When you’re a musician who has built his whole persona around horror movies—christening your first band after an obscure 1930s Bela Lugosi film, decorating your house with dead things, and, well, naming yourself something like Rob Zombie—and you decide to actually make horror movies yourself, you’d better be ready for some serious scrutiny. Imagine if a guy who named himself Johnny Homer ended up sucking at baseball, and you get the idea.
Of course, Zombie has proven that a lifelong love affair with ghouls and demons has, indeed, made him the ideal man to set pulses racing and send audience members running for the exits—or, in some cases, into walls (but we’ll let him tell that story). After he hit us with the double-barrel nastiness of House of 1,000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects, he took on fright icon Michael Myers in a bold remake of Halloween. The success of that film has led to H2, a sequel he promises will be “off the rails.” From a guy who’s literally seen it all—from the inner workings of Pee-wee’s Playhouse to his own face tattooed on people’s bodies—that’s not something you should take lightly.
INKED: When did you get your first tattoo?
ROB ZOMBIE: It was 1989 or so, and I had been hearing a lot about this one tattoo artist, Guy Aitchison, from somebody I knew who was friends with him. I saw his work and I was like, Wow, that’s pretty amazing. When that guy comes to town, I’ll get a tattoo. That’s pretty much what happened.
Did you already know what you were going to get, or did you work it out with him when you went to get it?
I had no idea, and I pretty much drew something up, like, an hour before I went over there.
Have you stayed with Guy, or are there new shops and artists you go to?
I had gone to Guy pretty regularly for a while. I mean, I was living in New York and he was in Chicago, so if he came to New York I would get a tattoo and if I passed through Chicago I would usually get something. Then he sort of disappeared off the scene a little bit, but I met someone who had apprenticed under him. I started to get tattoos from her because her style was kind of similar and I sort of wanted mine to look fairly cohesive and not look random.
What was your first tattoo?
It was kind of a ridiculous tattoo in a way—it’s sort of Robert Williams-ish. It’s a big chrome skull with a cowgirl sitting on top of it with these eyeballs shooting out of the skull and wrapping around. It was kind of ridiculous, and it took, like, eight hours—which was probably a big mistake for a first tattoo.
Did they get easier for you over time?
I think it gets worse as time goes on. I feel like getting tattooed less and less with every year that goes by, and every time I get a tattoo it gets smaller and smaller. I have less and less patience for it. Like I said, my first tattoo was eight hours, then the next one was seven, then six, then five, then four, then three, then two, and now it’s like, “Is this going to take more than a fucking hour?” [Laughs.] I don’t know what it is. I’m glad I did it all when I was younger.
Do fans ever request tattoo designs from you?
Yeah, all the time. I don’t comply. I think I did in the early days when I had time for shit like that, but I haven’t done that in so long. I can’t remember. Usually the only thing that I do now is people will come up and go, “Oh, sign my arm, I’m gonna go get it tattooed.” That happens a lot. I try and talk them out of it, but they do it anyway.
What’s the worst White Zombie tribute tattoo you’ve ever seen?
Nothing that stuck in my head. I’ve just been shocked by how large some of them are. I have seen hundreds and hundreds of tattoos of my face on people. Sometimes that is actually quite shocking—how large they are. I’m like, “Really? You want someone else’s face that’s actually larger than your own face on your body?” But it is what it is, I guess. It’s flattering, but it’s pretty extreme.