[Photos By Maclyn Bean]
Mayhem Fest shaped up to be one of the strongest lineups the show has seen so far. With bands like Job For A Cowboy, Machine Head, and Mastodon, there are very few bands that would be better suited to headline than ROB ZOMBIE. It’s no secret that he is a busy guy, not only with music, but in other ventures such as movies (Lords Of Salem is coming to video 9/3/2013) and comic books. His live shows are also an intense visual overload. Bassist Piggy D gives readers a sneak peek on what to expect with the new show, a little behind the scenes look at the recording for their new album Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, working with ALICE COOPER, and of his other musical ventures that are all expected to be seeing new releases of some sort this year.
It’s not known to many people, but you actually have a fair amount of song writing ability outside of Rob Zombie’s band, most notably with Alice Cooper. What songs did you write for the newest album Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor?
I contributed to a track called ”Lucifer’s Rising.” Everybody writes a lot of songs, and everybody comes up front with a bunch of ideas. Usually, they end up becoming other things or they get changed around to fit whatever the vibe is that he [Rob] is going for. He ended up digging that song a lot, which is great. It’s nice and upbeat, makes you want to break shit [laughs], so I’m really happy with the way that one turned out. I do a lot of writing with other artists, I’ve written a lot of stuff with Alice [Cooper]. I wrote a song with him called “Last Man On Earth,” which was on his record Welcome 2 My Nightmare [In addition, John 5 plays guitar on the track “Disco Bloodbath Boogie Fever” and Rob Zombie does backing vocals on “The Congregation” for this album as well]. We also recorded a Halloween song together called “Keeping Halloween Alive.” It’s kind of like a Christmas song, except for Halloween.
Yeah, I just heard it last week for the first time and I thought it was really good.
It was fun to do. I called him on a Tuesday and we were recording for it by that Friday. We were done in about two hours. Me, Alice, and one of my writing partners Dave, actually did a whole record together a couple of years ago before his last record. It’s really heavy with some pop elements, some really cool punk stuff on it, all in all it’s just a raw, dirty record. I’m excited to go back and revisit that one. It hasn’t been released or anything yet, we started mixing it, but Welcome 2 My Nightmare needed to happen when it needed to happen, which is how I brought into working on that record. We wrote a bunch of songs for that record and “Last Man On Earth” is the one that made the cut that also fit into the story. To be honest, we actually have closer to two whole albums worth of material that was written around that time frame. One of these days, hopefully, that will see the light of day.
That would be sick! I would love to hear that, as I’m sure thousands of other people would as well. Going back to Rob Zombie’s new album, “Lucifer’s Rising” is one of the more faster tracks that relates more to the old school aggressive Zombie. Overall, there is a fair amount of experimentation on the new record that wouldn’t match, say, Hellbelly Deluxe or The Sinister Urge. What is the progression among the band that, while writing, steered towards differentiating from the previous albums?
Well, Hellbelly Deluxe and The Sinister Urge, were pretty much just Rob and producer Scott Humphrey that were bringing in different musicians for different songs, like Tommy Lee played some songs and John Freese played on other songs, so it was kind of whatever they felt fit that particular song. The last two Zombie records [VRRV and Hellbelly Deluxe 2] have been more of a band effort, where everyone is playing the parts and fleshing out the ideas. HD2, for example, was all recorded live. That signified the beginning of the new process of recording for the band. This record was different from that in some ways as well. Everyone was playing on this record as well, but there were times when Rob was taking the pieces and rearranging them and building new song structures. There was a few tracks where I had to re-track the basses on that, when I heard them, was like “What song is this?” because the parts had been rearranged, but it flowed so much better and it sounded more unique and original. It was an interesting process and it came together really fast. The initial tracking of the record was done in less than a month and a half.
What were some of the bigger differences between recording this album and HD2, other than the rearranging bit?
Well, like the last album, a lot of this one was recorded live. One of the main differences was the editing because what happened with HD2 was that the overall structure of verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge or whatever pretty much stayed the same. With this new one, there was a lot of rearranging different parts and fitting them together to find out where the flow fit better, where song crescendos and putting it in the beginning and such. There was a much bigger emphasis onto the overall flow of the individual track. With HD2, we would walk in the studio and say “Let’s write a fast song today,” “Let’s write a slow song today,” or “Let’s write an acoustic song.” There was much more thought into this album and Rob wanted it to crescendo at the end, which is why you will find some of the stronger songs at the end of the record. It is one of those records, especially the first few times when you listen to it, you don’t want to turn it off because you’re afraid you’re going to miss something. It really builds up.
