“As you get older, you see that time becomes more precious and you try to jam more into it.”
It certainly has been a very busy year for Rob Zombie – a movie, a book, an album, a soundtrack, planning a two week Halloween extravaganza, writing the next movie script and now on tour across the US for Mayhem 2013. Metal Hammer sat with Rob after the first week of the Mayhem tour and chatted about “his next project- Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare–a fifteen-night, bone-chilling Halloween experience going down this October just outside of Los Angeles” and much more besides.
Check out the full tour schedule: robzombie.com/tour-dates/
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To read the interview
INTERVIEW: Rob Zombie Talks 2013 So Far, His Great American Nightmare And…Er…Funk Dealers
2013 has proved to be a watershed year for American horror rocker/filmmaker Rob Zombie. First there was the release of his fifth solo album, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, a scorching slab of industrial metal that many (including ourselves), have hailed as his finest work in years. A scant four days later, Zombie released the thoroughly creepy, The Lords of Salem, his latest directorial outing which reaffirmed both his complete lack of interest in mainstream approval as well as his enduring prowess for making pant-shittingly terrifying horror movies.
Sidestepping any opportunities to kick his feet up and rest awhile, Zombie promptly took his band (which includes guitar virtuoso John 5, bassist Piggy D and drummer Ginger Fish) on the road again, this time sitting at the top of the bill of this summer’s Mayhem Festival tour, a marauding 26-date summer campaign across the belly of America, featuring over twenty other metal acts from a broad spate of genres.
It was on the first date of this tour that Rob announced his next project- Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare–a fifteen-night, bone-chilling Halloween experience going down this October just outside of Los Angeles, that will include several state-of-the-art haunted houses, live music from diverse acts like Andrew W.K., Ozomatli, The Used, and Reel Big Fish and even wrestling. As the proverbial cherry on top (a really grim, disturbing cherry, no doubt), Rob himself will be headlining the final night of the experience, along with the always-entertaining Eagles of Death Metal.
Amazingly, Rob found some time to chat with us about his year so far, his Great American Nightmareand his favourite funk dealers. Wait, what?
You’re just wrapping up the first week of the Mayhem Festival tour. How’s it treating you so far?
Killer. It’s been great. We’ve only done three shows, but it’s been really good.
Were there any special challenges bringing your full production out?
Yeah, it’s the usual nightmare that it always is. (laughing)
One of the staples of your live show is the campy horror movie clips that you show on those massive movie screens during your set. They have to have come from scores of old movies. Do you actually compile those yourself?
Yeah, I mean, I’ve acquired them over the years but, you know, every single little thing that happens onstage is something I’ve nitpicked over. There’s no company that you can go to and say, “I need this,” and they say “Oh sure, we’ve got that for you.” You’ve got to create it all yourself.
Metal Hammer caught you on the road last fall on the inaugural date of the Twins of Evil tour in Phoenix. Since that tour, you released a new album, you released a new movie and now you’re headlining the Mayhem Festival tour. How in the hell do you keep it together?
I dunno, I just kind of roll from the next thing to the next thing to the next. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in a day, sometimes. (laughing) I don’t like to waste time. People waste a lot of time in their lives, and especially as you get older, you see that time becomes more precious and you try to jam more into it.
So when you’re not wasting time, just what is it that you’re doing? How do you spend your time off-stage?
Well, usually there’s things going on. So right now, we’re on tour, but during the downtime, I’m prepping stuff for the Great American Nightmare event that I’m doing in October, which is this two week-long Halloween event. I’m working on setting up Broad Street Bullies, which will be the next movie, and working on anything from new merch designs to other things. I mean, there is no free time. There’s always a million things to do.
Speaking of The Great American Nightmare, you’ve got a haunted house planned for that…
That’s the main thing. I think that right now, people think that it’s just the concert, but there’s three huge haunted houses. That’s really the main attraction. And there’s an outdoor pavillion that’s all a haunted attraction, too, and with that, there are other events happening at the same time; some bands, there’s wrestling…what I wanted to do was just a giant Halloween extravaganza. You don’t even have to be a fan of any of the music and you could still go and have a kickass time.
Without ruining any surprises, will we need a new pair of pants by the time we’re through with the haunted houses?
Well, what’s good about this is that each haunted house is based on one of the movies [that Zombie has directed], so they took the design from the movies. Like they have the Superbeasto Maze in 3D, where you walk through a giant pair of spread legs and you go into this sort of…well, you know what you’re going into, and that takes you through this crazy 3D world and then that sort of goes into the House of 1000 Corpses/Devil’s Rejects world, which is sort of a murder ride of serial killers. So it’s all crazy shit like that.
You’ve enjoyed horror movies from both sides of the camera. Does anything about that type of filmmaking still scare you?
It never really did, to begin with.
So what’s the most important element of a horror movie?
