Photo by Tom Begrowits
As the legendary bassist for Samhain and Danzig, as well as photographer/archivist for the Misfits, Eerie Von has a treasure trove of photo and video documenting those halcyon punk rock days. His first book, 2009’s Misery Obscura, was a fascinating look-behind-the-curtain at some never-before seen photos from those bygone days. Ever since, Eerie’s been hard at work on the follow-up book, Misery Perfectum, as well as a long-form documentary with the same title. Both book and documentary are currently in funding mode via Kickstarter and promise to shed even more fiendish light on the Misfits/Samhain/Danzig legacy.
Noisey talked to Eerie about punk rock, Rick Rubin, and when we’ll finally get a goddamn Danzig reunion.
As a guy who was there watching the legendary Misfits develop, I’m curious: how did you discover punk rock?
My sister Sue was into it, and used to go see bands in clubs. She was buying records and discovering bands, and I would hear the music through her bedroom door—sometimes she would tell me to listen to this, or check this out. In high school there were, like, three people into punk—Doyle, Bob Montena, and Chris Marino. Doyle had turned me onto punk like a year before, along with my sister, then Bob and Chris started turning me on to a million other bands I had never heard of. It was a cool time, kinda what it must have been for kids in the 50s when they first heard rock'n'roll.
Which came first for you: photography or rock and roll?
I got into music at like five years old. My folks had Beatles records, and I listened to the 50s stuff they grew up on. Then I discovered American Bandstand and Soul Train, so that lead to a love of Motown.
I think the first record I bought was either Elvis or the Jackson Five. Photography didn't happen hardcore for me ‘til like eighth grade.
What was your first impression of the Misfits, when Doyle first introduced you?
I thought they were fucking cool.
We're coming up on twenty years since you and John Christ left Danzig. In a recent interview, John says “Where and when?” to the idea of a Danzig reunion tour. What would it take for you to go out and do another tour with Danzig Mark I? And, with Glenn digging back into his legacy lately, do you foresee such a tour happening anytime soon?
I never hear from John or Chuck anymore, so that statement surprises me—I always knew he was dissatisfied with the band. I would do it if Chuck and John were on board, and if we made a new record. I am a little surprised Glenn has been doing the reunion shows since ‘98, and the Doyle thing for, like, ten years – ‘cause he never seemed too sentimental. But there's a certain comfort in going back, plus you need to keep turning the new fans onto the old stuff, so they will buy it. I wouldn't be surprised if the Samhain catalog gets re-issued in the very near future. It's just good for business.
How long after the release of Misery Obscura did you start planning for Misery Perfectum?
I started thinking about the second book probably right after the first one came out; Misery Perfectum is gonna be a straight photo book, showing the pictures in their pristine form.
How did the idea to turn your archives into a documentary come about?
I love documentaries, especially music ones, so it makes sense to me. Plus, I was always filming, or taking pictures, saving the posters, the flyers—all the promotional stuff. I've always been the self-proclaimed "Keeper of the Flame," so I always knew it would happen eventually. I figured that if this band gets as big as they say we are going to, someone may want to see this stuff.
Do you have a release date in mind for Misery Perfectum?
The book might come out before the documentary. I don't know. We don't have a release date yet; there’s still too many hoops to jump through to speculate at this point. Plus, I just found more footage, and one of my friends has a bunch of video and photos I wanna go through.
You were a focal member of Samhain at the time the band morphed into Danzig. How did Rick Rubin first come into the picture, and how instrumental was he in honing the Danzig concept and the band’s resultant success?
Rick did what every record company guy does—he listened to the word on the street, to his A&R guys, and showed up at one of our Ritz gigs in NYC. He liked what he saw and got on board. The evolution of the band from Samhain to Danzig had more to do with the fact that we now had two seriously-talented players bringing experiences and styles from another place. With the addition of a metal guy who could play the shit out of his instrument, had gone to college, and liked jazz and classical as well as Iron Maiden, we would implement ideas and styles into the music like we hadn't before. And of course, Chuck Biscuits could play any style and always put on a tremendous show. Having a bigger record company behind you sometimes helps, but we still slugged it out on the road selling tickets—and with virtually no MTV airplay, we had to do it on our own and build up a reputation. The band never got as big as we were supposed to, but having Rubin and good distribution helped a little—though not as much as you might think.
Your solo records have embraced gothic doom rock and country up to this point. What can we expect from the next Eerie Von solo album?
I’ve been writing songs all along, and dug through the files for material I haven't used, so I'm pretty excited about recording this next one in Nashville with a bunch of friends and acquaintances. It's gonna be a bit like the last one, but this time with a band instead of just me—plus a little more varied. The last one was kinda country. This one will be less so, but not completely different.
Kyle Harcott is keeping the faith on Twitter - @kyleantivenin