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Rob Zombie / White Zombie

Born Robert Bartleh Cummings, January 12, 1965, Haverhill, Massachusetts, showbiz maverick ROB ZOMBIE is no one-dimensional metal-head. Instead he ploughs a furrow of media activities that encompass frontman/rock-singer, cult movie-maker/director and actor. He is one talented metal mother. But from his horror-cum-Hollywood star-billing, it all began with WHITE ZOMBIE.
Conceived through the twisted vision of singer Robert Cummings that embraced low-budget horror-flicks and hardcore metal, the former cinema projectionist hit upon the idea after seeing a thirties Bela Lugosi movie: White Zombie. Residing in New York at the time (early 1985), the re-christened Rob Zombie almost immediately enlisted the help of then-girlfriend Sean Yseult (bass), Ena Kostabi (guitar) and Peter Landau (drums).
A self-released EP (`Gods On Voodoo Moon’) was virtually given away to anybody with an interest in WHITE ZOMBIE’s cartoon-esque approach to heavy metal, while Ena and Peter would be axed to enable fresh meat, Tim Jeffs and Ivan DePrume, to take their respective positions. Fed an unhealthy diet of BLACK SABBATH, KISS and ALICE COOPER, this bunch of schlock-rockers set out on their demonic trail in 1987 with a debut mini-LP, PSYCHO-HEAD BLOWOUT {*4}. A tour supporting PUSSY GALORE enabled Rob Straker (Zombie’s nom de plume at the time) and cohorts to go from BLACK FLAG-like underground act to become a fave rave of Kurt Cobain.
A year later, with newbie axeman Tom Guay in tow (Tim Jeffs was ousted), WHITE ZOMBIE’s first full-length album SOUL-CRUSHER (1988) {*6} was unleashed to an unsuspecting public, although the record delivered little more than campy sketches and filmic titles such as `Ratmouth’, `Shack Of Hate’ and `Die, Zombie, Die’.
A third set, MAKE THEM DIE SLOWLY (1989) {*5}, was produced by the seasoned BILL LASWELL and released on Caroline Records; its funky death-metal thrashing found underground success from both metal and alternative rock audiences. J (aka John Ricci) had replaced Guay at this point, although his stay was short-lived when he was subsequently superseded by Jay Yuenger. The album itself was in direct contrast to the emerging grunge scene over on America’s West Coast, WHITE ZOMBIE preferring to grind and growl their awkward anti-Christ manifestos in dirge-like cuts `Speed Demon’, `Acid Flesh’ and `Godslayer’; covers around the time included KISS’s `God Of Thunder’ and BLACK SABBATH’s `Children Of The Grave’.
In the early 90s, and now on the bulging, money-spinning roster of Geffen Records, WHITE ZOMBIE went to work on a new album with producer, Andy Wallace. The results were mind-blowing in every conceivable sense; LA SEXORCISTO: DEVIL MUSIC, VOL.1 (1992) {*8} being the musical carcass that The STOOGES, The CULT and SOUNDGARDEN once spewed out. Inevitably, twisted tracks such as `Welcome To Planet Motherfucker – Psychoholic Slag’, `Thunder Kiss ‘65’ and `Black Sunshine’ (with IGGY POP), saw the band reach the American Top 30, cracking open the skull of any youth into terror-metal – even “real” cartoon pair, Beavis & Butt-Head loved them, the Zombie being a highlight on the duo’s various artists album. The band were rewarded with a heavy metal Grammy the following year as the band went on a mighty touring schedule across the globe, only halting to find a replacement for the departing DePrume.
In 1995, having substituted temp Philo Buerstatte with (ex-TESTAMENT) drummer John Tempesta, WHITE ZOMBIE rooted out a second major-financed long-player, ASTRO-CREEP: 2000: SONGS OF LOVE, DESTRUCTION, AND OTHER SYNTHETIC DELUSIONS OF THE ELECTRIC HEAD {*7}. Conceptual and ground-breaking yet again, the record duly scurried up the charts and into the Top 10 (it also cracked the UK Top 30), demented titles such as `El Phantasmo And The Chicken-Run Blast-O-Rama’, `Grease Paint And Monkey Brains’, carrying off where its predecessor left off. During the summer of ‘96, the Zombie surprised many by issuing some danceable remixes of earlier tracks going under the title of SUPERSEXY SWINGIN’ SOUNDS {*6}. Not the last time Rob would try this medium (dismiss “The Crow 2” misfire of KC & The Sunshine Band’s `I’m Your Boogie Man’), but his final outing with WHITE ZOMBIE, who’d split in ‘97, leaving swingin’ Rob to flesh out in other solo and cinematic directions.
The solo ROB ZOMBIE (with retainer Tempesta) released his first album, HELLBILLY DELUXE (1998) {*7} and, after failing to come up with the score (with sidekick composer, Scott Humphrey) for “The Crow 3” movie, launched his own label, Zombie A Go-Go. The “Hellbilly” set was unsurprisingly fixated with B-movie scenarios, but Rob’s auteuristic script heralded such goodies as `Living Dead Girl’, `Dragula’ and `The Ballad Of Resurrection Joe And Rosa Whore’. Meanwhile, Yseult resurrected her moonlighting project, FAMOUS MONSTERS, releasing a second CRAMPS/B-52’s-styled 45, `Knock Knock Halloween’ (their first: `Monster Girls – Are Go!’ was issued a few years previously), plus a debut album, “In The Night” (1998).
