Best known as the former bassist of Samhain and Danzig, Eerie Von is a multi-talented individual. Post-Danzig, Mr. Von went on to produce five albums, including one under the name SpiderCider; his most recent, a semi-country album appropriately called Kinda Country. He’s also an avid painter, and as we learned a few years ago, a talented photographer.
Originally published in 2009, Misery Obscura is a collection of photos taken by Von over the course of his tenure as Misfits photographer and Samhain/Danzig bassist. Not just a collection of from-the-stage crowd shots, Misery Obscura offers a true fly-on-the-wall perspective of one of America’s most influential punk bands and also captures the gradual metamorphosis of Samhain into the band named “Danzig.” Of course the book is appealing to longtime fans of the bands, but should also be widely collected by all those interested in punk and metal history. Most importantly, for a book of photos, the photography is excellent and should be heralded among the works of other photographers who chronicled punks image, performance, life, and death.
Misery Obscura: The Photography of Eerie Von has been republished in a beautiful hardbound edition and is available now. Mr. Von is also appearing this weekend (January 28 & 29) at the Vette City Con at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY.
the void report: It has been a while since we’ve heard anything from you musically. Have you been up to anything? Or do you have anything in the works?
Eerie Von: I have a good 15 demos that are pretty much fleshed out and I wanna put out a record, but sometimes life gets in the way and you have to pay bills and things. So, I’m hoping to get some money to record down here in Nashville or somewhere in South Carolina and play with a bunch of good players instead of doing the record on my own.
the void report: You’ll do something with a full band?
Eerie Von: Yeah, there’s nothing like being in the studio with four or five guys and seeing how the songs turn out. You might have a general idea in mind and somebody might say, “well, what about this or what about that or maybe we should change the tempo?” So, that’s the kind of stuff that I’m used to. But, when you record on your own you’re so close to the project that you can’t really edit yourself so good, so well! But, I’ve changed a few of them and I’ve listened to them in my car and thought, “well if I put this drum part here the song totally changes.” So, I’m looking forward to that and to see what another musician or producer might say. I really want to put out another record. It’s been a while, but we have to see how that goes.
the void report: Would you also tour?
Eerie Von: If I could get some kind of support. Because, you got to pay for everybody and pay for transportation and hotels and all that. So, if I can do that I will.
the void report: In addition to this new edition of Misery Obscura, you’ve also mentioned a second book, Misery Perfectum. Where does that stand?
Eerie Von: We’re still working on the photos, because we have maybe 800 photos that haven’t been seen or used. I want to do it as a companion piece to the first book and maybe expanded a bit. The first book was about 160 pages, so I want to try to do 200 pages. But, it’s going to be more of the photos in pristine condition sort of…not much story line, just little bits of “took this here” and if I can remember anything else. But, I really want the photos to stand on their own. We hope to get it out next year.
the void report: You’re also an avid painter and sell your work online. Have you thought about doing a book collection for some of your work?
Eerie Von: Oh yeah! That’s something I’d like to see if the current publisher, Bazillion Points, might be interested in or otherwise I think we can probably do it in a smaller, maybe 5×7 size or something, maybe a postcard book. I’ve done about 400 paintings and I’d like to let people see them.
the void report: As far as I’m concerned, I’m interested and like what I’ve seen, just can’t afford an original! (Laughs).
Eerie Von: I’m trying to make cheaper prints that still look like the paintings and we’ve done canvas prints where they’re stretched canvas and they look just like them. The only problem is getting the colors and contrast exactly right. My manager Laura Jay does all that stuff and she did a couple and I put the original and copy right next to each other and couldn’t even tell. So, I would like to do that and sell them for a lot less so people can afford to buy them.
the void report: I have to ask, were you surprised at the news of the Misfits reunion shows last year?
Eerie Von: I’m still in contact with Doyle and Jerry and I knew they were working on it. Because, Jerry’s wanted to get the band back together, the original band, for years. So, I wasn’t that surprised because I think as you get older you kind of want to tie up loose ends and things. Maybe Glenn, being 60 now, he might have just wanted to do to it so he can say “I did it. Now you can leave me alone” (Laughs). But, from what I heard they were all getting along just fine and the two shows went great and everybody was happy about it. So, I thought it was a good thing. I just wanted them to get back together because they were all really close friends. So, I think it’s a good thing.
the void report: Of course, I’m wondering if you think it makes the possibility of an original Danzig reunion more likely.
