ROB ZOMBIE (1966–PRESENT). Multi-talented Rob Zombie (Robert Cummings) might well be considered a heavy metal renaissance man, if that’s not too confining a way to put it. The one-time production assistant for Pee Wee’s Playhouse has experienced a multitude of successes over the past two decades, from overseeing the rise of White Zombie and his own solo musical career, to writing and directing two feature films, as well as directing music videos, designing album artwork, to designing a ride for Universal Studios’ theme perks. Central to all these activities has been his focus on fulfilling a musical vision that borrows from classic and industrial metal genres combined with the iconography of classic horror and exploitation films.
Zombie, whose real name is Robert Cummings, moved to New York in the mideighties from Massachusetts. He worked a series of creative day jobs—art director for a porn magazine, production assistant for Pee Wee’s Playhouse—while developing and fronting the band White Zombie at night. Initially a noise rock band akin to Sonic Youth, White Zombie eventually evolved into a groove metal band and ultimately won a major label deal with Geffen Records in the early nineties. While the band moved toward greater mass appeal in their metal period, their albums were highly entertaining and creatively executed and featured the unique use of samples from such camp sources as Russ Meyer and cult horror films and television shows like Batman.
After the latter-day success of the White Zombie albums La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1 and Astro Creep: 2000, in 1992 and 1995, respectively, Zombie was able to try his hand at a variety of creative endeavors, from animating a sequence in the feature film Beavis & Butthead Do America, to film directing. In addition, he released a solo album, Hellbilly Deluxe in 1998. In its first week, the album sold more than the previous White Zombie album had. Seeing the writing on the wall, Zombie disbanded the group to focus full-time on his solo career, taking most of the band’s audience with him. To a large extent, after all, his new act mined very much the same territory—industrial groove metal featuring gothic cinematic horror themes—and he still had the Zombie name.
2005 saw the release of Zombie’s second feature film, The Devil’s Rejects, and the following year he released his third studio album, Educated Horses, on which he toned down some of the more gothic elements of his act and utilized a more natural vocal approach. Zombie has continued to keep busy, serving as co-writer and director for the remake of the classic horror film Halloween in 2007, and releasing the live album Zombie Live. Another major tour with Ozzy Osbourne followed its release.
Discography: Hellbilly Deluxe (Geffen, 1998); American Made Music to Strip By (Interscope, 1999); The Sinister Urge (Universal, 2001); Educated Horses (Geffen, 2006); ZombieLive (Geffen, 2007); Past, Present & Future (Geffen, 2003).