John Tempesta on a White Zombie classic

The former White Zombie drummer with his platinum disc for Astro Creep: 2000
The former White Zombie drummer with his platinum disc for Astro Creep: 2000 (Image credit: Robert Downs)

In 1994, The Cult's John Tempesta got his first big break when he joined White Zombie. Their 1995 album, Astro-Creep: 2000, with John behind the kit, introduced a new element to White Zombie's sound with Charlie Clouser adding programmed beats and loops to the core unit of Tempesta, bassist Sean Yseult and guitarist Jay Noel Yuenger, aka J.

Despite the fact that Astro-Creep: 2000 was ahuge hit, it proved to be the band's swansong. RobZombie subsequently went solo, bringing Tempesta with him, before the frontman stepped away from the music business entirely for several years to concentrate on his successful horror filmmaking career.

Tempesta went on to record SizeMatters with Helmet before joining The Cult in2006, taking him back to his hard rock roots. He'sbeen there ever since, although he's stayed busy with a whole raft ofclinics and guest appearances that have included playing on Tony Iommi's 2000 solo album, Iommi, recording with Mexican stars Rodrigo y Gabriela, and touring with Testament in the mid-2000s.

Tempesta recalls his time with White Zombie: "It was the big leagues where I got the endorsements and everything like that, doing the arenas, playing the big festivals. I just wish we toured more on that record because we didn't really tour Europe that much."

Auditioning for Zombie

"I had just come out of Testament, doing the Low record, and I got a call that they werelooking for a drummer, so I went down and auditioned. It was convenient for me because it wasreally close to where I live in LA, where Testament was in San Francisco, in the Bay Area up there. I'm very proud of that Testament record, but going into this I just had a good feeling. It was in a different direction, I wanted totake a chance and it really worked. I'm very proud of that record.

"I believe the song they gave me [to audition to] was 'Feel The Gods' from the Airheads movie. That had just come out. I actually auditioned twice because they had to try another drummer out. I got the gig but no one told me. I was like, I need to tell the guys in Testament what's going on. We were at The Viper Room for an MTV appearance for the Airheads movie. Chris Farley and Tom Arnold introduced us, it was four songs and so I'm downstairs talking with the manager, 'What's going on? Am I in the band?' He goes, 'Oh yeah, you're in the band.' 'Well, that's nice to know!' From there we started working on the Astro-Creep record right away. They had a lot of ideas and we worked really hard on that record.

Smashing the drums…

"I look at photos from then, how high I had everything, my cymbals were so fricking high - howdid I even hit them? I'm not a tall guy! I had the boom stands for my Chinas as high as they could go, that's just insanity. I was watching us play 'More Human…' from David Letterman and damn those cymbals are high. It's funny. I was playing as hard as I can back then and you want to give it your full force. Live we had such a big production with the pyrotechnics, and the drum risers were insane. That's what brought me to a different level from what I was doing prior, as far as playing bigger places and arenas. Us and Pantera did a co-headlining tour, The War Of The Gargantuas, it wasso much fun."

The Rhythm Section

"[Bass player Sean Yseult] is such a great bass player, she really locks in. Iremember auditioning, one of the first songs we played was 'Black Sunshine' which she starts off with the bass and we just locked in. They turned to me and smiled, I knew, yeah, this feels really good. She's just phenomenal. She's really talented, plays piano as well. Obviously she's a big part of White Zombie, her and Rob started the band together. She's still a really good friend of mine too."

Going Platinum…

"On that record people doubted us. White Zombie did a lot of touring with Danzig and all that, but then Beavis & Butthead really brought them up to a bigger level with MTV because they played their song on the show. Everybody thought they were just a one trick pony, a Beavis & Butthead band. When we did the record, it proved everybody wrong. It was in the Billboard Top Ten for two months straight. That was a big moment for me, getting my first gold record. Working so hard, playing with different bands, touring - to give my parents a gold record was everything to me and from there the album went platinum then double platinum then triple platinum. That album is still selling, it was a big record, man. Very proud of that. I wish one day we could do a reunion tour. I don't think it's going to happen, but at least I have some really great, fond memories of it. I still stay in touch with Rob. I was going to do a song with him a few years back, but our schedules didn't permit it. But you never know what the future can hold.

"There's a convention called Monster Mania in New Jersey. Sean from White Zombie asked me: 'Hey, they've been trying to get hold of you and they've got Jay on board,' so it's going to be Jay, Sean and myself, the closest thing you'll probably get to a White Zombie reunion. We're all going to be at this convention signing autographs. That's going to be a lot of fun."

Read the full interview with The Cult's John Tempesta in October's Rhythm, out now and available here.