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Hear Marilyn Manson, Rob Zombie Cover Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’

Rob Zombie talks joint tour with Manson and origins of Beatles cover

Rob Zombie

Rob Zombie tells us about what fans can expect from his joint tour with Marilyn Manson and shares their cover of Beatles' "Helter Skelter."

Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

“It’s the perfect tour, I think,” says Rob Zombie about Twins of Evil: The Second Coming, his co-headlining jaunt with Marilyn Manson that kicks off July 11th at Detroit’s DTE Energy Music Theatre. The trek, which pits Zombie’s B-movie-splattered groove metal against Manson’s industrial-goth exorcisms, is a match made in hell — and one that’s guaranteed to be among heavy music’s biggest bills of the summer.

The outing, of course, is not the first time the artists have paired up. They first got together for 2012’s original Twins of Evil trek, which was not without controversy. Early on in the tour, Manson slagged on his co-headliner from the stage and on social media — at one show, believing his set time had been cut down, Manson commented that he was “going to beat [Zombie’s] ass.” Zombie then responded in kind, performing Alice Cooper’s “School’s Out” during his own set and dedicating it to “the only real shock rocker there ever was, Alice Cooper, not some punk-ass bitch.”
But, Zombie says today, there’s no bad blood between the two — and for the most part, there never was. “It was already old news by the time it was news,” he says.

Zombie and Manson recently united to record a cover of the Beatles’ “Helter Skelter,” a song which later came to be closely associated with Charles Manson. Their version — in Zombie’s words a “heavier, weirder and more groove-oriented” take on the White Album track — premieres today on Rolling StoneThroughout their slowed-down, snarling version, the duo alternate vocals over a surge of detuned distortion. They recreate the song’s overall sense of hysteria as the song builds, climaxing with a torrent of heavy drum fills and hair-raising feedback. Zombie and Manson will also perform the song together onstage at each tour stop this summer.

As for what Zombie appreciates about an artist like Manson? “I’ve always liked the fact that he’s not worried about being a rock star — it’s just what he is,” he says. “He puts on a big show, and that’s the way it should be.” As for Zombie’s own show, he assures that his performances on the Twins of Evil: The Second Coming tour will be characteristically over-the-top. “It’ll be video overload, that’s for sure,” he says, then laughs. “Not great for epileptics.”

How did the idea come about for you and Marilyn Manson to cover “Helter Skelter”?
We had been talking about doing something together for these shows — that he should come onstage during my set and we’d do a song. But we couldn’t think of what song. After we talked, later that night I was home and I just thought, The obvious song is “Helter Skelter”… It’s so obvious that neither one of us thought of it! And then I figured, well, rather than us just doing it onstage, why don’t we take it one step further and record it and put a new spin on it? That way, rather than just doing some impromptu jam together, now the fans will go, “Oh, there’s the song I’ve already heard, and now they’re doing it.”

Had you thrown around any other song ideas?
No. We hadn’t brought up any songs at all. At first it was just, “I’ll come onstage during your show and jam and we’ll do one of your songs.” But I was like, “Ah, if we could think of something better than that…” It wasn’t until later that night that I texted him about the “Helter Skelter” idea. And he said, “Cool. Let’s do it.”

How did you approach the song in the studio?
Well, my thought when it comes to covers is to stick close to the original. Because in my mind, what’s the actual point of doing a cover if no one can recognize it? So with our version, I think it varies as much as it can from the original, but not so much that it becomes a different song.

How did you record it?
We used my band, and Manson and I did our parts separately. I was on the East Coast and he was in, like, Spain or something, on tour. We were communicating the whole time, but it wasn’t possible to get in the studio together.

You and Manson toured together in 2012. What led you to want to do it again?
We’ve been talking about it for a long time, because the last time we did it, even though there was one moment of nonsense, the tour itself was great. So whenever the time was right to do it I always knew we would.

So everything’s good between you guys now?
Oh, yeah. It was fine then, too. I mean, it was one incident, and then we finished the U.S. tour and did an entire European tour together.

Did the two of you ever have to sit down and clear the air?
Nah, it was nothing. You know, when the story gets retold a million times it makes it into a much bigger deal. But we didn’t care at all.

What can we expect in your set this time?
We’re dragging out a huge show, as always. And these days the fan base is really varied, from people who have been fans from 30 years to people who have been fans for 30 minutes. So we’re doing old songs, new songs, all of it. It’s a little bit of everything.

You just finished up work on a new studio album, which will be the follow up to 2016’s The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser. What can you tell us about it?
I think it’s the best record we’ve done, for sure. As for what people can expect from it, I mean, how do you talk about music? What do you say? I think it’s got the widest variety of things we’ve ever done. And the record goes to very far extremes, but in a really good way. If a song is heavy, it’s the heaviest song we’ve ever done. If a song is weird, it’s the weirdest song we’ve ever done. I’m super-proud of it.

You also recently wrapped production on Three from Hell, the sequel to your 2005 film, The Devil’s Rejects.
Yeah. We’re done filming, but I really won’t get into post-production until September, after the tour. I used to do things in a way where I’d do one and then the other. But now I try to keep them all going. It was too difficult to disappear for two years to make a movie and then try to go on tour and then come back and switch again. So now I try to keep them all fired up at the same time.

Last year you narrated a Charles Manson documentary, The Final Words. How did you become involved in that?
I actually never really look to get involved in those types of things. One day I just got a phone call asking if I’d be interested in doing the narrating. And I was like, “Sure, that’d be great. I’m in!”

There had also been reports a few years back of your involvement in another Charles Manson project, one that had author Bret Easton Ellis attached to it.
That wasn’t a documentary—it was more like a 10-part mini-series. A really epic project. That never happened… and I sincerely doubt it will.

As far as “Helter Skelter,” it’s a phrase that Manson notoriously adopted for his own purposes. Was he someone you’ve always associated with the song?
Oh, yeah. For anyone my age you really cannot listen to the White Album or “Helter Skelter” without the Charles Manson connection. That’s all I associate it with, ever since I was a little kid. As upbeat or light as a lot of the songs on the album are, somehow they always seem connected to Manson. They just have a dark vibe. You can’t hear ‘em any other way. At least I can’t, that’s for sure.

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