"Oh, you know … stuff," laughs Rob Zombie, when Revolver asks him what he's up to at the moment. The truth is, the seemingly tireless musician and filmmaker always has his hands full with something, and usually several things simultaneously. "Fortunately, and unfortunately, there's always another project," he says. "Most of the time, I'm like, 'Shit! I either need two of me, or more time!'"
There will certainly be plenty on Zombie's plate in the coming months. 3 from Hell, the long-awaited, hotly anticipated final installment of Zombie's horror film trilogy that began with 2003's House of 1000 Corpses and continued with 2005's The Devil's Rejects, has officially been completed, with a limited theatrical release slated for September. "We are just in the stage now of making trailers and artwork, all that type stuff," he reveals. In further good news for Zombie fans, the follow-up to his 2016 album, The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser, is also finished, though Zombie says he isn't sure yet when it will be released. And, of course, he'll be heading out on the road this summer for another Twins of Evil tour — this one subtitled "Hell Never Dies" — with his old pal Marilyn Manson.
"The record is done, and the movie is done, and now we're just figuring out how to release these things, and deal with them while still being on tour," Zombie explains. "With a record, even though MTV and all these old concepts are gone, you still need to make a shit-ton of video content, because that's how people get to the music. So it's just a matter of figuring out how to find time to do all that."
Thankfully, Zombie was able to find a few minutes to fill us in on his current and imminent goings-on, as well as to dispense some clear-eyed wisdom about attitude and art.
3 FROM HELL IS GOING TO BE YOUR EIGHTH FEATURE FILM. HAS MAKING MOVIES GOTTEN ANY EASIER FOR YOU OVER THE YEARS?
ROB ZOMBIE I don't think there's anything about it that could ever get easier, because it's always the same journey. I don't think it matters if it's your hundredth film. From the moment you think of the idea, to the hell you have to go through to get the financing to make that idea come to life, to shooting it, to making it work, to editing it — it's the same thing every time, nothing changes. Every time I'm in the middle of a movie and I come home for dinner and I'm complaining about it to Sheri [Moon Zombie, Zombie's wife and frequent star of his movies], she's like, "You say that every time, for 20 years!" And I'm like, "I know! It's still the same! Nothing gets easier!" [Laughs]
SO YOU HAVEN'T DISCOVERED ANY SHORTCUTS ALONG THE WAY?
No. There's no shortcuts ever, in life. There just isn't. [Laughs] That's why, when people ask me, "What's your advice for people breaking into the business?" I go, "Man, it's all fucking hard work that's gonna make you crazy. There's no shortcut. If you're looking for a shortcut, just fucking bail on that idea right now. 'Cuz it ain't there." And even if you have a success, there's no guarantee that anyone's gonna give a shit next year, five years, 10 years, 20 years later. It just never ends. I love it, so that's not really a complaint, but that's just the reality of it.
DOES MAKING AN ALBUM STILL HAVE THE SAME MEANING FOR YOU AS IT DID 30 YEARS AGO?
Um, yes and no. Artistically, creating the songs feels better than ever — like, it's more fun to make a record, and to get together with the guys in the band. The band I have now, we've all been together a long time — this is the longest I've ever worked with the same group of people in my life, and [guitarist] John 5 is the musician I've worked with longer than anyone, ever. I think we've been working together for, I don't know what it is, 14 years or something? So that part of it, creating music, is great. And when we play live, our new and our old songs blend together in a way that, if you didn't know any of our songs, you wouldn't know the difference, because our fans are so reactive. A newer song, like "Well, Everybody's Fucking in a U.F.O.," will get as big of a reaction during our show as "Dragula," and I dig that. But as far as releasing records, where it's this big deal, like, "Oh my god, your billboard is in front of Tower Records, and you're gonna do an in-store, and 5,000 people are gonna show up!" —That sort of thing is gone. It does sort of seem like you're releasing it in a vacuum. But at the same time, you make these videos, they go on YouTube, and you go, "Oh, look, 40 million views! I don't remember getting 40 million spins on MTV …"
So, in some ways, more people are enjoying your music — you just don't feel it until you finally play a show. So it's all good. It's just different. I can't complain about the music business. When I hear people complain about it, I just want to jump out a window. It is what it is, and it's all good. [Laughs] It's always changing, man. And if you're gonna sit around and complain about the changes, the friggin' parade is going to pass you by.
WILL YOU BE PREVIEWING ANY SONGS FROM THE ALBUM ON THE TWINS OF EVIL TOUR?
Absolutely not. [Laughs] First of all, nobody wants to go to concerts and hear songs they don't know. Nobody — and if they say they do, they're full of shit! Second, if you do that, everybody films it and puts it on YouTube, and starts prejudging something they don't even know about. When we do put it out, we'll put it out perfectly: You'll have your record, your artwork, your videos and yada, yada, yada ...
HOW IMPORTANT IS ATTITUDE FOR A ROCK MUSICIAN, OR ARTISTS IN GENERAL?
Well, I guess it depends on how you define what attitude is, and what you mean by that. The thing that I find most important is being real, and I can spot it in one second. That's why, when I first saw Manson, I went, "Oh, he's for real!" Eddie Vedder, Kurt Cobain, David Lee Roth — it doesn't matter what the genre is, you can just spot that person and go, "Oh, that motherfucker is for real." Whatever attitude he's giving off, it's not contrived. It's truly his personality coming through. I see people where it's like, Oh, that's a nice put-on pose they're giving me, but it's all fake and contrived, and the attitude is completely bullshit. So, for me, it's all about being real. It doesn't even matter what kind of music you do. Whether it's Flavor Flav or Johnny Cash, you can look at both of those guys and go, "Yeah, that's for real."
