Guitar for the Practicing Musician, 2/94 ---------------------------------------- "I walked with a Zombie" By John Christ of Danzig White Zombie and Danzig were hip to one another's music long before MTV and burgeoning legions of new fans recently "discovered" either band. For former tourmates John Christ, Rob Zombie and J. Yuenger the only thing ghoulish to the idea of converging in a little house just outside of L.A. to compare notes about their respective creative habits was confronting the inherent nightmares of making money for making music. All right--so I had a dream, and being a member of the Christ family, the trusted tablets of interview questions were brought to me in a vision. ROB ZOMBIE: Not this old rap! [laughter] I hate it when that happens! Let's start with a little band history. When did you guys start? ROB: Mmm...We started in '85. It was that long ago? ROB: Yeah. We're really old, man. J. YUENGER: We're old fucks! I thought we were old. We started in '87. ROB: Ay, don't kid yourself--you guys are old, bub! [laughter] Okay, it was '85. So Rob, that was you and Sean [Yseult, bass]. J., were you from New York, originally? J.: No, I didn't drip in until '89. I replaced their fourth guitar player. ROB: The revolving door policy...[laughter] The whole idea of the band was always a cross between KISS, Alice Cooper, Black Flag and Bad Brains. The really big, over-the-top, early '70s stuff, mixed with totally aggressive, early '80s type of hardcore stuff. I don't know if it sounds like that or if it comes off like that, but that's what the whole motivation was. J, who are some of your influences? J.: I started out playing punk rock, so Johnny Ramone-- There's a surprise! Punk rock! J.: Oh, totally, man. Greg Ginn [of Black Flag] and shit like that, that's just how I started playing. It has nothing to do with how we play now--those were the early influences. But now it's anybody cool from the '70s up through the guys in Slayer. LA SEXORCISTO is your first album with White Zombie but it doesn't sound very punk rock. There are a couple of songs where the timing would radically change and go to a different cut-- [like] near the end of "Soul Crusher." Did that just come out somehow when you were writing? ROB: A lot of those songs we had been playing live for a long time before we recorded them. Then you figure out what's cool and what sucks: "Oh, the kids are all rockin'!" [or] "Now they're all standing still so maybe we should speed up that part." J.: You chop apart songs and steal parts of them for other songs. We had a long time to do that before we actually recorded [LA SEXORCISTO: DEVIL MUSIC VOL. 1] so everything's just kind of all mixed up together. ROB: On the next album we're going to make a record for a record's sake. We want it to make sense in case someone never sees us. But back then it was "Let's try to get the live thing onto a record." On some of the songs you've got some heavy syncopation. Is that just the style, or were you listening to funk stuff, or what? J.: I was listening to a lot of rap music. I don't think it was intentional at all. We just wanted everything to groove. ROB: Well, it was the drums that brought it out. When I'm banging out tunes I don't necessarily hear the drums in my head until after I've got an idea going. J.: I think we always hear the drums first and then try to mix it up over that. Whatever style there is on the record isn't really intentional. It's just that we listen to so much different stuff. So how do you guys get into the creative thing when you're working on tunes? J.: Most of what has come out has been Rob and I, like me bouncing stuff off him or him bouncing stuff off me. But everybody writes. We don't usually sit at home; we usually write in the studio. ROB: Usually J. says, "I've got an idea like this" and I'll say "Wow, that's really cool--but change this part." Or I'll say, "How about something like this? But play it for real." We just keep twisting it. We pretty much always involve the drums from the first second. Because if it doesn't groove with a drumbeat, then I really don't want to play it. If it's not going to move you, forget about it. ROB: That's why I always think it's good that I don't play an instrument, because musicians always get so into the fact that they're playing--they're enjoying it. It's good for someone who's not playing to sit there and say, "Well, yeah, it might be fun to play but that part is really boring!" [J. laughs] Or, "Maybe that 16th note is interesting to you, but the average listener doesn't give shit." We kinda keep it real so that it gets right to the point. On the album the rhythm guitars are so important and the solos are more in the back. Is that because you wanted to just drive all the way through and have the guitar leads come in around the rest? They're playing the same kind of role as the vocals. J.: We had a concept that all the guitar colorings and samples would be kind of the same thing but that the song as it is live would be the basic thing. ROB: We never wanted to break the groove just for a solo. Because just to stop-- J.: And say, "Here's the solo section!" ROB: No one cares. But as long as kids are still groovin', they get totally into it: "Oh, and he's soloing, too. That's cool." But you don't want to bring it to a screeching halt just for a solo. J.: And live, its tough to pull off a big solo section with just basic parts. ROB: Yeah, we knew everything had to work with one guitar. Speaking of that, being sole guitarist [in the band], there are different things that we have to do. It's almost as if you have to play a dual role; rhythm leader and soloist. ROB: Figure out which solos to eliminate and which to keep. Do you ever just get carried away and think, "Oh man, I want to do a blazing solo over this whole part!" [laughter] And then Rob will say, "I don't know, man, that's too much stuff." Like Glenn [Danzig] does to me. I'll start to go and go and go. Every time I do a pass I'll start to get more into it, and when I'm getting closer to what I want, he says, "Too many notes." [laughter] I'm like, "Aww! I'm just developing here, I'm just getting it!" He's like, "Simple it out. Do a couple of themes, melodic ideas and variations of that." So I get some sort of motif goin' and then repeat it. And that's what I've had to do because the lead sections are really short. I have to say what I gotta say and get the hell out. J.: I'm just starting to learn how to even speak that language at all. I couldn't solo very well around the time that we made the last record. I'm learning more now. I'm always practicing, so who knows what'll happen. When you're doing your solos, do they come easily? Do you just go for it and let em' go, or do you sometimes get one idea and want to hammer it out until you get it perfect? J.: There's both. I wrote the solo for "I'm Hell" [from THE BEAVIS & BUTT-HEAD EXPERIENCE] the first time we ever played that part live. Then when we recorded, we used the scratch solo as the solo. ROB: Your best solos are always one take solos. Do you prefer to record songs after you've been performing them live? ROB: There are songs that the first time we played them was when we recorded. So we obviously play them way better now. Like this Beavis & Butt-head song; we played it on the Anthrax tour a million times, then recorded it. By the time we recorded it, it was much cooler. Had we recorded it when we wrote it, it would have completely sucked compared to how it is now. J.: It's kind of an organic thing. You can't remember what you wrote when. Stuff just kind of ends up in a certain place. ROB: Playing it live first really is a big deal. One thing you always do if you record a song before you play it live is record it too slow. Then you play, and you're like "Fuck! Pick it up! Pick it up!" That's what we were always doing. So on the new record we're purposely recording everything faster than it seems it should be. Some people at Geffen were saying that [video exposure on BEAVIS & BUTT-HEAD had a good impact on your record sales. J.: It just got us a little attention, got us noticed by MTV. ROB: It mostly made MTV wake up more than anything else, which is very cool. On the road you guys are finally out of the van and into a tour bus. How does that feel? J.: Fucking great. ROB: The van is hell. So now you're getting a tour bus. Get your own hotel rooms? ROB: [sarcastically] Probably just like you guys. [laughter] Yeah! Call the front desk and they'll do just about anything for you: wash your clothes, bring your food, clean your room, wipe your butt. What do you think was your best show on that last tour you did with Danzig? Would it be Irvine Meadows on Halloween in 1992? J.: Irvine would be the most fun and shit. That was an awesome show. ROB: Irvine was the most memorable. What do you think was the worst? We played some real dives. ROB: Norway. JC & J.: Norway! [laughter] J.: God, I hate Holland. What was the name of that place we played in Norway? ROB: I just remember you standing in the back with your little guitar thing on the piano, where all the food was [laughing], just playing for hours and hours. You wouldn't even look up. I didn't want to do anything but play. I did not want to be in Norway. And what was it--Sweden?