Interview: White Zombie's Sean Yseult Awakens Sleeping Corpses With New Book
We've often referred to ourselves as the "Where's Waldo" of L.A. music and nightlife, and now that our pal Sean Yseult has released her new book, I'm In The Band- Backstage Notes From The Chick In White Zombie, we really feel that way.
Yseult, who was a founding member and bass player for White Zombie, has compiled old photos and scrapbook style mementos and ephemera from her time with the popular art-metal band for the tome, and yours truly makes a couple of look-hard-and-you'll-spot-us appearances.
We became friends with this talented lady when she moved from N.Y. to L.A., which was also when her band took off. It was fascinating to see the group as a whole transition into superstardom. (Zombie were one of the last bands in heavy rotation on MTV, just before the channel ceased regular video clip play.) The usual challenges--record label bullshit and frontman ego--caused the band to implode around '98, and we might be biased, but we think that even when things got personal, Yseult kept it admirably classy throughout.
She does so in the book as well, focusing on the best parts of her wild rock n' roll ride. In addition to tons of Yseult's personal photos, the book offers tour diaries, flyers (all the way back from when she and then-boyfriend Rob Zombie first conceptualized the band in Lower Eastside New York) plus commentary and coverage about the bands they toured with: The Cramps, The Ramones, and Motorhead to name a few. It's not only a chronicle WZ fans will enjoy, it's a colorful and honest look at band life from a female perspective in general.
The book's name is obviously a play on the title of Pamela Des Barres' groupie bible, but it also refers to the fact while in Zombie, Sean was constantly having to tell security and the like that she was actually in the band. And when she wasn't doing that, she was having to tell girl groupies that she was in fact a "chick," not a long-haired, effeminate "dude."
She'll be in town in a few weeks to promote the book, first, for in-store party at Wacko/La Luz De Jesus, Tues., Dec. 7, then at Book Soup, Wed., Dec. 8, and finally for a guest DJ gig (along with former Zombie drummer Johnny Tempesta) at Metal Army Night at Three Clubs Thurs., Dec. 9.
Wthin: a little Q&A about the book, Zombie life and what she's up to now.
Why did you decide to do the book?
It was inspired by our White Zombie boxset. A couple of years ago I was informed that we were finally releasing a boxset with all of our history--the very first seven inch to the last record. Management asked me for all of my Zombie video footage to add a DVD, and I began to dig out the boxes out of storage. After more than ten years, what I found was mind-blowing. I not only had saved all of our old vinyl and bootleg videos, but there were piles of tour diaries, photo albums, laminates, notebooks, my old journals of booking tours, everything that covered the history of our career. When we met in design school, I was a photo major, so I took photos of the band and me and Rob since day one. While I was sorting through this treasure trove, [guitarist] J. and I were told the boxset was already in print without our input--no liner notes, no history, nothing. That was a shame, because J. also had 10 boxes of amazing history. Shortly after the release, I began receiving tons of mail from fans who felt robbed--they had been waiting so long for something comprehensive, some insight into the freakshow that was Zombie, and they received none. I knew I had to do something with all of my material, and tell my story of White Zombie. Having been the other co-founder of the band, I was the only person besides Rob who could tell the story from beginning to end. Of course it's from my perspective, but I also include input from many members and ex-members of White Zombie, as well as some key players along the way. I spent the first year writing, photographing, and scanning items to create the book, and the second year writing more and gathering writings and photos from others. It is exactly how I envisioned it: a collaged coffee table book, with a lot of commentary.
Why did White Zombie really break up?
Why does any band break up? Members aren't getting along, everyone's worn-out, lead singers want to go solo, all of the stereotypical reasons. J. and I felt like we had more riffs and songs in us, but Rob was already finishing up his solo record when we had "the phonecall."
What was it like playing in a band with your boyfriend and then ex-boyfriend?
When we were a couple for the first seven years, it was us against the world. We worked hard together 24/7--me doing logos, typography, and layout, him drawing imagery, me writing riffs, him writing lyrics. Pressing our own records, booking our own tours. It never stopped. All four of us were like a gang. We practiced constantly, toured in a van that we all slept in when there wasn't a floor, went flyering with wheat paste at 4am. Notice how quickly I include the band--that reflects our relationship--it was all Zombie, all work, and exactly what we wanted. Once members of our fucked-up family started getting replaced, and the label started taking over many of our jobs, things weren't quite the same. We broke up, and touring together was still fine. But shortly after, Rob met a fan and things changed. I didn't mind at first, but it escalated into childish nonsense and Spinal Tap moments that none of us want to relive--haha!
What is your relationship with Rob now and how do you think he'll feel about the book?
He hasn't spoken to any of us for years--his choice, not ours--so I have no idea what he thinks of this book. After his solo record, the press asked him a similar question in regards to me and J., and he responded with a rather negative retort, "I don't give a rat's ass." I guess I would have to return the sentiment if he had any issues with the book, really. I have no idea if he will like it or hate it or just ignore it since I decided not to "let sleeping corpses lie," as he seemed to have wanted with the boxset.
What were high points of your time with White Zombie? How are they chronicled in the book?
It was definitely crazy when La Sexorcisto started climbing the charts, and those tours during that time with bands like Pantera and Anthrax were such a blast! Of course, playing in front of 80,000 people at Castle Donnington--or 300,000 people in Rio de Janiero--were extreme high points. It's hard to explain the adrenaline rush you receive from that many screaming people! I have photos, laminates, tour diaries and present day commentary on all of these events in the book.
What are you up to these days?
Although I've spent most of the past two years on this book, my design company yseultdesigns.com has done well. My home decor pieces were added to Barney's last year, and I've acquired fans from Kate Hudson to Anna Sui--even the great Helen Mirren, who are all women I have huge respect for, so that's nice! I've also had two great shows in the past year with my photography, which I love getting back to after all of these years. My band Rock City Morgue just played VoodooFest and I'm in the middle of recording sessions in Joshua Tree with my new band, Star & Dagger. My husband (Chris Lee of Supagroup) and I recently sold our bar, the Saint, which kept us occupied for a while, so you could say I keep busy.
What do you think White Zombie's legacy in music will be--or is at this point?
I always think of us as the band that straddled metal and alternative--always too weird for metal and too metal for alternative. It should be for being the only band to start off as an art/noise band at CBGB's and to then make it as a headlining arena metal act! But our legacy will probably be "the band that Beavis and Butthead said was cool!" They had great taste so that's fine with me.