On the frontlines: White Zombie's Sean Yseult remembers the 90s

a press shot of White Zombie

How did the 90s start for you?

“In New York City, we were playing with art noise bands like Pussy Galore and Live Skull and Rat At Rat R. We kind of transitioned somehow and starting playing with Cro-Mags and Biohazard. Then we got bigger and got signed to Geffen. Right after we made our record in New York City [La Sexorcisto: Devil Music Volume One], we packed up the van and moved to Los Angeles to be near the label, and that was ’91. That was the 90s starting with a bang!”

On that record, Thunder Kiss ’65 became a breakthrough hit. Did you know it would do well?

“Not really, but we knew it was a catchy riff. I tell you what, though, it wasn’t like the record came out and then bam! we had this huge hit. We toured for a year and a half solid. And all of a sudden, thanks to MTV, thanks to Mike Judge and Beavis And Butt-Head and [Headbangers Ball presenter] Riki Rachtman, we got on heavy rotation. A lot of people say, ‘Oh my god, you owe your fame to two cartoon characters!’ But they liked the Butthole Surfers, they liked Iggy Pop, they liked us… we were keeping good company, I didn’t mind!”

Did you have any famous fans?

“For a while I was hanging out with Al Jourgensen from Ministry. The first night we hung out in ’94 or ’95, we stayed over at [LSD guru] Timothy Leary’s house. He’d answer the door and be like, ‘Oh, can I get you a drink? A cocktail? Some weed, pills, uppers, downers, what do you need? He was like the perfect host. One of his favourite hors d’oeuvres was to take some weed and put it on a Triscuit cracker and put some butter on top and put it in the microwave. Apparently, the butter would heat up and activate the THC. And you can’t say no to Timothy Leary with something like that.”

You famously co-headlined with Pantera in 1996. How was that?

“Oh my god, that was the most insane tour of my life. Darrell and Phil were like big brothers to me. Darrell would get a roadie to go to the bank and get 20 dollars’ worth of pennies. He’d come out onstage and pour them into my boots, and then I could barely move. It was hilarious.”

How did you deal with White Zombie splitting in 1998?

“I had already moved to New Orleans. I knew we were going to break up. Rob had made it pretty clear he wanted to go in a different direction – he kind of got LSD, Lead Singer Disease, wanting to go solo. It was kind of a bummer. We really had turned into a great band.”

Which album summarises the 90s for you?

“Nine Inch Nails’ The Downward Spiral. But there were all these amazing bands – Soundgarden, Nirvana… the metal scene was pretty cool, I think.”