Interviews

Eerie Von (Samhain, Danzig, Rosemary’s Babies)

Photo: Mike V

When Lodi, NJ’s own, Eerie Von writes your inbox at 1:30 AM and says, “If you wanna do the interview I'm up now. Gotta catch me when I’m in the mood to talk," you get your shit together and you do it! Doesn’t matter that you have nothing prepared or that you were falling asleep, you just do it [laughs].

If for some ridiculous reason you don’t know who Mr. Von is (then really, why are you even reading this?), he is one of the first photographers of the OG Misfits, drummer and songwriter of Rosemary’s Babies, bass player of Samhain and Danzig, solo artist, and lots more! Welcome to another Hardcore Conversation

You are Eerie Von, drummer of Rosemary’s Babies, bass player of Samhain and Danzig, and solo artist etc, correct?

Yes.

So you’re down there in Nashville now. Are you playing country music, I know you had that Kinda Country album out a while ago?

That was just because I wrote a bunch of country songs and didn’t know what to do with them, so that’s why it’s called Kinda Country, because I didn’t really know what it was. But the next record’s not going to be the same. 

Right, I know none of your records are the same. I remember SpiderCider was actually kinda punky [laughs].

Well yeah, not for nothin’, when I’m writing songs it’s like, "OK, this doesn’t work for the record that I’m working on, so I’ll just put it on the shelf." And then I accumulated a bunch of punk rock songs just like the country songs and I was like, "OK then, I’ll put out this record and then I’ll put out the next record." You try not to limit yourself. 

Of course, I hear ya. Let me go backtracking a little bit here. You’re from Lodi, NJ, what was it like growing up there?

It’s just like growing up anywhere else ya know. It was kind of a tough town but not too bad. It’s a suburb of New York, 10 minutes from Manhattan, you know, New York City, so we were involved with the New York scene as much as we wanted to be. It was fine and of course the Misfits were a big thing once you found out about them. It was a normal upbringing. 

Were the Misfits your gateway into punk rock or were you already into it and then you met Doyle and everybody?

Well, Doyle and I went to school together, and we were friends from like middle school, like 7th or 8th grade, so you’d be like 12, 13-years-old. I really didn’t know anything about the Misfits til we got to high school and Doyle gave me a couple records and said, "Ya know, my brother’s in this band, and this that and the other thing." But I’d already heard the Ramones and the Pistols and the Clash probably a year before that. My sister turned me on to that stuff. So yeah, having a local band that was putting out their own records and booking their own tours and stuff, that was really cool. It was just one of those things that you know, you didn’t think could actually happen so that was really cool. 

A young Eerie Von (Photo found on Facebook)

So you’re hanging out with Doyle and then of course you got the gig taking pictures of the Misfits through him right?

Well, I’d already been taking pictures for a couple years and then one day Doyle said, Why don’t you take pictures of the Misfits? And I’m like, Yeah, OK fine, no big deal. 

No big deal?! You were like seriously casually like, whatever?

Well, yeah but see, I’d already been friends with Doyle and Jerry and I hadn’t met Glenn at the time but it was like, ya know they always need pictures so I was just like, Yeah, why not. It wasn’t really a big deal.

How old were you at that time, like 15?

Yeah, 15 probably.

So, you just had a natural eye for photography then, right? Did you take any photography classes in high school? 

It wasn’t so much like that. I did get taught some good stuff like in how to print photos and stuff like that but one of my art teachers back in high school when I was a freshman, so I would’ve been about 14, taught me a lot of stuff but it’s just like, if you’re a photographer or anything else, you try to make things look more interesting so that’s what I always told all the kids who came after me. Like, OK so you’ve got this picture so what’re you gonna do to make it look more interesting? And I just had that eye because you know, I’m a painter and all that stuff. It was just like, gimme a break ya know, you’re 15 years old and you gotta deal with Jerry and Glenn and what am I supposed to say? Hey, do this, do that, I couldn’t really do that. 

Eerie Von photo of Misfits. (From the author's personal collection)

You weren’t like, "look punk, look tough, look cool," or whatever [laughs]?

No, no. It was just like, "You stand here, you do this," whatever. And then I remember Glenn telling me, "Count 1,2,3 before you take the picture." So that was it, I was terrified the whole time. 

Glenn already knew what he wanted to do and how he wanted it to look, that’s why he wanted the countdown, like a song?

He knew how he wanted the band to look but we figured it out from there.

Taken from Misery Obscura: The Photography of Eerie Von (1981–2009)

That was the first time you met Glenn then?

Yeah, I hadn’t met Googy before and I hadn’t met Glenn before but I used to go down to the schoolyard and play basketball with Jerry and stuff and I used to take pictures in high school but this was the first time I ever shot a band. I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing. 

Whose idea were the locations, like the cave and stuff like that?

I think it might’ve been Doyle and Jerry’s brother Kenny. It was like a place where somebody would go and like drink beer or whatever and it was like a cave and I didn’t know. It was about an hour away and I was just like, Ok fine, whatever. 

So, there were a lot of empty bottles and like condoms on the ground?

No, not that I noticed ya know. It was just a cave and it was really cool. 

