Rob Zombie: Monster of Rock

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If Rob Zombie had his druthers, he would not be involved in music at all today. In the wake of White Zombie's demise, Rob was commissioned to write and direct the third installment in the Gothhorror franchise The Crow – even though his only previous celluloid credit was conceiving the acid-trip sequence in the Beavis and Butt-head movie.

"Listen," Zombie says, "I don't see directing a movie as any different from anything else. The thing that gives me the confidence to do stuff is when you meet the other people that are doing it. You think, 'Jesus Christ, if that retard can do it . . . '"

Rob Zombie reserves a special animus for the teen-horror flicks that have lately dominated the multiplexes. "I finally checked out the first Scream, after much protest," he says. "And I couldn't believe what I was seeing! What is this? Some kind of wink-wink, nudge-nudge Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys mystery?!" Zombie's voice rises in Beavis-esque indignation: "I was like, 'This film sucks so bad – I want my money back!' I want to like new stuff, but it's always crap. It seems as if anything made past 1985 is hopeless."

Zombie nurtured The Crow 3 through two years of rewrites before walking away in frustration. "There were too many cooks in the kitchen," says Zombie. "Nobody knew what they wanted all they wanted was a hit, and nobody knows what a hit is. It's usually the exact movie that nobody wants to make."

He still intends to make his big-screen statement. And he'll likely expand his empire further by updating the White Zombie comic book that Marvel developed a few years back. But it was the need to recoup the "pile of money" he'd lost on The Crow 3 that led Zombie to return to an arena where he can rule with a whim of iron. He launched into a frenzy of creativity, whipping up the Hellbilly Deluxe album, plus all the attendant graphics and videos and stage sets and costumes. Fortunately for Zombie, his old constituency was ravenous for his new incarnation.

None are more ravenous than the well-groomed ladies who linger outside Rob Zombie's dressing rooms at New York's Roseland. While they wait for a glimpse of their hero, these music lovers can at least eye Tommy Lee, amateur porn star, pop-metal survivor and improbable guest drummer on a couple of Hellbilly tracks. (Lee had been staying at the house of Scott Humphrey after he got out of jail for assaulting his ex-wife, Pamela Anderson. "At that point, it was so great just to go and play music," Lee says.)

No other celebrities grace Rob Zombie's inner sanctum, and no old-time New York pals are there to greet him. "All my friends are on this tour," says Zombie, who admits that his isolationist tendencies breed misperceptions about him. "People don't really know what I'm like. They seem to think that in order to do what I do, you'd have to be sooo fucked up on drugs all the time. But I've always found that people who are fucked up on drugs don't produce much of anything."

In other words, Zombie is as much an outsider among rock-business contemporaries as he was among his peers at Haverhill High. Which was well illustrated when he withdrew from Korn's summer '98 Family Values outing because the Zombietown set simply proved impractical for a package tour. Industry gossip, however, insisted that it was Rob Zombie's ego that was unwieldy. (The gossips should note that a Zombie-Korn tour is now set for February.)

"At this point nothing really bugs me," he says with a touch of weariness. "Everything I love was slagged at the time it came out, from Roger Corman to Alice Cooper to Black Sabbath - no one gave a shit about it until so far after the fact. If all of a sudden I was a critics' darling, I'd be wondering what I did wrong."

On the sidewalk outside, dozens of sweat-drenched fans line up in testament to the triumph of Zombie's ruggedly individualist work-as-play ethos. Every one of these grateful Zombie victims knows that he's just ridden the last E-ticket ride in rock. And that is all the reward this clean-living Antichrist, trash-purist control freak seeks for sharing his childhood nightmares with the world.

This story is from the February 4th, 1999 issue of Rolling Stone.

To read the new issue of Rolling Stone online, plus the entire RS archive: Click Here

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