Rob Zombie pulls back the curtain on The Lords of Salem and Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor in this Artist Direct interview


Artist Direct’s editor in chief Rick Florino sits down with Rob Zombie who opens up about both Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor and The Lords of Salem in this exclusive interview. Rob enters an extremely busy couple of weeks as he back to back releases a new film, a new album and prepares to go on tour later this summer.  The Lords of Salem is out April 19 and Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor is out April 23. To read the interview 

Rob Zombie Talks “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor” and “The Lords of Salem

Rob Zombie is throwing quite the one-two punch this spring. The Lords of Salem hits theaters on April 19, and then Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor hits shelves April 23. Both of them are shining examples of his evolution and progression as an artist across the board. The Lords of Salem functions as a veritable mindfuck head-trip that begs multiple viewings and stands out as one of the most terrifying and thought-provoking flicks of 2013. Then, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor remains his most powerful solo work since Hellbilly Deluxe. It’s everything a Rob Zombie record should be and more…

In this exclusive interview with editor in chief Rick Florino, Rob Zombie opens up about both Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor and The Lords of Salem.

Given how heavy and dark they were, do you feel like those three songs you did with Joey Jordison [Slipknot, Murderdolls] on the expanded edition of Hellbilly Deluxe 2 were a bridge for Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor?

Yeah, they definitely were. We did those songs so fast. I made a conscious decision about three years ago to not take my focus off the music at any point because I had been when I was doing the movies. I had to. I’d go off to do the movies, and I’d take my focus off the music sometimes for years at a time. Every time you’d come back to start it back up again, it was odd. It was awkward. You sort of felt like, “What was happening here?” This time my goal was to not do that. When I was making the movie, in between breaks, we’d still tour, write, and work. I’d work on the movie and come back. I was going back and forth so I was never away from the music or the guys in the band for very long. Sometimes, when I’d be caught up in a movie, I literally wouldn’t speak to the guys in the band for six-to-eight months at a time. It’s not for any bad reason. It’s just because you’re so swept up in the film world—which they’re not a part of—that time flies by. I think that has a lot to do with it.

What’s the story behind “Lucifer Rising”?

It’s funny because that song had been kicking around back to those other songs you mentioned when Joey played with us. We had one version of it that Joey actually played on. Several different people have played on that song. Obviously, we didn’t use it because I wanted it to be all the new guys in the band playing so we recut the drums. That was early on. We didn’t have time to finish it for the special edition of Hellbilly Deluxe 2but we always liked it and kept it around. In a sense, we knew that was the spirit of what we were going to do.

When did you realize that “Trade in Your Guns for a Coffin” would close the album?

I don’t know if it matters, but it matters to me. The pacing of the record is still important because that’s how I’ll listen to it. A lot of times, records are front loaded. The great songs are up first, and the record seems to get worse as it continues. Sometimes, the slow songs are at the back. I tried to mix it up where I kept what I thought were the better tracks towards the back end of the album. I’ve always tried to do that. We give one last kick at the end so you don’t feel the urge to let the record drone to a conclusion.

Do you feel like this album could translate into a movie at some point?

Well, I think it could. I made it with that in mind. At least in my mind—no one else knows this—I wanted to have a storyline that runs through the record so if someday I wanted to make it into a movie musical like The Who’s Tommy or Quadrophenia, there was a structure to follow. I’m not really talking about what it is because I think it’s sort of relevant at this point. Maybe that’s why that sense comes through.

The Lords of Salem strikes a balance between ethereal unsettling imagery and this really human story. It’s the best balance of dreamy horror and dramatic storytelling you’ve done.

I hope so. I really wanted to make it more of a human drama. Horror can become very much like, “What’s happening? What’s scary? What’s violent? When’s this going to happen?” You feel like you’re not really invested in it. That’s how a lot of things get. They become random instances of craziness for the audience. I thought, “Well, I want to make a human drama about the degeneration of this girl”. That was at the heart of it. That’s what I’d tell the actors, “We have to care. We have to make it a human drama”. Some people can go, “It’s somebody losing their mind to drug addiction” or “It’s someone losing their mind due to the powers of Satanic forces writhing up around her”. Either way, it has to work on that level. I think the best movies of that sort always do. That was really the goal.

Heidi’s peril is very interesting. She’s fighting it, but she’s not physically confronting it.

Yeah, I didn’t want her to be some girl who’s in peril and screaming all of the time as monsters come at her from hell, you know? Then we’d just have another girl-in-peril monster movie. She’s a lost and lonely person who’s trying to get her life back together. She doesn’t turn to anybody because she has nobody to turn to, and she’s not really sure what’s going on. These things are happening to her, and she doesn’t even know it. I thought that was a more interesting take than scary stuff happening with her cowering in a corner screaming. She thinks she’s losing her mind not that evil forces are actually at hand. You can see that other than her dog there’s no one in the world she has any real connection to it. I hint at the past connection between her and “Whitey”, but I didn’t want to become too heavy handed with that. He’s trying to get back in her life obviously having fucked up at some point, but it’s too little, too late.

You’re using imagery in a very vivid manner. It’s a dramatic narrative conveyed in a unique way.

Film is such a visual medium. You can do anything. That’s what’s so incredible about it. Sometimes, I find that the rules of what people want from certain genres of film get really regimented like, “Oh, it has to be this. It has to be that. It has to unfold like this”. I’m like, “Why can’t it unfold like this? Why does it have to be totally explainable?” The way I would talk about it on set was like, “Well, if somehow Satan was real and coming back and inhabiting this building. Basically, this building was a portal to hell.” How does that make sense? How would you explain that? I kept getting notes from the studio, “Why is this happening? Maybe we should have Francis figure it out?” Nobody could ever figure this out [Laughs]. It can makes sense to the forces of darkness but that doesn’t mean some guy who wrote a book can suddenly figure it out or explain it. That’s what I thought was scary about it. To have somebody come in, explain it, and save the day would just seem so contrived. At all turns, I was trying to find a new way to represent at the core what is a basic story it seems we’ve seen before.

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