What do a dark, claustrophobic maze, an animated 3D thrill ride, and a corpse-laden haunted house have in common? They're all part of horror maestro Rob Zombie's Great American Nightmare. Taking place every Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from October 10 to November 2, at Pomona, California's Fearplex, this Halloween extravaganza combines state-of-the-art scares with outdoor horror movie screenings and a much-anticipated music festival, including a last-night headlining performance by Zombie himself.
As Halloween lurks around the corner, Download.com crept up on horror maestro Rob Zombie to chat about Great American Nightmare, his new album, his biggest fear, his favorite apps, and why he's not crazy about social media.
Why did you decide to do the "We're an American Band" cover on your new album, "Venomous Rat Regeneration Vendor"?
I think we were just on tour and talking about never playing covers, and if we were going to do a cover what we would do. Then we thought if we were going to do a cover, let's pick something obvious. Doing an obscure song that no one knows seems silly sometimes, because then why not just write your own song? And I thought that if I have to sing this song, then I want a song I liked as a kid and also something I could relate to. So basically the whole song is about being in a band on tour, and we played it one time at rehearsal and liked it, so we thought, "Let's do it."
When you record a new album, how involved are you in the production process?
I'm 100 percent involved, because there are really only two people in the studio the entire time, and that's me and whoever is sitting behind the console. In this case it was Bob Marlette, and we recorded it at my house. I'm as involved as I can be unless I did it all by myself.
Do you ever get your hands dirty with the software?
No, not really. I've always had people who were so good at it, because I went from recording on tape to hard drives a long time ago, back around my first solo record in 1998, and everyone thought I was crazy. But the people I worked with were so ahead of the curve and knew so much about it that I never needed to get directly involved.
As Great American Nightmare opens, what can you tell us about it? What are its scariest features?
The haunted mazes are the best part, and we also have an outdoor area called the Bloody Boulevard where we have a wooded area where people will be jumping out of trees with chainsaws and stuff like that. But that's the goal. I've done these things before. I've done three different mazes with Universal Studios over the last 15 years or so, and I just wanted to expand it and do my own thing -- to make the most elaborate night out on Halloween you could ever want. There's the haunted house, outdoor areas, car shows, wrestling, bands playing -- just a Halloween extravaganza.
What's your biggest fear?
My biggest fear is being asked that question and never having an answer. [laughs] I think my biggest fear, if I'm going to be very truthful with myself, is that I'm not going to have another project to do. I am in a constant, anxiety-ridden state of "What's next?" That's not a fear like spiders, but that's the kind of mental fear I have.
Do you have an iPhone?
I do have an iPhone.
What are some of the apps that you use?
I feel like I'm the person who gets the least use of their iPhone. But the biggest thing I keep going back to are any of the apps that simulate Super 8 film. That I use constantly. Super 8, it's called. I have like 10 different ones on my phone. That's the main thing I use, because right now I'm actually editing together a concert home video, and we shot a lot of it on pro equipment, and I also shot a lot of it on iPhones and iPads with those apps. I just love how realistic they look.
How did you first get into them?
It was really that I love film and I love the look of film. And even with my feature films, I'd always shoot them in Super 16, because I thought that 35 looked too clean. But Super 16 to me looks like 35mm in the 1970s. But then as film began to die, I knew I'd have to go digital for my feature films, and I did on my last film. I became interested in apps because I could still see a difference between film and digital, and with some of these apps, they looked really convincing. Some apps have scratches and graininess that I don't buy, but some are terrific. And they're only going to get better.
Are you big on social media apps?
Yes and no. It's important for me from a business point of view, because that's the main way you can reach your fans is through Facebook or Twitter. But from a personal point of view, not at all. If I didn't have to get the word out about Great American Nightmare or my next movie or album, I probably wouldn't do it. By nature I'm a very private person, so I'm not one who wants to share information about anything ever. [laughs]
There are a lot of apps that people use to scare themselves or other people, so I was wondering if you've ever come across anything like that?
No, I'm not really familiar with any of those. Wait, you mean like the ones where people make their faces look like zombies?
Yeah, like Zombify, Zombified, and ZombieBooth. And speaking of zombies, they have really exploded in popularity this past decade. Considering your name, I've wanted to ask you for years: What your take is on the whole zombie trend?
I don't know. It's funny how it goes like that -- just when you think a trend has reached its peak, it's like it's just starting. I think it's great, and I'm glad people are into it, and I find it funny. When "The Walking Dead" first started, I thought, "Who's going to watch this?" It seemed like such a niche market. But people are into it. You just never know. The zombie thing went from waves of whatever George Romero did -- "Night of the Living Dead," "Dawn of the Dead," etc. -- and then with "28 Days Later," Danny Boyle really reinvented the wheel, and now it's just everything all the time. So, yeah, it's pretty wild.
Do you have a wild Halloween planned for this year?
Unfortunately for me, Halloween is always a busy time of year, so I'm always working. I can't think of the last time I had a Halloween off. Either I'm playing a show or shooting a movie over Halloween. It's been at least 16 years since I was home and we had a Halloween party and trick-or-treaters came to the house. Yep, that's a workday. It's like asking Santa Claus what he did on Christmas. "Riding around delivering those fu#king gifts and shoving them down your chimney."
Take a spook at Great American Nightmare: