Life and career
1965–1998: Early life and White Zombie
Robert Bartleh Cummings was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts on January 12, 1965. He is the oldest son of Robert and Louise Cummings. His younger brother, Michael David Cummings, is the lead singer of the band Powerman 5000. Growing up, Cummings had a fascination with horror films and has stated that he always "wanted to be Alice Cooper, Steven Spielberg, Bela Lugosi and Stan Lee." His parents worked in a carnival, but they chose to leave after a riot broke out and tents were set on fire. Cummings recalled the experience in an interview, stating, "Everybody's pulling out guns, and you could hear guns going off. I remember this one guy we knew, he was telling us where to go, and some guy just ran up to him and hit him in the face with a hammer – just busted his face wide open. My parents packed up real quick, and we took off." Cummings graduated from Haverhill High School in 1983. He moved to New York City and began attending Parsons School of Design, where he met eventual girlfriend Sean Yseult. Before the success of White Zombie, he was a production assistant for the television series Pee-wee's Playhouse.
Cummings and Yseult co-founded the band that would become known as White Zombie. They broke up after seven years of dating, but continued to work in the band together. The band released three extended plays to little success, with their debut studio album following in 1987 through the band's own record label, Silent Explosion. They released their second studio album two years later to little commercial reaction. Yseult and Zombie ended their relationship in 1991 and Zombie began dating Sheri Moon shortly afterwards. The band caught the attention of Geffen Records following the release of their fourth extended play; their third studio album was subsequently released through the label in 1992. The album became the band's breakout hit, going on to sell over two million copies in the United States. Their first single, "Thunder Kiss '65", was released through the label in 1993.
White Zombie's fourth and final studio album, Astro-Creep: 2000 – Songs of Love, Destruction and Other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head (1995), became their first to enter the top ten of the Billboard 200; it went on to sell over two million copies in the United States. Cummings directed the music video for the album's single "More Human than Human" (1995) and would go on to direct all subsequent videos for the band. In 1996, Cummings legally changed his name to Rob Zombie. White Zombie released a remix album that year, marking their final release before their eventual disbandment. Zombie collaborated with Alice Cooper on the song "Hands of Death (Burn Baby Burn)" (1996) for Songs in the Key of X: Music from and Inspired by the X-Files. The song was nominated in the category of Best Metal Performance at the 39th Annual Grammy Awards, though lost to Rage Against the Machine. White Zombie officially broke up in September 1998, with Zombie stating, "Sometimes a band just breaks up because the band has run its course and the best days are behind them. White Zombie went through a lot together and did tons of great stuff, but it was time to stop. The good times were over and we were all moving in different directions." A box-set for the group was released in 2008 featuring all of their released material.
1998–2001: Solo debut and commercial success
Work on Zombie's debut solo album first began in 1997, before the band had officially broken up. For the album, Zombie worked with numerous artists, including Charlie Clouser of Nine Inch Nails fame and former White Zombie bandmate John Tempesta. Zombie's solo debut album, Hellbilly Deluxe: 13 Tales of Cadaverous Cavorting Inside the Spookshow International, was released on August 25, 1998. The album was a commercial success, debuting at number five on the Billboard 200 with first week sales of 121,000 copies. The album's first week sales topped that of his prior album's with White Zombie. Hellbilly Deluxe went on to become Zombie's highest selling album to date, with sales exceeding three million copies in the United States. The album was influenced by classic horror films, with numerous songs on the album containing samples and quotes from some of Zombie's favorite horror films. The album spawned three singles, all of which charted on the Billboard Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart. Numerous songs from the album were used in films and video games, mainly in the horror genre. The success of the album led to the release of Zombie's first remix album, American Made Music to Strip By (1999). The album entered the top forty of the Billboard 200 in its debut week.
