“Fans seem like they’re getting less crazy. I remember back in the day everyone seemed like they were insane. From the first show kids would be diving off the balcony, and you’re like, ‘What are you doing? That’s concrete you’re hitting!’ Now, kids are a lot more mellow. You’d go backstage and there’d just be a row of kids with broken legs, bleeding. It’s not like that anymore so much. People value their limbs more.”
Though quick with the dry wit one detects the tone of a life-bred cynic in Zombie. But that inborn cynicism is exactly what has kept him alive in an industry that wants you dead before you hit 35. In the music business, trust is death. Trust is empty pockets and regret. Trust is a career cut short. From the outset, Zombie looked at the industry with a healthy dose of mistrust and contempt usually reserved for those who have already been screwed over by some unscrupulous fiend. That’s how he’s managed to survive.
“For some reason I never trusted anybody, and I would always pay attention to everything. And bands would always have this weird thing of trusting everybody, and that’s why bands that should be multi-millionaires are flat broke and the managers have all the money. Now they just look back and laugh at the bands. Managers, there are some great ones, but it’s a bunch of scumbags for the most part.”
One of the many hypocrisies in music is that the mere mention of making a buck somehow makes you less of an artist. Money and art don’t mix and musicians are all supposed to die damaged, broke and unknown with a bottle in their hand or a needle in their arm, only to be appreciated posthumously. There’s truth in the oft-spun yarn “Art is suffering,” but there’s genuine suffering born of conspiratorial karma and tragic circumstance and there’s plain, willful stupidity.
“I always say to bands, ‘If you worked at McDonald’s, you would look at your paycheck. You wouldn’t just assume they were paying you properly every week.’ But bands, they don’t look at anything. It’s the craziest thing. There’s some weird thing in rock music like if you think about money ever you’re a sellout. Nothing else in life is like that. Nothing. Only in rock music has this bizarre thing been created.”
It’s rare that you see this kind of awareness in a heavy metal artist, or hear one speak with any sort of business acumen whatsoever. But that’s the way you have to be when you’re catapulting back and forth between music and film the way Zombie has since making his directorial debut in 2003 with House of 1,000 Corpses. These days he’s got another film in the pipeline which he’s hoping to start shooting in September. He’s coy about the theme, admitting only that it’s in the horror realm. He’s also got a TV mini-series on Charles Manson in the works. But right here right now, the focus is on the band. He’s finally got something he never had in White Zombie, or even his early solo days. It’s been a long road toward achieving that mythical thing called unity.
“You always try to achieve that. Nobody thinks, ‘I want to get a bunch of guys I don’t like being around and call it a band.’ But it’s hard to find people, so you put up with a lot of crap just to hold a band together. Because you figure you have to find somebody who’s a great musician, who you love to be around more than you’re ever going to be around your own family, and who’s great on stage. It’s been a long journey. I always had two but never three. But I think now I’ve found everybody.”