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Earlier this year, two of heavy rock's biggest performers, Rob Zombie and Marilyn Manson, took to performing on the same stage.
It's a combination that makes perfect sense. Throughout the '90s and into the 2000s, the two have dominated pop culture with their theatrical blend of heavy metal and pop, B-movie glee, and often controversial run-ins with the media and parental-concern groups. That the two would team up for the massive "Twins of Evil" tour is a given.
That their tour stop coincides with Phoenix's biggest metal festival of the year? Now, that's less expected, but it's a terrific boon to metal fans.
KUPD's Desert Uprising combines the "Twins of Evil" tour with this year's installment of the Rockstar Energy Drink Uproar Festival at Ashley Furniture HomeStore Pavilion, packing in a whole weekend of heavy sounds, the kind of "active rock" that's never gone out of style in Phoenix: Friday features Manson and Zombie, along with Buckcherry, Corey Taylor (of Slipknot), Redline Chemistry, All That Remains, New Medicine, Otherwise, and the Valley's own Digital Summer. Saturday takes a more melodic turn, featuring P.O.D., HellYeah, Godsmack, Fozzy, Adelitas Way, Shinedown, and more.
But even with the stacked lineup, the main attraction will no doubt be Friday's headliners.
"This kickoff show in Phoenix will be different from what we've done before," says Rob Zombie. "We're in the process of building a new show."
Zombie's guitarist, John 5, says that the stage setup will be worth the price of admission.
"There's something that's going to happen that I haven't seen yet; I've only heard about it," he says.
The grandiose backdrop fits Zombie's monster-car aesthetic. In addition to his musical career, Zombie's splattered his visions across the silver screen, directing cult horror flicks like House of 1,000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects, and two installments of the Halloween reboot. His next film looks to be different in tone from his previous work.
"It's a different, very dark, slow mind-fuck of a movie based more on psychology than violence," Zombie says. "Sort of in the realm of Rosemary's Baby." But he has no desire to tone down his sets, which promise to be explosive.
"Bands have become sort of conservative as the years have gone on, and those that were considered classic, they didn't think like that," he says, noting that his favorite tour was his first with Alice Cooper, a string of dates that found old-school rock 'n' roll production values very much at the fore. He hopes to recall that same enthusiasm for showmanship with his tour with Manson. "They would take influences from really weird places to get where they wanted to be."
"Also, it's hard to get people to leave the house nowadays, and they don't want to spend a lot of money to see a concert," adds John 5. "So we give you one hell of a show. This isn't our first rodeo."
Desert Uprising is a rare occasion, one where concert-goers can enjoy heavy music without the heavy heat. Rock festivals tend to occur in the middle of the summer here, amid sweltering 110-degree temps, including July's Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival.
But John 5 doesn't imagine that even extreme temperatures would deter people from showing up. "Even if I wasn't in one of the bands, I'd be showing up for the unbelievable lineup."
The show marks a return home for Digital Summer, which spent the summer touring in support of its new album, Breaking Point. Vocalist Kyle Winterstein says the lineup has him excited.
"Manson always has a certain captivating nature," Winterstein says. "What I love about this lineup overall is that every band taking the stage on both these days will simply bleed their music. Every performer will walk off stage dripping in sweat, physically and mentally exhausted."
It's Manson's "captivating nature" that's kept him in the spotlight.
"People expect me to be a 'shock rocker,' but there's nothing you can do anymore to be shocking," Manson told Revolver Magazine earlier this year. "All you can do is be confusing. Don't ever empty the bucket of mystery. Never let people define what you do."
Manson's set at Uprising will be packed with old favorites and accented with an array of picks from his newest album, Born Villain, a bluesy record unlike anything he's released. The record marked the end of Manson's longtime relationship with Interscope Records, and now he finds himself striking out on his own by forming his own label, Hell Etc.
The spirit of individuality extends to Zombie. He's signed with metal powerhouse Roadrunner Records these days and is gearing up to release a new record this winter. His setlist will be peppered with classics like "Dragula" and "Living Dead Girl," but it might feature a few peeks at the new material.
"The [new] album is the perfect combination of everything I've ever done. Just the rawness and craziness of early White Zombie, except now I have more complex songwriting skills," says Zombie. "It's, by far, the favorite thing I've ever done in my whole life."
Though Manson and Zombie share a similar place in the spectrum of pop music and metal (as well as a history regarding bandmates — John 5 and Zombie drummer Ginger Fish have both spent time in Manson's band), the shows will display their unique differences rather than try to cram their sets into "shock rock" boxes.
"There's a similarity in, say, the overall mindset [that Manson and I have], but our approach to bringing it to life is different," states Zombie.
Both Manson and Zombie want to write, record, and perform without worrying about "genres" or playing into the idea that their characters can't grow into new, exciting things.
"I never wanted — and still don't — to be part of a scene," Zombie says. "I think that sometimes bands start to look alike, sound alike . . . you know, maybe power in numbers?"
"But I think, ultimately, it's overruled by creativity."