White Zombie was co-founded by Rob Zombie, after coming up with the band idea in 1985 while attending Parsons School of Design in his junior year. Zombie's girlfriend at the time, Sean Yseult, was the other co-founder. She had been playing the Farfisa keyboard in the band LIFE with Ivan de Prume, but the band soon broke up. Ena Kostabi owned a recording studio, which he would rent out to different bands. When he met Yseult, she asked if he could teach her to play bass. They then recruited Peter Landau to play drums and began to write and record songs. White Zombie's first release, Gods on Voodoo Moon, was an EP and was recorded on October 18, 1985. It was released under the band's own label Silent Explosion, under which they would release most of their early work. Only 300 copies were pressed, of which only 100 were sold; the band members still retain possession of the remaining 200.
In 1986, Zombie hired Tim Jeffs, his Parsons School of Design roommate, to play guitar to replace Ena Kostabi, and Yseult brought in de Prume from their days in the band LIFE as the replacement for Landau. It was at this time the band started touring, making their live performance debut at CBGB on April 28, 1986. White Zombie released their second EP, Pig Heaven, that year. The release contained two songs, "Pig Heaven" and "Slaughter the Grey". The EP was recorded at 6/8 Studios in NoHo in New York City. Other songs that were recorded during the session but never released were titled "Follow Wild", "Rain Insane", "Paradise Fireball", and "Red River Flow". After touring for a year in the band, Tim Jeffs left and was replaced by Tom Guay, often known as Tom Five. The band released a second pressing of Pig Heaven with different cover art, but retained the same recording with Jeffs on guitar. Only 500 copies of each pressing were released on vinyl.
First two albums (1987–1990)
In 1987, the band released their third EP, Psycho-Head Blowout. Later that year, the band released their first full-length album, Soul-Crusher, which was their first release to feature sound clips from movies in the songs, a signature that would continue for the remainder of the band's lifespan.
In 1988, the band signed to Caroline Records, permanently discontinuing their own indie label. After completing their first U.S. tour in June 1988, Tom Guay was asked to leave the band. He was replaced by John Ricci in July 1988. Their second album, Make Them Die Slowly, was released in February 1989. The album was a musical shift for White Zombie. While their previous releases had been strictly punk-influenced noise rock, Make Them Die Slowly has more of a heavy metal sound. This is also the first album crediting "Rob Zombie" instead of his previous stage name, "Rob 'Dirt' Straker".
Ricci's carpal tunnel syndrome severely affected his ability to play guitar, forcing him to leave the band when Make Them Die Slowly was finished. Jay "J" Yuenger replaced him before the album's release, affecting their future sound. One of the most obvious examples of this direction is the difference between the songs "Disaster Blaster" on Make Them Die Slowly and the re-worked version, "Disaster Blaster II", on the God of Thunder EP.
Major label years, mainstream success, and breakup (1991–1998)
After searching for a record label and being turned down multiple times, the band turned toward RCA Records. However, Zombie opted for a recording contract with Geffen Records. Michael Alago, a representative of Geffen, became interested after hearing God of Thunder and watched one of their shows at Pyramid Club and liked them, mostly for their song "Soul-Crusher". The band produced a demo with the help of J. G. Thirlwell of Foetus and were signed to Geffen.
On March 17, 1992, White Zombie released La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One, the album which launched them into mainstream recognition. White Zombie began a two-and-a-half-year-long tour for the album soon after its release, during which the band gained a large cult following. During the tour, Ivan de Prume left the band to pursue a successful career as a producer/engineer as well as drummer/percussionist and opened his own studio, Burningsound. He was replaced by Phil Buerstatte. The music video for the song "Thunder Kiss '65" went into heavy rotation on MTV in 1993. The TV show Beavis and Butt-head began featuring their music videos, boosting the band's popularity. By the end of 1993, the album had been certified gold by the RIAA. By the time the tour ended in December 1994, Zombie and Yseult had broken up, and La Sexorcisto had gone platinum. Due to artistic differences, Buerstatte was let go, and John Tempesta (who had previously worked with Exodus and Testament) was hired to record White Zombie's second major label album. In 1995, Astro Creep: 2000 was released, featuring the hit single "More Human than Human". In 1996, an album of remixes was released under the title Supersexy Swingin' Sounds. After making one last song for the 1996 film Beavis and Butt-head Do America, titled "Ratfinks, Suicide Tanks and Cannibal Girls", White Zombie broke up in September 1998.
