Guitar International interviews Rob Zombie: The Only Thing That Matters Is Playing Live For the Fans

With the co-headliner tour with Megadeth just days away and the band heading to the studio in June, Guitar International sat down with Rob Zombie for an interview to discuss all these things and more.

Rob Zombie has been terrifying audiences for close to 25 years. Not only on stage as a musician in White Zombie and as a solo artist, but as a cult horror movie director. He is a 7 time Grammy-nominated recording artist; he has sold over 15 million albums worldwide, and directed House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects as well as the movie sequel of the re-imagined Halloween franchise, Halloween 2.

He released the long-awaited Hellbilly Deluxe 2 in 2010 and the gates of hell were loosed.  The album came a dozen years after its predecessor, Hellbilly Deluxe, the album that established him as a solo artist after the breakup of White Zombie. That album also yielded a string of successful radio singles, namely “Dragula” and “Living Dead Girl,” both of which dominated the airwaves in 1998 and 1999, closing out the century, Zombie style.

Also in 2010, he teamed up with horror-rock legend, Alice Cooper, for “The Gruesome Twosome Tour.” High on the heel of his 2011 US “Hell On Earth” tour with Slayer and Exodus, Rob is now embarking on an another tour US tour with Megadeth for the month of May before heading to the studio to start working on a new CD.

I had a chance to catch up with Rob prior to the opening night in New Jersey to talk about the new tour and what we can expect from the master of metal on his new CD.

Robert Cavuoto: You toured with Megadeth in ’92-’93, just as White Zombie was breaking the scene. How does it feel to get back together with them for this new tour 20 years later?

Rob Zombie: It feels weird how much time has gone by now that you mention it. It feels like it was a couple of lifetimes ago. I’m glad that everyone is still here!

Robert: How is touring different now, compared to when you when in your 20 and 30s?

Rob Zombie: It’s more fun now. It was always something fun to do but back when I was younger White Zombie had a lot of internal turmoil that ruined the touring experience. A lot of bands have that and I think it comes from being young, stupid, and not appreciating what’s going on. As you get older, you appreciate how great it really is. It couldn’t be better. It’s just a blast all time now.

Robert: What do you do to keep yourself satisfied with touring after all these years? How do you keep something that can be routine, fresh?

Rob Zombie: I think it has to do with the personnel in the band. The main thing for me is being a “band.”  With White Zombie, it was a group but all too much internal turmoil and when I was a solo artist I never had the right people giving it the feeling that it was a band.

It wasn’t until John 5 joined that I found the right person to have that musical comradery. It’s fun because it becomes a group effort.  It’s fun being a part of something with other people. The guys are all great and I’m always in a good mood. Back in the day the tours would go on forever, now they seem to fly by. “That’s it were done? Shit.” [Laughing]

Robert: What can we expect on this tour as compared to previous tours?

Rob Zombie: This is the stage we took to England for the Download Festival. It’s our last go around with it until we break it all down and then rebuild it next year. Unfortunately we don’t have any new songs because we haven’t started the CD yet.

Robert: When you head out on the road, how long does it take you to get up to speed when rehearsing for a tour?

Rob Zombie: We rehearse more than most bands and we are pretty tight. We rehearsed for three weeks even though the songs sounded perfect after the first day. After a week on the road the show get into a groove.

I don’t know if the audience can feel it, but we can physically feel it. It’s just the demand of what the show takes on. After that first week you feel like you can play it forever.

Robert: When people come to a Rob Zombie concert, you know you have to give them the hits like “Dragula,” “More Human Than Human” and Thunder Kiss ’65,” but you also sometimes play lesser known songs like “Creature Of The Wheel” from the White Zombie days. Do you plan to keep surprising fans with some rarer songs on this tour?

Rob Zombie: We keep all the staple songs that people want to hear, plus we have about 10 or 15 alternates. They include some old White Zombie songs like “Electric Head Part 1” and “Black Sunshine,” which we never really play. So we go out with the set and sometimes pull in the alternate songs as we never know what’s going to work.

The song “Pussy Liquor” is an obscure song off the House of 1000 Corpses movie soundtrack which fans have always been asking us to play. We figured nobody knows that song because it was only on the soundtrack. So one night we decided to play it and it was huge. We haven’t stopped playing it since. You just never know. I think people just like the title too [Laughing].

The fans are always changing, we have the fans that have been with us since the beginning and we also have a surprisingly young fan base whose favorite CD is one of the newest ones. You get some fans who want to hear the obscure White Zombie songs, but as times goes by I’ve noticed that the demand is less for them.

When we play them and I look out into the crowd, you can tell that they have no idea what song it is. Usually within 5 seconds of playing it we can tell “were not playing that again” [Laughing].

Robert: Do you have any pre-show rituals?

Rob Zombie: Nothing in a superstitious way. If you asked the band, I think they would say my pre-show ritual is me saying an hour before the show time, “I don’t feel like playing tonight!” I always say it. ]Laughing].

I’m just so tired and there is nothing more I want to do more than go back to the bus to get something to eat and watch a movie. As I slowly start to get ready, I begin to feel less grumpy and start cranking the music. Then by show time I peak and I’m ready to go on. It takes me an hour to get into the mindset of going up on stage.

Robert: When you go into the studio on June 1, will you have songs mapped out or are you going in at square one?

Rob Zombie: We have about 30 songs that are 50% there. I don’t write complete songs in advance of going in the studio anymore. I find it easier to work in the studio rather than go to a rehearsal space and jam until we have written something.

We did that with White Zombie and I dreaded it. We would jam and jam and jam. I would be like “Jesus Christ,” let’s write some fucking songs already.” So now we get right down to business in the studio, writing songs, and it’s more fun and efficient.

Robert: Is it too soon to tell what direction the CD will take on?

Rob Zombie: Anything can change but the goal with this CD is to make a heavy, dark, groove oriented CD. Besides liking that kinda stuff, it’s great for playing live.

With MTV and radio being meaningless, the only thing that matters is playing live for your fans! We want to make a CD that great to play live. If you get a radio hit that great but these days that’s not the goal anymore.

Robert: You are doing a web series on YouTube’s Nerdist Channel. How did you get involved with it?

Rob Zombie: Chris Hardwich who I have been friends with for a long time is at the heart of it all. I put Chris in my first movie House of 1000 Corpses as well as a small role in Halloween 2. He started putting this Nerdist Channel thing together and asked me if there was any kind of show that I would be interested in doing. The idea is still evolving.