The Revenge of the Vinyl Horror Soundtrack

The Revenge of the Vinyl Horror Soundtrack

By Bill Burns

Once a mighty medium struck down by “progress,” called archaic, anachronistic, and impotent, but now back from the dead format grave to seduce ears only exposed to the curse of digital sound comes the return of the vinyl horror soundtrack.  But this is no pedestrian, ho-hum resurrection: this new breed of reissue is stunningly packaged with exquisite graphics, extensive liner notes, posters, art prints, and luridly breath-taking colored pressings (Glow in the dark green! Rotting zombie flesh! Swirling fog miasma!). Pressed on the finest vinyl with deep grooves for capturing every ominous note in crystal clarity, these releases are both a horror hedonist’s and audiophile’s dream come true.  Who are these mavericks releasing these sonic objects of art that please with fanatical attention to the listening experience as well as with their macabre aesthetics? HNN talks to three extraordinary record labels that are in the vanguard of vinyl horror soundtrack reissues.

Waxwork Records

The new kid on the block when it comes to stylish vinyl reissues, Waxwork Records has hit the ground running with two absolutely classic soundtracks presented in stunningly marvelous sound and packaging.  Their release of Richard Band’s controversial soundtrack for Stuart Gordon’s masterpiece Re-Animator is mastered from the original master tapes and pressed on 180 gram green vinyl (with some lucky fans receiving randomly inserted Glow in the Dark variants). The jacket, center labels, and inner sleeve are graced with original artwork by Ghoulish Gary Pullin. The release is capped off with liner notes from both Gordon and Band. If that’s not enough, an 18? x 24? poster is included too. Their second release (coming in early October) is John Harrison’s soundtrack for George Romero’s Day of the Dead. This double LP monster has been remastered from the original tapes, is pressed on yellow and green vinyl (with a few Zombie Blood and Flesh variants) and includes an 11×22 poster. The package art work is by the prolifically amazing Jay Shaw and is complimented by liner notes from Harrison and Romero. Next up for Waxwork Records is arguably the greatest horror movie score ever recorded: Krzysztof Komeda’s soundtrack for Roman Polanski’s iconic Rosemary’s Baby.

 HNN:  When was your first realization of the effect of a soundtrack on your viewing of a horror film?

WR: The first time I realized the effect that a soundtrack was the very first time watching the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. I was a kid, and I noticed that the score wasn’t the usual music that accompanied a horror film. I was used to violins and horns and big orchestras creating a mood. While watching the original Texas Chainsaw for the first time, the score by Tobe Hooper and Wayne Bell literally terrified me. It stands on its own. It’s a series of nightmarish motifs, drones, and banging. You can tell a lot of experimentation and the desire to do something different went into creating it.

 HNN: Why did you start your label?

WR:  I’ve played and toured in bands for 15 years. I had just gotten back from touring Cuba, and realized that my band was about to split up. The band was my life and my day to day for years. It was how I identified myself. I wanted to continue releasing music.

I love soundtracks and scores on vinyl. I thought it would be cool to begin tracking down original master tapes of horror movie scores and using them as the source material for each Waxwork release. I also wanted to get the composers and directors of these movies involved when I could.

 As a fan there’s a lot of scores that I love that other labels won’t release.

 HNN: Why horror soundtracks?

WR: Because horror is cool! It’s the best genre. It’s obvious that composers are allowed a lot of freedom to go wild and experiment while scoring horror films. There’s an edge to it that I really like.

 HNN: Why focus on vinyl releases?

 WR: Aside from the obvious reason that vinyl sounds cool, Waxwork is trying to pay homage to the composers and films whose scores we release. You can’t do that with a CD or with downloads. You can try, but the experience is stripped away. The ceremony of dropping the needle on the record and sitting on the floor staring at the cover art is gone. There’s a difference with hearing music and actually listening to it. Music on vinyl thrusts you into a world of listening and appreciating music in ways that CD’s and downloads don’t offer.

 HNN: Why do you think there is such a significant interest in vinyl horror soundtracks rather than other formats?

WR: I think more and more people are realizing that they’ve been scammed for years into buying inferior formats such as CD’s. The collapse of the music industry has allowed bands, indie labels, talented folk that couldn’t get noticed or afford to master and press a record to do it. I love that. A lot of thought and heart goes into our releases, so when you hold one, you know that you aren’t getting ripped off. You just can’t do that with something you downloaded off of iTunes.