Everybody’s different. I mean, the thing that always attracted me, which is what I like to do, is characters. Getting really caught up in crazy characters, more than situations. A lot of movies now are just like ghost movies where there’s like a family, and they move into a house and Oh no, it might be haunted! But that was never the type of stuff that I liked. I always liked the type of things that were more like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and you really get into the fucked-up family. That’s the kind of stuff that I like. Or freaks, or Frankenstein. I was always into the crazy characters more than spooky situations.
You certainly hit a home run then with the Captain Spaulding character, in House of 1000 Corpses.
Yeah, that’s more of the thing that I like. You create some sort of iconic personality. I guess I’m a visual person, so I would always go toward that type of stuff.
So were you a Creature Double Feature guy on Saturdays?
Yeah, that was where I saw everything first you know? They had great stuff. There was always a Hammer double feature, or a Universal double feature. There was always great stuff playing.
How does it feel to have the new album out on the shelves?
It feels fantastic. I think that probably the best reviews–and whatever, reviews mean nothing–but it’s probably the best-reviewed record that I ever had. People are loving it, and people seem to know the new songs that we’ve been playing live, and they seem to like ‘em. Which is weird, because usually when you add new songs into the set, they take a minute to fit in, but these work right out of the gate.
When the album was released, the advance word was that it would bridge the gap between your White Zombie past and your future as a solo artist. Is that the way you really see it?
No, not really. That’s more of a fan perspective thing. For me, it’s just one, giant crazy thing. I’m not really trying to bridge the gap between anything. I mean, when you set out to make a record, you’re just trying to make something good. That’s the goal. (laughs) With every record, you can have these pretentious grand plans, but at the end of the day, you’re just trying to get together to write a bunch of good songs.
So when you sat down to write those songs, did you have any thoughts about differentiating this album from your last one?
Yeah, there’s a certain path that you can take as a songwriter. In the early days, it’s hard to write songs that are catchy, that people can remember, because you’re just new and sometimes you write songs that are too long or songs that are too convoluted, or whatever. Then you sort of refine your songwriting, and it almost gets too easy. Then you’re writing songs, where it’s too easy to write conventional songs. So really what I wanted to do on this record was to make songs that were memorable and catchy, but where the structure and the hooks were more unconventional. So they weren’t obvious, because if anything, I felt that was a trap that we could fall into easily. After doing it for almost thirty years, I could write a fake Rob Zombie song so easily; a song that I think people want, you know what I mean? Because there’s a formula, but then I don’t want to do that because then I feel that you have to keep challenging yourself to try and do different things. You don’t want to become your own cover band.
One of the elements that sets your music apart from other flavours of rock and metal is the amount of funk you drop.
Well, I like music that has a groove. Any kind of music. Hard rock music has always had a groove. I mean, Led Zeppelin is the grooviest fucking band ever. That’s something that sort of just went away from hard rock, and I have always loved it. A lot of times, bands get scared of it, I think, because I’ll see a band and they’ll lock into a groove and it’s so heavy and the fans are going crazy and then they shift gears and go into some kind of blastbeat, and you can see the crowd kind of stop. I’m thinking, “Dude, you had ‘em! You were fucking going off! What the fuck? Calm the fuck down, you had the crowd fucking raging.” But they get scared. I dunno if they do, but it seems that way, anyway.
That all said, how about you share with us your five funkiest influences?
Well, I think probably growing up as a kid—now you’ve got to remember that the first records I started buying were around 1972 or something—so I really liked Billy Preston. He did a song called Space Racethat was on the radio all the time. First seven inch I ever bought was The Jackson 5, Dancing Machine. That fucking grooves. When you watch them play that live, when they were young—insane. Elton John in the early-70s had a lot of stuff like Bennie and the Jets that was pretty groovy. I really liked Eddie Kendricks. He was great. I’m searching my mind now for all the seven inches I had as a little kid, because I was always leaning towards stuff that was funky. Oh, The Stylistics. I had a bunch of music from the Stylistics. (laughing)
I thought for sure you were doing to say the Commodores.
Commodores weren’t that funky, though, although Brick House was pretty funky. Earth, Wind and Fire were pretty funky. Parliament. See, that was the funny thing back then, with AM radio in the early-70s—you just didn’t think about it. They just played everything together. You listen to KISS and Alice Cooper, then you listen to ABBA and Earth, Wind and Fire. I didn’t care. I liked everything.
Yeah, you and I both grew up listening to WBCN, and they used to play everything without any sense that they were following a format. They’d play Muddy Waters next to Sabbath.
Yeah, I think that’s great because I think you need that influence. Even if you don’t play that type of music, which I clearly don’t, you need to have it because you need to draw from other places, and that’s what we do a lot when we’re writing; we’ll listen to music that has nothing to do with what we’re going to do, but we try to bring something new. If you’re like, “I only listen to metal, I only play metal and I only like metal,” then you’re going dry with influences.
Interview by Joe Daly