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July 26, 2014

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Scary, scary? Quite contrary

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Sam Morris

Self-described “haunt rocker” Jerry Vayne, who loves unsettling people with his dark, brooding music, has a soft spot for cuddly — albeit needy — rabbits, such as Radcliffe.

Jerry Vayne loves making Halloween as scary as possible, but there’s something about Easter that scares him. It has to do with bunny rabbits.

Vayne’s avocation is creating creepy music.

He’s in the haunt industry. Its product is fright, with craftsmen who are expert at scary costumes, makeup, props and haunted houses.

Haunted houses come with music and that’s where Vayne comes in.

By day he’s a warehouse employee. At night he’s a haunt rocker. His music, driving and uncomfortable, is distinguished by its deep, muddy minors and those tritones more associated with the undulating wailing of police cars in places like Budapest and Brussels.

For recreation, Vayne plays the music of hair bands — think Poison, Motley Crue, Ratt and Slaughter, distinguished by big hair, lipstick, eye shadow and spandex. Not your normal boy bands.

Vayne didn’t always have this dark side. He grew up near San Diego playing in his school’s marching band. In his mid-20s, he turned to hair bands.

At one point he rearranged the organ melody that plays at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, and it was well received within the ranks of the haunt industry. Because he wasn’t selling the tune, Disney didn’t go after him.

Today, his signature piece is “Dark Pandemonium,” slow and brooding, inspired by a drawing he saw of the gates of hell. Fifteen or 20 haunted houses play it, he says. His “Zombie Stomp,” on the other hand, has a nice bounce to it. Soon to be released: “Damnation’s Embrace.”

So you can imagine what Halloween is like at his North Las Vegas home, what with the lights, fog machines and music. Do some little tykes run away? “Well, yeah — and I’ve scared away some adults, too.”

Says Vayne: “It’s fun to scare people, to catch them off guard and get the blood pressure going. It’s the thrill of the unexpected and watching how people react.”

Something else also gets his blood pressure going: people who buy rabbits for Easter, then abandon them when the novelty wears off.

The last one was dyed blue. It apparently had been thrown out of a moving vehicle, and was found with a torn ear and road rash.

Vayne and his wife of 10 years, Eileen, took it in, one of about 20 they’ve rescued over the years, including the current six.

“They’re sweet little things. When I get on the floor, some of them will hop over and lick my face,” the composer of “Dark Pandemonium” and “Zombie Stomp” says sweetly.

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