Weekly Wire
Weekly Alibi E-ticket to Zombie Town

By Brendan Doherty

MARCH 1, 1999:  Anyone concerned that rock and roll is dead need only attend a Rob Zombie show. Here, on the Hellbilly Deluxe stage, a 10,000-volt version of Zombietown was meticulously crafted from Zombie's (née Rob Straker's) mind: every metallic skull, each mangled gargoyle, each Goth-y detail down to the $100,000 worth of special effects and shooting flames. Legions of fans stare at the living stoner embodiment of a dream backed by the sound of shredding guitars and filled with distortion and drums louder than an earthquake.

"I don't understand how it became hip to act like you don't care," says Zombie of the current music scene. "It reminds me of when it was cool to be dumb at school--it's a bizarre sickness. I really want to do something extra special, something to top all my previous shows. Stuff was more mysterious when I was a kid. If they told me that Gene Simmons was from Mars, I'd have believed them. Now all of the mystery in music is gone."

There's no mystery to Zombie's bone-crunching sound. The band's live show is as captivating as the band's video for "Dragula." While the band plays, screens flash clips from classic horror films, religious clips and trash culture. It's as if little Eddie Munster has grown up, plugged a BC Rich guitar into a Marshall and turned every trashy television show into a metal song. Zombie recently finished filming a group of five videos, including one for "Living Dead Girl," which leans heavily on the famous Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and affirms Zombie's child-like fascination with horror and fantasy.

"I never lost my fascination for anything I immediately liked as a kid," says Zombie. "I remember the first time I went to Disneyland and I thought 'Oh, my God! I have to make my life like this.' I don't think people tire of anything--they certainly don't tire of horror movies."

In response, they come to record shops in a trance, with their eyes rolled back. Every disaffected young male and trash-culture hound from the suburbs is pushing Zombie's latest record, Hellbilly Deluxe, toward the 2 million mark in sales. Already, his former band's last record, Astro Creep 2000, has sold twice as much as Hole's Live Through This or Marilyn Manson's Antichrist Superstar. During White Zombie's seeming arrival, though, the band dissolved.

"The simple version of that whole situation is [that] those people burnt themselves out," says Zombie. "That group of people didn't work anymore. We kinda just said, 'We've been doing this for 13 years, and really doing it hardcore, nonstop, for the last five years--we need a break.' You really can take something that you like, and that you're really proud of, and beat it into the ground by working too hard. I hate when something that you love to do starts seeming like a chore. Rather than beating a dead horse, we just go on."

Zombie had tried to leave music and the grueling tour schedule in order to make films. Zombie designed the classic hallucination sequence for the film Beavis and Butthead Do America. The producers of The Crow film series also contacted Zombie. Having loved the spooky, psychedelic video Zombie directed for "I'm Your Boogieman," they commissioned him to write the script for the next movie in the series. He worked The Crow 3 through a reported two years of rewrites before walking away in frustration.

"There were too many cooks in the kitchen," says Zombie. "Nobody knew what they wanted."

So Zombie returned to music. To do it, he enlisted the help of White Zombie drummer John Tempesta, Nine Inch Nails guitarist Danny Lohner and others, including Mötley Crüe's Tommy Lee. He has returned to Geffen, a record company in the middle of collapse, with a band that is ready to take over the world. Geffen is being absorbed by Interscope and, Zombie says, nobody was left from when he signed anyhow.

"It sucks because people are losing jobs, and bands are being dropped," says Zombie. "But it doesn't matter much to me, really. The business changes so much every year."

For the time being, Zombie seems content to channel his cinematic vision into videos and onstage, where he's the boss.

"After all of those years to go on and get some new people, I'm doing the same thing, but there is a renewed energy to it. It's perfect," says Zombie. "I would look at White Zombie records that were finished, and I'd hate them. That's why this record was a big kick in the ass. It made it almost seem like I just started. It sounds stupid, but it made everything really fresh and new again."

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