The devil's music

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      Five years ago, I covered the local shoot of Halloween: Resurrection for British horror mag Shivers. I spent several hours on set, and it was lotsa fun””especially when veteran makeup-FX artist Gary Tunnicliffe showed me how he could make giant animatronic rats squirm around in their maggot-infested death throes. But sitting down in the theatre a year later and viewing the finished product wasn't nearly as entertaining. The movie sucked the biggie, just like the previous seven or so Halloweens.

      Things might be different next time, though, because hard rocker and horror auteur Rob Zombie has signed on to helm a remake of John Carpenter's original 1978 shocker. Although Zombie is best known for the B-movie-influenced, industrial-edged rock he's made as both a solo artist and leader of White Zombie, he's also proved through hair-raising films like House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil's Rejects that he's able to bring the cinematic dynamite in both hands. When the Straight reaches the scary dude at a tour stop in Montana, he explains why his Halloween isn't likely to either suck or blow. “Well, it's not a sequel,”  he points out, “so that's one nice thing. 'Cause, you know, let's face it, the sequels have beat that series to death. The first movie's a classic, but the rest of them are pretty bad, actually. That's why I thought that the only way to make this work was to start fresh.” 

      If Zombie's interception of the wayward Halloween franchise is big news for genre fans, so is the announcement of his forthcoming animated feature, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto. Written and executive produced by Zombie, it's based on his comic-book series, Spookshow International, and centres on the adventures of a masked Mexican wrestler. But it ain't no Nacho Libre; this one's more suited to the 18-and-over crowd that gets psyched whenever Spike & Mike's Sick & Twisted Festival of Animation hits town. Paul Giamatti of Sideways fame is doing the voice-over for pivotal character Dr. Satan, and according to Zombie he comes off as a cross between Vincent Price and Charles Nelson Reilly.

      Apart from his various comic-book and film exploits, Zombie's been busy with his “first love” : heavy metal. He's currently touring behind his latest solo release, Educated Horses, which debuted at No. 5 on the Billboard Top 200 chart last April. Much of the CD, including the video/single “American Witch” , sees him singing in a style reminiscent of Alice Cooper, although that comparison to the king of nasty rock is lost on the Zombieman. “I don't think that I sound like Alice Cooper,”  he says. “Alice Cooper sounds a certain way to me. But if there's one thing you can't really ever judge, it's your own voice””it sounds different to you. And it wasn't till the record came out that people started saying that it sounded like Alice Cooper. I mean, it's cool””it's a nice compliment””but it never crossed my mind.” 

      Since he was a youngster, Zombie has been transfixed by the macabre approach Cooper pioneered with elaborate staging and deathless albums like Killer and Billion Dollar Babies. He also points to '70s acts such as Queen, Blue Oyster Cult, and KISS””“all those bands that were big and theatrical” ””as hugely influential. The multitalented 41-year-old got to pay tribute to KISS last May at the first annual VH1 Rock Honors awards show, when he joined Slash and Gilby Clarke from Guns N' Roses, Scott Ian of Anthrax, Tommy Lee of Míƒ ¶tley Críƒ ¼e, and surprise guest Ace Frehley of KISS on-stage at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Vegas. “KISS's Destroyer was one of my favourite records as a kid,”  he recalls, “and 'God of Thunder' was just my favourite song on that record, so to be able to get on-stage and play that song with Ace Frehley was awesome.” 

      Like his greasepainted heroes, Zombie lives by the “bigger is better”  credo, as his current tour with openers Anthrax attests. “You're gonna have to bolt your eyes open in order to take it all in,”  he boasts. “It's massive. It's gonna be insane.” 

      Hard-core Zombie fans should also note that he'll be returning to the Pacific Northwest again in late September, when he plays an even bigger show at the White River Amphitheatre in Auburn, Washington, coheadlining with Godsmack. That multiplatinum metal act has been getting a lot of flak lately for its pro-military stance, which includes licensing music to the U.S. army for use in enlistment campaigns. Since Zombie doesn't share Godsmack's militaristic mindset (“I'm not a pro-war guy” ), one wonders if he might notch one up for peace by blowing the warmongers off the stage. But he's not exactly Kofi Annan. “I'm just worryin' about my stuff,”  he replies with a chuckle.

      Rob Zombie plays the Pacific Coliseum tonight (August 3).