Rob Zombie is unstoppable! Being both a filmmaker and a metal singer, the man is constantly working on new projects. His latest album, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, was released only last year, but he’s already busy with its successor. Rob Zombie – the band – is in top form, and the singer intends to make the most of it. Their first live DVD, The Zombie Mad Mad Horror Picture Show, will soon see the light of day and immortalize what Rob deems his best line-up and his most impressive show to date. But that’s not all: Rob Zombie – the filmmaker – is currently working on his new horror movie, entitled “31”, about which information is sparse but which is already getting the fans excited. The film has taken priority over all his other screen-related projects, among which a movie on hockey, and a TV series in collaboration with American Psycho’s author, Bret Easton Ellis.
On top of it all, Rob Zombie and his gang – John 5, Piggy D., and Ginger Fish – are on their way to Europe. We will have the pleasure to see them in France on June 20th, for their second appearance at the Hellfest.
We called the tireless singer, one of the biggest shock rock icons, to talk about all these subjects.
Radio Metal: Your latest album Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor was very well received, better than Hellbilly Deluxe 2 actually. Do you feel like having accomplished something special with Venomous Rat?
Rob Zombie (vocals): Yeah, I felt really good about it. I felt really good while making it. I knew it was going to be one of our best records. Every once in a while you have those moments when you know you’re doing something that’s special. You try to make every record special, but you can’t make every record special. Some records are better than others. And with that one, I knew we were in a really good groove and I’m very happy with how it turned out.
And what made it so special?
It was just because it was the right combination of people. That’s a key factor: the chemistry between the people in the band. At that point Ginger Fish had joined the band, and I knew we had a really great solid band. And that made all the difference in the world. With Hellbilly Deluxe 2 and the other records, we never had the right combination of people. Well, I had it on Hellbilly and I had it at the end of White Zombie, but it would always change, people would come and go, and sometimes it really upsets things. So, when you get the right four people, it makes a big difference.
Do you see it becoming a classic album like Astro Creep 2000 or Hellbilly Deluxe?
I hope so, but you never know these days, because I don’t know if any record will become classic albums anymore. I just don’t know if people look at it that way. But the songs that we’ve built on that record, we play a lot of them live and people seem to love them. And they always know the words and sing along, so I assume that they like them. So yeah, it’s definitely one of the best ones.
I heard that you already began work on the follow up to Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor. Do you still feel like being on a good creative groove?
Yeah, I’m in the studio right now and it’s going great. I feel really good about it. It’s different than the last record because I don’t just try to make the same record, but I feel it’s the logical next step from the last record. It’s a darker record and it’s a weirder record, which is what I love. Who knows where it’s going? We have a long way to go but so far, the songs that we have finished are sounding really good.
Your live shows are more and more theatrical and filled with special effects. Since you're also a film maker, would you draw a parallel between building a rock concert and making a movie?
I do think there’s a parallel in the sense that, you know, a movie has three acts, obviously. When you open the movie is where you pick everyone’s attention, act two is where you create the drama and act three is the big climax. And that’s what we try to do with our show: you want to open it big to get people interested, you hook them in the middle and then finish big.
You have a strong presence live but I also noticed how you're very much at ease moving and even dancing on stage with classy attitude and gestures. Is this something you have been practicing? Did you take dancing courses or something?
No. [Laughs] It’s just that I think that when you’re in a band, you hear the music and you feel it. And everybody moves in a different way and that’s just the way I move for whatever reason! [Laughs]
It seems it has become hard for the new generation of bands to make a living from their music, and obviously this makes it harder for bands to put money into a huge show. Do you think that shows like Kiss, Alice Cooper or yourself are doing is still something that will be accessible to the new generation of rock bands?
Well, I don’t think it’s accessible to anyone until their band gets to a certain level to do shows that are that big. But, I mean, you can always do stuff. Money is no excuse. Because when I first started with White Zombie, we weren’t a popular band, we were just playing small clubs, but we still always found a way to create a stage show. If you listen to any interviews with Alice Cooper, he’ll say the same thing: even when they were playing clubs, they tried to make a stage show. I’m obviously having this million dollars stage show, it takes money, but even small bands can do really interesting things that doesn’t have to be expensive. It’s more about being creative than having money.
If you were starting your career now, do you think you would make it through like you did?
I don’t know. You never know, it’s hard to say. I mean, in some ways it’s harder now because, you know, record sales are terrible, rock radios are pretty bad… I don’t know how it is anywhere else, but in America rock radios are stuck in the 70s, all they ever play is Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin. And MTV doesn’t play any rock music. So, on that level it’d be a lot harder. But at the same time, with things like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, you have ways to promote your band that are absolutely free, whereas back in the days when we were playing clubs, we’d be up there hanging up flyers on lampposts. You know, it’s all about how smart and how hard the band wants to work. That’s really all it is.
You did co-headlining tours with Alice Cooper and later with Marilyn Manson. Both bills seemed like great ideas, joining the greatest shock rockers together. But why did frictions happen with Marilyn Manson while everything went so well with Alice Cooper? What were the differences between these two tours?
