Twenty years ago, on April 11, White Zombie’s Astro-Creep: 2000 – Songs of Love, Destruction, and Other Synthetic Delusions of the Electric Head was released. It was the last true White Zombie album ever recorded before Rob Zombie went off to pursue his solo career as a musician, as well as a filmmaker, and boy did the band go off on a great note.
Through twenty years, Astro-Creep has never been too far away from my CD player. It’s just a classic album, and there really aren’t many, especially from the mid-nineties, that I return to as often. With its big 20th anniversary, I wanted to pay the album a fitting tribute with a deep look into it.
Astro-Creep was White Zombie’s fourth full-length album, and was produced by Terry Date (Pantera, Soundgarden, Deftones) and released through Geffen Records. It was recorded in 1994 at NRG Studios in Los Angeles, recorded by Date and Ulrich Wild, and mixed by Date at Larrabee Sound. The band was coming off its break-out album La Sexorcisto: Devil Music, Volume 1 (which is also great), and took itself in a new direction while maintaining its heavy and unique sound that put it on the map (which would be emulated, but never matched).
The album also added John Tempesta on drums, who replaced the late Phil Buerstatte (who himself replaced Ivan de Prume), and would go on to stick with Rob Zombie through his first two solo albums.
I (probably like most fans) discovered White Zombie during the La Sexorcisto era. This is when they started getting regular airplay on MTV, mainly with their hit Thunderkiss ’65 and their appearances on Beavis and Butt-Head. I believe I was in sixth grade, and ordered the CD from a record club from Columbia House or BMG (remember those?) along with Rage Against the Machine’s first CD and Tool’s Undertow. It was a pretty good shipment to say the least.
After months of owning La Sexorcisto and listening to it repeatedly, my older brother showed the CD to my mother, pointing out that it was called “Devil Music, Volume 1,” just to get me in trouble more than because of any real concern over content (he got me started on hardcore rap years prior), because that’s the kind of thing big brothers do. But my mom did not approve. We weren’t really a church-going family, but she still didn’t like the idea of her little boy listening to devil music (she had once refused to buy me a Slayer tape for the same reason). Ultimately, the wisdom of my dad, who grew up listening to Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath, prevailed. He listened to the album, and decided something along the lines of, “What’s the big deal? I listen to Sabbath.”
So now something I hadn’t really regarded in any controversial light before was now something that was almost forbidden. Naturally my love of the band only deepened (as did my love for Slayer).
As a huge Zombie fan, I had one-offs like “Feed the Gods” from the Airheads soundtrack, “Children of the Grave” from the Nativity in Black Black Sabbath tribute album, and “I Am Hell” from The Beavis and Butt-Head Experience to tide me over until Astro-Creep was unleashed. I was still a kid, so I didn’t always have the means of getting my hands on an album the day it was released (kids today really are spoiled), so my first encounter with the material was through the video for “More Human Than Human” on MTV and a metal mixtape my brother’s friend made for him (go figure), which included “Electric Head Pt. 1 (The Agony)” and “I, Zombie”.
Wow! How was it possible for White Zombie to become even more awesome? Somehow it seemed so, and I purchased the CD at my first opportunity. I think about this now, and realize that many hours of my life would be unaccounted for had I not.
You’ll notice that it’s presented in “Stereophonic Space Sound” (there’s also a band called Stereophonic Space Sound Unlimited). The album is said to have used a 72-track recording setup.
Guitarist Jay Yuenger recalled recording the album in a 2010 interview with Ultimate-Guitar.com, “It was really, very simple. We would go to the rehearsal studio every day, play for hours, and tape stuff on a boom box. Sean [Yseult, White Zombie bassist] and I would bring in things that we’d worked on at home, but a lot of times those riffs would get twisted around over the course of a day. We’d play, think, argue, and play some more, and Rob [Zombie] would sit on a couch reading the paper until we got something together that he thought he could sing over he was very good at that, I guess you could call it editing. We knew there were going to be electronic sounds and samples on the album, but there was never any talk of let’s leave a space here for a loop. We tried to make the songs as good as possible and as played by a live rock band. It was really difficult because Rob never wrote or sang anything until he got into the recording studio, so the tunes never seemed like anything more than collections of riffs.”
