It's Rob Zombie's time of year. The rocker/director is an expert at nurturing the macabre, and from his days in White Zombie to his solo work, he's found a way blend erotica and eerieness like few others. Sharing stages with Marilyn Manson - they call it the Twins of Evil Tour - Zombie has been bringing his hell-raising show around the country. This year the lucky fans of Dallas get to catch them in action on Halloween.
We jumped on the phone with Zombie for a little catch-up about the tour, as well as Mondo Sex Head, a remix disc of Zombie tracks that features everyone from Tobias Enhus to Kraddy. It cracks apart the originals in a variety of intriguing ways.
Also in the air is The Lords of Salem, Zombie's latest movie, which has just started to be shown on the festival circuit. Famous for directing sequels of the Halloween franchise, this is his first film made from his own story. It's features his wife Shari Moon Zombie, and it deals with the devilish actions that result when a mysterious music box is opened by a radio station DJ.
Zombie dialed us up from Florida, and was his usually candid self.
Your “Twins of Evil” tour with Marilyn Manson is playing Dallas on Halloween. What do you guys do to make it special that night?
We’ll make it special, but it does get harder and harder because our show is tailor made for that anyway. It’s like asking the Radio City Rockettes’ Christmas extravaganza how they can make it even more Christmasy. But we’re working on a couple additions to make it special that night.
Is there one particular thing you do to get the crowd going each night?
I always like talking to the crowd. That’s the moment you can transform the show. A lot of acts don’t talk to the crowd, and if they do it’s scripted. I like to find something specific to every city every night. I want to get people to loosen up. People come to concerts and they’re sedate. Twenty years ago the crowd would go ballistic from the first note. Now they come in with the nachos and the giant cokes, and they’re filming the show on their phone - these newer crowds are mellow. It’s my job to say “Okay, put the phones away and cut the bullshit and let’s have an experience here that everyone will remember. That’s the challenge of each night, and when it happens I know it will be a great show.
Any exceptions to that?
Sometimes you don’t have to worry about that. Some crowds are psycho from the get-go. We’ll do a meet and greet, and the kids are outta control right there - you can tell they’re nuts. I find that the further we travel East, the more sedate the crowds get. They need a little kick in the ass. Detroit is crazy, the Midwest is crazy, and sometimes places like Wyoming are crazy. But Boston, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, they need a little prodding.
We've been blasting the remix record in the office.
It’s fun to do because it doesn’t involve work on my part. Other people get rip apart the songs and put ‘em back together again.
You drove around testing how the tracks sounded in the car. Good process?
That’s really the only time I can shut off my brain and get into the music. I think it’s because you’re concentrating on another activity, driving.
Which track took you farthest away?
The “Living Dead Girl” remix. I heard it at home and it was seven minutes long and it was like “Ahhh, this is boring, I hate this.” And then when I was driving I really got into it, and suddenly I thought it was the best track.
Photek does take you away with that one.
I guess that’s why they call it trance, because sometimes that’s what it feels like. You either get it or you don’t. It’s repetitive, so if you’re not locked into the groove it could seem like the most annoying thing you’ve ever heard. It’s hard to remember them all those remixes. I get them confused. The Jonathan Davis one I remember.
The Lords of Salem is ready for release. It’s been at the Toronto Film Festival. Why does the Salem myth endure?
A lot of it has to do with the town itself, much like Roswell, you know? The town keeps it alive. Go to Salem and everything has a witch on it. It could have been something people forgot about, but the Dairy Queen becomes the Dairy Witch, and even the police cars have witches on them. Everything. One part history, one part tourist trap.
What big lesson did you learn with your previous work on the Halloween movies?
From Halloween I learned that I’d rather not make movies based on preexisting material. Because no matter what you do, people go into the movie thinking they know what they’re going to watch. And I think that fucks up their experience. With Halloween, no matter what you did, they thought was it should be another way. I keep telling people that Lord is not what you think it is. People have lost their ability to go to the movie and experience things. They want to know everything about the movie before they see it, so they can rip it apart and twitter about it. And they don’t pay attention to the movie. They’ve got to go in and go slow. That’s when I have the best movie experiences.
You’ve said The Lords of Salem is like Ken Russell meets The Shining. What do you love about Ken Russell?
I love Ken Russell movies because they’re so insane. There’s nothing like them. The Devils, Tommy, Altered States. I love unique filmmakers, and there are so few studios that have the balls to back those filmmakers these days. I like to watch a film and know that it could only have come from that person.
In Lords, everything starts when your wife Shari opens a music box and is seduced by mysterious music. What’s the music?
That’s exactly what it is: mysterious. Should I tell you and ruin the whole movie? I can’t tell you.