It may seem a little too convenient to be naming Waxwork Records our Label of the Month on Halloween, what with its reputation for releasing lavish reissues of such crucial film scores as Rosemary’s Baby, Friday the 13th and Day of the Dead. Not to mention cult favorites like Chopping Mall, Creepshow and Trick ‘r Treat. The way founder Kevin Bergeron sees it though, movie-driven imprints like Waxwork and Death Waltz give hardcore vinyl heads exactly what they want year ’round.
“This type of thing is a lifestyle,” he says. “These types of fans are rabid. What did Suicide say in Return of the Living Dead? ‘This ain’t some fuckin’ costume! It’s a way of life!'”
As is often the case with small operations like Bergeron’s New Orleans-based label, that way of life extends to a tireless work schedule, the only way one could ever hope to deliver the kind of deluxe packaging and candy-colored pressings that Waxwork prides itself on.
“I don’t want to use the term ’boutique’ because I don’t think Waxwork is a boutique label,” he explains. “But there’s something cool about a company that consists of only two people who are fans that pull all nighters, and dedicate all their energy towards creating something awesome. And when that awesome thing is finished, you get to hold it in your hands and say, ‘Goddamn, look at this fucking cool thing we actually made.’ Then, you get to move on to the next project.”
Those projects include much more than just movie scores too; among the LPs that are lined up for 2015 is a House of Hayduk record featuring composer Mads Heldtberg alongside current and former members of Faith No More (Billy Gould), Slayer (Dave Lombardo) and Jack White’s band (Carla Azar). Oh, and David Lynch’s right-hand man Dean Hurley. In the following exclusive, we delve into Bergon’s plans in detail and share an exclusive Halloween mix that drops several Waxwork standards alongside blackened metal acts like Samhain, King Diamond and Venom…
Let’s start with your feelings on Halloween. Have you always been a fan of it?
Of course! I’m a massive fan. It’s the best holiday. Are you kidding?
Do you still dress up? What was one of your proudest moments, costume wise?
I do. Jenny Lewis really dug my werewolf costume from years back. That counts, right? Michael Dougherty (director of Trick ‘r Treat) said I’d make a great Gambit from the ’90s X-Men.
Many people who don’t normally watch horror movies binge on them around Halloween. When did you first fall for horror films? Were you already a big movie fan anyway?
I became a big movie fan BECAUSE of horror movies. Night of the Living Dead aired one Halloween when I was a kid, and it was all downhill for me since then. It’s honestly something that I have always been into as long as I can remember. I didn’t like anything else but scary movies, and it actually became an issue in my household.
What’s one of the first horror films that left an impression on you musically and why?
John Carpenter’s Halloween. It’s Halloween, man! You can’t get more iconic than that.
What style of horror movies are you more into—ones that are more psychological and mess with your head, or ones that are more over the top and gory?
Shit, I like both. I think Rosemary’s Baby is like, the greatest movie ever. So I guess I’m leaning towards psychological. Like smart horror movies. Oh! Body horror, too. Cronenberg, man.
Tell us about a few of the artists you’ve worked with at Waxwork since that’s been a major strength of your releases so far.
Jay Shaw is directly responsible for Waxwork releases looking as cool as they do. I love him. He’s super creative and great at problem solving. I’m also a huge fan of Gary Pullin and We Buy Your Kids, so working with them is always huge for us.
When you first started Waxwork, Death Waltz was already gaining a lot of attention for its horror scores. Did that leave you feeling like you had something to prove right off the bat? Or did you feel like what you were planning on doing was going to be different enough from Death Waltz to stand out on its own? I didn’t dive into Waxwork feeling that I had to prove anything to another record label or anything. I was aware of other labels doing something similar. Actually, big fans of them. But I knew that what I wanted to do, and what we’ve accomplished is unique enough to stand firmly on it’s own. It was important for us to establish a certain feel and vibe attached to Waxwork that was far enough removed from everyone else in the biz.
