Remix albums are an interesting prospect. They take something fans already love, and change it. Sometimes it’s for the better, other times less so. And that’s an inherently controversial move. But from Trent Reznor’s Nine Inch Nails remixes in the 90s, to Linkin Park’s Reanimation album of the 00s, and even Code Orange releasing a remix of their single ‘Only One Way’ in February 2018, the remix is an experimental constant that allows an artist to explore new territory while simultaneously giving fans a new flavour to tuck into. Rob Zombie’s American Made Music To Strip By is a shining example of everything a remix album aims to be.
Released on 26 October 1999, American Made Music To Strip By was the White Zombie mastermind’s attempt at taking what was current at the very end of the 20th Century and applying it to the warped musical canvas of his debut solo album, Hellbilly Deluxe. And it’s every bit as wild a ride as that sounds.
Gone is much of Hellbilly’s goth’n’roll rowdiness and, in its place, the electronic dance music of the 90s rose up. Joined across the 12 tracks by the likes of DJ Lethal, NIN’s Charlie Clouser and Chris Vrenna, and Rammstein, Zombie and his motley crew of collaborators set out to place the characters that populate the debut firmly in the present.
‘Living Dead Girl’, once a reckless lust ballad to an undead muse, is given a tripped-out makeover on the ‘Subliminal Seduction Mix’, emerging as the soundtrack to a particularly daunting comedown, with the sleaze factor rammed up to 11. The intense ominousness of ‘What Lurks On Channel X?’ becomes a warehouse anthem courtesy of a ‘XXX Mix’. And, with the ‘Si Non Oscillas, Noli Tintinnare Mix’, the Hellbilly lead single, ‘Dragula’, evolves from being the soundtrack to a cyberpunk bar brawl to being, well, music to strip to. No longer the biker from hell, here Zombie is the raver from Mars.
Through all of that, the music doesn’t lose any of the edge that defined it the first time around. Zombie’s macabre lyricism still pierces through every track – made even more impactful by the scarcity of vocals in certain sections – and, sonically, it packs the same amount of power; it’s just being drawn from a different place.
The re-imagination even extends as far as the artwork. A world away from Zombie’s menacing glare that adorns Hellbilly Deluxe, the American Made Music To Strip By artwork is a neon mind-melt, showcasing Zombie’s now-wife, Sherri Moon, laid bare, bathed in green, in a 50s pin-up pose reminiscent of the artwork to White Zombie’s 1996 remix album, Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds. Aesthetic has always been crucial to Zombie’s art, and this is no different. Just as the music had been re-worked, Zombie was also drawing on an entirely contrasting aspect of his character and life on the album’s packaging.
American Made Music To Strip By has a crucial place in Zombie’s canon. Being the looming futuristic boogeyman that his solo debut portrayed is all well and good, but fear is so much more powerful when it’s relatable to the here and now. Ever the conceptualist, these remixes, that artwork and the collaborations that went into the project allowed Zombie to flesh out his persona and add total unpredictability to his arsenal.
With the status Zombie has achieved as a screenwriter and score composer alongside the solo material he has since recorded, American Made Music To Strip By can now be seen as another essential step in developing the dexterity, ambition and artistic vision that has come to define his output.
Zombie, who’d already released two White Zombie remix albums, wasn’t alone in his experimentation. Many revered artists of the time were trying their hand at similar projects. Aforementioned genius Trent Reznor offered multiple iterations of hit single ‘Head Like A Hole’ all the way back in 1990; Fear Factory had abandoned the guitar and went all in on electronics for their Remanufacture remixes; and even Metallica had Moby work under a literary pseudonym on a remix of ‘Until It Sleeps’.
We now look back on those artists – Zombie included – as pioneers whose burning passion for experimentation has earned them that status. Projects such as American Made Music To Strip By, then, serve as a fascinating insight into some of rock music’s best minds. Today, it’s the artists taking similar risks and exploring new approaches that will go down as the icons of the future. Rob Zombie is testament to that.
Out now, the limited edition, 1,000-only signed career-spanning 15LP Rob Zombie solo box set is available exclusively through uDiscover Music US.