Glenn Danzig has been angrier than usual lately. "There's so much craziness in the world," he says with an ominous laugh. "People always go, 'How could World War II have happened?' and you're seeing people bow down to fascism without even asking questions. They're glad to do it, and I'm just saying, 'Really? Are you that fucking dumb?'"
Danzig's antipathy for what he sees as people's ignorance in recent years was the main fuel for his band's gloomy new album, Black Laden Crown – not that you'd know it from the lyrics. The majority of the record's electric, funereal dirges, from gothy opener "Black Laden Crown" to moody closer "Pull the Sun," contain Danzig's signature oblique lyrics about all manner of unnamed dread. With its overdriven riffs and doom-saying, it makes for a dark soundtrack for dark times.
To add a little levity, though, Danzig has assembled his own Blackest of the Black festival in Orange County, California, this weekend. In addition to his own band, other performers include Suicidal Tendencies, Ministry, Discharge, Marduk and Corrosion of Conformity. The event will also feature attractions ranging from stomach-churning carnival rides and a roaming freak show to "Castle Danzig" – a chamber of horrors that includes a bondage stage, a pillory, a sacrifice altar and a literal "blood bath" inspired by one of his Verotik comics characters.
But other than two performances in Scandinavia this summer, these are all of the tour dates Danzig has announced so far. By his own estimation, he's too busy – with his comic-book imprint and a Danzig Sings Elvis album slated for next year – to hit the road like he used to. Nevertheless, he recently spent some time updating Rolling Stone on the things that make him mad enough to want to keep working.
Black Laden Crown is one of the gloomiest records you've made in a long time. How do you find that mood?
It's the times. You're sitting back and watching people get their heads cut off, and you're hearing stupid people say, "Oh, we'll never see World War II again. We'll never see this kind of persecution again." Then you hear about it in the Middle East, and no one's doing anything about it. It's so stupid and so hypocritical. I just want to say, "Shut the fuck up, you lying-ass motherfucker."
What are you thinking about specifically?
A whole bunch of shit. There's so much shit going on all over. It just annoys me so much that the government has succeeded in dumbing down the populace. It's something they've been trying to do for a long time, and now they're successful, making people dumber and dumber. They're going to create an elite and a working class, and the working class are gonna be dumb and not be able to miss paychecks and they're going to revolt. And the elite are going to be the ones who get to be educated and know shit and have all the money.
Look at our president.
Look at the one before him that started all of it. And the one before him started the NSA shit. This is just a process by people who are handpicked by the Rothschilds and all these other people to do this kind of crap. Look at Bill Clinton: The Clintons are the dirtiest, I have to say. And they're proud of it and flaunt it in front of everybody. It's why Hillary Clinton didn't get elected. You can blame everybody you want, but when you got a history that fucking checkered ...
How did you reflect these thoughts in the record?
On the record, I don't get into politics so much. If you talk to me and we talk about it, I love putting people who are full of shit in check [laughs]. Especially people who have no problem destroying other people's lives. But I usually keep the politics out of songs unless it's more on a social level, how it affects people's lives. In a lot of ways, I don't even like talking about politics because there's nothing I can really do about it. What can I do about it?
They already know who they want. Look, if you know anything about any of it, the world banks create and decide everything. If there's gonna be a war, they decide. Unfortunately a lot of people don't want to know about this stuff because when you have knowledge, you have responsibility. They've already got a hard enough time just trying to get through life with a job and a family and all the craziness of the world. The elitists play on that. They know people don't want to deal with this shit.
How did a song like "Black Laden Crown" come together?
I wanted that song to be the intro, not just to the record but possibly even the live show. The chorus is stuff I like, an "oi" chorus, or sing-along, whatever you call it. Then the lyrics are just so ritualistic. It's welcoming you into this crazy experience.
The song "Witching Hour" begins really softly, almost like your balladyy songs "Sistinas" and "How the Gods Kill." Who do you look up to when it comes to balladeers?
[Laughs] Of course, you have Elvis. But pretty much anybody can be a great ballad singer as long as they know what they're doing. Sometimes you hit it by accident. I'm sure with a lot of those old Fifties and Sixties records, it was just like the magic happened when they were doing it. A lot of times back then the singers didn't write the songs; five different people would sing it and whoever had the hit would be the one everyone remembered.
That was usually Elvis.
Yeah, well a lot of people didn't write anything back then. It wasn't just him. There's a track I worked on, on the Danzig Sings Elvis record, which will come out probably in 2018, called "Girl, You're My Best Friend." When I was researching it, I found out that Elvis wasn't the only one to do it. Johnny Burnette did it. Ral Donner did it. But Elvis' is the one everyone remembers.