Is one of the reasons you started Waxwork to help people appreciate the artistry of film scores, especially ones that may be overshadowed by the shock tactics of horror films?
Sort of. I mean, we really go nuts when trying to locate original master tapes. Like, we found the Rosemary’s Baby tapes in Australia. We found the Creepshow tapes in an attic in Pittsburgh, and they had been sitting there collecting dust for 30 years. We don’t HAVE to do that, and kill ourselves finding this source material. So, it would be a lie for me to say that I didn’t find artistic or cultural value in this stuff. It’s loaded with it.
Why did you decide to make Re-Animator your first release? Did it take a long time for you to get the rights to it?
Composer Richard Band was the first guy to take a chance on a label with zero releases. He was super easy to work with. No bullshit type of guy, super smart, easy going. Worked out well, because we absolutely love Re-Animator.
What’s one thing you had to sell to help fund Re-Animator that you wish you still had?
Yikes. This will only really matter to music gear nerds, but I sold my Mesa Boogie Triple Rectifier amp to help pay to manufacture Re-Animator. Honestly, what I got for it barely put a dent in the budget for that release, but I sold it.
Did the interest around Re-Animator surprise you and make you quickly realize this could become more of a full-time thing?
Not at all. I made a firm decision that I wanted to do the label. No matter what. I didn’t have a back up plan or anything safe to fall back on. I still don’t. My mind doesn’t work that way. If I do something, I go all the way until the wheels fall off.
What parts of the record-making process fascinate you the most and why?
There’s so much! The real fascinating part for me is the actual vinyl manufacturing process. But, actually being in a studio is just plain comfortable for me. Like, I was always the guy that showed up first to record and the guy that was forced to leave because the recording studio employees were locking up and going home at the end of the night. I’d just keep going if they let me. All of that stuff is magic to me.
Do you ever miss playing music yourself, or did your last band leave you feeling burnt out in a lot of ways? It certainly must have prepared you for doing it yourself as a label owner.
I miss the adventures of playing in a band. Like touring crazy places like Cuba, and being the first American band to do it, especially under a decades old embargo. But it’s tough without the right people. I’ve been told that asking someone to play in band with me is like asking them to join the army, or to climb a fucking mountain with me. See, to me that sounds crazy, and challenging, and exciting. But for most people, especially in New Orleans where I live, it’s scary and uncomfortable. Although being in band where you’re always babysitting members, or holding their hands, or doing everything burns you out quickly. And now I’m having cool adventures running a record label. So, there’s the silver lining.
What’s been the hardest release to obtain the rights for? How about the easiest?
Trick ‘r Treat was super difficult to lock in, but we had the help of director Michael Dougherty. He’s totally cool and he was super on board and positive about the project. If anyone involved with the project was caught slacking, the dude would straight up step in and regulate. Re-Animator was easy to get.
Generally speaking, do composers seem excited to work with you because they’re often the largely overlooked part of the film process outside of major figures like John Carpenter?
When we do actually have the pleasure of working directly with a composer, they are always cool. Super flattered, super kind, just totally helpful. I’m sure a lot of these composers weren’t anticipating anyone to reach out to them 30 years later to let them know how big of a fan of their work you are, and that you want to release their stuff on a deluxe vinyl format. I’m sure it sounds like goddamn science-fiction to these dudes, but when all the dots connect, and they get what Waxwork is trying to do, they are 100-percent on board.
You’ve taken your time with Waxwork releases thus far. Is that simply a matter of economics or have you consciously tried to not flood the market too quickly?
Both. I don’t like sitting on product for months in a warehouse or anything. So, we dedicate a ton of energy in a release or two and then let them loose into the wild. I honestly feel that when companies or brands continuously blast copious amounts of products at consumers, they immediately appear, in my opinion, like a factory. So I immediately lose interest. Like, you can recognize that the factory is putting out nice stuff with some solid thought behind it, but factories employ lots of unhappy workers, and the factory has a ton of liabilities, and different chiefs on a totem pole. So the products that the factory pushes start looking mass produced, and rushed, and there’s nothing sexy about that.
