ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, NOV. 12, 1998
By Steve Newton
Two months ago a press release from Universal Music hummed in on the Georgia Straight fax machine, bearing the news that White Zombie had “collectively decided to disband”. It seemed like quite a surprise at the time that the New York band’s 13-year career was over, but according to former White Zombie leader Rob Zombie, the breakup was actually a long time coming.
“It wasn’t like a sudden thing by any means,” reports Zombie from backstage in Madison, Wisconsin, “just a long, slow, gradual decay. Just like [sniff]—the band had been together for a long time, and just started falling apart after a while, just like every band does, usually [sniff].”
Zombie’s audible sniffles aren’t the result of his getting all choked up by sentimental thoughts of his old White Zombie pals—he’s just got a whopper of a cold. He claims that his solo-artist trip is better and more fun, and that his current show is more elaborate, than White Zombie’s ever was.
“It’s kinda the next level,” he says, which means that local hard-rock fans could be in for a twisted good time when his band plays the PNE Forum on Monday (November 16), with guests Monster Magnet and Fear Factory. On his debut solo disc, Hellbilly Deluxe—which was recorded in “Satan-O-Phonic” sound and is subtitled 13 Tales of Cadaverous Cavorting Inside the Spookshow International—the Zombie man goes the full horror-rock route with tunes like “Demonoid Phenomenon”, “Living Dead Girl”, “How to Make a Monster”, and the CD’s debut single and video, “Dragula”.
It’s no surprise that his biggest musical influence is Alice Cooper, who took fright-rock to towering new heights in the early ’70s. Cooper also used to go the extra mile with his elaborate album packaging, and Zombie carries on the tradition with Hellbilly Deluxe’s 24-page booklet, which includes artwork by the likes of master monster painter Basil Gogos and Marvel Comics legend Gene Colan, as well as Zombie himself.
“I try to do everything that I remember liking as a kid,” says Zombie, who is depicted in two photographs with the same black top hat and eye makeup the Coop favoured during his Billion Dollar Babies phase.
Zombie isn’t the only rocker to make successful use of the diabolical, Mom’s-worst-nightmare approach these days. Marilyn Manson has also struck it rich striking fear into the hearts of goody two-shoes types everywhere. So what does Zombie—who has a Charles Manson–type X “carved” between his eyes on the cover of Hellbilly Deluxe—think of the current Marilyn craze?
“I think he’s pretty interesting,” he states. “There’s so much boring stuff going on that anything that gets your attention’s a good thing.”
The Moral Majority would argue that point, of course, but to heck with them. Zombie claims he’s not in competition with Manson to see who can be the most shocking rocker on the scene today. “I don’t even try to be shocking,” he says, “I just do what I like. If I was just trying to be shocking I’d be a lot more shocking [sniff].”
Shocking or not, Zombie has certainly managed to garner his fair share of attention since the 1992 release of White Zombie’s major-label debut, La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Vol. One. The band’s biggest hit, “More Human Than Human”, has been included in more than a dozen films, including The Cable Guy, Broken Arrow, Turbulence, and The Long Kiss Goodbye. It just seems like the ideal churning noise to accompany footage of axe-wielding heroes rising from flame-covered water to punish bad guys.
“It’s always poppin’ up,” says Zombie of the overused hit from 1995’s double-platinum Astro-Creep: 2000. “It was just in a movie about a week ago, that new Kurt Russell movie, Soldier.”
“More Human Than Human” isn’t just popular with the lowbrow-cinema set, though; it received a Grammy nomination for best hard-rock performance. In fact, White Zombie was nominated for five Grammys, although its former leader never managed to take any of the shiny statuettes home. You’d think that might make a scary guy like Zombie want to rip the spleens out of those five-time teasers at the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. But he couldn’t be bothered.
“I don’t care,” he says of the elusive Grammys. “I mean, they don’t mean anything. It’d be nice to win, it’s nice to lose, doesn’t matter.”