Rob Zombie Discusses Groucho Marx Film, Songwriting, Live Show + More
Full Metal Jackie caught up with Rob Zombie at the recent Loudwire Music Festival in Colorado. The Loudwire Nights host chatted with the iconic rocker about his upcoming Groucho Marx film, his experience in art school, writing new music + more. Check out the interview below.
Rob, you made your mark as a filmmaker directing horror movies. What intrigues you about directing non-horror movies like the Groucho Marx film you'll be doing?
I just love movies. The first movie I did was a horror movie so that kind of led to the next one of which I did really try to vary the format. I really wanted to make my second film, The Devil’s Advocate, more like a post-modern western. But, I mean, it’s really hard to break out because horror movies are so profitable. Once you start doing something that is profitable, that is all that everybody wants, because all they see is dollar signs. So, over the years I’ve tried to… I’ve wanted to break out of the genre. Because I love all kinds of movies, but there was never the right project. For a moment I had a thing called, Broad Street Bullies, that I really, really wanted to make. It was a hockey film about the Philadelphia Flyers. But that just fell into too much red tape and got bogged down 'cause I don’t own the rights to any of the Philadelphia Flyers or anything. But then I had read this book Raised Eyebrows, about the last years of Groucho Marx’s life. I mean I had read it years ago. I never thought about making a movie about it. And then Tyler Bates who had done some of the scores for my Halloween movies, said, “Oh a friend of mine is friends with this guy Steve Stoliar, who wrote that book. He was so excited that you read it." So I was like, f--- it, and I immediately called Steve and was like, we have got to make this into a movie. And he was just about to sign a deal with somebody else and I was like, “Don’t do anything!” And then I bought the rights from him.
Your passion for drawing and painting goes back to childhood including studying at Parson's School of Design. What aspect of what you learned back then is most prevalent in the imagery you create now?
I mean what I learned at college was nothing. I quit after… well let me rephrase that. I got kicked out after a year and a half. I was grew up in Haverill, Mass., so when I moved to New York City to go to college, the last thing I wanted to do was go to class. I just f--ked around until my grades were so low, they kicked me out. But what I did learn is that school is a waste. Because the teachers are so… I mean I love to paint, I got a scholarship in high school to go to Parsons. When I went to Parsons, the teachers were such dicks all the time to the students. And then one day the teacher brought in his work. And I was like, you’ve got to be f---ing kidding me. You’re a f---ing hack. And I was like f--- you and f--- this. Nobody f---ing knows anything and that is what I learned from school.
How much was writing the songs from the new album collaborative with your band?
The songs were all written by me and John 5, basically together. 'Cause I don’t know how anybody writes with a whole band. It never can, it’s almost impossible. So what would happen is me and John would write the songs and then Matt [Piggy D.], sometimes when he would do his bass parts, he would improvise a few things, so they would kind of go to another level. But the basic songs were done by me and John all the time. 'Cause it’s always been like that all the time.
Back in the day, like with White Zombie, we would always try to work as a band. Jamming in rehearsal space. And that was like, f—k… torture. You know, torture. It just takes forever and at the end of the day you were, like, now 18 hours and cassettes filled with riffs that go nowhere. So I can’t stand working like that. I need one other person and we just get it done. And I like John cause he’s so talented. I have no patience in the studio, none! And what’s great about John is he can think super fast. So whatever I say, he can do it, he can do it, he can do it, he can do it. And as soon as it bogs down for one second, he can’t take it so he doesn’t want to be bogged down so it’s great.
It seems like you've been working for so long together at this point.
I don't know if this is true, but I've probably worked longer with John than any other person ever. It's been 10 years or more, so, it just seems like it's been so short. Even Ginger [Fish], whom I feel like just joined the band has been here for five years already. Go figure.
What part of the process of making an album gives you the biggest sense of accomplishment?
I just like when you just have this vague idea and you bring it to life. Or when you have a song and it's terrible and you find that moment to fix it. I'm really hard on myself, because even when I'm working with a producer, he's like, “no that's great!” I'm like, “it's horrible.” And I'll just keep going it over and over and keep changing it. The skill that we like to hone is that the brilliance of it, if you can write a killer song that's two minutes. Nowadays, every song is so long. I can't even get through the intros. Your intro is three minutes! What, are you f--king Queen? If you're going to write songs that long, it better be f--king "Free Bird," that's all I'm going to say. They better be genius. Other than that, two and a half minutes and I'm over it. But that's great! It's brilliant! Listen to The Beatles, Beach Boys, The Ramones. If you can do that, it's the structure that's brilliant to me.
As a performer, what do you prefer: an elaborate stage production or something more minimal?
I love having the big show. Our show sort of tapped out two years ago on Mayhem. We had such a big show that it was a cluster f--k every night. That's why we made a DVD of it, because unless we move into coliseums or something, we can't get anything else into the stage show. So, we got rid of everything and I actually like it better. I think the band is better when there's not all that stuff. For me, we can be looser and be more of a band. But when you have all that stuff, pyro, video and props the show gets so structured. Because if it's not, it's chaos. Then it starts feeling more like Siegfried and Roy. I'm in this very structured Las Vegas show. By the end of Mayhem, I was like, “F--k all this shit, man.” The worst part about it, was that stuff is so expensive! We put it all in the warehouse, we went out on tour with Korn and did this Night of the Living Dreads thing with nothing and not one person complained. I'm like, I've been dragging all of that shit around for f---ing 20 years, wasting money and no one even noticed it was gone? Argh.
That's when you know you're doing something right.
I thought for sure everyone would be bitching and complaining. But yeah, I'm over it. Not to say that one day it all might seem exciting again, but right now, I'm like ah, who gives a f--k?
Many thanks to Rob Zombie for the interview. Zombie will head out to Europe later this summer before returning to the States for some festivals in the fall. Check out all his tour dates here. Tune in to Loudwire Nights With Full Metal Jackie and Tony LaBrie Monday through Friday at 7PM through midnight online or on the radio. To see which stations and websites air ‘Loudwire Nights,’ click here.
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