Rob Zombie’s introduction came back in the mid-80s as a founding member of theatrical metal outfit White Zombie. He first went solo in 1996 — selling more than 3 million copies of his debut album – and has spent the last 20 years writing, directing, and producing horror films and hard rock alike.
Now, in advance of his sixth LP The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser, out Friday, EW met up with the 51-year-old to discuss the changing nature of the music industry, films he has on the horizon, and why he’s glad to have come up in rock when he did.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You’ve been making albums since White Zombie debuted in 1985. Do you still approach them the same way?
ROB ZOMBIE: I approach them all differently, based on the way that the industry changes every year: You have to deliver the same results in less time, with less money. The business is just always changing. Some aspects are better than ever and some are basically gone.
What’s better than ever?
We’re starting touring [today] and this will be the best year of touring, ever. It doesn’t matter if I used to be traveling with a platinum record, it’s better than ever now.
And what’s worse?
My manager always says, “We gotta just keep feeding the beast!” Your fanbase wants something new every day. It doesn’t have to be super awesome, it just has to be every day. You used to feel a certain excitement about a street day and when [a record] would hit. You’d do an in-store and 5,000 kids would show up and you would feel this energy. You don’t feel anything anymore because you can’t feel anything from your phone.
The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser is quite a title. How did you get there?
Usually we work on the record and put it all together and then someone else says, “Well, what does it sound like?” And you think of a title by saying, “Well, this is what it sounds like to me.” It’s as simple as that — or as complicated as that.
When you presented that to your manager or label, what did they say?
The label? The label doesn’t even exist. I’m really glad I got to be on a record label when it mattered. When we first signed to Geffen Records in the ‘90s, to go in and deal, everything was very relaxed — it wasn’t corporate. You would bounce from room to room, talk to the radio guy and this guy and that girl. It felt alive and organic. You knew every single person who was working on your record and if you had a party you’d invite them. It really felt like something was happening. Now it’s changed. People started rotating in and out of labels so quickly that you don’t know anyone’s name anymore and they probably don’t know yours — and they don’t care. It’s so sad, really.
Do you listen to other music when you’re recording?
We used to, but more of that was trying to make our records sound good. When you’re a struggling band you’re like, “Why do our records sound shitty when Metallica’s records sound awesome?” Oh, well, because they spent eight months and you spent eight minutes. But then you get over the hump of how to make things sound good.
Where does a song start for you?
We just force it. We set a date and we just start. And for the first week you pretty much have a bunch of crap — and then, slowly, you start getting there. It feels like you’re never going to finish the record until you get the first song done and then you go, “Okay we can make this happen again.”
This seems to be a very clear conversation about the evolution of rock n’ roll happening on the record. I’m thinking of “The Life and Times of a Teenage Rock God,” “Get Your Boots On! That’s the End of Rock and Roll,” and “Medication for the Melancholy.”
I feel like rock music is transitioning out of the culture. And it’s not like “Boo-hoo, rock music’s dead,” but music changes. The music scene is always driven by youth culture, and each generation wants their own culture, so…
As someone who has made rock music for many years at this point, how does that strike you if not in the “boo-hoo” sense?
I’m glad that I got to do things when I got to do them. If you were a brand new [rock] band now, it would be really daunting. Like, how do you reach people? How do you get a moment of impact like premiering on MTV when you could go from no one having heard of us to a big thing instantly — and that did happen with White Zombie. When MTV got on board, it exploded. We went from nothing to everything, instantly. Now it’s so fragmented. When it was less specific it was easier to discover things. That’s always the trick, though, people always think that they want more of the same but when they get more of the same, they’re like, “Well that’s f—ing boring.”
This year will go by quick. We’ll do the first run [of shows] and then the Korn run, and then we go to Europe and then it’s almost Christmastime. But then next year we have the Groucho Marx movie. We have a script for that, I’m just the hold-up.
How do you stay inspired?
It comes and goes. It’s not always there with the same intensity, sometimes you burn out. It’s only been in the last five years or so that I feel really inspired again — with this record and the last one. But we just keep making music because that’s what you did it for — you didn’t get into the business for any other reason and you don’t want to become just a greatest hits heritage act. I can’t do anything if I feel like the best days are behind me. Then it all becomes pointless.