Glenn Danzig likes things scary. Horror has always been at the core of the singer's work, from his earliest days leading the fiendish Misfits, Samhain and through 30 years of Danzig to his upcoming debut as a feature film director. He's just begun shooting an anthology horror movie based on characters from his indie comics company Verotik, and he's promising a large helping of sex, violence and gore.
His obsession with horror began when he was a little kid going to the movies in Lodi, New Jersey, and grew as the genre evolved from the old Gothic classics to the slashier, splattery work of a revolutionary breed of nightmare-maker: George A. Romero (Night of the Living Dead), David Cronenberg (Scanners) and Tobe Hooper (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). He had his mind warped further by the international erotic horror comics he discovered coming out of Japan and Europe.
In these outtakes from Revolver's upcoming career-spanning cover story on Danzig, this lifelong horror fan and creative force expands on his interests in the genre as a musician, comics entrepreneur and filmmaker, just in time for Halloween. Keeping him company was a horned human skull that he brought along for our photo shoot. It rested comfortably, and menacingly, right beside him.
ON THE LAST DANZIG ALBUM, BLACK LADEN CROWN, YOU HAVE A DARK AND THREATENING TRACK CALLED "LAST RIDE." WHAT INSPIRED THAT SONG?
GLENN DANZIG I wrote that originally for The Walking Dead. When they first started putting out the comic book, I remember reading it: "Oh, it's kind of like Night of the Living Dead." And then Craig in my office was like, "You've got to watch this TV show Walking Dead!" By that time, it had already been on for two or three seasons. I really got into it. And then my attorney was telling me they're doing a soundtrack. Soundgarden was doing a song. I was in the studio at the time, so I wrote this song for The Walking Dead. They loved it, but they ended up not doing the soundtrack record of bands. I was like, "This song is too good not to put on the record."
ARE THE LYRICS SPECIFICALLY TIED TO THE WALKING DEAD IN YOUR MIND?
Not really, but it was the jumping off point for me. It was an apocalyptic doomsday thing, which is kind of what The Walking Dead is.
WHAT KIND OF HORROR INSPIRED YOUR COMICS COMPANY?
I was influenced for my company by the indies — artists frustrated working with DC and Marvel who started their own little collective and started doing indie stuff. That stuff was cooler. And of course I'm very influenced by European comics, like Italian fumettis, which is just crazy erotic horror. And the Japanese stuff, which is similar to erotic horror Manga.
HOW HAS YOUR TASTE IN HORROR EVOLVED OVER THE YEARS?
I remember when Fangoria [magazine] first came out — when it was still good. It changed stuff because they started putting a lot of the movies that Famous Monsters [magazine] wouldn't — like Cronenberg's Scanners and Tobe Hooper's Funhouse — because they were too gory.
HORROR MOVIES CHANGED A LOT OVER TIME FROM THOSE CLASSIC OLD MONSTER MOVIES. SOME OF THEM STARTED BECOMING MORE LIKE THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE.
That movie really changed everything. As the rating system became a little more accepting of this kind of stuff, it became The Last House on the Left, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and there were places to play these in midnight theaters in Manhattan and stuff. You could go see Cronenberg's Rabid and They Came From Within in an actual theater now.
WHEN THE EXORCIST CAME OUT IN 1973, PEOPLE WERE SUPPOSEDLY THROWING UP AND HAVING HEART ATTACKS IN THE THEATER, AND THAT WAS PRETTY MAINSTREAM AND TAME COMPARED TO WHAT CAME LATER IN THINGS LIKE SAW.
You had Herschell Gordon Lewis doing Blood Feast and Wizard of Gore. I mean, they kill a girl with a punch press in Wizard of Gore and her guts are all over the place. Those are definitely precursors for stuff like Saw.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS IDENTIFIED WITH HORROR MOVIES — WHETHER IT WAS THE OLD MONSTER MOVIES OR THE LATER SLASHER AND SPLATTER MOVIES?
I related more to those kinds of movies. Of course, there were movies I hated because you only get to see the monster in the last two minutes of the movie. But I saw the correlation between society and the monster and why there was a need for a monster.
NOW YOU'RE DIRECTING YOUR OWN HORROR MOVIE. WHAT FORM WILL IT TAKE?
It's an anthology. Have you ever seen Black Sabbath with Boris Karloff? Trilogy of Terror with Karen Black as the lead in the three different stories? In my movie, each part is between 25 and 35 minutes.
IS THIS SOMETHING YOU'VE HAD IN THE WORKS FOR A LONG TIME?
I have this comic company and the stuff was all done to take it to film. The past couple of years I've been really making an effort to maybe get a deal somewhere to do it. I have it now.
YOU HAVE A LOT OF HANDS-ON ROLES IN THE MOVIE: DIRECTOR, WRITER, COMPOSER. IS THAT JUST A NATURAL PLACE FOR YOU TO BE?
I'm a workaholic. I'm the guy who puts all the comic books together. I hired the artists, I write the stories, then later on I do the Photoshop stuff with it afterwards and put it together. I've run my own label since I was a kid. So I'm used to it all.
DO YOU THINK FILMMAKING WILL BE SOMETHING YOU KEEP DOING?
Right from this movie, I go right into the next movie that I want to do.
AND WHAT KIND OF MOVIE IS THAT?
I can't tell you right now. It's horror for sure.
HOW DOES WORKING WITH ACTORS COMPARE WITH A BAND?
So far my experience has been pretty good. Anybody who's hard to work with, I'll just kick off my set. We'll see when we start doing the movie and I have multiple actors everywhere. We'll see how good my temperament is. [Laughs]
YOU'RE PALS WITH ROB ZOMBIE. DID HE GIVE YOU ANY ADVICE ON TRANSITIONING INTO MAKING MOVIES?
Don't get involved! [Laughs] It's been great to see Rob go from an indie band to all he does now.
IT SEEMS LIKE A BIG DEAL THAT YOU'RE TAKING THIS NEW PATH AND BECOMING A FEATURE FILMMAKER.
In all the music videos I direct, I always try to bring that kind of flair and that theme to the videos. It's just that now I get to do an actual movie where you don't have to do so many edits. In music video, you constantly have to do edits because you've got to keep everybody's attention — you can't just do a long tracking shot. So I get to do a little more cinematic stuff, which is cool. It's going to be crazy.
HOW DID YOU END UP PLAYING A VAMPIRE IN AN EPISODE OF PORTLANDIA? DO YOU GET OFFERED A LOT OF ACTING GIGS?
I turn down a lot of shit. I get offered some of the stupidest scripts in the world. But I'd just got back from Europe and a couple of festivals when I get this email from Fred Armisen: "Rob Zombie gave me your email address. We wrote this part for you in Portlandia." I read the script and it's the most hilarious thing I've ever read in my life. Wow, I finally got something really cool. So I emailed him back and said, "This is great. ... Give me a week or two." And he goes, "We're filming tomorrow. You have to be on a plane tonight."
I fly up there and I crammed that whole night in the hotel. Fred is one of my favorite comics. I actually met him at a Rob Zombie birthday party. What's cool is I got to work with Fred. The joke was basically this Goth couple were going to the beach and I'm supposed to be an ancient vampire and he's going to teach Fred how to go to the beach. It was really funny.
Below, see Danzig perform his classic song "Mother" at the Revolver Golden Gods in 2013: