Posted April 21, 2013 by Jeff in Flicks

Rob Zombie: Throwing himself into everything he does

Famous for fronting the hard rock act White Zombie, Rob Zombie has become a master of the grisly horror flick. His 2007 remake of Halloween is disturbingly violent. He shows a bit more subtlety with his latest feature, The Lords of Salem, which opened wide last week. The film stars Zombie’s wife Sheri Moon Zombie, who plays Heidi, a dreadlocked radio DJ who receives a mysterious album in the mail. Predictably enough, the album becomes a big hit, and Heidi and her fellow DJs receive a set of tickets to a concert that turns out to be some kind of satanic meeting involving the witches of Salem. A bloodbath ensues. Zombie recently phoned us en route to New York to do interviews to promote the movie.

When did you start writing the film and what was your initial inspiration for the story?
My initial inspiration was a book I was reading about the Salem witch trials. That was around 2007. I was just reading it for the hell of it. It spurred the idea for the film, but I was caught up in middle of other things at the time. I think I was finishing up the first Halloween, so I filed the idea away and forgot all about it until recently.

How different was it from Halloween?
The Halloween movies, especially the first one, were odd because you’re working from a pre-existing property, you have to worry about what you’ll change and what you’ll keep the same. You’re always balancing out those issues. With something like this, since it’s a completely original story, you never think about that stuff.

Did you research the witch trials at all?
I did at first. I did a bunch of research because I wanted to be familiar with it all.  But I didn’t rely too much on actual history.

It must have been fun to throw in a few rock ’n’ roll references to the storyline.
Other than the fact that the main characters work at a radio station, there wasn’t that much rock in it. That was just a backdrop and it’s easier to create worlds and characters out of things that are familiar to you. I’ve been to enough radio stations and worked at enough radio stations that I know it’s an interesting place. That’s the extent of the rock music in the film.

Are you nostalgic for that time when live DJs used to work at radio stations?
I do kind of miss it. There’s some of it still, but it is a dying thing unfortunately. Maybe people will miss it, but people can’t miss something they don’t remember. I loved everything about it. I liked the fact that radio stations in different cities were different in the way they do things. But now, you just turn on satellite radio and it’s all the same all the time. Whatever. It is what it is.

You’ve worked with your wife before. What do you like about working with her?
It’s a hard thing to explain because it’s very easy. I like investing myself heavily in a project. You like other people who are willing to do the same. Sometimes other actors come in and work a few days and then leave. You might never ever talk to them again. It’s nice having some connection in your real life that’s deeper because you put so much of yourself into it. You want that.

She undergoes quite a transformation in the film.
Yeah, it was a lot of work. She worked a lot and was working all day long. I’m sure it was heavy after a while. The subject matter gets depressing and stays depressing. You show up all to work all day long in some depressive state and I’m sure that it can be trying to be that person all day long.

It’s kind of funny that the things that cause real violence are the things that everyone wants to protect and the things that are fake are the things that everyone wants to attack.

The amount of violence in popular culture is again spurring controversy. What’s your justification for making movies that are ultra-violent?
Well, I mean, what’s excessively violent? What does that even mean? I don’t think you need to have a justification for it because it’s not real. It’s kind of funny that the things that cause real violence are the things that everyone wants to protect and the things that are fake are the things that everyone wants to attack. It’s absurd. It’s a cultural thing. The biggest cliché of all time is if you go to Japan. Their animation is so fucking violent but they don’t have any violence over there. It’s all bullshit. It’s all a diversion. None of it is real. If someone wants to talk about real issues, they spin the stories toward video games or music or movies or something that’s fairly unrelated so they can put up violent images from those and then nothing ever changes. So it’s all a bunch of bullshit.

I’ve listened to your new album a bit and it sounds great. Is its release timed with the release of your film?
They’re not connected in any way. I planned to get them out around the same time but they’re two completely separate pieces of work. The approach this time was a little different. The approach to everything is that you want to do something great. But this time, I moved the whole band out of L.A. to a studio in a barn in the woods so that we could just get away from everything. We just wanted to focus. Every record has been made in Los Angeles. It’s a distracting city to put it mildly and I just wanted to sequester everyone away from the non-stop barrage of bullshit. It worked really well. We just worried about the record and nothing else.

Talk briefly about balancing the two careers.
I don’t know. It’s tricky at times. Part of the reason for putting the two projects out at the same time was not to alternate between the two. I would jump between them and each one would take me away from the other one for years at a time. It would fuck me up in a way because you’d spend most of the time doing movies, you’d have to back to the music. I wanted to keep both projects alive.

You must be happy that your tour with Marilyn Manson is over?
That tour was good. We did all the U.S. and all of Europe. That was a very long tour but it went great.

But I heard you two had an altercation in Detroit. Was that blown out of proportion?
Yeah. Wait a minute, you mean the media took some tiny thing and blew it out of proportion? No. That’s not possible.

What do you have planned for your summer tour?
We’re headlining Mayhem. It’s a massive tour with a massive stage show and a massive everything. We’ll start rehearsing soon. We’re already building the stage and building stuff for the tour. We have been for a while. That’s already in the works. We did it a couple of years ago and it was fantastic. We’re looking forward to it.


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].