Nestled between Glenn Danzig's career as the devil-locked singer of The Misfits and the baritone bad-ass who sang “Mother” was a short-lived group called Samhain. Formed by the Lodi, New Jersey, native in 1983, the band was heavier, creepier and more musically diverse than the Ramones-inspired Misfits catalog.
Samhain ended in 1987, but they didn't really break up. Instead, the band — with a few lineup changes — morphed into Danzig and went on to find mainstream success.
In 1999, Samhain released a box set and reunited as the direct support on a national Danzig tour. Since then, the group has been featured on Danzig's “Legacy” shows, which include sets by Danzig (the band) and Samhain and an appearance by Doyle, the final guitarist during the Danzig-fronted era of the Misfits.
Samhain's otherwise quiet profile has become heightened thanks to six shows booked around an invitation to perform the group’s first full-length, Initium, in its entirety at Riot Fest in Chicago on Sept. 13. Speaking to West Coast Sound, Glenn Danzig confirmed that these dates — including Sept. 19 at the Wiltern here in L.A. — mark the first non-festival, Samhain-only gigs since the group changed its name to Danzig 27 years ago.
West Coast Sound: At Riot Fest in Chicago, you're playing Initium in its entirety. Will the LA show be just Initium?
Glenn Danzig: At Riot Fest, I think we're just doing the Initium album front to back and that's it. I'm not sure. With the other shows, we'll play a little longer.
WCS: So the Wiltern show isn't just Initium?
GD: We'll play Initium front to back and then we'll add some more songs afterwards. The reason we started doing these shows is that Riot Fest called and said it was their 10-year anniversary and wanted to do 10 essential albums…and they wanted Samhain to do Initium because they felt it was one of the 10 essential albums, along with Slayer, Jane's Addiction, the Chili Peppers. So it was pretty cool.
We agreed to do it and then, since we're going to be out here rehearsing anyway, we decided to add an L.A. and a San Francisco show. L.A. got both the Danzig/Samhain tour in '99 and the Legacy show, but San Francisco didn't, so we decided we'd add a San Francisco show. Then we decided to not exclude the east coast, so we added a couple of east coast dates. But it's not a tour. There are two shows out here and three shows on the east coast and then that's it. It's very exclusive.
WCS: If you were to pick an essential Samhain record, would it be Initium?
GD: I don't know. It would be tough for me to pick one Samhain record that I like above others. But probably either Initium or November. Initium has this raw excitement because it's the first Samhain record.
WCS: So after these shows, do you think Samhain is done?
GD: Yeah. This is it. The only reason we're doing this is because Riot Fest asked if we would do it.
WCS: Are the Legacy shows done as well?
GD: We'll see. When the TV show comes out, we'll see if everybody can get together because everyone's doing different stuff. I'll cross that bridge when I get to it. I don't plan that far ahead. In the future, after the Samhain stuff, will probably be some Danzig stuff. I know we have a Knotfest show and we're going to do Phil Anselmo's Housecore show. Probably after that I'll take a little time off and sometime next year maybe do some Danzig shows. I don't know. We'll see how I feel.
WCS: Is there anything you're doing at these six shows that you haven't done?
GD: I don't know. I'm pretty sure we're going to do the blood. I'm doing blood. I'm sure London [May, drums/bass] will do the blood. Yeah, London likes wearing the blood. I know for the Wiltern show we're doing a silkscreen poster that looks like the first Samhain poster, except it's kind of updated. So it's kind of cool because it's been 30 years. And maybe we'll do a T-shirt or two.
WCS: What was the original reaction to Samhain? Were people excited or were they bummed that it wasn't The Misfits?
GD: Actually, it worked out really well. Samhain became the first band that I really started touring a lot with. Misfits would just do sporadic shows. The schedule that Samhain did was, we started to actually go out and play. We took it across the country and took it out again and took it out again — that's how Samhain built it. Eventually, the people started noticing. Everyone knew The Misfits was no more anyway. It's not like I broke it up for that, you know? The band was done.
WCS: On Samhain records, you're credited with recording instrumental tracks much more so than when you were in The Misfits. Why did you play more in Samhain?
GD: Actually, in The Misfits I just didn't take the credit. Most of the time it's my guitar tracks. And even my drum tracks for a little while. The only record I didn't play guitar much on was Earth A.D. Everything else, yeah.
WCS: How do you rate yourself as a musician? Can you play other people's songs? Are you pretty competent as a musician?
GD: Yeah. Really, the [still in-the-works Danzig] covers record is me, Tommy [Victor, lead guitar] and Johnny [Kelly, drums]. Mostly my rhythm tracks and Tommy's rhythm too. And Tommy's leads because Tommy's a million times better lead guitar player than I am. I definitely can do stuff other people can't do, just like they can do stuff I can't do.
WCS: Do people think of you as just a singer?
GD: I don't think of myself as just a singer, so if they do it's their problem, not mine.
WCS: What about drums? Are you a good drummer?
GD: Usually, I write the drum parts for the songs. And if I don't write the drum part, I show the drummers the drum beat that they need to play. Sometimes I even write the fills they need to do. I've been doing that since The Misfits, so it's not going to change.
WCS: So, when you're writing something, you hear a complete song.
GD: Yeah. I write everything. Bass is the easiest instrument. One string. You can play bass chords, but you better play them right because if you don't, they're going to sound like shit. As long as you have a rhythm and you can stay in time, bass is very easy.
WCS: Are you doing any Danzig or Misfits songs at these Samhain shows?
GD: No. All Samhain.
WCS: I saw you in '99 at the Palladium.
GD: That was crazy because the police shut our show down. They said it was too crazy. I wouldn't stop the show and they were standing on the side of the stage and they said they were going to arrest me and my tour manager if we didn't stop playing. I guess the pit was pretty crazy that night. It seemed like normal to me, but what do I know? My tour manager had to talk them out of arresting me.
WCS: How often have you played Samhain songs as Danzig?
GD: Not very often. Occasionally, if we were out on tour with somebody, like say we had Soundgarden with us, somebody would ask, “Hey, do you guys ever do 'To Walk the Night?'” So we'd break it out every once in awhile. Nothing major.
WCS: When playing old songs again after a long time, do they feel new? Or take on a new life?
GD: No. Actually, they feel the same way they did. (Laughs) A little better musicianship, but other than that it's the same feeling still for me.
WCS: Any chance for new Samhain material? What about more shows?
GD: There's no new Samhain record. There's no tour. We're not milking it or anything. We're just going out. We're honored that Riot Fest would offer us the 10 essential album thing.
WCS: How long have you lived in L.A.?
GD: A quarter of a century. I've been through a bunch of earthquakes, riots, mudslides, everything.
WCS: What's this about an Elvis covers record you're working on?
GD: I'm working on a Danzig Sings Elvis EP.
WCS: Is that what it's called?
GD: That's what I want to call it, yeah.
WCS: Does it sound like the Samhain version of Elvis' “Trouble”?
GD: No. You'll hear it when it comes out. It's going to be a lot different than what you're thinking.