade of cult recognition for the singer, who as the leader of the Misfits was a mainstay of New York’s do-it-yourself punk-metal scene, the Eastern equivalent of L.A.'s Black Flag.
Danzig grew up in the town of Lodi, N.J., as did his longtime bassist, Eerie Von. But if you want Danzig to provide any clues of what his young life was like, forget it.
The singer studiously avoids talking about his childhood in interviews--the publicists at American Recordings say they can’t recall any stories dealing with his early years. Even manager John Reese says he knows very little of Danzig’s background beyond the Misfits.
Ask Danzig himself about the roots of his anger and intensity, and all he’ll say is that it comes from a lifetime of dealing with the “hypocrisy” in the world. But those who know him and work with him have no doubt that those roots go deep--the dark mystique is not just an act.
“Absolutely,” Reese says. “He’s a very complex, intelligent individual.”
The satanist label, Rubin says, “is something people grab on to too easily.”
But he adds, “I don’t know how right or wrong it is. It’s an easy label, and Glenn transcends a lot of boundaries.”
Fronting Danzig, which evolved out of his post-Misfits band Samhain, he ranks perhaps with Henry Rollins and Fugazi as a symbol of independent rock.
“It was just a matter of time,” Rubin says of Danzig’s success. “There are bands like this that are maybe not the most MTV-friendly or radio-friendly or even press-friendly, but they’re kid-friendly. It reaches a point of mass combustion, a natural progression from the ground up.”
The band sold out a Halloween show two years ago at the 15,000-seat Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, where it will return for a repeat performance on Oct. 31.
But for all that, there’s still a kind of respect that Danzig craves.
“We just headlined a festival in Holland where there was like 116,000 people,” he says. “How many more people do we have to play for before our breakthrough is recognized? What do we have to do to be considered a real band? How long do we have to tour before we’re not a fluke anymore? How many albums do we have to do?
“What I’m saying is there are bands that play in front of a lot less people than us, sell less records than us, and are considered successes. Yet we’re not.”
Why? Danzig believes that the powers that be--in the record industry, the media and the government--have a stake in keeping him and his message of independence underground.
“People don’t want people to think--the people in charge,” he says, laughing at how this will look in print. “It’ll sound like a conspiracy theory, but basically I’ve had a lot of problems. You think it’s a joke--it’s not a joke. It’s very serious. I’ve had to live with it. I’ve had the CIA try to arrest me. I have people filming my shows. I have people try to set us up on the road. I’ve been branded a satanist with people saying I’m gonna ruin the world.”
Says manager Reese: “It’s not just paranoia. There are some incidents that have gone down in the past where he’s been harassed.”
One person who was willing to give him respect was Johnny Cash--himself one of pop music’s most legendary outsiders.
When Rubin signed Cash to his label last year and started to produce sessions for the recent “American Recordings” album, he asked Danzig to write a song for it. Danzig, whose father had been a big Cash fan, jumped at the chance and penned “Thirteen” for the Man in Black.
“When Rick asked me, all I said was, ‘Sure!’ ” says Danzig, who also had a song recorded by the late Roy Orbison on the Rubin-produced “Less Than Zero” soundtrack album a few years back.
“The best part was that Johnny Cash was a real nice guy. I don’t think he really knew much about me,” Danzig says. “I think his grandchildren had told him a little. And after we met he asked around and found out more. It was really funny. I read an interview with him where he was asked about me and said, ‘I don’t know. I met him and he wrote me a damn good song and was a nice guy.’ ”
Danzig is hoping that if one thing comes from increased fame, it will be that more people will see through the hype and accept him on his own terms, not as a media caricature.
“A lot of people get preconceived notions about what we are about,” he says. “They hear that it’s all satanic or this or that. But when they hear it, it’s like, ‘Wow, this is pretty good.’ That’s all we ask --that people decide for themselves.”