Horror and heavy metal have always had a close association, one that's been accentuated by prolific artists like Alice Cooper and Rob Zombie. Now, add Winds of Plague frontman Johnny Plague into that mix. He's cooked up a entire theme park with Haunted Hollywood Spots that promises thrills and chills for any attendee. I sat down with Johnny and caught up with him about his park, how it came to be, and his love of horror.
M.DREW: First and foremost, how did this project come to be? How did you organize the exhibits and the space?
JOHNNY PLAGUE: It seems this whole thing came down to fate (if you believe in that sort of thing). I had been playing paintball with the HK Army team so I went out to the Huntington Beach NPPL tournament to support them and team member Bear Degidio introduced me to his dad Gio, who happens to be the owner of Hollywood Sports Park and Giant Paintball. He mentioned how he wanted to have a Halloween event at his park, I told him of my eight years experience in the industry so we did our best to organize the 23-acre lot into an event and three months later we opened our doors.
M.D: Tell me the truth: Is your “Monster Squad” named after the loveable gang of misfits in the classic film “The Monster Squad?”
JP: Absolutely. Just like the Monster Squad in the movie our entire operation is fueled by our passion for monsters.
M.D: This haunted park you’ve created seems like a labor of love. What’s your personal history with haunted events, in your childhood or now, that drove you to put this project together?
JP: I have always been a fan of horror and Halloween, but I never went to any haunted attractions or events as a kid. My friend Chris Ruiz (part of the squad at HHS) took me to Knotts one year and I was hooked. We went back every weekend for the rest of the run and decided we would try working the event the next year.... which we did. As much as I love Knotts, and as large of a personal burden it is for me to not be there, I couldn’t allow this opportunity to pass. It would be a much larger burden to always wonder "what if?"
M.D: How did you get your hands on so many props from “The Haunting?” Was there a special connection between you and that movie?
JP: Hollywood Sports park uses movie sets as their paintball fields. On property we have sets from "The Haunting," "Waterworld," "Tomb Raider," "Starship Troopers," "Terminator," "Super Nova," and more. Picking through their back lot warehouse is a haunter’s dream come true.
M.D: What kind of feeling or emotion do you want to capture in this park, and what do you want patrons to take away?
JP: For our monsters we just want to create a fun working environment, to capture the reason we all fell in love with working at haunts. For our customers we want to create a unique, memorable experience. At the end of the day it’s all about having fun.
M.D: Were there any movies or other media that inspired each of your killhouses and mazes? If so, which ones specifically?
JP: Many! To name a few examples, we are pretty much just trying to bring to life “Left For Dead” in our killhouses: you have to literally fight your way through the hoards of zombies. “Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil” was a big inspiration in our VooDoo Killhouse, we tried to capture the horror as well as the comedic aspects just like that movie. We modeled some of our characters in All American Armageddon after some characters in the video game "Brink."
M.D: You designed and created many of the costumes and props at the park yourself and with your team – what was the inspiration behind them? Where was your head at when you were sketching out ideas?
JP: I can’t draw to save my life so I would usually just try and explain the best I could what my vision was and a lot of the times, my team was able to either capture my idea or it would come out even better then I had imagined. Our post apocalyptic Uncle Sam character in All American Armageddon was not quite what I had envisioned but our wardrobe team did a great job and then the actor was able to bring that character to life on a whole new level, I was blown away.
M.D: So much of the park’s experience seems to be centered on the idea of survival. What is it about that idea or theme that appeals to you in regards to this park?
JP: We try to insert the sense of urgency especially in the killhouses. The entire time you are in there you have waves of zombies attacking with a military or hillbilly squad screaming directions you have to follow as well as firing fully automatic weapons. We have only had one weekend and already have had customers throwing up in the maze and having to be pulled out because of panic attacks.
M.D: Of the four mazes and two killhouses and club and everything else, what’s your personal favorite part?
JP: Each attraction has a special place in my heart, I’ve spent countless hours working on each one so I really couldn’t pick one over the other.
M.D: What are some of your personal favorite horror movies, new or old?
JP The original “Friday The 13th” movie was always a favorite of mine as a kid. One October apparently I did the typical kid thing and wouldn’t stop watching the movie over and over again, so my amazing mother found out where the actual Camp Crystal Lake where the filmed the movie was and took me and some friends on a hike to the actual location. It was amazing and I am very sad that the camp has been torn down.
M.D: How did you become a fan of the genre?
JP: Because there is something wrong with me and I have always been so intensely drawn to the darker side of life. You know there is something off when you’re five years old and only want to go on The Haunted Mansion at Disneyland.
M.D: When picking a horror or suspense film, what themes are you looking for? What piques your interest?
JP: Anything really but aliens, they just don’t do it for me. I can appreciate the special effects, set design and cool costume and makeup work, but I’m just not drawn to them as much as I am let’s say...serial killing clowns, zombies or other beasts.
M.D: While we’re here, how’s Winds of Plague doing? Any new projects coming down the pipe?
JP: Oh yea, Winds Of Plague.... We just wrapped up recording a new album, everything seems to be on hold so I can go fuck off with my Haunt but come November we will be back on the road setting up our new release.
M.D: Have you ever channeled any of your horror/suspense fandom into your musical writing?
JP: The two back to back songs "Raise The Dead" and "One For The Butcher" are all Halloween and horror based. I actually use the word Halloween in “One For The Butcher.” My passion for Halloween has driven my band insane to the point they won’t even play that song anymore [laughs]
For more info on the entire project, click the links below!