In this special edition In Depth with the Artist, we meet the ubiquitous Zombie Boy (Rick Genest) immediately following his first live musical performance at New York Fashion Week. In the past few years he has done a great deal of modeling and fashion work, being the face of Rocawear in Europe and walking runways for Nicola Formichetti for MUGLER. His most compelling campaign comes from his work with Dermablend Cosmetics, in which he is completely, and convincingly, covered with makeup and removes it to reveal his actual skin. It’s actually a really incredible ad.
His face has also been replicated a number of times in music videos and tv, including Lady Gaga‘s Born This Way video, and on actor Evan Peters in American Horror Story (which resulted in a copyright infringement suit – whoops!).
I was able to speak a bit with Zombie Boy after his first live performance in New York. First, I want to state that this interview was a bitch to get together. Apparently someone said something that someone didn’t like and then someone decided they would publish them anyway because someone feels it’s important for us to be honest with each other. I feel that the interview showed a side of him that I didn’t expect and thought was valuable to my readers and his fans*.
Interestingly enough, this interview turned out far less stiff than I had expected from a dude whose fame is based on his tattoos and his glorious pout. Did I expect him to be a total arrogant toolbag? I did. What can I say? I don’t have much luck in the I’m famous and not a dick department.
And then I was wrong.
Turns out, he’s really a nice dude with a sharp sense of humor and surprising amount of self awareness. He was funny, he laughed at my jokes (bonus – he’s empathetic to my terrible storytelling!) and generally tried not to be rude when 5 people were trying to talk to him at once. Added bonus: his band and wranglers were exceptionally nice and I could have talked to them all night. Don’t judge a book, bishes.
I will say I had trouble talking to him because his vocal tone must be on a register my ears can’t process, what with the number of time’s I said ‘what? WHAT?’ to this poor man, he must think I’m either 1. deaf, or 2. dumb. Either way, we survived and here is the end result.
Junkyard Arts: Let’s get a little background here – tell me about your upbringing.
Zombie Boy: Growing up, I always wanted to be a ninja turtle. I spent a lot of time around sewers – that’s actually quiet true (laughs) I also listened to a lot of Vanilla Ice.
JYA: Tell me a bit about the process of becoming Zombie Boy – the nickname was given to you prior to actually ‘transforming’ yourself, is that right?
ZB: My friends named me ‘Zombie’ because I smelled bad and had an oral fixation. I would bite a lot. It was really more of a nibble. Bizarre magazine coined the named ‘Zombie Boy’ on one of their covers.
JYA: You’ve talked at length about the tattoo process you went through, most of which I’m not interested in, so I’m just going to ask the other question I really want to know – how does it feel to have your eye sockets tattooed?
ZB: Actually, I just got really, really, really fucked up in Vegas once and woke up like this. (Ed. note: later on, ZB and I talked a bit more about his eye tattoos and he admitted that it took about 5x on each side for the ink to totally fill in…and then I vomited all over everyone in the room and excused myself. <- most of that story is true)
JYA: What part of you isn’t tattooed?
ZB: …I’m a work in progress, if you want to see more, stay tuned. I’d like a Ferrari on my dong and a tow truck on my sack so when I get stuck in shit, I can get pulled out.
JYA: Ok! Tell me a bit about how you went from circus work to high fashion model?
ZB: My career as a performing artist started in the Freak Show, but it was through tattoo magazines that I transcended into fashion…after achieving ninja turtle status. Fashion was a fluke. I always wanted to be in movies shooting guns and stealing cars. I get to play a pirate in 47 Ronin. Now I want Zombie Boy Vs. The World, my Music Project, to take over. Even though my black flag is being obscured by my management…Fuck the system.
JYA: When I told someone I was interviewing you, they mentioned that your ‘schtick’ (their words) was just a passing trend. What do you say when people say Zombie Boy is a fad?
ZB: As a living, breathing, bio-organism; you’re probably right. Can’t live forever; that’s the way the cookie crumbles.
JYA: Let’s talk music. What’s the deal with this album. Give me the details.
ZB: It’s called ‘Zombie Boy vs. The World’. It’s a little bit country, and a little bit rock n’ roll. Our yet-to-be-released international smash hit ‘Monsters vs. The World’ is going to take over… Then look for us on Broadway.
JYA: Who would you say are some of your musical influences?
ZB: Ace of Base – both of their hits, Hannah Montana, early Bieber, and Boyz II Men.
JYA: What is Zombie Boy vs. The World going to bring to the industry?
ZB: Songs that haven’t been written before.
JYA: What’s on your 5 year agenda? What’s next?
ZB: Besides Broadway? I want to be in more movies. And when they chew me up, the flavor is gone, and they spit me out, ill just go back home to the Freak Show.
BONUS: hop on over to Culture Whorior for some behind the scenes bonuses with Zombie Boy and my whirlwind trip to NYC for the event!
*this section has been edited from it’s original post to remove identifiers