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Rob Zombie speaks to SuicideGirls.com about Mondo, Salem and cell phones at shows

Rob Zombie

Rob Zombie is just days away from completing the next album. While in the studio, Nicole from SuicideGirls.com, put a call into Rob and had a chat about what the fans can expect, about his forthcoming movies and more.

Rob Zombie is not one to rest on his laurels. Indeed, his rate of productivity in the realm of music and film means he’s one of the most interviewed artists on SuicideGirls – this being his sixth one-on-one conversation with SG.

Mondo Sex Head, a collection of Zombie classics remixed and reinvented by the likes of Photek, Big Black Delta and Ki:Theory, has just been released, and a new studio album is currently in the works. In the live arena, Zombie recently signed on to co-headline with Marilyn Manson on the Twins of Evil Tour. The 28-date US jaunt kicks off on September 28th, and perhaps fittingly ends on Halloween.

Meanwhile, on the film front, Zombie is in the final stages of post-production on Lords of Salem, a movie he wrote, directed, and produced in association with the team behind the Paranormal Activity franchise. It’s the latest entry in a filmography that includes such titles as House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects and Halloweens I and II. However, not one to be typecast, Zombie’s next movie marks a distinct departure from the cosy confines of the horror genre. We caught up with Zombie to find out more…

Nicole Powers: Where are you calling in from?

Rob Zombie: I’m in the recording studio right now working on a new record.

NP:So this is the new studio album that I’ve been hearing rumors of.

RZ:Yes. Yes. We’ve been working on it for a while. We should be done in about a month.

NP:How does this record differ from your previous ones?

RZ:I’m really into this record right now. We have a long way to go, but it’s the most free sounding record I feel like I’ve made in a long, long time. As time has gone on I feel at different moments in my career I’ve made a record that’s significant for that time period. With White Zombie, Astro-Creep was the significant record at that time for that band. Then the next one was Hellbilly Deluxe, my first solo record. You make other records and they’re cool and they’re good, they have good songs, but you haven’t really turned the page to a new thing. I feel like this record is the beginning of the next phase of what I’m doing. It’s just a big crazy live sounding record. I just love it. It’s hard to describe, but every once in a while a creative vein opens up and you head off in a direction that’s just…you don’t question it because it doesn’t happen that often, let’s put it that way.

NP:I guess if you think about too much, you’ll over analyze it and then you’ll fuck it up, so you almost don’t want to question it.

RZ:Yeah, I just like the idea of doing it right. Also, one of the things that I think is the reason for this freedom is, once you have success, whether you know it or not, you subconsciously want to achieve more success or maintain the success that you’ve had. So, obviously, if you write a hit song, you try to write other hit songs. That’s sort of the nature of the game. But, with the fact that nobody really buys records anymore, I’m not really sure what constitutes a hit record or a hit song. Those rules don’t quite apply anymore because you’re not going to sell millions and millions of records no matter what you do. It just doesn’t happen anymore really. So, because of that, you feel like, fuck it, who gives a shit? And because you feel that way, you almost feel like a new band does. You’re not chasing the dragon anymore, you’re just being creative and coming up with great stuff. And that’s usually when you do have hits, strangely enough, because you’re just creatively free at that moment.

NP:It’s the nature of need; When you need something too much, you often don’t get it.

RZ:Yeah, basically. Because you just can’t manufacture these things. Most of the time whenever I’ve had a “hit song” or a big record it’s always come from something that someone said “Oh, I don’t even like that song” [about] when you first record it. So it’s totally unpredictable. That’s why you always have to do what you find satisfying. You can never predict anything.

NP:So who are you in the studio with right now?

RZ:Right now I’m just here with the producer [Bob Marlette]. The rest of the band is not here right now. They were here. They all went home for a while. I’m just laying down vocal tracks and working on the arrangements and doing different things, so I’m just here by myself.

NP:What’s the current line-up that you’re working with?

RZ:The line-up is the same that it has been for a while. John 5 is still the guitar player, he’s been in the band now for over seven years. Piggy D is still playing bass. He’s been with me for about six years. And Ginger Fish is still playing drums, and he’s been around now for a year and a half maybe.

NP:And you guys are heading out on the “Twins of Evil Tour” with Marilyn Manson in September. That’s a tour that should’ve happened a long time ago.

RZ:Yeah. It seems like an obvious tour, but I’m kind of glad it didn’t because I’m running out of people to tour with. It’s nice that at this stage of the game you can still put a tour together and it still seems exciting. Right before you called I got word that the ticket sales are just huge for the tour. So it’s great. People are into it.

NP:I understand you’re going to be doing quite a bit of production on this tour.

RZ:Yes. A lot of production.

NP:What can people expect from the shows?

