By SixX | Photo by Alan Snodgrass
What does Rob Zombie think about music, bands and the industry? Does a man that seems to channel the showmanship of what it was to be a rock star think there is something wrong with all of it? I have been waiting five years just to ask the Massachusetts native something along those lines. Well I had the pleasure to sit down with Rob at the MA tour stop of the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival 2013 and discuss just those topics.
How was Mayhem for Rob Zombie?
Mayhem was good. We hadn’t played in awhile so it took us a few shows to get up to speed, but we got in the groove.
Is it like Metal Summer Camp?
Maybe for some people. So I guess it’s Metal Summer School.
Do you think music has changed much since your career first started?
God, It’s changed a lot! I think it has gotten more conservative. That is the thing that bothers me.
Do you think people have kind of gotten a little nervous about things?
I don’t know what people have gotten but I just feel like, where have all the freaks gone man.
Is it like no one wants to take the chance and do something different anymore?
My manager put it best to me this way: “It used to be when you were taking records to the radio station you would go, ‘It’s unlike anything you have ever heard before.’ The program director would go, ‘Let’s play it.’ Now you go, ‘It’s just like everything else.’ And the program director will say, ‘Let’s play it.’”
That’s the whole thing. I feel like rock music’s whole point was to be different. If you thought you were doing something like someone else, then stop doing it. Now, it’s all about everybody being the same. The reason I know that is I’ve seen it, and I know the producers and they will eventually come to me. They will go, “We want to sound exactly like so and so, and we will use the exact same equipment and make our record the exact same.” Who the fuck wants to have a band that sounds exactly the same as somebody else!?
There is the whole aspect that technology has change music now. Do you think that it has hurt the music?
I don’t know. I mean, it depends what scene of music you are talking about. I mostly refer to the rock music scene as struggling in this country. Let’s look at this festival: if this festival was in England there would be 50,000 people here today, a 100,000 people. Here there is like 15,000 people if your lucky.
Is it like we are a fickle fan base at this point?
This is the best way to describe it; Woody Allen describes movies this way and it applies to music: “In Europe you are always as good as your best moment.” I mean, if you made one good movie fifty years ago they will treat you like a star. They do that with the bands over there too. If they love you once, they will love you forever. Over here, you are only as good as you were ten seconds ago. Bands are like FUCK THIS and walk away.
Yeah, it’s like you make a video in your basement and sell stuff at Hot Topic and you are good for five years max.
Or you have a successful long career and you have one bad show and people want to crucify you. It’s a weird fickle scene. I mean, it’s always “what’s next, what’s next.” I think that leads to lots of garbage coming down the pipeline. It’s the labels fault. They started that about 10 years ago when they sort of moved off all their rock bands and they got away from albums. Now they just want singles. They didn’t give a crap about what rock band had been on the label for the last 20 years. All they wanted was the new Pussy Cat Dolls single and thats ALL they cared about. They knew they could take that and put it in a shampoo commercial and they could do this and that.
Is it all about money?
That’s why you are not gonna get more ACDCs and bands like that, because that takes commitment.
Talking about that aspect and your new music, when looking back at your career and the music you grew up listening to, how hard is it to write new albums at this point?
It’s actually not that hard. This was the easiest time it ever was in a way because I figure, when you first start you do what ever crazy thing. You have nothing to lose. Success is the first thing that can mess you up because when you finally do something everyone says, “We like that.” We feel like, “should we do more of that, and if we don’t do more of that are we just idiots?” It subconsciously affects you even if you are trying to fight against it. With this record and MTV being meaningless, radio falling apart, rock music is almost like underground punk music. Who cares what the hell we do? No one is going to do anything. The kids steal everything anyways so all of those factors that are negative in a way created a positive situation where you are like, “Who cares if we have a hit single.” It doesn’t matter anymore because it’s all about the show tonight. That is really all there is anymore, which is all there was to begin with.
Obviously with your stage show being such a big part of your career, do you think rock is more about the stage show?
In a way it is. I think once the live show goes away it’s done. What is there? Kids are going to sit at home and watch you play one show and then it will be beamed as a hologram into someone’s TV? People are gonna be like “I saw the KISS tour.” There was always a very active scene and it’s become, well I’m not bagging on it because everyone wants it to work, but it’s frustrating. There is a conspiracy today. Rock bands used to sell out stadiums! The only thing that is going to sell out a stadium is Jay Z now. Rock bands are struggling to take an entire side stage at a club.
I saw The Who play in Providence, RI this past February and it was iconic just to see them play. Have those things went by the wayside now?
Yeah, I mean, it has really. I don’t know what it is or how that happened. Well I kinda do, I date it back and blame grunge rock. Grunge rock was the moment that all the bands decided it wasn’t cool to be a rock star. You got a bunch of boring plain guys who walked on stage looking – not even looking like a road crew, not even looking as cool as the road crew – they were just staring at their shoes. Yeah a couple hit. You have the stars like Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain and the rest. We had Poison or we had grunge. It was so pathetically stupid. You know, and then the middle ground. What happened to the heavy. The cool Led Zeppelin rock stars just disappeared. Then you could be a rock star and it was heavy and cool.