Eerie with his parents at his 1982 high school graudation. (from Misery Obscura: The Photography of Eerie Von (1981-2009))

I remember there’s some graffiti in the background in the one picture.

Yeah, I remember that too but we weren’t real concerned about that. I remember I was playing basketball when those guys picked me up and I thought it was gonna be the next Sunday and they just like showed up and they were like, "Hey, we’re ready to do pictures," and I’m like, "Well, I didn’t even know it was supposed to be today, I thought it was next Sunday!" So, I had to just jump on my bicycle and just go home and pick up some film or whatever. And then we only had a certain amount of light and I had to use the flash for inside the cave, which I hated using. 

Oh OK, I was going to ask you about a flash…

Well you know, I mean, it’s a cave so there’s not a lot of light ya know? I shot one roll of color film and shot some other stuff and we did a bunch of stuff outside the cave. But by the time we got there there was only a few hours, maybe, of light left. So, you gotta shoot as quickly as possible. 

You were actually on the Lodi High basketball team right?

Yeah. 

Was Doyle on that with you or just the football team?

No, Jerry and Kenny and Doyle were on the football team. Let me think about it for a second. Jerry graduated in ’77 and he was a quarterback and Kenny was ’78 and Doyle and I were ’82. So yeah, they all played football. 

What did you think about the famous Doyle yearbook photo where he was “Most Unique” or whatever it was, were you jealous or did you think it was stupid or funny or whatever? 

Oh no, I remember that. I didn’t take the picture but I remember when he went out and took that picture. I was voted “Most Artistic” because I was doing all the photos and all the t-shirts and all that. I thought that was fun and we had a great time in high school. We were always fuckin’ shit up, it was great. 

So, you had a mohawk and Doyle actually went to school with a devilock and stuff like that?

Well, back in middle school when we were like 12 or 13, before high school, Doyle had changed his hair a couple times like every month or so. Either it was gold or it was purple or black or whatever. So he got in trouble for that. But no, I didn’t shave my head or anything like that til like the last year or so of high school. But Doyle was always fuckin’ shit up. 

Not to dwell too much on Doyle, but I know you guys are old friends so I can’t help it, do you know where he got the name Doyle from?

As far as I remember, Jerry’s big on nicknames and he used to call him "PC Doyle." It wasn’t until he joined the Misfits that he just became Doyle. Our last year in high school the Misfits had to do a tour of the West Coast and so he got out of school for about a month and then he was just Doyle after that. 

When did you start playing drums?

Oh Jesus, real early on. A friend of mine who was a really good drummer lived a couple blocks away from me and we were friends since kindergarten. And Doyle said, "Oh, the Misfits always need a new drummer, ya know," and he said, "You should start learning the Misfits’ songs." So, I had all this stuff on 8-track, it was all of Static Age and what later became 12 Hits from Hell and Doyle said, "You should probably work on that." So, I went to this friend of mine who lived up the block and said, "So, what’re they doing?" And he listened to it and said, "Oh, they’re just playing the same beat over and over again." I said, "OK," and then that was it. 

From the author's personal collection

But that would’ve been not the hardcore beat and Rosemary’s Babies definitely had that hardcore polka beat. 

Oh no, it wasn’t as fast as that. I mean, the hardcore thing was just playing as fast as you could and that’s what we did. No, the Misfits were more like sort of in the middle before the Earth A.D. record came out. Because at the time when Robo joined the band, Glenn and I were listening to Gang Green from Boston who were really fast, so that kind of filtered into the Earth A.D. record and they just played faster and faster. And that was fine, I mean records come out the way they come out. 

Were the Rosemary’s Babies guys also friends of yours from Lodi High or the neighborhood?

Oh yeah, we all went to school together. Except for the singer, he lived in Clifton, NJ and he went to a school for really smart people. So, of course, we didn’t go to the school for really smart people. He was very influential about turning us onto stuff like the Bad Brians, Minor Threat, the Stranglers, stuff like that. That was a big deal and I always wanted him to be in the band but he didn’t wanna do anything, he didn’t wanna write songs or whatever and I was always like, "C’mon, this’ll be fun!" 

From the author's personal collection

I never actually saw Rosemary’s Babies live but I remember seeing you guys hanging out at a couple CBGBs hardcore matinees back then and being like, "Damn, these guys are huge," not like most typical scrawny skinny hardcore guys at the time [laughs].

Well, not for nothin’, I was always tall and thin and my buddies like J.R. and Bruce [singer and bass player from Rosemary’s Babies] they were tough guys and when you’re on the dance floor stage diving and stuff you gotta have somebody having your back. Those guys always had my back and it was just one of those things. I was never, I mean, yeah, if someone fucked with one of my boys or my buddies, I’m in there, even though I’m like 140 pounds, ya know?

You guys had sort of a Clockwork Orange influence I remember.

The singer was very into that and he turned us onto that yeah. Like that and Caligula and stuff, he was very twisted. But also he was a lot smarter than we were so he had a lot of historical knowledge and he would tell us about certain things and we’d be like, "Oh, that’s interesting," and then we’d put some of that stuff into the songs. 