RZ:Well, it’s going to be huge and amazing but I’m not going to tell anyone because we’re building it now and I want there to be some element of surprise.

NP:I like that. I’m also really intrigued by this Lords of Salem movie that you’ve been working on. When are we likely to see it?

RZ:The movie is almost done. I just have to mix the sound and do a couple of little things like that in post-production, then it will be out…This time it was a little bit screwier with the movie because I was trying to make a record at the same time as the movie, going back and forth. Usually when I do one thing, I don’t do the other, and I take long breaks between. This time I was trying to see if I could balance both at the same time, and because of that I wasn’t able to lock in a definite release date yet, so I don’t actually know when the movie is coming out yet.

NP:Right. You’ve got a lot on your plate because you’ve also just bought the rights to the Philadelphia Flyers / Broad Street Bullies’ story. Why do you have an affinity to that tale?

RZ:Well, basically, I remember that story from when I was a kid. I was a big hockey fan when I was young in the early ‘70s. I remember all these characters and just the story of it all. I like sports movies, even if I don’t know anything about the story, and this is a great story. This is one of those stories that everyone could get into even if they hate hockey and don’t like sports. The characters involved are so outrageous and ridiculous. I’ve just been looking for something different to do too. Because making horror movies is great, but that’s not the only type of movies I want to make or the only type of movies I like. This is the perfect film to take me up out of that world.

NP:I was going to say it’s a massive departure for you from the horror genre, which is where you’ve been typecast. That must be kind of exciting for you. I mean, this is a movie that Ron Howard might make, but I’m sure you’re going to do it in a very different way.

RZ:Well, yeah, because it’s a really crazy story. It’s a really violent story. The reason these guys became known is they basically were the ones that brought fighting and all this stuff to hockey. It’s a very bruising, bloody movie. They basically intimidated their way to the championship. But, yeah, I don’t like being typecast as one thing. Not that I never want to make another horror movie, and maybe I’ll make 100 more, but I don’t want to have to do it. I want to want to do it. I don’t like getting stuck in anything.

NP:Does that go with music? Could we see a Rob Zombie ambient album for example?

RZ:Well, I’ve always tried to vary up the sound a lot. I didn’t want to get stuck in a thing like, oh, it has to be this, it has to just be heavy guitars and drums. That’s why, over the years, we’ve brought in mandolins, and sitars, and acoustic guitars, and hundred piece orchestras, and all kinds of stuff in all the records. Because I didn’t want to get trapped in that thing where it has to be this, and any time you varied from it the fans don’t like it. I think sometimes that becomes just learned behavior. I always liked bands that had that vibe where they could do anything and the fans are accepting of it, because that’s part of the journey with the band. I never wanted to be, oh, it has to be exactly like this or it’s not right – that’s just seems so boring to me.

NP:I noticed on this remix album that there’s a lot of light and shade. I know it’s a collaboration between you and KCRW’s Jason Bentley, which is a very intelligent combination. It’s a great mix of mixes. I was expecting it to be really heavy and grungy, and on the more industrial side of dance music, but there’s a complete across the board mix. How did the project come about? Where these mixes that were done specifically for this album? Or are they ones that have happened over the years that you’ve just been collating?

RZ:No, they were done specifically for the album. They’ve been compiled over the last six months…I just wanted it to be all over the place. I didn’t want them to do what the fans would expect it to be because that’s boring. I know some of the fans will love it and some of them will hate it, but that’s going to happen anyway with everything. You can’t guard against that. Pretty much, it is what it is. What I like about these remixes too is that they play better in places. You want to hear it at a club with people out and about…

NP:Do you have a particular favorite track?

RZ:I like a lot of them. I mean, the ones I picked were my favorites, because there were more that I didn’t like quite as much. I like different ones for different reasons. I liked “Foxy, Foxy [Ki:Theory Remix]” because I actually thought it was kind of better than the original song, the groove in it. I like “Living Dead Girl [Photek Remix]” just because it was this long atmospheric thing that almost had nothing to do with the original song. That was kind of cool. Truthfully, I wasn’t really loving any of it until one night when I could clear my head. I was just driving in LA at night and the lights were zooming by, and I listened to the record and that’s when I got into it. Sometimes I find that as life goes on, it’s cluttering your mind all the time. It’s hard to just focus on the music…Most of the time people are listening to music and fussing around on their phone or the computer, they’re always doing something else. It’s really only in the car that I find that I can focus on it. There’s this zen thing, driving and listening to music. That was the moment where I discovered the record for myself.

NP:I feel with music that sometimes it’s a situational thing. There’s music that I specifically like to listen to on trains, and music I like for parties, and music I like when I’m hanging out by the pool, and they’re very different vibes.

