Songwriter, filmmaker, musician and all-round gore-creator extraordinaire Rob Zombie is, frankly, a fucking legend (yes, he’s officially Robert Cummings but forget that – Zombie forever!). He needs no introduction, but if you haven’t heard of him, set aside at least an hour, go to Google and meet his daunting back catalogue of work. His latest film, The Lords Of Salem, was paired with the release of his fifth solo record, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor. It had been three years since Zombie last released an album, but filmmaking takes a damn long time.
Some Zombie fans felt as though they’d lost him a little to the movie world, while others have loved the creative crossover. Either way, Zombie admits music has been more fulfilling for him over the past few years than it was before. “I think, musically, that everything has been going great for probably the past four years. The biggest problem I was having before was that the movies were taking me away from music for such long stretches of time. Even a long record – like six months, which hardly anyone does anymore – seems like a while but when you look at films, from the time someone says they have an idea for a movie, to financing, to making it and then seeing it on the screen, it can be anywhere from two years to ten years.”
The music industry and the film industry are two unique beasts – and beasts they truly are. They can literally make or break you (but when they break you they can also break your children and unborn grandchildren – bless ’em). “I need a break from both of them,” says Zombie when asked which industry he finds more draining. “I enjoy music and I enjoy movies but I can’t say that I enjoy the people. The bigger the business the more assholes involved. I used to think there were scumbags in the music business but until you get into the movie business you ain’t seen nothin’. The movie business can be despicable – and I don’t wanna name names, but there used to be directors that I loved as a kid that I got to know as friends, and I used to wonder why they didn’t seem to care anymore. Then I realised it’s just sucked the life out of them; you see really talented people treated like shit.”
Zombie has sat in the director’s chair for half a dozen films, and while he doesn’t feel his films have informed his music in any specific way, he does reckon they helped rekindle the spark. “Films have definitely made me more appreciative of music and of touring and of that world. If you do one thing for so long you take it for granted and for me, by going into movies and into that world – which is a much more stressful world – it made me re-evaluate the music industry and it’s always a relief to come back to it.”
For Zombie and his army of musicians, this latest album was recorded in a completely refreshing way. “There were just so few outside influences,” he says. “Usually every record that was ever made was made in California in a recording studio, with all the same people coming in and out and all this bullshit going on. We made this record at my house – I kinda live in the country so the band kinda sequestered themselves there – so for the first time ever we had no outside influences. What spurred that on was that we were watching the documentary on the Rolling Stones making Exile On Main St. and we realised that’s what we should do; we should get away from everybody and just make this record.”
So is everyone on the album staying on as the touring lineup? “I say this all the time – and it never comes true – but this lineup has been together for a long time and I don’t see any reason why anyone would leave the band, but then again who knows?” he laughs. “I never see it coming when it happens; I’ve never fired anyone, they just find something else to do, or people can just get weird, you know?”
With a massive catalogue of films and albums behind him, Zombie is nowhere near slowing down. “I have a million ideas and I feel like there’s just not enough time to do them. I mean, we’re already talking about recording the next record. It’s the same with movies but things just take a lot of time and that’s kind of a bummer. That’s why I’m always working, because I feel like I’ve just gotta get the next thing done. I feel like if I’m not creating something new then the day has been wasted.”
For some artists, creation is all about the illusion of immortality – that their art will be their mark on the world – but for Zombie his motivation is simpler than that. “It’s just the act of creation for me,” he says. “The greatest feeling you can have is to have this weird idea and then however many years later you’re sitting in a theatre and it’s right there on the screen, or you’re with your band and someone plays a tiny riff and suddenly you jump ahead and you’re onstage and you’re playing this song that everyone knows. That’s the exciting part.”
BY KRISSI WEISS
Rob Zombie plays Soundwave Festival 2014 with Green Day, Avenged Sevenfold, Alice In Chains, Placebo, AFI, Korn, Newsted and more at Sydney Olympic Park on Sunday February 23. Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor out now through Universal.