White Zombie Interview

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Band Name: White Zombie
Interviewed: Sean Yseult - bass
Interviewer: 
Date: 2008-11-20


Previous White Zombie Interviews
The Gauntlet: Hi Sean, where are you right now?

Sean: I am in New York City. I split my time between here and New Orleans.

The Gauntlet: Do you still play a lot of club dates in New Orleans?

Sean: Yeah, I have a band called Rock City Morgue and we still play some shows in New Orleans.

The Gauntlet: Very cool. Did you have much involvement with the New White Zombie box set, other than playing on it?

Sean: A little bit. I helped go through stuff as I have a lot of old bootleg VHS and old photos. I got a lot of that together but that was about it. Rob and I both have all the old records so he got that together.

The Gauntlet: So were you the band historian?

Sean: I don't know if the history has been solved so I don't know. Rob and I were the only two people that were there from the beginning so I guess we are the only ones that can tell it. I'd be happy to take that roll though.

The Gauntlet: You mentioned you have a lot of old bootlegs, but those weren't included.

Sean: There is a little bit of footage. We included a little on the DVD. There aren't any recordings though. The recordings are strictly all of what we did in the studio. There is a lot that people don't even know about from our early vinyls and 7 inch albums. It goes pretty far back. We started the band in 1985. It is pretty crazy that we were together so long.

The Gauntlet: It is interesting to hear the progression of the band from start to finish.

Sean: The progression was intentional and gradual at the same time. When Rob and I met, we were both art students at an art school in New York. He was there for illustration; I was there for graphic design. We would go to a lot of hardcore matinees. The Butthole Surfers were just getting going and played some of their shows in New York. There were a lot of underground bands that were heavy but unusual. They weren't just heavy metal. This was the kind of music around us in the East Village at the time and we were influenced by that. That is how we started up. From '85-'89 we started getting more into bands like Metallica and Slayer. It was more metal gone punk and was right up our alley. We just worked it in. You can hear the transition if you go through the box set. The sound that we got popular with came with Jay being our guitarist. Being just a singer and bass player, we were at the mercy of our guitarist. It really made a profound difference with what guitar he used and what amp he had. It really changed the sound of the band. Jay was the final guitarist and we knew that was what we wanted. That was when it finally came together.

The Gauntlet: Weren't you originally going to play guitar for White Zombie?

Sean: Not really. I had always wanted to play guitar in a band. It was really a punk aspiration as I didn't play guitar. I just knew a few chords. When Rob and I met I mentioned that and he said I would play bass as we needed someone who could play guitar. I grew up playing the piano and violin. Playing bass is like playing violin with a cheat sheet. It was more the idea and making it happen than what instrument I played. That was all that mattered to me. That and getting the right riffs.

The Gauntlet: La Sexocisto was the album that broke the band, but it was something that took a long time to catch on.

Sean: Right. When that album came out, it wasn't instant. It was sort of gradual. We actually toured that record for two and a half years straight. After the first year, we almost stopped. It started getting a little radio play and a little attention on MTV so we went back on the road for another year and a half. It was defiantly a big long climb with that record. It did help us get on some big tours, but the big tours were what helped the record. If Pantera never took us on tour we never would have gone anywhere and would have just played the small clubs. We got a lot of exposure from the Pantera tour and that is what broke the band. We toured with a lot of big metal bands on that album. We weren't exactly metal, but we fit so well with Pantera. They were doing something a little different like us.

The Gauntlet: I remember when White Zombie just broke into the mainstream on that Pantera tour. By the time you played the Forum in Los Angeles, I expected White Zombie to be headlining.

Sean: We did some co-headlining shows with them, but I'd never want to go on after Pantera. They just decimate the crowd.

The Gauntlet: White Zombie had such a good stage show.

Sean: Thank you. It was definitely a lot of time and energy that went into it. When we started this band it was always about the music. We still really worked hard on the art and packaging and stage show. Even when we couldn't afford stage props like from our late night at CBGB days, we'd have something. Like if we saw a flashing street sign, we'd take it and use that on stage. We snagged a lot of stuff from the street. We also experimented with gunpowder and our own pyro; a lot of really dangerous stuff. We didn't fit in a lot of times but it worked out. We stood out. A lot of people in the early days watched us scratching their heads.

The Gauntlet: With yours and Rob's art school background, there would have to be some sort of visual aspect to the band from the start.

