Rob Zombie – The Facts
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Rob Zombie (born Robert Cummings on January 12, 1965 in Haverhill, Massachusetts) is a Heavy metal and Industrial Rock musician, a director, and a writer. His dreadlocks, gruff vocal style and fascination with B-movies have helped him become a distinctive element in American heavy metal. He is best known as founder, lead singer and songwriter for White Zombie. In recent years he has also established himself as a solo singer and as a director. His directorial career began with the horror exploitation feature, House of 1000 Corpses, and its sequel, The Devil’s Rejects, released July 22nd, 2005. El Superbeasto, an animated film based on his comic book series The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, is due for release in the summer of 2006.
He is the older brother of Powerman 5000 vocalist Spider One (Michael Cummings).
From a young age Zombie and his younger brother, Michael, immersed themselves in a heavy mixture of classic monsters, pro-wrestling, EC Comics, 1960s counter-culture, gore movies and the weirder, more esoteric corners of the American artistic map. Both became interested in design, but Michael dropped out of art school to pursue an interest in music. Rob, however, moved to New York to pursue a career in publishing at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, NY.
Formation of White Zombie
Zombie, still known at this time as Cummings, supported himself through multiple jobs, including working as a cycle courier. Most famously he was a production assistant on Pee-wee’s Playhouse, but he also worked as a designer on pornographic magazines. In this time, he became involved with Shauna Reynolds, another up-and-coming designer. Together they shared a love of classic horror and sci-fi, heavy music and the weirder corners of American underground culture. They finally decided to form a band that would draw upon all these influences and White Zombie was formed. Named after the classic Bela Lugosi black-and-white shocker White Zombie. There were only two minor problems – neither Cummings nor Reynolds was a musician. They split duties between them – Rob took vocals and the name Rob Straker, while Reynolds became the bassist and was known as Sean Yseult. They became the only constants in the often-fluctuating band line-up.
White Zombie achieved a cult status in New York. With the line-up as Zombie (sometimes credited as Rob Straker), guitarist Tom Guay, bassist Yseult and drummer Ivan DePrume, they released three EPs through indie label Silent Explosion – 1985’s Gods on Voodoo Moon, 1986’s Pig Heaven and 1987’s Psycho-Head Blowout. In 1987, they released their debut album Soul-Crusher through Silent Explosion, re-releasing it the following year through punk label Caroline Records: importantly, this saw the first regular use of the name Rob Zombie. In 1989 saw the release of their follow-up album, Make Them Die Slowly, again through Caroline, but with John Ricci replacing Guay. Both of these albums have since been deleted. This was followed by God of Thunder ep, the first release with Jay Noel Yuenger, aka J, taking over guitar duties from Ricci. It was this line-up – Zombie, Yuenger, Yseult and DePrume – that finally attracted major label attention and was signed to Geffen. However, there was little doubt that, as sole lyricist and designer of the entire band’s art work, Rob was the prime force behind the band.
Major Label Years
White Zombie only released two major studio albums, but their impact was enormous and their fan base loyal. In 1992 La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1 became an underground smash, shifting more than 1 million units in America alone. Released through Geffen, its combination of low-slung bass, metal guitars, industrial production and Zombie’s half-growled, half-barked lyrics about monsters, liquor and souped-up street racers caught the public imagination. Along with KMFDM and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult, White Zombie mixed heaviness with a shamelessly danceable beat and a sleazy sensibility. Yseult became an inspirational figure to a generation of young female rock and metal fans by not playing on her sexuality, only her bass. Zombie, on the other hand, became a more unique figure than ever. With the financial backing of a major label, he could take his vision further than ever before, and play to a bigger audience. White Zombie’s live shows became famous for big visuals and amazing showmanship, helping to catapult them from cult status to stadiums. However, during this round of touring, Zombie and Yseult ended their longtime romance.
In 1995 White Zombie released their second studio album for Geffen, Astro Creep: 2000 – Songs of Love, Destruction and Other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head. The music was credited to White Zombie and again all lyrics and the sleeve art came from Rob Zombie. By this stage, only Rob and Sean survived from the original line-up, boosted by the returning J. on guitar and former member of Bay Area thrashers Testament John Tempesta on drums. Tempesta, whose brother Mike played guitar for Zombie’s brother Spider’s outfit Powerman 5000, replaced Phil Buerstatte, who had replaced Prume during the La Sexorcisto tour. Buerstatte recorded three songs with the band, I Am Hell for The Beavis and Butt-Head Experience compilation album, Children of the Grave for the Black Sabbath tribute album Nativity in Black, and Feed the Gods for the Airheads movie soundtrack.
