bill bodkin and ann hale dig through the ditches with the heavy metal icon and horror movie director …
Rockstar. Writer. Director. El Super Beasto. The Hellbilly. Fledging Dr. Who impersonator.
Rob Zombie is the man — he’s been able to create a horrifyingly enchanting persona and style and successfully spread it across numerous artistic mediums. Since the 90s he’s been creating thunderously macabre heavy metal anthems with his band White Zombie and on his own. Since the early 2000s he’s taken his love for horror movies and made it a career — delivering modern blood soaked horror classics like The Devil’s Rejects, re-interpreting the classic Halloween series and even making ho-hum procedural crime drama like CSI: Miami extremely interesting.
And as we speak, Zombie is splitting time putting the finishing touches on his new film, The Lords Of Salem while concurrently gearing up to record a new record and hitting the road to tour with Megadeth.
Pop-Break’s Bill Bodkin and Ann Hale teamed up to speak with the musician and director about his new record, his new tour and his new movie. But before we jump into the interview our writers felt a strong need (a sinister urge perhaps?) to talk about how the art of Rob Zombie has impacted their pop culture lives.
Music: Rob Zombie opened my eyes to heavy metal music and I can remember exactly where I was … sitting in the movies on Oak Tree Road in Edison, N.J. watching the film Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls. White Zombie’s ‘Blur the Technicolor’ score a spastic chase scene between Jim Carrey and the villain of the film. The rip-roaring riffs, the thunderous bass and drums and the vintage guttural vocals blew my mind. The groove was undeniable — I was possessed. Gone were my days of listening to Jock Jams and oldies, I was reborn a metalhead. And since those mid-90s days I have been banging my head to the absolute groove-tastic gems that Rob Zombie has produced. I believe his music is some of the best metal produced in the past few decades and in many ways has been criminally under-appreciated. I listen to Rob Zombie’s music daily and like a fine, poisoned wine, it gets better with every single spin.
— Bill Bodkin
Film: I remember, back in high school, reading Fangoria magazine and seeing a mention about the making of Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses. The idea of him making horror movies just sounded so amazing to me. I saw him on MTV Cribs and his whole house was horror, including a closet lined with shelves full of horror movies. He obviously knew his stuff. So, a couple of years later, when House of 1000 Corpses finally came to theaters, I was there, opening day, with a couple of friends. I remember being so messed up over the character Baby, mercilessly stabbing a girl in a graveyard, that I walked out of the theater after the movie and lit two cigarettes, at once. Ever since then, I have seen every one of his films on opening day and I have added them all to my collection. Yes, you can call me a fan and I will continue to be for as long as Zombie is willing to entertain me, which I can only hope will be for a long time.
— Ann Hale
Pop-Break: You’re going to be headed into the studio to record a new album this summer. I’ve seen in several interviews that you haven’t been this excited to make a record since you did the first Hellbilly Deluxe record nearly 15 years ago. Why the excitement?
Rob Zombie: It’s several things and one of the main things is the band. For all the years that I’ve been doing this and coming and going with a lot of band members unfortunately, this seems like the best line-up that I’ve had. For the first time ever I feel like everyone is on the same page. Also, it’s been a long time since I made a record … so it’s time. I really feel like the vibe for the band is at the best its been in a long time. As we keep playing shows, the shows keep getting bigger and bigger. I don’t know, the timing feels exciting to do it again. I think with any career, and I’ve been doing this for, I don’t know 25 years now, you go through ups and downs with excitement levels even in your own head. You can’t sustain it at 10 for 25 years. Right now it’s very high and that’s why I’m excited.
PB: What is it about this line-up that has you so excited?
RZ: They have all the pieces. For me I need people who understand me on all different levels. First and foremost, they need to be great musicians, but that’s sort of a given. Secondly, you need people that you like being around. But the main thing is the band has always been more than just music, it’s been this big this conceptual project from the sound of the music, to the look of the band to the stage shows — everything is equally important. And it’s hard to find people who get that. You can always find good musicians but they might not get the other side of it. They might be do the other side of it begrudgingly but they don’t really want to do it. That’s always sorta of a drag on what we try to do — because even if they’re doing it they’re being resistant. This is the first time ever that it’s never ever been the case. It’s not necessarily a slag on other people but it’s so much better when everyone’s totally down for the project with no reservations whatsoever.
PB: How is this going to effect the live show? I read an article where you said your new drummer Ginger Fish brought this whole new groove to your classic track ‘More Human Than Human.’ Does this mean there’s songs you wanna dust off and bring back to the live show due to musical ability of this line-up?
