Thursday, May 31, 2012

Danzig summons fellow ex-Misfit for Fillmore show

Equipped with a distinctive, heavy howl and the creative know-how to survive several musical incarnations, Glenn Danzig keeps busy for the sake of himself and society.

“I like working,” Danzig says. “I don’t like not working because then I’ll probably get in trouble.”

Certainly, nothing avoids trouble like leading a B-horror movie-loving, makeup-wearing punk band — which is where Danzig found himself in the late 1970s with the Misfits.

In 2011, Danzig celebrated his fire and brimstone-fueled career by debuting the Danzig Legacy shows. During these performances, he played mini-sets from his Misfits, Samhain and Danzig — his self-named — band eras. The shows featured both Samhain alumni and Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein, the towering guitarist who played alongside Danzig in the Misfits’ heyday.

On Monday, Danzig will resurrect some Misfits nostalgia when he performs with Doyle at The Fillmore Silver Spring. The show will consist of both Misfits tunes and the metal-infused sounds of Danzig.

The possibility of seeing the classic lineup of the Misfits Danzig, Doyle and bassist Jerry Only may be as dead as the zombies in their lyrics. When the group disbanded in the early 1980s, Danzig went on to form Samhain while Only and Doyle eventually created the short-lived Kryst the Conqueror. After a legal battle,  Only resurrected the Misfits in 1995 and tours to this day with a different lineup.

Doyle performed with the new Misfits before venturing out on his own with Gorgeous Frankenstein. Danzig says the two remain friends, even helping release Gorgeous Frankenstein’s first album.

“We just enjoy playing on the same stage,” Danzig says. “He’s a character, I’m a character.”

Doyle remains a towering presence when he performs. With his jagged guitar strapped to his chest, he refuses to play without his trademark skull makeup.

“I think he wears more makeup now than he used to. I don’t really remember him being that way,” Danzig says. “But it’s his thing. It works for him.”
Echoing his roots, Doyle still wears the Misfits’ famous haircut: the devilock. The style essentially pulls long hair forward into a spike that drapes the face. The last time Danzig rocked the devilock was in 1999 at a Samhain show. Although it has been more than a decade, he says he always has the option.

“I could pull my hair into it if I want,” Danzig says. “It’s there, it’s just slid back.”

In the studio, Danzig has been working on an album of covers. His first offering, “Devil’s Angels,” can be streamed on his website. The song is the theme to a 1967 biker movie of the same name. Danzig kept the tune’s original arrangement, but added a twist harkening back to his punk dispositions.

Switching guitars for violins, Danzig also is preparing his next classical album in the “Black Aria” series. He last channeled his inner Mozart in 2006 with the series’ second release.

“It’s just something I also like. I think there’s correlation between them,” Danzig says. “It’s definitely challenging to have all those different layers.”

After he finishes the third “Black Aria,” Danzig says he hopes to start recording his next Danzig album in the fall. However, his latest release, 2010’s “Deth Red Sabaoth,” may just be his last full-length entry.

“I think I’m not going to do full-length albums,” Danzig says. “I’m just going to do seven or eight song EPs and charge 10 bucks for them. I think one of the reasons people download stuff [illegally] is because people try to be greedy and jack prices up too high.”

After more than 30 years of blood, sweat and more blood even the wicked could use some rest.

“I think probably sometime in the future, near future, I’m going to take a break,” Danzig says. “Not always be on the road. I’m constantly working. I think... maybe just recharge.”

Photo courtesy Danzig

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Heavy Metal Stampede: Mastodon

Consider Mastodon the horticulturists of metal. For guitarist Bill Kelliher, crafting the Atlanta-based group’s latest album, “The Hunter,” was a swift, easy process.

“It just kind of came together really quickly in the studio,” Kelliher says. “You could kind of just see it growing everyday and someone would come in and add something. It was kind of like a shrub, we planted it from seed and every day someone would water it or fertilize it and you could see it growing into this magnificent — it was more like a weed growing into a beautiful tree.”

With catchy hooks on tracks such as “Curl of the Burl” and “Creature Lives,” the album continues Mastodon’s growth as a metal band looking for a groove instead of the frenetic chaos that defined earlier efforts.

