Sean Yseult - White Zombie - Interview Exclusive Print E-mail
Written by Gaz E   
Wednesday, 01 June 2011 05:00

 

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Following my review of Sean Yseult's must-have book, 'I'm In The Band', last month I felt that I would be letting down Uber Rockers Worldwide if I didn't chase the former White Zombie bassist for an interview after she contacted me regarding the article....

 

.....but I didn't have to chase for long as Sean confirmed just how cool she really is by first agreeing to do an interview, and then impressively answering a legion of trashy questions about her career.

 

Listening to White Zombie in the Nineties, I would never have believed you if you had told me that years later I would actually think that the band's bass player was actually cooler than back then, cooler than those great Zombie albums and that live show. But now I do, because Sean Yseult, while still being the most awesome of creatures hammering away at those four strings, has proved that she has retained a dignity and sense of humour which some of the people who began the journey with her have shown to be severely lacking in.

 

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First, let me just say how much I loved the book. What was the genesis of the project?

 

I would have never thought of doing this book if our manager hadn't called me up a few years ago to dig up some old White Zombie bootlegs for our White Zombie boxset. Once I went into my storage space, I began to open up boxes that had been sealed since 1996, when we broke up. I have to admit, I was dreading looking through those boxes because the band ended on such a bad note, with Rob not speaking to any of us. But when I started digging through my photo albums, tour books, etc, I was transported back to that era, and it was amazing! I was the only one in White Zombie from beginning to end besides Rob, and usually the only one with a camera so I had a lot of rare unseen photos. On top of that, I had saved all of our flyers, press, and back stage passes since 1985, so I had a LOT of stuff. I decided I would like to compile all of these into boxes into one place, like a book, where I could actually look at them and enjoy it all. In addition, I had just gone through Katrina, living in New Orleans since the band break-up. Although my house and belongings survived, it makes you realize how quickly all could be lost. I was just going to make an iPhoto book for myself, to be honest, but friends convinced me that fans of WZ and of that era would want to see this also. I signed on with an agent, and within a couple of months had signed a book deal!

 

How pleased have you been with the feedback that you have been getting regarding the book?

 

It's been great, I'm really happy. Everyone from our lawyer to eyehategod have given me a big flying thumbs up, and it's great to reconnect with old friends in bands that are enjoying it. Best of all is the fan commentary, who were left hanging after our last tour in '96 and weren't givenseanlive2 any information on our boxset at all to offset that feeling of  "what the fuck happened to my band?!" I get so many huge thanks from fans for putting this out; it is really rewarding.

 

How have you been finding the whole experience of promoting the book with signings and store appearances? Have the nerds become more gracious with age?!

 

It's been so great to reconnect with fans - we get into discussions during the signings over certain gigs, and I remember them all so far, it's crazy! So I'll give them a few behind the scenes stories of that night, or they'll tell me of how they were arrested later that night, or how they went home with only one shoe, good stuff. Their stories could fill a whole other book! Some of them have been showing up with paintings of me, high school art projects that they held on to, very sweet! Gracious? Definitely!

 

You've been handing out vintage plectrums from your time in White Zombie at some of these events - just how many do you have left?!

 

A few small bags - I figure why not give them to fans instead of stashing them away forever in a closet? Besides, I got annoyed when I saw the picks on eBay that are not mine, with a forged signature! If you want a real Sean Yseult pick, get it from me. Besides picks, photos, backstageseancoffin passes, etc., I also saved limited quantities of all of the old vinyl Rob and I did in the early years. Soon I'm going to sell these off at reasonable prices on my website, www.seanyseult.com. Maybe I'll throw in a free pick or laminate with each one, for good measure.

 

I actually have a few of those plectrums in my own memorabilia collection and, on the subject of memorabilia, some of the coolest things in the book are the photographs of items of ephemera from your own collection - from souvenirs of your time in White Zombie right through to your collection of horror and pop culture items. Are you still as much of a collector or has time and space started to restrict your hoarding habits (as it has mine!)?

