Rob Zombie's career has played out like a good horror movie: A surprise at every turn. His '90s band White Zombie put a firm tongue in cheek (and a whole lotta metal) into Alice Cooper-style theatrics, and after 1996's Supersexy Swingin' Sounds, exited stage left as one of the most remix-friendly hard-rock bands ever. He's still at it, too -- Zombie's latest music project is Mondo Sex Head, which allows artists such as JDevil, the Bloody Beetroots and Photek to pick over the bones of "Thunder Kiss '65," "Burn" and "Living Dead Girl."
Back in the day, he also directed most of his own music videos, including the VMA-winning "More Human Than Human," and parlayed that into a feature-film career that began with 2003's House of 1,000 Corpses. Zombie asked Texas twanger Jesse Dayton to come up with a bunch of songs for his next project, 2005's The Devil's Rejects -- the best one is the bawdy honky-tonker "I'm at Home Gettin' Hammered (While She's Out Gettin' Nailed)" -- and then cast him as rockabilly bandleader Captain Clegg in 2009's Halloween 2, the sequel to Zombie's 2007 remake of that 1978 John Carpenter classic.
Zombie's other credits include a popular Woolite commercial and now The Lords of Salem, a rock and roll twist on the infamous witch trials of more than three centuries ago, which the director recently screened at the Toronto International Film Festival. Currently he's touring with another Halloween-friendly rocker who needlessly scared a lot of uptight parents in the mid-'90s, Marilyn Manson, on the "Twins of Evil" tour that hits Reliant Arena Tuesday, October 30.
Rocks Off spoke with Mr. Zombie by phone recently; he thought he was in Minneapolis, and probably was.
Rocks Off: With everything else that you have going on now, why do you still like touring?
Rob Zombie: Well, because nothing about touring has changed. What I like about it is exactly the same - it's an experience you can't get with anything else. I love making movies, I love doing everything else I do, but playing live is an entity unto itself the other things that I do just don't provide. Whatever I loved about it, I still love about it.
RO: It's not difficult for you to still make time for it?
RZ: No, it is difficult. It's always difficult. But I figure it out. Everything's difficult - there's not enough time for anything. But I get it done.
RO: Between you and Marilyn Manson, which one of you has the more grotesque stage design?
RZ: Well, I don't know if either are grotesque, but ours is pretty insane. I would use the word "insane." I only wish I could stand in the crowd doing acid watching it because it would be a trip, man. Ours is over the top. There's nothing like it.
RO: Could you elaborate a little bit?
RZ: It's everything all the time. The fire, the explosions, the digital, the giant robots - it's everything. It's like you can't even take it all in. It's nonstop.
RO: When you're working on a film, do you have the soundtrack in mind ahead of time?
RZ: Sometimes, yeah. A lot of times I try to have the soundtrack in advance, just because it's inspiring as you're working on set to have the music or at at least an approximation of the music.
Especially in this new film I just finished, Lords of Salem, there's a lot of long, slow tracking shots, which as you're shooting them, just seem ridiculous, like, "why are we doing this?" - a two-minute-long slow pullback on this empty hallway.
But in your head, or on your headphones, if you're literally listening to what they score will be, it makes total sense.
RO: Do you have any further plans to work with Jesse Dayton?
RZ: No, there's no other plans. We did what we did, which I thought turned out great, but no plans at the moment.
RO: You still keep in touch at all?
RZ: I haven't talked to him in a while, but the other night somebody who was looking how to find Jesse Dayton called me for his phone number, strangely enough (laughs).
RO: What kind of reception did Lords of Salem get in Toronto?
RZ: It was great. I had never done it this way before. I went to Toronto this year to sell the movie. Usually I've already got a distributor in place with every movie I've made but this one I did differently. This one I financed the movie, made the movie and went to get a distributor, and it was great.
We had a lot of great offers for the movie and sold the movie, and the crowd loved it. This week it's premiering it in Spain at the Sitges festival, which is a huge film festival in Barcelona. Unfortunately I can't be there because I'm on tour, but so far everything with the movie's going great.
RO: What did the Woolite people say when they saw that commercial you directed?
RZ: They were thrilled. They were very happy, like "Oh, we're going to put this up for awards! We love it so much!" I think it turned out to be the biggest commerical they've ever had. So they called me immediately to do more, but I was busy doing my movie so I couldn't do 'em.
RO: Would you ever consider tackling the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, either as a sequel or a remake?
RZ: No, I think that's been done enough. Besides three sequels to the original, they're on their third remake (laughs) and now there's one coming out in 3-D, so I think they've got that one covered. They don't need me.
RO: What is the single coolest item that you own?
RZ: I don't really collect stuff anymore. I kind of got bored with the idea of collecting stuff, but I used to really, really collect a lot of movie posters. I have a few silent-movie posters from some Lon Cheney films that are extremely rare. Like I may have the only existing copies of a couple of 'em. Those are some pretty good items.
RO: Last question: Do you and Alice Cooper ever play golf?
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RZ: No. I don't play golf, and he's very serious about golf, so I don't want to be wasting his time. I'd just be out there smacking 'em around like Happy Gilmore.
With Marilyn Manson, 7 p.m. Tuesday, October 30, at Reliant Arena, 8400 Kirby Dr., www.ticketmaster.com.