Zombie formed his own record label, Zombie-A-Go-Go Records, in 1998. The label released the final album from American instrumental band The Bomboras, as well as the debut album from the Ghastly Ones. Both albums were released on June 2, 1998 though received little critical or commercial success. The label next released the compilation album Halloween Hootenanny (1998), featuring appearances from artists such as Reverend Horton Heat and Rocket From the Crypt. Zombie himself contributed the song "Halloween (She Get So Mean)" to the soundtrack, which had previously appeared on promotional releases of "Dragula" (1998). Zombie released the album Rob Zombie Presents The Words & The Music Of Frankenstein on October 12, 1999 through Zombie-A-Go-Go Records. The album, considered a soundtrack, features the original score and some dialogue from the original Frankenstein (1931).
Zombie was set to make his directorial debut with the film The Crow: 2037, and even wrote the film's script. The film was set to take place in the future, though it was never released. It was decided that the film was not suited for the franchise, but would instead serve as a standalone project. He composed the original score for the video game Twisted Metal III, released in 1998. Zombie designed a haunted attraction for Universal Studios in 1999, which was later deemed instrumental in reviving the Halloween Horror Nights annual attraction. It was during this time that Zombie began working with the studio on his directorial debut, a film titled House of 1000 Corpses. The project began filming in May 2000 with a scheduled release date of the following year, though the studio ultimately cancelled its release due to the violent themes present throughout the film. Zombie's song "Superbeast", taken from Hellbilly Deluxe, received a nomination for Best Metal Performance at the 42nd Annual Grammy Awards. Zombie contributed the song "Scum of the Earth" (2000) to the Mission: Impossible 2 soundtrack.
Zombie's second studio album, The Sinister Urge, was released on November 13, 2001. The album expands on the horror and shock rock elements seen in his debut album, and features collaborations with artists such as Ozzy Osbourne. The album became his second to enter the top ten in the United States, with its first week sales topping that of his previous album. The album went on to sell over one million copies in the United States, his second to accomplish this feat. The album was preceded by the single "Feel So Numb", with a second single being released the following year. Despite the album's success, it was noted as a decline in sales when compared to his first studio album. The Sinister Urge and its subsequent singles were met with a positive critical reception, with AllMusic writing "It is the slow burn of [the album's] last track that shows the most promise; after years of making good heavy metal, he finally expands the boundaries of his own sound. Few metal musicians kept their sound fresh for as long as Zombie, and this album is no exception." The Sinister Urge was voted as the fans' favorite album on Zombie's official website. The album is the final project to feature guitarist Mike Riggs and drummer John Tempesta, who had been with Zombie since the start of his solo career.
2002–2006: Marriage, directorial debut, and continued musical success
Rob Zombie at Ozzfest, 2005
In 2002, Zombie announced his engagement to longtime girlfriend Sheri Moon, with a wedding date set for November 9, 2002. Only ten days before the wedding date, the couple decided to elope on October 31, 2002. Moon said, "We were actually taking a walk in our neighborhood the day before. The wedding date was to be November 9th. We're like, 'Oh, God, we've been together for nine years. We should just say our vows privately'. It was just like a spur of the moment decision. It just happens that the next day was Halloween. We didn't do it for any spooky reasons or anything". Now married, Moon officially changed her name to Sheri Moon Zombie.
Following years of struggling to find a distributor and various re-shoots, Zombie confirmed that his film House of 1000 Corpses would finally be released through Lions Gate Entertainment. The film was released theatrically on April 11, 2003. The film received a generally negative reception from critics, though grossed over $16 million worldwide. The film was criticized for being too "grotesque" and "violent", but has since garnered a cult following. Despite vastly negative reviews, the film garnered a warmer reception in later years, and is frequently listed as one of the "best horror films ever made". Zombie worked with Scott Humphrey on the majority of the film's soundtrack, which was released on March 25, 2003. The release features original songs from Zombie such as "Pussy Liquor" and "Little Piggy", as well as Zombie's own rendition of the Commodores hit single "Brick House" (1977), re-titled "Brick House 2003". The soundtrack peaked at number fifty-three on the Billboard 200, and number four on the Top Soundtracks chart.
