It's tempting to think that when horror-obsessed White Zombie leader Rob Zombie goes home to his spooky Hollywood, Calif., lair, he strips off his ghoulish clothes and slips into jeans and a T-shirt to play Nintendo or cook up some veggie burgers.
Although tempting, that scenario's not exactly the case, according to Zombie (born Robert Straker).
"I look at White Zombie as my thing and I'm not trying to get away from that," said Zombie, 32, explaining the Zombified sound of his upcoming debut solo album, Hellbilly Deluxe (Aug. 25), which is crammed with the same sort of dark, B-grade horror images and monster-movie mementos as Zombie's home. "I'm not trying to get away from myself because I have nowhere else to go."
That, along with Zombie's claim that he grew up around traveling carnivals because his parents and many relatives were carnies, might explain the horror-ific industrial-metal sound of songs such as Hellbilly's first single, the pounding "Dragula" (RealAudio excerpt). That song, according to Zombie, is "loosely" based on the car that craftsman George Barris built for the '70s spook-comedy show "The Munsters," which the demonic-voiced singer hopes to use in the video for the track.
According to Zombie, the only real difference between his solo album and the platinum sound of such White Zombie classics as "More Human Than Human" is the different lineup used to record the new album.
"It's different people playing, so different people play differently," Zombie said about the project (excerpt of interview). "But it's not anything Zombie fans wouldn't be into." Asked how the album is different from what he's previously done with White Zombie, the dreadlocked singer said, "I don't know if it is."
The album was co-produced by Zombie and Scott Humphrey (Mötley Crüe, Metallica) and features beats from White Zombie drummer John Tempesta, as well as Mötley Crüe's Tommy Lee, and guitar work from Nine Inch Nails' Danny Lohner. Another NIN member, Charlie Clouser, was slated to help co-produce the album and actually spent time working on tracks with Zombie, but was called away to continue work on the still-simmering new NIN album.
Clouser, 30, who programmed beats on the 1995 White Zombie album Astro-Creep: 2000 and its remix companion, 1996's Supersexy Swingin' Sounds, said he first got together with Zombie a year ago to begin writing material for Hellbilly during a break from recording with NIN.
"It was me and him with a computer, trying to figure out a direction we wanted to go in," Clouser said. "We had a pretty good idea of the kind of elements that would be included and an overall concept of the segues between songs and the musical interludes. We even started coming up with the core riffs for the album, but then our schedules just got insane."
Clouser had to decamp to New Orleans to join NIN leader Trent Reznor, but not before he introduced Zombie to Humphrey, his Los Angeles roommate. The only song that Clouser worked on which made the cut was "Superbeast."
Once installed, Humphrey, of course, mentioned his old friend Lee, currently jailed on spousal-abuse charges, as a possibility for a drummer. He brought his tattooed friend in to play on the songs "Meet the Creeper" and "The Ballad of Resurrection Joe and Rosa Whore."
"It was really cool having Tommy there because you always think 'how distinctive can drumming be?' " Zombie said. "But he was playing the same drum kit as everyone else and it was just different somehow. Tommy hits the drums like he's trying to break everything."
Zombie explains how songs such as the driving, metallic "Living Dead Girl" are practically indistinguishable from some White Zombie songs, by offering that the man and the myth have long ago morphed. "Whatever I do is me and it's what I like," he said. "It's not like I wish I could do something else. I'm doing what I like."
Although Zombie recently dropped out of the Korn-hatched Family Values tour over disagreements about production and staging, he said his new band members, who include Tempesta on drums, as well as two newcomers known only as Riggs (guitar) and Blasko (bass), are "practically having a nervous breakdown waiting to get on tour."
The full track-listing for Hellbilly is: "Call of the Zombie," "Superbeast," "Dragula," "Living Dead Girl," "Perversion 99," "Demonoid Phenomenon," "Spookshow Baby," "How to Make a Monster," "Meet the Creeper," "The Ballad of Resurrection Joe and Rosa Whore," "What Lurks on Channel X," "Return of the Phantom Stranger" and "The Beginning of the End."