Well, me and Alice Cooper have been friends for about twenty years. I really love Alice, he’s like the nicest guy in the world, so our tour together was great. We did several tours together and they were always great. And I’ve known Manson for a long time too, for almost just as long as Alice, but you know… Sometimes certain people drink too much or something and they get a little crazy, so that’s how tensions arise, and I’m not talking about me [laughs].
And do you think that egos tend to ruin rock music?
Well, no, I mean, if people can keep themselves under control, it’s fine. I think that, to be in a rock band and if you want to do that for a living, you have to have an ego, because it’s kind of a weird thing to do in the first place! So, you have to have a certain amount of inflated ego just to do it. But sometimes people’s ego does eventually ruin their band, because they start worrying about the wrong things and they make decisions with their egos instead of their brains. So, it’s not so great.
We know how Alice Cooper was an inspiration to you, but what were your thoughts about his Brutal Planet album which actually rather sounded like the other way around: Alice Cooper being inspired by Rob Zombie?
He told me that too! It’s funny, one day in California I was at the mall, and I strangely bumped into him at the mall! I didn’t really know he was in town! And he told me: “you know, I’ve got a new record out…” I don’t remember how he put it but he said that I had some influence on that record. So that was great, that was really cool! I was very flattered! [Laughs]
Alice Cooper always said that he differentiated Alice Cooper from Vincent Furnier. Do you also consider having that duality?
No, I never thought that way. I mean, I know he always said that but I never really thought of it as a character I was playing. I always thought of it as just me doing my thing. I never looked at it that way.
You have a new horror movie coming up called 31…
31, yeah, because it takes place on October 31st.
In the teaser there are references to your past movies and the spooky clown does recall Captain Spaulding. Could this be something like a prequel?
No, it’s totally different. All I can tell you is that it’s a completely original idea, it’s something new. It’s not based on anything. I’ll start shooting the movie in the fall. So hopefully starting from October, I’ll start shooting it. For right now, I’m going to keep the details secret. But it’s not based on anything.
But is this clown recalling Captain Spaulding a coincidence?
Well, he doesn’t really look like him, I think. There’s a clown thing in the movie, but it has nothing to do with Captain Spaulding. And what is in the movie doesn’t look like Captain Spaulding either, maybe the people think the poster does but the movie won’t.
You were working on a hockey film, which would have been your first non horror movie, but it seems that you have put it on hold to do this new horror movie. Why? Didn't you feel ready yet to put aside the horror genre?
Well, it really didn’t have anything to do with not being ready. It’s all about money, you know. We didn’t have the money yet to do the hockey film. And someone decided that they would give me the money to do the other film, so I said “ok, I’ll do this one first and come back to do the other one later.” Because I didn’t want to just sit around for years trying to get the movie made, because that’s how it goes sometimes, you know. Sometimes it takes a long time to get a movie made, and I didn’t want to wait. And every time I plan a movie another movie is the one I make. You know, they’re very expensive to make. So, as soon as I told someone the idea for 31, they were like “Oh! We’ll give you the money for that! Let do it!” So I was like “Ok! I’ll do that first and then I’ll come back to the other movie!”
There were talks about you directing a TV series for the FOX Channel. Where is this project at?
I’m not exactly sure where it is at the moment. I was doing this with Bret Easton Ellis, the author who did American Psycho and books like that, and he was writing the script and I haven’t talked to him lately. So, I’m not sure how far or long he is. I have to check with him. That was always for 2015 at the earliest, because that’s a big project. He had to write a six hundred-pages script, because it’s supposed to be a ten hour mini-series.
You have a live DVD coming up, a new horror movie is in the works, you also began work on your next album, a book, and a tour is coming up... How do you manage to do all of that at once?!
Well, I just keep working all the time! Like today, I worked on a record and then later today I’ll leave the studio to do some work on a movie. That’s how I do it: I do a little bit every day. Then Tuesday I fly to Sweden to start the tour, at that point I can’t do anything except just play the shows. And when I come home I’ll get back to work. It’s amazing how much you can get done if you work hard enough! [Laughs]
And don’t you ever mix things up? How do you focus on what you’re doing by switching work all the time?
Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve always been able to work that way. I’m a little bit scatterbrained, so I like having different things going all at once. I can focus on several different things at once.
Are you one of those people that try to do everything they possibly can before they get too old?
Yes! [Laughs] Definitely! The worst thing in the world would be to get too old to do things and go: “Why didn’t I do that stuff when I could have?!” When you get old, that’s when you can relax, sit around in the house and read books and walk the dog… But now is the time to get some stuff done, even though I do a lot of that too: I do a lot of reading and a lot of dog walking anyway. You can get a lot done in 24 hours! [Chuckles]
Phil Anselmo is a horror movie freak, he even has his horror movie festival now, have you thought about doing something with him?
No, I haven’t thought about it because… I know that he loves horror movies; I’ve always known that because we’ve been friends for a long time. But I don’t think he has any desire to make movies and if he does, I don’t know… He has never talked to me about it. Being a fan of something and actually making it are two different things. So, no, I’ll stay on my own for now. [Laughs]
Interview conducted by phone on May, 28th 2014 by Spaceman
Questions, introduction and transcription: : Spaceman
Rob Zombie official website : RobZombie.com
DVD The Zombie Mad Mad Horror Picture Show, out since May, 20th 2014.
This post is also available in: French