From the author's personal collection

I noticed on the record you pretty much co-wrote every Rosemary's Babies song. 

Yeah, pretty much I wrote all the lyrics and the bass player wrote a couple things but I had to put it into song form because he was like stream of consciousness and it has to be a song. The guitar player, Craig, was a big Ramones fan and he’s been in some Ramones tribute bands which is perfect because after Johnny Ramone, there’s nobody except Doyle who plays downstrokes that much and is so good at it. So, we would just say, "OK, here’s the lyrics, whatta ya want?," and he’d say like, "What about this key or whatever," and we’d be like, "OK, yeah, that sounds good!" I mean, nobody knew anything about writing songs back then. 

Right! Even the Misfits didn’t, that’s part of what makes those songs so cool is that they had no idea how to write songs [laughs].

Well, Glenn knew how to write songs. 

Eerie as captured on the Rosemary's Babies' record sleeve (From the author's personal collection)

He knew how to write melodies but if you actually pay attention to the arrangements of those early Misfits songs they don’t make any sense [laughs]. They play one part one time, then they play it three times the next time it comes around or they don’t even play it again and stuff like that.

Well, yeah, but there’s a certain reason for that. There’s no rules so if you only wanna do that one part one time then you do it and there’s no reason for it, it’s just because that’s what sounds good at the time. Glenn grew up on '60s music and even '50s music, so I think a lot of the Misfits music is like '50s stuff, like Buddy Holly, stuff like that with great melodies and the songs were short. Like if you go back and listen to Everly Brothers and a lot of old rock 'n' roll, they were like two and a half minutes and that’s what the Misfits songs were. Get in and get out. 

From the author's personal collection

What do the initials "AAWW" (on the Rosemary’s Babies record sleeve) stand for?

Oh, that was just something I was trying to do to create some sort of controversy. It was the American Association of Witches and Warlocks. I just did that just to fuck with people because I knew they would ask me what it was about. 

So, kind of like 138? I remember interviews with people that were in the Misfits saying Glenn told them if anyone asked what it was just to be like, "What, you don’t know?"

Yeah, but 138 [the film THX 1138 from 1971), people by now know that it was a film that George Lucas did. 

But Glenn will deny that, remember he said in a notorious interview, It’s about violence [laughs].

Yeah, but I don’t think that’s what it was. I could be wrong but… Glenn’s a good one for keeping things secret. You know, you should figure it out on your own. 

Right, that’s a true artist right there, it doesn’t even matter what he meant, it matters what you think, the consumer.

Well, that’s all the fun, trying to figure it out, ya know?

Back in the day there was a zine called Flesh & Bones

I remember Flesh & Bones.

From the author's personal collection

There was a Rosemary’s Babies interview in Flesh & Bones where I believe it was you who said you worked at a makeup factory in New Jersey where the makeup that was made there ended up on the Misfits faces?

No, no, that’s not true. I did work at a factory in Maywood, NJ that did used to make—they had all all these ingredients that they used to make makeup, but if you took any one of those ingredients, it would be a carcinogen or whatever, so it was bad for you. They also had a thing where they extracted cocaine out of stuff so it was a big deal. That was where I wrote most of the Rosemary’s Babies stuff. 

Rosemary's Babies interview from Flesh & Bones zine. (From the author's personal collection)

So it was you that worked at that factory but you don’t remember that quote?

No, I’m pretty sure I never said that. 

Editor's note: You see, he DID say it! (From author's personal collection)

Well, you were joking around but I’m pretty sure you did say that [laughs], I mean I know you were obviously friends with them at the time…

Yeah, I always joked around, but no. Actually, Doyle didn’t wear a lot of makeup and neither did I back then but he did later on…you know? Jerry Only had the black eyes and stuff and Glenn never wore it. In Samhain we wore more makeup than the Misfits did. And later on Doyle did his thing and he’s still doing it. 

You can definitely see Glenn wearing at least some white on his face in some of those old pictures though.

Yeah, but it used to sweat off in like two songs. 

Photo found on Facebook

I definitely prefer original old-school Doyle when he wore more minimal makeup.

Well, he hasn’t really changed that much. We were both into Star Trek and I was doing the makeup the same way back in Rosemary’s Babies, maybe a little bit later towards Samhain. Doyle said he got his idea from this one Star Trek episode, so I was just like, "Oh OK, I know exactly what you’re talking about."

Actor Ted Cassidy as "Ruk" in the episode of Star Trek mentioned below.

Do you remember which episode it was?

It’s called “What Are Little Girls Made Of."

So, you and Doyle were doing screen printing on t-shirts and stuff in high school, too, right?

We sort of did stuff together, yeah. I remember it was Jerry’s birthday or Christmas or something and Doyle said he wanted to make Jerry something, so we did our first real screen print. We made pillow cases and sheets with the Phantom of the Opera on it. And I kept doing it but we didn’t do a whole lot of stuff together but that was pretty much all I cared about was making t-shirts. 

At this point everyone knows how you were supposedly going to be the drummer for the Misfits and that it never happened. Were you mad at Todd Swalla from the Necros when he sort of got that gig for a couple Misfits shows?

