Totally True Memoirs of a Metal Producer: Danzig’s Skeletons
April 13, 1982. It was the night before my latest megahit, Van Halen’s Diver Down, hits shelves. The single, a cover of Roy Orbison’s “(Oh) Pretty Woman,” was already burning up the charts. The album was gonna be huge and everyone knew it.
Somehow or other, I ended up at the Whisky a Go Go, and for the first time, I saw this young band named after some old Clark Gable movie.
I hadn’t been expecting much, but the band was fabulous. So after the show, I go backstage to tell them how I much I enjoyed the concert.
And how was I rewarded for being a mensch? Glenn Danzig, that little putz, went on a tirade about how the new Van Halen album was “fake bullshit.” He then very graphically described the ways in which I should go fuck myself before insisting I get out of the dressing room.
Skip ahead to 2015. I’m sitting by a pool with one of my dearest friends in the entire world and my attorney, Howie Baumsteinowitzenberg. Turns out Howie is representing Jerry Only in some settlement agreement with Glenn. Jerry wanted Glenn to do some Misfits reunion shows as part of the settlement. Since unlimited streaming became a big deal all the Coachella kids who’d been wearing Misfits shirts for years finally decided to listen to the band and thought they were pretty good, so promoters were offering the Misfits millions to play… but only if Danzig was back in the band.
That’s when I had my best idea since I decided to bow out of producing that Morbid Angel album back in 2010. There was a way I could have vengeance against Danzig and make a killing in the process!
I asked Howie to ask Jerry if he’d be willing to give me a cut of profits from the reunion show in exchange for getting Glenn to sign the settlement. “But how would you do that?” Howie wanted to know. “Don’t worry about it,” I assured him. Howie made some calls. We began the negosh. I asked for ten percent. Jerry countered at five. We settled at eight.
I reached out to Glenn the next day. I pretended I was calling him to apologize for being a yutz all those years ago (as if I had anything to apologize for). I told him that in my head I kept hearing him sing The King’s “Let Yourself Go” (which I chose because photos my grandson showed me online suggested Glenn had really let himself go recently… but of course I didn’t tell him that). I told him I thought we could record a covers record and it would be huge. I offered to produce it for free if he’d just pay for the studio time. I suggested that we could finally bury the hatchet and enter into a mutually profitable relationship.
At first, Glenn didn’t like the idea. “I’m in the middle of binging Buffy,” he told me. I offered to send a car. “After this I wanna do Angel,” he said. I told him he could record his parts sitting down. “After that I wanna do Buffy again but with the Joss Whedon commentary.” I promised to have a hot bowl of French onion soup waiting for him when he arrived at the studio. “I’ll book some studio time,” he relented.
Glenn is a cheap prick, so “some studio time” turned out to be two hours, from 3-5 a.m. on a Sunday. He said they gave him a special rate for recording during “off-peak hours.”
It was a pain in the tuchus to get out of bed that early but I didn’t actually care that we had almost no time to make the record. In the days leading up to the session, I pushed hard for anything I knew Glenn wouldn’t be able to sing — old Aerosmith, Sabbath, ZZ Top, The Everly Brothers, etc. Glenn made me promise that I’d make sure none of it sounded “fruity.” I abandoned plans to try and make him record a cover of “In the Navy.”
Glenn was late to the studio, which I knew he would be. But that left me time alone with his band, which was Tommy from Prong and Johnny from Type O Negative. I lied to them and said that today we were just demoing everything live and that we’d begin the real recording the following week. “So don’t be too hard on yourself if you don’t nail it every time,” I added.
45 minutes later, Glenn finally shows up. So now we’ve got a little more than a hour to record this thing. It was as if Glenn was going out of his way to help me.
As promised, I had French onion soup and a chair waiting for Glenn when arrived. He sat down and started eating. We didn’t have time to waste, so I started recording immediately. Glenn sang in-between slurps of soup. He sounded like a camel getting a prostate exam without lube.
Johnny and Tommy did their best. I did everything I could to make them sound as bad as Glenn. When you’re as good as I am, it actually takes a lot of work to create something so awful. I had to fight every natural instinct I’ve developed after fifty years in the music biz; I had to remind myself to zig when I should zag. I told Glenn we were going to make this thing sound “raw.” My actual vision was that it would sound like a cassette tape demo by a garage band in the 70s.
As everyone now knows, I was successful. The album is the worst of my career. The sales were such shit that Glenn didn’t even make the money from the studio time back. Desperate for both the love of an adoring public and more French onion soup, Glenn called Jerry and agreed to do the reunion. So this album, which I did for “free,” ended up being incredibly profitable. And so I had my revenge for Glenn dissing Diver Down three decades earlier.
I’ve never actually told Glenn any of this — in fact, I haven’t spoken to him since we recorded Skeletons. But I’m not worried about him reading this and finding out. I’m pretty sure he can’t read.