--where we had the problem with the bootleggers out front? Then we were blowing the power out of the club. ROB: Europe...What a nightmare. J.: Europe...What a hell. You can print that. Are you guys tuned to Eb live? J.: Yeah. And so far in the studio you've used standard tuning, with A at 440? J.: Yeah. But you're going to tune down this record? ROB: Some of it, yeah. J.: We just didn't know any better back then. We did the same thing for the first two albums. You said you might use some different tunings, too, right? J.: We might tune down even farther; a standard tuning, but way low. How low? Like, Kyuss low? Like down to C? J.: Possibly, yeah. I know this band, Crowbar, they play in B. We'll see what happens. Piano strings on the guitar. J.: Yeah! They're like .013s. ROB: It's weird, though. Detuning makes some stuff so heavy and some stuff just sound like crap. J.: Some stuff just doesn't sound good that way. It just depends. Do you have any guitar songs in the works--just guitar, no vocals? J.: I might do something like that that's instrumental. Might not. Haven't thought about it yet. ROB: If it makes sense. I'm not against doing it as long as it makes sense in the whole scheme of things. Because you want to do this album as album oriented, not just a bunch of songs thrown together. ROB: Yeah. Usually your first major-label album is whatever 10 songs you happen to have. Now we actually are looking at it like "We need more like this and less of this." We can really make it a well packaged album. Most bands on their second albums throw out a piece of crap because they've been too busy touring to write songs. We want to be real conscious of that. The second album's real important because it determines whether or not you're going to be around for a while. The good thing about a second album--if it's decent, if it's comparable--is that you'll get the same amount of reaction almost right out of the box. Then it's up to the live show. ROB: Everyone always says it's not as good as the last album anyway, so it doesn't matter no matter what you do! J.: So screw 'em. You like to think that every album is getting better. ROB: That's what they always say about you Danzig guys: "The first album is the best one." No way! The second album [LUCIFUGE] is better, and the third [HOW THE GODS KILL] is even better. I think they just like to pretend and say, "I was into them in the beginning..." I listen to that first album and cringe. J.: Really? ROB: I like the new one so much better. I cringe at the guitar sound, at the drum sound, the snare drum. Every time [Chuck Biscuits] does the snare drum, the rolls are distorted. You say, "God, how could we leave that on there?" There's no bass guitar on the first album whatsoever. ROB: So much more variety on the newer albums, too. Yeah, it's wetter. We finally started using delay and reverb. J.: [joking] Oooo, what's that? We're moving into the 20th Century all of a sudden. ROB: I hate dry records. They don't make sense. What are you going to do with this next album? Is it going to be more sparse as far as the parts and more intense in the tracks and sounds? ROB: It's a lot thicker, sound-wise. But the parts are more sparse in some ways. You mean sonically? ROB: Yeah, actual sound. There's a lot more going on, but it'll break down to just drums. The parts are actually more simplified; not so many changes for so long. J.: More to the point, hopefully. ROB: It's catchier, in a weird sort of way. So you're going for some shorter songs? ROB: Yeah, we're keeping everything shorter. We think that whatever we need to say, we can get it out in four minutes. It doesn't need to be 18 minutes long. A little more playing, a little more work, a little more honing of the parts. ROB: Yeah, because anything that's too long we end up hating, eventually. We're kind of planning for the future. That's a good idea. Are you thinking about changing anything stylistically? Any instruments or vocal things that are radically different from what you did last time? ROB: Actually, there's a lot of new vocal sounds. Phil [Buerstatte] has a lot of electronic drums, drum triggers and stuff. A lot of different drum sounds is a big thing. Is he going to use his acoustic drums with triggers for electronic drums? ROB: Yeah, he has those spiked so he can trigger explosions; a snare drum trigger. That makes a big difference. When you're dealing with just a typical drum kit it can only go so far. But he hits one really weird sound and it can totally inspire a whole song, just because of that one sound. Same thing happened with "Dirty Black Summer." We were messin' around with it and I just went to a minor 7th with a tremolo in the chorus, and Glenn said, "What was that? Do that!" J.: That's such a cool part. I was just messing around with the chords, trying to come up with something different. Must've played it 500 times. I came across that and he said, "I know what this