No, no I love the Necros! And if it wasn’t for the Misfits I never would’ve met them and when they came into town to do some shows they would stay at the Misfits’ house and we got to be friends. Yeah, I was supposed to do this one show (with the Misfits) and then it didn’t work out. Todd, of course, was a big fan and I still talk to him. He did that show and he was always great ya know because he knew all the songs and it was just one of those things. Todd was great. 

Rosemary’s Babies never really toured right?

Yeah well, part of the problem with that band was that the other guys had jobs and stuff. So you can’t really go out on tour unless you’re making money and of course there was not money back then. We’d go up to Boston or wherever and play a show but then by Monday they all have to go back to work. I was totally into the band and it didn’t matter to me if I had a job or not but those guys had girlfriends and places to be, ya know?

And Camaros to buy!

Well, Craig had a nice Chevy Nova and I don’t even remember if I had a car back then. 

Wait, how do you live in New Jersey and not have a car??

Well, I did have a car for a while and I used to drive Glenn to the bank and stuff and even when it came to early Danzig I was still driving everybody to rehearsal but I was still living at home with my parents. That’s the way, when you’re from Jersey, until you get married you don’t move out of the house. So that was it, Glenn was still living at his parents’ house. 

Glenn’s father was a marine, correct?

Well ya know, not for nothin’, I don’t really know about that. We never talked about it. I just knew that he was a regular guinea Italian [laughs]. It’s not something you really talk about. I know Glenn had a couple brothers but we never really talked about that shit. I know his dad had a regular job and I don’t know if his mom was working or just living at home taking care of things. 

I spoke to Damien from Samhain a few years ago and he told me some funny stories about coming out to Samhain rehearsals at Glenn’s house. He told me Glenn’s parents would try and feed you guys and stuff like that and Glenn would get mad [laughs].

Yeah, well, we never did any rehearsals at Glenn’s house, they were all done at my house. But yeah, his mom was a typical Italian mom. Like, if you showed up she was very pleasant and like, "Do ya need anything?," or whatever and Glenn was always just like, “Just gimme my groceries!”

[laughs] Well yeah, that’s pretty much what Damien said, he said Glenn was complaining one time because his mom had gotten him the wrong kind of popsicles or something!

Yeah, that sounds about right. So yeah, Glenn lived in his parents’ basement but all the rehearsals for Samhain and Danzig in the very beginning were all at my parents’ place. 

What was it about you guys that made you not be like normal Lodi guys and what made you decide to try and form these bands and how’d you find each other?

What I tell people when they ask that kind of question is, if you were in the same town and you could get to rehearsal, you were in the band, ya know? One of the problems the Misfits had with Bobby Steele was that he had to take two trains and the bus and whatever to get to rehearsal and if you lived in the same town and you could get there every day and work on the songs then you were in the band. It just made more sense to have local guys to work on songs more. So that’s why guys like Steve Zing got in the band and why Pete (“Damien” Marshall) got in the band and I was there. Pete also played in Mourning Noise before that, Steve’s band. 

How did Samhain finally end up coming together?

Well the original thing was, Glenn and I, we’d been talking and my band was kind of petering out and I wanted to put out another record but everybody was sort of losing interest and Glenn said, "I’m gonna quit the Misfits because it’s just not what I want anymore." And they had this show in Detroit on Halloween or whatever, and he said he told the band he was leaving and, "Do you wanna start this new band with me?," and I’m like, "Yeah, great, let’s see what happens." And that was pretty much it, it was very casual. 

Taken from Misery Obscura: The Photography of Eerie Von (1981–2009)

How was it decided that you were going to play bass and not drums?

Well, I tried to play drums but I was used to playing as fast I could, ya know, hardcore stuff. We did a couple rehearsals with Glenn playing guitar and we tried to work out stuff like “Black Dream” and “All Murder All Guts All Fun” and stuff. But it was in this different timing that I wasn’t used to and after a week or two I was just like, "Ya know what? I can’t cut it," and he goes, "Well, what about that Steve (Zing) guy?" I’m like, "Yeah, he’s a good drummer and he said, "Why don’t you play bass?" And that was pretty much it. He thought I had the personality to be in front rather than sit behind the drum kit. The next day I went down to Sam Ash in Jersey and I just bought a bass.

What was the first bass you bought? Was it one of the famous Samhain basses?

Yeah, it was a (Fender) Jazz bass. I only play Jazz basses. I picked up a Precision like Sid Vicious used to play and I was just like, "Ahh it just don’t feel right," but when I got the Jazz bass in my hands, it was just like, "Yeah, this is the one," and that was it.

Did you immediately start painting designs on your bass?

Well, it was always a thing. It was just like, "Yeah, here we are, whatever." I got that from Doyle and Jerry, they always put Misfits on everything. It was just pretty much carrying the torch. 

Found on Facebook

You guys had your own thing, like a lot of old hardcore bands would have other bands’ stickers or whatever on their guitars but you guys had your own stuff on your gear. 

I never cared about anything that anyone else did. 

