When Rob Zombie finished his latest album, The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy in 2020, he resisted releasing it because the COVID-19 pandemic prevented him from playing any shows to support it. He finally decided to release it on March 12, though, because, “After sitting around for many, many months realizing touring wasn’t coming back anytime soon, I thought, ‘Well, let’s put the record out so that at least something fun is happening,’” he says.
With this record, he says, “A lot of people are like, ‘Oh, it sounds heavy! It sounds like the old days!’ But I don’t really hear it that way. Everything, to me, just sounds like me doing music.”
In fact, Zombie says, he could not have deliberately created any particular type of sound, even if he tried, “because the music, strangely, dictates its own path. You start writing stuff and sometimes it’s heavy and it sounds cool, and sometimes it’s not heavy and it sounds cool. And you just kind of let the music create itself.”
Zombie’s actual creative process this time around involved a lot of layering, usually starting with a drum beat. “It could even be just a kick drum,” he says, “and I could hear the song, and I would lay down vocals to just a kick drum and we’d build a song around it. Or sometimes someone would say, ‘I have this guitar riff,’ and then that would spur it. Or sometimes it’s just a weird sample of noise and we looped it. You just hear it, and it’s kind of a mystery, really. I don’t have a real plan. That’s why it’s awesome when it happens—and it’s incredibly frustrating when it doesn’t happen.”
As he’s working, Zombie says, he makes sure he doesn’t overthink the process. “If I like the guitar riff or if I like the wacky movie sample, then that’s what I do,” he says. “I never think, ‘I wonder if someone else will like this?’ Because that’s an unanswerable question. It just doesn’t work. And so I don’t even think about it anymore.”
Zombie takes the same instinctual approach when it comes to his distinctive album titles. “I don’t really get ideas anywhere, they just sort of come to me,” he says. For The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy, he says, “As I was working on the record, the album title would always fluctuate. Eventually, that’s what the record sounded like to me.”
Doing what feels right, without worrying about what others think, is what Zombie considers the key to his career longevity: “You just stick to what you do. It’s who you are and it’s what you do. When you do that, you’re going to have ups and you’re going to have downs, but you’re always going to remain true to you. The people that seem to have shorter careers are the ones that try to trend hop. They might have a momentary big hit but then it’s over.”
Zombie is being modest—he’s enjoyed a significant amount of success throughout his career, starting with his alternative metal band, White Zombie. They released their debut album, Soul-Crusher, in 1987. With their third album in 1992, La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One, they found chart success with the blazing “Thunder Kiss ’65.” They got even bigger with their fourth (and final) album, 1995’s Astro-Creep 2000, becoming ubiquitous on MTV and radio with the single “More Human Than Human.”
Zombie continued this success with his solo career, starting with his 1998 debut, Hellbilly Deluxe: 13 Tales of Cadaverous Cavorting Inside the Spookshow International. Through it all, Zombie has displayed a totally distinctive sound, blending mind-bending, danceable metal with lyrics that often draw on classic campy horror and sci-fi movie themes.
Ironically, Zombie believes his career longevity has been a result of his being “always kind of out of step with the time, even when White Zombie was breaking. We broke at the height of grunge, but I don’t think people really considered us a grunge band. Nor did they consider us a metal band. We were out of step with everything, and for that reason, it worked,” he says. “And then my first solo record broke at the height of rap metal, Korn and Limp Bizkit, but I certainly wasn’t that. I was completely out of step with the times, and I think it’s worked in my favor. The way I look at it is, if you’re never really in fashion, then you never really go out of fashion.”
The Lunar Injection Kool Aid Eclipse Conspiracy is Zombie’s seventh solo album—and, he says, he fully expects to continue releasing many more after this. “I know a lot of artists talk like, ‘We don’t even bother making records anymore—it doesn’t matter.’ But I think it does matter, because I make the records because I like creating new songs and I do think there’s as big of an audience as ever for the music—they just listen to it and ingest it in a completely different manner,” he says.
That generational difference becomes especially apparent at Zombie’s concerts. “These days, when I go on tour, the crowd is so varied,” he says. “There’s people that have been hanging around for 25 years watching the shows, and then people that are brand new—you can tell by which songs they react to. Some will react to songs that are from twenty years ago, and some people are most excited when you play the new songs. It’s all good.”
Zombie has certainly come a long way from his pre-fame days, when he was working as a bike messenger in New York City by day and going to see bands in the rock club scene at night. “I’d go to [legendary music venue] CBGB’s and see bands. A lot of them were awful, and I thought, ‘Well, I could start a band that at least wouldn’t be that awful!’” Zombie says with a laugh.
Zombie was drawn to playing music “because it seemed like it would be fun. I never wanted to have a normal job and fit in. I wasn’t doing things based on, ‘Oh, that’s a good career decision.’ I was just doing whatever weird shit I found fun. I didn’t necessarily think I had anything distinct. I didn’t think, ‘Well, the world is really waiting for me, I’d better get on this!’”
That’s not to say Zombie hasn’t taken his work very seriously, then and now: “I do everything the same way I’ve ever done it—I think that’s important. I’ve tried to always worry about the quality of everything because it’s important to me. The show, the records, everything—it’s just exciting now as it was thirty years ago.”
Photo by Travis Shinn