[Interview] Rob Zombie reveals ‘The Lords of Salem’ and ‘Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor’
The Examiner have conducted this double-whammy interview with Rob Zombie where he talks about his two latest releases – The Lords of Salem and Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor. He talks about the making of the album, the writing process, creating the character of Heidi Hawthorne and much more.
To read the interview
Rob Zombie reveals ‘The Lords of Salem’ and ‘Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor’
BY: CARLA HAY
“The Lords of Salem” is a story about witches and what happens when a DJ/host named Heidi Hawthorne (played by Zombie’s wife, Sheri Moon Zombie) at a rock radio station in Salem, Mass., plays a mysterious vinyl record that a rock band has been sent to her at the station. I recently chatted with Zombie by phone for this exclusive interview.
It sounds like you had a lot of fun making “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor,” which is your first solo album since 2010’s “Hellbilly Deluxe 2.” Did you write the songs over that three-year period or was it a much shorter period of time that you did the songwriting?
Pretty much the majority of it was written in the studio in a period of a few months. I know that over time, we had sort of amassed assorted riffs here and there, basic ideas, but it really wasn’t until we got into the studio that it formulated into the songs that are on then record.
So that seems to be your writing process for an album. How does that compare to your writing process for a movie?
For screenwriting, what I tend to do is that I write a little bit every day because, for me, sometimes there’s nothing more than starting a script that there’s page one, and it really feels like, “How am I ever going to get through this?” Especially for the new script that I just finished for this film called ‘The Broad Street Bullies,” because it’s based on fact the Philadelphia Flyers winning the Stanley Cup], so I had to do tons of research, so every time I had to write the simplest thing, I would have to go research it. I’d go, “I don’t know where that person’s from or who they are. It’s so much work.” And some days, I would barely accomplish anything because I would spend so much time researching the subject matter.
But what I have typically always done is that I would get up very early in the morning, and I start writing. And I would say that would last anywhere from two to four hours. And then after that, I basically feel kind of burnt out already, because what happens for me is the day kicks in: You walk the dog, the phone’s ringing, you’re eating lunch. The day kicks in, and I feel like these other ideas start coming into my mind, and then I’m no good for the rest of the day.
So I feel like in the morning when nothing is happening, I will struggle with something. And then I wake up the next morning and go, “Oh, I got it.” And that works with screenwriting and lyrics and stuff. Sometimes I feel like that’s the only time of the day that I’m fresh and my brain functions properly.
You’re known for having a lot of song titles that sound like the titles of horror movies. Have you ever had any of these ideas come to you in dreams? Do you come up with the song title first or do the titles sort of flow out of songs that you’re writing?
The titles come to me over a period of time. Sometimes I’ll just be writing the lyrics for the song. The music always comes first. I can immediately start hearing the words formulating to the melody of the music.
The guitar sounds will sound like words to me sometimes, and I go, “Well, that sounds like this, and I’ll say this.” So sometimes, it formulates that way. Or sometimes I’ll think of a phrase. I’ll think, “That’s a very visual phrase. I like that phrase. I don’t know what it is.
Something like “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor,” which is the title of the record, maybe that could’ve been a song title too. I’ll just think of something and go, “I love the imagery of that.”
And sometimes, that’ll just get me going, like anybody would. You can tell from the title of the movie, they might start thinking, “Wow, I wonder what that movie could be about.” Except in this case, the song is the movie, and it gets my brain going. So that’s kind of how it works. I think of something that I find interesting, and then it just kind of snowballs from there.
Your wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, has been in most of your movies. Did you write the Heidi Hawthorne character with her specifically in mind?
For this movie specifically, I had her in mind the whole time. I was sort of writing the movie based around her — not that the character is her or how she is, but the way she would be and what she would do and the way she would act if she became the character — if that makes sense. So yeah, I always pictured her [for the role]. Once you start doing that, when you write with somebody in mind — and she’s not the only person I’ve done that for; I’ve done that for other actors too — you cannot get it out of your mind. It’s just that person.
Sometimes, like with my new film “Broad Street Bullies,” I don’t have a clue who’ll be in the movie, so it’s very loose. The characters are specifically drawn, but I try to keep an open mind about who it would be. I really have no idea yet.
In “The Lords of Salem,” the big catalyst of what goes on is when a vinyl record is played and it has a certain effect on certain people. Do you personally still have any vinyl records?
I’ve had some that I’ve always had. There were certain records that were always special to me that I never got rid of.
A bunch of Beatles records that I bought as a kid, that still has all the stuff inside them, all of the fold-outs, all the posters, all the extra things, and still has the original Apple logo — just any record that was special to me as a kid.
And then there was a lot of stuff that I got rid of. A lot of times, I sold my [vinyl] records because I just needed money. There was Sounds Music on St. Marks Place where I would sell them off because I needed food. But now, what I’ve been doing slowly is I’m getting back into it. I’m buying everything back and more.
When I’m at home, I almost exclusively listen to vinyl these days. It’s amazing what you can find too. So many people have gotten rid of their vinyl. You can go to any crappy thrift store, and you can find amazing things for nothing.
What was the hardest song to write on “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor” and why?
The hardest song to write on the album was a song called “White Trash Freaks.” And I don’t know why. The song started off simply enough.
We laid down the main groove and drum beat that would go through the whole song. I thought, “Oh great. Done. This is going to be easy to finish. We’ve got the main groove. That’s all that matters.”
But for some reason after that, it just would never fall together. I would rewrite it and rewrite it and re-sing it and change the lyrics and change the title. And it just went on and on. I don’t know why.
Sometimes you get stuck on a song. It doesn’t mean that it’s a good song or a bad song, it’s just that every once in a while, you get one of those troublesome songs, whereas with other songs, you plow right through. You write and record the whole thing in one day and never change a note of it.
You toured with Marilyn Manson recently. What was the most important thing that you learned from that touring with Marilyn Manson?
I don’t know that I learned anything important from him.
Would you want to tour with Marilyn Manson again?
Yeah. It was a great tour. We had a good time. It was really successful. We went all around the world. Our last show [on the tour] was in Italy. I had a great time. I don’t know if I learned anything from it, but it was great.
You’ve said in other interviews that you’re a big fan of Universal Pictures’ original horror classics. You’ve also said that after directing two “Halloween” movies, you’re not really interested in doing any more remakes or reboots. But if you could remake any of the Universal horror classics, which would it be and why?
I would love to do “Frankenstein,” because “Frankenstein” is such a classic story. It’s like doing your take on “Oliver Twist” or something. That’s why I love those movies. It doesn’t seem like you’re doing a remake. It seems like it’s just established classic literature. Well, “Frankenstein” is. I feel like every time they [remake “Frankenstein”], they try to update it a lot. It would be great to do it in a totally classic style, like James Whale did back in the ‘30s.
So would you want to do the movie in black and white?
I love black and white movies. It’s unfortunate that people don’t embrace them and see them as somehow problematic, because there are things that you can do in black and white that are so incredible that just doesn’t work in color.
What else can you say about “Broad Street Bullies” and where you are in the pre-production process?
The script is done and it’s starting to circulate to people. I don’t know when I would get into casting or any of that. I have a lot of touring dates to do, so [the casting] will be toward the back end of the year for sure.