I felt that as well. When you listen to the first half of the album, it feels really different because it’s not Rob Zombie’s typical sound that people are used to hearing. But it picks up towards the latter half into that familiar territory.
What you’re hearing was a very concise effort. What he [Rob] and everyone else said when we first started going into the record was that he wanted to do everything untypical. Typical song structures in this genre start to become really stale, so he wanted to specifically break the mold of how we did the last record.
What sort of plans are you guys making for headlining Mayhem Fest this year? I’ve seen Rob Zombie before in 2007 when he toured with Ozzy Osbourne and I remember how much visual production went into that live set.
This is a significantly bigger production than anything that has been done before. It’s worth seeing just for the costume changes alone. The whole spiel of the show has just gotten enormous. It’s over-stimulation on every part of the stage and if you blink, you’ll miss something. We’ve been slowly building the show bigger and bigger for the past seven years that I’ve been in the band. This is probably going to be the biggest production he’s ever done. People are going to be really, really excited about it. There will for sure be some correlations to his latest movie Lords Of Salem integrated into the show as well.
Tell me a little bit about The Haxans. I’ve read that you’ve released two singles so far under that.
That’s been a slow process because my partner Shannon Gallant lives in England, in a log cabin out in the middle of nowhere, and internet is not on her side. While slow, the process has been really good as well as it forces us to work on everything meticulously and get it exactly right. We’re working on an EP of some new stuff and a couple of cover songs. It’s a fun exercise because we’ve never been in the same room creating music, she’s in her world and I’m in my world. We kind of mush the two of them together to create this really unique sound. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever done, I’m really hands on with the writing. I like working in a room with someone creating music, and something like someone’s mood can set how the writing session will go. Whereas this, I’m asleep when she’s up and recording her vocals or putting in some weird sounds. In the morning, I’ll go check my email (if she was able to send an email), and I’ll exclaim “What the hell- this is crazy!” We’re two people behind two black curtains, just creating music and sending it to each other via the interwebs.
Do you and guitarist John 5 collaborate outside of Rob Zombie’s band?
We haven’t in a while. I did three album covers for him and album designing with him, which is really fun to do. He always has some really good ideas and he lets me go nuts with it. My other passion outside of music is designing album art. I’m a purist when it comes to that. It’s a shame that it gets reduced to a .jpeg on iTunes. I love the experience of listening to an album while looking at all of the artwork, read the lyrics, and everything.
What future album art will you be doing?
A lot for The Haxans. It’s an art overload and it’s taken its own sort of life alongside the music. Whenever I release a song, I always have some sort of artwork with it. I’m working with a new band now, I’m just a co-writer and co-producer, and I was able to dig into my pop influences with this one. I always tell people it’s like a cross between Ke$ha and Cheap Trick. If they had a baby and it came from outer space, it would be this band. They’re called The Doom Party, and it’s very sci-fi, very concept based. It’s a band that is set in the future and the music is somehow very old school. Musically, it seems very radio friendly. My aim is to bring a rawness into the band and to help develop the story through the songs, but also making the songs stand on their own. There are some videos in the works and other really exciting stuff, so just like you, I’m curious as to how it all plays out. It’s unlike anything that’s ever existed before. It’s a new Kiss, in the sense that everybody sings and everybody has their own identity, but it’s a 2013 version- excuse me, 2050 version of Kiss.
What other sort of solo stuff do you have in the works?
I’m a huge fan of The Replacements and I love old Minneapolis rock, that’s another big comfort zone for me, so it’s fun making that kind of music. I’m also a fan of Nick Cave, so I paint with different brushes depending on how I’m feeling. Sometimes I pick up a guitar and I want to write a fun, summertime, noisy track, and sometimes I get dark and moody and I’ll write some murder ballads. I’m doing everything simultaneously, which is probably slowing down the whole process [laughs].
Any last words for the fans and what to expect from the live show that we haven’t already covered?
I’m really excited to bring the new show. It will bring the new songs to life. People who think they’ve seen the band before don’t have idea. They need to come and see the new show. It’s the biggest show you will see this year, so don’t miss it!