Eerie Von: No. Definitely, not. I read an interview with John (Christ) and he said “Yeah, just tell me where and when” and that kind of surprised me because he never really liked the band or the records we put out. Of course, Chuck is sort of underground and he might have quit playing after his stint with Social Distortion. His kick drum knee got blown out a couple of times. I think he either couldn’t do it anymore or didn’t have the desire to do it anymore. I would be real surprised if Chuck got on board. But, I wouldn’t do it without those other two guys.
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the void report: In your book, you discuss the transition from Samhain into Danzig. Was there much discussion, prior to John Christ and Chuck Biscuits joining the band, about the sound you were going for? Or was it more a result of what happened when those specific musicians joined and your subsequent chemistry?
Eerie Von: First, Glenn fired the guitar player. I remember it like it was yesterday. And he said, “You’ve got to go kick out the drummer.” So, I had to kick out London (May) and that was difficult because when you’re a band you start to become friends if you’re not friends already. So, it was hard. At the time we had London and no guitar player. So, we held auditions and 20-25 people come down to audition in New York. I think it was TomKat Studio.
We tried out like 20 guitarists and I think John was the last one. I thought he was fantastic and so did a couple of the record company guys and Rick Rubin. Glenn was like, “I don’t like him, he’s a metal guy, we’re punk rock guys. I don’t want him.” So, Rubin took him out to dinner and John kept leaving messages on Glenn’s answering machine of him playing some of the Samhain songs. (Laughs) He told me, “This guy’s crazy! He keeps leaving me messages where he’s playing guitar.” And I said, “Well, he obviously wants the job.” And then it was one of those things, I think it was Brooklyn, I’m not sure, but the first day or two it was just so easy playing with these guys. It was a no-brainer. And you don’t get that very often. It was really good chemistry, pretty much instantly.
the void report: Did y’all talk about the different sound you were going for that distinguished Danzig from Samhain? Or was it a result of getting in the studio and doing the songs?
Eerie Von: It was Glenn’s natural progression as a songwriter, you know? Because, going from Misfits to Samhain the songs changed and then all of sudden with these two guys, like John who could play what ever you wanted. And so could Chuck, being a punk rock legend. It just sort of naturally happened. We never sat down and said we’re going to sound like this or that, I think that was more Rubin’s goal for the band. He wanted us to be like Led Zeppelin or the Doors, to be like a band that would last forever.
And then we started getting into more of the blues and Black Sabbath and stuff that I was not that keen on, but it worked out. We would go to rehearsals and Glenn would have an idea and he would just hum a riff to John and John would say “Alright” and give him 5 different choices. “What about this one? What about that one?” and Glenn would say “That one! That’s the one I want.” And then we would say “Chuck, do whatever you want.” I was the weakest link so I just said “What key is it in?” and just played what I wanted to play. And if Glenn said, “No, that’s not good” then I would say, “well, what do you want?” But, after a record or two it was like a total band thing. We would [working on a song] say, “now where are we going to go?” and someone would say “Let’s just do the Danzig thing at the end,” you know, cause we would do double time a lot. It was a natural progression, I think.
the void report: I’m especially interested in the songs “Twist of Cain” and “Possession” that were originally Samhain songs that were re-recorded for the first Danzig album. Do you remember why those songs were chosen instead of new material?
Eerie Von: I couldn’t tell you exactly, but I think they were closer to being the next band. I’m sure, well I can’t remember, I haven’t heard the Samhain versions in a long time, but it was a little re-arrangement here and there. I think “Twist of Cain” had the most arrangement change and we worked on the riff more. And then “Possession” just seemed like a Samhain song to me. When you’re writing a record you need 10 or 12 songs, so maybe he had 8 songs and said “Let’s use these two” or maybe they were strong enough that he thought they could make it on the next record.
the void report: July 14th is the 25th Anniversary of the How the Gods Kill, my personal favorite Danzig album.