Zombie released his first compilation album, titled Past, Present & Future, on September 23, 2003. The release featured a collection of songs taken from Zombie's solo albums as well as his releases with White Zombie; new material is also present on the album. The album debuted at number eleven on the Billboard 200, and would go on to become Zombie's third release to sell over one million copies in the country. Zombie guest starred on episodes of both Spider-Man: The New Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited that year, in a voice only role for both. In November 2003, Zombie launched his Spookshow International comic book series. His second series, The Nail, spawned four issues between June and October 2004, while his Bigfoot series lasted from February to May 2005, featuring four issues. Zombie's second film, The Devils Rejects, serves as a direct sequel to House of 1000 Corpses, and was released on July 22, 2005. The film featured a more "violent Western film" theme as opposed to the horror aspects of its predecessor. The film received a much more positive reception than its predecessor, though was still criticized for its violence and material. The film has been described as "one giant loogie that comes straight from the heart", filled with moments of nihilism and cunning wit. Much like the first film, The Devil's Rejects went on to gain a cult following after its release. The film has a 53 out of 100 rating on Metacritic, meaning mixed to positive reviews. Zombie released a number of The Devils Rejects comics throughout 2005 to coincide with the film.
Zombie began working on his third studio album in 2005, whilst finishing work on The Devil's Rejects; the album was influenced by glam rock artists like Slade, T. Rex, and Gary Glitter. The release was described as "experimental" by Zombie, who claimed the project featured numerous acoustic-led songs. The album, Educated Horses, was released on March 28, 2006. It sold 107,000 copies in its first week, becoming Zombie's third album to enter the top ten on the Billboard 200. The album received mixed critical reviews, with Rolling Stone writing "A handful of cuts are too long on sludgy instrumental grooves, but whether Zombie is out-Trent Reznoring Trent Reznor on the sitar-laden grindfest '17 Year Locust' or spitting fire amid the apocalyptic blues riffs of 'The Devil's Rejects', he sounds like a gifted schlockmeister that Strokes fans can enjoy. Or at least tolerate." The song "The Lords of Salem" was nominated for Best Hard Rock Performance at the 51st Annual Grammy Awards. Educated Horses saw a further decline in sales for Zombie, selling just over 500,000 copies in the United States. The album became his first studio album as a solo artist to not receive a certification from the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). It served as Zombie's final studio album to be released through Geffen Records. Zombie had a cameo appearance in a voice only role for the film Slither (2006). Zombie released his first official greatest hits album, The Best of Rob Zombie, on October 10, 2006. The album was re-released only months later under the title The Best of Rob Zombie: 20th Century Masters The Millennium Collection. The project debuted at number 166 on the Billboard 200, and went on to receive a gold certification from the RIAA. The album featured no new material, and was released with little promotion on Zombie's behalf. It remains his final album to receive an RIAA certification to date.
2007–2009: Focus on film work
Zombie opted to focus on his career as a director in 2007, following the release of his third studio album a year prior. It was confirmed in 2006 that Zombie had signed on to write and direct a remake of the horror classic Halloween (1978). Zombie later referred to the film as a "re-imagining" of the original John Carpenter film. Zombie's version of the film was officially released on August 31, 2007. Thanks to its opening weekend of $30.5 million, the film broke the box-office record for the Labor Day weekend, surpassing the record set in 2005 by Transporter 2 with $20.1 million. It still currently resides as the top Labor Day weekend grosser. The film went on to become Zombie's highest grossing release to date. Despite these achievements, the film was generally panned by critics upon its release. Based on 109 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, Halloween received an average 25% overall approval rating based on 110 reviews, with the consensus "Rob Zombie doesn't bring many new ideas to the table in Halloween, making it another bloody disappointment for fans of the franchise." Zombie directed a fictitious trailer for a film Werewolf Women of the SS, which was featured in the film Grindhouse (2007). That same year, Zombie released his first live album, Zombie Live.
