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White Zombie Biography

This theatrical US metal band was formed in 1985 in the Lower East Side of New York City, and were named after the 1932 horror film starring Bela Lugosi. Led by Rob Straker aka Rob Zombie (Robert Bartlehe Cummings, 12 January 1965, Haverhill, Massachusetts, USA) and female bass player Sean Yseult (b. Shauna Reynolds, 6 June 1964, North Carolina, USA), with drummer Ivan de Prume (b. Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA) and guitarist Tom 5 (b. Tom Guay, USA), White Zombie released several EPs and an album of noisy metal on their Silent Explosion label while they played chaotic shows around local clubs to increasing acclaim from the underground press. John Ricci replaced Guay on guitar for 1989’s Make Them Die Slowly, and the band’s more focused approach helped rid them of the art-noise label that had been placed upon their earlier albums. However, Bill Laswell’s production still failed to capture the band’s raw onstage power.

Musical differences meant that Ricci was replaced by J. aka Jay Yuenger (b. 26 December 1966, Chicago, Illinois, USA), who made his debut on the God Of Thunder EP, a cover of the Kiss classic (rumoured legal action from Gene Simmons over the use of his copyrighted make-up image on the sleeve never materialized). The Andy Wallace production on their major label debut, La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Vol. 1 (1992), finally did White Zombie justice, with Rob Zombie sounding positively demonic as he roared his bizarre stream-of-consciousness lyrics against a monstrous instrumental barrage punctuated by sampled B-movie dialogue. This also proved to be their breakthrough album as White Zombie toured the USA ceaselessly, extending their tours continually as MTV played ‘Thunder Kiss ’65’ and ‘Black Sunshine’ regularly, with further support coming from cartoon critics Beavis And Butt-Head.

As La Sexorcisto took off, Phil Buerstatte replaced DePlume, only to be sacked as the touring finally ended, reinstated, and then replaced by ex-Exodus / Testament drummer John Tempesta (b. 26 September 1964, New York City, New York, USA) as White Zombie returned to the studio. The long-delayed Astro Creep: 2000 was greeted with enthusiasm in the American rock community, selling over a million copies in a few weeks after its release in April 1995. The single, ‘More Human Than Human’, also became a major hit, with plays on mainstream radio stations that had previously shunned the band. They continued to tour widely, now with a Rob Zombie-designed stage set designed as a replica of a junkyard. Yuenger also involved himself in two notable collaborative projects. The first, with bandmate Yseult, was with Dave Navarro (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Keith Morris (Circle Jerks) and Greg Rogers (ex-Obsessed), masquerading as Zombie All Stars for a Germs tribute album. He also formed a punk-inspired side project, Bull Taco, with Morris, Navarro, Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers) and Zander Schloss (Circle Jerks). The White Zombie remix album Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds was released in 1996, although as a marketing tool the 60s easy listening hammock style cover was a total contradiction to the music within.

Rob Zombie released his solo debut, Hellbilly Deluxe, in 1998, retaining Tempesta on drums. The album debuted at US number 5 in September, shortly before White Zombie announced they were splitting-up.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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