How long have you lived in Nashville?
Almost three years now, I guess. I didn't ever really plan on moving there; I just kind of wound up there, hanging out, and now I've got a radio show. I've lived in Florida, L.A., Indiana, Pennsylvania, New Jersey ... Nashville is just another place to live, but I like the fact that there are so many musicians there. It's a tough town, though.
Tough because there are so many musicians there?
Yeah. It's a small musical community, actually. But every time you turn around you meet another musician, and there's no shortage of people who want to play.
Your show that I caught at the Earl featured you and two guys playing acoustic guitars, doing songs that have kind of a country feel ...
Yeah, and that's the name of my last record, Kinda Country. I called it that because people would ask me what the record I was working on sounded like, and I'd say, "Well, it's kinda country." But I didn't ever sit down and decide that I was going to write a country record. I just write a lot of songs, and sometimes you write a song when you're working on a record, but it doesn't belong on that record, so you keep it and use it later. Well, over the last 20 years I'd had a bunch of country songs and blues songs that I had written - stuff that was never quite right for the record I was working on at the time. So one day I was thinking, shit, that's a good song! That one is too! So I took all of the songs that fit together and put them on one record.
People ask me all the time, "How did you go from playing in Samhain and Danzig to writing country songs?" Honestly, I never planned on doing it like this. It just kind of happened. The next record I do will be more like this one too, but I'll have some other guys playing on it so I don't have to do everything - maybe it'll be a little spookier. All of the songs are dark. They're not happy.
Do you still write a lot of songs?
Oh yeah, all the time.
Do you ever feel like your past with Danzig and Samhain is hard to move past as you continue writing?
I don't ever worry about it. It's been 30 years of playing music - I put out my first record when I was 18 years old. I look at it all as one body of work, and that's why I don't try to go back and recapture something that I've already done. I just do what I do. I have five solo records out, and I'm working on the sixth one. If you put it all together with the photography and the painting and stuff, it's all one big body of work, and it's all related.
The last record is not that big of a departure from some of my other records. It's still kind of spooky, but it's the first one that sounds like me normally. The other records are spooky, but I just did whatever I could. When I did The Blood and the Body, I didn't even have any instruments. I recorded it in a closet and just did what I could. The one I did after that, Bad Dream, I played all the instruments.
You did Kinda Country by yourself, correct?
It was hard doing it all by myself - at three o'clock in the morning you can't just call someone to come over and play guitar leads. But I was always there, so I did it.
The bill for the show you played at the Earl was kind of a mismatch for what you're doing now.
Well yeah, it was. But that's just because of the old bands: Misfits and Samhain were all horror-themed, and the Danzig stuff was kind of spooky, too. It's hard to get the right bill, so I'll just come out and play with anybody. Because of the history, people want me to play metal and punk rock shows, but it won't really fit in, so I just do my own thing.
Will you be touring much behind your last record, or the one that you're working on now?
I don't think so. It's hard to get around, and trying to keep a band together is hard. I need to have somebody with me, to handle stuff. I don't want to go out on my own; staying in hotels by yourself is kind of depressing. It was different in the old days when you had 25 guys on the road with you, and they were all your friends, and they were all there with you. So no, I don't do a lot of shows. I mostly do conventions now, and I'll do some art and photography shows and play some songs at the end.
It costs a lot of money to go out on the road now: gas is expensive and you have to rent the van. When I do conventions like this, they'll fly me in and put me in a hotel. It's a lot easier to do it that way, so we try to book things around that, like the show we played at the Earl. ... I'm playing the Muddy Roots festival in August. Black Flag is going to be on the bill as well.
Since I was a teenager, I've seen your Misfits photography - pictures you'd taken very early in the group's career, and you've got one book out, Misery Obscura. Is there another book on the way? One that gives these photos more of the fine art treatment that they deserve?
Yeah, I have a lot of photos. We didn't have enough room for everything when we did the last book. They only gave us 160 pages and we're trying to make the next one at least 250 pages - something like that. It'll be mostly photos that nobody has ever seen.
