Rob Zombie likes to keep busy. As he prepares for the release of his newest film as a director, The Lords of Salem, this April, he’s already making plans for the summer: he’ll release a new album and has a headlining gig on this year’s Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, which begins June 29th in San Bernardino, California.
The 26-city metal tour lineup was announced at a press event yesterday at the Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood, beginning with a procession of Hell’s Angels rolling up to the old club on three-wheeled hogs pulling carriages. Sitting beside Zombie onstage were the members of Five Finger Death Punch, who last toured together on the 2010 Mayhem fest. Also returning to Mayhem is Mastodon, plus 13 other metal acts.
“How will it be bigger than last time?” Zombie asked from the stage. “We’ll just add more stuff.”
Backstage after the press conference, Zombie spoke with Rolling Stone about the tour, his upcoming films and his new album, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, coming April 23th.
This isn’t your first time on Mayhem. Why do you keep returning to festivals?
The more people, the better. Festivals – especially in Europe – they’re just monstrously gigantic, and it’s fun. It’s a cool way to spend the summer because I don’t see people much, as far as other musicians that I’m friends with, except in a festival scenario. I don’t ever leave the house. It’s a way to catch up with people.
You can also immerse yourself in music after being so focused on finishing a film.
It’s the polar-opposite experience. I’ve been working in such a confined way for so long, whether writing or editing. It’s such an isolated scenario. I haven’t been in a room with this many people in a long time.
Are you planning a big production for Mayhem?
Yeah, we have a massive production. One time about seven years ago I did Ozzfest with no production, just for the hell of it. But I love a big production. This is a huge, huge show for the summer. We’ve been working on it for a long time.
Similar themes from the past, with cars, monsters, girls, etc.?
Yeah. With a festival it’s almost like you’re doing a greatest hits tour, in a weird sort of way. When you’re doing a headline show, you know the people there are your fans, but with festivals you tend to want to do something that works better for the masses.
What was your first rock concert?
The first concert I ever saw was Tiny Tim. He played a VFW hall in the town I lived in. I was very young, but I knew the songs, because “Tiptoe Through the Tulips” was very popular at the time. That was the early Seventies. I was probably five or six years old. My little kid brain couldn’t even figure it out.
At Mayhem, this is going to be their first concert for some kids.
Kids come up to me going, “Oh, that was so great, this was my first concert!” I tell them, Well, they ain’t all like this. They don’t all have giant exploding robots. Don’t expect that next time.
How much from the new album will you be performing?
Maybe three songs max would be enough. Nobody ever wants to go to a concert and hear tons of new stuff. I certainly don’t. It’s a fucking nightmare.
What new song will definitely be on the set list?
“Dead City Radio” is the single that came out last week. It’s doing great. It’s the fastest moving song up the charts we’ve had in a while. I directed the video for that yesterday. I’ve directed all my videos for the last 20 years. I think it will be the best video I’ve ever done. In the last 10 years, as the value of videos sort of declined, and I started making movies, I got bored with making videos because it just seemed like, what’s the point? But the four of us are so jazzed about the record and the tour that we really wanted to make a great video. I thought, let’s give it the old community college try. This is a conceptual video – it’s bizarre. It’s a freak show, man.
What is The Lords of Salem about?
It’s a very different film for me. It gets tagged as a horror film, but it’s a different sort of surreal horror arthouse movie. It’s more in line with a Ken Russell movie or a Roman Polanski film. I really wanted to do something different.
Are you trying to push further away from the kinds of slasher/horror movies people might expect from you?
For sure. The next couple of films I have lined up are not horror in any sense of the word at all. The next film I have is a sports film called The Broad Street Bullies – it’s a true-life sports story about the Philadelphia Flyers winning the Stanley Cup in 1974. That’s a total departure from everything I’ve done so far.
There’s nothing horrific about that.
It’s a very violent movie, but not in a horrible sort of way. I’ve been researching that for about a year. It’s a big story and took a lot of research, which is new for me. The movies have all been fictitious and whatever crazy thing I thought of. But this is all based on fact.
They tried, but they did not succeed.
Are you starting to develop a movie fanbase that is not interested at all in your music?
I’ve noticed that for a long time. Music is very compartmentalized. People will see all kinds of movies but generally will listen to only one type of music. The people that come up to me that like the movies are very different. Not only are they probably not a fan of the music, I don’t think they even know about the music. The movies reach such a wider audience. It changed everything.
You never thought of being in movies yourself?
No. I get offers all the time, but I turn them all down. Hitchcock did it and it was cool, and Scorsese is actually good in the bit parts he’s written for himself, like in Taxi Driver. But for the most part everybody doesn’t have to do it, and I certainly don’t have to do it.
In the film business, there’s a lot of waiting around between projects.
I never wait around for anything, which is good. And deals fall apart all the time because there are so many moving pieces. You can never sit around and wait for something to happen. I’ve been pretty lucky because the things I’ve put together have gone. [Original director] Guillermo Del Toro worked on The Hobbit for almost two years. That’s a long time to get nothing out of something. That’s a situation I never want to be part of. I’ve been offered movies that felt like that was something that was going to happen, so I back away.
Are you most interested in films you generate yourself, or are you just as interested in somebody coming to you with a project?
It depends on how it strikes me. The next one, the Flyers story, is not something I created. The next one after that – which I can’t announce yet – is based on someone’s book, so the next two are not something I generated. Writing was never a passion of mine. It became a necessity. As a director, you’re going to take anything and pervert it. If not, then what’s the point of hiring me?