You and Glenn and Steve finally come together and then somehow somebody thought that Brian Baker and Lyle Presler from Minor Threat were also gong to be in the band. How did that happen?

Originally, Glenn had cut (recorded) “Archangel” with Al from Reagan Youth that he wanted to give to Dave Vanian from the Damned and it didn’t work or whatever. Then he wanted Brian and Lyle in the band and he went down there (DC) and did a couple rehearsals with them and what he told me was that it just didn’t work. So we went back to rehearsals and we still had Lyle and Lyle was just like, “Eerie can’t play, he’s no good,” but Glenn said, "Well, I want him in the band." So we did that one show together (Rock Hotel in NYC) and Brian never came in. It would’ve been a totally different band.

I love Brian, I’ve seen him many times. Ya, know, Junkyard and of course I love Minor Threat and Dag Nasty and all that stuff but it wouldn’t have been the same and I remember Lyle saying that when he showed up he didn’t realize it was kind of like Misfits Mach II because you know, I had makeup on, I had a devilock and all this stuff. And he was just like, "Oh, I guess I gotta wear black clothes and stuff like that." So it was a little weird but we did that one show and we’ve been friends ever since but it was just not the right thing. 

From the author's personal collection

I was not at that show and there aren’t too many pics specifically of Lyle from it but did he in fact wear black that night, did he have a devilock [laughs] or did he just wear black but otherwise still just look like Lyle at that show?

Well, yeah, and he played his ass off too. I remember years later and even in his forward to my book he was still saying that he didn’t realize that it was just gonna be the Misfits Mach II. I didn’t even think about that and Glenn never said anything about, you know, I want you to look like this or whatever but I was just like, well I always wanted to be in the Misfits ya know so…

I hear ya. I saw Samhain in ’86 at the Ritz in New York and I remember thinking like, "Oh, it’s the Misfits but they can play and they sound great!" [Laughs] Thats what’s funny about that whole thing, that Brian and Lyle somehow didn’t realize it was going to be like that, like they thought what, Glenn was gonna cut his hair or something?

Well, maybe it just wasn’t the right time or the right people. That’s just the way it was. 

So, that first show at Rock Hotel, do you remember Y-DI from Philly opening?

Yeah, I remember the poster but I can’t remember the show exactly. I was too concerned about doing our show. Then later we did the New Music Seminar and that was a big thing and that’s where we got signed with Rick Rubin and all that.

Which show was that? Because I remember at the show I saw at the Ritz, Rick Rubin was standing on the side of the stage, was it that show?

Yeah, I think it was that show, yeah. That was when Rick Rubin sort of showed up and like gave Glenn his card and was like, "I love what you do, call me!" [Laughs] That’s where everything changed. 

The old rumor was that Rick told Danzig that he wanted to make him into the next Billy Idol or something.

Yeah, well I don’t recall that but not for nothin’, Rick and Glenn used to go out and talk about their game plan and I wasn’t always involved. There’s a lot of stuff that I don’t know exactly but Rick was only concerned about Glenn and he didn’t care about the rest of the band. He certainly didn’t care about me. So that’s where we tried out other guys and that’s where we got Chuck [Biscuits] and John [Christ]. 

Do you remember a band from Pittsburgh called Half Life?

Yeah, of course I do.

I remember at one point they had a second guitarist who had a devilock and the whole getup and at one point he was supposedly going to join Samhain, his name was Tony. Do you remember that?

Well, I remember after Glenn kicked Pete (Damien) out of the band, we tried out a bunch of people but I don’t remember anyone coming in from Pittsburgh, no. And then when we got to Danzig we tried out like another 30 guys. It was hard ya know, somebody had to be really good and have that attitude. And every time we did rehearsals or tryouts or whatever I still had my makeup and my devilock and all that just to try to intimidate somebody who was coming in. So you know, when John showed up he was like the last guy that we tried out and he was just so good that we were just like, yeah this is the guy.

Yeah man, he’s so good and he was so perfect but yet he wasn’t even into that stuff, like the Misfits and Samhain and that kind of music…

Well, he really wanted the job and I remember Glenn telling me, because he wasn’t into it but Rick thought he was the perfect guy and Glenn was telling me, This guy keeps sending me phone messages but instead of leaving a message and saying whatever, he’d just play the songs for 30 seconds or whatever. He was trying to get the job really hard and if it wasn’t for him Danzig wouldn’t sound the way it sounded. 

From the author's personal collection

Oh, for sure. I was at that final Samhain show at the Ritz and then I was at the first Danzig show at City Gardens in Trenton, NJ and it was a totally different beast. But let me backtrack a second to that Samhain show, I was there right up front by Damien and I remember him drooling the whole time [laughs]. Do you remember him doing that at shows and what was up with that?

Yeah, I was on the other side so I didn’t notice. Maybe he was just so into it, ya know. You could always ask Pete (Damien) about that. I mean, I don’t know. Probably he was just so into it. Not for nothin’, when we did Samhain and Danzig it was just like, you give everything you got and you’re done and at the end of the night you’re almost dead. Maybe it was something like that. 

From the author's personal collection

What was touring like in Samhain? You guys were obviously mostly playing hardcore shows right?

