Rob Zombie Talks Mayhem Fest, Visual Elements of His Music, Classic Horror Films + More
Smack-dab in the middle of the 2013 Mayhem Festival, we scored ourselves an interview with the fest’s headliner, Rob Zombie. It’s always a treat to speak with horror rock’s biggest name and this occurrence was no different.
During our chat with Zombie, the icon spoke about headlining Mayhem Fest, integrating new material into his current set, how he sees his tracks in a visual manner, comparing the ‘White Zombie’ film to ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’ and much more.
Check out our exclusive interview with the one and only Rob Zombie.
Mayhem fest is off to a great start already. You’ve obviously got a such a incredible stage set-up. What’s it like to have the curtain drop with you atop a giant pulpit?
It’s great. I mean, it’s kind of funny because you just never know what’s going to happen every night — it’s a surprise. It drops and that’s really the first time I’ll see the audience and see what’s going to happen. The main thing, I guess, going through my mind is, “I hope it drops.” [Laughs]
Regarding your stage set-up, are there any bands that you’ve gone and seen that make you think, “Damn, I need to top these guys.”?
Not really. I’ve never seen Rammstein, so maybe if I saw them I would say that. I’ve seen videos and obviously their show is crazy, insane. As far as big stage shows go, it’s usually stuff like U2 — they have an insane stage show. I went to see the Rolling Stones recently in London and to put some perspective on it, they were playing at the O2 arena in London and we were playing it the following night and we had a bigger stage set up than the Rolling Stones, it looked like. So, you know, it’s not that often. I mean, I remember even back in the day with White Zombie, on a day off going to see KISS and thinking like, “Oh man, I’m gonna be embarrassed once I see the KISS show compared to our show.” But I was like, “I think we have more pyro than KISS!:
It really seems like the only other acts that put out huge shows are the pop acts. Probably one of the biggest stage shows I saw was a video for that guy Psy with ‘Gangnam Style.’ F—ing nuts stage show. [Laughs]
Slipknot’s stage show is pretty awesome.
Yeah, Slipknot. Every time I’ve seen them they haven’t had the crazy show, but they are the crazy show, so they don’t even need it.
You’re playing quite a few songs from the new album such as ‘Teenage Nosferatu P–sy’ opening your current set. When you were putting together that song, did you always have in mind that it would work so well as an opening number?
I always thought it would, actually. I remember when we were putting the set together and I was talking to my manager and he asked, “What are you gonna open with?” and I told him ‘Teenage Nosferatu P–sy’ and he was like, “Really? Why would you play that?” I go, “Trust me, it’ll work.” I just had a feeling, you know? It’s kind of like when we did ‘Jesus Frankenstein’ from the last record. I like having that sort of big, droning song to open with. Because I think it just sets the tone, sets the groove. If you come out too fast and big it’s almost like the audience can’t take it all in. You kind of just want to ease into it. It’s been a struggle trying to figure out the set list, we’ve literally changed it every single night and we’re changing it again tonight.
I’m really finding a hard balance between … I just don’t know what to play anymore. The crowd has become so diverse for us that when you play some of the old classic songs, you can see the young kids and they’re like, “What are they playing?” Because, you know, if you play an old White Zombie song they look at you like, “What’s that?” And then you play a brand new song and they go f—ing nuts, which is a great problem to have. lt’ll get confusing because you’re playing songs that are almost written 25 years apart. I never want the band to just be kind of like a classic rock band where you’re just trudging out all the old songs from the good ol’ days. And maybe the good ol’ days weren’t that good anyway. [Laughs]
The new album ‘Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor’ feels very visual to me. Has making movies allowed you to create music in a more visual manner?
I don’t know, I can’t really say. I don’t think so. I feel like I always thought of music visually, always. More so than musically, and that was in the early days. When trying to describe stuff, as a song was coming together, I could picture the stage, I could picture the video, I could picture it as one giant package — something like ‘Dragula’ or ‘Living Dead Girl’ and people were always like, “I don’t get it.” I’m like, “Wait until it’s all put together, you’ll get it.”
I think maybe, if anything, and I don’t even know if this is true, but I get the question a lot so I think about it. The movies may have influenced my idea of pacing. You think of a movie in three acts, it’s a three act structure and I kind of think of the show that way too. You know, it’s sort of an act one, then act two, then act three you want to be the big climax of the show. I think we always kind of naturally did that, but I kind of look at it that way.
‘Ging Gang Gong’ seems to becoming another new fan favorite. Was that sort of intended to be a twisted homage to those vintage, campy, good wholesome fun, let’s all head out to the beach and dance type of song?
I never thought about that. I don’t think I ever done anything that’s supposed to be a homage to anything. You know, you just sort of start writing songs and they just sort of fall together. And I just remember coming up with that, I remember we were recording, we took a lunch break, I remember sitting there, I didn’t have any lyrics for the chorus yet — I was still working on the song. And that phrase just sort of popped into my mind. I thought, “Oh yeah, that would be cool.”
I always liked songs that were ridiculous sometimes where you could take a ridiculous phrase like “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” or “Doo doo doo, Dah dah dah dah” and somehow it becomes catchy it seems like it now is something because you start attaching your own craziness to it. As soon as everyone is like, “That’s the stupidest title. It’s ridiculous,” then I think, “Oh, now I know it’s good.” As soon as people single it out, even if they tell you they don’t like it, you know you got their attention with it, so that’s the hardest part. Once you’ve won that battle it’s all good.
A lot of your work, or parts of your work, have revolved around the actual ‘White Zombie’ film and ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.’ I’ve always wanted to know, which one of those two is your favorite?
I love them both. I really like silent movies, I’m a big fan of silent movies. Actually, the louder movies get, the more I like silent movies because they’re so visual. ‘White Zombie’ is a great film, I mean, I really do like it. I think next to ‘Dracula’ it’s probably Bela Lugosi’s best film. I like them both for different reasons, but I really love the look of ‘Caligari.’ It’s just so unique. I love that the whole world is sort of this weird, forced perspective, expressionistic thing that you just don’t see in movies now. I hate movies now.
I was watching TV last night and they showed a clip from that movie ‘Red 2.’ So now when you gather Helen Mirren, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman together, this is what you get? A movie that should have starred Jean-Claude Van Damme? Like, what the f— happened to movies? It’s strange what’s going on.
Our thanks to Rob Zombie for taking the time to speak with us. Stay tuned for Part 2 of our interview, in which Zombie discusses his upcoming Great American Nightmare festival. For the full list of 2013 Mayhem Festival tour dates, click here.