ArtistDirect talks to Rob Zombie about,tours, new music and the Lords of Salem

20120410-120259.jpgArtistDirect recently sat down with Rob Zombie to talk about the forthcoming movie The Lords of Salem, making the next Zombie record and his impersonation of Tom Baker on Nerdist.

There’s intricate lore surrounding everything Rob Zombie does.

Every album and film is steeped in deep mythos. Like all great auteurs from Martin Scorsese to Roger Waters, Zombie’s output exists in a universe of its own. The world of House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects extends far beyond those movies, and fans embrace it as such. Zombie’s take on Haddonfield in Halloween and Halloween II is a terrifying psychological space that anyone can fall into far beyond the confines of the screen suburb. Now, he’s turned to The Lords of Salem.

His forthcoming film is wrapped elegantly in the same kind of unique and harrowing tale. This time, it’s centered on Salem, but it’s so much more.

Simultaneously, this modern mythmaker has turned towards recording a new album with guitarist John 5, bassist Piggy D, and drummer Ginger Fish. The record stands bound to be another magnificent roller coaster of heavy guitars and even heavier hooks.

In the meantime, he’s hitting the road starting May 5, for a massive jaunt with Megadeth that includes stops at festivals such as Rock on the Range. There are all kinds of other cool projects on the horizon too.

In this exclusive interview with editor in chief Rick Florino, Rob Zombie talks The Lords of Salem, creating characters, new music, playing live, and so much more.

The characters in your movies are always so vibrant. When you’re making a film, do the characters dictate the action?

Yeah, definitely! For the most part, if the characters are interesting, the audience will watch them. You want to give them something interesting to do, of course. A lot of times, I find if I get bored with a movie, I’m just bored with the characters that are onscreen. Nothing is worse than when you’re watching a movie and you’ve got four characters that basically look and talk the same. You start asking, “Wait, which guy is that?” I think defining the characters is probably the most important thing you can do.

Did The Lords of Salem start with the characters?

Nothing ever really starts with the characters. Usually, I have a basic idea for something. It’s a thin idea you can explain in two lines like, “What if this happened?” From there, the characters start to emerge. It takes a while to define them. You don’t fully define them until you start casting. For me, that’s when it starts getting fun because you can really define people and separate them from each other. It really comes to life.

The actors individuality will shine through to a degree.

As much as I like to make the characters on the written page stand out from each other, I like to cast interesting people who are slightly unconventional so they pop off screen. They’re not just typical looking because that gets boring too for me. I like character actors above sort of “leading” actors.

You give guys like Sid Haig and Bill Moseley the spotlight.

Sid’s a character actor, and he was always in the background in movies. However, I would find him to be very interesting. He was lingering there, and you’d wish he would do more in films. I’d take someone like that and move him to the foreground and get good results that way.

Which characters in The Lords Of Salem stand out for you?

There are two timelines in the movie. There’s the present-day storyline, and then there’s the 1697 storyline. The main witch character in 1967 is named Margaret Morgan. She’s a big character. She really needed to stand out. It was tough to cast. I casted Meg Foster for that role, and it was a big goldmine on that one. It really needed to be something special. Sometimes, roles can veer off into cartoon world if you don’t have someone who can infuse them with a reality. She did in a way that I was surprised by, and it worked out fantastically. She’s one of the characters that really jumps out for me.

Is there something particularly ominous about Salem?

I definitely think Salem is a great setting for a movie. I hadn’t been to Salem in a long time, since I was a kid. When I went back there location scouting, I was really struck by how interesting of an area it is. It’s really interesting architecturally and visually. From the little tiny streets and cobblestone sidewalks to the buildings, it’s a very specific look. That’s why shooting there was so important. I couldn’t fake it somewhere else because it had such a rich look. We shot there at the perfect time of year—for once. It was October so the leaves were changing and falling like a snowstorm from the trees. It was visually amazing.

Is it crucial for you to make sure there’s always a dose of reality?

It’s totally important. I always want to approach it that way because I’m not a fan of things being campy at all. I hate movies like that. I’m not a fan at all. No matter how bizarre and insane the situation is, the actors have to create a reality you can buy into. A lot of horror movies don’t do that. You can see no one’s taking it seriously. That was a very big feature of ’80s horror movies. I like things to be dead serious. The great movies people love are. When someone goes, “Oh, what’s your favorite horror movie?” They never mention something that’s campy. They say The Shining, The Exorcist, Rosemary’s Baby, or other movies where people are taking everything dead seriously. That’s always what works the best for me.

Are there any horror authors you come back to?

There are some people I like. I’d read H.P. Lovecraft. I’d read a bunch of Stephen King books when I was a kid as well as Edgar Allan Poe and stuff. I really don’t read that much horror fiction at all.

Is this new record going to be another heavy one?

Yeah, that’s what we’re going to do. Usually, we don’t really have a focus when we make a record. We go in and start writing songs, and it goes where it’s going to go. We let it go that way. This time, we sort of made a pack that we’re going to make a heavy record on purpose and stick to that goal. We have been. We have a lot of songs that aren’t 100 percent finished but they’re pretty far along. We just want to make a dark, heavy, weird record and stick to that idea. If something comes up that isn’t, we won’t finish it. We’ll stick to the plan. You may say that when you start recording. Then other songs start happening that don’t really fit that and you go with it. This time, we’re really going to stay on task.

Lyrically, will everything weave together?

I haven’t even really started them yet it’s so early in the process. I don’t really get into the lyrical part of the record until the songs are fairly far along. I never have. It’s always the way I’ve done it for some reason.

Live, this lineup slays. It’s going to be great to see out with Megadeth.

Ginger has jumped in and really is a big part of it. For the first time ever, there are four people all on the same page. That’s very exciting. I’ve never had that situation so it’s pretty wild.

Can we expect those big grooves on the new album?

Definitely! That’s another great feature with Ginger on drums. He’s a phenomenal drummer. I didn’t know how fucking good he was. He doesn’t get the credit he deserves. His strong point is his groove playing, which is great. That’s really what we like to do. A lot of drummers can’t do that well. They can do other things, but you either have that or you don’t. He’s really good at that. There are certain songs we’ve played for years that have never quite sounded right. A song like “More Human Than Human” has a repetitive groove. If you don’t really get the groove down, the song can be really monotonous to listen to and he nailed it. That’s a really great feature.

Is “Rob Zombie Does Tom Baker” on YouTube’s Nerdist Channel a fun new challenge for you?

Well, nothing is more challenging than a movie. Trying to keep a cohesive vision for two hours and making it work, you’re not just telling it but getting it done. Making a movie is the hardest thing. Making records and doing tours seem like a complete piece of cake in comparison. Movies have a million moving parts and something can go off the rails at any second. As far as the Nerdist channel, I’m going to start it after we finish the record. I don’t know what challenges that will present just yet. It’s easier to be entertaining for five minutes than it is for two hours so I think it’ll be easier!

—Rick Florino