Astro-Creep continued in La Sexorcisto’s mold with songs about drag racing, robots and evil clowns. Many initially regarded it as lacking the freshness of La Sexorcisto and rumors quickly circulated that there were problems within the band. However, others argued that this was the densest metal album in decades. Much of the recording session had been Zombie creating fake samples from fictitious B-movies – in part, an act of necessity, as rights approval for some samples on La Sexorcisto had lead to significant delays in its release. In part, however, this was Zombie taking the opportunity to fulfill his vision for the band. Zombie’s collage approach to production seemed to use the music of the band less as a base to work from and more as a component of the finished mix.
In interviews, the others would admit that they often did not understand exactly what he was trying to achieve – in conversation with Pulse!, Tempesta admitted that “a lot of that is up to Rob. You’ve just got to trust him”. A sign of Zombie’s commitment to the project was to be found when he submitted a proposed 16-page art layout for the CD insert booklet. When Geffen agreed only to pay for 4 pages, Zombie paid for the additional 12 himself, rather than make a compromise.
The following tour was to cement White Zombie’s reputation as one of the most inventive and outrageous bands in 90’s America. Giant puppets, pyrotechnics and projected visuals made some describe them as the true successors to KISS. There was some disappointment on the European leg of the tour that they were not bringing, due to expense, the full US stage show with them, but warm reviews of the stripped-down shows proved that they were still a successful rock act, minus all the stage theatrics.
A follow-up remix album, Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds, was released in 1996 but this was to be the final commercial White Zombie release. A promotional CD was released in 1998 entitled Zombie Classics – 7 Hits from Hell, which contained the White Zombie singles from the two major albums. It also advertised Rob Zombie’s upcoming album, which originally contained a song titled “West of Zanzibar” (this song was either renamed or is unreleased).
In 1998, Rob Zombie pushed beyond the confines of the band environment. First, he founded his own label, Zombie-A-Go-Go, signing surf and horror acts like The Bomboras and The Ghastly Ones, as well as compiling the mix album Halloween Hootenany. He was managing the new band of his brother Michael, now known as Spider, the punk-tinged Powerman 5000, but also looked to his own career.
For his first solo project, Zombie entered into a close working relationship with producer Scott Humphrey, co-writing the music with him. John Tempesta came straight from White Zombie, and was joined by Mike Riggs on guitar and Rob Nicholson (“Blasko”) on bass. The resultant album, Hellbilly Deluxe: 13 Tales of Cadaverous Cavorting Inside the Spookshow International, was seen by many as Zombie redux – a sleek, short and crazed album. Outside of the confines of a band, Zombie was in complete charge of the product. While the themes remain the same – monsters, hot pants and hot rods – the finished product was less metal and more industrial than anything White Zombie had produced. It was a massive success, with the videos for “Dragula” and “Superbeast” achieving heavy rotation. The album debuted at #5 and has sold over 3 million copies in the US. The album also saw the beginning of Rob Zombie’s very public creative relationship with his long-time girlfriend (now his wife) and muse, Sheri Moon (real name Sherri Skerkis). As a regular in his videos, she became the iconic female of his work. Tall, blonde and similarly influenced by EC Comics and Herschell Gordon Lewis movies, she was placed front and centre in his work from that point on.
If it marked the public announcement of one relationship, Hellbilly Deluxe marked the end of another. After huge opening week sales, dwarfing those of any White Zombie release, it was announced that the band had split up. Sean Yseult left to form female horror-rockers Famous Monsters and, later, Rock City Morgue. Zombie toured extensively with the album and released a re-mix disc, American Made Music to Strip By, in 1999.
In 1999 he collaborated with his long-term inspiration Alice Cooper, on the song “Hands of Death (Burn Baby Burn)” for the X-Files tie-in CD Songs in the Key of X.
Also in 1999 his song “Dragula” was included in “The Matrix” OST. Then in 2003, he came back for second presence in “The Matrix” trilogy albums with the song “Reload” from “The Matrix Reloaded” movie.
