Rob Zombie Q&A: Rocker and filmmaker talks Slayer tour, new movie, and the legend of Mick Jagger
Two nights ago, Rob Zombie turned the summertime volume up to 11 by kicking off his co-headlining tour with shred legends Slayer in Reading, Pennsylvania.
But the multi-talented Zombie has quite a few tentacles in a number of different pies at the moment, so when we caught up with him a few weeks ago, he ran down the seemingly ever-growing list of projects he’s currently advancing.
Entertainment Weekly: The last time we talked, you were also working on a tour and getting movie stuff together at the same time. Can we safely call you a workaholic?
Rob Zombie: I like to have a lot of projects going at once because I work in a very kind of schizophrenic manner. So if I ever get stuck on something, I can just to the next thing and the next thing. It’s kind of a blessing and a curse because at the same time, I hate working that way. I’m like “Boy, if I could just focus on one thing…” but then I’m always afraid if you’re only focusing on one thing and if the one thing falls apart, you’re like “Now what?” It’s sort of a paranoia.
You’ve played with Slayer before in the past, going back to the White Zombie days. Were you a fan before you worked with them?
I was a fan before we opened but not for long time. I was never a crazy metal fan. I saw them at the Felt Forum in New York on one of the early shows on the South of Heaven tour. That’s when I really was blown away by the show and the insane intensity of the whole thing.
Is it inspiring to you that they can still put out that kind of energy all these years later?
It’s not really inspiring to me because we’re all the same age. So I’m not inspired by that. I’m inspired if I watch the Rolling Stones. I think, “Holy f—, Mick Jagger is almost 70 and look at the energy that guy’s got.”
Is that going to be you? Will we be able to see you live at 70?
Who knows? I mean, there’s very few people that have that. Probably not, because when I’m together with all the guys from Slayer, everybody’s just sitting around talking about how much their necks hurt. Mick Jagger is just possessed. People take for granted that they don’t even understand how great it is sometimes. Like when the Stones played the Super Bowl and everyone complained about it. Give me a f—ing break! You work that f—ing stage the size of a football field when you’re 66 years old, and we’ll see if you come out alive. It’s a phenomenon.
I think of metal as such an indoor thing, but you’re doing a lot of amphitheaters and festivals this summer. What’s the secret to playing outdoors?
Those shows can be trickier because you’re dealing with a crowd that has been in the sun, and for some of those festivals, you get people that have been standing in line since early in the morning, already drunk, and you’re like, “Oh my God, is that guy even gonna be conscious hours from now when we go on?” And the answer is probably no. So for me the real key to making these festivals work is you gotta bring a real show. After these people have been standing around for eight or nine hours, you have to get them out of their seats because they’re beat, they’re tired, and you can look at them and go “These people have got about another 45 minutes left in them and then they’re gonna pass out,” so you really gotta beat them right to the end with what they can handle. I don’t even know how people can handle it half the time. We did the Mayhem Festival last summer and just looking at people standing in 110 degree weather all day long, I would have been like, “You know what? I’m going home.” But God bless ’em.
Every time I see you play, I’m always hoarse for three days after because I shouted along to everything. How do you preserve your voice?
I have to rehearse, and I just build it up, and eventually it just gets to point where we could play every single night for years and it wouldn’t matter. I love playing every night, but the crew hates it. Sometimes some bands play one day on, one day off, or a couple shows a week, but we’ll be like “Yes, book 14 shows in a row! Who cares? We just want to play!” But the crew usually is like, “Well, we would like a day off.” So yeah, I feel one day I’ll just lose my voice and it’ll be gone.
Your next film is called The Lords of Salem. What’s the status? Is there a script?
Oh yeah, there’s a script. We’re in early pre-production. It’s a very effects-heavy production so the effects guys have already been working for about a month. We go into heavy prep after the Slayer tour. And then we’ll shoot it. I pushed it back a little because I wanted to shoot it in the fall. I was waiting for a particular time of year to add to the mood of the picture. It’s a very different set-up than usual. I’m working with the guys who did the Paranormal Activity movies and they just did Insidious and they have a different structure so you can kind of do things over a longer period of time. I only had one other time when I was able to do something like that and that was with The Devil’s Rejects and it made for such a better experience. It makes for a better movie too, cause you can think straight and not be crazed all the time.