Eerie Von: Oh yeah, that’s mine too.
the void report: Well, my first question was looking back how do you think that album stands up compared to the other three you recorded on?
Eerie Von: I haven’t listened to it in a long time. I’ve listened more to Lucifuge and Danzig IV because I have them in the car. See, I didn’t really like the first record because it’s so dry and it sounded more like AC/DC and stuff. Rick was into AC/DC and Led Zeppelin, so I was not that happy about the vocals being so up front without any reverb like the Misfits songs and stuff like that. And I wanted reverb on like everything.
When we got to How the Gods Kill it was maybe going back to a little bit more showbiz, with a little bit of reverb on the drums or whatever. I really enjoyed doing that record. We did that record in four days. We recorded all the basics. They were almost all first takes because we were really well-rehearsed. John, Chuck, and I would go down to Sound Studio in Garfield, New Jersey and work on the songs 3-days a week and then Glenn would come down on Friday and say “Okay, let’s hear it.” Rubin would come around every once in a while and say “why don’t you try it like this?” And we were like, “No, we’ve already tried it like that, it doesn’t work.“
So, I think that’s the best record. And I was there every day from basics to guitar leads to vocals. And I remember doing…there was a guy they hired, somebody else, to mix it and there was a part in…oh, I can’t remember what song it was. But, I said “right here the guitar drops out and it’s just the bass.” There were two points in the song where that happened and I said you need to bring up the bass right here, but the second pass he didn’t do it. So, you know it was you hear the bass in the first breakdown and then all of a sudden it wasn’t there. It was like, “do I really need to tell the guy to do it again?” He should have figured that out. We were mixing at A&M studios, it was a pretty big thing. We had done the Record Plant and Ocean Way studios, but overall I really like the material and how the record came out. Also, we had the cover by Giger, so that was a big thing. And that’s when we really started to sell records and do bigger tours. So, it’s one of the records I like the most.
the void report: That was my first “new” Danzig record and that was also my first real concert on that tour with Quicksand (ed-was it Kyuss?) and White Zombie in Dallas, Texas.
Eerie Von: We picked up White Zombie in Europe in the beginning of the tour, that was 92 I guess. And they did like a month with us. Then when we went back to America they did like another month and then they went on tour with Pantera. It was a really good tour, a really good time. We thought this was the record that would…you know, make us big. And it didn’t happen.
the void report: Since Glenn was producing, other than what you mentioned in the book about his vocals (and not having to do multiple takes if he felt he got it right), how did that change what you guys did in the studio versus the previous two albums?
Eerie Von: The first and second records were produced by Rubin, but he was busy at the time. I think he was doing the Chili Peppers record or working with other bands, he wasn’t showing up that much. So, we just had to do it on our own. We had a really good engineer and Glenn just said “I don’t want to sing 40 takes of song.” Because Rick was always “do this or do that” and I don’t think Glenn wanted to punch-in unless there was a bad line or whatever. So, it was pretty much up to us and I think we did a pretty good job on that.
the void report: Do you have a personal favorite song or songs on the How the Gods Kill?
Eerie Von: Oh, no. I pretty much love them all and I remember, because you know, I’ve got video tape of pretty much all the performances from the first record on, that there’s too many good songs. And I was always a Misfits fan, a Glenn fan, and just saw the progression. So, there’s a lot of really good songs.
There’s a lot of really good songs on Danzig IV that people don’t realize, because they didn’t get it because it sounded more like a Samhain record. I totally got that, me and Glenn totally got that, but John and Chuck weren’t totally sure. John thought the songs weren’t finished and Chuck would just play. We would just say “Chuck, play whatever you want,” because it was Chuck Biscuits, and John was just like “No, I don’t see it.” And I said, “It doesn’t have to have chorus, guitar lead, verse, chorus, whatever.” But, he didn’t really dig it. But, I think it’s a really underrated record. There’s a lot of good playing and I remember it and it was really a good record, but people don’t really understand it.
the void report: I always felt it was the underdog of those first four albums.