 HNN: Who are your favorite soundtrack composers? What are your favorite soundtracks?

WR: Hermann, Carpenter, Harrison, Komeda, Shore, the list goes on. I love Psycho and Texas Chainsaw Massacre.

HNN: Which Waxwork release (either current or future) are you most proud of? Do you have a dream project/release?

WR: They’re all my babies. Months of work go into each one. I lose sleep. I don’t eat. Every time we make the smallest amount of progress I’m proud of what I’m doing. I want to release Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Evil Dead.

 HNN: Are there any current trends in horror soundtracks that you like or dislike?

WR:  I like it all. I know what goes into doing this, so when I see a new release coming out, I’m all, “Good job!”

HNN:  What projects/releases/events are in the future for your label?

WR: We’re having a Day of the Dead event at The Egyptian Theater in Hollywood on September 30th. George Romero is flying in for a Q&A with composer John Harrison. Sherman “Bub” Howard is going to be there. We’ll be selling the new Day of the Dead vinyl. We’re screening the film. I can’t wait. We sold out The Egyptian in less than 24 hours!

 HNN: Why is a good soundtrack so vital to the horror movie experience?

 WR: It creates the vibe of the film. You can have the most intense, beautifully shot movie (or ‘brutally’ shot in the case of horror films), and if the score isn’t great, or provides a particular mood, you’ve lost your audience.

For more information about Waxwork Records, go to

https://www.facebook.com/#!/waxworkrecords

http://waxworkrecords.com/

https://twitter.com/waxworkrecords

 

 

One Way Static Records

Based in Belgium, One Way Static Records has significantly raised the bar when it comes to the concept of the expansive reissue. One Way Static’s currently release is David Hess’s soundtrack to Wes Craven’s immortal The Last House on The Left. Not content to just release this lost classic on vinyl, One Way Static is blitzing our ears, eyes, and minds with marvelous cassette, digital, and cd versions as well.  The LP is available as a limited edition colored vinyl (red and white versions) and as a regular edition black vinyl packaged in a deluxe, gatefold “old school tip-on” jacket and printed inner-sleeve. This special edition is limited to 300 copies worldwide and comes hand numbered. The limited release also comes with an exclusive bonus flexi disc containing the original 1972 radio spots for the movie.  One Way Static has lined up a who’s who of Euro Cult sleaze to write the liner notes:  Ruggero Deodato, Ulli Lommel, Franco Nero, Giovanni Lombardo Radice, just for starters. The Deluxe Cassette Tape edition is limited to 400 copies worldwide and contains 3 extra bonus tracks that did not make the movie’s original score. Also included is a 4th bonus track: a rare version of ‘Wait For The Rain/The Road Leads To Nowhere’ performed by Jesse & Bo Hess (heard during the end credits of Cabin Fever). These bonus tracks are exclusive to the Cassette, Digital Download and Compact Disc versions. Next on One Way Static’s release slate: Don Peake’s bizarro score for Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes!

 

HNN: When was your first realization of the effect of a soundtrack on your viewing of a horror film?

OWSR: My realization of those effects date back from when I was a kid (way before I was introduced into horror movies) with movies such as Conan, Star Wars,… It was brewing with me back then that there was something about the music adding to the films, could not quite grasp it though. Later it became clear to me that the soundtrack was half of the movie’s impact for me. As for horror, I have to say Cannibal Holocaust. The soundtrack Riz Ortolani delivered is both beautiful and sickening at the same time. I can’t disconnect the score from the gruesome scenes. It’s a match made in heaven. At that point my love for horror soundtracks further developed.

 HNN: Why did you start your label?

I’ve been involved into labels and music for half my life now. Since I love film music it seemed like a logical step. This is what I wanted to focus on, releasing high quality motion picture soundtracks. It all came together like it was meant to be.

HNN: Why horror soundtracks?

OWSR: There are only few genres where the music is as outspoken as the scenes one is viewing. Horror ranks high on this list. My favorite scores are horror or cult related so… I can’t see myself doing romantic comedy types of soundtracks, too mainstream for me. It has to have this ‘edge’ you know?

