I love movie soundtracks. The best films usually have awesome scores (which is part of what makes them extraordinary), so whenever I really dig a particular flick I almost always NEED the soundtrack. I used to scour the used LP bins, searching for soundtracks that I wasn’t even sure existed—keep in mind this was pre-web, before you could easily look up such information. I’m not a “vinyl only” guy, but the size of LP packaging (especially if it’s a gatefold sleeve) seems to go hand in hand with the larger-than-life images projected on a movie screen. I’m especially drawn to horror scores from the ‘70s and ‘80s, when greats like John Carpenter and Goblin were creating amazingly frightening works that stand on their own as incredible pieces of music.
These days, there are a number of independent record labels that specialize in putting out vintage soundtracks on vinyl, but one label clearly stands out from the pack, and that is Waxwork Records. The label issues stellar, creative packages, complete with new liner notes, high-quality jackets, and thick pressings on colored vinyl that often reference the movie itself. New album artwork is also commissioned for every release, with Dave Rapoza of Marvel Comics creating the images for Waxwork’s latest: an expanded edition of the soundtrack for the cult classic The Warriors (1979). Barry De Vorzon’s spooky, pulsating synth rock score—complete and on vinyl for the first time—sounds fantastic. Like many Waxwork releases, it’s going fast, with the colored vinyl editions, including a deluxe package, already out of print.
In just a few short years, Waxwork has put together an impressive discography of 21 titles, many of which surely required a ton of legwork to secure the rights for. Perhaps their biggest coup was landing the original soundtrack and the complete score for the monumental Taxi Driver (1976). Penned by the legendary Bernard Herrmann—arguably the greatest film composer ever—the dreamy jazz pieces are synonymous with the film. As Martin Scorsese writes in his liner notes: “You can’t pull the images and the music apart. There’s no point in trying.”
Waxwork currently offers a subscription service, in which subscribers are the first to get their hands on five different titles—plus loads of other of goodies—including the previously unavailable soundtrack for the ‘80s slasher, My Bloody Valentine.
First looks at Waxwork’s ‘My Bloody Valentine’ package
More on the MBV release in a bit. First, I had a bunch of questions for the co-founder and CEO of the label, Kevin Bergeron, which were asked via email.
When did you start Waxwork Records? What was the impetus?
Kevin Bergeron: Waxwork Records launched in January 2013. The label was started out of necessity, really. I had played and toured in punk bands for many years, and I truly enjoy being in a recording studio and then pressing vinyl. Playing in punk bands for years is good conditioning for running your own business. You learn a lot on your own. There’s lots of discovery and character building skills you acquire that you just can’t learn anywhere else. I live in New Orleans, and it’s a very poor city where not very many people are motivated to do much of anything. I knew that when my last band split I wanted to continue working, putting out music. I was seriously broke, but I really went for it and started Waxwork with a lot of intensity and attitude. I knew that I didn’t have a lot to fall back on. Before Waxwork, I was a cremator at a mausoleum and after that a student majoring in biology. Just depressing stuff. I needed to make music in some form and put it out. I walked away from everything else, and started Waxwork with my partner, Suzy Soto. We pushed very hard, and still do now, over three years later.
How do you think that Waxwork stands out from the pack of other labels that specialize in vinyl-only pressings of vintage movie soundtracks? And why exclusively vinyl?
Kevin Bergeron: Waxwork’s releases are the most deluxe, definitive, and true to the way the audio was originally intended to be heard. We seek out the original master tapes. We work from those tapes because they’re the very first recorded source of the soundtracks that we release. Like, those tapes were in the studio with the performers, recording everything in real time.
I use this example often, but it’s very true: If you hold up a Waxwork release in one hand and a record from a different label in another hand, you’re going to realize quickly that a Waxwork release is of better quality. That a lot of thought, time, effort, and man hours went into creating it. That it’s worth your time. Worth owning. That’s how we stand out, at least, amongst the other record labels specializing in soundtracks. Waxwork isn’t a hobby for us, or something that we divide up our time with something else. We exclusively run Waxwork. So, we put a lot of effort into everything.
Why vinyl? Because it’s the sexiest way to listen to music. With a decent stereo set up, it sounds the best to me. It’s a really fun, interactive way to experience recorded music, as well.
C.H.U.D.: “Toxic Waste Puddle” vinyl
What was your first release?
Kevin Bergeron: The soundtrack to the 1985 horror film, Re-Animator, composed by Richard Band.
Can you reveal how many copies you generally press for each release? Or do you keep that information under your hat?
Kevin Bergeron: We get asked this all the time, but we like to keep pressing numbers under wraps. Personally, I’m all, “Who cares about the pressing numbers?” If you like the music, or the movie, or the package, then anything released by Waxwork is totally worth owning. We will never release anything sub-par. We want to avoid the eBay flippers in any way possible, and that’s another reason why we usually won’t disclose pressing numbers. All of our releases are indeed limited, however. They sell out very often, and very quickly.
I realize it varies, but I’m curious as to the how the process of securing the rights for your releases generally works. What was the easiest soundtrack to get the rights for? The hardest?
Kevin Bergeron: It really varies from project to project. Sometimes we work with studios for years just trying to secure rights. Sometimes we work directly with the composer, or the family of the composer if he or she has passed away. We try hard to do these things professionally and respectfully.
