Opinion | Only one man can save Danzig’s solo career, and that’s Rick Rubin

Rick Rubin should give his old collaborator Glenn Danzig the 'Johnny Cash treatment'

glenn danzig rick rubin

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Glenn Danzig enjoyed the triumphant return of the Misfits last year, but his solo career (with his eponymous band, Danzig) is in bad shape. Danzig recently released two singles from his forthcoming record, Black Laden Crown (due May 26th). Those songs, ‘Devil on Hwy 9’ and ‘Last Ride,’ have been widely mocked by fans for their poor production quality and for Danzig’s strained vocal performances. The metal blog called Danzig’s recent work “embarrassing” and a “streak of shittiness.” Throngs of Danzig’s fans have complained on his Facebook page: one fan said that ‘Last Ride’ “sounds like it was mixed in a toilet,” while another fan simply remarked, “How the mighty have fallen.” Ouch.

There’s no schadenfreude here – punk and metal fans worship Danzig and want him to succeed. He had one of the greatest voices in the history of heavy music, his songwriting skills are unparalleled (I defy you to find a song with better lyrics than ‘Last Caress’), and his musclebound 90s persona looms large in the pantheon of rock gods. In short, he is an icon. However, Danzig is 61 now, and he needs help finding a direction that suits his age and capabilities in the later phase of his legendary career. It’s time to trade in the black fishnet t-shirt for something that befits a man of his age.

Enter Rick Rubin. Rubin is the co-founder of Def Jam and the producer who has assisted in the legacy of major acts ranging from Slayer and Beastie Boys to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jay Z. The hirsute producer has already played a significant role in Danzig’s vision and career trajectory: Rubin produced or co-produced four Danzig albums during the 80s and 90s (during Danzig’s tenure on Rubin’s label, American Recordings).

Rick Rubin knows how to restore the career of an American icon past his prime. He did exactly that with another man who liked to wear black: Johnny Cash.

Rubin’s partnership with country icon Johnny Cash began in 1993. Their collaboration continued until Cash’s death ten years later.

Rubin described the impetus of working with Cash as follows: “I really felt like it would be an exciting challenge to work with an established artist, or a legendary artist who might not be in the best place in his career at the moment. The first person who came to mind was Johnny, in terms of greatness and in terms of maybe, at that moment, not doing his best work.”

Sounds very much like where Glenn Danzig is at in his career.

Rubin began by stripping Cash’s sound down to its bare elements of guitar and vocals. He also had Cash record riveting cover versions of contemporary songs including ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails and ‘Rusty Cage’ by Soundgarden. Johnny Cash began to enjoy critical praise for the first time in years. Rubin’s work with Johnny Cash helped return the man in black to his rightful place in the pantheon of musical icons. In 2005, Cash’s life and legacy were immortalized in the hit film Walk the Line, further cementing his status as a beloved legend.

Maybe Rubin could help Danzig discover the best way to utilize or rehabilitate his fatigued voice. Maybe he could strip away Danzig’s  schlockly, dated guitar sounds and tacky flames-and-tits album artwork. Maybe he could find and illuminate that great artist within Danzig, and bestow him with a record and a context befitting the metal god in his later years. If there’s anyone who can do it, it’s Rick.

Mr. Rubin, please give your old friend Glenn a call.

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