How did you get to know the Misfits, and how did you get that photo gig?
I went to high school with Doyle [Wolfgang von Frankenstein]. Jerry [Only] had already graduated in '77, I think, and Glenn [Danzig] graduated in '74, I think. ... But I knew Doyle from seventh grade on. We just became friends: He played football and he had a brother that was a year ahead of us. I was always taking pictures for the yearbook and stuff, and one day he asked, "Why don't you take pictures of the Misfits?" I'd known Jerry because he played basketball and football and we used to go down to the park and play all the time. But I hadn't ever met Glenn until the day we went to the cave and took all of those pictures. We became friends after that. Then they'd say, "Hey we're playing a show, come out!" I'd take my camera and shoot pictures and just hang around. Then I got started doing T-shirts. Glenn and I became good friends and one day he said, "I want to start a new band, do you want to be in it?" So I said "Sure, yeah." Then he and I started Samhain.
Were you ever a member of the Misfits?
I was in the Misfits for a weekend. They needed a drummer and I'd been waiting. They always had a lot of drummers, and when [Arthur] Googy left the band I was already playing drums in my band, so I went down and auditioned. They said, "Ok, you're in." We had a show in a month, but over the weekend I thought, "I don't want to just be the drummer." I was writing my own songs and handling everything with Rosemary's Babies and I thought, "I'd rather stay here and put out my own records." They called me again, before they got Robo in the band. They said, "Come down again, so I was going to, but then they said, "We just talked to Robo and he needs a gig ..." So I said, "Go with Robo." I don't know if Glenn and I would have ever actually started another band together if I had been in the Misfits. He might have wanted to totally change everything, so I think maybe it was a good thing that I didn't join the Misfits, you know? The way it worked out seemed to be all right. Danzig was a great band.
How involved in Samhain was Lyle Preslar from Minor Threat?
Lyle played on four songs on the first record, Initium, and he was going to be in the band - both him and Brian [Baker] were. But Lyle wanted Brian to be the bass player, and by that time we had another drummer. I just wasn't a good enough drummer for what Glenn wanted, but Glenn wanted me in the band and said, "Just play bass." Lyle being in Washington just made things kind of difficult. He didn't want to relocate, so we couldn't rehearse. He just did the first show and did the tracks on the record.
The guys who are doing the film are all form Nashville, and said they want to do a documentary that's based on the book, so we might as well call it the same thing and put them together like a package. Doyle is on board, we're still great friends. Bobby Steele is on board, and so is our old security guy, Jesse James. Man, Jesse is a real piece of work. He was real funny, and I have great footage of him and everyone else. There is some Samhain stuff floating around, but I have a lot of Danzig stuff.
A lot of live footage?
I got a camera in 1988 and kept it on the road. So there's a whole bunch of live stuff. We can't use whole shows, but we can use bits and pieces of shows here and there. We're trying to work out all of the legal stuff right now.
Everyone is on board with the project?
Pretty much, so far. We got some of the original Misfits guys who played on Static Age: Franché Coma, Bobby Steele, and Joey Image, one of the old drummers.
It seems like there isn't a whole lot of early footage of any of those bands floating around.
Right, well, people didn't have cell phones back then, and there was no YouTube. A lot of video footage was shot on actual film or video cameras, and not a lot of people had them, so that's why there's not a lot of footage. I have about 30 tapes of stuff: just us being on the road and backstage and on the bus. If someone's girlfriend was around, they'd shoot the shows while we were playing. I was taking pictures the whole time too, and I got pretty much everything: us in the studio, recording - no one has ever seen any of that. I showed some of the stuff from when we were on the road with Manson to some friends and they ended up putting it on YouTube and shit. It's like, "Well, I ain't going to let you do that anymore."
Some of my stuff made it into the trailer, but we didn't want to give away too much. We're talking with investors now, because everybody needs to get paid.
Drivin N' Cryin.
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