Well you know, we travelled in a van and we made better money than most bands but we were still broke the whole time. We had to show up and load our gear and do the show and unload our gear.  

Did you guys have roadies or was it just you guys?

We had like one guy who helped us drive and stuff but other than that we had to load and unload our gear and that was it. 

Did Glenn ever drive?

[Laughs] Yeah, but he was a terrible driver! 

Were you still in touch with Doyle or any other Misfits in those days?

No, we didn’t really talk until later on when they did the second Misfits thing with [Michale] Graves and Chud. During Samhain, we never talked. 

Who was your favorite Samhain drummer?

I didn’t like either one of them. They both sucked. We only got those guys because they were available. They didn’t have any balls. Like I would’ve done anything for Glenn and the band, and those other guys..they were just…they weren’t.

They were just along for the ride?

I wouldn’t say along for the ride but it just wasn’t what I wanted. But Damien was totally into it and he was such a nice guy that he would just do whatever you wanted and that was fine. But the drummers were not my favorite things. 

How did the whole Metallica connection come about, did they reach out to you guys or how did that happen?

Cliff [Burton] was always a fan, he had the Misfits tattoo and all that stuff so he turned those guys onto us and then we became friends in like 1985 and we were playing San Francisco at the Mabuhay Gardens and they all showed up. And then they all got arrested for whatever reasons. So, we became friends from that point on and then, you know, shit hit the fan. I used to send them t-shirts and Glenn used to send them t-shirts and that was it, ya know? It was not that big a deal, because at the time they weren’t that big.

It was like 1985 and they were still on Megaforce Records, before they got onto Elektra and that was good because I was just like, "Oh, these are some friends of mine and they’re doing really well."I was really happy about that. They were telling us, "You’re gonna be the next big thing," and they were giving us lawyers’ numbers and being like, "Oh, you gotta do this, you gotta do that," and we didn’t know anything about that stuff. We didn’t know how to move onto the next level. 

Eerie Von and Kirk Hammett in the '80s. (Photo found on Kirk's Twitter)

You guys were punk rockers! 

Yeah. Everybody kept saying we were gonna be the next Metallica and we didn’t know anything about that. We were just kinda like, "OK whatever," ya know?

What about that “famous” picture of you guys and Metallica from back then, it looks like you’re on the side of the road or something?

We had done a show in Bloomington, IN and we had a day off and Metallica was playing Market Square Arena (in Indianapolis) that night opening for Ozzy. So, I remember Glenn and I saying, "Well, we got the day off and we already knew these guys, so why don’t we just go down there, like an hour away and go there." When we got there, Cliff started playing "London Dungeon." So we were there and all these people are like, "Who are these guys?" So, we hung out and there was a photographer who wanted to take some pictures. We didn’t care because, not for nothin’, we don’t give a shit that you’re famous, ya know?

Samhain and Metallica, circa 1986. (Photo: Gene Ambo)

Well yeah, and you guys are in fucking Samhain anyway. So, you started recording a fourth Samhain album that eventually came out as Final Descent. I guess it was originally gonna be called “Samhain Grim." Were you doing that before Rick Rubin came into the picture or what?

No, Rick wasn’t even there. We were still doing that in Jersey and we had like three or four songs and it was gonna be the next record and we didn’t think anything about it and then things changed and that’s the way it went. We used like three or four of those songs for the first Danzig record. 

They sound pretty different, but yeah, I know.

Well, yeah things changed like production stuff and maybe when you think about the songs again you think, OK maybe we’ll do that different but you know, not that much different. 

[Laughs] "Twist of Cain" sounds pretty different though!

Yeah, I really liked the original "Twist of Cain," but I still like the version that came out on the Danzig album. It’s just a little bit different. Things change, ya know? We got different guys in the band and that’s all. 

And Chuck Biscuits kind of made a huge difference too. There’s a completely different groove from Samhain to Danzig.

Well yeah, that’s fuckin’ Chuck Biscuits. You can’t ask for a better drummer. So yeah, things were different because we had Chuck Biscuits. And we had John Christ. Ya know, me, Glenn and Chuck were all punk rock guys and then all the sudden you got this metal guy (John) that loved Black Sabbath and other metal bands and he brought that to the table. We were like, let’s see what happens with this and that was it. And again, if it wasn’t for John the band would not have sounded like what it eventually became. 

From the author's personal collection

Absolutely. After the fourth Danzig record with all you guys [1994's Danzig 4], none of the records he did after that, it’s not the same at all. 

Well yeah, that’s because we had those guys, ya know. John was great and Chuck could play anything. We would just say like, "Gimme this beat," or whatever, and he would just do it. 

Let me just backtrack and go totally off subject for a second and ask you about Robo, who I’m sure you also met and know. So he lived with Jerry and Doyle…

No, he lived with Glenn. 

Oh OK! well anyway, he was also a good drummer. Especially when he was in Black Flag, I mean, Damaged is pretty much one of the greatest albums of all time but his playing on Earth A.D. is not the same…

Yeah, you know, not for nothin’, Earth A.D.,  I wasn’t really a big fan of it. But you know, he needed a gig, he needed a job so he played whatever Glenn wanted him to play but I was never a big fan of that. 

