Rob Zombie

Rob Zombie

Short Biography: 
Fusing hardcore, heavy metal, and outsized theatrics, White Zombie celebrated trash culture, incorporating such elements as B-movie humor and true-crime gore. Along the lines of Alice Cooper, GWAR, the Cramps, and Marilyn Manson, they were as much a concept as a band. The group dissolved in late 1998, but frontman Rob Zombie has continued along the same path as a solo artist and horror filmmaker. Moving to New York City after high school, Rob Cummings met Sean Yseult at art school in 1985. Soon living together, they formed White Zombie, taking the name from a 1932 Bela Lugosi horror film. Their self-produced EP gained them cult fame, as did their album Soul-Crusher, and in 1989 Bill Laswell produced Make Them Die Slowly. White Zombie's major-label debut arrived amid personnel changes and notoriety. Televangelists attacked the band's gleefully "satanic" lyrics; Zombie courted controversy by asking convicted mass murderer Charles Manson for permission to use a sample of his voice (he declined, as did horror actor Vincent Price when presented with a similar request). When MTV cartoon characters Beavis and Butt-head praised La Sexorcisto (#26, 1993), the album entered the Top 30. The album's "Thunder Kiss '65" was nominated for a Best Hard Rock Performance Grammy, as was "More Human Than Human," from Astro-Creep: 2000 (#6, 1995). Supersexy Swingin' Sounds (#17, 1996) was a collection of Astro-Creep remixes featuring contributions by the Dust Brothers and P.M. Dawn. Zombie released his solo debut, Hellbilly Deluxe (#5) in 1998, dissolving White Zombie a couple of weeks after the album's release. That same year, he founded his Zombie A Go-Go record label. Hellbilly spawned its own remix followup, American Made Music to Strip By in 1999. In between the breakup of White Zombie and the launch of his solo career, Zombie was commissioned to write and direct The Crow III. He abandoned the project after two years of rewrites, but in 1999 he designed his own haunted Halloween maze at Universal Studios, Rob Zombie's American Nightmare. A year later he began shooting his directorial debut, House of 1000 Corpses, released in 2001.
The Interview: 

Rob Zombie inspires a lot of heated debate around these parts, which in my mind is never a bad thing. Whether or not you love or loathe the rocker's directorial efforts, you have to appreciate the fact that you're likely not neutral on them. The HALLOWEEN films, THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, THE LORDS OF SALEM - throw those topics on a horror movie message board and watch the fur fly.

His latest project, 31, has generated debate for different reasons. The announcement back in July that Zombie was turning to crowd-funding for the Halloween-set thriller prompted the kind of discussion that all crowd-funding campaigns by celebrities seem to set off. Is it a legitimate route for someone in Zombie's position to take, or is it asking too much of his fanbase? That's for the individual to decide. (Head over HERE to check out the site and donate.)

Whatever your thoughts about Zombie, one thing is indisputable as far as I'm concerned: he's a really, really nice guy. This was my first time speaking with the man, and he couldn't have been more polite, and noticeably happy about the fruits this campaign has borne. We spoke about the perks of crowd-funding, the tone and characters of 31, whether or not he has a cast and crew in mind, and what his plans are for this Halloween. (Sorry, it's the only Halloween we talk about.)

Rob Zombie 31 interview exclusive horror halloween

You've got about a week left in the crowd-funding campaign; how has it turned out so far, are you glad you went this way?

RZ: Yeah, it's going really well. At first I was a little suspicious of it, and then halfway through I was like, "Oh my god, this is going to be a lot of work," but now it's fun, I'm into it. As it goes along and we get to the end - I can see the end in sight - the involvement of the fans and the feedback has been really cool; to have that many people excited and supportive for something that doesn't even exist yet. It's been really cool.

Based on this experience, is this the way you'd do it in the future, say for your next film, would you go straight to the crowd-funding route? Or is this something that you can really only do one time?

RZ: Probably not for my next film, because I have something else in mind that is a different type of thing, but I don't know, it's hard to say. I don't know how many times you can crowd-fund, if it seems weird to do it more than once. That's really the issue. [Laughs]

It's funny, because it seems as though you've had every experience: you've worked with a big studio, you've worked with independent producers, now this. You've seen every side of the movie business.

