“Elvis had attitude. So did Iron Maiden and Danzig. Put today’s bands in front of me and I wouldn’t know who they are”: an interview with Glenn Danzig, rock’s dark lord

Glenn Danzig wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket
(Image credit: Stephanie Cabral)

Glenn Danzig is one of rock’s most influential – and outspoken - figures. As singer with US punk icons Misfits, crepuscular goth-rockers Samhain and his own eponymous band, he’s ploughed a unique furrow while inspiring everyone from Metallica to AFI along the way. His reputation as someone who doesn’t suffer fools gladly precedes him, but in 2013, Metal Hammer found him in uncharacteristically approachable mode.

Glenn Danzig is a giant. Not literally – he’s 5ft 3 in his bare feet. But he is a towering influence on today’s alternative culture. Where punk, metal and hardcore meet with horror films, comics and the dark arts stands Glenn Danzig.

Demon, demagogue, demigod, megalomaniac, punk primadonna, Napoleonic angry little man – from the late 70s with Misfits through the Samhain/Danzig career peak of the late 80s/90s, everyone had an opinion on the man. Today he still evinces a response from all-comers, whether it’s his political conspiracies or getting knocked out backstage by a member of a support band. YouTube was made for those who can’t decide whether we love or hate Glenn Danzig but know we can’t get enough of him.

It’s not hard to see why. Watch footage of him through the ages and Danzig consistently cuts a charismatic figure, all gym-buff pecs, steely stares and tantrums. He’s a wide-necked, pouting warrior. A man who always appeared as if he were impatiently waiting for the rest of the imbecilic world to catch up. He is the man Metallica look up to and invite onstage, and his black velvet baritone croon remains as iconic-sounding as Johnny Cash or Presley himself.

With Misfits he birthed the ghoulish horror/hardcore cross- over and his 1988 album, Danzig, was a punk/metal game-changer. The iconic video for Mother has had over 10 million online views and counting. His shadowy onstage demeanour and unpredictable behaviour made him the metal Jim Morrison, or more famously the Evil Elvis. “I’ve always been open about my influences,” he says. “It all goes back to Elvis.”

Today finds Danzig at the LA home he shares with his collection of ephemera (skulls, shrunken heads), and one of America’s finest occult book collections. He’s 57 now, has never wed and does few interviews, but with some Danzig/Misfits shows and a covers album looming, now is the time to talk. Because Danzig’s heritage is evident in alternative culture more than ever.

“It seems that way,” he says. “Really I just did this stuff and dressed the way I dressed because I hated what was out there. Then and now. And eventually people related to it. People like me. That’s why I started in music or why I started a comic company – for people like me who want to see crazy-ass stuff. I make music for people not being serviced by the mainstream intelligentsia.”

Glenn Danzig performing onstage with the Misfits in the early 80s

Glenn Danzig performing onstage with the Misfits in the early 80s (Image credit: Alison Braun/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

The downside of Danzig’s legacy is that far from offering the brutal muscular hardcore of Misfits or the molasses-black metal of Danzig, many of today’s bands have lifted the aesthetic but not the attitude. The style but not the soul.

“If it’s a band like My Chemical Romance or AFI telling me, ‘Man, you were the biggest influence’ then it’s heartfelt, that’s cool. But there are bands who don’t know my work and their manager tells them to wear the shirt because they’ll look good… it’s insincere. Some bands listen to my stuff, others I’m not so sure about. As an artist you have to satisfy yourself first.” 

Do you feel alienated from some of today’s faux-goth bands?

“I look at them and I don’t care,” says Danzig. “Elvis had attitude and personality – and so did Iron Maiden and Danzig. Put today’s bands in front of me and I wouldn’t know who the fuck they are. Even MTV doesn’t play videos anymore.”

Buy into Danzig’s brand – and that might include his erotic comics, record label, acting roles, his recent studio album Deth Red Sabaoth (his highest charting release in over 15 years), the plethora of Misfits memorabilia out there - and you know what you are getting. Darkness. Misanthropy. The occult. But humour too.

“I’m sardonic, yeah,” he smiles.

What’s the biggest misconception about you?

