Though he came into the public eye almost 40 years ago as the onetime frontman of Misfits, Glenn Danzig has since become equal parts icon and legend. He’s released several albums under his own name, as well as hit singles like 1988’s “Mother,” and toured relentlessly, but for so many music fans, Danzig’s equally famous for his prickly personality and perceived anachronisms. His house in Los Angeles is a mecca for fans, and a couple of years ago, when a member of the paparazzi caught a picture of him buying kitty litter at a grocery store, the shot quickly became a meme, with fans falling in love with the fact that a guy that seems so hard and so singular is, in fact, just a regular dude.
Though Danzig is known for doing what he wants, when he wants, it was still a little surprising when it was announced that he’d appear on an episode of Portlandia, which airs tonight—and, it appeared, would be clad in a bathing suit. But, as he tells The A.V. Club below, his appearance happened rather organically, via a request from Fred Armisen, who he considered an acquaintance. The resulting episode, “Weirdos Go To The Beach,” is, as promised, pretty weird—but, with Danzig involved, there’d be no reason to expect anything less.
The A.V. Club: How did your appearance on Portlandia come about?
Glenn Danzig: I had just come back from tour, and I checked my emails and there was an email from Fred Armisen. I guess they had been trying to get in touch with me and couldn’t find out how to get in touch with me, and then a friend that they knew gave them my email. They were asking if I would do an episode of Portlandia that they originally wrote for me, and then it went from there.
It was pretty crazy because they wanted me to come up that night. I was like, “well, send me the script, I’ll look at it.” I’m a big fan of Fred’s; I’d met him before at a Rob Zombie party. And it just went from there. I loved the script.
They had actually already hired somebody because they’d been trying to get in touch with me for a couple weeks and I guess they couldn’t.
Once I finally said, “Okay, I really like it, I want to do it, but can we do it some other time?” They were like, “No, we’re filming tomorrow.” So I had to fly up to Portland that evening and I had to learn five pages of dialogue within a couple hours, because I had to get some sleep, and also I had to be on the set at six in the morning.
AVC: You have a couple other credits on your IMDb, but this is the first time you’ve acted in a long time.
GD: Well, I’ve been on stage my whole life. Also, when you’re doing music videos, a lot of people don’t understand. They think you just go up there, do the song, and they film the video. You do it like a jillion times before that though. Same thing in the studio. If you’re working with a producer like Rick Rubin or whatever, you sing each line probably 30 different ways. Each time they’re like, “Can you try it this way, can you try it that way?” That’s each line in the song, for each song.
But yeah, I’m pretty picky about what I do.
AVC: In the episode, you play a Romanian guy. Was the accent originally part of what was written? How did you figure out how to do the voice?
GD: When I read the script, I started getting ideas, and then after I got in costume, I was talking with Fred in the trailer, and I started showing him some of the stuff. He was like “Wow, you can do accents?” I’m like, “Yeah, I can do different accents.” So I don’t know, I guess the accent I came up with is like part Bela Lugosi and part Christopher Walken from “The Continental” on Saturday Night Live.
AVC: How long did your scene take to film?
GD: Are you familiar with the characters? They’re these kind of black metal, goth characters. They’re trying to have fun at the beach and it’s really funny. Anyway, Carrie leaves early on so the whole scene pretty much is me and Fred. And I’m trying to help him to fit in at the beach, being the kind of character he is and the character I play. It’s pretty funny. But I would say the whole thing took from maybe seven or eight o’clock in the morning until about noon or one, maybe two?
AVC: That’s not bad.
GD: Probably more like two. And after shooting, I had to get on the airplane. It was nonstop.
AVC: And you just came back to LA?
GD: No, I went right back to L.A. that afternoon. I just hopped on the wheels and shot back to L.A.
AVC: That’s a pretty weird 24 hours.
GD: It was pretty strange. I wasn’t expecting, when he sent the script, to like it as much as I did, because I thought it was hilarious. So I just said, “I gotta do this; this is great.” And I’m a big fan of Fred and of course I like the Portlandia show, so it was just a no-brainer.
AVC: How often do you actually go to the beach?
GD: I don’t really go to the beach. Yeah. So this is the character I’m playing. Everyone should understand: I’m playing a character. [Laughs.] A lot of the stuff I like that they do on that show is just so absurd.
AVC: So you’re not a beach guy.
GD: No. Actually when I grew up as a kid, a part of my life I grew up in Boston, near Revere Beach at my grandma’s, and she would take me to the beach. So I mean, I’m not familiar with the beach, and when you’re a kid it’s a little different, but I don’t do it now, you know what I mean?
AVC: Just because you live in L.A. doesn’t mean you go to the beach.
GD: Everyone thinks L.A. is the beach. And actually, Hollywood is really far from the beach.
AVC: Was any of your dialogue improvised or was it all in the script?
GD: No, that’s Fred’s. I tried not to improvise that much, except for the way I did the stuff and how I did it. It was pretty tough learning all the dialogue, and when I was talking with Fred in the trailer I said, “Look, I hope I’m gonna get all this, because it’s a lot to learn in a couple hours.” And he told me, “Oh I never know my dialogue,” which I don’t believe. I’m sure it might be partly true, but he did a great job.
AVC: Is there an open door for you to come back?
GD: I don’t know. I don’t think we talked about any of that. I know they were really happy, and if they were happy, I’m happy. With something like this, you always want whoever hires you, the director, or the crew to be happy, so that’s really I all I was concerned about.