After disbanding (1998–present)
After the breakup of White Zombie, Sean Yseult joined the surf rock band The Famous Monsters, and started playing bass for horror-themed New Orleans-based band, Rock City Morgue. She also briefly played bass for The Cramps.
Tempesta continued his musical relationship with Zombie, drumming for him on his first two solo albums, Hellbilly Deluxe and The Sinister Urge. He is no longer with Zombie, and has gone on to play for Scum of the Earth. Tempesta has toured with Testament (as shown on Testament's DVD, Live In London). On February 14, 2006, he was hired as the new drummer for The Cult, before which he played with Helmet.
In July 2006, original members Tom Five and de Prume reunited to perform with de Prume's band, Healer, a middle eastern infused metal band, for several concerts in Southern California for The Vans Warped Tour. De Prume continues to write and record music with Healer, as well as recording, producing and engineering for special projects in his studio, Burningsound. His drums and percussion work can also be heard on Sony's "Ghost Rider" score. In 2009, de Prume began hosting the weekly radio show, "Metalopolis". His studio guests have included Rob Halford, Dave Mustaine, Max Cavalera, Vinnie Paul and Tom Araya. De Prume is also a member of the band KREEP, and has completed a West Coast tour in spring 2010, and is planning an East Coast tour in fall 2010.
In November 2008, Geffen/UME released Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, a boxed set which includes sixty four tracks featuring every White Zombie album and EP (except the remix albums), all remastered. The package also contained nine music videos (including their breakthrough Grammy-nominated hit "Thunder Kiss '65"), and ten live performances. In an interview to promote the release of Let Sleeping Corpses Lie, Zombie made it clear that a reunion with his White Zombie band mates was unlikely, saying, "I don't want fans to think it's the beginning of anything."
In December 2010 Yseult released "I'm in the Band", a book containing tour diaries and photos as well as detailing her eleven years spent as a member of White Zombie.
Since the break up of White Zombie, Rob Zombie has shown no interest in reforming the band. In June 2011, in an interview with Metal Hammer magazine, he was asked why White Zombie split up, in which he replied: "It had run its course. Success is a big thing that you can never plan for, because it affects everybody differently. I don't want to blame myself or anyone else in the band — it's just that the band didn't work anymore. Rather than continuing on and making shitty records and having it all fall apart, I thought: 'Let's just end it on a high point'". Zombie also stated earlier in 2011 that a White Zombie reunion would never happen and he had not been in contact with any members of the band "except John Tempesta in about 15 years."
In May 2013, former drummer Phil Buerstatte died. Shortly after his death, he was impersonated by con-artist Loren Dean Breknridge, who was wanted for defrauding rehab centers across the nation, as well as scamming character actor Loren Dean.
In a November 2015 interview with Artisan News, Yseult stated that a White Zombie vinyl box set was due for release in 2016. On February 16, 2016, It Came From N.Y.C. was confirmed for a June 3 release via the Numero Group. The vinyl box set contains remastered versions of all the pre-Geffen Records material (including unreleased tracks) on 5 LPs/3 CDs, a 108 page colored booklet complete with liner notes and rare photos, a discography, and a shirtography.
On May 18, 2016, Riot Fest released their lineups and it was revealed that Rob Zombie would be performing Astro Creep 2000 in its entirety at the Chicago weekend. This sparked a swirl of speculation, coupled with the recently reunited Misfits, that a White Zombie reunion would also be occurring at the festival. Asked in September 2016 about his refusal to reform White Zombie, Rob replied, "[I am] always amazed at how people can speak with such authority on subjects they know zero about. I have many legit reasons. Just because you don't know them does not mean they don't exist. Everything is not everybody's business." Guitarist J. said, however, that he and bassist Sean Yseult could do an "Astro Creep, 'more original members' tour", and added that they "joke about it sometimes." On May 22, 2017, Rob posted a short snippet of audio, to his Instagram account, of a live recording of the White Zombie song "Electric Head Part 2", with a comment stating he was in the process of mixing the Astro Creep 2000 live set from the Chicago date of the 2016 Riot Fest.