Currently, Mastodon is on the road with Swedish prog-metalheads Opeth for the Heritage Hunter Tour. Before stopping at The Fillmore Silver Spring on May 9, Kelliher took time to chat with The Gazette about Opeth, punk rock and tacos.

A&E: You guys are touring with Opeth, who started a little bit earlier than Mastodon. Did you listen to them much?

Kelliher: I never really listened to them. I never really got into Opeth. I think I might have heard of them a little bit, but my tastes are kind of weird… I’m more your standard metal guy. I was more into Metallica and Slayer and that was pretty much it for metal. I was pretty close-minded. Not close-minded, but if it wasn’t as heavy as Slayer then I didn’t like it. If it wasn’t as pretty as Metallica, then I didn’t like it or didn’t get into it. I was more of a punk rock kid. I was into all the punk rock bands, I didn’t pay much attention, I guess.

A&E: Was it much of a jump for you to be in a metal band?

Kelliher: My first band was a punk rock band and I slowly started to play metal with other dudes, but we did punk covers. When I joined the band Today Is The Day, I just wanted to play music. I was starting to get older and I just wanted to be in a band that was working and doing stuff and I always tried to write thrash and metal in my own kind of way. So when Mastodon started, I already had a bunch of songs left over... Brann [Dailor, Mastodon’s drummer] and I started writing for Mastodon when Today Is The Day was on the way out. The stuff I was writing then, I played in a band with Brann before called Lethargy and that was super tech metal, straight up, like it was like death metal with a lot technicalities in it. I wasn’t 100 percent in love with it. I thought it was cool, but there wasn’t any room for expression. It was very robotic and very precise it had to be perfect, everything about it.

A&E: On Opeth’s latest album, they moved away from the growling, more intense vocals and that’s something Mastodon did a while back. Was that a conscious decision or just how the music evolved?

Kelliher: It’s really how the songwriting evolves, you know? We don’t really think, “Okay, with this record we’re going to start singing.” It just kind of happens to be that the riffs that we write kind of lend themselves to that kind of tonality in the vocals. When we first started writing, everything was really fast and kind of messy and loud and explosive so were the lyrics, and a lot of stuff has changed as the band grows and we mature and we start writing a little bit cleaner, I guess. To us, it’s the next step to just write a little more melodically... When we first started, nobody could really sing, so everyone was yelling and screaming into the microphone. And now we’ve been doing it for so long that it’s evolved. It’s just the natural progression of the band.
A&E: You guys covered Feist’s “A Commotion” for Record Store Day and she did the band’s “Black Tongue.” How was it working on that song?

Kelliher: It was easy. It was fun. We just kind of tuned our guitars real low and just tried to kind of follow what they were doing and just get the feel there and make it a Mastodon song kind of pick up what they were doing and strap on the broadswords, put on the heavy armor and the chain mail to it, attaching that slowly, the spikes and the bullet-belts and all that [expletive], I guess. I don’t know.

A&E: A Mastodon-Feist crossover just seemed unlikely, but you have done covers before.

Kelliher: This was definitely the furthest away from our natural habitat, but we’re just showing people that we’re not just a one-trick pony. We all have different musical tastes and pop music is one of them and great songwriting is great songwriting, whether it’s AC/DC or Slayer or it’s Feist or it’s The Pixies or it’s [expletive] the Dead Kennedys. Music is music, you can’t just say, ‘Well, I don’t like that [expletive] because it’s pop-rock or it’s soft or it’s folk art.’ It’s all relative.

A&E: I heard you recycled some riffs on “The Hunter” that you wrote years ago. What are some examples on the record?

Kelliher: The song “All The Heavy Lifting,” there’s a couple parts in that song toward the end that were riffs that were written for “Blood Mountain” that never really made it on the “Blood Mountain” record. They weren’t really recycled, but they came back into play. There’s a song called “The Ruiner,” which was left over from the “Crack the Skye” sessions that’s like a special edition song that’s on there. Also “Deathbound.” That song was leftover from the “Crack the Skye” sessions. It didn’t make it on that record, it just sounded too different.

A&E: I know that the Mastodon mask, which is on the cover of “The Hunter,” is out, but I was looking around on the merchandise page and saw the Mastodon taco luggage tags. Is there a story behind that?

Kelliher: We love tacos, man. Who doesn’t?

Photos by Cindy Frey