*This interview was originally published in article form in the first issue of New Noise Magazine. To say that this was one of the best chats I’ve had with a musician would be an understatement. Rob was a great guy to chat with and I was shocked how nice and polite he was, honestly.*
Your new film The Lords of Salem comes out on April 19th and Rat Vendor comes out 4 days later, did you plan that, or was it just a coincidence?
No, I had been planning on putting two things out around the same time for a while, so that was planned that way.
Tell me a little about the meaning of the title Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, as well as how you decided on that title.
Ya know, I don’t really know. I’m not sure how I come up with anything, it’s an idea that’s been in my head for a long time, it just stuck and I liked it, there was no one particular thing that inspired it. I don’t know where anything comes from, one day you just think of something
Is there any sort of theme or concept with the albums lyrics and are they based at all on the album title?
Yes and no. To me, the whole record, in a way is a concept record. I came up with a storyline that I wanted to go with the record, cause I had this vague idea that one day it would be cool to turn the record in to a movie like Pink Floyd’s The Wall or Tommy. So I did create, in my own mind a storyline that goes through all the songs, but it’s not explained in any way on the record. It wouldn’t make sense to anyone but me. It would make sense if it were turned into a movie, but if you just listen to the record; it won’t make sense to anybody.
Do you come up with your lyrics before or after the actual music is written?
Sometimes I write stuff when there’s no music, I’ll just have different phrases and lines and things that I’ve written but I don’t know what they’re for, but usually most of it starts coming when the music starts coming, simultaneously for the most part.
Ever since you started working on films and becoming super busy with that, do you feel that it’s given you less time to work on your music?
Not really. Even before I started making movies, I never really made that many records. Some bands crank out a record every year it seems and put out a lot of records, but it always seems to be about three years between each record. I wish I would make em more often, but I just don’t. It seems like with the touring, you make a record and you tour and the years just seem to slip by, so it really hasn’t gotten in the way. Even back with White Zombie, we wouldn’t make records very fast, there were always a few years in between.
Has the actual songwriting process changed at all though over the years?
Yeah, it has in a sense. Back in the day twenty years ago or so with White Zombie, the whole band would come up to a rehearsal space and we would jam and someone would have a riff or an idea and we’d jam on it and turn it into a song, but I always hated doing that. I always found that incredibly tedious and time consuming and as the years have gone on, we’ve sort of streamlined the process. These days, between me and John 5, we pretty much do all the writing. We work together really well and really fast, so we don’t have to do the endless jamming. So we can put a song together pretty quickly and it makes such a difference and you don’t get bored.
I’m sure having a guitar legend like John 5 working with you doesn’t hurt the process either, right?
Yeah, John is amazing. I love working with John because he’s a super talented musician which is great, but a lot of really talented musicians aren’t necessarily good songwriters, but he is both. He’s got a great sense of melody and songwriting along with his musical ability, so working together is a pleasure.
I saw where you said that this album is the perfect combination of White Zombie and your solo stuff. When you started working on this record, did you have that intention of mixing the two styles, or did that happen organically?
It wasn’t my intention. Whenever I start working on a record, the record takes over and takes on its own life a lot of times. You can think “oh we wanna make a really heavy record” and then it doesn’t happen cause I start writing different types of songs. It wasn’t until the record was done and I played it for my wife Shari, she’s the one who said it, she said “this seems more reminiscent of White Zombie or something” cause I hadn’t thought it. It hadn’t crossed my mind. She should know, next to me, she’s been to the most shows and heard the most music of the band of anyone I know, so that was her first opinion and after she said it, I kind of thought “well, maybe it’s true”.
Tell me a little about the concept behind that song “Ging Gang Gong De Do Gong De Laga Raga” and that dirty old man vocal style you use on that song.
That song came really easy. I think sometimes you write the best songs when you don’t give a shit and you’re not trying to write a hit song and on that song I wasn’t thinking about it. I used this really crappy microphone that was a distorted mess, it’s one vocal track, very live, I left all the mistakes in the vocal track, didn’t want it to be perfect, all the mistakes are left in there. The chorus was just, I recorded the record at my house and I took a break from recording and I was eating a sandwich and came up with that wacky chorus and I went back in and did it right after lunch. It was one of the fastest songs we recorded on the record.
It obviously takes a lot of dedication to do the amount of work that you do, especially when it involves creativity. What would you say drives you and keeps you motivated to take on the projects that you do and how have you been able to maintain such a high level of creativity over the years?
Well, I just like creating stuff, that’s what I like to do. That’s all I care about, I like making stuff, whether it’s a song or a movie, I’ve always liked making stuff ever since I was a little kid. Different people get excited about different things, the thing that excites me is, you think of a crazy idea and you go “how am I going to make this idea real?” Whether it’s a song, especially a movie, you think of some crazy idea for a movie “how is this going to be real so one day people are sitting in a cinema watching it?” And that’s very exciting, it’s very challenging. As far as keeping the levels of creativity high, I don’t know, that’s just something you hope for, you hope it’s happening, you’re never quite sure, you just keep working, cause one thing you learn, I’ve been doing this now for a long time, you have to approach it like it’s a job. I mean, it’s an awesome job and I love it, but I approach it like it’s a job where I work on something every day even when I don’t feel like it. You can’t just sit around waiting for inspiration. Which means some days you work on stuff all day and it’s a bunch of crap and you throw it away and some days it’s great.
When you are working on an album or a movie script, do you ever struggle with writers block? If so, what are some things you do to get past it?
Sometimes you feel like you experience writers block every single day, truthfully. It’s just a matter of just do it every day like it’s a job. Like I said, some days are good and some days are bad. Like writing a script, if your average script is 120 pages, some people will stress “how do I start, what do I do” and they never start. I look at it like, if you write one page a day, in 4 months you’ll be done, that’s kinda what I do. With every script, when I start it, I think “I’ll never finish this” it feels like an endless task, it’ll never happen. Slowly you hit 5 pages, 10 pages, 40 pages, 60 pages, 100 pages, and same thing with a song. Whenever we start a record, it always feels like ‘how the fuck are we gonna get twelve new songs when you can’t even think of one song?’ But slowly you start writing a bunch of riffs and lyrics and it just comes together, you just can’t get discouraged on the bad days, although sometimes you do. There’s been days when to me everything sounds fucking horrible and you just wanna throw a microphone across the room
As someone who’s dealt with major studios in the film industry and major labels in the music business, if you had to pick just one of the two, which would you choose?
Well, I haven’t chose because I don’t want to, because I like doing both. I figure that probably, the older you get, movies become something to choose, even though nobody ever retires. I mean the Rolling Stones haven’t quit, people are very willing to go see rock bands that are 70 years old, so I dunno, I like em both. I need both for my personality, I need to do both things or I’ll go nuts.
As a musician and a filmmaker, you’ve obviously accomplished a lot in your career. What would you say are some things you still have left to accomplish?
I mean, really the goal is always the same, you’re always just trying to make everything better. It’s not like with the new record you’re like “oh let’s just make a record, who gives a shit?” I always think “let’s make this the best fucking record we can make, because you never know if you’re gonna make another record. Every time we play a show we’re like “let’s make this the best fucking show we can ever play” because we may never play another show again, you never know. That’s really the goal, to always make it the best, because there seems to be a thing in the culture that as you get older your best days are supposed to be behind you, but I feel for myself that as time goes on I get better at what I do. I think the last tour I did was the best tour we ever did, the best shows we ever played after more than twenty five years and that’s just the way I approach it.