The Artwork and Packaging
With La Sexorcisto, we had been treated to Rob Zombie’s artwork, but Astro-Creep provided a veritable smorgasbord of it. The album cover folded out more than any other CD’s I had ever seen, and was chock-full of Rob Zombie sketches accompanying all the lyrics and then some.
Sorry for the shitty photography.
In the booklet, there’s a quote (on the part with the photo of the band) that says: “Convolutions and Fissures of the Outer Surface of the Spherical Hemisphere.” I Googled that, only to find that it comes from a 1913 book called “Progress and Achievements of the Colored People” by Joseph R. Gay. Here’s the page, as digitized by Google Books, which contains the quote.
In the same section of the Astro-Creep booklet, it also says: “The point is: We obtain parametric equations by setting one of the coordinates equal to a function of a parameter, substituting for this coordinate in the given rectangular equation, and solving for other coordinate in terms of the parameter.”
I’m not sure where this comes from, but it does appear inside of a rectangle.
The booklet also featured an address for fans to send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for access to news, tour dates, and White Zombie merchandise as part of the Pyschoholics Anonymous fan club (also in a rectangle…oooohh).
I can’t for the life of me imagine why I never sent out for that.
Now that I’ve bored you with the story of how I became a White Zombie fan, and showed you the artwork you’ve seen before, let’s talk about the tracks.
1. Electric Head Pt. 1 (The Agony)
The first song is always the most important in setting the album up for listener enjoyment, and I can still remember the first time I heard this song (even if I didn’t have access to the rest of the album at the time). “Perhaps you had better start from the beginning,” a voice says. It comes from To the Devil a Daughter a.k.a Child of Satan, though as the beginning of Astro-Creep, the sample would become something else entirely – the introduction to the new (and final) phase of White Zombie.
The sample loops as the creepy noises and sinister organ start to seep in. This goes on for about a minute until some industrial machinery noises – a true staple of the era – kick in, and then into the new White Zombie wall of noise and funky metal. It is immediately understood that we’re dealing with an evolved version of White Zombie, and it’s fucking great.
“Get inside get in there, evil in your eyes baby I don’t care. Get inside get in there, see the flesh falling everywhere.”
“We all go down for a piece of the moment, watch another burn to the death to the core, and the road-show thrills pack the freaks and the phonies. Sing: now is now, yeah! All I ever wanted!”
2. Super Charger Heaven
Track 2 – “Super Charger Heaven” – begins with some sci-fi sound effects and the unforgettable sample, “Look, I know the supernatural is something that isn’t supposed to happen, but it does happen.” This is from The Haunting (1963).
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It then kicks into a faster-paced White Zombie song, more reminiscent of something we may have heard on La Sexorcisto, letting us know that while this is a new version of the band, it hasn’t abandoned its signature sound. It also reunites us with a certain style of Rob Zombie vocals, which has become very familiar, but at the time, wasn’t so well-known. I had only heard him sing in this style in “I Am Hell” (from The Beavis and Butt-Head Experience) and of course the other songs from Astro-Creep I had already managed to hear.
The song goes into the more standard, deeper Rob Zombie vocals for the chorus (Devil Man, Devil Man), again indicating that the band you knew and loved from La Sexorcisto is still right here.
As the song goes on, we hear additional samples, including another from To the Devil a Daughter: “It is not heresy, I will not recant!” as spoken by genre legend Christopher Lee.
Another sample from the film used in the song is a bit of latin, which says Insipientia corde suo, non es deus. Non est vita qui adorem, non es usque ad unum. Es excommunicatus, ex unione fidelium. This is translated as, “Foolish of heart, thou art not a god. There is no life for those who do not adore, and to a man thou hast not. Thou art excommunicated from the union of the faithful.”