RZ: Perhaps. I haven’t really thought about specifics things. Different drummers…well every musician brings something to the table … but with drums I feel it the most. And I’m not slagging any particular drummer I’ve worked with but some of them with the more high powered stuff … it sounds better than ever but with the groove stuff … shaky … and just vice versa sometimes. And Ginger’s just come in and been able to nail it on all the levels that it needs to be nailed and that just makes a big difference. I mean maybe there’s songs we’ll do, I know there’s been sometimes we’ve done certain songs with certain drummers we’ve tried but we just abandon them in rehearsal [because we’d say] ‘Ah that kinda sounds shitty.’ Then we brought up it another time when we had a different drummer and we were like ‘Why does this sound great all of a sudden?’ So it’s really weird sometimes. It’s such a fine line … maybe it’s something an audience might not even notice but I think they do because we’ve gotten comments on it before. More like people like a manager who’s seen a million shows [and they’ll say] ‘Ah man they’ve got a fucking groove more than they ever have before!’ And that’ll be the reason because of the drummer. As far as the groove goes the drummer is a major factor.
PB: You’re going on the road with Megadeth — have you always been a fan of their stuff?
RZ: I’m not sure about the other guys in the band, but I was never a fan or not a fan, I had one Megadeth record when I was a kid, actually more like 20s, I wasn’t even a kid (laughs) it’s just a funny way to put it. I think it’ll be a great tour, it’ll be a good different mash of people. I sorta missed that wave of metal.
PB: Going back to the record — you’ve stated that this will be the darkest and weirdest ever you’ve ever made. You’ve made some pretty out there stuff before — how is this going to the weirdest and darkest? Will it be a lyrical thing or a musical thing?
RZ: As far as lyrical themes, I’ve only just started to approach that. It’s just more of a musical thing, I just want to do something special because I feel like, going back to your very first question almost, now seems like the perfect time to do that. Because sometimes you feel like you make records that, you know … they get lost in the shuffle compared to other records, but now it really feels like the moment. The main way I feel to accomplish this, strangely enough, it’s kinda like write it down on a piece of paper and stick it on the mixing console. Sometimes as the weeks go by in the studio you can get directionless let’s say, which is okay, because sometimes you write great songs because they just happen in a weird sorta way. Someone might lay [something] down an acoustic guitar just to not forget the parts and you might be like ‘no let’s keep that on acoustic, that sounds cool.’ So sometimes you have to keep your mind focused on what you’re trying to do. I have a very particular record in mind when [just like when] I did the first Hellbilly Deluxe back in ’98. Then sometimes you’ll just be going with the flow and you just go with it. This time I feel more inclined to dictate a particular direction.
PB: You’ve got a new movie coming out, The Lords of Salem — how does this movie stand out from your excellent catalog of films?
RZ: It’s a very different type of movie in a lot of respects. The other movies stylistically are very gritty, handheld, raw-looking. This one I wanted to take a different approach. It’s very composed and the camera movements are very controlled. Where in the other one[s] I’d move the camera around a lot to keep the anxiety level high. This one the camera doesn’t move a lot and the shots are very symmetrical and composed. It’s just a different feel. It’s like when you’re watching a Kubrick movie, it’s composed, that’s the angle we took with this movie. It was something me and my cinematographer discussed for a very long time — so it was a conscious effort. I wanted to purposefully fight against what I’d naturally do. And I thought for this movie it made more sense because a lot of the time it was the stillness of the spaces that added to the mood and too much unmotivated camera movement … I love handheld camerawork…but sometimes you’re watching a certain movie and there’s no reason for it … it’s like why is the camera moving around there’s no motivation, it’s stylistically fighting the story I think. [Also] story-wise it’s a much more psychological movie than an in your face, out and out violence film.
PB: Will that blood and guts factor that you’re known for still be there or will it be toned down or is this movie just different in terms of horror and violence?
RZ: It’s different. It’s not toned down because it’s just not that type of movie. It’s not a violent, bloody movie not because it’s supposed to be, it’s a weird movie. It’s the type of film that has a very accumulating effect as you watch it. By the end of it, it’s a complete mindfuck, the whole movie. It was tricky to work on. With the other style you can finish a scene and you know that this scene has a certain impact itself. Certain movies build — The Shining is a great example of that. It’s the build of the whole thing to get it where it’s going; it’s a long drawn out build and more constructed than normal.
PB: Finally, when can we expect the movie and the album to be released?
RZ: Not exactly sure at this point. I assume everything will be out in late 2012. I’ll probably be done editing the movie this week [the week of April 10] and the record we won’t start till June so I’m hoping everything will come out by the end of 2012.