The packaging for
Yes. Presentation is a big deal. I keep hearing people saying that it’s all about the music, and that people should buy records to just listen to them. That they can live without the fancy packaging. I don’t believe that. And honestly, where’s the fun in that? It’s like the vinyl police, or something. Vinyl cops beating down your door to make sure you aren’t haven’t a good time and reading liner notes, or something.
The packaging should be awesome. So, we go the extra mile and make sure that each Waxwork release is something worth owning. Heavyweight jackets, heavyweight colored vinyl, liner notes, posters, gimmicks, bells and whistles, all that.
What are a few horror films with fantastic scores that people have largely overlooked musically?
Yikes, I can’t rap too much about them right now, because I think we’re releasing a good bit of them in 2015! But yeah, there’s a ton of good stuff out there from movies that get dismissed easily because they only played in little matchbox theaters in old NYC, or maybe didn’t even get that far. You’ll see that stuff on Waxwork soon.
What’s the story behind the House of Hayduk record you’re putting out next year?
So, we’re huge fans of composer Mads Heldtberg. The guy is super talented and interesting. He composed the score for You’re Next. The first House of Hayduk record came out in 2012 and it was awesome. Super progressive, huge sounding, heavy as fuck. I’m a big classic Slayer fan, and I came across a photo of Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo and Mads having lunch or something. I immediately hit up Mads and told him that I don’t know what he’s collaborating with Lombardo on, but Waxwork wants to release it. Long story short, they are collaborating on a new House of Hayduk record, which is huge. The lineup on the record is insane. Mads Heldtberg, Dave Lombardo, Billy Gould from Faith No More, Carla Azar from Jack White and Autolux, Dean Hurley who is David Lynch’s right hand man is doing sound design. It’s going to be our first non-film score/soundtrack release.
What are your long and short-term goals for Waxwork? Can we expect a lot more releases from you in 2015 than you had in 2014?
Honestly, we want to continue putting out great releases. Cool packaging. Interesting stuff. Fun stuff worth owning. I think when companies start mapping out their five year plan, they extinguish that soul of what they initially set out to accomplish. My short and long term goals for Waxwork is to continuously have more goals. No finish lines or summits, or anything like that. Just keep moving.
Why did you decide to make The Warriors one of your first non-horror film scores and when can we expect to see it?
It’s one of my favorite movies, ever. It’s also, in my opinion, a culturally important film. It transcends a lot of different cultures and genres. Like, everyone loves The Warriors. Metal kids, punks, hip-hop kids, DJs, film geeks. Everyone. It’s perfect.
Name a few labels that have left a major impression on you and what you’d like to do with Waxwork,
Sacred Bones. Those guys are really interesting. Their label is interesting. Like they have a certain vibe to them. That’s super important for me as a consumer.
What are a few pieces of advice you’d like to leave for anyone trying to start a label in 2015, especially since the vinyl market is so crowded already?
The Addams Family creed: “We gladly feast upon those who would subdue us.”
Also, do what you want.
And finally, what are a couple records you’ve obsessed over in the past month outside the film score realm right?
I’m listening to a lot of Roky Erickson now. The Don’t Slander Me album, especially. Bad Brains, as usual. A bunch of Sacred Bones stuff. All the goodies.
Samhain – All Murder All Guts All Fun
Miguel Bitten – Day Of The Dead
Chanting – Rosemary’s Baby
King Diamond – Halloween
Henry Goes Looking – Creepshow
45 Grave – Evil
Mike Meets Fluffy – Creepshow
Banjo Travelin’ – Friday the 13th
Mrs. V Watches – Friday the 13th
Venom – Countess Bathory
Chopping Mall – Main Title
Alice Runs To The Cabin – Friday the 13th
It’s Halloween, Not Hanukkah – Main Titles : Trick ‘r Treat
T.S.O.L. – Dance With Me
Roky Erickson – Night Of The Vampire
The Boat on the Water (Closing Theme) – Friday the 13th