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Rob Zombie Was a Childhood Carnie

Rob Zombie Was a Childhood Carnie

This weekend at the San Manuel Amphitheater, shock rocker and horror Renaissance man (is that a thing?) Rob Zombie headlines the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival (that is definitely a thing).

It's been a busy year for the man born Robert Cummings. His thriller film, The Lords of Salem, debuted in April, just a month after his novelization of the flick became a national best-seller. Also in April, Zombie put out his fifth solo album, Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor, which is fun to say after a few glasses of fine wine. And now he and his theatrical stage show will hit the road for two solid months.

We caught up with Zombie, who told us about how his life nowadays mirrors the time he spent at family carnivals as a kid.

See also: Rob Zombie Is Quite Hot

Why do you think people are fascinated by zombies?

I guess because, without getting too philosophical, most monsters are very unique. If it's a werewolf or a vampire, it's like this one unique individual among the rest of the population. But I guess with zombies, there's the scenario that this could happen to anybody, anytime, anywhere -- now. I think that's why people like it. Maybe they can relate to it. And it has a realistic edge. Obviously it's totally fantastical, but it's sort of played out the same way it would if there were some mass epidemic -- just the chaos that the world would fall into. So maybe that's why people get obsessed with it or like it.

Ironically, zombies don't have a lot to do with your image, do they?

I don't do anything [with zombies], really. I haven't made any movies with zombies at all. The funny thing is, I don't really do that. [Laughs.]

You grew up in small-town Haverhill, Mass. That probably wasn't as exciting as your life is now.

No, it was a boring town. Very typical, boring, nothing to do, very uptight. Anything slightly out of the norm was shunned by everybody. You know, conformity all around. I just didn't fit in. I think I spent a while purposely trying not to fit in.

But there's also an earlier story, something about your parents working in a carnival? Is that an urban legend?

No, it's true. ... It was my mom's side of the family. That was the family business, basically. I think earlier, way before I was born, it was more like circuses, like true circuses -- I've seen the old pictures. And then as it progressed into the '70s, it became more like just these carnivals, as opposed to these nice circuses. And that was basically the family business on my mom's side. When we were kids, my parents would [work at the carnivals], and me and my brother would get dragged along to these things all the time and have to work. It sounds exciting and interesting now, but as a kid, it was a drag. I think no matter what your parents do for a living, it doesn't seem exciting as a kid.

Do you think being exposed to that environment influenced you?

I'm sure it did, greatly. I just don't know exactly how. But, I think because I find something fascinating about that whole world, it must have. One of the things I like about touring is it's a lot like that. Touring is like this isolated family that travels around, stops, sets up, puts on a show, packs it all up and leaves for the next town. A rock 'n' roll tour is like the closest thing to a traveling circus that still exists.

To me, it makes perfect sense that a kid who was exposed to carnival life would have a fascination with the macabre, or at least with alternative ways of life.

Yeah, and it's not the nicest world. As a kid, you get exposed to the crazier underworld of the carnival. Me and my brother, when we were very little, we'd be inside the haunted house playing all day. So, already, what people are paying money to be scared [of], we're just playing in because it's fun. We saw the inner workings behind the machines. So, yeah, I guess it was my first aesthetic glimpse at something that could be considered show business on some level.

To go from carnivals to a completely average, small-town life might make a person long for something more exciting.

Some of it, too, was I saw my parents work really hard their whole lives at jobs that I didn't think that they liked a lot of times, and I thought, why not work just as hard at a job you like?

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