Shock rocker and horror film director Rob Zombie - full interview transcript
Musician and director's first UK tour for 12 years
Shock rocker and horror film director Rob Zombie heads back to the UK for his first tour of heavy metal mayhem for 12 years. Henry Northmore asks why it’s taken so long?
HN:This is your first UK tour for 12 years. Why has it taken so long?
RZ: Basically it’s taken me a pretty long time to get back to anywhere, I haven’t been outside of the US for a long time, basically the thing that’s got in the way of my world wide touring is making movies. I used to put out an album then do a US tour then go into production of a movie. A movie from beginning to end, even a quick one is a year and a half of your life. Somehow the years just slipped away.
I love playing over there, which is why it’s so weird I haven’t been there. I can’t wait, I’m very into it because the band I have now is my favourite band I’ve ever had, it’s the best it’s ever been so I’m glad we can return on top form.
Could you just take us through the current band members? It sounds like it's the line-up you're most happy with.
I definitely am. It's definitely the best line-up I've ever had. John 5 on guitar; he's been playing guitar for me for five or six years. Piggy D on bass and he's been with me for about five years or so I think and Joey Jordinson from Slipknot is our drummer now and he's been with us for a while, not quite a year but close. It's just the perfect match of people, you strive for the perfect four combination and this is the best it's ever been by far.
It sounds very much like your personalities are in synch as well does that really help with the music?
It really helps because in every incarnation of every band I've ever had there's always been at least one person that's the odd man out. And it's always kind of a strain on the vibe when you're trying to work. And to have four people that can get genuinely excited about the same things all the time it makes such a difference. There's never anyone in the back row going like 'Ah geez, do we have to?' There's four people that are just totally gung ho and because of that everybody contributes. I never really realised it until I had four people that were on the same page how important it was. I always thought that 'well ok one person's not into it, what’s the big deal?' but it really makes a difference, it really is huge.
You're famous for your spectacular live show. What made you decide that's what you should go for, taking it that one step further?
Well I think it was just the way I was brought up. The time period that I discovered music and loved music, everything was just huge. As a young, young kid the first music I ever discovered was Alice Cooper, Kiss, Queen, Blue Oyster Cult, during the 70s, so everything was just larger than life so it was just burnt into my brain that bands were larger than life, they weren't just regular guys playing music. That's just the way that I saw things and I guess that never left me.
What can people sort of expect from your shows in the UK?
They can expect a huge colossal spectacle, because unlike a lot of bands, we're not skimping on our show, we're bringing our full US show to the UK. Financially that's suicide, but I didn't care. Because I didn't want to stay away for 12 years and then we come over with nothing. So we are shipping the whole thing, I just hope that when it gets there it can fit on the stages. That I don't know for sure. But we're bringing everything our giant robots and explosions and video screens and all the crap that we use all of the time so it's a huge colossal spectacle.
What initially drew you to the darker side of music and films?
I really can't say, I guess I need some heavy psychoanalysis but I don't know, just ever since I was a little kid, that's what I found exciting. If there was a horror movie on TV or a baseball game I wouldn't even consider what I was going to watch and I don't know why. It wasn’t because I thought it was cooler or it made me cooler. It's kind of funny when you watch little kids how they just instinctively gravitate towards certain things, and I don't know why. It makes no sense.
You've just toured the states with Alice Cooper, it must be amazing touring with people who where your heroes when you were growing up.
It's pretty surreal actually. I have a lot of moments like that in my life and it's very, very funny to be on tour with Alice Cooper, to be sharing the stage with Alice Cooper, to be hanging out with him, to be friends, the same way it's very weird that, every time my phone rings and it's Malcolm McDowell just wanting to chit chat. Another guy who I loved as a kid because of Clockwork Orange, so it's pretty awesome. I never stop loving the fact that the things that were important to me as a kid have become part of my life.
Do you find it quite weird to think that there must be people growing up now who are thinking of you in that way, as you were of Alice Cooper back then?
It is weird but I understand it, you know it sounds egotistical to say that, I don't mean that, but I've just come to realise that everything is important to somebody in some fashion. Because I'll meet people that are from some obscure band that hardly anyone cared about but I loved them when I was a kid so it's as big a deal to me to go 'Oh my God! I loved your band'. They don't have to have been a rock star, it was just a record that was significant to me 30 years ago. So I totally get it, it makes sense. That's the beauty of music and movies, you make them and shoot them out there into the world and you really just don't know what the hell they're doing. But now, with the internet you obviously get more stories from people because people have more access to find you, and tell you things so it's pretty interesting the things you hear.
It’s very unusual to be as successful as you are as a musician and director. Do you think that you're strengthening what Rob Zombie stands for or are you literally just having fun?