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In 2001, Zombie re-united the team of Tempesta, Riggs, Blasko and Humphrey to produce his second solo album, The Sinister Urge. Zombie didn’t take a completely different tack with his second solo release but continued to experiment and push the boundaries of metal and rock. Zombie now incorporated horn instruments into several of his songs, like “Go to Califorina”. But his classic industrial flair also appeared on the album with songs like “Scum of the Earth” and “Feel So Numb”. The Sinister Urge is considered a more palatable album than Hellbilly Deluxe on a whole but never achieved the singles success of Zombie’s first album. “Scum of the Earth” found its way onto the soundtrack of Mission: Impossible 2, and “Never Gonna Stop” was briefly used as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) Superstar Edge’s entrance theme. Even more briefly, Linda Miles, also of WWE, used “Feel So Numb” as an entrance theme.In 2003, Riggs parted ways with Rob Zombie and formed a very “Rob-Zombiesque” band with Mike Tempesta (who had recently left Powerman 5000 and is John’s brother) titled Scum of the Earth. Their first CD titled Blah…Blah…Blah…Love Songs for the New Millennium was released in 2004.
In 2005, Rob Zombie re-issued his solo album Hellbilly Deluxe, now containing the original album with new artwork (not drawn by Zombie, which upset some fans) and a bonus DVD with a full length music video for each and every song on Hellbilly Deluxe. The album released on November 22, 2005.
Rob went back to the studio working on a new album, joined by Blasko (returning from stint with Ozzy Osbourne and a side project, The Death Riders), John 5 (former Marilyn Manson guitarist), and Tommy Lee. After recording some material with these members, he went on tour with Ozzfest in 2005, headlining the second stage with Tommy Clufetos (former Alice Cooper drummer). He returned to the studio with Clufetos and recorded more for a new album. It was announced on January 24th, 2006 that the name of the new album would be Educated Horses and the release date would be March 28, 2006. It has been leaked on the internet as an “advance” copy, which may cause it to be released earlier than scheduled, slightly because of a live stream on MP3.com A tour with Lacuna Coil will kick off in March. “Foxy Foxy”, Rob Zombie’s first single from Educated Horses, was released February 13th, 2006. The second single off the new album is “American Witch”. Educated Horses, like all of his solo albums, has that horror playfullness but this marks a more punk-metal musical shift that sounds like a mature version of his earliest White Zombie material.
On May 31st, 2006, Rob Zombie was joined by Slash (Guns N’ Roses) on lead guitar, Gilby Clarke (Guns N’ Roses) on rythym guitar, Scott Ian (Anthrax) on bass, Tommy Lee (Motley Crue) on drums, and surprise guest Ace Frehley (KISS), also on lead guitar. The occasion was a one-time supergroup tribute to KISS for the first annual VH1 Rock Honors Award Show. They played one song (God of Thunder) near the end of the show before handing it off to honorees KISS.
As befits his strong grasp of graphics and visuals, Rob Zombie took immediate control of White Zombie’s videos. Again, he re-enforced the cartoon spookiness and psychotropic horror imagery of the band, starting with the desert-set “Thunder Kiss ’65”. Featuring Day of the Dead-style devils, Frankenstein’s monster and Go-Go dancers, it became an instant cult classic. Zombie did not direct the follow-up promo for La Sexorcisto’s “Black Sunshine”, but since then has directed every video for his songs. All have referenced his interests and influence – from the 60’s sci-fi of “More Human Than Human” to the Dr Caligari stylings of “Living Dead Girl” and the obvious A Clockwork Orange homage of “Never Gonna Stop”. In this time Sherri Moon has become the female face of Rob Zombie’s work, appearing in a total of 15 of his promos.
Zombie’s unique visual style has been borrowed by other bands: he has also directed videos for Ozzy Osbourne (“Dreamer”), Zakk Wylde’s Black Label Society (“Stillborn”), Powerman 5000 (“Tokyo Vigilante #1”), Prong (“Rude Awakening”) and The Ghastly Ones (“Hauling Hearse”).
As a successful video director with a strong interest in movies, the shift to cinema seemed inevitable. However, it was not to be painless. In the mid-90s, Zombie was approached to direct the third in the successful comic-inspired The Crow franchise, but his script was rejected. He was hired to animate the psychedelic trip sequence from 1996’s Beavis and Butt-head Do America, a sequence which drew increased attention to his skills as a designer.