HNN: Why focus on vinyl releases?

OWSR: Well, we try to have our releases available on other formats too (CD, Digital, even cassette) but yes our focus is on vinyl. I think it’s the best format for the genre. Physical, warm and with big artworks. I just love everything about vinyl. It’s the only medium for me where you can experience active listening, not as a background divertissement like with music on your phone or iPod. You have to commit yourself to a record as opposed to just pushing a ‘play’ button. You take it out of the sleeve, put the needle on, change sides and all. It’s a format for music that deserves attention and special care.

 HNN: Why do you think there is such a significant interest in vinyl horror soundtracks rather than other formats?

OWSR: The two are connected, they come from the same time frame. I think it’s a natural thing that the two are paired. And there is also a lot of retro-nostalgia with some people, like with the VHS revival.

 HNN: Who are your favorite soundtrack composers? What are your favorite soundtracks?

OWSR:  Ooh, this would take pages; let’s just say I have a lot of favorites, all with their good and bad phases. I have a soft spot for the Italians though.

As for favorite horror/cult soundtracks: The Beyond, Cannibal Holocaust, Nekromantik, Suspiria, Shogun Assassin, Inferno… these never tire me. Recently the best thing I’ve heard in ages is the soundtrack by Rob for the MANIAC remake. Such a haunting score; fantastic material. Death Waltz Records released it a couple months back (jealous!)

HNN: Which One Way Static release (either current or future) are you most proud of? Do you have a dream project/release?

OWSR: I’m really proud of Last House on The Left … took me a year to assemble all the pieces and getting the rights. I could have released ten scores in the meantime, so long did it take. No regrets though. I’ve been fascinated with this one for over 15 years; it never got out of my head.

I’d love to do Cannibal Holocaust, been chasing it for over a year now. Still waiting for a couple of responses, so who knows… I’d like to do a couple of ‘genre’ compilations too, but these consume extreme amounts of time. I guess I’m into the ‘hard to get’ ones 😉

 HNN: Are there any current trends in horror soundtracks that you like or dislike?

OWSR: I’m not really annoyed by trends, since they come and go fast. There were always innovators who spawned a lot of copy cats in their wake. It comes in periods since the genre started: Spooky sounds/library music like in the early zombie movies, electronics from the Carpenter movies, metal/punk like with TCM2/ Return of The Living Dead type of movies… these cycles repeat themselves. There is good and there is bad, like with everything. For example when Saw came out every studio wanted likewise music in their movies since it seem to work. I have nothing against the Saw soundtrack, but it gets boring hearing imitations in every generic horror movie that followed in the 3 years after.

HNN: What projects/releases/events are in the future for your label?

OWSR: We have about 9 projects lined up for 2014. All killer, no filler. Can’t say much about it actually since it’s all top secret. For our next release we are now finishing up the details on THE HILLS HAVE EYES (1977 original). A really weird score, close to library music but with a special touch. Especially when you realize it was composed by Don Peake (who orchestrated and composed music for celebrities like Tina Turner, Sonny and Cher, The Monkees,…). Really proud to have Don on board. People will either love it or hate it, but the packaging alone will be worth getting it. Look out for it end of October.

HNN: Why is a good soundtrack so vital to the horror movie experience?

OWSR: Watch one with the sound off and it will all become clear 😉

 

For more information about One Way Static Records, go to

http://onewaystaticrecords.tumblr.com/

https://www.facebook.com/#!/onewaystatic

http://www.onewaystatic.com/

 

 

Death Waltz Recording Company

Setting the gold standard for vinyl soundtrack reissues, Death Waltz Recording Company is a dream come true for the horror score epicurean.  Run by the always innovative Spencer Hickman (the man responsible for bringing Record Store Day to the UK), Death Waltz issues soundtracks on multiple media, but it’s their 180g colored vinyl releases of classic horror scores that has earned the company top accolades. Death Waltz’s releases are done in collaboration with some of the greatest horror composers ever like Fabio Frizzi and Giuliano Sorgini as well as leading genre visual artists like Jay Shaw and Dinos Chapman, who create exclusive artwork for each project.  The crown jewel for Death Waltz is the reissuing of the soundtrack work of John Carpenter with such masterworks as Prince of Darkness, Halloween III, and Escape from New York remastered, restored, and divinely packaged with copious liner notes, posters, prints, and heavy record jackets. Their edition of the soundtrack to The Fog is a thing of rare beauty indeed.  Add in an uber-cool subscription service offering tons of rare goodies, Record Store Day exclusives, and a reformed Goblin tour E.P., and you’ve got the makings of horror soundtrack obsessive heaven.

