Warped Tour founder Kevin Lyman galvanized a culture with his touring “punk-rock summer camp,” redefined metal with his Mayhem Festival, and even splashed around in the wide pool of country music with Country Throwdown. But his new project, the Great American Nightmare (greatamericannightmare.com), might be his most ambitious one yet. Lyman is teaming up with hard rocker/horror-culture avatar Rob Zombie to create a 3,700-square-foot attraction and similarly sized music festival at the Pomona, California Fairgrounds (now dubbed the “LA County Fearplex”) during October 10 through November 2. The shows will feature a rotating lineup of bands including Motionless In White, Andrew W.K., the Used, 3OH!3, William Control and more, with Rob Zombie headlining the final night with punk progenitors 45 Grave in tow, as well as a special lineup of electronic dance music acts on September 23.
Jason Pettigrew spoke with Lyman about the origins of the event and how to give LA more bang for the buck. Sorry, sleuths: No spoilers here. But Lyman did suggest this writer might get involved…
So what have you learned about the work involved with building a haunted house?
KEVIN LYMAN: What I learned about haunted houses was to make sure you find someone that can build a big haunted house. Because when it was brought to me, my [experience] was too narrow to digest the whole project. But by putting the rest of the team together, I think it has a great chance for fun success. Rob Zombie and [manager] Andy Gould contacted me a little over a year ago. They were looking to do a haunted house–something based on Rob Zombie’s things. He’s done some stuff with [Gibson Amphitheatre at Universal CityWalk]. He’s done attractions before, but he’s never had his own kind of vision, his own project.
They asked me, “Where would you do it in LA” because they weren’t getting a lot of great ideas from some of the traditional promoters. They were giving them their traditional venues, and being a guy who has probably done shows in most areas, I was able to say, “There’s the LA County Fair where we do the Warped Tour.” I’m also on the fair board there; I’m always looking to bring some new business to it, and I think the location is perfect. It’s east of LA where a lot of these people live. The building had the structure, but it still didn’t have the element of the haunted house. I brought [Taste Of Chaos/Mayhem Festival co-founder John] Reese in, and this guy talked to Reese. Steve Kopelman, who is known for building some of the best haunted houses in the country, came in as a partner to design the haunted house. With that being said, we were going, “How do we make this really special?” These kids, all they do is spend the night in line for these other attractions, so what we did was we started using our ability to book shows. For every night of the week, there’s some special entertainment we’re hoping to provide [as a part of] an all-inclusive ticket. You can come to the haunted house, you can go to a concert, you can experience what’s been called “Bloody Boulevard”—which will be sword swallowers, fire breathers, all kinds of things like that, and make a whole evening of the event for a single price.
Part of the promotion can be if you can make it through the haunted house without getting a heart attack, you can come see the show at the other end of the haunted house.
It’s actually right inside the building. The haunted house is something. Like I said, it’s too scary for me. I’ve been to a few of them and it’s too scary, so this haunted house should be a very good representation. We’re telling kids that it’s not for the faint of heart.
Back in the days when Insane Clown Posse were on the cover of AP, they were going to do their own traveling haunted house tour. They would play and promote the record, but it would be a crazy haunted house tour where they would have the crew do all the scary stuff that goes along with that. They told me a couple weeks before they were getting ready to go out, they discovered every city has limitations on everything from zoning to what type of structures you can have.
Oh, absolutely. The thing with this haunted house is it’s going to take three weeks to build, around the clock. It’s not something that could have been moved [from city to city].
This is going to be a successful project because everybody in the punk-rock community likes Halloween. Do you see a situation where this could be a type of franchise where you really could establish haunted house franchises across the country?
If it’s successful, we could transport a bit. We could take it to London next year; I have a great spot over there where we did Warped Tour. We could put this haunted house up over there, and build another one for Southern California. Maybe the third year, we’ll come to Jason Pettigrew’s backyard in Cleveland.
You could just leave it up there, and I could live in it. Obviously you’re not giving anything away yet because it’s probably too early to tell how the gears are grinding in Mr. Zombie’s head.
It’s all going to be based on his [properties]–House Of 1000 Corpses, [The Haunted World Of] El Superbeasto, things like that. Each area will have a theme of his come to life.
How are you curating the bands?
If you look at the Great American Nightmare website, you can see most of the bands are booked. But I thought it would be fun because while everyone goes spooky on Halloween, instead I went with Andrew W.K. and Mod Sun.
You have to admit seeing blood splashed on Andrew W.K.’s white clothes is actually pretty scary.
Exactly. Party fucking hard, Halloween. Every night is kind of thematic. We took things like Emilie Autumn and we’re teaming her up with Fangoria. That’s what we’re working on right now. Instead of waiting in line, we’re going to have a system where there’s only so many people in line at one time for the haunted house.
The line essentially is going to be…
The way you’re describing it to me, it seems that the line is part of the event. As soon as you get there, you’re immediately going to be terrorized in a good way.
Is this something you always had in the back of your mind or is it just a case of opportunity?
No, it was an opportunity. Rob brought it to me and said he wanted to work on this. I was just trying to help him find a venue. I’m trying to find other things to do that aren’t so tour-based and intense. It’s a lot of work—but it will be parked 20 minutes from my house for a month. alt