Interview: Rob Zombie — "We just want our run with Alice Cooper to be the greatest tour ever"
Fri, 23 Apr 2010 13:55:05
Rob Zombie may very well be pop culture's last mythmaker.
It seems like he's always got a tale tell. Whether he's reimagining Michael Myers in Halloween and Halloween 2 or riding with The Devils Rejects or unleashing a myriad of musical monsters on Hellbilly Deluxe 2: Noble Jackals, Penny Dreadfuls and the Systematic Dehumanization of Cool, Rob Zombie is constantly weaving his own brand of intrigue.
It's an art that he began to perfect in White Zombie, especially on the band's classic Astro Creep: 2000, and a tradition that he fervently and furious upholds on Hellbilly Deluxe 2. In fact, in many ways, Hellbilly Deluxe 2 is the ultimate on Rob Zombie record. From the pulse-pounding and pulverizing "Jesus Frankenstein" to the hazy hammering on "Cease to Exist," the album sees Zombie journeying across his most magnificent soundscape yet, with all kinds of freaks such as the "Werewolf Women of the SS" in tow for the jaunt. Like everything he does, it's a hell of a ride.
Rob Zombie sat down with ARTISTdirect.com for an exclusive interview about the characters on Hellbilly Deluxe 2, this summer's Mayhem festival with Korn, rocking with Slipknot's Joey Jordison and why it'd be tough to make a movie about him…
Do you feel like Hellbilly Deluxe 2 taps into an aesthetic and vibe similar to Astro Creep: 2000?
It's really a bit hard to distinguish something like that since I was there for the making of each record. However, the records were made under completely different circumstances. Musically, if the vibe was similar, it didn't come across that way in my mind. In a certain sense, I'm the worst judge of the music out of anybody [Laughs]. Other people are like, "This sounds like White Zombie or this sounds like your first solo record," but I'm the worst person to distinguish those things.
Each album is essentially just a reflection of where you're at creatively.
Yeah, you really just create out of that moment in time. That's why we never purposefully put boundaries on what we do and say, "It has to be this type of record or sound that way." In the past, when I've tried to do that, it never works. You really have to go with the flow of where you're at in that moment in time and make what you can make. The only reason that Hellbilly Deluxe 2 has some of that Astro Creep vibe you were talking about is it probably was the most band-oriented record I've made since that record. So maybe that has a lot to do with it…
Lyrically, you've always written about larger-than-life characters. "Werewolf Women of the SS" and "Jesus Frankenstein" continue that tradition. Did you set out to tell these kinds of stories from the get-go?
In a way, I did and, in a way, I didn't. I love the songs. I always picture the songs visually in my mind for the most part. That's why I always like to have subject matter that could be spun off into a character, a comic book, a movie or anything. Once I can visualize a song, then I can write the lyrics, so it all comes together. It's harder for me when it's abstract in a way. It needs to be about something I can concretely visualize for me to really get into it.
This album is such a complete vision. Did that come together in the studio or did you have the entire idea before recording?
It always comes together in the studio because we're constantly writing. There are songs we think we're going to use and they fall away. Then there are other songs that last, which seemingly come out of thin air. One morning, we'll walk into the studio without anything and, by the end of the day, the song's completely finished. The albums dictate their own course and bring themselves together. It's weird to explain. As you're working, you'll think, "This song logically needs to flow into a song like this." They organically fall together. In the past, when I first started making records, I'd be more prone to force the issue of what something needed, and it never worked, it never helped and it never made anything better. I let the album dictate its own flow.
Acoustic guitars kick off "Mars Needs Women," while "Burn" and "Cease to Exist" have a real Black Sabbath feel. The record covers a wide spectrum.
As much as possible, I like to make records where every song is different because I get bored. Even with bands I love, I get bored when I feel like there are twelve tracks that are all produced the same with the same tempo, the same style and approach. I live with albums longer when every song is different. Maybe when you first hear the record, you think, "Oh, I really like these four songs, but I don't like these four songs." Then as time goes on, a song you didn't like before will jump out at you and it might even become your favorite song. What I find with this record is there's a real difference of opinion as to what the best song is. That's usually good because nothing's worse when everyone agrees on the same song. Then you're like, "Oh boy…that's not good." [Laughs] When everyone has a different favorite song, that's when you feel like you've spread the creative wealth a little more evenly.
