Rob Zombie is now a force to be reckoned with in the world of heavy metal and cinema, and his footing is only growing stronger. Starting with White Zombie and solo albums like Hellbilly Deluxe and Educated Horses and continuing with his decade as a film director and screenwriter, Rob Zombie has thrilled and influenced fans and fellow artists since the '80s.
His newest album, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, was released on April 23, right alongside his newest film (and book), Lords of Salem, which hit theaters April 19. Recently we were able to talk to him about both.
When it comes to film, Rob Zombie has easily spent a decade doing the devil's work. His love for all things horror, particularly the down-and-dirty chillers from the '70s and early '80s, gives his films a unique stylistic experimentation. But Lords is a departure from cult classics like the lovably sadistic Devil's Rejects and the animated romp The Haunted World of El Superbeasto.
It's set in Salem, Massachusetts, where a flashback to witches being burned at the stake while cursing the town sets the tone for a radio DJ, Heidi (Zombie's wife, Sheri Moon), who plays a record and seals her fate as the portal for Satan's spawn.
Read More: Rob Zombie faces his fans and his art.
Up on the Sun spoke with Rob Zombie about his favorite scenes from Lords of Salem, his biggest creative challenges, and the possibility of his new album becoming a movie.
Last summer when we spoke, you said that this album is opening a new chapter in your life and it could be titled something like "The Final Act." So how did an outrageous title like Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor come about?
I really don't remember. At some point during the recording of the record I came up with that and wrote it down. Then toward the end of the record . . . I usually title the record toward the end, because once I hear the music, I get the vibe of the album and come up with what it should be called. I saw that title, and I don't remember doing it or what made me think of it, but I just thought, "That's it! That's the title!"
So it must hint at some crazy concept.
Well, the concept is quite secretive at this point, and I can't get into it.
[Laughs] Well, I can't tell anyone. The band doesn't even know!
You also said this new album was possibly going to be a record that could turn into a movie. Do you see Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor as that record?
I would love to, [but] I don't know when or how that's ever possible. It could be 20 years, who knows?
Is there a track that was more challenging than others to make, or is there a favorite you have?
Well, for some reason my favorite is "Ging Gang Gong." I just like that song for some reason. It was an easy song to do, and it was just a free-sounding song. There were a lot of mistakes and I left them in. It was just chaos.
The most difficult song, for some reason, was "White Trash Freaks." We came up with that groove and I thought it would be easy. But for some reason it just went on and on and on. We kept re-recording it, changing the vocals, changing the chorus. I was losing my mind writing that song; I don't know why, though.
I particularly love "Rock and Roll in a Black Hole," and the slower breakdown at the end of "The Girl Who Loved the Monsters."
"Rock and Roll" was the last song written for the record. The band had left and it was just me and the producer, and we had the studio for one more day. And I thought I wanted to do one more song. I knew we had this synth-y loop-type thing we'd never used that I'd always liked. And that whole song was put together and recorded one afternoon super- quick, just before they started packing up the studio and shipping off the equipment.
And sometimes . . . You know, you labor over songs that no one ever cares about, and then other times you whip one up in one afternoon and everyone loves it.
Did going from the movie to the album make the transition easier for you when it came to the creative process?
It did make it easier. There was no downtime from going to one creative project to the next. Sometimes you do something and you take an extended break and it can be hard to fire that back up, and sometimes not taking a break will also exhaust you, but in this case I came right off tour, the band was hyped up, we started working, and it just sort of kept everything alive. It was good.
What was your favorite scene to create from Lords of Salem?/strong>
I think one of my favorite scenes was . . . there's a scene where Heidi finally goes into Room 5, and she's got the skull face on, she walks up this grand staircase, and there's this demon guy at the top of it.
That was one of my favorite scenes because it was completely improvised. We'd set up to shoot a completely different thing, but we ran out of time; we'd been filming all night, and we started shooting that at 5 or 6 a.m., when the sun was coming up. I knew we had no time left, so I just reconceived a completely different scene on the spot and it became one of my favorite things.
You've said that growing up in New England, it was hard not to live by a cemetery. Did you channel anything from your childhood for the movie?
I don't know if I channeled anything, but it was just the memory of New England and how it felt. You know, you get used to living in California or somewhere else, and you just forget.
But Massachusetts just had that vibe. We filmed it in October, and the skies were always dark and gray all day long. It was cold and rainy. You have these cobblestone streets and these old buildings and there is just such a history there. It really seeped into the film.
I read somewhere that a specific moment you recall from childhood is when you discovered the white slabs your barbecue sat on were actually broken gravestones.
That's right. [laughs]
So since this is your 10th year as a filmmaker, if you had to choose one of your films so far that you feel is the strongest of your career, which would it be? I thought Devil's Rejects was my most complete vision at that moment in time. And then I really loved Halloween II; a lot of Halloween fans had a problem with it; but I really loved the movie. And now Lords of Salem I really love.
It's either Devil's Rejects or Lords of Salem, though, I think, because they both came from a really original place that wasn't based on anything that had been created before.
Who are some of your influences in film as far as writers, directors or individual movies, horror or otherwise?
There's a pretty wide variety. It jumps all around. As far as directors, I love a wide range--Werner Herzog, Martin Scorsese, John Huston, Lars Von Trier. There's so many amazing directors. They all seep into me somewhere along the way.
And as far as individual movies?
Yeah, sometimes you just want to immerse yourself in a certain type of film if you know that's where you're heading. My next movie is Broad Street Bullies, so I've been watching a lot of sports movies. Not that any of them really have the feeling of what I want to do, but just so you're in that mindset. [And] King Kong influenced me a ton as a child.
How do you feel about the state of horror today compared to what it was when you first discovered it?
Well when I started loving it, I don't even think I called it horror. They were monster movies -- Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman . . . they were monster movies and we loved the monster. As time has gone on, that's changed a lot; you don't even see monster movies. They barely exist. It's a bummer.
Do you think you'll ever do a monster movie?
No. I'm not really thinking of doing anything . . . Lords of Salem is my last sort of horror-genre related film for a really long time.
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Oh, wow. So for Broad Street Bullies, what's your vision for that film now?
I'm not sure yet. I keep describing it as, uh, Rocky meets Boogie Nights. Because it's a very sort of uplifting, crazy . . . the feeling of Rocky with the characters of Boogie Nights is almost the way it plays in my mind.
Rob Zombie will be playing on the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Tour this summer.