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Glenn Danzig Skeletons: Singer shares stories behind cover album

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Paul Brown

Fans who know Glenn Danzig for the unique brand of horror punk he’s perfected over the last several decades – from bands like Misfits to his own self-titled outfit – might be surprised to discover that he names Elvis Presley among his most formative influences. But on Danzig’s new covers album Skeletons, out Friday, he demonstrates his broad spectrum of musical inspirations. Danzig says he meant to balance between retaining the strengths of the original songs while adding his own flavor.

“Before I go into the studio I have an idea of the arrangement, how I’m gonna make it a little different while still trying to retain the original’s qualities that make it unique,” Danzig says. “I just decided to bring my own style to them. It’s a Danzig record. You have to bring your own style to it. Otherwise why do it?”

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Below Danzig tells EW the stories behind some of these new covers and why he often chose certain lesser-known songs from popular artists.

“Devil’s Angels” (from Devil’s Angels soundtrack)

“I love biker culture on film. Of course it’s Hollywood, but they’re trying to capture the rebelliousness of biker culture. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes it’s a little hokey, but that whole lifestyle, you know? There were just some great songs in those movies and they’ve been kind of ignored because they weren’t really meant for release as songs as such. They were just meant to be background for the movie. And so yeah, there’s a couple lost gems in those movies that I love. I wanted to update them and let people hear them.”

“Let Yourself Go” by Elvis Presley

“Probably the reason I do what I’m doing is because of Elvis. I used to cut school all the time because school was boring for me. I would stay home and watch old movies. I remember ‘Jailhouse Rock’ came on and I was like, what is this? By the end, I was like, ‘I want to do this. This is cool.’ And that’s really how it started. It’s a song that a lot of people may or may not be familiar with, but he actually liked it so much he put it on the ’68 Comeback Special. It’s just a cool song I’ve always liked. I knew I could do something really cool with it. I didn’t want to do the obvious Elvis song, you know? You don’t have to highlight an Elvis song, everyone’s heard them, this is just probably a lesser known song of his thousands of songs that everybody knows. I like his delivery, his voice. He’s not just standing there, he’s moving around. I like that. I don’t like singers who just stand there. It’s boring to me. I like singers who are really getting into it and showing you they’re getting into it. I think he has all of that.”

“N.I.B.” by Black Sabbath

“Of course Black Sabbath was very inspirational in where I ended up as an artist, same as Elvis, so I knew I had to have at least an Elvis track and a Black Sabbath track on the record. I just remember when that record came out and no one had heard it yet and I bought it on a whim. There was only one copy at the store and it wasn’t even in its own section. It was in like the new arrivals section, and I just knew it had to be good. I was flipping through records and all of a sudden I see this record and it’s a Satanic chick in a forest and it says ‘Black Sabbath’ and I was like ‘you know what? I’ve never heard this but it has to be good.’ And so I bought it, and it blew me away. I went around turning everybody into my neighborhood onto the record. I was definitely the first person in my town, if not the area, to buy that record. There was only one. And then of course they exploded. All over the country it took everybody by storm.”

“Lord of the Thighs,” by Aerosmith

“It’s a song definitely people wouldn’t think that I would like. It’s probably my favorite song by them, and I just knew I could do a really cool version of it, much heavier. I didn’t realize how much heavier mine was until we were playing it back in the studio against theirs and I was like ‘whoa.’ Theirs had a ragtime honky-tonk piano, and ours has blaring, squeaking guitars. I just like Steven Tyler’s ballsiness to say I’m the lord of your thighs. That’s crazy. It reflects that time period, too, the early ’70s. It’s also early in their career, so they’re still taking a lot of chances. It’s a great song.”

“Rough Boy” by ZZ Top 

“I’m sure they were happy with the production on it but I just thought it stopped and started too much. The choruses never finished. I wanted to make it more of a song. To me when I heard it, it was such a great song but it felt like an idea that wasn’t finished. I just wanted to do it as a straight-ahead song without all the stops. I like the way it came out.” 

“Crying in the Rain” by The Everly Brothers 

“The Everly Brothers song is just so different from the rest of the tracks that I think it stands out. I really like The Everly Brothers a lot and it’s a song I’ve always wanted to cover. I wanted to strip it down and make it more sparse and more haunting and creepy and less of a pop song. It’s very melancholy. Theirs is more poppy, and I think mine is a little more melancholy. I just thought they were magic. The Everly Brothers, of course they have so many songs and hits, I just think they recorded some of the greatest music to come out of records. I don’t have to talk about how great the Everly Brothers are. Their legacy speaks for itself.”