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Members include: J. (born Jay Yuenger; joined band 1989), guitar; John Tempesta (joined band 1994), drums; Sean Yseult (born in Raleigh, NC), bass; Rob Zombie (born Robert Cummings in MA), vocals. Former members: Ivan dePrume, drums from 1985-c. 1992; Phil Buerstatte, drums, 1994. Addresses: Record Company--Geffen Records, 9130 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90069.
In the early 1990s White Zombie helped to define where heavy metal might be heading after the death of "hair bands" in the late 80s. White Zombie exploded onto the MTV scene via cartoon characters Beavis and Butthead, as the crude teenage tastemakers plugged White Zombie's 1993 "Thunder Kiss '65" video habitually on their show. But White Zombie's success is primarily due to their own hard work and almost constant touring.
The band formed in 1985 in New York City when Rob Zombie (born Cummings) and his then girlfriend Sean Yseult signed on drummer Ivan dePrume and a changing line of guitarists in order to make music. Zombie, the leader and spokesperson for the band, was born in Massachusetts to relatively indulgent parents. "They weren't really liberal with me, like, 'Oh sure, listen to this stuff, watch these movies!'" he told the Detroit Free Press's Brian McCollum. "They were more like, 'Well he's upstairs in his bedroom, let him do whatever he wants.'" They never restricted Zombie's activities or exposure to horror movies, controversial music, and the underbelly of pop culture.
Zombie, who spent some time as an art student at Manhattan's prestigious Parsons Institute of Design, aspired to be a film director. "My main influence in starting to make music," he told Elysa Gardner in the Los Angeles Times, "was the fact that I was going to a lot of awful shows, paying money to see bands that were incredibly horrible.... I wasn't hating everything I saw, but I wanted to make music that I would really enjoy." Zombie worked briefly as a bike messenger, as the band was developing, then with Yseult--whom he'd met during his stint at art school--at a pornographic magazine Celebrity Sleuth. Later, he was a production assistant for several years on the off-beat kid's show Pee Wee's Playhouse.
Meanwhile, White Zombie did the New York scene, playing "fright music" for post-punk crowds at clubs like CBGB's, and across the country with fledgling hard-edged bands like Mudhoney, Urge Overkill, and Dinosaur, (pre Jr). "Eventually," Zombie told Ian Christe in Alternative Press, "we burned out on the New York scene. Everyone had broken up, everyone was dead, and it was all tenth-generation bands milking what people had done ten years ago." When White Zombie started playing with metal bands, everybody called them metal, even though they were playing the same music, only now it was with bands like Biohazard and Suicidal Tendencies.
It is hard to pigeonhole their sample-laden frenetic rock. The New York Time's Jon Pareles offered this: "Like a trash compactor, White Zombie compresses a slew of debris into dense, manageable chunks. Fast heavy metal riffs, sometimes bolstered by the pounding beat of industrial rock, support Rob Zombie's ranted, rapped and howled lyrics. The songs roam a B movie universe of supernatural ghouls, psychotic killers, satanic possession and other ominous thrills."
The band built up a strong fan base with its early independent releases and were eventually signed by Geffen Records in the early 90s. By then they were ready to relocate from New York to Los Angeles. At the same time they acquired a manager to whom they made one request: keep the band on tour. In March of 1992 Geffen released White Zombie's major label debut, La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume I. For two and a half years the band toured constantly, playing 350 shows worldwide. Their album sold three times what any of their indies had sold, and they made eight guest appearances on MTV's Headbanger's ball. They were even nominated for a Grammy in 1993 for "Best Hard Rock Performance." Although many had credited their success to the plugs their video for "Thunder Kiss '65" got on the Beavis and Butthead Show, they had already made a lot of headway from touring. It was requests from Beavis and Butthead fans that put the video into heavy rotation on MTV, however, and that's when White Zombie's popularity exploded.
Despite sudden support from their label, the band experienced difficulties preparing for their next album. Line up changes included drummer dePrume being asked to leave just a few months into the La Sexorcisto tour. Then came fill-in drummer Phil Buerstatte who was jettisoned after the tour, but was quickly replaced by John Tempesta--formerly of Testament. The band returned to the studio just three weeks after the tour's end. The result was 1995's Astro-Creep: 2000, Songs of Love, Destruction and Other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head. The band had to invent most of their own samples for this record, as many charges had been made against the previous album. Not only did fans obsessively trace the roots of each sample, but some supposed originators of the material threatened suit. Zombie was also busy directing videos and fashioning the band's artistic presentation; he is in charge of all designs, including their extensive CD pamphlets.
Rob Zombie's future relies heavily on his artistic talents. Interested in multimedia design, he plans epic live shows, creative on-line Web sites and other electronic developments involving the band. A big fan of comic books and an obsessive collector of various oddities, Zombie is working on a comic book as well as distant plans to direct films. But for now the band remains interested in developing their music and entertaining their fans.
by Joanna Rubiner
White Zombie's Career
Band formed in New York, NY, 1985; released first EP, Psycho-Head Blowout, 1986; signed with Geffen Records, c. 1991; La Sexorcisto, major label debut released, 1992; plugged heavily on MTV's Beavis and Butthead Show, 1993.
- Selective Works
- Psycho-Head Blowout (EP), Silent Explosion, 1986.
- Soul-Crusher (EP), Silent Explosion, 1987.
- Make Them Die Slowly, Caroline, 1989.
- God of Thunder (EP), Caroline, 1989.
- La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume I, Geffen, 1992.
- Astro-Creep: 2000, Songs of Love, Destruction and Other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head, Geffen, 1995.
- Supersexy Swingin' Sounds, Geffen, 1996.
- Alternative Press, April 1995.
- Detroit Free Press, November 17, 1995.
- Guitar School, May 1995.
- Hits, May 22, 1995 Hypno Magazine, June 1995.
- Live Wire, Vol. 5, No. 5.
- Los Angeles Times, June 27, 1995; July 1, 1995.
- The Music Paper, June 1995.
- New York Times, June 3, 1995.
- Philadelphia Inquirer, June 5, 1995.
- Pulse!, June 1995.
- Rip, October 1995.
- Rolling Stone, August 24, 1995.
- USA Today, June 28, 1995
- Additional information for this profile was provided by Geffen Records press materials, 1995.
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