Eerie Von: Definitely. But, if you listen to the material there’s a lot of good songs. I mean you could take out a couple of songs, but we did “Let it Be Captured.” I was in the studio with Glenn and said, “I just read this article where this band, I think it was an English band, played their whole record backwards and they got all these ideas for new songs.” So, “Let it Be Captured” was just, I mean “Cantspeak” was just “Let it Be Captured” backwards and Chuck just played to it. I remember our sound man saying, “Don’t try to play it backwards, just play it the way you play it.” And that ended up being pretty good. The only song I don’t like is “Girl” from Lucifuge, I just thought it wasn’t up to standards.
the void report: Actually, I’ve read that in past interviews. I think you even said you never played that one live, right?
Eerie Von: We played it maybe once or twice. It’s hard to remember.
the void report: It’s okay. It’s definitely not among the best on that album.
Eerie Von: Definitely, not. There were so many good songs on those records. And we were getting to where I was a little more comfortable, a little more reverb, and doing songs that flowed into other songs. They were always fun to play live, but when we got to Danzig III it was really…I said to Glenn, “well, what’s your favorite record?” and he said, “Night of the Living Dead,” you know, that EP. And I said, “Why is that?” And he said, “Because the band was at the best they were.” And I think that’s the same position we were in at that time with Danzig III.
the void report: As an artist, it must have been cool meeting H.R. Giger. How did he come into the mix?
Eerie Von: Glenn is really into the artwork and stuff and he’s done a lot of things with other people and he’s a big comic book guy. He got to the point where he could call these people up and say “Hey, I want you to do something” or whatever.
But, when we met Giger it was in Switzerland where we had a private show with us and White Zombie and we got to see his stuff before everyone else did. It was a lot of fun. He’s not a big talker. Maybe there was a language barrier. But, Glenn was really happy about that and it was great to see all his original artwork. I got him to sign my How the Gods Kill gatefold and that’s the only one I have. It was really nice. It was a good time.
the void report: Do you remember at all why that image was selected for the cover and maybe when it was selected during the albums production?
Eerie Von: Usually you do the record and then lay out the album artwork and what’s going to happen. But, no he never said any thing about “we’re going to use this or that” or not that I recall. But, I was just like “Yeah, cool. Looks like a cool record cover.”
But, he wouldn’t let us use too much of the actual painting, which is called the Meister und Margherita. He did a little Danzig skull hanging off the chicks arm and we could only use that for promotion. It was just one of those things, I never thought about it.
the void report: You’ve mentioned before that Glenn had a great sense of humor. What do you think he thinks of all the memes that go around? Have you seen them?
Eerie Von: Oh yeah, not for nothing, I don’t think he really appreciates that. He has a great sense of humor, but I remember when the internet was first starting and he was like “I don’t like this, I don’t like what people are saying about me” and “take down this site.” And we were like, “we can’t do that.” So, he has a great sense of humor but not when somebody says anything bad about him.
the void report: Not all of the memes are necessarily bad, but they are entertaining in one way or the other.
Eerie Von: I think that it’s great that people still care and they want to do these things and it still keeps his name in the public mind, I think that’s fine. I’m an old fashioned guy and I think bad publicity is still good publicity.
the void report: It definitely does keep his name out there. I’ve been amazed, there’s literally thousands of memes with Glenn Danzig. It’s incredible just the sheer number of them.
Eerie Von: We never thought anything was going to happen, you know. Maybe when Danzig happened, because Samhain was kind of an underground band and the Misfits weren’t that big a deal. So, when it got to be Danzig and we started selling records we thought, “yeah, publicity is good.” But, you couldn’t get a good interview out of Glenn if he was in a bad mood. We used to go on radio and stuff and he would say things and I would deflect them and say, “Well, you know Glenn really means this,” and they would say, “What do you think about this?” and he would say “I don’t like it” and that’s not good for radio.
the void report: Well, Eerie that’s all the questions I have for you. I want to thank you very much for taking the time to talk to me.
Eerie Von: Thanks, I appreciate it!
Eerie Von’s book Misery Obscura: The Photography of Eerie Von (1981-2009) is available now in beautiful hardback edition from Bazillion Points.