21 Years Ago: Rob Zombie Releases ‘The Sinister Urge’
When Rob Zombie returned to the studio to work on the full-length follow-up to his 1998 solo debut Hellbilly Deluxe, he took an "if-it-ain’t-broke" approach to songwriting. Not only did he craft a new batch of anthemic industrial-tinged metal songs filled with b-movie samples and campy rhythmic flourishes, he hired the same musicians and drew from the same production team to make a record that’s pretty much a sequel to its predecessor.
The Sinister Urge, which came out on Nov. 13, 2001 was recorded with producer Scott Humphrey at the Chop Shop in Hollywood, Calif. and Zombie worked on the album with guitarist Riggs, bassist Blasko and his former White Zombie drummer John Tempesta. It would be the last Zombie album to feature Riggs and Tempesta, who resurfaced two years later in Scum of the Earth, a band named after a Rob Zombie song which – though they only played originals – pretty much sounded like a Zombie cover band.
Rob Zombie, "Demon Speeding"
If Zombie felt like he was running out of ideas or needed fresh blood when he worked on The Sinister Urge, he never showed it. The album was edgy, aggressive and wickedly carnivalesque and it featured some of the band’s most memorable numbers, including the chugging, mid-paced “Demon Speeding,” the raw, insistent “Scum of the Earth” and the propulsive “Never Gonna Stop (The Red Red Kroovy).” There were also a couple tracks with special guests. The chorus of “Iron Head” was recorded with Ozzy Osbourne and “Dead Girl Superstar” included a lead from Slayer guitarist Kerry King.
Rob Zombie, "Never Gonna Stop (The Red Red Kroovy)"
But The Sinister Urge wasn’t the team effort that it seemed to be, which is possibly what led to friction with Riggs and Tempesta. Additional guitar work was provided by Danny Lohner (ex-Nine Inch Nails) and Phil X (Bon Jovi) and drummers Tommy Lee, Josh Freese and Gary Novak also played on the record, as did bassist Chris Cheney.
While the record was a natural evolution from Hellbilly Deluxe, Zombie had a larger budget for the project, which enabled him to rely less on computer samples and more on additional live musicians. Beastie Boys turntablist Mix Master Mike and Limp Bizkit’s DJ Lethal scratched on the album, which also featured live strings and horns. In addition, a couple of tracked explored new creative ground. “Transylvanian Transmissions, Pt. 1” generated a creepy cinematic interlude, while “(Go To) California” featured a stealthy, understated verse and “House of 1000 Corpses” was sleazy and sordid, driven by a shuffling, tinny beat, dissonant piano, distorted vocals and a freakshow vibe that paved the way to Zombie’s Hollywood film debut.
Zombie named The Sinister Urge after a 1960 crime thriller directed by E.D. Wood and it featured just enough psychedelic flourishes to keep the abundance of biker riffs and shout-along refrains from sounding overplayed. The album’s lead single was “Scum of the Earth,” which was originally featured on the Mission Impossible II soundtrack. “Dead Girl Superstar” and “Feel So Numb” were also successful at radio, but the only song from The Sinister Urge to chart was “Demon Speeding,” which reached No. 13 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart in July 2002.
Rob Zombie, "Scum of the Earth"
Even so, the album was a big success, charting in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 and selling around 150,000 copies in its first week. The Sinister Urge was certified Gold on Jan. 23, 2002 and went platinum a year later.
Following a tour for the album, Zombie launched his film career, directing House of 1000 Corpses (which came out in 2003) and following it up with The Devil’s Rejects (released in 2005). He returned to the music world in 2006 with a new lineup and a revamped sound for Educated Horses, but he never abandoned the demented vision of The Sinister Urge. Many of the songs are still staples of Zombie’s live show and the celebratory tone of the songs has carried through on his post-Educated Horses releases.
Loudwire contributor Jon Wiederhorn is the author of Raising Hell: Backstage Tales From the Lives of Metal Legends, co-author of Louder Than Hell: The Definitive Oral History of Metal, as well as the co-author of Scott Ian’s autobiography, I’m the Man: The Story of That Guy From Anthrax, and Al Jourgensen’s autobiography, Ministry: The Lost Gospels According to Al Jourgensen and the Agnostic Front book My Riot! Grit, Guts and Glory.