 

God, I've collected all kinds of things over the years - mostly morbid curiosity cabinet type stuff. You know when you're shoving human skeletons in the corner and hanging your hats on them, that it might be time to stop collecting and start removing a few items! It was great when my husband (Chris Lee of Supagroup) and I opened the Saint, a great dive bar here in New Orleans. I was able to move a lot of cool stuff over there, like my huge framed Easy Rider poster, and shop for kitschy 60's/70's rec room furniture. That was fun! I have a second home in NYC now, and it is so lovely to keep it sparse and empty, to balance off the antiques and shelves of oddities in New Orleans. J. [Yuenger - White Zombie gutarist] and I would go to thrift/junk stores every chance we got on tour, and filled up trunks under the tour bus with theyseultpromo cool shit we would find. When I moved to New Orleans, I was overwhelmed with how many amazing antique stores there were filled with great finds - lion skins, ancient oddfellow lodge banners, just amazing things. It is hard to resist, but yes, my collecting needs to be restricted, at least until I open up another bar to decorate or buy another house!

 

I was always a big White Zombie fan so loving your book was never really in doubt. What surprised me though was how little your writing relied upon the fact that you were in a severe minority, being one of the few women out there in a male-dominated rock world. After the introduction and your initial comments on the subject, the book, I felt, quickly showed that you were accepted and well-liked by pretty much every other band and crew that you dealt with - would you agree?

 

Yes, I actually wasn't even going to write about that, it was something my agent and publishers pushed me towards discussing more. I originally thought of the title as more of a play on words with Pamela des Barres book title, "I'm With The Band." The statement with "I'm In The Band" was more - "I'm a musician", not "I'm a chick". I've always thought of myself as an equal and one of the guys, so it wasn't an issue for me and I never made it an issue. I think because of that, other bands and male fans treated me accordingly, and I did not receive much sexist attitude at all. Of course there was that one time Gene Simmons hugged me from behind for a photo shoot with his hand on my tummy, but even when he whispered in my ear "My God, how do you keep your stomach so flat?" it was more inquisitive than a come-on! Dimebag Darrell would invite me to record songs or go gambling with him, Reverend Horton Heseandimebagat would invite me to play guitar on stage, and roadies would drag me to strip clubs. It was unbelievable camaraderie for me with other guys in the bands and crews, and I really enjoyed it. A few male fans would acknowledge the fact I was female by giving me gifts or asking me to marry them, but that always struck me as pretty sweet.

 

My favourite thing about the whole book is how dignified you are when talking about everything from the end of White Zombie, your personal relationship with Rob and subsequent relationships - people expecting a trashy kiss 'n' tell will be severely disappointed! Was this a natural thing or were there some 'bite your lip and count to ten' moments when you really wanted to rail against something yet thought better of it?

 

Oh God, yes! There are some hilarious stories, one in particular involving Al Jourgenson practically saving my life on our tour bus from a pair of cat claws aimed at my eyeballs - I won't say who the cat is, but if you can get anyone else to tell the story, it was one I would have loved to have told! Witnesses were J., Johnny Tempesta, and Timothy Leary, R.I.P.  I cannot tell the story for fear of coming off "catty", which I don't play in to. I'm sure Al could tell it though! Another time this cat did something catty again to me WHILE I WAS ON STAGE. Although there were many witnesses, my bass tech was the only one with the balls to name this person.seanlive Probably because he was an ex-Navy Seal, that takes some balls! Anyway, he almost got fired for telling the truth, how lame is that?! Yes, there are a million stories, and people ask me the trashiest and most intimate things about Rob, and others, but I really do not kiss and tell, as you said!


The comments from the Rob Zombie camp haven't always been as dignified though. One of the tamer ones (published in a British magazine around the time of his recent UK tour) quoted him as saying "Towards the end of White Zombie, certain band members were like 'Why do we have to do this whole show thing?' They were walking onstage in their street clothes." This kind of comment appears common whenever he is asked about White Zombie nowadays. How do you feel when comments like this are made? And who was the 'street clothes' non-believer?!