Zombie’s cinematic interests finally reached fruition with the production of his debut feature as a director, House of 1000 Corpses. The timing seemed perfect: in 2000 the film industry was considering a whole swathe of traditional horror movies and remakes that resulted in such pictures as Michael Bay’s version of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Freddy vs. Jason. Zombie was hired by Universal after he created a maze for Universal Studios’ Halloween Horrors Night in 1999 and began production in April 2000 of his self-penned script, for delivery for the Halloween season. Shooting ran from 14 May to 20 August 2000 and he even designed a second Halloween maze for Universal, expecting their working relationship to continue smoothly.
A mixture of Alice in Wonderland, slapstick comedy, psychedelia and extreme graphic violence, House of 1000 Corpses(HO1KC) (as it is known amongst its fans) centres upon the traditional two teenage couples who go on a road trip in America’s heartland. There they stumble across the legend of Dr Satan , a mythical surgeon who practiced horrific experiments on psychiatric patients. While attempting to find the tree upon which Satan was hung by a lynch mob, they run into the Firefly family, a band of murderous psychopaths who butcher them in intriguing and bizarre fashions.
What Universal expected is unknown: what they got was incredibly controversial. Rather than the slick MTV-style horror some may have expected, Zombie reached straight back into the grindhouse and gore influences that had always pervaded his art. Hiring schlock icons such as Karen Black, Bill Moseley, Sid Haig and his long-time muse Sheri Moon, Zombie produced a movie that owed far more to underground, exploitation and drive-in cinema than to modern tastes. The result split horror fans into two camps: those that adored its shlocky, shocking style and those that despised it as cheesy and amateurish. Universal rejected the movie outright and Rob became engaged in a lengthy process of finding a new home for the picture. (In one interview, he groused, “I called the movie “House of 1,000 Corpses; what did they THINK it was gonna be about?”) It would take another three years for House of 1000 Corpses to finally be released, this time through Lion’s Gate pictures. In the mean time, Zombie finally married Sheri Moon in late 2002.
However, great controversy still surrounds the picture. Finally released in the US with an R rating, the picture ran at 88 minutes. However, a 105 minute cut has been seen at various film festivals, including Mar del Plata in Argentina and Leeds in the United Kingdom. Though Zombie says that he is much more pleased with the 88 minute cut and that the 105 minute cut will probably never be released, he does go into detail describing the longer version on the HO1KC DVD director’s commentary. A script of this version is also readily available at many webpages.
In July 2005, Zombie released his sequel to HO1KC, The Devil’s Rejects. While the first film only took $12,000,000 at the US box office, Zombie’s tiny budget and a good DVD market ensured a profit, opening the door for a sequel. Described by Zombie as being less of a straight horror movie and far closer to a 1970’s revenge western, in the vein of Sam Peckinpah, he has also hinted that this will be the last in the series. He managed to re-unite most of the cast of the original film, with Moseley, Haig and Moon returning to their roles, as well as the world’s tallest actor, Matthew McGrory. Rufus Firefly, originally played by Robert Alan Mukes, is recast as wrestler Tyler Mane, while Leslie Easterbrook replaces Karen Black as Mother Firefly: it has been suggested by Zombie that they asked for pay raises that would be impossible with his tight budget. Danny Trejo and wrestler Diamond Dallas Page join the cast as bounty hunters The Unholy Two, while cult horror actor Ken Foree plays pimp and Firefly ally Charlie Altamont.
The film takes the story of the Firefly family in a less lurid and far more brutal new direction. Several months after the first movie, the Texas police raid the Firefly ranch, forcing the surviving members of the family on the run. While the first film was a haunted house picture, one that was fired by Zombie’s psychedelic artistic vision, this is a road trip, in the mode of the seminal Vanishing Point, combined with the Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Shot on super-16 stock, it is an unflinching movie in which the inhumane Fireflys find themselves on the receiving end of brutality equal to that which they inflicted on their own victims, courtesy of William Forsythe’s deranged Sheriff Wydell. While few critics have called it a likeable movie, praise has been almost universal for Zombie as an auteur and modern maverick.
He is currently working as writer and executive producer on an animated feature of his comic creation El Superbeasto. The rumoured plot sees the eponymous masked wrestler going toe-to-toe with Dr. Satan, one of the characters from House of 1000 Corpses. The director, Doug Lawrence, was the voice of Filburt in the cult Nickelodeon cartoon Rocko’s Modern Life and Plankton in its successor, SpongeBob SquarePants. Rob is no stranger to voice acting having lent his voice to the “god” Ichultu in a two-part Justice League Unlimited episode and as Dr. Curt Connors in Spider-Man: The New Animated Series. His voice has a darker side to Connors and was well received by fans.
