These days, Rob Zombie might be better known as a horror auteur than a musician, but the former White Zombie frontman still knows how to get a crowd moving — and screaming. Over the weekend, in Villa Park, Illinois, he hosted the Great...
Fusing hardcore, heavy metal, and outsized theatrics, White Zombie celebrated trash culture, incorporating such elements as B-movie humor and true-crime gore. Along the lines of Alice Cooper, GWAR, the Cramps, and Marilyn Manson, they were as much a concept as a band. The group dissolved in late 1998, but frontman Rob Zombie has continued along the same path as a solo artist and horror filmmaker.
Moving to New York City after high school, Rob Cummings met Sean Yseult at art school in 1985. Soon living together, they formed White Zombie, taking the name from a 1932 Bela Lugosi horror film. Their self-produced EP gained them cult fame, as did their album Soul-Crusher, and in 1989 Bill Laswell produced Make Them Die Slowly.
White Zombie's major-label debut arrived amid personnel changes and notoriety. Televangelists attacked the band's gleefully "satanic" lyrics; Zombie courted controversy by asking convicted mass murderer Charles Manson for permission to use a sample of his voice (he declined, as did horror actor Vincent Price when presented with a similar request). When MTV cartoon characters Beavis and Butt-head praised La Sexorcisto (#26, 1993), the album entered the Top 30. The album's "Thunder Kiss '65" was nominated for a Best Hard Rock Performance Grammy, as was "More Human Than Human," from Astro-Creep: 2000 (#6, 1995). Supersexy Swingin' Sounds (#17, 1996) was a collection of Astro-Creep remixes featuring contributions by the Dust Brothers and P.M. Dawn.
Zombie released his solo debut, Hellbilly Deluxe (#5) in 1998, dissolving White Zombie a couple of weeks after the album's release. That same year, he founded his Zombie A Go-Go record label. Hellbilly spawned its own remix followup, American Made Music to Strip By in 1999. In between the breakup of White Zombie and the launch of his solo career, Zombie was commissioned to write and direct The Crow III. He abandoned the project after two years of rewrites, but in 1999 he designed his own haunted Halloween maze at Universal Studios, Rob Zombie's American Nightmare. A year later he began shooting his directorial debut, House of 1000 Corpses, released in 2001.
This biography originally appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001).
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