 

What an odd statement, to begin with! When Rob and I started White Zombie, the whole concept was that our band would be an all-encompassing way of life, like the Cramps. This went down to every detail: what music we listened to, what movies we watched, to how we wore our hair and how we dressed. When Rob met me, I had black and blue hair that dreaded up, and slept in a loft bed above my roommate and her boyfriend Dave Insurgent, the singer of Reagan Youth. Rob looked pretty normal, by comparison. Shortly after, Rzombiepic3ob began dreads that would eventually look identical to Dave's. We dressed in our own patched-up, fucked-up way and that was how we looked - on stage and on the street. We thought people who changed their look for stage were poseurs! None of our "street clothes" were what a normal person would consider street clothes, they worked fine on and off-stage. That being said, I don't know who he is speaking of - if you look at the photo on the front of my new book, I have electric yellow hair, I'm wearing a motorcycle shirt over a tattered slip and knee high ass-kicking boots - this was in our last year of being a band, so I certainly hope he's not bitching about me!

 

Besides, he wasn't exactly Marilyn Manson, in his t-shirts and tattered jeans each night. That was just our look, and he wore it also.

 

I have no hard feelings towards Rob. You don't date and live with someone 24/7 for seven years of your life and create an amazing band, and then suddenly think they are an awful person. There is nothing wrong with the truth - towards the end Rob had a singular vision that was easier to achieve with hired guns. With J. and I, he would have to debate through every issue and deal with us actually writing music that he may or may not like. And we would have to continue dealing with him presenting us with prerecorded techno tracks, asking us to play seanlive3something over them of no consequence. All bands get exhausted with these struggles, and there is no reason why he shouldn't say the truth instead of blaming it on petty things like stage costumes, if in fact he really said anything of the sort.

 

I say that because I recently read some British press shouting out "Rob calls Sean's claims rubbish!" When I read the article, the interviewer baited Rob with a statement that I never made, supposedly quoted from my book. He responded, saying that he had not read the book, but IF I said that, it was not true. Well I will be the second to also say it was not true; read my book!


The 'Boosted by Beavis and Butt-head' tale of White Zombie's acceptance by MTV's cartoon pair is now rock folklore - how did it feel, as a pop culture connoisseur, to initially see yourself featured on the show and then to be one of the main bands forever linked with the pair's twisted legacy?

 

We loved that show before we were ever on it, so when they gave us the thumbs up, it was awesome! Hey, we were keeping company with Metallica, the Butthole Surfers and Iggy Pop, that's all good in my book! I have no problem with White Zombie being intrinsically linked to Mike Judge and Beavis and Butt-head!

 

Again coming from a fan's point of view, how great was it to share stages and quality time with bands like The Cramps and Ramones, and all their legendary band members, amongst a host of awesome bands as detailed in the book?

 

Man, can I tell you what a huge fan I was/am of those bands? It was crazy!!! To see the Ramones every day, ride with them in their van, have Joey come up toseancramps me after every gig each night and say "Thank you for taking us out on the road" - ??? That was so awkward for me, as in my world we should have been opening for them and thanking them every night! The same goes with the Cramps - I became friends with them, and went gambling with them after our Las Vegas show on our Halloween tour with them - it was just too surreal. Of course I was a fan of almost every band we toured with, and it was always a thrill to take photos of them from the side of the stage, or get dragged out on stage by Phil from Pantera to sing 'Fucking Hostile' every night, or play cards with Kyuss for three days straight, or have Cheap Trick lift me up onto the stage to do a song with them - amazing memories and friendships forged.

 

Perhaps legendary for different reasons, Faster Pussycat bassist Danny Nordahl has become Uber Rock's unofficial all-time hero after we witnessed what will forever be known as 'The Nordahl Incident' late last year. You and Danny were an item for some time - could you tell us a story about the man that pretty much sums him up in one startling burst of prose?!

