Alice Cooper is a born-again Christian and a staunch Republican. Rob Zombie most certainly is not. But that hasn’t stopped them from combining their passions for heavy music and the macabre in a shock-rock extravaganza called the Gruesome Twosome Tour.
“We’ve known each other for 16 years,” explains Zombie, on the line from his home in Woodbury, Connecticut, “and we get along great. Everyone has their own differences regarding politics and religion, and that’s an easy way to lose your friends, to try and discuss those topics. So we don’t.”
Zombie was only eight years old when his future idol delivered the 1973 tour de force Billion Dollar Babies, but the first Cooper disc he actually purchased as a kid was a patchy, live-in-Vegas offering from ’77 called The Alice Cooper Show. Over time he’s come to admire the Coop’s classic albums like Killer, School’s Out, and his personal fave, Love It to Death, so when the opportunity came to do a coheadlining tour with the granddaddy of nasty rock, he jumped at it. And he’s pretty psyched about the result.
“As a whole, between me and Alice, I would say that we put together the most spectacular rock event ever,” boasts the man born Robert Bartleh Cummings. “It’s just entertainment value chock-full. You know, actually, we’re giving too much for your money. We probably should take some away.”
Although Cooper is widely known as a pioneer of theatrical rock, Zombie has followed suit with his own multimedia shows that merge metal-edged music with twisted clips from his ultra-violent horror flicks and any other exploitation/sleaze/gore imagery he feels like splattering the stage with. The last time he performed here—on a bill with Ozzy Osbourne in October 2007—he used intense pyrotechnics and multiple video screens to keep fans riveted.
“The technology with video screens and stuff has really gone over the top,” he explains, “so it’s way beyond what it once was. We have, like, 10 different video screens at once. Everything exploding all the time.”
At his last Vancouver gig Zombie was focusing on material from his 2006 release Educated Horses. This time he’s touring behind Hellbilly Deluxe 2, a sequel of sorts to the former White Zombie leader’s solo debut of 1998, which spawned the hits “Dragula” and “Living Dead Girl”. Once again Zombie has fused his love of low-budget fright flicks and grinding metal, and taken his typical hands-on approach. He sang lead on and cowrote every track, produced it himself, and also handled art direction and package design. No wonder the 24-page CD booklet is crammed with depictions of rampaging robots, depraved-looking freaks, and scantily clad cartoon hotties in peril.
“I love doin’ all the art for the records because it’s such a major part of the presentation,” he points out. “It’s not just music, it’s everything—from the CD packaging to the stage show to the videos. So I like making everything tie in together.
“I’ve always done it that way,” he continues, “and it’s something that’s incredibly important to me. These are things that, growing up as a kid, I would obviously see someone like Alice Cooper do.”
Hellbilly Deluxe 2 includes the tracks “Mars Needs Women” and “Virgin Witch”, the former taking its name from a cheesy American sci-fi flick from the ’60s, and the latter a British ’70s horror-exploitation title, both of which Zombie has seen but can’t recall too well.
“I couldn’t tell you much about ’em at this point,” he says. “I’ve watched so many thousands of movies they all blur together in my mind at certain times.”
“Virgin Witch” has been drawing criticism on YouTube from viewers who claim its main guitar riff is a direct rip-off of the Iommi-approved one used in “Freya”, a 2006 scorcher by Texas metal quartet Sword. Zombie is adamant that his guitarist, former Marilyn Manson hired gun John 5, “accidentally” lifted the lick.
“If there’s one thing I can guarantee it’s that John 5 is so phenomenally talented he’s not out there stealing riffs from other bands,” asserts Zombie. “But even he admits that you hear things that get locked in your head sometimes. He totally admitted, ’Aw fuck, that sounds just like it, I don’t know how that happened.’
“So we contacted that band immediately. We’re not gonna bullshit people. You know, you write hundreds and hundreds of songs and you have so much music in your head that it happens all the time. It happened the other night, too. We were writing something and John was all excited about it and I was like, ”˜John, I gotta tell you, that sounds exactly like this White Zombie song from 15 years ago.’ So I played it for him and he’s like, ”˜Oh my God, it does!’ You try your best not to copy things, but sometimes it happens. You can’t get around it.”
Rob Zombie plays the Pacific Coliseum on Saturday (May 1).