As of right now, it is rumored that Rob Zombie’s future plans for his next picture include an untitled western of which Zombie mentioned interest in working with blaxploitation legend Pam Grier.
According to bloody-disgusting.com: As for Rob Zombie, he tells Fango that “he’s in the early stages of work on his third feature, a horror film that he is scripting. But he’s hesitant to reveal more details until the deal is done: “I’m not ready to announce it yet, because it’s gonna be a pretty big announcement when it happens,” Zombie tells Fango, “but we’re still in the legal affairs stage of the deal right now. But there’s gonna be something big coming soon.” It was later announced that his next project was to be Halloween, a remake of the 1978 Halloween film by John Carpenter. Rob Zombie will write, direct and produce the film. The film currently has a key target release date set for October 31, 2007.
Update via MoviesOnline on new Halloween Films: Zombie’s vision of this film is an entirely new take on the legend and will satisfy fans of the classic “Halloween” legacy while beginning a new chapter in the Michael Myers saga. This new movie will not only appeal to horror fans, but to a wider movie-going audience as well. It will not be a copycat of any prior films in the “Halloween” franchise. The film is set for an October 2007 theatrical release. Bob Weinstein stated, “Rob Zombie is a gifted musician and performer as well as a talented filmmaker. His vision for this new ‘Halloween’ is spectacular and I am thrilled to be collaborating with him and to work closely with Malek Akkad to continue the legacy built by his father, the late Moustapha Akkad.” Rob Zombie said, “I have been a huge, huge fan of John Carpenter’s original film since its release. So when Bob Weinstein approached me about this, I jumped at the chance to join forces with Dimension Films on this amazing project.”
Increasingly, Rob has placed his musical career on hiatus and concentrated not simply on movies, but extending the HOTC franchise. His first big project was to launch a spin-off comic through Crossgen Comics, entitled Spookshow International. A horror anthology set in the HOTC continuity and written solely by Zombie, the stories initially concentrated on the further adventures of the Firefly family. As the title has progressed, Zombie has moved away from this core conceit. By issue 7, the main storyline centred around masked Mexican wrestler El Superbeasto and his regularly naked one-eyed super-spy sister Suzi X. There has also been a toy range, released through NECA toys.
In addition, Zombie has collaborated with rising horror comic star Steve Niles to form a new comic firm, CREEP Entertainment. So far they have released monster-smashing wrestling title The Nail and, with legendary comic artist Richard Corben, Zombie is now working on Bigfoot.
Rob Zombie/Godsmack/Shinedown Tour Dates:08/25 – Dallas, TX @ Smirnoff Music Center
08/26 – Selma, TX @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
08/27 – Houston, TX @ C.W. Mitchell Pavilion
08/29 – Atlanta, GA @ HiFi Buys Amphitheatre
08/31 – Charlotte, NC @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
09/02 – Bristow, VA @ Nissan Pavilion
09/03 – Camden, NJ @ Tweeter Center at the Waterfront
09/04 – Darien Center, NY @ Darien Lake Performing Arts Center
09/07 – Mansfield, MA @ Tweeter Center
09/08 – Holmdel, NJ @ PNC Bank Arts Center
09/09 – Wantagh, NY @ Nikon at Jones Beach Theater
09/12 – Milwaukee, WI @ Marcus Amphitheatre
09/14 – Tinley Park, IL @ First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre
09/15 – Clarkston, MI @ DTE Energy Music Theater
09/16 – Noblesville, IN @ Verizon Wireless Music Center
09/17 – Maryland Heights, MO @ UMB Bank Pavilion
09/19 – Bonner Springs, MO @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
09/21 – Morrison, CO @ Red Rocks
09/22 – Albuquerque, NM @ Journal Pavilion
09/23 – Phoenix, AZ @ Cricket Pavilion
09/24 – Las Vegas, NV @ Theatre Under The Stars at Hard Rock
09/27 – Auburn, WA @ White River Amphitheatre
09/29 – Marysville, CA @ Sleep Train Amphitheatre
09/30 – Irvine, CA @ Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre
10/01 – Concord, CA @ Sleep Train Pavilion
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