 

Oh lord. Who doesn't love Danny? He is such a Winnie the Pooh. One time he was on tour with me and we had a night off in New Orleans. Danny, Johnny Tempesta, and I, and the bands we were touring with, Filter and Wickerman, all went to the Quarter to an infamous bar, Candace's on Conti. For some reason I had entrusted Danny with a bag of mushrooms I had procured. When we arrived to this tiny bar, Pepper from Down was there, as well as the guys from Marilyn Manson. Soon the bartender is on the bar on her hands and knees, asking all of the band guys to whip her, to which many oblige. I step outside and there's Danny talking to Pepper. They don't know each other, but Pepper is calling Danny a Jimmy Page motherfucker, making special note of his wing-tipped shoes and all. I introduce them, then I ask Danny for the mushrooms, as now seems like as good a time as any to enjoy some and pass them around. Danny says he doesn't have them. Pepper's eyes grow wide (wider than usual!) and says, "you just gave me some!" It turns out Danny was generously giving away all of my purchase, until there was none left for me. On drunken instinct, Danny hurls his drink IN Pepper's FACE, for ratting him out. Now if you know Pepper, this is not something you do. Because Danny was my boyfriend, Pepper just looked at him and said with his Southern drawl: "You're a bold man, a bold man." and refrained from pummeling him. At the time, I wished Pepper had punched him out! I was so mad at him for eating and sharing all of my mushrooms with everyone else, forgetting me! It was just another example of Danny skating by in life due to his cuteness, general good-naturedness, and insane abundance of good luck. I have a great studio portrait a photographer in New York did once, after a late night of bar hopping, and I'm hugging him, while he is hugging (and swilling) a beer. That pretty much sums up our relationship. I saw him recently and he looks exactly the same, and is as hilarious as ever. After observing his daily regiment for a couple of years, I really don't know how he is still alive, much less fit. God bless him; he's a good soul.

 

What can you tell us about your new band, Star and Dagger, who you mention towards the end of the book?

 

It's a great band where I get to write my crazy riffs like I wrote in White Zombie, more heavy, Slayer/Sabbath influenced which is what comes naturally for me. It's mostly tuned down heavy blues-based rock. Both the singer and the guitarist are dear friends, Donna She-Wolf (formerly known as Honey One-Percenter in Cycle Sluts From Hell!) and Von Hesseling. The band started because Donna and I had been running into Lenny Kaye a lot while out drinking in yseult01NYC, and he keeps telling us we had to start a band. Our demos are labeled the K Project, for Lenny! Me, Donna and Von travel all over the world vacationing anyway, so we thought, why not have a band and play some gigs on these vacations? Donna writes amazing riffs and the most twisted dark lyrics also. Her guitar always has a sound somewhere between Tony Iommi/Ace Frehley/Johnny Thunders, just a full on trashy 70's sound that I love. Our crown jewel is Von Hesseling, a cross between Cherie Currie and Anita Pallenberg with a voice to rival Robert Plant's - I'm not kidding! She's an amazing front person, and will talk to total strangers about the nastiest, most private things. Donna talks like a sailor, and has the tattoos to match, and I practically grew up around roadies and metalheads, so it is really like a bunch of dudes hanging out when the whiskey and conversation is flowing!

 

So, with a new band and a great book on the shelves, what are your professional plans for the near future?

 

Right now Star and Dagger are heading back to Joshua Tree to record with Dave Catchings and play our first gigs on the West Coast. When I get back to New Orleans in June, we'll be gigging again with Dave's band Eagles Of Death Metal, and I'll be sitting in on keyboards for Masters Of Reality. In July I have gigs with my other band, Rock City Morgue including one with CJ Ramone, which we're looking forward to. I plan on creating a new photography show over the summer also, hopefully to show in the Fall or Winter. I've done a lot of new designs for my design company but they are on hold for new production applications. I've been moving towards home décor and the company is testing out a few different items.

 

Finally, where does 'I'm In The Band' rank on your list of personal achievements?

 

I've never thought of putting achievements in order, but it's definitely near the top! It was great to not only put all of the imagery and items I have saved in one place, but also to write, and get to design every page. And to just have it out there, and in my hands, is very satisfying.

 

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Coffin Bass photo courtesy of Schecter Guitars