Each release has its own set of challenges, so I wouldn’t say any of them are easy to lock in and license. Some are just much more pleasant and stress-free than others. For example, the Friday The 13th scores were very pleasant, and smooth to license. Composer Harry Manfredini and Paramount have been extremely cool to work with. Really positive.
The Warriors took a long time. Three years. We wanted to do it the right way, and that involved licensing lots of unreleased material from two different major studios. I’ve noticed that if you’re patient, yet persistent, you can accomplish a lot, even when it feels like nothing is moving. Things are moving because you’re putting the work in. “Objects in motion stay in motion,” or whatever.
Friday The 13th Part 3: “Blood Splatter” vinyl
Are there soundtracks that would be difficult to secure the rights for, but you’d love to put out one day?
Kevin Bergeron: Yes, definitely. Some of which we thought we would never be able to acquire, but did, like Taxi Driver and The Exorcist.
Tales From The Darkside: “Gargoyle Green Swirl” vinyl
How did the Taxi Driver set come about? What was it like working with Martin Scorsese?
Kevin Bergeron: I had already been working with the studio on various other releases, and I knew that they controlled Taxi Driver, which is my favorite movie. So, I inquired about the soundtrack and it was unavailable to license. I was kinda devastated, because if there was another label out there that had acquired the soundtrack before I was able to, I felt like they wouldn’t have done a good enough job as Waxwork would have. So, a year passed and the studio circled back to me and offered it to us, which was so awesome. We took it immediately, but then, because I’m a pain in the ass, I also wanted to include Bernard Herrmann’s complete Taxi Driver film score. All the music that you hear when watching the movie. It had never been released on vinyl. That took a little while to locate and license, but we did it.
We kept moving along with the project, got the amazing Rich Kelly on board for artwork duties, and it struck me: “We need to get Scorsese involved. It’s 2016. This is the 40th anniversary. He’s responsible for persuading Bernard Herrmann to score the picture in the first place!” After some phone calls, Martin was on board and very enthusiastic about the entire project. He’s the one that approved the artwork and it was just an all-around rad experience. Right after we launched Taxi Driver, we flew out to NYC for the 40th Anniversary screening of the film. It was really special.
Taxi Driver: “Taxi Cab Yellow” vinyl
What’s been your fastest seller?
Kevin Bergeron: The Friday The 13th scores sell very well. The franchise is so beloved, so that’s expected. I love those movies and I grew up with them. Our latest releases of Taxi Driver and The Warriors went pretty fast. Folks had been anticipating those for a long time, so it was sort of a bloodbath when they went on sale. The colored vinyl editions of The Warriors sold out really fast.
The Warriors: “Graffiti” vinyl
What’s your favorite Waxwork release, to date?
Kevin Bergeron: I’m really proud of our double LP release of George A. Romero’s Day Of The Dead from 2013. When we got the records in, I vividly remember feeling like we really accomplished something special. I also really love our Taxi Driver and Nosferatu The Vampyre releases.
Nosferatu The Vampyre
How big of an operation is Waxwork?
Kevin Bergeron: Waxwork was only operated by myself and Suzy for the first two and a half years. The two of us still handle the major tasks at the label. At some point, the operation became too big for us to run on our own. So, we have a couple of part time workers and another couple of auxiliary workers that help out tremendously. We just work very hard and we’re passionate about what we do. When you toss everything into what you’re doing, it shows. When folks find out that it’s really just two of us running the label, they’re shocked. They see our output and it doesn’t compute. Like, how can only two humans run such an outfit? I have moments where I check myself, look around the office, and all of the releases, our discography, and I’m like, “Damn.”
I’m really close to the work, so it’s hard to remove myself from what’s going within the label. That’s only until I literally see the stacks of records that are about to ship out to customers touching the ceiling, or how our releases are delivered to us on eighteen wheelers now rather than mid-sized delivery trucks.
Black Christmas: “Sorority Sister Blood Splatter” vinyl
What can you tell us about your upcoming releases?
Kevin Bergeron: We are about to release My Bloody Valentine (1981). It has never been released in any format, ever. This year, we also have Evil Dead 2 and The Exorcist. There’s a lot more releases that we can’t divulge, yet. We like keeping things mixed—epic influential films with huge soundtracks and scores, rubbing shoulders with B-Horror Movies with minimal synth scores. We never want to become synonymous with only releasing one type of movie or soundtrack.
My Bloody Valentine: The “Blood and Coal Dust” vinyl pressed for subscribers
What are your future plans for the label?
Kevin Bergeron: Expanding outside of soundtracks. We have a couple of projects that we are working on and it’s all original music. We also have Waxwork Comics on the way. Original horror and sci-fi inspired comic books that will come with a companion 7” vinyl record featuring original music that will serve as a “soundtrack” to the stories in each comic book!
In addition to the premiere of the My Bloody Valentine artwork, Waxwork has hooked us up with two suspenseful, side-long tracks (ending with a country tune) from the double LP. Paul Zaza’s spellbinding score is a must-have for fans of the film and horror soundtrack connoisseurs. Part of the credit must go to Waxwork, as the release meets their usual high quality standards. The soundtrack is currently being shipped to subscribers, and beginning May 31st, each and every one of you will have a stab at the “Opaque Red” vinyl edition—available here.