Ross Baker talks to the man himself
Prior to three years ago it would not be realistic to expect a Rob Zombie album for around five years, yet fast forward to 2013 and not only do we have new opus “Venomous Rat Regenerator Vendor” being released on his own Zodiac Swan imprint this year will also bear witness to his sixth feature film “The Lords Of Salem” a sinister collaboration with the producers behind chilling features “Paranormal Activity” and “Insidious”. When the phone finally rings there is long pause between Zombie’s P.R. checking we are good to go before the familiar drawl of Mr. Zombie reverberates down the transatlantic connection. “Three years ago I decided I had to rededicate myself to the music. I had been touring and performing but it almost felt like a side job at that point.” admits Zombie in response to enquiries about how he was able to focus on the two different aspects of his career. “On this album I wanted everything to be one hundred percent focused, like this was the first time we had ever done it. It made a big difference because you can’t be on ten for twenty five years. Our drummer upped and quit without any warning but rather than that bothering us it inspired us to think “You know what? Fuck him. We will regroup and move on and not look back. That was the catalyst for the rejuvenation of the band.”
Following Tommy Clufetos’ acrimonious departure, Zombie recruited former Marilyn Manson drummer Ginger Fish to complete the line up. Considering the revolving cast of freaks Rob has employed how important were Ginger’s contributions and what was it like having two former members of Marilyn Manson onboard? “Well John 5 has been in my band eight years which is longer than he was with Manson and Ginger has been with us two years so they fit right in. In a way it’s good because they already had a rapport with each other. The reason Ginger joined is of course because of John. Ginger had already quit Marilyn Manson and was sat at home so when Tommy left John suggested Ginger. I didn’t realize how good a drummer he was as his playing in Manson’s band didn’t highlight that. The other thing was whoever came into the band had to be a great showman in addition to being a great musician. You see some bands and you can tell that the guys onstage aren’t into it and are being told what to do and what to wear and it’s fucking boring. That’s why it was such a natural fit. The whole band is great at that. “
Showmanship is something Rob Zombie has always had an abundance of, yet behind the costumes and the spooky goings on is a very driven and focused entrepreneur who analyses every detail of his presentation almost obsessively. Rob’s new movie “The Lords Of Salem” see’s a release on April 26th. What attracted Rob to the script for this feature? “I’d planned to do this movie five or six years ago. Then Momentum films came to me with an offer. I had a low budget but total control. I wanted to do a really chilling supernatural movie.” Indeed while “The Lords Of Salem” is a chilling tale of witchcraft and Satanism, Zombie’s next film projects will surprise a lot of people. “I’m working on a movie called “The Broad Street Bullies”; it’s about the hockey team I supported as a kid, the Philadelphia Flyers. During the early seventies they kinda became the super villains of Hockey, the toughest meanest players around and very successful. The most important thing for any movie is to have great characters because then I can watch them do anything. I never wanted to just be a horror director I want to make great movies with great characters. I don’t want to be associated with just one genre if that’s possible. The genre doesn’t matter, it’s the style.”
Certainly while Zombie’s forthcoming film work will be a great departure stylistically, one constant in his films and music videos has been the appearance of his wife Sherri Moon. Did Sherri ever give Rob creative input? “Obviously she is privy to knowledge before anyone else about a project but I keep everyone out of the loop until it’s ready to bring people in. Whenever I have made music videos or films I want there to be a personal connection. Sherri is synonymous with my videos and is a part of their identity.” What makes such a theatrical performer prefer a role behind the camera rather than in front of it? “Even though I am onstage making a spectacle of myself, I hate being photographed and paid attention to. It’s kinda demented when you think about it. I have no desire to be watched in movies. Maybe someday if the right role came along. I’ve turned down some really cool stuff over the years.”
Indeed the reanimation of Rob Zombie manifests itself in the sleazy stripper grind of the album’s first single “Dead City Radio And The New Gods Of Super Town” and “Behold The Pretty Filthy Creatures”. While subtle and carefully spoken in person Zombie is in many ways the fiendish ringmaster macabre of this freakshow explosion delivering Godzilla size chorus driven tunes which make up this garish Satanic fairground which screams bigger, faster and freakier than ever before as Rob put it. “We wanted to make the weirdest record we could. If anything was too straight up we put it to one side and moved on. I wanted to make a dark, nasty rock ‘n’ roll freakshow record that the fans would love. “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor” features a cover of Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re An American Band”. Zombie has confined his cover versions to soundtracks in the past. What made him include this track on the album? “I wanted to do a song that was iconic and well known but where the band weren’t so active. If you do a Sabbath or Zeppelin cover it’s always going to fall short. Grand Funk Railroad was massive in America and that song is just about how fun and cool it is to be in a rock band.”
