Interview: Zombie Boy

Rick Genest (a.k.a Zombie Boy) passed away on August 1st, 2018. This was one of the more interesting interviews I did when I worked for this high-fashion magazine and I really want to share it with you because it’s one of my personal favourites. Rick was obviously a very unique personality, and if you ask me, there’s a lot of great words of wisdom in here for like-minded artists.

What do you think is the most common opinion people have when they see you in person?

There are many different types of people, all with their own first-concern. Some people want to know if it hurt. Some want to know how much did it cost. Some people think that it’s art. Some people think that it’s sin. The answer is that there are many truths.

On that same note, what do you actually hope you’re conveying to them, even if it takes them a minute to “get it”? 

It’s not my first concern what others think of me. The ultimate question is: what’s your business here? 

Is there a limit on what kind of body art/mods you’ll experiment with?

I’m good for now; I already got what I wanted. “Is it half alive or is it half dead?” …. Either way, it’s kinda hard to tell.

At times is scaring strangers/the audience the intent or is it always more of a encouraged byproduct?

In the animal kingdom, I guess it would be the equivalent of a tigers stripes or a peacocks train. 

I heard you’re interested in tattooing your eyes. Just recently we heard about a young woman out of Ottawa who did and is now facing the possibility of having her eye removed due to the infection that occurred. Are you ever concerned at all about the potential repercussions of such a modification?

Yes, that was something that I’ve considered. I forever use my eyes for various facial expressions as a natural entertainer on and/or off stage thus painting them black would most likely weaken my game. I can roll my eyes in the back of my head anyways; so all white is just as good. Also, hazel is my favourite, so there would be no reason to assault them with a different colour. 

How long do you sit with an idea like that until you go through with it?

Until the time is right.

When was the first time you realized that something about you or your purpose changed and that you wanted to become Zombie Boy?

It really wasn’t much of a choice. When I was 15 I had received pretty much a death sentence and ultimately pulled through. My friends nick-named me as ‘Zombie’, and as kids do, I started getting my story tattooed onto my person. My 21st birthday was the 5th year anniversary of my brain tumour operation. There then, for me, the time was right to make my move. For the occasion, I tattooed my face sealing the deal and embracing who I was. By the age of 23, it was Bizarre magazine that dubbed me as “Zombie Boy”, I liked the sound of it, so I stuck to it.

Do you think it was always your destiny? Do you believe in such a thing?

Destiny is a word that implies an ending: a destination to one’s life. Everyone’s life comes to an end; therefore everyone has a destiny, whether you believe in it or not.

When you started to develop the following you now have, how did you adapt to that kind of attention? Was it strange when people started to reach out to you and tell you that they idolize you?

Since the age of two, I’ve been the big brother. So in that sense, I kind of always had an influencer ‘role’ in my life. 

If we were to pretend there is an alternative universe where you never got a single tattoo, what do you think that Zombie Boy does on his day to day? What is his style like?

In this version of the universe, I was homeless as a teenager. It was all squeegee-punk, rooftop squatting, and writing our names on everything. Altering my appearance and changing my name was as natural as breathing. I’d have to  get my hands on a flux capacitor, to be able to travel the multiverse and to be able to answer that question.

Are you collaborating with anybody on new music currently that you can give us some insight to?

Funny you mention it… Working together, like chocolate and peanut butter, with our beloved and most talented kapellmeister: Riggs (Rob Zombie, Scum of the Earth, Skrew, Prong). We are looking very much forward to dropping our project onto the waves as soon as all our ‘i’s’ are dotted and ‘t’s’ are crossed.

When you were first approached to try modeling, were you apprehensive? Uninterested? Eager? Thrilled?

When I was first approached about modelling, my life was the epitome of drink, fight and f*ck. When we got to the office building, they had asked me to take off my studded leather jacket and knee high army boots. In their stead, I was asked to put on a feather boa, and platform heels, for the purpose being photographed and distributed. 

Let’s just say that I was young and needed the money.

What designers would you like to work with next, either as a model or otherwise?

I love the work of Tim Walker. That would definitely be a fantasy come to life.

What is one misconception you believe people have about tattoo/body modification enthusiasts that you’d like to change?

Well, the lifestyle definitely takes a commitment attribute. Having difficult goals and a sense of direction takes a lot of practicality, and one must be one tough nut. The notion that people work so hard at something so irreversible, despite any outcome or consequence, as well as at any price, sounds to me like the opposite of « working aimlessly”. 

Who’s your favourite tattoo artist?

Frank Lewis from Montreal. Hands down. He is the doctor that created the monster.

Who is one person that you’re drawing inspiration from today?

All my heroes are dead, or surely on their way.

At what point did you realize “Hey, I could make a living out of this,” and what went through your mind when you made that connection?

Back when I was playing in traffic, people are fascinated with punks, wanting pictures and dropping change. I would take off my hat, revealing my craniotomy tattoo; hand in hand, waving the inside of my ball-cap for tokens, as my personal gimmick. My original destination as a career-man, was in the freakshow. Being “the boy who ate worms” was my ambition. 

My jam:

“Nobody likes me,
Everybody hates me,
Guess I’ll go eat worms.

Long, thin, slimy ones,
Short, fat, juicy ones,
Itsy, bitsy, fuzzy wuzzy worms.

Down goes the first one, 
Down goes the second one,
Oh, how they wiggle and squirm.

Up comes the first one,
Up comes the second one,
Oh how they wiggle and squirm.

Wiggle wiggle wiggle BURP!”

Are there any tattoo’s you’ve gotten that you regret?

The most important thing when you find yourself in a hole, is to stop digging. 

People are often discouraged from getting tattoo’s/piercings, etc, as they’re told it will hold them back in many careers. As someone who has boldly proved that it could be quite in fact the opposite and lead you to accomplish your dreams, what is your opinion on that? How much weight should one’s appearance factor into their job/career?

I guess that all depends on ones destiny.

How will you feed your love of body art/mods when there is nothing left to be done on your own body?

I’m happy to have crossed that goal off of my bucket list. There is still much more work to do, on other sides of this project.

What’s one hobby/interest you have that your followers would be surprised to hear about?

Creation. I have not really been showcased for my crafting, in the public eye. My love is writing and designing; these two hobbies are my oysters.

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