Rob Zombie redux 

It's been an eventful year for Rob Zombie. Since last November, his terrific remake of the film Halloween 2 was released, as well as a vault clearing White Zombie box set, Let Sleeping Corpses Lie. He also recorded a sequel to his solo debut, Hellbilly Deluxe, called Hellbilly Deluxe 2: Noble Jackals, Penny Dreadfuls and the Systematic Dehumanization of Cooll, which will be released sometime in 2010.

Given the recent re-release of so much White Zombie material, fans might be justified in hoping for a reunion tour. But Zombie, who talked with me from a phone somewhere in southern California, demurs. "Putting together that box set was weird, because I hadn't heard a lot of that music since we first made it," Zombie said. "I could play me a song from 1988 and I wouldn't recognize it as me. But mainly putting that box set together made me realize how happy I am now, being in White Zombie was a real drag."

A product of a mid-'80s noise rock scene that included Sonic Youth, Butthole Surfers, Scratch Acid and Pussy Galore, White Zombie mixed horror and rock from the get go. The band reached its apex in the early '90s when it lost the noise and adopted an industrial metal sound pioneered by Ministry and NIN. The new sound was captured on the album La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1, from which came the MTV hit "Thunderkiss '65."

Thoughout the band's growth, Zombie strove for authenticity. "A lot of bands try to be trendy and try to figure out how to have hits, but you just have to do what you like to do," he said. "Sometimes it doesn't make sense, and the fans will be upset, but it's really all you can do is to do your thing, and you can't try to please critics or anybody else. You can only please yourself, because if you don't you're just going to seem phony."

As the decade came to a close, Zombie stepped up to deliver his defining, and first, solo record, Hellbilly Deluxe: 13 Tales Of Cadaverous Cavorting Inside The Spookshow International. It was everything that Zombie wanted White Zombie to be. Being on his own freed him to create masterpieces like "Dragula" and "Living Dead Girl" that hooked a whole new generation of fans.

In the new millennium, Zombie turned to moviemaking. 2003's House of a 1,000 Corpses, 2005's The Devil's Rejects and his Halloween remakes - 2007's Halloween and this year's Halloween II - have made Zombie a modern horror mogul. It was a natural progression. "I usually think of things in a visual way more in terms of film, even if it's related to music," Zombie told me. "It's just always been that way. I can see the songs in my mind, and that's why we have a studio building our stage sets right now, because the stage show is almost like a movie of my songs."

We got to talking about his early brush with fame working on Pee Wee's Playhouse. "He once asked me where the bathroom was and I told him. That was my Paul Reubens experience," he chuckled.

I asked Zombie if he had any horror heroes growing up like our own Sammy Terry. He lit up like a true fan boy. "Growing up in Boston, we didn't have a guy like Sammy Terry and it was a bummer," he said. "The show we had in Boston called Creature Double Feature never had a host, just a voice over and I've always been kind of jealous because of that. It wasn't until I was in high school in the early 80's when Elvira came on the scene that I actually got to see a real horror host."

Shortly after our interview, Zombie announced that he was leaving Geffen for Roadrunner Records, on which Hellbilly Deluxe 2, originally slated for release November 17 on Geffen, will be released in early 2010. Two songs made available to the press, "What?" and "Sick Bubblegum" replicate the vibe of Hellbilly Deluxe, a mix of electro-riffage and Zombie's horrific vocals.

"Hellbilly Deluxe was a very important record for me," Zombie said. "It was my first solo record and there was a certain spirit and vibe on that record that never really happened again. But, as we were making this record it started to feel like the old days, y'know, the good ol' days. And the songs just started falling in line with Hellbilly Deluxe and it morphed into a sequel of sorts, so it just kinda happened naturally."

Before I got off the phone with Zombie, a man who has exploited the fears of listeners and filmgoers, I needed to know: What scares Rob Zombie?

"It's really funny," he laughed. "I don't really have any fears or phobias and it has made it a little difficult sometimes to make movies. Most people have something they are afraid of, and I just don't."

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Jeff Napier

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