October is Metal Month at Radio.com. What exactly does that mean? Well, throughout the month, we’ll have artist interviews as well as mini-documentaries about metal, metal fans and the birthplace of the genre. And book reports: reading is fundamental, even for headbangers, and we’ll have reviews of some of the best recent books about metal. First up, our interview with Rob Zombie.
Google “Rob Zombie” and you’ll notice that the word “Halloween” is not far from the top of suggested search terms. It could be because of his amazing 1998 compilation Halloween Hootenanny, but more likely, it’s because he directed the reboot of the Halloween film franchise (both the 2007 film and 2009’s Halloween II). These days, it’s also because of his Great American Nightmare Festival, taking place from October 10 through November 2 in Los Angeles. While Halloween isn’t in the event name, what other festival features three different haunted houses? There are, of course, nightly live bands, including 3OH!3, Blood On The Dance Floor, Andrew W.K., Powerman 5000, the Butcher Babies and Rob himself. Zombie has made it his job to celebrate Halloween, professionally speaking.
“I’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” Zombie tells Radio.com. “It’s really a two-week-long Halloween extravaganza. There’s haunted mazes, but every night there’s bands playing metal, punk, alternative, dance–every night’s different. Then, there’s car shows and wrestling. You can go to everything or to one thing, but I wanted to do one sort of all-encompassing Halloween carnival craziness.”
Of course, for Rob Zombie, nearly every day is Halloween. Whenever he takes the stage–including in blazing temperatures on this summer’s Mayhem festival–he’s wearing full-on monster gear. From his stage get-ups to album art to music videos, Rob’s music (both as a member of White Zombie and in his subsequent solo career) has always had a huge visual element.
“I never had a moment where I thought the visuals are important–it never even crossed my mind that they weren’t important,” he said. “I was more shocked when people would act like they weren’t. Visuals have always been incredibly important to rock music. Would anyone have cared if Jimi Hendrix was fat and bald, or if Jim Morrison was ugly? Rock has always had a lot of style.”
White Zombie came out of a scene that didn’t pack a huge visual punch: the New York art scene of the mid-’80s that also included Sonic Youth and Live Skull. But at some point, they were accepted in the heavy metal community, where Rob now enjoys near-icon status. His metal fanbase has supported him for over two decades now.
“The biggest thing about metal audiences that other forms of music don’t have–some of them do, I’m sure–the longevity and the loyalty,” he said. “You’ll see people, they love it forever. They’ll say, ‘It’s my 50th time seeing Iron Maiden!’ That’s whats great about it. It’s that frozen in time loyalty to the bands that they love.”
A lot of those fans showed up to see Rob headline Mayhem this summer, alongside Mastodon, Five Finger Death Punch and more. Mayhem is notable not as America’s big touring metal fest these days, but also for advocating various veteran’s charities. The charity that Rob worked with was the Puppy Rescue Mission, and while the idea of the demonic rocker loving puppies sounds funny at first, it’s quickly clear that this is a cause that is near to his heart.
“The puppy rescue: it’s a funny name,” he admits. “What it is, is a lot of soldiers in Afghanistan would find these dogs and bond with them and sneak them on the bases, even though they weren’t supposed to have them. It was probably the only moment of sanity for these guys, when they spent time with them. Some of the stories I’ve heard are horrible: people would torture these dogs, and kill them for fun. These guys saved these dogs, and really bonded with them. But they weren’t allowed to take them home, and if they could, it was so expensive. That was a cause I could really understand and get behind. Imagine being that far from home and bonding with a dog and then being told to just leave him there and then get on a plane to go home. No way!”
When he’s not rocking out, designing haunted houses and saving puppies, Rob has his career as a film director, which is still very much on his mind and energies. However, he’s expanding beyond horror; his next film, Broad Street Bullies, is about the Stanley Cup winning Philadelphia Flyers in the mid-’70s.
“I was always a huge hockey fan,” he said, acknowledging that a sports movie isn’t necessarily what one would expect from him. “I wanted to be a pro hockey player before I even knew there was music. I was a diehard Bruins fan.”
He has a few other films planned as well: “I’ve got two movies that are in the pipeline, but you just never know. In a perfect world I would do this Flyers movie, and then this next movie, which I can’t announce yet, which is not horror. The thing is with movies, it’s really hard to get them made. It’s almost seems impossible! Every time I finish one, I feel like I’m never gonna make another one because the process is so insane. Even with big directors! Without naming names, I know A-list directors who work on something for two years, and they’re getting ready to start shooting, and it gets shut down. So, someone can call me tomorrow, and go, ‘Oh we have the rights to this, we have the money, we can start right now!’ I’d say, ‘Let’s do it!’ That’s how the Halloween movie happened. I wasn’t planning on doing that, that one just seemed to come out of nowhere.”
After the Great American Nightmare Festival wraps in November, Zombie and Korn will team up for a co-headlining tour dubbed Night of the Living Dreads, extending Halloween well into November.