Following on from 1999’s “Hellbilly” remix set, AMERICAN MADE MUSIC TO STRIP BY {*5}, the undead one was back with THE SINISTER URGE (2001) {*7}. If that urge was to keep on making music as menacingly camp, humorously twisted and downright swinging as he managed here, then one could only hope it’s never satisfied. The likes of OZZY OSBOURNE, LIMP BIZKIT’s DJ Lethal, MOTLEY CRUE’s Tommy Lee and SLAYER’s Kerry King put in their tuppence worth although as ever, ROB ZOMBIE was the undisputed star of his own freakshow.
Despite being turned down by Universal Studios, ZOMBIE’s gore-fest of a directorial movie debut, House Of 1000 Corpses, finally saw a release in 2003 through Lion’s Gate, a self-administered soundtrack appearing the same year. While it hardly set the box office alight, prudent budgeting saw an equally uncompromising sequel, The Devil’s Rejects, appear in summer 2005, in tandem with another soundtrack.
Having established himself as a revisionist auteur, the man returned to the metal scene in 2006 with EDUCATED HORSES {*6}, appropriately enough a more cinematic, experimental dose of Cuban-heel stomping splatter-rock that made the US Top 5. Akin to a hairy version of MARILYN MANSON or just an updated gore-fest of ALICE COOPER, Rob relied on anthemic beats and sonic sing-a-longs in the shape of `The Scorpion Sleeps’, `Foxy Foxy’, `17 Year Locust’ and `The Devil’s Rejects’; animating creepiness at its best.
Directing the “Halloween” movie remake was probably Rob’s highest accolade, and while he began a mighty tour alongside idol, Vincent Furnier (Mr. COOPER to his fans), the almost predictable concert set, ZOMBIE LIVE (2007) {*6}, continued the man’s juggernaut to the hearts and skulls of his disciples. Augmented on stage by usual suspects, Johnny 5 (guitar), Tommy Clufetos (drums) and newbie Piggy D. (bass), all Rob’s menacing watershed dirges emerged out of their musical corpses.
Halloween II secured the man’s filmic prowess, but little was heard of Rob musically (give or take several OST cuts), until 2010’s slightly sleek but trademark, HELLBILLY DELUXE 2 {*6}. B-movies references were aplenty on this growling Top 10 return, although simplicity over imagination on titles `Jesus Frankenstein’, `Mars Needs Women’, `Werewolf, Baby!’ and er… `Werewolf Women Of The $$’, was hardly his forte; the epic score piece encore, `The Man Who Laughs’, with movie composer TYLER BATES was worth the admission price.
His umpteenth remix set, MONDO SEX HEAD (2012) {*6} took his career full circle, but it was with the conceptual VENOMOUS RAT REGENERATION VENDOR (2013) {*5} that created the usual stir. Closer to DEEP PURPLE organ-wise than any of his previous outings, the rocker developed an industrial-metal sound, bar the pompous, flag-waving take of GRAND FUNK RAILROAD’s `We’re An American Band’. ZOMBIE’s music (and his movies for that matter), can certainly turn heads – does that mean he’ll be doing “The Exorcist” re-make next? No, what was next for the 50-year-old was a night of career-spanning debauchery in the self-explanatory SPOOKSHOW INTERNATIONAL LIVE (2015) {*6}.
Armed with his usual suspects by way of former MARILYN MANSON disciples (Ginger Fish, John 5 and Piggy D), episode six, six, six of grave-digger ROB ZOMBIE’s intergalactic industrial revolution surfaced on the unmissable freak-show of THE ELECTRIC WARLOCK ACID WITCH SATANIC ORGY CELEBRATION DISPENSER (2016) {*8}. Never one to use one devilish word when several would do, the blood-dripping `The Hideous Exhibitions Of A Dedicated Gore Whore’ and `In The Age Of The Consecrated Vampire We All Get High’ (phew!), made his Alice C and Manson cousins monks by comparison, although apocalyptic bookends of-sorts, `Satanic Cyanide! The Killer Rocks On!’ (Sabbath, anyone?) and the gore/glam-versus-PRIMAL SCREAM-pumping `Get Your Boots On! That’s The End Of Rock And Roll’ rivalled the explicit, redneck/BLACK OAK/PRIMUS acid-trip of `Well, Everybody’s Fucking In A U.F.O.’, or the presumptive, red-blooded riffs of `The Life And Times Of A Teenage Rock God’ (the latter possibly the aborted love-child of ABBA’s `Honey, Honey’ and The BIRTHDAY PARTY’s `Junkyard’!). Even in its quieter ghostly grooves of filmic interludes, `A Hearse That Overturns With The Coffin Bursting Open’ and `Super-Doom-Hex-Gloom Part One’, the Top 10 album still had an air of “Exorcist” creepiness.
© MC Strong 1996-2006 / rev-up MCS Apr2013-May2016

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