RZ:Yeah. Exactly…If you’re in a club, a song that might sound really annoying on the radio comes on booming in the club and you go, “Ah this is fucking great.” It works great in that situation, but you wouldn’t want to hear it somewhere else, so I totally agree. I just wish…there was a day where I used to just have a record or an album and sit in my bed and just listen to it and that’s literally all I did…Now I find that it’s hard to just listen to music, there’s always something else going on.

NP:Plus, I don’t think kids do that anymore. I remember going to the record store, and when I bought a record, I couldn’t wait to get it home. Then I’d play it over and over and over again until I sent my parents crazy. Now, if kids are listening to music, they’re doing it while watching a video on YouTube. And while they’re watching the video on YouTube, they’ve probably also got a game going on too.

RZ:Yeah, they’re texting and doing other things.

NP:Music is much more the background for life.

RZ:Music is not as important as it once was. Yeah, it’s just one of the many things now. Before it used to be the only thing. I kind of miss that. But that’s life, that’s the way it is.

NP:Talking about situations and music, the new studio album, where could you see someone having the perfect moment with it?

RZ:Well, for me, I think for this record, there’s two ways. When I was a kid, I used to always love listening to music on headphones in my bedroom at night. Because there was just nothing and you were just sinking into the music so hardcore that it’d almost become like an altered state….Now, the other way I really like is driving in a car. That’s when everything sounds great to me.

NP:Is there anything else that you’re listening to right now? Other people’s music that’s hitting the sweet spot?

RZ:No, not really. It’s funny, what I usually like to listen to when I’m in the car, I like to listen to the radio, because I do miss sometimes, it doesn’t really happen much, but I want to hear the DJs and hear the songs and the concerts coming up. Even though you get stuck listening to the commercials…I have satellite radio, but I think sometimes that’s very isolating…I still like that feeling of there’s a song, and there’s a concert announcement. I feel like there’s a community of people around this music. Whereas when you listen to satellite radio, somewhere there’s a robot that’s playing a group of songs to you and it’s not connected to anything. A great example of this, I remember reading an interview with Tim Burton and he said that he really likes watching movies on television because he said there’s something about knowing that if you were sitting down to watch that movie at that moment so was somebody else. It’s like we’re all watching this movie at the same time. But when you DVR or it’s on your TiVo, there’s no feeling of that. Everybody is in their own little bubble, and that’s cool too, but there was always something about like, you hear a concert announcement, the band is coming to town, they’re playing this song, and there felt this excitement about things that I don’t feel quite as much anymore.

NP:Right. Like the Olympic ceremony tonight that’s going to be on TV, that’s going to be one of those event things that a lot of people are going to watch. And then people can talk about it the next day and have something in common. People used to have more of that with music when there was more community based radio.

RZ:Yeah…That’s a good example. Everything used to be like that. Any stupid TV show, if you didn’t watch it that night, you didn’t watch it. So the next day, everybody knew what it was, whatever TV show it might be that you’re talking about or song that you hear on the radio.

NP:Right, it’s not just the automation of radio programming, it’s also things like TiVo that are robbing of us that community spirit too.

RZ:Yeah. And it goes back to what you said before about going to the record store. First day the record comes out there’s a line of people to buy it. It’s exciting. As opposed to, I don’t know, is it really that exciting to go to iTunes and hit purchase? [laughs] That’s not very exciting. It’s pretty boring.

NP:I think that’s why the live shows are all the more important. That’s almost the only time now where you feel that kind of shared excitement.

RZ:Yeah, that’s why I love touring and that’s why I love playing shows. That’s really the only thing that has not changed at all. Well, actually, let me take that back, it’s changed a little bit, but for the most part it hasn’t changed at all. The one thing that has change – and I fucking hate this – is people filming the show with their phones.

NP:I knew you were going to say that.

RZ:And it’s not because they’re bootlegging – I don’t give a shit about that. It’s just because I can tell they’re not watching the show. They’re staring at their phone trying not to jiggle their hand too much. And you look out at a sea of that and you’re like, this is ridiculous. These guys stand there as still as possible so they that they can go home and relive the concert later on their crappy little phone they shot it on. It’s so dumb.

NP:I get annoyed with that too. As a fan, I just want grab the phone off people who do that and shake them, and say like, experience this with me, I want to feel your excitement. Because those people suck the energy out of a crowd.

RZ:Yeah, you’re right. People don’t understand, the show is good because the band feeds off the energy of the crowd. And if the energy of the crowd is not there because everybody is filming, the show is not going to be as good, and it just becomes an endless cycle…

NP:And I think it’s fucking rude to just stand there with your cell phone.

RZ:Yeah, what we do a lot of times is I’ll just stop the show and wait for everyone to put their phone away…As soon as they put their phones away, you can feel the show jump up to a whole other level. It’s so funny.

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