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Rob Zombie Talks ‘Great American Nightmare,’ Fascination With Charles Manson + More

Rob Zombie
Photo by Rick Fagan

Rob Zombie has been a busy guy these days, planning his upcoming ‘Night of the Living Dreads’ tour with Korn and designing and building his Halloween spectacular, Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare, which is currently taking place at the FEARplex in Pomona, Calif. The gory and graphic attraction, which also features lots of music, will culminate on Nov. 1 and 2when Zombie himself takes over as the headlining act. Loudwire was there to experience the show on opening night and as we wrote, it’s dazzling and mind-bending experience.

We spoke with Zombie this week to get his take on how things are going with the festival, as well as a few other intriguing topics. Check out our interview with Rob Zombie below:

Rob, we checked out the opening day the Great American Nightmare fest and it was amazing. How has the feedback been so far?

So far so good. I was so wiped out on opening night after having been there for 10 straight days and nights that I didn’t hang out too long to talk to too many people about their thoughts. But since then, I’ve heard from a lot of people that have been totally freaked out and that was exactly the intention. People that design haunted houses for a living will tell you that many customers try and play it cool when they go through and act like it’s not getting to them. Especially the guys. There’s this thing about being tough and not wanting to act like something is affecting you. Knowing that, it made me really want to push things so that even the guys playing it cool would have a least one breakdown going through [laughs].

What do you think it is about haunted houses in particular that have made them so popular?

It’s like anything else. It’s just a thrill. In people’s minds, they know they’re not going to get killed. But there is just this escapist thrill of not quite knowing what is going to happen to you that I think brings people in. It’s just so different than the stuff you go through in everyday life. Plus, the technology today allows for some really incredible effects which of course also pulls people in. You always want to see the next best thing. I think the key to enjoying something like our attraction is to leave reality at the door and just keep an open mind as you experience everything. My advice is don’t try and second-guess things too much and don’t try and anticipate too much. Just commit to enjoying the experience.

Have you ever thought about this sort of attraction existing all year long rather than just in the fall?

I’ve thought about it, but I’m not really sure it could sustain over a year. People’s mindsets are just too dialed in the time of the season. When Halloween comes around people are really ready to be freaked out. But in the summer time and Christmas time, I’m just not sure a Halloween attraction would be successful. I would love to believe that the year-round attraction could sustain itself but I just don’t think we are there yet. But given how people tend to start celebrating Halloween weeks before the event, it does allow for the sort of thing they were doing.

You’ve designed an attraction that recreates some of the most infamous crimes in history. Is there a crime or specific criminal that stands out to you? Or fascinates you more than the others?

For me, anything having to do with what happened with Charles Manson is really compelling. Every book, every film, any article I can get my hands on having to do with that crime, I grab it. Any new picture, I can’t resist. There are just so many layers to it and it’s such a strange story and there are so many factors involved. It just never stops being fascinating to me.

Have you ever visited any of the Manson related sites in Southern California?

When I moved to L.A. in 1991, one of the first places I went to was the house on Cielo Drive, where the Tate murders were committed, before they tore the house down. Anything place I could find in the book ‘Helter-Skelter,’ I would visit. I still have not been out to the site in Death Valley where they were arrested but one day if somebody can take me right there, I would happily go along.

Rob, in your music, your films and with the new attraction, you never seem to hold back too much. Is self editing ever an issue with you?

No. Anything I do, every concert, every record, every movie – I always think afterwards that I should have pushed further. That’s the whole point of doing these things that I do. I don’t ever want to play it safe because there are enough things in the world created for that purpose. My purpose is to make things really memorable and go so far over the top that in a weird way, it gives you a sense of wonder.

That kind of goes back to Alice Cooper and KISS. That sense of pushing things into a new dimension.

Absolutely. I never saw any of those acts in person when I was growing up. All of my influences I saw first on television and I never would’ve thought in a million years about trying to do what they were doing. I mean, it was what I wanted to. But it would’ve been like seeing a guy walk on the moon and saying hey, I want to do that! Just a really far-off dream. So it’s amazing to me that I’ve actually ended up doing what I do. Bands like KISS and Alice Cooper did not even seem of this earth when I first became aware of them. It never made sense to me that we were all living on the same planet as they were. These were characters that were godlike to me.

A lot of that sense of wonder has gone away these days.

That’s true. It was so special, but it’s all been destroyed. The mystery and the danger and the mystique of all of those things is all gone for the most part. But I try and maintain as much of it as I can. It’s a big part of the reason that I don’t show backstage footage or anything. If you give everybody a look behind the curtain, then it’s not special anymore. Look, I know what’s back there is interesting but it has more value if you don’t give it all away. I never want to break down all the mystique. When you think of movie stars like Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, they were held up as people that lived in some other world, people that you dreamed about, people that were bigger than life. I love that aspect of entertainment. That’s what I’m still trying to do.

Our thanks to Rob Zombie for taking the time to speak with us. Rob Zombie’s Great American Nightmare Festival continues through Nov. 2 at the FEARplex in Pomona, Calif. For more info and ticket information, visit the event’s official website.

Next: Rob Zombie's Adds Extra Gig + More to Great American Nightmare Festival

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