Many times throughout his career, Rob Zombie has shown himself to be a man who doesn’t fear change. As the world – and the sounds that occupy it – moves on, so does Zombie. The sheer variety and level of experimentation in his discography is testament to that. But, of all the things he’s put his name to, there is no bigger example of Zombie’s willingness to adapt than his 2012 remix album, Mondo Sex Head.
Much like Zombie’s previous remix record, 1999’s American Made Music To Strip By, Mondo Sex Head took songs from Zombie’s canon and reworked them to fit what was going on in electronic music at the time. But for Mondo Sex Head, instead of focusing solely on remixes of songs from one particular album (as he did with American Made… and Hellbilly Deluxe), Zombie handed his collaborators the keys to the vault and invited them to make their mark on songs from across his entire catalogue – including his work with White Zombie.
Before the record was even released, however, it became a point of controversy. As on American Made…, Zombie chose to include his wife, Sheri Moon Zombie, on the album’s artwork. This time around there was a little more flesh on display than stores were comfortable with, and no one would stock the release. Zombie was forced to design an alternative cover, featuring a close-up of a cat’s face. In an interview with Rolling Stone, he quipped, “Instead of censoring that cover and ruining it, I just removed the ass shot and replaced it with a pussy.” Smart.
In that same interview, Zombie went on to explain his decision to release a second remix album after a 13-year gap since its predecessor. “I’ve made records like this in the past, but over the years it seems like the interest in this type of thing had waned… so I stopped for a while,” he said. “But recently I had been hearing how a bunch of the new DJs and mixers were using my stuff in their shows and mixes. So I figured the demand had returned.” Zombie was no doubt referencing, among others, the Skrillex remix of Hellbilly Deluxe 2’s ‘Sick Bubblegum’. “Everything old is new again, I guess. I let the remixers run wild.”
And run wild they did. The album opens with a reworking of White Zombie’s ‘Thunder Kiss ’65’, attributed to JDevil (the EDM alter-ego of Korn’s Jonathan Davis). Doing away with the sleazy necro-glam of the original, Davis brings a dance club bounce to the table, utilising what he’d learned from his band’s electronic-laden 2011 album, The Path Of Totality, to incorporate grinding dubstep breaks into the song’s existing framework.
‘Foxy, Foxy’, however, retains its inherent sleaze factor at the hands of indie/electronica writer and producer Ki:Theory. What he alters, instead, is the world in which the song is set. Rather than a strip club soundtrack for some Mad Max-esque post-apocalyptic wasteland – as per the source material – this remix feels more at home as an anthem for a hedonistic future, thanks to the dream-like soundscape juxtaposed against the stabbing guitars and untameable energy of the version that appears on Educated Horses.
The task of remixing Zombie’s biggest song, ‘Dragula’, fell to ††† (or, for the sake of simplicity, Crosses), the electro-leaning side-project of Deftones frontman Chino Moreno, Far guitarist Shaun Lopez and Chuck Doom. In contrary to the stomping drive of the original, Crosses cast a trippy, ambient haze over proceedings, evoking serenity for the most part while still managing to retain the undeniable power of the song’s chorus.
It’s something of a miracle that an album with this many collaborators, drawing on material from so many different releases, manages to sound as cohesive as Mondo Sex Head does. But, perhaps owing to Zombie’s knack for collaborating with just the right people, it manages to find an organic groove among all upheaval. There are moments which will no doubt catch Zombie fans off guard – ‘Living Dead Girl’ being turned into a seven-minute easy listening piece driven by hypnotic electronics, to name just one – but, ultimately, it all just feels right. Of course ‘Lords Of Salem’ now sounds like a particularly dark comedown. Of course ‘Superbeast’ works with a drum’n’bass pattern throughout. Of course he did that with the artwork. It’s Rob Zombie, and getting a little weird is all part of the process.
By opening his past to new ideas, Zombie and his collaborators breathed exciting new life into a collection of already classic songs. These remixes may not knock the originals off their perch, but as an example of the man’s drive to keep his music fresh, they offer crucial insight into the kind of thinking that makes Rob Zombie the creative powerhouse he is.
Out now, the limited edition, 1,000-only signed career-spanning 15LP Rob Zombie solo box set is available exclusively through uDiscover Music US.
The box set includes the albums Hellbilly Deluxe, American Made Music To Strip By, The Sinister Urge, Educated Horses, Zombie Live, Hellbilly Deluxe 2, Mondo Sex Head, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, Spookshow International Live, The Electric Warlord Acid Witch Satanic Orgy Celebration Dispenser and Astro-Creep: 2000 Live. Order it through uDiscover Music US here.