IN OTHER WORDS, ATTITUDE CAN ACTUALLY WORK AGAINST YOU, IF IT'S REALLY JUST A POSE?
Well, I'm not saying you can't have a big career. I just find it annoying, because it's fake. [Laughs] The problem is, "fake" and "show business" go hand-in-hand pretty well sometimes. I'm just saying that, personally, I don't dig it.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE REAL ROCK & ROLL ATTITUDE?
I wouldn't, because I think when people try to describe it, it becomes bullshit. It is whatever it is. When people wanna be like, "It's all about smashing up your hotel room and getting wasted all night!" That's nonsense. That's like something some publicist made up. I don't care what goes on in your hotel room. That doesn't matter to me. It doesn't make the songs sound better, you know what I mean? These are legends created back in the day by Keith Moon and Led Zeppelin or whatever. And that's all fine, but that's not what it's all about. It's all about the music, and what happens when you hit the stage.
WERE THERE ARTISTS WHOSE ATTITUDE IMPACTED YOUR OWN?
Of course there were. But I think the main attitude for any artist is, you've gotta do what you wanna fuckin' do. You know what I mean? When I first signed to Geffen Records, I had nothing. I was just some broke guy with nothing, who happened to be on Geffen Records. But I would not give an inch on anything. I would be like, "This is what the record cover is. This is what the record's gonna be called. This is what it's gonna sound like. If you don't like it, drop us from the label. I don't give a shit!" Because back then, the major labels were all like, "OK, you need to change this a little bit, and then we're gonna replace your band members, and then we're gonna change the title, and then we're gonna change your look …" And all those bands who went along with it would come back crying, "Man, the record label fucked us!" No, you're just a poser, man. Stick to your fucking guns, you know? It doesn't matter if it was Alice Cooper or Iggy Pop or Jim Morrison or Pete Townshend — they stuck to who they were. You don't bend with the wind, depending on what you think is going to make you famous. You just do your fucking thing, and that's what it's about.
HAS YOUR OWN ATTITUDE CHANGED OVER TIME?
Not really — I got into a band because I didn't want to follow rules. So as soon as someone tells me, "Oh, this is the way you're supposed to do it," I'm like, "That ain't gonna happen." [Laughs] I don't need to throw a TV through a window and make a big show about it. I'm just not going to do it. But that's what the whole point was, wasn't it? "I'm in a band. I make my own fucking rules!"
It's like Marlon Brando in The Wild One, you know? Or just think about when you see Bob Dylan in Don't Look Back. He's a quiet individual, but he's also a complete fucking rebel. Or when he goes out at the Newport Folk Festival to play with an electric band — everybody's booing and screaming, and the only thing you can hear Bob Dylan say [to his band] is, "Turn up louder!" He doesn't give a shit, but he's not acting like a maniac. It's just like, "I don't care. This is what I do. Fuck you." [Laughs]
ARE THERE ANY FILM DIRECTORS WHOSE ATTITUDE HAS PARTICULARLY RESONATED WITH YOU?
Of course. All the directors that are themselves, be it Martin Scorsese, or John Waters, or David Cronenberg, or David Lynch — I mean, any directors where you say their name before the title of the movie. It's like, "It's a David Lynch movie? I don't even need to know what it's about. You just told me what it was!" That's the rock & roll aspect of it. But if it's cookie-cutter work for hire, where you don't even know or care who the director is, that's like hearing pop songs on the radio.
I'M GUESSING THAT IN THE FILM BUSINESS, MUCH LIKE THE MUSIC BUSINESS, YOU CONSTANTLY HAVE TO DEAL WITH PEOPLE WHO WANT TO TELL YOU HOW YOU SHOULD BE DOING THINGS.
Of course. But I mean, that's the thing with everything, every step of the way. I could have sold millions more records. Maybe I could have had bigger movies. But they weren't the kind of records I wanted to make, and they weren't the kind of movies I wanted to make. And that's the thing: Sticking to your guns and keeping the attitude of what you want can come with a price. You often do it knowing it's not going to be as big a thing as it perhaps could be, but that's OK — that's the definition of not selling out. [Laughs] And when you just change everything you care about to make more money, that's the definition of selling out. And a lot of times, history proves that the people who do that, who change everything about themselves for success — when it doesn't work, they're fucked. It's a much more concrete career when you just do you, and stick to that.
THE POP CULTURAL LANDSCAPE HAS CHANGED PRETTY MASSIVELY SINCE THE FIRST WHITE ZOMBIE RECORD CAME OUT. IS THERE STILL ROOM FOR PEOPLE WHO DON'T GIVE A FUCK?
Oh, yeah. The funny thing is, on one level, it's bigger than ever — the tours, the shows I do, they're bigger than ever. It's just that rock music's gone underground. It's not like we're out there playing bars. We're still playing sold-out arenas. It's just that nobody knows about it, because it's not on the radio, it's not on TV. It's like you're a cult band, but you're doing mainstream numbers. And that's great! I don't even bother doing most promotional things, interviews, whatever, because a lot of the time I don't even need to go out and promote stuff. If the show's sold out, it's sold out!
THAT SEEMS LIKE THE BEST OF ALL POSSIBLE WORLDS, ACTUALLY.
Yeah, I think so. One of the people I've always loved, who's been a friend of mine for a long time, is Glenn Danzig. If there was ever a guy who sticks to what he wants to do, at all costs, it's him. And it's paid off great! I mean, whoever thought you'd see the Misfits playing sold-out arenas? I always thought they were an amazing band, but he stuck to his thing. Has it worked against him at some point? Probably. But it's worked against all of us at some point, and we're still here. And you can make a long list of all the other people who maybe had a No. 1 hit, and now they're cleaning your pool.