Rob Zombie (© Rick Fagan)
The shock-rock multitasker discusses his EDM remixes, touring with Marilyn Manson and his celluloid salute to the Philadelphia Flyers
By Adrien Begrand
Special to MSN Music
Rob Zombie is a busy guy these days. In early August he issued "Mondo Sex Head," a fun new collection of remixed tracks threaded with electronic dance music elements. He's currently ensconced in the studio with his band recording the follow-up to 2010's "Hellbilly Deluxe 2." He has a big co-headlining U.S. tour with Marilyn Manson set for the fall. His latest horror movie as director, "The Lords of Salem," is slated for release sometime in 2013, and he's just signed on to direct "The Broad Street Bullies," a film based on the legendary Philadelphia Flyers hockey team of the 1970s. And then there are those terrific ant bait commercials he keeps making.
Given only 12 minutes to talk to this shock-rock Renaissance man (that's right: Yours truly was directed to keep it to 12 minutes), it's impossible to ask Rob Zombie about everything he's got on his plate, but in the short time he had with MSN, he was more than glad to chat about what could be fit in.
MSN Music: So tell us how the new remix album came about.
Rob Zombie: Of course we did one in 1996 ["Supersexy Swingin' Sounds"], we did one in 2001 [actually, 1999's "American Made Music to Strip By"] & I actually kind of dig the idea of it. I got a little tired of it at the time: I'd felt that that sort of thing had run its course. And then recently it felt as if there had been a resurgence of it, and that's how the idea came up to do it. And remix albums are super-simple. Very little work for me. Talk to other people and make them do all the work [laughs].
Was it also a case of contractual obligation?
No, actually. Unfortunately, I wish it was. Anytime that I've had a long-term record deal, remix records and live albums don't count [laughs].
What is it about your music that lends itself so well to remixes?
It's most likely the fact that there's always a strong groove within the songs. No matter how heavy the song is, or not, I always like there to be a groove. That's the one thing I've always needed to have, because a lot of times metal and hard rock loses that groove and becomes all about aggression and heaviness. So when guys to go in and remix, it makes it easier because the original pieces that they're working from have all been recorded to some sort of groove.
Is there one remix on the album that you're most pleased with?
I like a bunch of them for different reasons. I like the ones that vary the most from the original songs, because I've heard the original songs a million times. One I actually like is the "Living Dead Girl" remix [by Photek], just because it was really far off the path of the original, expanded to a seven-minute epic. I know there are some fans that don't get it, but that's OK [laughs].
So how cool is it for you to be finally teaming up with Marilyn Manson?
It'll be great. We've played shows together & not that many, but we have, just not for a long time. I think a tour was always discussed, we floated it about in the air, but we just never got down to doing it. It's a great pairing. There are not many acts that you can find that are really suitable matches. It makes for a great tour.
It's an interesting combination, because even though you both fall under the shock-rock umbrella, your approaches to shock rock are quite different. How well do you think the vibe of each set will complement each other
I think it'll work because we're different. Sort of like when Alice Cooper and I did a co-headlining tour together. We're very different, sort of under the same umbrella, but the way we approach it is very different. For the most part, 90 percent of the audience will be fans of both acts, but they're not going to get two full sets of exactly the same thing.
As for the new record, how will it differ from "Hellbilly 2"?
It's very different. It's hard to describe just how or why it's different, but to me it's a little bit of everything I've done in 25 years. It's kind of a throwback to an older sound in a way. More of the craziness that was prevalent on White Zombie records back in the day, but a slightly different songwriting approach. And the combination of the two worlds works really well.
My mind went back in time as I was working -- sometimes you want to go back and reacquaint yourself with not your own work but other work by other people who inspired you or whatnot. It just got me fired up. And I'm doing this locked away. Usually when I make records in California where there are people around and they can bother you, whether it's record label people or whoever. This time we went off into the middle of nowhere to make the record, so there are no outside influences getting in the way.
It's 100 percent, all day long about the record. In the early days of being a band you could do that because you really don't have anyone to interrupt you, but as you get more success, there are always more interruptions. Getting away from that really changed the sound, I think & we've created an atmosphere that's more conducive to creativity.
Right now, how does the vibe in the studio compare to when you made the last record?
For me, I hate making records. I always hate making records; I never want to be there. This is the first time I've made a record where every morning I can't wait to finish breakfast so I can get to the record and start working. That's a different thing. I think that's because creatively it feels like it's exploding and you just want to get it down before it leaves your brain. It's weird: We're re-energized and re-inspired.
Of course you're very active with the filmmaking, but the one thing I wanted to ask you about was the Broad Street Bullies movie you're working on. How did you get involved in that? Are you a Flyers fan?
Someone who was a fan of my work and owned the rights to the story came to me to see if I would be interested, because they thought that with my sensibility, with what they'd seen in my movies, [I] would be perfect for this movie. And I thought, great, because as a kid growing up, I was a huge hockey fan in the '70s. Growing up on the East Coast, I loved the Bruins, I loved the Flyers, I was too young to worry about the rivalries between teams. And especially with Bobby Clarke, I thought he was so cool as a kid. So I'm totally all about it, I think it's going to be great. It's such a time period for that sport; it doesn't exist anymore. It's just the type of thing I've been looking for.
Which actors would you most want to portray the likes of Bobby Clarke or Dave Schultz?
That's a tricky one. Do you find skaters who can act, or actors who can skate [laughs]?
Yeah, exactly. They're not all Paul Newman.
And I think you actually have to cast people who are older than the real people were, because when you look at the pictures of those players back then, they don't look like they're 25 years old; they look like they're 40 years old. They don't look like kids. Which is good for me, because I'd rather cast older actors with a little more grit to 'em.
How challenging will it be to get that movie right? Because there really hasn't been a great hockey movie since "Slap Shot."
I think what's great about it is that it's not just a sports movie, like "Slap Shot" wasn't just a hockey movie. I think if you're willing to develop the characters and the eccentricities of those characters, that's what makes it great. That's what makes any sports movie great. That's what makes "Rocky" great.
It's not like the boxing scenes are that great. But you're so invested in the characters that it's like the greatest boxing match you've ever seen. And I think what happens now is that they forget the character stuff and they just want to get to the sports stuff, and you don't care what you're watching. So I think that's a big part of it. That's the main thing: It's more about these crazy characters and what they accomplished rather than exciting hockey moments that you can watch on NHL.com.
Adrien Begrand's extensive writing about metal music has been published in such magazines as Decibel, Metal Edge, Terrorizer, Sick Sounds, Dominion and Metallian, and online at PopMatters.com and Hellbound.ca. A metal enthusiast for nearly 30 years, he resides in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.