Building the Perfect Beast
Unless you’ve been living in a coffin, you know that White Zombie is no more. Rob Zombie, with his former White Zombie bandmates in tow, announced on September 25th 1998, that, after thirteen years, the band has called it quits.
White Zombie may be R.I.P., but Rob Zombie himself is very much alive — or should I say undead?– promoting the release of his new solo effort Hellbilly Deluxe: 13 Tales of Cavernous Cavorting Inside the Spookshow International just in time for Halloween: an album that takes Rob’s White Zombie roots one step weirder, and grooves several steps heavier.
Rob is also excited about the forthcoming compilation album entitled Halloween Hootenanny. “A Halloween record for adults. You can listen to it, and not feel like a jerk. It’s not like dumb kid songs,” according to Rob.
With seventeen bands performing Halloween songs ranging from “trashy surf” to “rockabilly,” it’s scheduled for unveiling off Rob’s newly launched Zombie a Go-Go records, christened alongside a debut album from the Ghastly Ones, a group of morticians –er um musicians– who Zombie confirms did, indeed, have the gall to approach him at his grandmother’s funeral with their demo tape in hand.
While Rob has no plans to have any kids, he was looking to scare the hell out of some when he began his tour with its “huge industrial haunted house” from hell set on October 6th.
What do you hope to accomplish solo that you couldn’t with White Zombie, musically or personally?
It’s hard to say. Musically, I wasn’t particularly trying to do something different from the process of making it different, or working with other people. [I was] bringing new life to the project without particularly trying to stray away from what White Zombie was.
Why did you feel the need to break away from White Zombie?
After thirteen years of being in that band, to me, it felt like it had just naturally run its course. And rather than doing what I see a lot of bands do, which is beating a dead horse, or milking it for the money, I’d just rather move on, and be excited about what I was doing.
I don’t hear that much sampling going on this album, but how do you remember all that stuff when you go to put the samples in? How does it come to you that “Boy, I should use this from The Mummy”, or “I should use something from this movie…”?
Sometimes, if I’m actually on the ball enough, I’ll write something down. I’ll watch a movie, jump up, and write something down. But, most of the time, I forget. It’s just usually over the course of making a record I’ll be watching lots of movies…because there’s a lot of boring hours involved. I’ll just basically do it all at the same time. It’s not like I’ve had this great sample stored up for years in my mind. It usually all kinda happens with the music because I don’t know what the music’s going to sound like in advance, so I don’t know what samples would make sense. It all happens at the same moment.
Is it you paying homage to your childhood in some way, or merely song enhancement?
I guess it’s all of it at one time.
What kind of child were you?
I guess I was the type of kid the other kids don’t remember, because I always barricaded myself away with stuff.
Were you a nerd?
I don’t know. It’s funny, because everything I was interested in certainly wasn’t cool. Now it seems like it is. But, at the time, it certainly wasn’t. At that point, the only thing that was cool was being on the football team, and being a cheerleader, which I couldn’t give a crap about.
Were you reclusive?
Yeah, I just found everything boring so I hid away with all the stuff I liked.
I heard you wanted to work with veteran horror movie actor Christopher Lee on a project. What was that?
I had written a script for the third Crow movie. I had written a part for him. That was the main thing. I flew to London and met him, and hung out with him a little bit. And that was great. There are very few people that are still alive that I remember as a little kid watching on TV, and loving them. He’s one of the few.
It didn’t work out?
No. The movie just kinda went into Hollywood development limbo hell.
So it’s not going to get released?
I don’t know what’s going to happen there. If it ever gets made, it won’t involve me.
From Christopher Lee to Tommy Lee. How did having Tommy perform on two songs [“The Ballad of Resurrection Joe and Rosa Whore” and “Meet the Creeper”] come about?
Tommy Lee was kind of an accident. I didn’t even know him before I started making the record. The guy who co-produced the album, Scott Humphrey, we recorded at his house. Tommy Lee is his best friend. When Tommy Lee got into trouble, he moved out of his house, and moved into [Scott’s] studio. He was just living in the studio. I would see him every single day. After a while, it became kind of stupid not to have him play a couple songs. He was sitting there with nothing better to do.
