Edited by Doug McCausland
Named after the classic Bela Lugosi film, White Zombie were one of the biggest metal bands of the 1990’s. Their heavy industrial influenced sound mixed with funky bass and b-movie influenced lyrics gave them a strong legacy even after their 1998 break up. The band has a an upcoming box set titled It Came From N.Y.C.; this release is scheduled to come out on June 3rd and contains all of White Zombie 80’s material.
Back in those days, White Zombie were a band known only to few, including none other than legendary Nirvana frontman, Kurt Cobain. I was able speak with ex-bassist Sean Yseult via phone. After mentioning that the phone speaker made her sound like a demon from Hell, we discussed this box set as well as other topics including whether the band will return or not.
Can you tell us a bit about this box set?
Ah yes, Numero Group is putting this out. It’s an amazing box set that covers the early years of White Zombie from 1980-1989 in good detail… that time frame from before we were on a major label. We had gone through many guitarisst and drummers during that time. Line up changed a bit, sound changed a bit. This box set has a lot of material most fans never heard before. It’s a very good box set and a great way to discover how we started. Totally different sound.
Yes, I did notice that back in those days, you had a much different sound than the more metal style you would become known for in the 1990’s. What made you guys decide to change your style?
Our metal influences started on Make Them Die Slowly, the record right before La Sexorcisto. It wasn’t anything really drastic, but more of a very gradual change. On our first LP Soulcrusher we were influenced by The Birthday Party, Butthole Surfers… we were in New York at the time and were surrounded by noisy stuff like The Swans and a lot of heavy industrial bands and that came to exist in our sound. We were always open to everything around us. When bands like Slayer and Metallica came out, we started listening to that to and that became an influence on our sound. You can hear this especially on Make Them Die Slowly. We actually have a record between the first two that is a perfect transition point, but sadly it was never released. The only consistent members of the band were Rob and I and with every new guitarist, came new elements to our sound.
Speaking of your early stuff, I remember reading that Kurt Cobain is a fan of Soulcrusher.
Yes he is and it’s really cool. Iggy Pop is a fan too. We knew a lot of the Sub-Pop bands back then. We got to tour cross country quiet a bit. During a tour we crashed in Seattle for a bit and met Bruce Pavitt, owner of Sub-Pop who was signing bands like Soundgarden and Mudhoney. We even got to play with Mudhoney. We were friends with Nirvana and they even played around the corner at the Pyramid Club in New York City during their Bleach tour. I wish I had gone to see them, but I was too lazy to leave the apartment. You can also find a picture of Kim Thayil wearing a t-shirt of our EP Psycho-Head Blowout which was limited to only 1,000 copies. On the back of it it says “eat my dust fuck face”. But yeah were, we very into that scene!
I’m sure it would have been cool to see Kurt live before he got famous.
Yeah, I remember around the same as producing La Sexorcisto, Andy Wallace was finishing up mixing Nevermind. Rob actually went in and watched him master it with Kurt Cobain. I’m not a studio person so I wasn’t interested. But yes, it was cool to see Nirvana get famous. I have to say even though we didn’t have the level of success that Nirvana did, we did go from being a small band that played CBGBs to a band on Geffen Records with massive crowds, right after that Nirvana record came out. Geffen is a great label.
At least you were big enough to play a show in some front yard sponsored by MTV.
Yes… I will never forget that, because all the neighbors were looking at us wondering what the hell was going on!
Can you tell us what you have been doing since White Zombie’s break up in 1998?
After we broke up, I moved to New Orleans and formed a band called Famous Monsters. They were kind of a punk/noise/ surf band with a horror theme, all girls, all monsters. After that I had a band called Rock City Morgue and I’m in a band now called Star and Dagger with She-Wolf from the metal band Cycle Sluts From Hell. I’ve also been working more on photography, which was my first love. I was going to college for it before I started White Zombie.
With all the recent reunions including Misfits just getting back together, do you feel a White Zombie reunion would ever happen?
I’d say no. I would always be up for a reunion, but Rob always says no. I don’t believe in bringing back the band without him.