Sidenote: Rob Zombie is clearly a big fan of that movie. “To the devil a daughter comes” is also a lyric from La Sexorcisto’s “Black Sunshine”.
“Jesus lived his life in a cheap hotel on the edge of route 66 yeah, he lived a dark and twisted life and he came right back just to do it again.”
“Hell hounds lead at the cowardly kings and carry souls across the river styx yeah, they see no evil and feel no pain, sucking juice from a fallen angel.”
“Yeah inbreed the witches and worship the dogs, deformed and fucking lazy, damn yourself and choke on my name, I’d love to love ya baby. Dead ringer rats swinging in the trees, immaculate conception, bury me an angel god, I need some inspiration.”
3. Real Solution #9
Track number 3 was an all around different-sounding White Zombie song. It’s completely rhythm-based, relying more on beat, samples, and rhythmic vocals than anything else. It’s most memorable for its intro sample, which comes from a Diane Sawyer television piece with members of the Manson family:
“Yeah, I remember her saying, ‘I’m already dead. I’m already dead. I’m already dead. I’m already dead….”
“Well today I have the courage to stand up and hold your hands in some stupid symbol… You’re gonna get up and scream…You’re gonna get up and burn an X in your head.”
Here’s a segment:
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From that, you can easily see the influence of these people on Rob Zombie’s famous Firefly clan from House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects.
Various samples from the Sawyer piece are used in the song, including Manson himself talking about walking a line.
The song also utilizes the tagline from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre in its lyrics: “Who will survive, and what will be left of them?”
“Who will survive and what will be left of them? Apocalyptic dreams see the ordinary madness Who will survive and what will be left of them? I never lock the dogs when the wolf is in the darkness.”
“Come on, come on the motherfucker’s on fire. He cut through the bone, he cut through the wire.”
4. Creature of the Wheel
The fourth track is arguably the heaviest White Zombie song ever recorded. It begins with a brief, pummeling guitar and drum combo before settling into the crunchy mid-paced groove that is the meat of the song.
“Creature of the Wheel” contains a couple samples from The Omega Man, including:
“Creature of the Wheel, lord of the infernal engines” and “And oh brothers and sisters…I ask you to look at him…does he have the marks? Do you see them? No.”
“Creature of the wheel trigger wicked way – Tangle like a web beneath me Ankle-deep in hell through another way crucify the sky above me.”
“Demon-paper clowns Stitched across my back Easygoing dead black eyes Microscopic giants on a chicken Run – Everybody dies laughing.”
5. Electric Head Pt. 2 (The Ecstasy)
This one begins with the famous line from Shaft, made even more famous by this song: “I just said up yours, baby.”
In fact, it includes a couple of other Shaft samples as well:
“Watch your mouth man. I’ll say any damn thing I want.”
“I’ll kill the motherfucker and come looking for you!”
It’s been speculated that the lyric, “A fistful of hair and a splinter in the mind” is a reference to the notorious scene in Lucio Fulci’s Zombi 2 (you know the one), but I’m not sure if Rob has ever confirmed this. It certainly makes sense.
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The song itself has a very different feel than “Electric Head Pt. 1,” but like its predecessor, it is also one of the album’s highlights. It doesn’t feel as sinister as part 1., but conjures images of circus freaks. This was certainly helped by the music video, but also by lyric, “Too far gone see the freak apologize.”
But mostly because of the video:
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I also can’t hear the song anymore without thinking about Zombie-A-Go-Go, the week-long Halloween special Rob Zombie hosted for the Sci-Fi Channel in 1995, which featured the vocalist hosting a series of horror movies while providing behind-the-scenes footage of the making of the “Electric Head Pt. 2” video. I talked about Zombie-A-Go-Go at length here.