Don’t beat your wife. Beat the drums!
(Laughs.) He’s an awesome drummer, though. I didn’t really think that anyone would notice the difference, including myself, but you can tell a difference in technique the way people play. I figured drums are drums, but I guess not.
Whenever I listen to your albums, particularly this one, I always feel like I’m entering a haunted mansion, and each room tells a different horror story.
My favorite records were records where I’d put them on, listen to them from start to finish, and I’d never want them to end. And, as soon as they’d end, I’d do it again because it took me somewhere that other records wouldn’t go. And that’s what I wanted the record to be like: A kid’s in his room, shuts off the light, lies on his bed, listens through it, mind goes crazy. That’s what I used to do.
How important is it to you to maintain the same level of success as White Zombie?
If it’s possible, that would be fantastic. But that rarely happens. If you look at the history of the music industry, people that have left bands and done solo things, it’s almost always less than what it was, except for a very few cases. But my main thing is that I don’t want it to be like a solo. I have a new band that I want to keep. They’re important. It’s just called Rob Zombie so as to not confuse everybody. If it had a different name, people wouldn’t know what the hell it was. Geffen probably wouldn’t want to release it.
Tell me about the guitar of blood?
Oh, that’s interesting. The new guitar player [Danny Lohner from NIN] had a brilliant idea. He made a Plexiglas guitar, and he wanted to fill it with dead snakes hoping they would form into maggots. I was like, “Well, that could get a little smelly. Why don’t we just fill it with blood, and call it a day.”
Is it real blood?
Yeah. It’s filled with blood, and human ribs. I don’t know where he got human ribs from. We were on David Letterman a couple days ago, and he actually opened up the guitar and poured [the blood] over his head. [Dave] looked a little surprised.
When you first started out with White Zombie, you referred to it as an art project. Do you feel the same way about what you’re experiencing now?
I feel it more so. I feel like it’s an art project in the sense that there’s so many angles. Some people just worry about the music, and they don’t care about anything else. They don’t care about how it looks on stage. They don’t care about how they look. They don’t care about the packaging, the video — anything. To me, everything is as important as everything else: a big project. I can’t just go, “Here’s the music,” because I’ve seen how people react. When the record went out, the advanced copies were in a white paper sleeve. People would react one way. As soon as they got the whole package [with 24-page colorful booklet], they reacted totally different. It was the same record, but the reaction was so much stronger when it was visually exciting… I don’t really think people can separate their senses…
Did you go to school for art, or did you have a natural talent for it?
I always drew, ever since I was a little kid. I meant to go to school for art. I went to college for it, but I got bored with it so fast that I just left.
What are some of your earliest drawings of?
It was always the same type of shit…influenced from TV, movies, or comic books, and stuff, because, you know, when you’re a little kid, it’s not like you’re going to museums and go, “Oh my God, I’m so influenced by Rembrandt.”
What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever dressed up as for Halloween?
Well, the strangest thing, and probably the stupidest thing, but –now it seems kind of funny– when I was in kindergarten, I was obsessed with monsters. I was obsessed with hockey. I wanted to be a professional hockey player. I was like, “How can I make a costume out of these two things?” And I made something combining a hockey uniform and a caveman mask, sort of like a hockey monster. Then, years later, there was like Friday the 13th with Jason running around in a hockey mask. It’s not stupid anymore, but, at the time, it seemed so absurd. I spent most of the evening trying to explain to everybody what my costume was.
What are you going as this year?
This year, I’ll be going as myself (chuckles).
That’s really scary.
Were ever in any school plays?
Uh…no. Because that would involve socializing. I was always one of those kids that when you look at the yearbook and they list all your accomplishments in school they didn’t say anything.
Did you accomplish everything you wanted to do with this album, in terms of creativity?
No, not even close.
It wasn’t so much that I knew what was missing at the time. It’s not until you’re finished that you can go, “Oh, God, if I had only done this…” And I guess that’s the only reason to do another record. You’re always in search of making the perfect thing. But I guess you never can because, as soon as I finish the next record, I’ll go, “Oh, if I had only done this…” So you keep going. As soon as you get it perfect you might as well quit.