Zombie announced work on a new film, Tyrannosaurus Rex, which was slated for release in 2009; the film was ultimately scrapped. Despite previous comments made by Zombie that he would not do a sequel to Halloween, it was later announced he would both write and direct the series' next film, tentatively titled H2. H2 was ultimately the reason for the postponement and eventual cancellation of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Halloween II was released on August 28, 2009. The film received a worse critical reception than Zombie's original remake, and failed to achieve the commercial success of the remake but it was a box office success nevertheless. Unlike the original Halloween II (1981), Zombie's version of the film focused on the prior film's survivor and the effects that the film's events had on her mentality. Following the completion of the film, Zombie confirmed he would not make another sequel. Variety Magazine announced the weekend before the release of Halloween II that Zombie would be directing a remake of the 1950s film The Blob. Zombie later chose to back out of the film as he "didn't want to do another remake".
The day that Halloween II was released, Zombie and Jesse Dayton released the album Rob Zombie Presents Captain Clegg And The Night Creatures, based on the band featured in the film's party scene. The album was released through Zombie's own Zombie-A-Go-Go Records, the first album released through the label in almost ten years. There were initial reports of a film centering around Captain Clegg, though the project never materialized. Dayton later toured in character as the band as the opening act for Zombie throughout 2009 and 2010. The release of Rob Zombie Presents Captain Clegg And The Night Creatures marks the final release from Zombie-A-Go-Go Records, before Zombie formed his new Zodiac Swan label in 2013. Zombie was the executive producer of the animated film The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, based upon his comic book series The Adventures of El Superbeasto. The series previously appeared in his Spookshow International comic book. The film was released in limited showings at selected theaters on September 12, 2009, and to DVD on September 22, 2009. It features the voices of Tom Papa, Paul Giamatti, Zombie's wife Sheri Moon Zombie, and Rosario Dawson. The film received a generally mixed reaction upon its release.
2010–2015: New label and return to music
It was announced in 2009 that Zombie had begun working on his fourth studio album, the follow up to his 2006 album Educated Horses. Prior to the release of the album, it was confirmed that Zombie had parted ways with longtime label Geffen Records, penning a new deal with Roadrunner Records. Zombie later claimed that Geffen had "morphed into a different label" and that being signed didn't "work for [him] anymore." The album was confirmed to be titled Hellbilly Deluxe 2: Noble Jackals, Penny Dreadfuls and the Systematic Dehumanization of Cool, with Zombie describing it as a sequel to his 1998 debut as they sounded similar in both "vibe" and "attitude". Hellbilly Deluxe 2 was released on February 2, 2010. The album sold 49,000 copies in its first week of release, becoming his fourth top ten album in the United States. The album received a mixed to positive critical reception upon its release. Zombie released a special edition of the album on September 28, 2010 featuring three new songs. Zombie promoted the release through his Hellbilly Deluxe 2 World Tour, which served as his first international tour since beginning his solo career. The tour featured 150 dates, spanning over a two-year time span. Zombie released the Icon greatest hits album on October 5, 2010 through Roadrunner Records.
Zombie launched his seventh and final comic book series, Whatever Happened to Baron Von Shock?, in 2010; the series spawned four issues. Zombie had another voice-only role in the 2010 film Super, portraying God. In 2011, Zombie directed a horror-themed commercial for Woolite. Zombie announced work on the horror film The Lords of Salem in 2011. The film, whose name is derived from the Rob Zombie song of the same name, is about a coven of witches in modern-day Salem, Massachusetts. In an interview Zombie said that the film would be his cinematically biggest film and described it as "if Ken Russell directed The Shining". The Lords of Salem premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2012, with a limited theatrical release following in April 2013. The Lords of Salem became the last film of veteran actor Richard Lynch, who died in 2012.
