The Anchorage Press, March 14, 1996

No rest for the wicked: getting inside the electrichead

by Patrick Sanders

"The chief enemy of creativity is 'good taste'."
- Pablo Picasso

Trying to understand the runaway enigma that is White Zombie is like sitting in a moviehouse, packed with movie-goers, while a grotesque display of carnage flickers on the screen. Some viewers may cover their eyes, possibly peeking through their fingers in curiosity. Others will writhe in their seats in shock, yet keep their eyes riveted. A few patrons will shout out affirmations to the evil beast and cheer the gore. The reactions may differ, but they're all there for basically the same reasons: to consume the effect, and indulge in the morbid images oozing from the dark chasms of the special effects artists' and writers' minds.

White Zombie, through their bizarre mix of rhythmic, jaw-clenching music, B-movie sound clips, and stranglehold style of lyrics, are considered by most heavy music fans as true masters of the illusion.

"Jesus lived his life in a cheap hotel on theedge of Route 66."
- Super-Charger Heaven

The forging of White Zombie began in New York City, 1985.

A brief stint in art school brought Rob Straker aka vocalist/brains-of-the outfit Rob Zombie and bassist Sean Yseult together. A relationship was born and through mutual musical vision, transformed into a working band that was soon ripping through the Big Apple's club circuit.

"We always wanted to form a band -- our tastes were pretty similar," Sean said during a recent phone interview, "Rob liked Kiss, Van Halen and The Misfits... I liked The Cramps. And who doesn't like Sabbath?"

Not only did Rob and Sean perform music and slum together but, after a short period of time as a bike messenger, Rob began to work with Sean for a soft-core porn mag entitled Celebrity Sleuth. Rob's eye for humorously sleazy graphics became finely honed, and he would later be the twisted cartoonist for numerous White Zombie album designs.

Meanwhile, Zombie's unique sonic onslaught of heavy rhythms blended with sampled noises and distorted vocalizations, creating a strong following amongst fans of all musical tastes. Heavy metal fans, punks, and even techno and hip-hop fanatics embraced White Zombie. Their audience grew, and with the additions of guitarist Jay Yuenger, formerly of Chicago's Rights of the Accused, and drummer Ivan dePrume, the band gelled into a legitimate musical force.

A humble string of releases, Psycho-Head Blowout EP (1986), SoulCrusher (1987), Make Them Die Slowly (1989) and God of Thunder(1989), were merely cornerstones for the tower of power on White Zombie's horizon.

The training wheels had to be removed before the bicycle could hit the highway. The clubs of New York were proving far too pitiful and redundant. Constant gigs scheduled at the same old venues meant growth-time lost for the Zombie crew.

"Eventually, we burnt out the New York scene," Rob stated in a recent Alternative Press interview. "Everyone had broken up, everyone was dead, and it was all tenth-generation bands milking what people had done ten years ago."

A drastic change of geography to the sunglasses and palm trees of Southern California was the kick they needed.

"Lights band the traffic thunder two blocks westof the rest.
Tore away the bottom and saw life is a test."- Warp Asylum

Geffen Records, attracted to the difference in the White Zombie sound, took them under their corporate wing. Soon after, in March 1992, Zombie released the album that stirred the waters and started the maelstrom: La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume 1.

While Zombie went on the road for 350 shows -- over two and a half years supporting the album. La Sexorcisto received mixed reviews. The critics heralded it as the most evil yet intriguing recording in years, MTV's Beavis and Butt-head announced to viewers nation-wide that it was "huh...", and the Grammy's nominated them as Best Hard Rock Performance of 1993. On the other side of the fence, religious groups, seeing the Devil's work, banned it and "concerned" parents prevented their kids from attending the "potentially harmful" concerts.

In reaction to a question about having Zombie shows banned, Sean laughingly replied, "I mean, haven't they ever heard of Marilyn Manson or GWAR?"

White Zombie remained oblivious to the critics, good and bad, and trudged ahead with new found enthusiasm.

"I am a plague in an 18-wheeler...get behind the wheel I'm gonna drive."
-El Phantasmo and the Chicken-Run Blast-O-Rama

During the first shows of the La Sexorcisto tour, drummer dePrume was replaced with the short-lived Phil Buerstatte, who in turn stepped down after the final show to make way for ex-Testament skinman John Tempesta. Within weeks the Zombie cast reentered the studio to put their collective nose back to the grindstone.

With gleeful support from Geffen, Rob Zombie and crew took full liberties, and ground away for seven months of writing and recording.

"Usually Rob makes a killer rhythm, and J. and I riff over it," Sean says of the White Zombie recording technique, "We usually throw shit up in there, and see what survives. Usually Rob adds the words later."

All of the tedious labor and toiling culminated in what would be considered as White Zombie's tour de force: Astro Creep: 2000 Songs of Love, Destruction and other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head.

Astro Creep 2000, since its much anticipated release, saturated the charts and slapped critics and unsuspecting fans in the face with a new, darker attitude unlike anything White Zombie has done before.

With its techno vibes and chugging rhythms firmly intact, Astro Creep 2000 is seeing musical cross-over like no other album of its kind. Dance clubs are finding cuts like More Human Than Human and Super-Charger Heaven filling their floors with shoulder to shoulder, sweat-drenched dancers. FM radio has White Zombie tunes getting rotation on hard rock stations and pop stations alike. Rolling Stone Magazine, in a recent Critic's and Reader's Poll, placed White Zombie high on the Best Metal Band lists.

"We wanted to really push this album to the extreme," Rob states in a recent press release, "to take the music places it had never been. After all was said and done, I definitely think we achieved our goal."

"I am the Astro Creep... a demolition style hell American freak..."
-More Human Than Human

Now surfing the highly successful wave of Astro Creep 2000, the White Zombie crew takes their musical brand phantasmagoria to the vast reaches of our planet, and never looks back. Concerts are being banned and concerts are selling out. Albums are being burned, and multi-platinum figures are rolling in. The Grand Illusion is in progress.

When asked to comment on White Zombie's success, Sean replied, with an obvious gleam in her voice, "Yea it's great! It's been a slow progression over the years."

The light at the end of the tunnel is growing brighter for Zombie. Future projects are constantly in the works with up-coming movie soundtrack appearances, inevitable music awards and numerous side projects. There is no rest for the wicked.

Previously double-billed with Filter, the last stop of White Zombie's Astro Creep 2000 tour (now Filterless) brings the living dead right to our door step, on Tuesday, March 19th, at the Sullivan Arena, By all accounts ,only a handful of tickets remain. What few tickets that remain are going for $28, and can be purchased at the Sullivan Arena box office or by calling CARRS TIX at 263-ARTS.

Thanks to The Anchorage Press and Patrick's Music Review Archives