Sean: In the early days, he'd do the illustration and I'd do the photos and logos. We'd paste together the artwork. It was fun hand-creating all that before computers. He had some great illustrations. That was a lot of the band though. There was so much creative energy.

The Gauntlet: Did listening to 'Let Sleeping Corpses Lie" bring back any good or bad memories?

Sean: Oh definitely. I haven't listened to most of the stuff since we put it out. Some of it was over 20 years old. It was crazy listening back that far. It brings back the entire era of us living on the lower East Side in basements with no heat or windows. We had plenty of rats and cockroaches though. It was definitely a different time and place.

The Gauntlet: Being that poor, did you ever use the rats and roaches as food?

Sean: Oh God! [laughs] We never did that. I have to say that we did wait in line for the free Hari Krishna food in Tompkins Square and we did get in line for the welfare food which was a brick of cheese and some dried milk. It is hard to get creative with that. I remember cooking potatoes four different ways with cheese.

The Gauntlet: The single "Thunder Kiss '65" was released to radio three different times.

Sean: We released it and it didn't really catch on. We toured and then released "Black Sunshine" as a single and that got a little attention. Then we went back to Thunder Kiss. Mike Drudge's Beavis and Butthead thought it was cool and played it a lot. I hate to say we owe a lot to two cartoon characters, but we really do. That show was really cool. Everything that Beavis and Butthead liked, I liked too so it was cool. It was kinda cool to be in company with the things they approved of.

The Gauntlet: Good thing you didn't sound like Winger.

Sean: Exactly.

The Gauntlet: How crazy did things get once you guys broke?

Sean: It got really crazy for us. We jumped from theaters to arenas.

The Gauntlet: Did you get two bricks of cheese and chocolate milk?

Sean: [laughs] We actually had food catered backstage at that point and that was a big plus instead of traveling around in a van looking for a waffle house or Denny's. We were definitely moving on up.

The Gauntlet: The bands breakup wasn't a shock to anyone.

Sean: With "Astrocreep," we toured for over a year and during the tour, we knew. It wasn't anything anyone said, but we all just knew it. We just didn't want to have a band keep going for the sake of making money. We could have easily put out another record. We were at our highest point then and could have milked it but none of us were into that. We just stopped while we were on top. It seemed like the right thing to do.

The Gauntlet: Did you still have another album in you?

Sean: I think so, yeah. We all enjoyed writing and I think we could have come up with something great. We were just burned out on the band at that point.

The Gauntlet: I spoke with Rob Zombie two weeks ago and asked him if he had any nostalgic moments while working on the box set. His reply was "none that were good. That's why this took so long."

Sean: You know, it is sad but funny to hear that. I just went through my photos that I took of the band since 1985. I began scanning them and going through them for posterity. While looking at them, he just didn't look happy at all. I was wondering if maybe these weren't good memories for him. I was having fun though. I guess for me being stuck in the freezing rain outside of a truck stop was more fun than being in our rat infested apartment in New York. I have a lot of good memories and a ton of photos that reflect it. That's his take though.

The Gauntlet: After the band broke up, what did you do?

Sean: I moved to New Orleans. That is an interesting experience in itself. I took that in for a year or so and met my husband. We started a bar down there. It turned out great. We just sold it this past Summer, but we were running it for six years and it's a great neighborhood bar. During that time started Rock City Morgue and another band called Famous Monsters which is an all girl monster surf band. I also started my design company about two years ago.

The Gauntlet: Is that your line of women's accessories?

Sean: Yeah, I am trying to get back to being more of a graphic designer. I want to have some of the designs to be archival and available for prints. But right now some of the designs are on scarves and handbags. You can check them out at
yseultdesigns.com

The Gauntlet: How does New Orleans compare to New York?

Sean: It kinda reminds me of the East Village in the 80's. You can see a lot of freaks walking around. I love New York. It is very expensive in New York now. There isn't much room for creative types now. It is really great to be in New Orleans. A lot of great bands are coming out of New Orleans that you can't even describe. It is just people expressing themselves. It is a freak magnet kind of town.

The Gauntlet: It is sad how the East Village has changed so much and all the yuppies have taken over.

Sean: Yeah. They move into the place where the Talking Heads began and can now get a cocktail for $20. It is not conducive any more to the creative endeavor. I love New York though and love the creative balance of living in both cities.