[Micah's Mausoleum] Death Waltz Recording And The Rise Of Re-Issue Horror Soundtracks

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A column where horror and nostalgia meet. Topics range from VHS, Vinyl, repertory screenings and a hodge-podge of anything else horror related that that harkens back to the days of yesteryear.

After talking about VHS last week I figured it would only be logical to discuss vinyl this week. Not just vinyl in general, but specifically the recent rise of re-issued horror and cult soundtracks.

When it comes to horror and vinyl re-issues the name that looms largest is Death Waltz Recording Company. In a little over a year now the company has already re-issued an impressive amount (10 and counting) of cult and horror soundtracks including: Zombi2, Let the Right One In, Donnie Darko, The Devil’s Business, Prince of Darkness, They Live, and Halloween III. I reached out to the patron saint (or should that be sinner?) of horror soundtrack re-issues, Spencer Hickman, the man behind Death Waltz, for a conversation about his company and the state of horror vinyl today.

Head inside for more!

I only began collecting vinyl (specifically soundtracks) in recent months. In a way VHS was my gateway, similar to poster one-sheets being my gateway back into VHS. And similar to collecting VHS, with vinyl you have something that serves more than one purpose. Whether you are picking up a limited edition collectible record or an original soundtrack you still get to enjoy the music (or in the case of VHS watch the movie). Like VHS as well, vinyl brings something unique to the listening palatte – something that digital technology hasn’t been able to capture. The biggest difference in VHS and vinyl is that I’d never experienced vinyl before, especially within my beloved horror genre. As a kid my earliest musical memories were my mom and her friends blasting Meatloaf’s Bat of Hell on cassette in the late ‘80s. And being as there were no movie obsessed members of my family soundtracks were not even a thing that existed as far as I knew. That all changed as I grew older (and wiser). Goblin and John Carpenter made sure of that.

Enter Spencer and Death Waltz Recording. I co-own and operate a movie poster website; one that prominently features alternative illustrated movie posters and the amazing talent behind those posters. It didn’t take long for me to notice what Spencer was doing. Not only was he re-issuing outstanding horror soundtracks, he was taking it to the next level artistically by hiring some of the best modern designers (many from the poster industry – Gary Pullin, Jay Shaw and Graham Humphreys to name just a few) to tackle the cover art. Combined with kick ass variants (including colored records or in the case of Halloween III, one that looks like a melted pumpkin), extensive liner notes from composers and directors of the films and a full size poster of the cover art, Death Waltz turned my head pretty quickly. I flat out had to get my hands on these ‘tracks. It’s a perfect marriage of an individual being passionate, knowledgeable about a product and doing right by the fans and customers. If only the studios would take notice and start getting more people behind the remakes with this kind of attitude and desire, but that’s a whole different topic.

Alright, before I get too far off topic check out my chat with Spencer (follow him on Twitter).

How do you select releases?

I gotta love the sounds otherwise there is no point, I mean it’s a package right? The film has to be a favourite and the score has to work on its own that’s my only critera.

Do you pick releases based on popularity or simply by what you love?

No it’s what I’m into, I could go for the easy option each time but where’s the joy or artistry in that? I released the Devil’s Business and that hasn’t even come out on DVD in the US yet. If I don’t feel passionate about it how can anyone else get excited?

What is your dream release, ignoring all potential issues?

Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Hands down my favourite film of all time and man that score is intense, close second would be Legend Of Hell House.

Any plan to expand outside of cult/ horror?

Well, we just did a series of split 7 inch releases for Record Store Day Inc The Twilight Zone and The Munsters. I’m into films period so no way am I limiting myself to just horror although that is my main love….

How long had Death Waltz been in the making? Is it really just a one-man show?

I remember coming up with the idea in May 2011 and talking to Ti West about House Of The Devil at FrightFest (huge UK horror festival) in August, so a good year before we released / announced a record.

What makes a score particularly good?

For me it totally has to stand alone as a piece of music, I love scores that you can listen too outside of the film, they need a life of their own, a personality if you will. I don’t care if it’s electronic or orchestral as long as it evokes a mood in me.

How do your releases differ from the original releases? Does it make sense to have both, outside of artwork purposes?

All our releases are remastered especially for vinyl so these are being tailored to the format. I’d like to think we are offering definitive versions of these scores. I have a lot of these on vinyl anyway (I own four different releases of Escape From New York) and we really do take a lot of time over getting things right.

If someone is just getting into horror scores, what composers do you suggest?

Oh man, well gotta get all the Carpenter stuff the guys was just a genius and still sounds fresh today, Fabio Frizzi’s Fulci stuff is essential too. There are so many I love 80′s synth stuff like The Boogey Man by Tim Krog as then there is all the Bruno Nicolai stuff such as all the Colours of the Dark, I could go on forever.

What other events do you have planned? Any in America (Note: Death Waltz is UK based)?

I’m in LA in May and going to be doing some DJ sets in record stores and I have a friend that is planning a club night with me DJing and Alan Howarth playing live. I’ll then be in NYC for a week so we’ll see. We’re planning a screening on The Fog on 16mm scope with our friends, in London, Cigarette Burns to celebrate the release of our double vinyl album, plus for Halloween, in London, we are flying Fabio Frizzi and full band /string quartet over for a one off show! I’d love to start doing more stuff in the US for sure.

And finally can you give me a summary of what records / analog technology means to you personally?

Warmth. No nostalgia in it, it’s just better, sounds nicer, more tactile, more to read look at and soak up. I mean, I have loads of music on my iPhone for when I’m on the subway or out and about, but my God when you are at home and you drop a needle on a record it’s just phenomenal and it’s not just me that thinks that, sales on vinyl have risen again for the 7th year in a row and are at their highest point for 20 years.

I’m with Spencer on that one. Vinyl does have a warmth and sound that cannot be duplicated. What do you think? Do you have any horror re-issues or originals?

Follow Micah on Twitter and make sure to check out Poster Collective where you’ll find a companion piece highlighting the cover art from each of Death Waltz’s records to date.