A common thread exists between heavy metal music and horror movies in that both continue to thrive despite primarily existing outside the mainstream. While pop and hip-hop have received the most attention in recent years, heavy metal was actually the fastest-growing genre in terms of streams and downloads from 2017 to 2018. And as superhero movies and Disney features earn billions of dollars, horror films like It and Get Out still make a killing at the box office.
Rob Zombie is firmly planted in both realms, delivering hard rock and heavy metal for the past 35 years, and directing horror films for the last two decades. We recently caught up with Zombie to discuss his new movie, 3 From Hell, but at one point he offered his take on the similar general perceptions of metal music and horror films:
“I can speak on it from both points of view actually, since I’ve dealt with it on two levels. It’s completely true. In the film world, horror movies were always treated like the dirty little secret. It didn’t matter that some of these studios exist merely by the fact that they started making horror movies.
Universal with Frankenstein and Dracula — these were the key films that built that studio into what it is. New Line with the Nightmare on Elm Street franchise — that was the big moneymaker that created that studio. Lionsgate back in the day when they were doing Devil’s Rejects and Hostile and Saw — these are the films that were the moneymakers, that were making cash hand over fist for them.”
Turning his attention to music, Zombie uses the Grammy Awards as an example of how heavy metal and hard rock have been pushed to the side over the years:
“Same thing with music. The biggest insult of how hard rock music [is treated] can always be seen with the Grammys. They tried to rectify it every once while, but it’s like you could have a record that sells 10 million copies and they’ll present you the award off-camera. It’s like you don’t mean anything. And then they have some record like best instrumental polka album and they’ll present it on camera even though it sold nothing.
…Both [metal and horror] are treated like they’re just one step above pornography. And for that reason they’ll always be there, because the fans don’t think of it that way. The fans are there forever. Look how big Iron Maiden is, for example. If you ask the average person on the street, ‘Who’s Iron Maiden?’ they’d go, ‘I don’t f**king know.’ But they’re monstrously huge — and they always will be, just like horror movies will always be.”
Zombie also addresses comments made a few years ago by Gene Simmons in which he stated that “rock is finally dead,” disagreeing with the KISS legend:
“Rock is so far from dead. Especially from my point of view, every tour I’ve done in the last bunch of years are the biggest tours I’ve ever done in my entire life — the crowds just keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger. So, it’s alive and well — it’s just not in the mainstream like it used to be. And maybe since Gene Simmons became huge in the ’70s where rock music was more in the mainstream, maybe that’s what he was reacting to, but everything is still alive and well.”
All in all, Zombie isn’t concerned whether the mainstream embraces heavy metal and horror films. In fact, he insists that their outsider status is what makes them so alluring. “I really don’t give a shit because it doesn’t matter. All my favorite stuff isn’t mainstream anyway,” he says. “I don’t need a heavy metal band to be as popular as Beyoncé to restore my faith in heavy metal. What’s cool about it is it’s not mainstream. That’s what appealed to me about it always.”
“Listening to Slayer wasn’t like listening to Garth Brooks, and watching Texas Chainsaw Massacre wasn’t like watching The Sound of Music,” concludes the rocker-director. “It was the complete alternative to the mainstream, and that’s why it was always bad ass.”
Zombie’s 3 From Hell recently screened in theaters nationwide via Fathom Events. It will get one more screening on October 14th, and arrive on DVD and Blu-ray that same day.
On the music front, Zombie is working on a new album and will perform at the upcoming festivals Louder Than Life, Aftershock, Las Rageous, and Knotfest Meets ForceFest. Check for tickets to all his upcoming gigs here.