By Jon Wiederhorn
Having been in the music business for more than 28 years and the movie industry for more than 10, Rob Zombie has learned how to work the system. And since he's a workaholic, his output in both entertainment genres has been more regular than a senior citizen taking Metamucil.
Right now Zombie's co-headlining the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Festival, and he'll film the last two dates of the tour for his first live concert DVD. Then, after August 4, he’ll shift right back into Hollywood movie mode, choosing actors for his next film, Broad Street Bullies — a look at the early 1970s thuggish Philadelphia Flyers hockey team, which won the Stanley Cup for the first time in 1972 by defeating the Boston Bruins in six games.
While he's casting Broad Street Bullies, Zombie's last movie, the harrowing Lords of Salem, will come out on DVD September 3. And from October 19 to November 2 in Pomona, Calif., Zombie will present three haunted houses based on characters from his films House of a Thousand Corpses, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto and Lords of Salem.
We had the opportunity to discuss these projects with him and get a glimpse into the movie-making area of his multitalented mind.
Yahoo! Music: Your last movie featured some endearing characters, but the movie was unrelentingly bleak. Every time it seemed like the protagonists would turn the tide against evil, something more horrible would happen to them that would suck the viewers further into the darkness. Did you want to make a movie that stomped on the conventions of the typical horror film?
Rob Zombie: Movies get very formulaic, and even if it's a horror movie they usually end well. The good people survive, for the most part. That didn't happen in the '70s movies. Things were bad. When we were making Lords of Salem I would always get these production notes saying, "Why can’t so-and-so save the day in the end?" And I'd go, "Because that’s not the way things work." I like things being bleak, getting bleaker and just ending horribly because I feel like that's where you get the most impact. I think it's because all the movies I loved as a kid were like that. It didn't matter if you were watching Bonnie And Clyde, Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid or Taxi Driver. Things always ended badly, and I just feel like movies shouldn't have happy endings.
You wrote a book for Lords of Salem with B.K. Evenson (Last Days, Dead Space: Catalyst). Did you get your hands dirty with the actual prose writing or did you hand over the script and say, "Turn this into a book?"
A little of both. I was working on the movie at the same time. It started with the original script, but what happened was that after a certain point the movie started changing so rapidly that the book couldn't keep up. So I said, "Okay, let’s make two completely different animals."
Why did you want to make a book alongside the film?
My main focus was to get more money to funnel back into the movie, truthfully. The budget for the movie was so small that I wanted to do anything I could to gather more funds for the film.
The movie is so ambitious and some of the scenes are so cinematically compelling that it’s a shame there wasn't more room to explore the way Ken Russell or Stanley Kubrick used to do.
It was very much a sacrifice every day as things were getting cut. We just went with the flow; but out of all my films, the budget of Lords of Salem was one-third the budget of the lowest budget movie I've ever made. It was nothing.
That must have been frustrating. Why the limited funds?
When I struck the deal with Blumhouse Productions to make a movie, their deal with the filmmakers is, "This is the budget. We almost don’t even care what you do. You have total freedom, you just have to make it for this amount of money." There’s nothing wrong with that idea, but having never made a movie that cheap before, the script I had written really couldn't be made for that amount of money. For the money we had, the whole movie should have been a couple characters inside the apartment building, and literally nothing else. But I shot some of it in Salem, I shot some in California. I was doing all these huge moves across the country, and you just can't do that on no money. It's psychotic.
Do you find Salem freaky?
It has a weird vibe, but I like Salem. I used to go there when I was a kid. I never had any weird experiences there, but everything is witch-related. It’s probably like Roswell for space s***. The police cars, the newspapers, the Dairy Queen – everything has a witch head symbol on it. But at the same time, there are monuments to all the actual atrocities that happened. So it's a really bizarre town. It's very small, too. You can walk from one end to the other in about 10 seconds. But it was great filming there and we were there at the perfect time of year. For once I could shoot the fall in the fall on the East Coast.
The DVD is coming out in August. Will it be filled with bonus features and director’s commentary?
No, this DVD is fairly stripped down. There will be a bigger one coming later in the year. We shot an elaborate making-of documentary, which is about three hours long. We just couldn't finish it in time for the DVD. So rather than bumping the DVD, we saved it for later. But much like CD sales, DVD sales are so bad that I don’t even know if people care about DVD extras anymore. There was such a craze for a while about bonus features. But now people just go to Netflix to watch movies. So once again, unfortunately for those of us that are fans of that stuff, it's disappearing. Companies don’t even care about extras anymore because it’s a thing of the past.
Recently, horror stories have fared well on TV. Are you looking forward to the new season of "The Walking Dead?"
I don't watch it. I watched the first season and half of the second but then I got distracted. I find it really hard to follow television shows for some reason. I always get bored. "Breaking Bad" is probably the only exception. I follow that. It’s the only drama I actually watch and I'm looking forward to the next season. What will Heisenberg do next?
What’s the status of your hockey movie Broad Street Bullies?
We are in the casting phase. I'm trying to figure out who's going to be in the movie. The script is done, but I'm having a really tricky situation because I don't think I can find actors to play the players. Because the level of skating and hockey play that I need, you can't teach that to somebody. They need to already know how to do it. You can fake baseball and football, but ice hockey is an intense sport and it's really hard to fake.
Are you trying to find actual hockey players who can act?
I bet a lot of Canadian actors know how to skate great. Or it could be ex-players that just happen to be good actors. With [2004 hockey biopic] Miracle, aside from Kurt Russell, everyone in the movie were ex-players turned actor. So we'll see. There’s no rules. We’ll do an open casting call and see who shows up.
Many metal musicians seem to have a passion for hockey. Do you think there’s a connection between the two?
I don’t know. I loved hockey before I even knew there was a thing called heavy metal. I was a die-hard hockey fan when I was really young. I’m wearing a Bruins shirt in my Kindergarten photo. But extreme music, extreme sports and extreme anything seem to go hand in hand, so it does make sense.
How will the Great American Nightmare mazes be different from the Universal Studios Haunted Houses you've done in the past?
There will be music along with the mazes and every night is different. One night is old-school punk rock, one night I'm playing with Eagles of Death Metal, another night Andrew W.K. is playing, and then one night is electronic dance night. Every night is different and that's because not everyone wants to see a punk or metal show, so they can go to another night.
Aside from the music, how will the presentation differ?
We’re figuring out a system where you don't have to wait in line. We did some research and everyone's number one complaint is that when they go to these things they spend more time standing in line trying to get to the mazes than they do in the actual mazes, so we're working on that. We have three giant mazes, a haunted promenade outside, the bands are playing in these warehouses. We have car shows and wrestling. It’s sort of like a giant carnival where it’s all happening at once. I can't think of any place that has done that – where all these elements are happening all at once.
It seems like every rocker is writing a book now: Slipknot’s Corey Taylor, Pantera’s Rex Brown and Philip Anselmo, Ratt’s Stephen Pearcy, Ministry's Al Jourgensen. When can we expect your memoir?
I have no desire to tell that story. I feel like if I told that story and told the truth about so many things, all I would do is make a million enemies, so I’ll just keep all that to myself. I know too much about too many things.