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6. Grease Paint and Monkey Brains
With “Grease Paint and Monkey Brains,” we move from freaks to clowns. The track starts with some circus music that winds down as the song itself begins. The evil clown imagery is obvious from the artwork that accompanies the lyrics and the title itself, not to mention the lyrics themselves and the evil laughter that we hear about two thirds of the way into the song. Most of the lyrics deal with gambling apparently on some kind of life and death level.
The song includes this sample from Dawn of the Dead: “There’s a lot of people who are running now. I could run. Man, there’s a lot of people who are running now. It’s right to run.”
“Death is on the midway, gambling with souls, roulette on the wire, ace is in the hole.”
“Clowns, they scare the children Roll around the the ring The animals, they wanna kill Anyone, anything”
Sidenote: This last line is particularly noteworthy in that it illustrates just how long Rob Zombie has really been fixated on killer clowns, though it almost certainly goes back further than this. His parents did work in a carnival when he was a kid. One they left when a riot broke out, which included people shooting guns and tents being set on fire. It’s unclear if there were actually clowns engaging in the mayhem.
7. I, Zombie
This track begins with someone listening to soft music, followed by a woman screaming in horror, before launching into the song. It’s not the band’s most memorable song by any means, but a fine addition to the album. I wouldn’t say it’s aged quite as well as some of the other songs, but it’s still an integral part of this classic CD.
It’s also worth noting that the chorus of the song is just Rob Zombie saying, “Astro 2000.”
The sample at the beginning is said to come from O Despertar da Besta (Awakening of the Beast), which is a Brazilian film from 1970 directed by José Mojica Marins, otherwise known as Coffin Joe.
Several years after Astro-Creep’s release, a film called I, Zombie: The Chronicles of Pain was released by Fangoria Films. It was written and directed by Andrew Parkinson, and wasn’t a bad flick from what I remember, though it’s been a pretty long time since I saw it. Of course there’s now also a CW show called iZombie, which follows a comic book series, which began in 2010.
“I Zombie fucking you, I Zombie never through.”
8. More Human Than Human
The eighth track on the album was pretty much the “Thunderkiss ’65” of Astro-Creep in the sense that it’s the big hit that you couldn’t help but hear. It got the MTV airplay – probably way more than “Thunderkiss” even – and you heard it all over the place in movies, commercials, etc. It was also the first single, and the song that really pushed White Zombie over the edge into the mainstream. Luckily, it was and is still a pretty good song.
After the electronic intro, which features a woman apparently having a pretty good time in bed (which was eliminated from the MTV version), the song gets into its famous sliding guitar riff that serves as the real backbone of the song.
“More Human Than Human” is the song that introduced most people to the Astro-Creep incarnation of White Zombie, if not the band itself on a larger scale, and it did not disappoint. It was incredibly fresh in 1995, and I’m happy to say it holds up quite well 20 years and hundreds of listens later.
The title and some of the song’s lyrics are inspired by Blade Runner.
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The woman moaning at the beginning is taken from a 1982 pornographic science fiction film called Café Flesh.
The song earned White Zombie a Grammy nomination (their second – the first thanks to “Thunderkiss ’65”), and was named the 68th best hard rock song of all time by VH1. The video, which features old home video footage of Rob Zombie, his brother Spyder, and their cousin, won an MTV Video Music award. It was also the first video Rob directed on his own.
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Here’s the VMA performance of the song from ’95 (complete with the Café Flesh sample):
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During the performance, Zombie tells the audience, “It’s almost over, and then we can go home.”
Here’s the song used in a TV spot for Broken Arrow (with the Café Flesh sample) :
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And in the trailer for Disney’s Planes (without the Café Flesh sample):
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9. El Phantasmo and the Chicken-Run Blast-O-Rama
While not a bad song, I wouldn’t say this is one of the album’s highlights, though it doesn’t help that there were countless songs released by various bands in the late 90s that pretty much used the same main riff or a variation on it. It kind of gets watered down.
Like most White Zombie songs, there are some samples in this one, but I haven’t been able to track down where they come from. If you know, please feel free to comment, as I’m genuinely curious.