Let’s talk about your new movie The Lords of Salem. Who was the radio DJ character based off in the movie? Did it have anything to do with you being from Massachusetts and the iconic stations like WBCN?
Well, the whole thing was a little bit modeled after the Howard Stern Show. Yeah, in a funny sorta way.
Was it that iconic character that you had in your memory?
No. There was no one in particular. It just sorta went that way after a while. I mean I didn’t write it with anyone in mind. Umm… no, not that I can remember. It was sort of a mish-mosh of a lot of different people.
Looking at MTV being dead and the death of videos, is your film career trying to pull out what we remember of the MTV world?
Well, in a way it’s like it’s almost the same thing that is happening with the film world. This thing that has happened, a grand conspiracy plan. It’s just this thing, the elimination of the middle class, in life and the arts. You are either going to get tiny little B movies that you never fucking heard of or you are going to get giant franchise blockbusters with a billion dollar corporation behind it. Everything in the middle is now gone. Studios DO NOT want to make that stuff and it’s the same thing with music. You are going to get tiny little bands playing clubs or you get the stuff they know. Like Justin Timberlake for example, when his new record came out I was like, “Is this a new album or is this a Bud Light ad?” I wasn’t really sure because there is so many millions of millions of millions of dollars behind it. That’s not a slag on him, I just wasn’t sure. Like Pit Bull or someone like him – is this a Red Bull ad or a song? It’s either you are off the grid or you are so in bed with corporate America. Rock music never worked great that way so that is the thing that gets trapped in the middle.
So based off the music and film world, are you trying to recreate that a little bit?
Totally. All I can do is try. You can’t sit here and complain about it and do nothing. So I try to make music and movies and do things the way that I want it to be. It isn’t always financially the smartest thing to do. I will make movies that I know are gonna be problematic, and I have turned down things that I know wouldn’t be. I just don’t want to do that kind of stuff. Same thing with this – when the manager says maybe we should bring in that producer and make it sound like this, I’m like, “no” because then I’m doing exactly what I’m complaining about. So I will go down fighting.
So being a local radio guy that I am, what is your advice for the Boston area band trying to do…something?
The biggest thing… I don’t know if my advice would mean anything anymore with the way things are, but the biggest thing I was thinking about is when I would see bands I would think I wish I could manage them because they are almost good. They don’t have that thing that is gonna make them matter. The thing is, you have to find a way to stand out. I see bands now and I feel they are afraid to stand out – “Well if I do that my buddy is gonna call me a rock star and it’s gonna get weird.” I’m like, “why are you in a band then?! To be forgotten, not noticed?” That is the biggest thing. Bands always found ways to stand out. No one confused Ted Nugent with Alice Cooper and confused Alice Cooper with Freddy Mercury and confuse Freddy Mercury with Elton John! It was like everyone found something.
Be original… at least one part of it?
Well, the thing is you have to put your ego in check and look at yourself in the mirror and ask “Why would anyone give a fuck that I’m alive?!” That’s what I would do with me and the rest of the band. Why should anyone give a shit we are here? What are we doing to make anyone give a shit? I don’t think bands do that to themselves. They think we are four guys with instruments and shouldn’t everyone care? Nah, no one cares. You have to make them care. It was a long miserable process making people care, trust me. Almost 10 years of non-success with people not giving a shit and feeling like you are going crazy after awhile.
What is Rob Zombie doing after this? Where are we going?
We are going to South America and play Rock and Rio and that will probably be 150,000 people, which not since Woodstock have you seen that here. No one even thinks that it is a big deal there; that’s just the way it is there. I remember I was good friends with the guys from The Ramones and they would literally go to Brazil and play a soccer stadium, fly back to New York and play a club. 40,000 to 800 people just like that.
Funny you mention The Ramones. I was given a CD of the band Dust recently. Marky Ramone from the Ramones was the drummer. I was told it might just be the start of US Metal.
If I have one complaint about metal it is stop fucking making up rules about what it’s supposed to be! I thought the whole point of it was “FUCK YOU and your rules!” Hey give me a set of rules to follow and I can be metal.
Since Rob Zombie’s start in the local scene of New England, production for Pee Wee’s Playhouse, the band White Zombie, to a massive solo music career and being a critically acclaimed screenwriter and director, Rob has stuck to his ideals and straight forward commentary of making sure we knew who he was and why we cared he was even here.
Rob did leave me with one last bit of advice for everyone though….
Kill your parents, drop out of school and worship Satan!
Sound advice I think.
Check out Rob’s new album Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor (purchase), new movie The Lords of Salem.