What is there to say that hasn’t already been said about Rob Zombie? He’s the father of cult horror films such as House of 1000 Corpses, The Devil’s Rejects and the Halloween reboot while still managing to continue his iconic music career. We had the chance to sit down with Zombie and chat about his latest venture, The Lords of Salem, and ended up talking about so much more.
Playboy.com: New album, new book and new film. Your fans must be losing their minds. Was your idea to always release all three of them closely together?
Zombie: That was always the plan, yes. Whether that was a good plan, I’m not sure, but it was always the plan.
Playboy.com: I had the pleasure of reading the book Lords of Salem over the weekend. Do you think you should read the book before going to see the film or vice versa?
Zombie: I’d say see the film first. They’re very, very different. The book is much more closely related to the original script; the movie changed quite a bit, so I would say see the film first. The film is what came first; the film is more important to me than the book, you know? The book is more important for the fanatics to read, but the film is what matters.
Playboy.com: I’m just going by the book because I wasn’t at TIFF last year, but I feel as if there was a major shift between this book and your past films. They have always had that skewed creep factor, but I felt as if this book was eerie in a more psychological sense, which really creeps me out. Is there something that prompted this change?
Zombie: That’s the vibe of the film also. I tried to make a very different movie. It’s a very slow sort of psychological film. I wouldn’t even know if I’d totally classify it as a horror movie, but I guess it is. It’s more of a psychological terror.
Playboy.com: Could you talk a bit about the cinematography? From what I’ve seen from the stills and trailer it looks incredible.
Zombie: I wanted
to do something very different with the cinematography on this film. I’ve
always been a really big fan of gritty handheld you-are-there photography, but I
don’t always want to do the same thing all of the time, so for this film I
thought the subject matter wanted a different approach and that approach was
very slow, wide open camera work. And all of the shots are very symmetrical,
very composed; there is no unmotivated camerawork. A lot of the other movies
had the cameras moving around all over the place with no real motivation,
whereas in this film, if I didn’t need the camera to move, I didn’t move it. So
it plays a lot more still. A lot of times when you move the camera around it
tends to be very much about the people because you’re showing close-ups and
you’re in people’s faces, but this was so much about the environment also that
it was very wide open and still. I don’t think you could really creep people
out if the camera is jumping around.
Playboy.com: What films were you watching while you were shooting this?
Zombie: Not while I was shooting, but obviously before I started I sat down with my cinematographer and we watched a bunch of movies. There’s really no other way to convey what you’re thinking to another person about a movie that doesn’t exist yet. But honestly there wasn’t really a lot of movies that we could find that had the same feeling I wanted. It has a very European sensibility, this slow style approach; a lot of the Polanski films are like that, the Argento movies are like that. And Stanley Kubrick movies are definitely like that, that very slow camera work with the very composed shots that looks like every single tiny little thing is there for a reason, which is what I was trying to do, which is hard on a short shooting schedule. That’s the most complicated way of shooting something. We’re constantly at war with each other.
Playboy.com: Your wife is a knockout. Was this role written with her in mind?
Zombie: It was. I had actually started writing this about five years ago. I think back then we were doing a radio show together. I always had her in mind. Most of the people in the movie I had in mind when I was writing it, actually. Some people changed, but for the most part it stayed.
Playboy.com: I'm sure bands send you demos all the time. What’s the weirdest or most elaborate demo you’ve been sent?
Zombie: I don’t listen to anything. If somebody hands me a demo or script I won’t even touch it. [laughs] Mostly because of the fact that in six months someone is going to say, “Hey man, you stole that from me!” So when people say, “read my script” I just say, “Nooo thanks!” because the next thing I’ll be hearing is your lawyer calling saying it was all your idea. It’s unfortunate that I can’t, but in a sue-crazy society you can’t take that chance.
Playboy.com: How do you go about tackling songwriting while you’re also writing films?
Zombie: I don’t do them at the same time, obviously, but it’s not easy jumping from one thing to another. With this film it was difficult because I shot the film, then I went on tour, I came back, we edited the film, went back on tour again, came back and finished the movie, writing, then went to the studio to make an album, came out of that. I was actually finalizing the color timing on the film when I was in Austria on tour, so it gets kind of crazy but it’s the only way to get it done. In a perfect world you’d have all day long, but it never seems to work that way.