 

HNN: When was your first realization of the effect of a soundtrack on your viewing of a horror film?

DWRC: Hmmmm tough one…. A horror film … not sure it was even a film.  I assume it would have been Hammer House of Horror when I was 10 or so that aired on ITV.  I remember Salem’s Lot scaring the bejeezus out of me  too.  I guess the first films I noticed music-wise were Zombi 2 and Cannibal Holocaust.

HNN: Why did you start your label?

DWRC: I love horror films and love scores. Also I have worked in the industry for years so it seemed like something I should combine.

HNN: Why horror soundtracks?

DWRC: I just want to release film scores really; we are not a horror label per se.  I guess I am a cult film fan and lots of these scores were loved by many but owned by few. I wanted to change that to celebrate the music as its own beast away from the films and shout about them, like ‘Hey these are great pieces of work in their own right. ‘

HNN: Why focus on vinyl releases?

DWRC: I run Record Store Day in the UK.  I have been selling vinyl in stores for 20 years.  I have a deep love and respect for the format. It simply is the best package for those that BUY music

HNN: Why do you think there is such a significant interest in vinyl horror soundtracks rather than other formats?

DWRC: The collector nerd in all of us!

Horror fans by nature are collectors of ‘stuff.’  I love stuff ! We like to show off and chat with other fans about what we own.  It’s an amazing community!

HNN: Who are your favorite soundtrack composers? What are your favorite soundtracks?

DWRC: So many.  John Williams is the master, Jerry Goldsmith, Carpenter (of course). Clint Mansell is phenomenal.

Fave scores hmmm….  Donnie Darko, Cannibal Holocaust, All the Colours of The Dark, Legend Of Hell House, so many!

HNN: Which Death Waltz release (either current or future) are you most proud of? Do you have a dream project/release?

DWRC: Well, I have to say I am proud of all of them (sorry if that’s cheesy).  Obviously Zombi and Escape from New York as we kicked the label off with those.  Donnie Darko is one of my fave films ever so, yeah, that too….

Dream project is Cannibal Holocaust both myself and Seb are working on co-releasing that as that movie/score was pivotal for both of us.

HNN: Are there any current trends in horror soundtracks that you like or dislike?

DWRC: I’m not a fan of most modern scores if I’m honest, not naming names but lots are uninspired.  I love Jeff Grace’s work for Ti West; so beautiful and orchestral, a really nice change of pace, and Rob’s Maniac score was just out of this world.

HNN: What projects/releases/events are in the future for your label?

DWRC: Well, we kick of Beyond Fest in LA on the 9th with a whole month of events including Umberto performing a live re-score to pieces and Alan Howarth live, plus tons of screenings and guests including Richard Donner and Joe Dante. Then I fly back to London because we have Fabio Frizzi playing live in a church to 900 people on Halloween.  Absolute dream come true!  Fabio has become a close friend,and I love him dearly. We are bringing him to the USA next year!

HNN: Why is a good soundtrack so vital to the horror movie experience?

DWRC: It helps add to the mood and overall atmosphere of the film.  It helps establish the tone and how you relate to the images on screen. A good score adds so much more than music; it pushes the experience along…

 

For more information about Death Waltz Recording Company, go to

https://www.facebook.com/#!/deathwaltzrecordingcompany

http://deathwaltzrecordingcompany.com/

https://twitter.com/deathwaltzrecs/

And catch the reformed Goblin on tour right now!

 

 Releases by all three of these top notch labels can be ordered through Light in the Attic Records:

 

http://lightintheattic.net/

William Burns
Staff Writer at Horror News Network

Bill Burns joined the Horror News Network staff in 2014. Bill Burns grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, the second Golden Age of Horror. His mind was warped by John Carpenter, H.P. Lovecraft, In Search Of…, and the Man, Myth, and Magic series of books.


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