The song is reportedly used in the short film The Evolution of a Gen-X Music Purchaser which is to premiere at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival.
“Yeah! I penetrate the demons Their teardrops burn away my eyes”
“Find me another hell and the deathbed ride Yeah, yeah, yeah the motherfucker.”
“New lovers bang the corpses, eat the rain and don’t ask why.”
10. Blur the Technicolor
This one starts out with some tribal-sounding drums before launching into a relatively heavy White Zombie song. While not quite on the level of the album’s best tracks, it’s definitely a step back up in the right direction after “El Phantasmo”.
One thing that always struck me about “Blur the Technicolor” was how the rhythm of Rob’s vocals in the verses are somewhat reminiscent of John Cougar Mellencamp’s in “Jack and Diane”. Just sing to yourself the line from that song, “Diane’s sittin’ on Jackie’s lap He’s got his hand between her knees.” in the same style and voice that Zombie sings “Replay slow smooth and automatic go easy riding danger” from Blur the Technicolor, and I think you’ll see what I mean. If not, carry on.
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Sidenote: Somehow this is the second time I’ve brought up “Jack and Diane” on this site within the past year for completely different reasons.
The song also makes use of the wonderful sample of Pam Grier from Coffy: “This is the end of your rotten life, you motherfuckin’ dope pusher!”
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“Blur the Technicolor” was used in Ace Ventura 2: When Nature Calls during this Monster Truck scene:
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“Stain a holy bed – a diamond way Blackened core clear fuk-o-matic mouth of a demon angel”
“Straight to the top – sadistic or anything, acid eat the face of night – strip to the bone release me – violate – eye of God a goddamn, right”
11. Blood, Milk and Sky
And we’re at the closer, which is the most haunting song White Zombie ever recorded. Like “Blur the Technicolor,” it also starts with some tribal drums in addition to some weird backwards-sounding stuff – the origins of which I don’t know. In fact, I almost prefer not knowing in this case because I wouldn’t want to spoil its mystique.
There are a lot of interesting and I’ll go ahead and say it again, haunting, sounds throughout this song, which contribute to what makes this one of my favorite tracks from the band.
After it ends, there are several minutes of silence before getting to a hidden track called “Where the Sidewalk Ends, the Bug Parade Begins,” which feels like something of a reprise of “Blood, Milk and Sky,” but has a lot of different elements to it. It’s instrumental and contains some moments that are actually, dare I say, pretty? It’s a fine note to exit this classic album on.
“The siren sings a lonely song of all the wants and hungers. The lust of love, a brute desire, the ledge of life goes under.”
“Animal whisperings Intoxicate the night, hypnotize the desperate, slow motion light. Wash away into the rain,blood, milk and sky. Hollow moons illuminate, and beauty never dies.”
And so ends a 90s metal masterpiece of an album. But that would not be the end for its contents…
Supersexy Swingin’ Sounds
The following year, Geffen released Supersexy Swinging’ Sounds, a remix album, which contained remixes for all of the songs on Astro-Creep except for “Creature of the Wheel”. It included one for “I’m Your Boogeyman,” as well. The original version of that (a cover of KC and the Sunshine Band) appeared on the soundtrack for The Crow: City of Angels the same year.
Now, 20 years later after the release of Astro-Creep, Rob Zombie is deep into his career as a filmmaker, having already made six films with a seventh on the way. He also released five solo albums, and continues to tour.
Bassist and White Zombie co-founder Sean Yseult went on to play in various bands like Rock City Morgue, The Famous Monsters, and Star & Dagger. She also put out a book called I’m in the Band about her time in White Zombie.
After the band’s 1998 break-up, guitarist Jay Yuenger went on to pursue a career as a recording engineer and record producer.
John Tempesta continued to play drums in Rob Zombie’s band through the first two albums, before moving on to play with Helmet, Scum of the Earth, and The Cult.
Astro-Creep peaked at number six on the Billboard 200.
Are you a fan of White Zombie? Tell us about your experience getting into the band, or this album in particular.