You're launching your Blackest of the Black fest the same day the album comes out. What are you excited about with the fest?
It's going to be insane. I don't think anyone's seen anything like it. You've seen the bands on there; it's not your normal festival. For Danzig, this is the 25th anniversary of How the Gods Kill, so we're going to be pulling out at least five or six songs from that album – "Dirty Black Summer," "Godless," "Left Hand Black," "Bodies" or "How the Gods Kill." It's gonna be cool. We'll maybe play some new ones. Then we'll play just a bunch of stuff everybody wants to hear.
Castle Danzig sounds interesting. What inspired that?
[Laughs] I wanted to do a dark, crazy funhouse. I wanted to put some of my comic characters in there. I wanted to put the one that's based on Countess Bathory, Drukija, with her crown and everything in a blood tub [laughs].
When I saw the blood bath on the list of attractions, I wondered if you'd be putting fans in it.
I don't think so [laughs]. But if I know my fans, I'm sure a couple are going to jump into that tub. Danzig fans are pretty crazy – really cool, very crazy. I wanted to give them more than just a festival. I try to make Danzig shows an experience, something that transcends going to a rock concert.
In addition to the blood bath, you have a Shibari knot master "tying people up."
Some people need to be tied up [laughs]. They should have tied up that guy who ran the truck into everybody in France. But this is a different kind of tying ... some people need to chill out a bit.
In addition to the bondage stage, you have a suspension stage where people will be hanging by hooks. Are these things you're into or are they things you just find fascinating?
What else excites you about this fest?
We're trying to get some Lucha wrestler to come in and have some matches. And we'll have rides.
What rides will you have?
I wanted to have the Hellhole there. It's a big, solid cylinder, and it spins. Once you're pinned against the wall with centrifugal force, the floor drops out. They had it when I was a kid in Boston, in Revere Beach. Hellhole is crazy.
The other one I wanted was the Spider, which is this ride with all these arms with cars on the end that go up and down. The mainframe that holds the cars spins, and then the cars themselves spin. So you're just spinning five different ways, and the arms are going up and down. I remember going on it as a kid and going, "This is insane." It's pretty much a vomit machine.
Between the blood bath and that, there may be a lot of vomit at your fest.
You know what? Even if my rides weren't there, there'd still be vomit with the way people indulge at festivals. Maybe we can help them get it out of their system a little easier.
Your website says you'll be doing a "select handful of shows" this summer. Is that a tour?
No. I don't tour. To me, touring is going out for a month on a bus. I don't do that anymore [laughs]. What I do now is play shows where I can fly in and out. I'm not bouncing around on a tour bus anymore.
Other than the Scandinavian shows, what do you have planned?
We're talking about possibly a weekend here on the West Coast – like San Francisco, Phoenix and Vegas – but that would be just a weekend thing. It's easy. I could fly home every night. We might do a weekend back east, but it won't be 'til August.
Why do you dislike touring?
I've been doing it my whole life. I have so much going on here, and I can't get any work done on the road. It's great going out and performing for everybody – that's the only good part of the whole day. But that's two hours, OK? The rest of the day is wasted.
Do you ever think about retirement?
[Laughs] Yeah, man, I do. But I love working. I would probably just like a little lighter schedule right now. I'm sure in a month or two, it's gonna lighten up.
You did the Misfits reunion last year. How did it feel to be back onstage with those guys?
I'd done it with Doyle before, but it was ... interesting [laughs]. I couldn't hear myself, so it was exactly like the old days. So it is what it is. But everyone seemed to have a great time. I think it exceeded expectations, which is always good, and the write-ups were just insane.
Is the door closed on the reunion or do you think you'll do more?
We'll see. I'm open to possibly doing some more shows. I don't want to tour, but if it happens and everything lines up properly, I would imagine there'd probably be a couple more shows. I don't know when, but I'll keep an open mind.
It didn't seem like there was any bad blood onstage.
No, we've all been doing this for a long time. It's really funny. I remember when punk bands first started, you couldn't get anybody to be in a punk band because they hated it. There was the whole thing that punk musicians couldn't play. And I listen to stuff we do, and I listen to this crap that's out now, and it's like, they can't even play their instruments. They just go up there and pretend, like, Milli Vanilli–style, and they get paid. Wait ... Milli Vanilli got kicked out of the music industry for doing this, and there's even metal bands doing it. But bands go up onstage and it's all on tape. They're not even performing. If I paid money to go to a concert, and the band was up there puppet-showing it, I would be so fucking pissed off. So anyway, there's my comment on that.