Fourteen years after kicking off his famed Blackest of the Black tours, Glenn Danzig is switching it up. This year, Blackest of the Black will be a two-day festival held at Oak Canyon Park in Silverado, California, on May 26 and 27. With a lineup featuring Ministry, Suicidal Tendencies, Corrosion of Conformity, Venom Inc., Discharge, Atreyu, Suicide Silence, Marduk, Butcher Babies, and Deafheaven — and capped off by Evil Elvis himself — the fest also promises such attractions as the Castle Danzig, "roaming demons" and "thrill rides." Danzig recently took a break from rehearsals to give us a preview of what fans can expect this weekend — including the first live performances of cuts from his new album, Black Laden Crown, and a special 25th anniversary mini-set of songs from his classic How the Gods Kill.
REVOLVER Why did you decide to make Blackest of the Black a festival this time around?
GLENN DANZIG Well, it always kinda was … We're just making it more of a festival now. [Laughs] We're making it bigger. I started it because I felt there was a need for it in the U.S. Europe has all these great festivals and we have jack shit. Blackest of the Black has been growing and growing, so now it's time to do it this way.
You've played a ton of festivals over the years. What kind of dos and don'ts did you focus on when it came to putting together your own?
Try not to have corporate buy-on bands. [Laughs] When we did Blackest the first year, the admat actually said, "No rap metal and no corporate metal." [Laughs] Ozzfest was a buy-on and it was corporate metal, but the first year of Blackest was Danzig, Superjoint Ritual, Opeth, Nile, Behemoth, and Lacuna Coil. We did it at Universal [Amphitheater in Los Angeles] and Mesa Amphitheatre in Phoenix. That's where we started, and now here we are all these years later. You saw the lineup. It's insane.
What are the criteria when you're picking bands? Obviously you have to like them, but is there more to it than that?
Yeah. It's bands that have something to say that people might not necessarily be hearing. It also helps if you're a little dark. [Laughs] It also helps if you're more DIY or you've been through the ringer on major labels but you're still doing it. Bands like Ministry and Danzig, we've done that whole route, but we're still here playing. Look at Suicidal — they used to play shows with the original Misfits. Cred is a big part of it.
You've got some great legacy acts on the bill. You go way back with Suicidal, but what about Ministry and Venom Inc.?
I don't really know the Venom guys much, but I've known Al [Jourgensen] for a while and we've always talked about doing a Danzig/Ministry bill. It just never happened. I remember originally there was gonna be a Beavis and Butt-Head tour, and it was gonna be Ministry, Danzig and White Zombie. [Laughs] In between the bands, a screen would come down and Beavis and Butt-head would introduce the acts. The tour never happened, but everybody was ready to do it. So now Danzig and Ministry are finally playing together, and people are gonna be blown away. That day is gonna be crazy.
What can you tell us about this Castle Danzig that's going to be on the grounds at the fest?
Oh, it's pretty amazing. I haven't gone onto the set yet to check it out, but they've been sending me pictures of it. It's got faux stained glass inside, there's a blood bath with one of my comic book characters that's loosely based on Countess Bathory — there's a ton of stuff. You have to be 18 to go in, I think. [Laughs] If you bring your little kid, you're not gonna be able to go into Castle Danzig.
The poster for the festival also promises "roaming demons," a "sugar skull contest" and "thrill rides." What can you tell us about that stuff?
Well, you'll just have to go and see. [Laughs] Every day is a surprise for me. They keep springing different stuff on me and I'm like, "Cool, yeah." So I'll be as surprised as you when you actually see what's going on. It'll be pretty cool. If you're tired of the regular old festival, you're gonna have a great time. Plus, so many great bands.
You're going to be performing a bunch of songs from Danzig III: How the Gods Kill this weekend to celebrate its 25th anniversary. How does that album hold up for you after all these years?
We still do a track or two [from that album] in our regular set, but this time we're gonna do five or six songs from it. That album is a personal favorite of mine. It was the first Danzig record to crack the Top 20 on Billboard. It was also the first record of ours that I produced, and it broke us massively over in Europe. It was a really good record that people responded positively to. We took that tour to Irvine Meadows and people thought we were crazy to play there, but it sold out like a month or two in advance. That bill was Danzig, White Zombie and Kyuss.
Tomorrow we're gonna go out to my storage space and get the old stage props from the Danzig III tour. So if you're coming to the show, we're gonna have the gigantic gargoyles and I think I have the old backdrop, too.
You've got a completely different lineup today than you did back then. Do those songs feel any different with different guys playing them?
I actually have better players now. [Laughs] Not to dis the other guys, but these guys are just better. I'm really happy with my band. They're incredible.
You've got a new album, Black Laden Crown, coming out on Friday, which is also the first day of the fest. Will you be playing any songs from it at the show?
Yeah, we're gonna do "Last Ride" and "Devil on Hwy 9." We're rehearsing them right now to see how they're gonna sound, but I'm pretty confident that they're gonna be OK. We'd do more, but we only have so much time. [Laughs] I'll also be signing copies of the album on Friday night.
In the past, you've talked about your albums fitting into a conceptual arc. How does this album fit into that picture?
Well, that ended with Danzig 7. That was a good freeing-up process for me because it meant I could do whatever the fuck I felt like. But I think this one shows everyone where Danzig is now and puts everything that came before it in perspective. I think there's elements from all the Danzig records on this album, plus some new touches. I think it's a career wrap-up, for lack of a better explanation.
That makes it sound like there won't be another one …
Oh, I don't know. In 2018 I have the Danzig Sings Elvis coming out, and then we'll see after that. [Laughs] My plate is pretty full right now.
Are you contemplating retirement?
Well, I don't tour anymore. I just go and do a show here and there. After the last tour, I was like, "You know what? I'm not bouncing around on a bus for a month anymore." I'll go out and do two or three shows and come home, but anything other than that I'm not gonna do anymore. I think the last time we played Southern California was two years ago, so who knows when we'll do it again after this. [Laughs] Anyone who wants to see us should just come to the show.