Vampire lovers in wild bikinis. Satan's cheerleaders. Head- splitting distorted guitars up against groovy rhythms. Kitschy B-movie samples. Combined, they can only mean one thing: Rob Zombie is back from the dead. Again. Fresh off the release of his new album, Hellbilly Deluxe 2: Noble Jackals, Penny Dreadfuls and the Systematic Dehumanization of Cool, the modern shock-rocker is, once again, tearing through the country on a national tour, this time with Alice Cooper.
Known to metalheads as the former leader of Sub Pop's token metal band, White Zombie, Zombie is now a world-renowned filmmaker, famous for his cult classics House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil's Rejects, his remake of John Carpenter's masterpiece Halloween and his own sequel, putting his name in front of a brand new audience. That sequel, and now the new album, have drawn inevitable comparisons to the originals, something Zombie doesn't feel is necessary, or even fair.
"If I do something that's a sequel to a record or movie, I always purposely try to make it very different because I don't want to do the same thing again," he says. "Even on Halloween II, I didn't want to just do the same thing over again. That's why I wanted to make it very different. To me, that's boring. It just becomes assembly-line work—'Oh, crank out another one that's the same.' So I feel that [the albums] become a companion piece to each other, but they're totally different.
"And I think it's hard when people want to compare a record that they've been listening to for 10 years to a record they've been listening to for 10 minutes. Of course the one they've had for 10 years is meaningful to them and the one they just got means nothing yet, so it's almost ridiculous to make that comparison."
Bouncing between world tours, albums, and horror films, Zombie has a hand in every aspect of his art, from writing and performing the songs, to mixing and editing them, even designing the cover and booklet artwork.
"I have a single vision that I see," he says. "And it's not because I'm a control freak or anything—it's just that I don't know how else to get there. It's hard to hire other people that can reach into your mind and accomplish what you're trying to do."
For this tour, Zombie has hired former Marilyn Manson guitarist John 5 on guitar, Piggy D, guitarist for the shocking horror-punk act Wednesday 13, on bass, and Slipknot's Joey Jordison behind the drums. They're sharing the stage with proto-shock rocker Alice Cooper for the Gruesome Twosome Tour, a collaboration Zombie says should have happened a long time ago. The two have been friends for several years, and Cooper's an obvious influence on Zombie's career. (There's an Alice Cooper poster on a bedroom wall in Halloween II.) Being tight, however, hasn't changed the fact that Zombie is still a big fan of Cooper's.
"Everybody transforms into a different person when they get on stage," he says. "We'll be hanging out backstage, laughing, joking, or eating dinner or something, but when he goes on stage he becomes such a different person that I react to it differently. When I watch it as a show, I don't even think of it as the person I was just joking around with five minutes ago."
Zombie is no stranger to scaring folks in Tennessee. He once was forced to relocate a concert from Johnson City to Bristol after protesters made their fear known.
"I think sometimes if there are people out front it's usually one person with a megaphone that is usually a mental patient anyway," he says. "I would hope people have bigger issues to deal with in their lives than that."