Zombie speaks to On Tour Monthly: “I don’t even know what to call what I do because basically I just do what I like.”
Photo by James Villa
Currently on tour with Korn, Rob Zombie sat down for an exclusive, in depth interview with On Tour Monthly, where he speaks about his music career to date, including White Zombie, his past signing with Geffen, why he always tries to put on bigger, larger-than-life shows, his past and present music collaboration partners, and much more besides.
To enjoy excerpts from the interview click >
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: ROB ZOMBIE, THE VENOMOUS RAT CONTINUES ITS MUSICAL RAMPAGE
November 2, 2013 by On Tour Monthly – Interview by David Huff / Photos by James Villa – Read the full interview here >> ontourmonthly.com/rob-zombie-the-venomous-rat-continues-its-musical-rampage/
Robert Bartleh Cummings, better known by his legal name, Rob Zombie, has created quite an impressive resume for himself the past 25 years. Most people know him as a rock star, film director and horror enthusiast. Though the musician first rose to prominence as the founding member of White Zombie in the 1980′s, the singer has really found his voice as a solo performer. To date, he has released four studio records, five compilation albums and a live recording. The 47-year old has also expanded his artistic endeavors to include the motion picture industry where he has written, directed and produced several horror films. Oh yes, and let’s not forget the numerous comic book brands he’s created as well.
Rob Zombie has had a profound effect on American culture, both among the Evangelicals whom he makes nervous, and among the counter-culture whom he inspires. He has also avoided drug and alcohol abuse, and though his albums are often laced with graphic imagery, his music for the most part of is devoid of profanity. This colorful musician has survived the music business for two reasons. He understands the nature of the beast, and two, he’s learned to diversify his portfolio.
Rob Zombie has survived the music business for two reasons. He understands the nature of the beast, and two, he’s learned to diversify his portfolio. Currently on tour with Korn supporting his latest incarnation of musical mayhem, The Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, the show is drawing near capacity crowds throughout the fruited plain. Zombie’s multimedia production is complete with oversized LED screens constantly showing a collage of monster film clips, a giant robot shooting flames from its body, and of course the band itself. Is this the greatest touring show on earth? Don’t bet against it.
ON TOUR MONTHLY: You told me years ago that the music business is so fluid you were never concerned with record company turnover or consolidation. You’ve been with Geffen longer than any of the employees currently at the company. That’s more than ironic.
Rob Zombie – I know, it’s kind of weird and funny when you think about it. I feel really bad for everyone that lost their jobs over the years. I liked a lot of the people I worked with and was always sad when they were let go. I have kind of insulated myself from the turmoil over the years in a real self-sufficient way. There’s really nothing that can happen at the label that affects me.
OTM: Is that one of the reasons you have used your creative talents in other areas of the entertainment industry?
A lot of artists become dependent on the one thing that broke them. I didn’t want that happening to me. When David Geffen sold out, the heart and soul of the company went with him. I realized I need to look beyond music because the music business was unpredictable. The movie industry seemed a natural fit. It also allowed me to wean myself from being totally dependent on music, especially with all the changes that have occurred in the industry. For instance, I have gone through more A&R people than I can count. There were even occasions where I didn’t even have one. I’m a real hand’s on person with everything I do. I hate to say this, but turmoil at the label probably worked to my advantage. Interscope is a great company. During the merger mania, of all the places to be, Interscope was probably the most artist friendly environment for someone like me to be at. It’s probably the most creative of the labels left standing.
OTM: You were given relative freedom to do what you wanted when you went solo without interference from Geffen in the early days. You seemed to thrive under the tumult that was going on around you.
Pressure was always there to produce, especially with Hellbilly Deluxe. It would have been incredibly naive on my part to think otherwise. When a label gives you money to make a product, they expect a return on that investment. It’s as simple as that. I never had any false illusions that, “Oh, these people are my friends. They’d never get rid of me.” A record company loves you when you’re selling records and they couldn’t give a shit about you when you don’t. That’s just life in the music business. It’s never been any different.
OTM: You have literally overseen every single aspect of your musical career since you started White Zombie in 1985. Your last two albums with the band had really started the ball rolling for the group. Then you called it quits. Exactly what troubled you about the White Zombie incarnation that literally forced your hand to start over again?
The personalities in the band had slowly degenerated over the course of the 13 years we were together. White Zombie stayed together a lot longer than most bands hang in there. Also, people just change. When you are 18 years old and start a band, you grow up and change as a person. After 13 years and four albums, everyone wanted different things. It wasn’t fun anymore to be in White Zombie.
OTM: What I never could figure out was this. You finally have put White Zombie on the rock and roll map after years and years of struggle, then one day it’s over and you’re like, ‘Hey, it’s no big deal.’ It was a big deal.
You know, having the money come in, along with the success, didn’t make the band situation any better.
OTM: Does familiarity at times breed a contempt you just get tired of dealing with on a daily basis?
