White Zombie was an American heavy metal band named after the 1932 film of the same name, which starred Béla Lugosi.
Based in New York, White Zombie was originally a noise rock band in the vein of fellow New York band Sonic Youth; Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore and fellow grunge icon Kurt Cobain have professed to be fans of their early work. However, White Zombie are better-known for their later heavy metal-oriented sound, with lyrics heavily influenced by horror films and pseudo-Satanic imagery. Unlike other metal bands of the 1990s, White Zombie was almost exclusively a "fantasy" band, writing songs not based on their lives or experiences, but about surreal horror fantasies.
The group officially disbanded in 1998 shortly after the release of singer Rob Zombie's solo album Hellbilly Deluxe.
The Early Years
Founded by Rob Zombie, writer, vocalist, and graphic artist, after coming up with the band idea in 1985 while attending Pratt in his Junior year. Rob's girlfriend at the time, Sean Yseult, was playing the farfisa in the band LIFE. Ena Kostabi owned a studio which he would rent out to different bands, meeting Sean, who asked if he could teach her to play bass. They then recruited Peter Landau to play drums and began to write and record songs. White Zombie's first release was an EP titled Gods on Voodoo Moon and was recorded on October 18, 1985. It was released under the band's own label Silent Explosion, under which they would release most of their early work. Only 300 copies were pressed, of which only 100 were sold — the band members still retain possession of the remaining 200.
In 1986, Rob hired Tim Jeffs as the replacement for Kostabi and Ivan de Prume as the replacement for Landau. White Zombie released their second EP Pig Heaven that year. The release contained only two songs, "Pig Heaven" and "Slaughter the Grey", and retained the same sound as their previous effort. After only a few live shows, Jeffs was fired and quickly replaced by Tom Guay. The band released a second pressing of Pig Heaven of which the only difference from the first pressing was alternate cover art. Only 500 copies of each pressing were released on vinyl.
In 1987, band released their third EP Psycho-Head Blowout. Later that year, the band released their first full length album Soul-Crusher, which was their first release to feature sound clips from movies in the songs, a trademark that would continue for the remainder of the band's lifespan. John Ricci replaced Tom Guay shortly after the release of Soul-Crusher. This is also the first album Stating "Rob Zombie" instead of his previous stage name "Rob Straker".
In 1988, The band signed to Caroline Records, discontinuing their old indie label permanently. About 1000 copies of the vinyl were pressed for the original and re-release each. After the re-release of the album in 1988, White Zombie began to tour outside of their northeast home, gaining slightly more recognition. In 1989, the band released their second LP Make Them Die Slowly. The album was a huge musical shift for White Zombie. While their previous releases had been strictly punk influenced noise rock, Make Them Die Slowly had more of a heavy metal sound. The band stated that they wanted to play more of what they were influenced by and to keep it simple. It was also evident that Rob's vocals had grown deeper and he was no longer shrieking the lyrics in a high pitched tone. Unfortunately, lack of funds and shoddy production caused many songs intended for the album to not be included.
When Ricci's Carpal tunnel syndrome severely affected his ability to play guitar, Jay Yuenger or "J." then replaced him for the remainder of the band's years, which took them in a more metal/groove-influenced direction. One of the most obvious examples of this direction is the differences between the songs "Disaster Blaster" on Make Them Die Slowly and the re-worked version, "Disaster Blaster 2", on the God of Thunder EP. The EP featured a more groove-oriented sound that differed from anything they had released before. The EP caught the attention of Geffen Records who then offered them a record deal.
On March 17, 1992 they released La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1, the album which would break them from their underground status and launch them into mainstream recognition. White Zombie began their two-and-a-half-year-long tour for the album soon after its release, during which the band gained a large cult following. Early in the tour Ivan de Prume left the band to pursue his own interests and was replaced by Phil Buerstatte. The music video for the song "Thunder Kiss '65" went into heavy rotation on MTV in 1993. The popular TV show Beavis and Butt-head began reviewing the band's music videos, boosting the band's popularity. By the end of 1993, the album had been certified Gold by the RIAA. By the time the tour ended in December, 1994, Rob and Sean had broken up and La Sexorcisto had gone Platinum. Due to artistic differences, Buerstatte was let go and John Tempesta, who had previously worked with Exodus and Testament, was hired to record White Zombie's second major label album. In 1995, Astro Creep: 2000 was released, featuring "More Human Than Human" that would soon become a big hit. In 1996, an album of remixes was released under the title Supersexy Swingin' Sounds. On January 3, 1996, it was announced by Rob on his website that a box set would be released containing all the music White Zombie had ever recorded.
Sean Yseult, after the breakup of White Zombie, joined the surf rock band The Famous Monsters, and (as of early 2001) left the horror-themed New Orleans-based band Rock City Morgue. She is currently preparing for an upcoming tour with The Cramps.
John Tempesta continued his musical relationship with Rob Zombie after the White Zombie breakup, drumming for Zombie on his first two solo albums, Hellbilly Deluxe and The Sinister Urge. He is no longer with Zombie and currently plays for the Rob Zombie-esque band Scum of the Earth with his brother, Powerman 5000 guitarist Mike Tempesta, and ex-Rob Zombie guitarist Mike Riggs, and has recently toured with Testament (as shown on Testament's DVD, Live In London). On February 14, 2006, he was hired as the new drummer for The Cult, before which, he played with Helmet.
J. produced records for stoner rock band Fu Manchu and New York City rockers Puny Human, as well as lending his guitar skills to a few other bands after the breakup of White Zombie.
In July 2006, original members Tom Five and Ivan de Prume reunited to perform with Ivan's band Healer for several concerts in Southern California for The Vans Warped Tour. Ivan continues to write and record music with Healer, a middle eastern infused metal band and recording, producing, and engineering for special projects. Sony's Ghost Rider score featured Ivan's drums and percussion.