Playboy.com: I’m really anxious to hear your new album; anything I’ve heard so far is good. You’ve said that it will make both White Zombie and Rob Zombie fans happy. What sets this record apart?
Zombie: It’s hard to say, who knows! Maybe it will make nobody happy. Maybe it will make both sets of fans unhappy, I don’t know. [laughs] I didn’t have that in mind when I was making it; I never have anything like that in mind when I’m creating, but when I played it for a few people who had been around for a long time that was their response, that it sounded like the perfect mesh of both worlds. It was never something I set out to do, but I suppose there’s somewhere where it’s all in my mind. I guess part of it is that back in the days with White Zombie we were an up-and-coming band, you’re not really thinking about writing hit songs. You don’t think about that stuff because you’re just trying to be a band. You’re doing whatever crazy thing that comes into your head. Plus you’re young so you don’t think about that stuff. And I think now, MTV doesn’t really play music and radio is sort of changed and everything is on the internet and you don’t really sell records the way you used to; as much as that has destroyed a certain aspect of the music business, which it surely has, it has also opened up a bit of freedom because you don’t think of things the way you used to. It doesn’t matter how spectacular your record is, you’re not going to sell three million copies anymore because it just doesn’t happen. So I guess for that reason you just don’t think about it. It’s kind of like the freedom of making a movie, the same thing as Lords of Salem. It was a fairly inexpensive movie shot on a quick schedule; you don’t have to try to make a movie that’s going to appeal to everybody. If you’re spending a hundred million dollars on all this, you have to come up with a movie that everyone is going to love, from little kids to grandparents. But what’s nice about doing it like this is you can be more specific with what you’re doing and it’s okay that it’s weird and a lot of people don’t get it. It doesn’t fucking matter, you know?
Playboy.com: I’m kind of obsessed with the whole internet changing music thing. I hear sometimes that this new form of social interaction with fans makes them much more present in your life.
Zombie: People are more present in your life, but I think sometimes that you’re more present in their lives than they are in yours. I find that sometimes people, if you have a Facebook page or whatever, people will write a comment on something and they just assume that—in a thread with a thousand other comments—that you saw it. And since you didn’t respond to their specific comment, you’re a fucking asshole. They don’t think. They think, “Oh well I put it there, he’s just ignoring me!” as opposed to “How the fuck would he see this comment amongst a thousand others.” So it has created this weird thing. And as far as writing, it’s no insult to the fans, but I don’t think on any level that you can let your fans dictate what you do. Because it’s always your job to give the fans what’s next and what they didn’t think about But what I’ve found over the years and what I’ve found more now is that there’s this funny dynamic that’s happened on every record I’ve ever done and every movie I’ve ever done: as soon as something is old, everyone loves it and as soon as something is new, everybody hates it. Everything is like, “why the new record is not as good as the last record and why that record wasn’t as good as the one before. And why the new movie isn’t as good as the old movie until the new movie is not the new movie but now the old movie and now we love it and we don’t like the new…” you know, it just never ends! [laughs] I think people forget. Of course you think that record is better, you’ve had that record for five years, you know every song! You’ve had this record for the past five minutes. It’s funny, 25 years ago that used to freak me out, but now I see that it’s such a predictable pattern, probably a mathematical equation that we can chalk it all up to.
Playboy.com: So at the end of April when all of your projects have been released, what will you be doing?
Zombie: I don’t know, a lot of promoting I guess! I don’t really get any time [off]. I hit the road in June for serious touring. I don’t have to start any touring till then, so probably from April to June will be a lot of promoting and doing stuff.
Playboy.com: I read that you may be doing something for Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist channel. Is that ever going to come to light?
Zombie: Probably not, maybe another time. That was just one of those things where I talked to Chris about it—I’ve known Chris for a million years—I wanted to do it, but I have this bad habit of saying yes to everything because I think I have time to do it all, but I don’t at the moment. The next thing I’m working on is my next film called the Broad Street Bullies, and it’s a hockey film about the Philadelphia Flyers. I’m actually going to Philly tomorrow to not start shooting or anything, but to research and write some stuff about it.
Playboy.com: That sounds like a fun thing to research.
Zombie: Yeah, it’s very cool, it’s going to be a very different movie.Check out Rob Zombie's tour dates here.