song's going to be now." J.: That'll happen a lot. Somebody'll be playing something and everybody else'll go, "Wait, what's that?!" And you're just like, "What? I was just fucking around." Do you have anything in mind guitarwise, like using a different guitar or different amp now that you have time to deal with it and experiment around a little more? J.: I've improved my sound over the past two years about 1,000 percent. I'm pretty stuck on what I use now--those Robins with the Seymours in them. We'll probably mess around with the guitar tones a lot more. What was the other guitar you used to use...Kramer? J.: No. On tour with you guys I had a Jackson. But on the record, LA SEXORCISTO, is a $300 Charvel through a Marshall stock head and a Laney cabinet and a Rat box! That's the secret to the chic sound. Listening closely to your guitar you can hear it's a distorted sound, but it's thick and not high-endy. Did you have that sound coming in, or did you EQ the hell out of it? J.: That's pretty much what was in there. You've got a lot of low end. I thought I had a lot of low end, then I heard your sound live and Isaid, "Wow! It sounds like a guitar and a bass coming out of there." J.: All of the bass, none of the middle and half of the treble. That's what I say. Well, there you go, folks. So do you think you're going to use all of your guitars recording this time? J.: Probably. Do you have a favorite yet? J.: That Robin Machete, the blue one. I love that guitar. It sounds great. And it's got coil-tapping so I can make it sound like anything. It rules. Are you going to play around with the amps this time? J.: Yeah, we've already used a lot of different stuff: Soldanos, Bogners, Matchless. The producer [Bryan Carlstrom] has these old Plexi Marshalls. Cool stuff. Live--you never heard this stuff. I didn't have it when I was on the road with you. I used Randalls. I really like them. I learned that from Diamond Darrell from Pantera. What's your rig live? J.: Wireless, noisegate, amps-- The Randalls? J.: The Randalls. They're the regular Randall head; 120 watts or something. Are you using an EQ in there? J.: Not really. I should get around to finding out about that. Mine's a little stomp-box EQ. Little black box. J.: Yeah. For pushing it over the top I use an Ibanez juicer--just to push it. It's a great box. Just found out about it. Everybody was talking about it, so I tried one. So your Seymour Duncans are passive pickups and they can be double or single-tapped? J.: Yeah. Nice setup. Floyd Rose and Seymours on everything? J.: Gotta. It's funny. I came into the band when they were just about to release this record with [guitarist Jim Ricci]. I had to learn the songs and go on tour for this guy. He used a trem and I had never used a trem before; I used to just have Gibsons. So I had to learn how to use a trem in a week: "What do you do with this?" Right after that I got hooked on it. You can do some pretty cool things, add so much color. I like the one effect you did on the last album with the tremolo pushed all the way down and the strings just kind of flapping. [They_laugh_and_imitate_ the_sound.] I think it's something that every guitarist with a tremolo wants to record at some point! Start with the strings flapping against the neck and then slowly tighten them up. J.: You ever sit there and do it as slowly as you possibly can? Oh yeah! Do you think you're going to use any acoustic guitar on the next record? J.: No, I don't think so. ROB: Do I hear hell freezing over? J.: I'll probably play some more stuff clean, but acoustic--I don't think so. Do you ever play acoustic on records? Yeah. I played some acoustic on LUCIFUGE and the last record; I think it was "Anything." For one or two other songs I used a rented Strat--a guitar Jeff Beck has rented when he's come to town. J.: Cool. When everybody came in the studio I told them that Jeff Beck had played this guitar. Two of the pickup positions are really warm on it. That's what I used for "How the Gods Kill" and "Anything" and all the quiet stuff we did on the record. I played it through a Super Twin... J.: Awesome. ...and a tremolo sound. It had a tremolo on it for "Sistinas." J.: I noticed that. I was wondering if you used that or if you used one of those little Boss tremolo boxes. No, no, we used the old amp with reverb on it and just kept playing around with it until we got the right sounds out of it. J.: I love tremolo. Who do you like that's still playing? Anybody's guitar sound you like? I like David Gilmour from Pink Floyd a lot; big, long delays--sounds that sustain for years. J.: I like anything that's trippy in any way. Floyd I dig. And Hendrix, obviously. You're not big on the guitar-god, speed-demon virtuoso types. J.: No, I don't care about that stuff. That's one thing about the panning on LA SEXORCISTO. I thought, "Yeah, there's some Hendrix-y stuff in here." I liked it, because it was funky at the same time, which he probably would've dug. J.: Cool. I think that the wah pedal is by far the best effect ever invented. i definitely dig the stuff with soul, like him and maybe Tony Iommi and Stevie Ray Vaughan. I like a lot of different stuff. I listen to the Ventures. My old favorite is Ted [Nugent]. He used to do a lot of solos that were in one position, and gradually throughout the solo he would change to a different position. On "Paralyzed," he used the wah probably every way he could use it, like a clinic on the wah-wah pedal. Hendrix used to do the same thing. J.: Randy Rhoads. Oh yeah. He'd put the pedal all the way back and do a solo and then go for a couple of seconds all the way forward, without much wah-wah going on. J.: Zack Wylde does that [imitates_sound_of_wah_being drilled_forward]. Then you always have the old "25 or 6 to 4" by Chicago. That was the ultimate wah-wah solo. That's what you think wah-wah is all about. J.: I'm telling you, any song with a wah-wah or a cowbell in it fuckin' rules! So when are you guys going in to do this new album? ROB: Probably March. We'll record in March. It'll be exactly two years since the last record, which I guess is cool. J.: It is. ROB: You spend so much time making a record. You don't want to just be pumping them out. I want to get to milk it for a while. I think the luxury of doing well is that you get to have a little more time to do the next record. ROB: Yeah, that's what we're going to do. Where do you guys want to be in another three years--doing the same type of stuff? ROB: Probably not-- Big rock stars, limos... ROB: Yeah, we'll sell out big time. J. will have room full of 500 guitars, and Rob will always be at the movies somewhere. ROB: Hiding. Do you want to be the big rock stars, or do you just want to keep on going the way you are? ROB: The only reason we ever got started it was to make music we thought was cool. So that's our only goal. When it's not cool, we won't do it anymore. Nobody starts a band to make money unless they're a complete idiot [laughs]. We're not motivated by money or anything. That's not what I was going for there. I wasn't calling you a complete idiot! Not directly, anyway. ROB: You know what I'm saying. As long as what we're doing is still cool to us, we'll keep doing it. I thought back to when I first started--we've been in this six years with Danzig. February will be seven. Before that, I had major misconceptions about the record industry [Rob laughs]. Talk about the school of hard knocks. Sometimes I seem to get far away from where I started mentally because things aren't as I dreamed they would be. ROB: It's a big game. As long as you learn to play it, you can get what you want out of it. Everybody thinks it's one way, and then you come in and it's totally different. But as long as you can realize that and deal with it and not freak out, it's cool. We know it's a big business, and we gotta deal with a lot of horseshit and talk to people we can't stand, or do stupid shit, but as long as we just never let any of it affect the music. Nobody wants to do all of the little promotional horseshit all day long because it gets really boring, but--that's what it takes. That's part of the game. You do it so you can keep writing and recording. J.: Everybody forgets that it basically comes down to the songs. It all revolves around the songs. ROB: I only get burnt out on the whole thing when I feel like we've played too many shows in a row and we're tired and we're not playing at our best, where you feel like these are half-ass shows. That's when I feel burnt out. Survival gigs. ROB: Yeah, I don't like that, because there are kids that saved up all month to go to that show, and they don't want to see you all tired because you drove all night. That's a bummer. But it's easy to keep in perspective. If someone says, "You guys are great," we think we're not; "You guys suck," and we think, "Oh man, we suck." It's the people that believe the opposite--when they're told they're great anf they believe it--who run into problems. Sometimes our business is kinda twisted. ROB: The people that freak out are the ones who get too caught up in the hype. They don't care about the music. All they care about is getting on the cover of magazines. Or the people that only care about the music and don't care about the other thing. You have to keep a balance between the two. You can't run and hide from the world and expect to still sell records. And you can't write crap and still expect to sell records. Just gotta keep perspective.