In fall 2012, as he was putting the finishing touches on what became his most-recently released album, "Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, " Rob Zombie was saying he sensed it was more than just another album for him. He was feeling something that doesn’t happen every time he goes into a studio to make an album. “It seems to happen every couple of years or every 10 years or every five years of whatever, you have a moment when it all comes together,” Zombie said in that September 2012 phone interview. “Not that the other records are bad, but not every record can be like the most inspired event in your life. But for some reason, this one feels like it is. The songwriting, the sound of it, the vibe, the production, it’s special, I think.” A year-and-a-half has passed since then, and “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor” has been in stores since April 2013. Zombie, who returns to the Grand Strand with a headlining gig Tuesday at the House of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, still has a hard time defining what is special about the album. “It’s hard to say. It’s hard to talk about music,” he said in a recent phone interview. “Sometimes it’s just the vibe, it’s just has a life to it. It feels alive. It feels like there’s energy to it, whereas sometimes you can do the same thing on another song and it just feels like it’s not really there. And then you wonder, was it all in my head?” Apparently not, as Zombie has gotten tangible indications that his senses weren’t playing games with his reality.
“Ever since the record’s come out, the response critically and from the fans has been the best in like a decade we’ve gotten on anything,” he said. “People really love it. People go out of their way to tell me how much they love it. Unfortunately in this day and age, the record sales don’t reflect any of that. That’s the sad part because that’s obviously what you judge it by. But yeah, I’ve never gotten so much positive feedback from a record in a long time, so I guess my feelings were correct.”
The prevailing opinion about "Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor" feels accurate. It is one Zombie’s most enjoyable albums. It smoothly mixes together the sinister overtones of his hard rocking music with hooky riffs and melodies that give the album a wickedly fun groove.
“Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor" may, in fact, be part of a bigger trend for Zombie, who is back on tour now after a headlining run on last summer’s Mayhem Festival with a fall co-headlining tour with Korn.
“The way the career goes after awhile, you can’t stay on the same level all of the time,” Zombie said. “Sometimes you go up.
Sometimes you go down -- even if it’s not necessarily popularity, just the vibe of the whole thing in your head. And it’s just seemed for the past couple of years now that I’m very much on an upswing. The feeling within the band, the music, the enthusiasm from the fans, the feedback we get all the time, I don’t know, I think what it is sometimes is when you’re new, everybody’s excited when you’re new. Then everybody’s excited when you hit it big. Then everybody kind of gets used to you.
It’s not like they necessarily don’t like you, they’re just used to you being around. Then if you stick around long enough, it’s almost like you’re re-invigorated. That’s what I feel is happening now, that we’ve reinvigorated the old band and started sweeping up a whole new generation of new fans, which I think is what causes that feeling of (regeneration).”
Zombie, who also has a concert film, "The Zombie Horror Picture Show," coming out May 20, has been around long enough and maintained a consistent enough quality in his music to have survived trends and reached at least two generations of fans.
“It’s more like you’re rediscovered,” he said. “You don’t really go anywhere or change anything.”
In the beginning
He first came on the national scene as front man of the band White Zombie. Formed in 1985, Zombie (real name Robert Cummings) led the group through a 13-year run and four albums, including the 1992 release, "La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1." Featuring the single "Thunder Kiss ’65," the album topped 1 million copies sold and introduced Zombie to the rock mainstream.
But by the end of touring behind that album, Zombie and his then-girlfriend and White Zombie co-founder, Sean Yseult, had broken up. White Zombie kept things together long enough to release one more album, "Astro Creep: 2000," in 1995, before the band called it a day in 1998.
Zombie then went solo, and his 1999 album, "Hellbilly Deluxe," was a huge success, selling more than 3 million copies worldwide. He went on to release two more studio CDs, "The Sinister Urge" in 2001 and "Educated Horses" in 2006, before doing a sequel to his first solo effort, "Hellbilly Deluxe 2," which was released in 2010.
Part of Zombie’s ongoing appeal has been his ability to create spectacular live shows. Drawing from trailblazers in
theatrical rock concerts (Alice Cooper is an obvious influence), he has become known for delivering one of the most visually dynamic, creepy (in a good way) and fun-filled concerts of any current music act.
His current live show should continue that trend. “It’s different,” Zombie said of his new live show.
“That’s always a challenge, making it different, trying to keep the stuff that you know people liked, that they want to hear or they want to see, but making it different so it’s not the same old same (stuff).”
Zombie said he’s trying to cover a good deal of musical ground with his live set.
“We’re adding in about three songs off of the new record, and then switching up the set because there are always songs you have to play, that people expect,” he said. “So you know, (we’re doing) some of the old favorites, some older songs that people like but we don’t play very often and then a bunch of new stuff. It’s kind of a mixture of everything, that’s the goal.”
In the director’s chair
When he’s not working on music, Zombie has a busy career as a film director to keep him occupied. His credits include remakes of the classic John Carpenter horror films, "Halloween" and "Halloween
2," and most recently, "Lords Of Salem," which hit theaters in 2013.
He’s been working recently on a film that will take him outside of the horror genre. Called "Broad Street Bullies," it’s aboutthe Philadelphia Flyers hockey team that won the Stanley Cup in 1974.
“As of right now it seems like it will be the next project.,” Zombie said. “I mean, film is very unpredictable. It’s not like music. So we’re working on it, putting the financing together. The script is done. We’re sort of getting into casting and things like that. So it is the project that all the effort is going into. Anything could happen. Someone could call me tomorrow and go ’We really want you to do this. It’s ready to go.’ And I could go ’OK,’ and switch gears for a minute. But as of right now, ’Broad Street Bullies’ is the No. 1 priority.”
With White Zombie:
• “Soul-Crusher,” 1987
• “Make Them Die Slowly,” 1989
• “La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One,” 1992
• “Astro Creep: 2000,” 1995
• “Hellbilly Deluxe: 13 Tales of Cadaverous Cavorting Inside the Spookshow International,” 1998
“The Sinister Urge,” 2001
• “Educated Horses,” 2006
• “Hellbilly Deluxe 2: Noble Jackals, Penny Dreadfuls and the Systematic Dehumanization of Cool,” 2010
• “Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor,” 2013
Rob Zombie select filmography
• “House of 1,000 Corpses,” 2003
• “The Devil’s Rejects,” 2005
• “Halloween II,” 2009
• “The Lords of Salem,” 2013