RZ: Yeah, pretty much. My first film, HOUSE OF 1000 CORPSES, I shot on the Universal backlot, which is about as Hollywood as you can get. THE DEVIL'S REJECTS was with Lionsgate, and the HALLOWEEN films were very studio-ish. LORDS OF SALEM was very low-budget, a total independent thing, and this is sort of… I don't know what this is yet exactly. [Laughs] A whole other thing. The thing is, whatever it takes to get the movie made, that's what I'm going for. Getting movies made - especially the type of stuff I do, which is kind of weird and not your typical kind of stuff - it's really hard to get them made. So whatever it takes is what I'll do.

When you look back on the experiences with the studios, do you think to yourself, "Never again?" Or could you see yourself working within a larger system again?

RZ: Oh, it could happen again in the future. The studio experience fluctuates depending on who you work with, it's not like it's all one experience. Every studio is different, every producer's personality is different. You never know what you're going to do; I try to stay friends with everybody because you might go back and work with somebody who you had a horrible experience with and it could be great the next time. You never know which way it's going to go, never say never.

Regarding 31, you've put out a lot of concept designs for the fans throughout the summer and into the fall. What has the feedback been like?

RZ: Yeah, it's been really good. I wish I had more to put out there, but it's so early on that I don't have that much. The feedback has been great and the people have seemed to latch on to the vibe of what it's about, and what's it's about is pretty easily understandable. It's all been really good.

You've gotten pretty brutal and grim with some of your past films; would you say 31 is going to be really nasty in terms of tone? Or is it going to be more thrill-ride?

RZ: Right now it's pretty nasty, that was sort of what I wanted to do. That's what I feel most comfortable with; it's not like THE DEVIL'S REJECTS, but it's more in that vibe, that nasty factor, maybe even moreso. Whereas LORDS OF SALEM was more of a surreal, trippy movie, this is not like that at all. Very rough, in-your-face type of film.

Going back to the concept designs, you've shown us most of the villains in the film, who look to be killer clowns. Are these going to be villains with colorful, distinct personalities, or are they more the silent, emotionless types?

RZ: I like having villains who have big personalities, because I find they're more engaging. I don't think they're likable [laughs] - it's not like how Captain Spaulding is likable. These guys have charismatic personalities, but they're about as far from likable as you can get. But who knows, I didn't think some of the other characters from my films would be seen as likable, but people seem to love them, so I don't really know. [Laughs] They're really violent and they all have big mouths.

It's always interesting to see who horror movie fans latch onto. You think, "This is a despicable character," and then the next thing you know, there are action figures of it.

RZ: Yeah, they don't stay despicable very long, before you know it this despicable character is a Halloween costume for a ten-year-old. [Laughs]

Do you have a dream cast in mind, your best case scenario cast - or did you write any roles for any specific actors?

RZ: I have a bunch of people I want to approach, a bunch of people I want to talk to, but I can't really talk about it because it's not really fair to the actors to be throwing their names around, but yeah, there are some people. Some I've talked to, some I haven't, so we'll see where it goes. It all comes down to scheduling, that's always the issue with these things.

Once the campaign ends, which is in about a week, do you have a game plan going forward, in terms of when and where you want to shoot?

RZ: Where we're going to shoot, we're still working on that. When we're going to shoot… we're going to wait for the holidays to get out of the way, but then right after New Year's we'll go into pre-production and we'll probably start shooting in the middle of February.

Are there any past collaborators behind-the-scenes that you hope to re-team with?

RZ: I would like to, but I don't know who's available. That's the thing with a lot of those types of positions, they work a lot and they're all over the place. I'm sure some people will be available and some people won't. That's always the trick when you're starting up a movie, you're hoping the people you want to work with aren't working on another project. I know some people that I really want to work with have conflicts; at this point we're trying to work it out.

One of the perks for the campaign is you calling people from the set every single day, that seems pretty dedicated and unique, how would that work?

RZ: Well, what I'm going to do every day is, either before I start shooting or right after, I'll record a message and then that message goes out to all the people who signed up for it. Obviously I'm not going to call up everybody individually or I'd never be off the phone. [Laughs] But I'll say, "This is what we did today, this is what's going on on set, yada yada yada."

Being that Halloween is right around the corner, do you have certain traditions you like to keep up; either movies you always go back to, or events you like to take part in?

RZ: Not really; the funny thing is, this is the first year that I'm not on tour or working during Halloween. Every Halloween I'm either on tour or shooting a movie, so this is my first free one. I'm really just enjoying the calm, like a regular person. Watching cool movies and relaxing and enjoying it. In terms of the movies I always go back to, it's always like, FRANKENSTEIN or ISLAND OF LOST SOULS or DRACULA, things like that. The stuff that I remember as a little kid that would immediately put you in that Halloween frame of mind.