I think that situation had literally run its course. It’s difficult for bands to stay together for really long periods of time. We entered a period where our creativity just came together and it clicked with the public. We made two really good records, but what you are failing to understand is the fact we were burned out on each other. A lot of bands stick out those situations and end up making crappy record after crappy record. It isn’t any fun. People have always asked me, “When do you know it’s over?” I always know it is over when what you’re doing stops being fun. That’s when it is really over.
OTM: There are some great bands in rock that have been able to endure through the years, survive the cycles of change that occur within the industry, even if they have had to change out parts of the band to move forward. U2, Aerosmith, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica come to mind. Their musical approach was to create a new plateau for their music to perch on. Why didn’t you adopt that approach with White Zombie?
It really wasn’t a musical thing. It was personalities in the band. I’m not going to name names.
OTM: Hell, there’s only two – Sean and Jay.
Let me put it to you this way. Even band’s in bars that stand and smile together, probably can’t stand each other back stage. Who the hell knows what’s going on? All I know is I didn’t feel like doing it anymore with everybody.
OTM: The music business is so uncertain nowadays, once you have created a successful entity that took you years to build, it almost seems silly to start over again. Change can almost be destructive instead of constructive. Did you weigh those two factors when you made the decision to say good bye to 13 years of your life?
At the time, it was insane to do something like I did. People remarked to me during that period that what I was doing was not a smart thing. You work forever to make one thing happen. The chances of it happening twice are pretty slim, especially at the moment when the White Zombie records were selling really well. , and the next one you can really cash in and get the big money you can of build towards. But I didn’t care. No guts, no glory.
OTM: As the creative force behind everything you do, are you not sometimes too hard on yourself in your quest for a musical nirvana.
I think everyone is their harshest critic. A lot of people would go, “Oh no! It’s great! Don’t worry about it.”
OTM: Vince Lombardi once stated that perfection is not attainable, but in chasing it, you could catch excellence. It makes a lot of sense.
Yes it does. I don’t think you’ll never make anything perfect because every time you finish one thing, you can see the next level on the horizon. In general, that’s the nature of art of any kind, you know, trying to obtain some goal you can’t obtain. If I ever felt that I made the perfect album, and I could never do anything better, I would quit the music business because what would be the point. Basically, you’ve stated that it’s all downhill from there.
OTM: Has it been important for you to create a synergy between entertainment and music when you compose albums?
Yeah, I don’t see any difference between entertainment and music. What other purpose for music is there?
OTM: Some people want it to have an emotional value rather than an aesthetic one. When you get down to it, that’s why videos became an important factor in music in the ’80s, to visually entice people to get involved with a song?
I basically think of music as being entertainment, and if you get other things from it, great. If it can teach you something, or you can feel something, that’s all bi-products of being entertained. Music starts with the amusement factor first. It doesn’t matter what group or song you’re talking about either. If music isn’t enjoyment to you, you’ll just shut it off.
OTM: I know the White Zombie thing ended long ago, but I think it’s important for people to understand why you felt you just had to move on. It’s still hard for me to believe that Astro Creep 2000 was the apex of your musical odyssey with White Zombie. Did its success create problems that caught you off guard?
Not really. You know, to say anything negative now is like all the other people in the band, blah, blah, blah. I think that when you gain a measure of success, and separation happens, then the personalities involve change and it makes looking at the future harder.
OTM: Back then, you were called “a hero to every fucked up kid in America.”
No, I think that would have been Stone Cold Steve Austin.
OTM: Why was drummer John Tempest a holdover for you when the group thing ended and you went solo?
Basically he was new coming into the White Zombie thing. The two of us didn’t have a long history where things could go wrong. Between Sean, Jay and John, we were the best of friends.
OTM: You understood when Jay joined the band that he would stick it out with you no matter what.
Yeah I know. It just didn’t happen.
OTM: Explain this statement for me. “I don’t want to have ideas for things that can’t be done, just because other people aren’t into it. And I didn’t want to make records for money, which is what it would have turned into.”
I was talking about the past going into the future. I don’t want to not do something because one person in the band says that will suck. That’s like not doing what’s best for the project, you’re doing something to please everyone’s ego, and that’s the most annoying aspect of being in a band to me.
OTM: You know, when you say you’re “the man” in a band, are you really “the man.”
Yes, and I don’t mean that egotistically either. .Listen, maybe I made enemies within the band because I couldn’t let anything happen that I didn’t think was right. I don’t know if it’s just because I cared so much. If I heard or saw something that I didn’t think was right for White Zombie, it would make me feel sick and I’d go crazy. It had to be just right for me, and unfortunately, it wasn’t.
OTM: Was any of the music on your solo debut, Hellbelly Deluxe, held over from any sessions that were to appear on the Astro Creep follow-up?
Yes and no. None of the actual music existed previously, but pretty much anything I brought to Hellbelly is what I would have brought to White Zombie. I don’t know what that is exactly, but this was the next record I was going to make one way or the other.
Read the full interview here >> ontourmonthly.com/rob-zombie-the-venomous-rat-continues-its-musical-rampage/