Rob Zombie on colonizing Mars, octopi, and bonding with Alice Cooper
Rob Zombie is over stuff. Not pandemic issues-type "stuff"; actual objects. "I don't want anything," the 56-year-old singer and filmmaker says. "Imagine your whole life was in a backpack. That's the greatest feeling in the world. That's why I love being on tour. You have your suitcase, and that's all. After a while you go, 'This is all I need.'"
It's an odd statement from a man who seems very much a maximalist. His songs and stage shows are chock full of stuff: lyrics, sound effects, creatures. Even his arms are covered in colorful, intricate tattoos. But with Zombie, everything isn't as it appears.
In 2020, he and his wife, actress Sheri Moon, isolated at their Connecticut farm with their playful rescue goats and vintage TV shows for company. (Match Game 74 during breakfast; before bed, Hogan's Heroes and Perry Mason.) Zombie's diverse seventh studio album, The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy, was already complete by then, but that didn't mean Zombie was on his couch in pajamas for nine months.
"I try to always keep it the same: get up super early and keep my schedule," he says. That includes painting, writing songs, and making films — a venture that began in 2003 and kicked into high gear with 2007's Halloween. In short, he's just the Zombie next door, as proven in a lengthy interview that touched on flying cars (bad, because: texting), octopi, Zoom (he's done two; never again), colonizing Mars, and of course, music.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So The Lunar Injection was done by the time the pandemic started?
ROB ZOMBIE: Completely finished. The way I've been making records the last couple albums is I'll work on the record for a while — because in the old days you just totally sequester yourself — put it away, go on tour, come back, work on it again, go on tour. Sometimes I'd even go off and make a movie to get away from it [and then] come back. That way, you live with it longer. I used to hate back in the old days where it was, "Well, here's the eight weeks booked in the studio." I'm like, "What!?" By the time you get to track, it's like, "I'm out of ideas right now." But when you walk away, you always come back with a different idea that you wouldn't have done had you kept hammering away at it day after day after day.
On the new record, there are some lyrics that work as both literary and film references. For instance, Morlocks [from the song "18th Century Cannibals, Excitable Morlocks and a One-Way Ticket On the Ghost Train"] is from H.G. Wells' The Time Machine. Is that the book or movie?
Well, both. I read, but I mean, if you had to stack the amount of movies I've watched next to the amount of books I've read, it's quite the difference. When I was a kid I would read more. In the seventh grade, I read the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Now I don't think I'd be able to get through them. Oh my god, so many pages! But as a kid you had nothing better to do.
One of my favorites from the record is "18th Century Cannibals." It seems like there should be square-dancing cannibals in the video for that.
Every record has no plan, let's put it that way. It just starts. If I can remember properly, that song, we'll just have that "boom-chicka-boom-chicka-boom-chicka-boom" shuffle beat. I just threw the vocals over the beat, kind of like Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues." And we'll just build the music around it. Then [guitarist] John 5 will come in. Since he's so good at every style of guitar, we can go, "Oh, let's do some really authentic country pickin' on this one."
Meanwhile, "The Satanic Rites of Blacula" starts off sounding like the Bay City Rollers.
I always liked records that had a lot of variety. People like the song "King Freak" because it's heavy. Well, that's great. I love that, but I don't want 15 songs of that, and I don't think anyone else does either, because it gets boring. Something doesn't sound heavy unless it's mixed with something else that maybe isn't so heavy. You need to have an ebb and flow. Those are, to me, the best records over time, too, because you'll go, "Well, I used to hate that song, but now it's suddenly my favorite song, because I was sort of expecting it to be like this song, but then, you know…" That's why I always liked [the Beatles' white album], because it's so all over the place. The later Beastie Boys records are like that too. There's always surprises to be found in those records as the years go on.
Is that a sitar at the beginning of "Get Loose"?
Yeah, it's a sitar guitar that John borrowed from someone. It was really cool.
Are you into Middle Eastern sounds, or just how the Stones or Beatles used them?
Well, I think that's how, obviously, we all got exposed to it. The great moment in The Concert for Bangladesh when Ravi Shankar and his guys are onstage, and they're tuning their instruments, and when they're done the crowd applauds. Ravi's like, "Well, if you like the tuning that much, hopefully, you'll also enjoy the music."
I love bringing other instruments into things. Because guitar, bass, and drums are awesome. Like AC/DC. It's amazing that they can stick to that sound, keep coming up with songs within that pretty tight format. I couldn't do that. I don't think like that. I'm always like, "Let's get rid of the drums on this and just bang on a trash can. Let's see how that sounds." I like mixing it up.
You've talked about the influences on your Devil's Rejects film, which included Bonnie and Clyde, Wild Bunch, and Badlands. Some of those came out when you were just a little kid. What were your most formative years of absorbing culture?
I can remember by kindergarten being fully immersed in things. I had pictures of the Monkees hanging on the wall and the Partridge Family, and I would watch movies. By then I was really obsessed with things. I was always like, if it was on TV, it was goodbye me. I loved everything.
By second grade, the '70s, I remember bringing records to listen to at school. I'd bring in like an Alice Cooper record, another kid would bring a Cheech and Chong record. This is a bunch of second graders listening to it! So funny.
I figured you got an early start.
It's funny how you feel like you have something in common with somebody, even though you don't know them? I always felt that Alice Cooper — I loved his work, and he's super cool — but you feel some extra-strange kinship with this person, even though he's a superstar and I'm just some dopey kid in third grade.
When I finally met him, we'd start talking, and he was a very TV-obsessed person. He'd go, "I used to get up so early, and the only thing on TV" — because back then TV would come on and go off — "I'd watch the crop reports." I go, "No way! Alice, you're the only [other] person I ever heard [to do that]." I would get up before school and watch the crop reports, because it was literally the only thing on television. I didn't even know what they were talking about. But once they ended, Mighty Mouse came on or something. So we bonded on that weird crop reports thing.
There are also references on the record to the moon. Was that fascinating to you? Did you want to be an astronaut when you were 10?
No, not particularly. These days I kinda feel like going into space is a big waste of time and money. Because I look at things like that, and I don't know what people think today. They think that they destroyed the earth, and now they're going to go live in a bubble community on the moon? But it's funny because they'll go, like, "Oh my god, we think we found an amoeba that might signify there's water on Mars!" But then you see a whale jumping out of the ocean into the air, no one gives a s--t. What about that thing? You don't even know what's on this planet, and you take everything for granted. What was that great movie I just watched, about an octopus...
My Octopus Teacher?
Yes, yes. It's so fascinating, just the tiniest thing, and they'd be like, "Oh, let's go into space." I'm like [snorts] space. Give me a break. I get it for going up there, sending satellites for understanding weather patterns and things, but just the general trying to colonize another planet, that's because Issac Asimov or Gene Roddenberry came up with something. I always feel that science-fiction writers are sort of like prophets. They come up with something, and then the whole society gravitates towards what these guys just made up. You see it all the time. Why do we have these things? Because some guy wrote it in a story one day.
This interview has been edited and condensed