Zombie later stated that Tyrannosaurus Rex would be his next released film after The Lords of Salem, though the project has since been put on hold for a second time. In 2012, it was confirmed that Zombie would be writing and directing a film titled The Broad Street Bullies, which would be based on the Philadelphia Flyers hockey team. The film will be Zombie's first non-horror film. He has since stated that the film was in the "research stages", and a release date is unknown. Much like Tyrannosaurus Rex, the film, along with Rock Bottom Creek, has been put on hold indefinitely. Zombie released a second remix album, titled Mondo Sex Head, on August 6, 2012. The album featured remixed material from Zombie's first four studio albums, as well as his releases with White Zombie. The album was released through Geffen Records, despite Zombie having left the label. Zombie embarked on the Twins of Evil Tour with American rock band Marilyn Manson beginning on September 28, 2012. The tour concluded following a publicized feud between the artists while on tour, with the two groups often feuding while on stage. The tour officially concluded on December 12, 2012.
Recording for Zombie's fifth studio album began in June 2012, with Zombie announcing the then-untitled project in July 2012. On the record, Zombie claimed "We just want to make a dark, heavy, weird record and stick to that idea [...] If something comes up that isn't, we won't finish it. We'll stick to the plan." Zombie parted ways with Roadrunner Records, instead releasing the album through his new record label Zodiac Swan through Universal Music Enterprises and T-Boy Records. On January 30, 2013, Zombie announced that the album was titled Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor. The album was released on April 23, 2013. Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor became Zombie's fifth consecutive studio album to debut inside the top ten of the Billboard 200, though it boasted his lowest first week sales of his career. The album has since became Zombie's lowest selling album to date.
Zombie designed and launched the Great American Nightmare haunted attraction in 2013. The attraction, based in Chicago, featured references to Zombie's films and other significant horror events in pop culture. He designed the attractions "Lords of Salem Total Black Out", "The Haunted World of El Superbeasto 3D", and "House of 1000 Corpses", which were combined with a music festival from artists in hard rock, alternative, EDM, and more in 2013. In 2014, Zombie had the voice-only role of Ravager Navigator in the superhero film Guardians of the Galaxy. He released his first video album, The Zombie Horror Picture Show, on May 19, 2014. He released his second live album, Spookshow International: Live, on February 24, 2015.
2016–present: The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser, upcoming seventh studio album and upcoming films
Zombie announced work on his sixth studio album as early as April 2014, having begun working on the project that January. On January 11, 2016, Zombie confirmed the title of the record to be The Electric Warlock Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser, along with the album's cover art and track listing. The album was released on April 29, 2016. Zombie described it as "seriously [their] heaviest most fucked up musical monster to date." Zombie began working on a new horror film, 31, in 2014. Zombie described the film as "old-school", and raised money for the film through crowdfunding. The film follows a group of individuals attempting to survive a night in a carnival filled with murderous clowns. Zombie has stated that he wanted to have a "very nasty, gritty, guerilla-style approach to the filmmaking" for 31, as it "fits the story and the vibe of the movie". 31 premiered at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2016. It has been announced that Zombie signed on to direct the film Raised Eyebrows, a movie about the life of comedian and actor Julius Henry "Groucho" Marx. The film has yet to receive a release date. Zombie is set to launch his "Spookshow International" pinball machine in February 2016. The limited edition item features ten of Zombie's classic songs, as well as voice contributions from Zombie, Sheri Moon, and Sid Haig. On May 22, 2017, Zombie posted a short snippet of audio to his Instagram account of a live recording of the White Zombie song "Electric Head Part 2" stating he was in the process of mixing the Astro Creep 2000 live set from the Chicago date of the 2016 Riot Fest.
On August 1, 2017, Zombie announced on his Instagram page that he has begun working on his seventh studio album.