Ever since Nate Newton first heard the Misfits as a kid growing up around Virginia Beach's skate and surf scene, Glenn Danzig has played a big part in the Converge bassist's life. With his other band Doomriders, in which he sings and plays guitar, Newton has not only explicitly tried to channel Danzig with numerous songs, but also covered the ripping cut "Possession" off Danzig's landmark self-titled debut album. In 2007, Evil Elvis returned the favor by inviting Doomriders to open for him on tour. More recently, when recording Converge's last album, 2017's The Dusk in Us, Newton played an iconic Aria Pro bass previously owned by original Danzig band member Eerie Von, an experience that he found "amazing" and inspirational. On the eve of the 30th anniversary of "Danzig 1," we caught up with the musician to talk about his lifelong passion for Danzig's music, what it was like meeting the man himself, and what he admires and loves about those classic songs.
WHEN DID YOU FIRST DISCOVER GLENN DANZIG?
NATE NEWTON I can't say exactly. I was really young, probably about 10 or 11. I had been introduced to the Misfits by an older cousin who was into skateboarding and punk. Growing up in Virginia Beach skate and surf culture was just sort of the norm, so all the kids in my neighborhood were into skateboarding. In the mid-Eighties the default music for skaters was punk and Thrasher magazine was my gateway. My memory is hazy, but I had some dubbed Misfits tapes around '85/'86 and then I got the copy of Thrasher with Danzig on the cover and that kinda solidified it all for me. Evilive came out in '87, I think, and it was the first "new release" by any of Danzig's bands I bought — I never had any money so my friends just dubbed their copies for me — and I was obsessed with it. Mostly because it sounded horrible but somehow made me want to keep listening.
DESCRIBE THE FIRST TIME YOU HEARD DANZIG'S SELF-TITLED SOLO ALBUM. WAS THE IMPACT IMMEDIATE? OR A SLOW BURN?
At first I was a little taken aback by it. I remember thinking, "This isn't punk, what the fuck?!" But after some more thought I decided that not being punk to the punks was probably more punk than just being punk. Or something like that. I had the Samhain albums and I liked them, but they didn't engage me the way the Misfits did. After a few listens of Danzig 1, I was hoooked like the first time I heard the Misfits. I also remember my dad hearing me blasting it and coming into my room because he dug it, too. I was 13. It's a miracle that I didn't decide to hate it right then and there because my dad liked it, too, but you can't deny a great record when you hear it.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE SONG FROM DANZIG 1, AND WHY?
"Soul on Fire." It's tough to say why. It's catchy as fuck and dark. It's heavy without relying on overly distorted "metal" tones. Probably Glenn's best crooner on that album, as well. The entire album is dripping with swagger, but there's something about that particular song where the swagger and the attitude shine through more than the other tracks. Also ... it serves as proof to anyone who says they hate saxophone in rock music that they're wrong. If I'm wrong and that's not a saxophone in the chorus then ... whatever. I still like saxophones, go fuck yourself.
DANZIG 1 IS WIDELY CONSIDERED TO BE HIS BEST ALBUM. DO YOU AGREE?
I think rating albums is kind of silly, but if I'm picking a favorite I have to go with [Danzig II:] Lucifuge. Danzig 1 set the tone, Lucifuge locked it into place. I feel like that's the record where the band began hitting their stride and there was a lot more chemistry between them. "Her Black Wings"??? "Long Way Back From Hell"??? "Blood and Tears"???? Perfect album beginning to end. One is also a perfect album beginning to end, but II is hands down my favorite. Probably because the first album let me know what I was in store for and I was excited for it ... then they delivered on II. In spades.
HOW HAS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH DANZIG 1 CHANGED SINCE THE FIRST TIME YOU HEARD IT? DOES IT REPRESENT A MOMENT IN TIME FOR YOU, OR IS IT STILL IN ROTATION AND RELEVANT TO YOUR LIFE?
I listen to it regularly still. I know that album like the back of my hand. There's an itch that can only be scratched by those original lineup Danzig albums. I don't know what it is ... the minimalism, the heavy vibe, the swagger, and just great songs.
WHAT IS IT LIKE TOURING WITH DANZIG? DID THAT EXPERIENCE CHANGE, DEEPEN OR EVEN DISTRACT FROM YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS MUSIC?
I had a very positive experience on the road with Danzig. He was super supportive and really accommodating to us. He broke his shoulder on that tour. He did it during the show. He fucking finished the set with a broken shoulder. He canceled one show, and then did every other show on that tour in pain with his arm in a sling. That stuck with me. He didn't have to do that. He could have canceled every show and rescheduled them, instead he powered through the entire tour and just dealt with it. The way he belts it out onstage must have been excruciating with an injury like that.
WHAT DOOMRIDERS' SONG OWES THE BIGGEST DEBT TO DANZIG?
All of them? I guess the most obvious would be "Come Alive," "Midnight Eye" and "Black Thunder." I specifically set out to channel Danzig in those songs. No shame. If you're gonna rip something off, then do it justice. I hope I did.
WHAT WAS THE HARDEST THING ABOUT COVERING DANZIG'S "POSSESSION"?
Singing it. How do you do a song as classic as that and not make it sound like amateur hour? I probably failed at that, but I had a lot of fun doing it.
DO YOU KNOW IF DANZIG HAS HEARD YOUR COVER?
I don't have complete confirmation on this, but — from what I've been told — the reason we were offered a tour with him is because he saw our split with Coliseum in a record store and picked it up. Then he bought our first album and liked it. Simple as that. I was shocked and honored.
DANZIG HAS OBVIOUSLY INFLUENCED YOUR WORK WITH DOOMRIDERS A LOT, BUT CAN YOU POINT TO ANY OTHER, MAYBE SUBTLER, INFLUENCES THAT HE'S HAD ON YOUR WORK WITH OTHER PROJECTS THAT PEOPLE MIGHT NOT NOTICE?
First thing that comes to mind is "Deserts in Your Eyes" by Old Man Gloom. I wrote that one and then asked Santos [Montano, OMG drummer] to do his Danzig impression with the lyrics I wrote. In Converge, there are a ton of little things here and there. When we're writing music sometimes the easiest way to describe what you want something to sound like is to reference another piece of music. Like, "do a Biscuits-style ride beat over this part" or "make that guitar tone a little more Danzig 1." Also ... a good friend of mine, Dave Walling, who plays in Blacklisted, is a huge Misfits/Danzig collector. He actually owns Eerie Von's Aria Pro bass. The classic one with the "twist-a-cain" decals on it. He actually lent it to me to use on the last Converge album. Holding that thing was amazing. I was actually shaking. What an incredible piece of history. I was so excited to use an instrument that had such a huge part in some of my favorite records of all time on our record. Hopefully, a little bit of that swagger rubbed off on us.