I think I'm strengthening the idea of what Rob Zombie wants. I mean that sounds silly, so I'll clarify, I mean basically when I was a kid there was just all the things I wanted to do: I wanted to make movies, I wanted to be in a band, I wanted to have an amusement park, you just have all these crazy ideas. You just want to do all these things and the first thing that happens in life is everybody starts telling you why none of that will ever be possible. I never bought into that idea, I always thought why can't I do everything? Why do I have to pick one and just be happy with it? So now it's just amazing and I love the fact that everything sort of feeds off everything else, I definitely think the movies have really brought a lot of people into the music that would never have paid attention to it before. I mean a lot of times I get people that don’t even know I did music, they just like the movies which is great.
Do you think your love of metal and rock has influenced your films?
Yes and no. I think just my general personality that would attract me to that type of music is influencing the movies, I'm attracted to anything that sort of has a 'Fuck you, we’re gonna do it this way and I don't give a fuck what you think' vibe. The type of movies I make and the type of music make and the type of movies and music I love always have that in common.
Was there a certain amount of trepidation, taking on the Halloween remake?
There really wasn't, maybe there should've been. Of course I loved John Carpenter's Halloween, it was always in my top five horror movies. I loved it to death, I saw the movie when it came out. But there were, like, seven sequels to Halloween and I thought with each one it got worse, and worse, and worse, and worse until I was like, really, they've beat Halloween and Michael Myers and his character so deep into the ground, that it didn't seem sacrilegious to take it on. If only John Carpenter's movie existed, then maybe it would've more so to me, because that would be 'you're just remaking that one classic film, what are you, crazy?' But since the sequels had been so shit I thought maybe there's a chance to make it cool again.
Do you think your love of horror films has influenced your music? It certainly seems to have influenced the titles and the subject matter
Oh, definitely, for sure. Everything dark has always influenced the music. The music was always about dark topics, whether it be movies or books or real life events. Again it was probably because when you're a little kid you're so impressionable and the first music I really fell in love with was Alice Cooper. I've often said to him, 'remember when you would look out on the crowd and see those little kids and you wonder what's gonna happen to them? Well, now you know. This is all you fault.'
I bet he's very proud. The movies have been very successful but what drew you back to making another album and the full world tour?
I love being in a band. I love playing music, there's nothing like it. I mean I love making movies but it's the exact opposite experience because making movies and it's very tedious and time consuming and I'm behind the camera, I'm not in front of it and when you're editing you're just locked away for six months in a room.
I have two sides of my personality and when I get towards the end of a film I really feel like I need to go on tour and go crazy or I'm gonna go crazy. I think everyone who's in a rock band has that side of them that they really need that outlet or bad things are going to happen. And that's really the reason. But I was fed up with doing music about five or six years ago, not because I didn't love music any more but because I was tired of being in bands where nobody could get along. And it happened to me twice which was weird. White Zombie was a band that had personality problems all the way through and by the time the band got huge it was just miserable. And I quit that band, started again and then the band I had with Hellbilly and the next album, I was like, ‘here we are again, we're playing sold out shows and everybody hates each other’. And I was like, this is unbelievable, why has it got to be like this, right as everything becomes great, everyone is miserable? So I walked away from it because I was like, I can't do this any more, it's just too stressful, it's too hard to have the greatest job in the world and somehow it's miserable. And that's when I went and made Devil's Rejects and was thinking ‘maybe I'm just done doing music’ but I met John 5 and we just hit it off, and that re-inspired me. Every lead singer needs that right-hand man guitar player, I just think you need that combination. It was like being a kid again and starting the whole thing over.
Which do you prefer making music or films? Or do they satisfy different sides of your personality?
They definitely satisfy different sides, I love them both. If I stay away from either one for too long I really start jonesing to get back to it. And what I'm actually trying to do now, which I don't know if this is going to be successful, is balance both at the same time. It is usually I've finished a tour, shut down the music career and jump into films for a couple of years. But what I'm trying to do this time is tour, shoot the movie, tour, come back and edit the movie, tour, release the movie, going back and forth without having to quit one for such a long period of time. I don't know if I can do this, because it may be too much for me and make me insane. That is what I'm going to attempt to do, right when I get back from the UK actually.
What’s your next movie project and what is your next music project after this tour?
Well the next movie project is a movie called The Lords of Salem, which is a movie I'm going to probably start pre-production in March, hopefully I'll shoot it around June and that’s the next movie and as far as the next musical project I'm not sure, I'd like to get another album out early next year and hit the road again, on another full tour.
What’s Lords of Salem about?
Lords of Salem is an original idea, it's a new thing, it's something I've been working on. I grew up in Massachusetts, so the Salem Witch Trials was something that figured in big as a kid. Even as a kid they'd take you to the Witch Museum. And that might have something to do with the things that I like. It's based on historical fact about the Salem Witch Trials and their modern day repercussions, so the film takes place in modern times but it's a witch movie.
Has the Rob Zombie persona now completely replaced the Robert Cummings persona or are the two still mixed together?
There was never really any difference. It's not like you create a persona that you want to become, it's almost like the persona is the real you. When I was younger and I had to wear nicer clothes so I could keep some crappy job, that the fake me. Everyone's got friends and they're covered in tattoos and they put on a white shirt for their job at the bank and they have to hide everything. That's like the fake persona. What's great is I get to be the real me.