Danzig's 1992 instrumental album, Black Aria, topped Billboard's classical charts, and last year's sequel cracked the top ten, landing between Itzhak Perlman and Andrea Bocelli. Johnny Cash and Roy Orbison performed songs he wrote. And Rick Rubin (the 2007 Grammy winner for Producer of the Year) produced the early albums from Danzig's self-titled band, which are slowly receiving recognition as rock classics, with moments that evoke the Doors, Howling Wolf and Black Sabbath. Not bad for a Jersey guy who made his first marks as a tattooed punk, singing uptempo horrorcore tunes like "Astro Zombies" in an Elvis croon.
Culled from twenty years of dusty studio leftovers, the new Lost Tracks of Danzig collects twenty-six unreleased songs recorded during a seven-album cycle that concluded with 2002's 777: I Luciferi and began with Danzig's self-titled 1988 LP, his first collaboration with Rubin.
"The way Rick and I conceived it, each record was supposed to be a different lineup," Danzig recalls. "Each record was supposed to be a different thing. And I would get to work with different musicians all the time. It would be seven records, with a number in each title."
For Lost Tracks, the singer/multi-instrumentalist dug through his extensive vaults and finished some of his favorite discarded songs. Rough, riff-driven tracks such as "When Death Had No Name" took shape in the final days of Samhain, his gothic post-Misfits band. An acoustic version of "Come to Silver" was written for Johnny Cash just before Danzig left the American label. "Cold, Cold Rain" would have made another fine power ballad for Orbison. Various lineups cover T. Rex's "Buick Makane," David Bowie's "Cat People," and the Germs' "Caught in My Eye."
"I wanted to make ["Caught"] darker and creepier, less punk, more just crawling-up-your-spine," Danzig says. "It's similar to the T. Rex cover. T. Rex is one of my favorite bands Bowie owes a lot to [Rex singer] Marc Bolan. Those songs, I pretty much Danzig-ized them. And that's my attitude: If you're not going to change a song, don't cover it."
Danzig's usually on the other side of the covers. In addition to dozens of punk tributes, his songs have been reworked by My Chemical Romance, Guns N' Roses and Metallica. He's actually responsible for two-thirds of the last truly mandatory Metallica: The metal kings gasped their last gasp of underground air in 1988, covering the Misfits' "Last Caress" and "Green Hell." (They also covered "Die, Die My Darling" later, but it sucks.)
In 1993, a live version of "Mother" (from the first Danzig album) became a hit single. For an encore, Danzig purged his swollen fanbase by recording three non-dance-goth/industrial albums that don't suck: 1994's Danzig 4p, 1996's 5: Blackacidevil, and 1999's 6:66 Satan's Child. They aren't necessarily what you want from a hard-rock auteur, but they're way more listenable than your average dark-wave disc.
"I could write 'Mother' over and over again for the rest of my life if I wanted to," he says. "But I don't want to do that, because then it's stupid. It also became a progression, almost like bringing it back to the original fans. "
It's a boast, not sour grapes. The Misfits' 1983 hyperblast Earth A.D. was a prescient, controversial landmark development in the fusion of metal and hardcore. But since then, he's moved as far away from punk as it gets just not for long. The Danzig-penned "13" helped reestablish Johnny Cash's relevance; it's one of the strongest songs on American Recordings, the 1994 comeback LP from the original Man in Black. The Black Aria discs are almost entirely one-man productions that put to shame all rock-band-meets-symphony schlock. (Try to beat that for post-hardcore.)
And while Danzig's a fan of blasphemy and heresy (Holy Blood, Holy Grail was a favorite long before the Da Vinci Code phenomenon), he's not above a little holiday cheer. Danzig appeared in an Aqua Teen Hunger Force Christmas episode, where he made the team's holiday by agreeing to pay a million dollars for Carl's house because it has a swimming pool full of elf blood.
Laughing, Danzig claims he's not too different from the cartoon version, saying if he didn't have a body of work, he might have a body count. The singer says if he had no musical aptitude, he'd still be involved in the business somehow. Heck, he's kicking around the idea of putting together a book of his photography, pics he's taken over the years stretching from recent Danzig tours and back to a Sex Pistols/Damned three-night-stand at CBGB's. Asked what he thinks he'd be doing if he had no talent at all, he has a quick answer: "I'd probably be killing people." D.X. Ferris
After posting exclusive mixes for the Definitive Jux and Stones Throw record labels earlier this year, the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim is hooking up its indie-rock fans. Only available online (www.adultswim.com), Warm & Scratchy includes fourteen new and rare cuts from bands such as TV on the Radio, the Raveonettes, Broken Social Scene and the Good, the Bad and the Queen. Best of all, it's free. While you're downloading, put your Sunday school knowledge and Tekken skills to good use with a friendly game of Bible Fight. We dare you to go pre-medieval on Jesus' ass without feeling guilty.
Fans hoping for new material from the Pixies might have to wait a while. Black Francis, a.k.a. Frank Black, is gearing up for Bluefinger. But if the first single is any indication, you won't mind the delay. "Threshold Apprehension," which is already available at www.emusic.com (and will appear on the June 12-released Best of Frank Black '93-'03), summons Pixies classics like "U-Mass" and "Debaser." Due in September, the album pays homage to the late painter/musician Herman Brood and marks Black's first solo project under his original pseudonym. Best of all, it proves Black Francis can still wail like he did twenty years ago. Andy Vihstadt