Glide Magazine interviews no-bullshit visionary Rob Zombie
Rob Zombie is one of the most hardworking artists out there – he can’t sit for long and twiddle his thumbs in case he gets bored. In this interview with Glide Magazine, the director and singer, talks about making movies, making music and what really scares him.
My Roots: Rob Zombie by Leslie Michele Derrough
Rob Zombie is a no-bullshit visionary. While leading White Zombie on a gory-fun trail through the rock & roll hemisphere, he carved up electrifying stage productions and music videos filled with fluorescently vivid images of the macabre while playing grungily catchy tunes; something that he continues to do with his solo band. Throwing his hat into the movie making business in 2003 with House Of A 1000 Corpses, Zombie found himself in a whole new world with more challenges for his creative brain. With his new film Lords Of Salem recently premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival, and his Twins Of Evil tour with Marilyn Manson about to crank up at the end of the month, Zombie has his hands full once again. A few months back, the maestro of inescapable mayhem called in to talk a few minutes about making movies, making music and what really scares him.
You have a love for horror and the macabre. What was your favorite horror movie when you were a kid and what was it about this genre of films and stories that has continued to fascinate you all these years?
Well, I think that probably it’s lasted till now is just because basically it’s whatever you like. I think it’s like that for everybody. Whatever you loved as a child stays with you and stays special forever, whether it’s music or movies or anything. And when I was a little kid, I liked all movies, but some stood out. I think one of the first movies that I ever saw was the original King Kong and it made a big impression on me. It seemed very exciting for a kindergarten kid. The movies that really made the first big impression on me were the original wave of 30’s and 40’s horror movies that were on the tv all the time. I was a little kid in the late 60’s and there was a sort of big horror boom with those films on television and TV shows like The Addams Family and The Munsters and Twilight Zone. There was just a lot of that stuff happening and as a kid I was just really attracted to it.
What were you like as a kid? Did you do normal things or were you more off to yourself?
I don’t know, it’s hard to remember but I was not an outgoing kid. I was pretty withdrawn and sort of just kept to myself and liked the things that I liked and I think really the thing that shaped my perception of the world was television. As with a lot of people, I grew up someplace that was pretty boring and seemed like it had no opportunities to make your life exciting or interesting in any way at all. So I just watched tv all the time. Everything that was on tv seemed exciting and fun, you know. The people seemed special and interesting and that just warped my perspective on life and I just always knew that I wanted to be part of that because it just seemed like the place to be. I didn’t want to grow up and work in a shoe factory or do something like that. I wanted to grow up and be part of everything I saw on television.
You are very visual with your art and your music. Going into film, did that part of you help make it easier to transition into being a filmmaker, even though your creativity had already come out in your videos and stage shows?
Well, it helps, everything helps, but making films is it’s own unique challenge. I think the best thing that you could have as a filmmaker, one of the best things, is to have your own unique vision, so that your movies, whether people love them or hate them, seem unique to you. And I think a lot of the best filmmakers have that. You can see a movie and go, oh, that is so and so; whereas a lot of movies seem very generic. There is no particular point of view that you love or hate, it’s just sort of you’re watching and you can forget about it. So from having done music for a long time, by the time I got to movies I had very much developed my own style. That didn’t make making movies easier but it helped honing my voice as a filmmaker, let’s put it that way.
Which is easier for you to do – making music or doing films?
I love doing both but films are infinitely harder; music is easy. Not that it’s easy but it’s much less challenging because to go in and write songs is, you know, you have all the time in the world. But movies are very difficult because you have a certain timeframe of which everything has to be accomplished and it’s usually very short. But you have tons of people working for you and it’s a very big intense production. And as the director, there are a million things that can happen in every single second of the day and you have to have an answer for every single one of them. Where with writing songs it’s pretty laid back and easy; not that writing great songs isn’t difficult but just the process itself is so much easier than the process of making movies, which is very intense and very crazy and is just much harder.
Has writing songs gotten easier or harder for you over the years?
It’s both. It’s easier to write songs. I can sit down and write a song and you just get better at it, to put it together and make it, write a catchy song. But what gets harder is not repeating yourself. So in one way it’s easier but it’s harder in the sense that trying to make it fresh and different so when people hear it they don’t go, “Oh yeah, same old crap.” That’s the challenge.
Do you like to keep busy most of the time? You don’t seem like a sit-at-home kind of guy.
Yeah, I like doing all these things. Sure, I like having down time too and sometimes you need down time to just recharge your batteries. I like to be able to watch movies or read, stuff like that, so new things can enter my brain. But for the most part I like doing all of these things. I always have a lot of things that are already done that people don’t know about until they start coming out.
Truthfully, I have no time off ever. If I’m not physically doing something, that’ll be for a week or two at a time, but usually within that week or two you’re preparing for the next thing you’re going to do. So I don’t really ever NOT do these things, ever. These are the things I like to do: I like to make movies, I like to make music, I like to play music. It just becomes the double-edged sword where if all your passions in life sort of become your job, then that’s what you do for a living. Then you do it for fun too so it all becomes one.
Does anything scare you?
Not having anything to do scares me. I always like to know what the next thing is. I think that’s a common fear for those people in this business because there are no guarantees in life with anything. But with this business there really are no guarantees so maybe they’re unwarranted fears but you never know what is next so you always fear that there’s not going to be a next movie or the next tour or the next record or the next anything. I think that is part of why I stay so busy all the time. It’s a way to confront that.
You’ve had some great musicians in your band that have gone on to do other things and are wonderful musicians. Does that make you feel good that you in a way gave birth to some of these really great musicians?
I’ve never really thought about it that way before. It all depends on who we’re talking about and it depends on if they left the band on friendly circumstances or unfriendly circumstances. If it was friendly, I wish them the best. If it was unfriendly, they can go fuck themselves (laughs)
Well, you certainly have a great guitar player in your band right now with John 5.
Yeah, John is great, I love John. John is a wonderful man and I’m very happy to have him in the band. He’s part of the reason