“That I don’t laugh,” he smiles. “That I don’t joke around. Sure, some things are serious, but not everything. Also maybe some people aren’t saying the right things, you know? A good interviewer should make you feel comfortable and get you talking. But some people grate on me or are confrontational – is that the best way to get me to open up? Probably not.”

In the past provoking Danzig for an opinion almost seemed like a journalistic sport because his responses were always so entertaining. 

“I just hang up now,” he laughs. “Or walk out. I don’t give two fucks. I never did really, that’s why I’d tell people off. Some people in music are dying to be interviewed but not me – especially now. Today there’s a whole other world where I can just put something on the website and get two, three million views. I don’t care. It’s nice to be in a magazine but not if you’re going to be a dickhead about it…”

Duly noted. But surely you must Google yourself to see the shit that’s being talked?

“No,” he says. “You’ve got to have a tough skin in this business and I don’t look at anything like that. I don’t give a shit.”

June 2010 sees him hitting the UK for a sold-out show in London, which will see him perform with Misfits guitarist Doyle in Europe for the first time in years. It’s nearly a quarter of a century since Glenn first came to the UK in ’79.

“We opened up for The Damned,” he recalls. “Their management didn’t treat us very well and so we walked off the tour.”

Did you have to deal with English punk crowds hostile to Americans in make-up?

“Actually we were more hostile to them!” he says. “Man, back then we’d take on anybody. I remember flipping off audiences, telling them to go fuck off. It was much better when Danzig went back to the UK a few years later.”

In recent years Glenn’s gained a reputation as something of a conspiracist whose contentious opinions are at odds with the more liberal rock star consensus. But unlike famously conservative types like Dave Mustaine, Johnny Ramone or Kid Rock, he’s never aligned himself with any political side.

“Politics to me is all about corruption and making money,” he says, a slight snarl rising in his voice. “Politics is about lying to people about shit you said you were going to do but haven’t. Our president is famous for this.”

You’re not an Obama fan then?

“I’m not a fan of any of them. They’re all fucking assholes, lying scumbags. That old saying is true: ‘How do you know a politician is lying? His lips are moving.’”

Danzig laughs at his own joke. He laughs a lot. It’s sort of unnerving and unexpected, but a relief too. But also – and this is the biggest surprise – it’s a sort of nervous laugh. Because you sense that deep down Danzig is actually a shy guy – a lone wolf – who’s built a suit of armour in order to deal with the world. He says he doesn’t give a shit but he clearly does. And right now he’s on a roll.

“Everyone has a right to an opinion but at the moment in America the more liberal people don’t seem so liberal,” he says. “If you don’t think what they think they want to destroy you. That’s not liberal – it’s actually very fascistic. But I feel the same about the conservative community too. So I don’t know where I fit. That’s why I chose Misfits as a band name: because both sides are idiotic. Where’s my place, you know? Where do I fit? Why can’t people have some common sense? They can’t because they’re all idiotic fascists who want to control how you eat, how you live… man, leave me the fuck alone.”

Glenn Danzig against a black background

(Image credit: Press)

At this point Danzig’s manager breezily interjects as our interview is nearly up. You sense that he breezily interjects quite often. There’s just time for a couple of questions. Asked what one thing he would save from a burning house, he laughs again and offers this response: “Not a book. Something more important. Like a gun.”

That’s not much use in a fire, though.

“You never know who you’re going to see on the way out.”

Are you a gun collector?

“I’d rather not say. You have a couple of lunatics who go crazy and suddenly everyone wants gun control. Take away a gun and they’ll get in a car and run people over. You could kill 20 people, drive down the road and kill 20 more people.”

When was the last time you cried ,Glenn?

“Oh jeez,” he says. “I don’t know. I don’t really cry.”

Finally then, what’s the one question you’d liked to be asked in interview, but never have?

Danzig is laughing again.

“I’ve never really thought about it,” he says. “Interviews are always tough for me because I don’t really like talking about myself much. I’m around myself 24 hours a day and I get kinda bored with myself.” 


“Yep. Sometimes I get tired of being me.” 

Originally published in Metal Hammer issue 245