Playing “loud rock” music in the 1990s became a blessing and a curse for pretty much every band the day that Nirvana dropped Nevermind.
The major labels swarmed in like sharks to bloody water, hurling money at every decent guitar band they could find in hopes that they could strike gold twice and replicate the staggering global success of Kurt Cobain and crew.
The challenging flipside of this coin was that just getting signed alone was now half the battle- you had to deliver. The expectations on how much your album should sell became impossibly high. Especially if you were signed to Nirvana’s label at the time, the legendary Geffen Records.
“White Zombie were on tour after being signed to Geffen. Our record had come out, but no one at Geffen really believed in us or cared. It was a typical signing, where our A&R guy got fired early on in the process. We probably sold 100,000 copies, which to us was cool, but no big hit for anybody. Expanding on their lack of initial success, Rob reiterated:
“Our record was already pretty old. We had been touring quite a bit for it, because I always figured it was always gonna be a touring band. That how it was gonna be done; I didn’t expect hit records or anything from the radio. MTV was playing the video; it’d been on Headbangers Ball, late at night, maybe once or twice…
I always felt that the video could connect if it just got some exposure. To that point, we’d been on Headbanger’s Ball and 120 Minutes — our one play at two in the morning. I was like, “If we could just get played at a normal hour, we could get something going!”
And then a miracle happened. “Beavis and Butt-Head,” the revolutionary MTV animated series that debuted in 1993, showcased the adventures of two teenage slackers, Beavis and Butt-Head, who were distinguished by their apathy, lowbrow humor, and lack of intelligence. Created by the brilliant Mike Judge, who also voiced both characters, the show primarily consisted of segments where the duo would notoriously (and hilariously) critique music videos. And this was exactly the rocket ship that White Zombie needed to attach itself to. Per Rob:
“Beavis and Butt-Head, that was our first prime-time exposure. I mean, I didn’t even know what it was. … It was so new, I hadn’t even seen it yet. And that started it all… No one realized the impact it could have, and it didn’t have an impact for everybody, but for us it really did.
And Beavis And Butt-Head was the first time the video ever got played at a time where people could see it. The reaction was immediate. The record sales just jumped the following day. It was kind of amazing, how [immediate] the reaction was back then….
Back then, the week before you were on Beavis And Butt-Head, maybe you sold a thousand records. The week after, 10,000 records. The week after, 100,000 records. Things would just move in a way that you couldn’t believe.”
The record miraculously continued to spread like wildfire, ultimately going on to sell a cool 2 million records and launching a career that would cement Zombie and crew as one of the biggest metal bands of that decade. All hail Beavis and Butt-head.