Although I do remember Samhain used to play some songs off of it like “Death Comes Ripping”…

Well yeah, we didn’t have a lot of songs so we had to pad the setlist a little bit, ya know? I was just looking at one of my scrapbooks and I was like, "Oh we had like eight Samhain songs and like four Misfits songs," (in the set) and we had to do that because we didn’t have enough songs. 

I saw probably like the first three or four Danzig shows, before the first album came out and I remember there were a lot of Misfits and Samhain songs in the set.

Yeah, well that’s because we didn’t have enough stuff. 

Lemme ask you kind of a funny question. The story/legend goes that Rick Rubin wanted you to cut your devilock off, so my question is, is that true and were you pissed off about that?

Alright, if ya really wanna know… We’d auditioned about 30 guitar players and I’m sitting next to Rick Rubin in full devilock and makeup and he says, So you want as many people as possible to hear your music, right? And I said, "Yes I do," and he said, "Well, don’t ya think that maybe that particular look might alienate people and they won’t listen to it just because of the way you look?" And then I went home and I thought about it and I was just like, "Yeah, he might have a point there because I really thought the music was more important than that and I said, "Yeah, OK," and then I went home and I cut my devilock off.

And that was it, it was just a suggestion. It wasn’t like, "You should do this or you gotta do that," or whatever, but he made a valid point. I thought, this is gonna be great and I don’t wanna alienate a certain amount of people just because of the way we look.

Right, never mind the fact that Glenn is over there singing about Satan [laughs]…

Well, it had nothing to do with that. It was just like, "OK, maybe he has a point," and also, I was starting to get a little older and maybe I was starting to feel a little foolish, ya know? I was just like, maybe I’m done with this. So I stopped shaving and I cut my devilock off and that was it because I really understood what he was saying. 

Yeah, I remember being at those early Danzig shows and thinking that you and JC were like an evolved, different version of Jerry and Doyle…like it was a more modern version of the Misfits or something. 

Well, I understand that, yeah. What people don’t understand is that when It came to Samhain we were just trying to move to the next level and then Danzig was the next level of that. John and I used to work out five days a week so we could look good on stage and we were trying to look as good as Jerry and Doyle. I was conscious of that but in Samhain I think we were just trying to be the next level of the Misfits and stuff. Glenn always said that those were songs the Misfits couldn’t play, which I don’t necessarily agree with that. But if it wasn’t for the original Danzig band going so far and doing what we did, the Misfits wouldn’t be able to be playing the big shows they’re playing now.

Taken from Misery Obscura: The Photography of Eerie Von (1981–2009)

What do you think of the current OG Misfits shows?

Not for nothin’, it makes me feel like I’m back in high school when I thought the Misfits were the greatest band on the planet, only playing to like 50 people. I’m very happy for them. Jesus, it only took 40 years to do it. I remember the first show I shot pictures of them at there were like 50 people there, then the next show there was maybe a hundred and I was just like, "How come people don’t know how great this band is?" And it only took them 40 years to figure it out.

I remember being on the tour bus and like old stories would come up and there was always a bit of sadness that the Misfits never got their due, but that’s just the way it went. But like I said, if it wasn’t for Danzig selling a bunch of records and playing bigger places—and you know, Metallica wearing their t-shirts—it never would’ve happened. I’m really happy for them. Not for nothin’, Glenn can sing those Misfits songs better than anybody.

What’d you think of the Samhain shows they did back in 2014?

I couldn’t tell you because I don’t care. I’m 55-years-old, I’m not gonna pour blood on my hair and do all this stuff. Not for nothin’, Glenn’s 64-years-old, I’m fuckin’ 55, I’m not gonna do that, that’s just ridiculous. 

So let me ask you another kind of weird one, back in the early '90s I lived in Hollywood for a while and I saw you one day at a 7-11 at Sunset and La Brea and I saw you get out of a black Porsche with some blonde driving…

No, never a Porsche, Glenn had a Porsche. I never had a car when I lived in LA. 

No, I’m saying it was this blonde’s car…

No it was not. It was not a blonde, it was a really hot brunette who drove me around and I never drove because she liked to smoke a lot of pot and I couldn’t drive because I couldn’t consciously drive while being stoned. I don’t remember what kind of car it was but it was a little white car, you don’t remember nothin’!

[Laughs] I remember you getting out of a car with this broad at 7-11!

Yeah, well it was a really hot chick. I moved to LA in 1989 and stayed there until 1993 and she always drove me around. She was really good at driving while she was stoned and I wasn’t gonna do that. I never drove while I was in LA.

I saw you guys at Madam Wong’s in Santa Monica at Riki Rachman’s birthday show in ’91, you remember that gig? I remember I thought it was awesome you guys set up your own gear at that show, no roadies.

That was a one off birthday gig and I remember we were late getting there and Body Count was playing right before us, I think, or right after us, I can’t remember. That’s the first time I met Ice-T. Riki had sort of championed us on Headbanger’s Ball and he liked us and he wanted us to play his birthday thing so we were just like, "Yeah, OK, we’ll do it." And Body Count was there. It was right before "Cop Killer" and stuff like that. 