Does it have a release date?
Not yet. It’ll be some time in 2012. On the last two movies I made, we had a release date before we even started, so we were instantly behind before we even started. And these guys are like, “Why don’t we release it when it’s done?”
What a novelty!
It’s great. Both Halloween movies were basically taken from me before I thought we were done. I remember sitting at both premieres watching them, thinking “I don’t even remember leaving that in” or “I thought we cut that out” because the turnaround had to be so fast. I originally pitched them shooting both movies back to back, and I wanted to basically make part one young Michael Myers and part two adult Michael Myers. I told them, “Look, we’re already set up. We could save a fortune, we could just shoot an extra couple weeks or whatever and it’d be great,” but they didn’t want to do it, of course, because that would involve having faith in the project. And then we had to turn around Halloween 2 crazy fast. Once we were getting ready to start, we were supposed to release it in October and then they shoved the release date back to August. So we already had a psychotic schedule and then they took three months off an already psychotic schedule. Basically, we were shooting and then two days later editing and then shoving it into screens. It was crazy. Definitely the way you don’t want to make movies.
How did you get hooked up with Steven Schneider, Jason Blum and Oren Peli? Who came to who?
They came to me and said, “We’d like to work with you, and these are the types of things we’ve been doing. Do you have anything like that?” I had started writing Lords of Salem years ago and never finished it. I have a lot of ideas but I usually don’t finish them unless they’re actually going to get made, and this idea is a more psychological thriller-type horror movie, so it fit the bill for them.
You’ve said this will be the bleakest movie you’ve ever made. There’s no way that’s true.
Oh yeah, by far. I don’t know if it will be when it’s done, but the script is very dark. It’s a different type of movie. The other movies have been very physically violent, but this is a more supernatural, psychological sort of dark mindf—-type movie.
Did you like Insidious?
I saw a screening of it before they were done, so I don’t know what they changed, but I really liked it.
It was pretty amazing how much they were able to do with so little money.
Well, the thing is about movies the hidden cost of things. When I was making the Halloween movies, there was so much hidden cost. Like well, this guy gets paid for his rights and this guy gets paid for his rights and this money goes to this and that and you look at the budget and go “Wow, I can just take that three or four million dollars and flush it down the toilet, none of that is going anywhere.” They had tried to make those Halloween movies so many times, and had failed. But then when I finally came in to make mine, they added the cost of all the scripts that they had paid for that they had never made onto my budget. It’s weird, I had essentially the same amount of money for Halloween as I did for The Devil’s Rejects. The extra that I had was all wasted. Blew into the wind.
Let me ask you about one idea that seems to be on hold: Is Tyrannosaurus Rex going to happen some day?
It’ll happen eventually. I don’t have a deal for it, but that was supposed to be my movie I did after Halloween and then it never happened. For some reason in the last six months or so, everybody seems incredibly interested in it again. So the goal is to make that the next movie after The Lords of Salem. I don’t know if it will be, because it’s such a weird business. But Tyrannosaurus Rex has always been my pet project that I’ve always wanted to make. It’s the movie I’ve been dying to make forever.
You also directed a commercial for Woolite, which seems like a strange fit for you.
That stuff just kind of pops up now and then. I did that, and I did an episode of CSI: Miami, and I directed a special for Comedy Central, and they all came from people just saying, “Hey, you want to do this?” I was going to direct an episode of Californication, but I couldn’t because I was going to be on tour or something. It’s cool. I like doing things that are different. I wanted to direct an episode of television just to see what it was like. I like the idea of directing a TV commercial to see what it’s like because it’s a different world. One thing about being a director is you don’t get to direct a lot. You could have years in between films, whereas an actor, or a cameraman, you may work a couple weeks and go onto the next movie and the next movie. These guys will come in and they’ll have 15 credits in between my two because of the amount of time that they’re tied up is so short compared to the director. So it’s nice to get out there and keep doing it. Every time you do a job you learn new tricks and new things, so it’s always cool.
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