If you’re anything like me, you probably started the day by recognizing that the start of a new work week had indeed arrived and then immediately began shaking your fists at the sky in anger. Monday is rarely anyone’s favorite day, and from what I have seen firsthand it feels safe to say it’s the one day of the week some people outright hate. I guess to them the arrival of the work week symbolizes the end of their quote/unquote freedom, and as a result they head into the office/factory/restaurant/store with a negative outlook already on their mind. This leads to bad attitudes, which only makes the experience of being at work worse, and for some reason it also seems to make time slow to a crawl. We’re not about that life, and we hope this post can do the same you that the song contained within it did for us.
As I’ve grown older in music I have come to understand that every generation has one or two artists that parents both conservative and liberal label as being demonic, satanic, or otherwise bad for their children. These are artists that, despite whatever imagery accompanies their work, find a path to mainstream exposure that infuriates small town minds and inspires throngs of church-going citizens to plan some form of midwest protest in response. For my grandparents, this figure was Elvis and his unstoppable hips. For my parents, it was Kiss and the rise of rap in mainstream culture. For me, and probably for everyone else born just before the 1990s, it was Rob Zombie.
To be completely fair, Rob Zombie is not someone people of my generation discovered in the classic sense. Zombie, born Robert Bartleh Cummings, had already proven his rock pedigree as a member of White Zombie before he started a solo career, but none of his success with that group could prepare him or anyone else for what would come when he was untethered from the rest of the rock community. Hellbilly Deluxe, Zombie’s first solo album, was a veritable smorgasbord of rock goodness and horror movie sensibilities. Zombie created a visual component to his musical art that was, and remains, unmatched in the greater hard rock community. His videos were essentially short horror movies, and his songs were like horror audiobooks set to the kind of electric orchestration one might expect to here accompanying the arrival of satan on Earth. In one album, Zombie usurped Marilyn Manson as the king of shock, and through doing so claimed a throne in the world of music that put him in the crosshairs of every conservative music fan on the planet.
I was 11 when Hellbilly Deluxe came out. You could say I was too young to appreciate everything Zombie was trying to convey through his music and imagery, but everything I did understand won me over in no time at all. The first time I heard “Dragula” was also the first time I recognized that I was listening to something my parents would never approve of me enjoying, and I knew right away that I had to stand my ground. This, I soon found out, was far easier said than done. I had no money of my own, and I couldn’t buy anything without first making my parents aware of the the thing I wanted, so to make my goal of enjoying Rob Zombie regularly a part of my life I had to convince several friends to burn me copies of his album on blank CD-R discs that I would later label as something else entirely just in case mom and dad looked at my music collection. There was more than one occasion where my plan was uncovered, and such happenings were almost always followed by me being grounded for a week or more, but part of me didn’t care. Rob Zombie had given me an excuse to rebel, and I had fallen in love with the notion I was doing something others might find weird or wrong.
As time carried on and Zombie continued to release music, my fascination with his world of horrors only grew, and when he transitioned into the world of filmmaking I followed suit. Horror was always my favorite genre, though as a young teen I had admittedly not seen much of it, so once again I followed Zombie where he chose to lead. House Of 1000 Corpses was the kind of film the kids at my school talked about as if it were the holy grail of things we were not meant to see. Anyone with parents absent enough to let them attend such a feature did so two or three times over during the film’s short run in theaters just because it was the most violent, absurd, and altogether original thing any of us had ever seen. The notion such horrific things could not only be created, but distributed on a global scale, opened our collective minds to a world of possibilities none of us had ever really considered. It was as if we had spent our entire lives blindly assuming all mainstream art, be it film or music, was so easily available because it was intended to entertain as many people as possible. With Rob Zombie, this was not the case, not was it ever what he desired for his career to be. Zombie made things for people like him, and for many people in my generation that included us, or at least we thought it did in that moment.
Almost two decades have passed since Hellbilly Deluxe cracked open my skull to expose my curious mind to the possibilities of self-expression without restraint, and to this day Zombie continues to define himself by his own standards. The quality of his work can and will be debated for the rest of time, but at the end of the day there is no one who walks away from something Rob Zombie has created feeling as if he had to change his original vision or idea in the slightest. His new album, The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser, is proof of this being true. Zombie creates for himself, just as he always has, and through being honest about who he is he inspires others to do the same. The people who enjoy Rob Zombie’s art do so because it makes them feel something they cannot find in anything else because it’s something that can only be achieved by Zombie himself. They recognize that, be it in music or film, Zombie is constantly trying to deconstruct what makes him tick and showcase those things to the world. The kind of unflinching honest is rare, but when it is found it attracts swarms of followers that no amount of catchy songs or epic movies can match. It’s the same power possessed by Beyonce, Prince, and David Bowie, and it’s something we are forever needing more of in entertainment.
What I mean to say is, regardless of whether or not Rob Zombie creates the kind of art you typically enjoy, there is no way you can see what he makes and feel it comes from anywhere other than some place true. The authenticity of his work is never questioned because anyone who experiences his work recognizes that it could only come from his mind. That kind of work is what we should all inspire to create in our day to day lives, and in my experience there are few better ways to inspire that level of authenticity than through exposure to others whose work reflects that. We don’t need another Rob Zombie, but we do need more free spirits like him to share their unique perspectives on the world around us, and that could easily include you as long as you’re willing to work at it.
The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser hits stores this Friday, April 29.
James Shotwell is the Digital Marketing Manager for Haulix. He is also a professional entertainment critic, covering both film and music, as well as the co-founder of Antique Records. Feel free to tell him you love or hate the article above by connecting with him on Twitter. Bonus points if you introduce yourself by sharing your favorite Simpsons character.