I also saw you guys open for Slayer at the Felt Forum in NYC. What are your memories of that show?

Oh yeah, one of my favorite memories. So we were doing soundcheck and we had to rent drums and they rented Chuck a pink drum kit and he said, “I’m not playing a pink drum kit!” So we had to get another one and then, you know that’s the Forum, under Madison Square Garden, where the Doors played and stuff, so that’s a big deal and then we were gonna have to play in front of Slayer and we’re gonna have to try and win over Slayer’s audience. We’d only done maybe a show or two and we fuckin’ kicked ass and I remember Chuck saying he wasn’t gonna play but we fuckin’ killed it like we always did. 

Photo: Jaye S. Clarke

[Laughs] Maybe it was one Jerry Nolan’s old kits. Last Fall, my band played a show at Bowery Electric in Manhattan and Mary Raff AKA Queen Vixen from Cycle Sluts from Hell was tending bar. She was telling me about that show where they opened for you guys and White Zombie (Danzig headlined) at the Studio 54 Ritz and she said they were hanging out with you guys in your hotel and having a good time or whatever and Danzig came in like dad, all mad and shut it all down [laughs] Do you remember that?

No, but I have pictures of us hanging out. I don’t remember Glenn coming in because you know, Glenn doesn’t like strong aggressive women. Those are old friends of mine and I’m still in touch with some of them. The pictures that I have might’ve been like a year later at one of our other shows. Glenn never hung out in other people’s rooms or whatever but I was always just like, "Yeah, let’s go back to my room and see what happens," whatever. But yeah, he was never like that. But after 30 years you can’t remember everything, ya know?

From the author's personal collection

How did it actually finally end with you and Danzig?

Well, it’s just like a relationship and I don’t know how many relationships you've been in but sometimes they just end and it’s just time to go. It’s just like some girl you loved and eventually it just doesn’t work out anymore and that’s pretty much it, it’s time to go.

Did you tell him in person or did you call him or what?

Well, he was still in LA and I was in Jersey and I just said, "You know what, I feel like I’d be letting the people down if I don’t put on the best show I could do and I said I think I need to leave the band," and that was it. 

From the author's personal collection

Have you listened to any of his albums since you left the band?

Oh yeah, I’ve heard many of them, they were terrible. I mean, whatever he wants to do is fine and I’ll always be his friend, but ya know, the records are terrible. 

What’s next on your horizon, what are you up to?

I just paint every day.

Painting by Eerie Von

What about music, you got any new songs?

I’ve got demos for a new record but everybody down here in Nashville wants like $60 each per song to record and I can’t afford that. I mean I wanna play with four or five guys, or women, it doesn’t matter men or women but I want that thing that I had with Danzig. Three or four guys in a band and magic happens and I’m sort of spoiled. I spent 13, almost 14 years with Glenn and we did a lot of good work. I’d love to do it and it’ll come out and if it doesn’t? That’s the way it goes.

OK one last question, “Her Black Wings”, obviously a great song but back then when Glenn wrote it did any of you guys say, like, “Yo, [Black Sabbath song] "Zero the Hero”, or whatever [laughs]?

Oh please, listen to any of those fuckin’ songs and you know, it’s all Black Sabbath. 

Yeah, but that one’s like the exact riff…

Yeah, well right but, I didn’t mention it. 

[Laughs] What about “The Hunter”, did anyone say like, Zep or Albert King or anything?

Yeah, well you wanna know how many guys are actually credited for writing that song? It’s everybody that was in the Blues Brothers, wrote that song and Glenn changed a couple of words and never said anything, and Steve Cropper, Duck Dunn and all those guys, they wrote “The Hunter” and Albert King first recorded the song and I never said anything, because, I just didn’t say anything and that was it. Anyone who knows anything knows. I like what he did, I like the words he changed on there and that’s what the blues is, you carry the torch and you go on and whatever but you can’t claim that you wrote the song. 

One last question…

Yeah, this is like the 10th time you’ve said that.

[Laughs] Yeah well I mean it this time. What about "You and Me (Less than Zero)", did you play on that song or not?

I played on the first few passes on that and they wanted me to play a different way and I wasn’t really comfortable with that. John and Chuck played on it and I’m not sure but I think Glenn might’ve played an organ on that. But they wanted me to play with my fingers and this was right after Samhain and I was used to playing with a pick and I couldn’t really pull it off and I had a really bad headache at the time and I said, "I don’t care, I don’t wanna do it, just let anybody else play it," and that was pretty much it. I did three passes on it and I said, ya know what, go fuck yourselves!

Alright man, I meant it, that’s all I got. You want me to put up any links or whatever?

No, I don’t care.

Photo: Mel Anthrope

Alright man, well good talking to ya and have a good one!

You too.

***

Pick up a copy of Misery Obscura: The Photography of Eerie Von (1981–2009) at this link. Even though he doesn't care, here is a cool Eerie Von Facebook fan page.

Tagged: a hardcore conversation, danzig, eerie von, samhain

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