What does Joey Jordison [Slipknot, Murderdolls] add to the live sound?
We really haven't started the tour with him yet, but we're very excited to start those shows. It's so hard to tell from rehearsing [Laughs]. We've gone through this even with the guys who work for us. When a new guy who hasn't worked with us comes to rehearsal and sees us, he might think, "Oh these guys are boring." Then we go on stage, and it's like "BOOM! I didn't see that coming." [Laughs] I'm really excited for the first show to see Joey because there's a different energy that everyone brings live. The adrenaline kicks in, the crowd kicks in and you go nuts. Rehearsal is just a minor taste of what happens. We're really thrilled to have him in the band for the next however-many months. There's something about having him around where we just get a renewed energy with everything. Change is good, especially in a band, you know? When something like that happens, it always opens up new ways of thinking.
Given how cinematic your whole career has been, who would you want to direct the Rob Zombie story?
I have no answer for that [Laughs]. Never in a million years have I even thought of something like that [Laughs]. I think it would probably be an incredibly boring movie because I never really tell anybody anything about myself and I really don't intend to. I don't think that movie could ever be made. Maybe Michael Moore…it would have to be an investigative documentary more than a drama.
Could Roger Corman have pulled it off back in the day?
I don't know [Laughs]. Sure, he could've—he could've gotten David Carradine, they could've crashed some cars, ran some moonshine and called it "The Rob Zombie Story." It wouldn't have mattered [Laughs].
What's the plan for the album's next music video?
We're going to do a video for "Mars Needs Women," which will be more conceptual. We've only done the video for "Sick Bubblegum," which is about as straight as you could play it. Unfortunately what happened there was we were a victim of scheduling. I was shooting CSI: Miami when we had to make that video. So it was like, "Here's a couple of free hours. Quick, let's go make this thing!" Yeah, for the next video, I want to do something that's way more extreme in a creative sense. That was basically, "This is what it looks like when we record"—real stripped down. The next video will be more over-the-top.
Is Mayhem a bit of a reunion since you and Korn did Rock is Dead in 1999?
Well, Rock is Dead was a really fun tour! I had a good time on that run. I didn't know the Korn guys at all before we did the tour and they're all super cool guys. I just ran into Jonathan Davis the other day. I don't even know when the last time I saw him was. He was like, "God, can you believe it's been eleven years since we did that tour?" I thought, "No, I can't!" That, I remember was a really good tour, so I'm looking forward to it. It'll be good because a lot of time has gone by but I don't think it's affected anybody. The show will be just as good as it ever was. This will be the same if not better than it ever was.
Well, you always keep evolving.
I think things have to evolve. It's tricky sometimes. I think about it all the time—what the next thing to do is. You don't ever want to disappoint the fans. Sometimes, if things change, they seem bummed out. But, it's been proven if things stay the same, they're definitely going to get bummed out and lose interest. You want to keep fresh all the time, even if it's just little things that you change. You never want it to seem like, "Oh, here we go again." We try to keep it as fresh as possible. We rehearsed longer and prepared longer. I don't know what it is but we just beat it to death trying to get ready! We just want us and Alice Cooper to be the greatest tour ever.
It really sounds like anything goes within the landscape of Hellybilly Deluxe 2.
That's what I think it should be for all records. Well, rock is my favorite thing—not so much metal. I feel like sometimes metal can get confining just by the label itself. I don't think that bands should have to be confined by something, just go do whatever you think of. Who gives a shit? That's basically what we do. We do whatever the fuck we want, and that's the way it's supposed to be. That's how I remember bands being. Sometimes, I'm even amazed to go back and listen to some of the stuff I listened to as a kid like Queen and Alice Cooper. The different types of music they were playing ,even within one album, was just mind-boggling. I think that's seeped into my consciousness as the way bands are supposed to be. You should just do whatever you want all the time and not worry, "Is it heavy enough" every five seconds.
Will you be seeing Zombie on Mayhem or with Alice Cooper?