It’s encouraging to hear how passionate Zombie is about both music and movies. Are there any similarities when it comes to creating an album or a film? “They used to seem very different to me but with this album and film they were similar creatively in that I was working on them at my house in the middle of nowhere. The band came and stayed with me while we were recording and I worked on the movie in my barn in total seclusion so I was away from all the bullshit you get at movie studios with thousands of secretaries calling all the time. We worked on the record all day everyday and weren’t bothered by anyone.”
To date Rob Zombie has now sold over fifteen million records and grossed over 100 million dollars at the U.S. Box office. Not to mention having worked with greats like Slayer’s Kerry King, shock idol Alice Cooper and of course Ozzy. What new challenges does Rob foresee and what drives him to achieve his goals? “I just always feel hungry. Even when White Zombie came from being a garage band to getting our first gold record I was always asking, “Why isn’t it platinum? Why not triple platinum?” It’s the same now. I could win an academy award and I would want two! It’s a sickness that you get. We are playing big arenas but fucking Coldplay are playing at a bigger arena so I want to play there! It keeps you hungry and motivated but it drives you insane after a while.”
Zombie is nothing if not a perfectionist, while a larger than life monster man exists on stage off of it Rob is an astute businessman more concerned with preserving his artistic vision than living large. “No matter how great the band plays we get on the bus and analyze the show and what went wrong. Some bands come off stage go to the tour bus and get drunk but we sit up all night trying to find new ways to make the show more exciting. There are always so many props and outfits and we always have to top ourselves with more fire, robots, skeletons and stuff.” The devilman is clearly shaping up for what will be a wildly productive year. Regarding plans to tour the new album Rob had this to say. “You want blood and fire and Frankenstein and monsters and ghouls and dancing girls we’ll give it to you! When we come back we want to bring our biggest ever production. We have just got started really playing arenas in the U.K. and I think we can do a lot more production wise to make it fun for everyone!” “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor” is released on April 23rd and “The Lords Of Salem” April 26th.
Ruby Lounge Manchester – 5 December 2012
Seeing a sea of Down, Kylesa and Neurosis shirts suggests that this spectacle appeals to more than just floppy haired retro nerds. Opening acts Spiders are a slick clique combination of blues and sass that warm up the early crowd but never really ignites the pilot light. Singer Anne Sofie Hoyles has a strong stage presence but the rest of the band hid behind their frontwoman for most of the set. This was a shame because the raw blues of a young Fleetwood Mac, along with a healthy dose of Zeppelin, suggest bright things will come their way.
Swedish trad rockers Graveyard sauntered onto the stage politely enough with little fanfare. New record “Lights Out” has made an impression on fans of all ages with metal fans and older blokes who look like they’d be at home watching Credence Clearwater Revival.
While rooted in the past in terms of influence, Graveyard possesses an enduring appeal which resonates with a diverse audience.
Joakim Nilsson’s smooth yet gritty vocals grit carry earthy numbers like “Seven Seven” but a lack of variation in pace detracted from the bands impact at times. Furthermore great was the irritation provided by a couple of audience members stood at the front talking audibly during the quiet parts which detracted from the atmosphere. Disappointing fan behaviour aside, Graveyard are a workhorse who ploughed through regardless. The softly spoken Nilsson and company saw no need for much flamboyance just giving the fans a heads down set of sweet grooves and heady bootie shaking boogie rock. While their songs possess a broad appeal, they rarely reach out to grab you.
Having neither the Sabbath swagger of fellow Swedes Witchcraft nor the cocksure stomp of Rival Sons, Graveyard have some fine blues licks that improves more when they pick up the pace but that was largely absent tonight. Likewise the hefty dose of psyche allows for the tangent veering jams to give you time to get lost in the music but the band become far more intriguing when they break away from the crawl the majority of their material adopts.
The encore saw a great improvement with a rousing rendition of “The Siren” which hits at a more vigorous spirit within. Closing on lights outs second single “Evil Ways”, the Swedes turned up the heat towards the end but it proved too late for them to turn in much more than an above average performance.