Rob Zombie on perfectionism, remixes, and backstage antics with Marilyn Manson


It’s been another busy week. The Twins of Evil tour is in full swing, and Rob Zombie unveiled the trailer for his new movie The Lords of Salem. In this interview City Pages chats to Rob about his music, what he thought about the remixes for Mondo Sex Head and what goes into a Rob Zombie stage show.

Rob Zombie on perfectionism, remixes, and backstage antics with Marilyn Manson by Arielle Castillo

Rob Zombie, that long-haired, bearded, face-painted poster boy for all things ghoulish, can’t help but be a perfectionist.
As one of the few American entertainers scoring serious commercial success in both music and film — his 2007 remake of Halloween, after all, grossed over $80 million — he can’t help it. The albums, films, and even unexpected one-off projects, like this amazingly creepy commercial for Woolite, all form parts of a larger, dark artistic world.

That’s why, just days before launching his current outing with Marilyn Manson, dubbed the “Twins of Evil” tour, we found Zombie still tweaking last-minute details of the production. Beyond that, in his spare moments, he had returned to editing his forthcoming film project, The Lords of Salem — a feature that has already screened publicly. Zombie, however, remains ever the stickler for details.

Here’s what he had to say when we caught up with him in advance of the Twins of Evil Stop at the Verizon Wireless Center this coming Tuesday, October 9.

Gimme Noise: Considering The Lords of Salem has already screened for audiences, it seemed that it was pretty much done. Are you changing things based on audience reaction?

Rob Zombie: It is pretty much done, but when I screened it the other night, I caught something at the very beginning of the movie. It’s so minor, and no one but me will notice it, but there was some minor editing I wanted to fix.

Are you generally like that with both your music and film? At what point are you able to just stop tweaking things?

When it’s done, I stop. But whenever there’s an opportunity to still work on something, if I feel there’s something to do, I will do it. But I don’t always do that. The problem was, I hadn’t really sat and screened this whole movie with an audience. You kind of realize certain things. I’m just putting an extra little thing at the beginning because I felt like the movie started too quickly.

But usually, when I’m done, I’m done. I walk away and I’m on to the next thing. I don’t revisit something over and over and torture myself with it.

You’re working on your new album, as you mentioned. Are you planning to play any of that new material on this tour?

No, definitely not, because the record won’t be out, so it makes no sense.

In other words, you like to test your new films on audiences, but maybe not so much with the music?

Well, I don’t even like testing the films on audiences, necessarily. I don’t like testing anything on anybody. But I think movies are different, because people watch a movie not knowing what it is. But when people go to a concert, people want to hear what they know, and they’ve paid their money to hear their favorite songs. They didn’t pay their money for me to test songs on them. I don’t think it’s cool to do that.

Well, you do have one fairly recent album out, the remix album Mondo Sex Head. Are you tempted to perform any of the remixed versions live as part of your production, or will you still perform the songs as they’ve traditionally been heard?

The songs will be as they’re supposed to be. The remix record was an isolated thing unto itself. It doesn’t affect anything else, and it wouldn’t work live, I don’t think — not with the band playing, anyways.

What was the appeal about doing a remix album, anyways? How does it feel for you to release your songs into someone else’s hands?

I like it. I’ve been doing that for a long time. I started doing remixes back in like 1992. It’s cool; I like hearing what other people do with it. It doesn’t bother me. Sometimes I like to do and sometimes I don’t like what they do. It’s a very niche thing. But what I like about it is sometimes you can take those remixed songs and they become applicable to other situations — like they work great in clubs, for instance, where the original song might not, so much.

But it’s really a niche thing. Some of my fans hate it, some of my fans love it. It’s not for everybody.

Were there any remixes you were kind of doubtful about as they progressed, but then surprised you when the final product came out?

There were a couple I heard that I didn’t like at all when I first heard them. But then there would be a time I was driving my car, and a remix would come on, and then suddenly, I’d really like it.

That’s why I find reviews of things to be completely meaningless, even though everybody is review-crazy. Sometimes, you’re just not in the mood for something. I’ve heard records and seen movies where the first time around, I hated them. If someone asked me what I thought, I’d say, “That movie was horrible!” But then I’d see it later and think, “That movie was great!” I just wasn’t in the mood for it the first time.

It’s the same with music. There was a seven-minute version of “Living Dead Girl” that someone did, and I hated it. But then another time I was kind of driving again and I was in a different mood, and I loved it! It really depends on your state of mind when you approach things.

What made you think the timing was right to do another dance remix album?

Everybody was telling me they were going to see all these DJs live and they were using my songs in their show and mixing it into what they were doing. So it just seemed natural to do it.

Have you been following this new wave of electronic dance music? Does it interest you at all as a culture?

I’ve been following it to the extent that it’s pretty hard not to know what’s going on with it, since it’s become so popular. I think it’s great, you know? It’s not really what I do, but it’s cool.

Do you think there’s much potential for crossover with the new remix album, or have you gotten any feedback from that crowd since it’s been out?

I’m sure there’s potential. Who knows? I certainly don’t pay attention to stuff like that. I know there are reviews or articles about me, but I just don’t care.

With this specific tour, how involved are you with the visual design of your production?

I’m 1000 percent involved. There’s nobody but me. I mean, that’s in the sense that it’s all my ideas, and what I want. Obviously people have to build the things I want, but it’s all my vision, and there’s no one else to turn to. It’s my show.

How good are you at delegating when it comes to all that?

I’m completely involved in everything all the time because it’s got my name on it, so it’s got to come from me. But that being said, with the movies or stage shows, which are such big productions, hundreds of people are working under you, sometimes. But I’m on top of everything, all the time. I don’t let anything slide that i don’t think is 100 percent right.

Does it ever get exhausting to be so hands-on with everything?

Yeah, it does. It gets most exhausting when you think the people you have aren’t doing their job. But when you have people around you that you feel are as detail-oriented as you are, it’s a great feeling. It’s not really exhausting to me, either, because it’s just the way I see things. I notice everything, all the time.

If I’m playing a show, and it appears I’m just wrapped up in the concert and not paying attention to the show, after the show, I’ll go, “Okay, here’s what I noticed during the show.That light didn’t move when it was supposed to move, that video cue was wrong.” I can list 25 things that I notice. I probably drive most people crazy, but that’s just the nature of my personality.

Besides run down a list of mistakes, what else do you do right after a show? Especially with this coming tour — people probably expect some crazy backstage antics between you and Manson. So what really happens?

It’s none of their goddamn business. That’s why it’s backstage!