How Waxwork Records Breathes New Life into Long-Lost Horror Soundtracks

Resurrecting the Undead with WAXWORK RECORDS

We recently caught up with Waxwork Records founder Kevin Bergeron, to chat about how his love for vinyl and ’80s horror led to a never-ending quest to unearth lost gems for modern audiences. Along with his co-founder and partner in crime, Suzy Soto, the team scours the globe for the best tape sources and vault materials, sometimes digging up scores that have either never been commercially released, or haven’t been heard in their entirety in decades. One such treasure is the new 30th Anniversary deluxe vinyl re-issue of the Evil Dead 2 score, [read our review here]. So, without further ado, ghouls and boys, let’s get into it…

How did Waxwork Records get started?

We launched in 2013 – there was a good six months of preparation and planning that went into our first record, which was Re-Animator. Basically, it all started in Christmas of 2012, when Suzy bought me a stack of records. In that stack was a lot of soundtracks, both old and modern releases. And we were going through them, and we decided it would be cool if we could try our hand in starting a record label that specializes in releasing film scores on vinyl.

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To differentiate us from other labels that were doing it at that time, we decided ti release the most deluxe soundtracks available on vinyl. That means sourcing the original master tapes, really just playing detective to find them, transfer them, getting liner notes from people who were directly involved in the movie, like the composer or director…and getting [newly-commissioned] artwork from current artists.

Did you have a background in releasing music? Or was this just a passion project?

I played in various bands over the years, so I’ve already had experience with releasing vinyl. And I had just come off a band break up – we were working hard for five years straight, touring, recording, releasing vinyl…So, it was kind of this nice segue going from a band to starting a record label. I was building off the steam from my last band, and we just launched one project after another, and it’s been great.

Can you walk me through the process of how you choose what to release and how you track down the original master tapes? And perhaps what the rights process looks like for some of the more obscure stuff?

It’s always a mixed bag. No two projects are the same. So, when finding the music and licensing it, it’s like I said earlier – it’s kind of like playing detective. We have to track down where these masters are located; it’s a lot of phone calls and emails, and reaching out to family members of the composer if he’s passed away. It’s one of these things where in the beginning, it took a little bit of extra effort because we were trying to get ourselves established. We had to put ourselves out there – we didn’t have a track record or anything. It wasn’t until we started releasing stuff with major studios, like Paramount, where we found the master tapes to Rosemary’s Baby in Australia.  It was already on the table to do a re-issue of the soundtrack, as it was in 1968. But that’s not our style. You know, those digital files are already available, but we wanted to release the actual score. We wanted to find the original tapes, do it deluxe, and really going for it.

Like for Creepshow and Day of the Dead, we found those tapes stuffed in an attic in Pittsburgh, of all places. They had just been sitting there for 30 years.

In terms of licensing, a lot of it is a matter of finding where the rights holders are now, because a lot of times the rights aren’t with the composer or the studio anymore, or the [original company] has gone out of business. Sometimes, it’s maybe someone who co-produced the film or even a family member. So, it’s a lot of research…probably more than any sane person would normally do [laughs].

What was the most difficult project you’ve worked on?

Honestly, it’s funny because you’d think it would be a really old title. But it was Trick ’R Treat (2007), our sixth release ever. That one took a long time even though it’s a modern movie and everyone [involved] is still working, still kicking around Hollywood. That one took a long time in particular because we don’t do anything the easy way [laughs]. We found the tapes and decided it would be cool to include a spooky soundtrack record. The movie is already tied into Halloween, and we had all this extra material because we were working form the master tapes. So, we had effects, and audio stems, and wanted to create an additional LP of sound effects, which took a lot of work but it ended up being a killer release.

Do you find you often have to do a lot of restoration work when you find the tapes? What sort of condition are they in – especially some of the older ones?

Well, every one of our releases is remastered. No matter if it’s a modern release or something older, we give the master tapes a lot of love. Sometimes there needs to be new mixing, but definitely every release is remastered specifically for vinyl. And sometimes they’re in various states of disrepair, and we have to go to work and basically do surgery on them. We’re working on a few releases right now, and these two titles were never intended to be released commercially. So, the masters were just thrown around for the past 35 years, kept in attics and basements, but we located them and we were able to restore them. We baked them and transferred them very delicately, because these things can fall apart.

Some of the soundtracks you’ve done seem to be first time releases. Is that one of your missions, to release work that hasn’t seen the light of day before?

We love releasing stuff for the very first time – a lot of our work, like the complete, full soundtrack to Day of the Dead or Creepshow, these had never been released. They’ve just been sitting there for years. So, we love that; although we do re-issues, as well. Like Evil Dead 2, there actually was a 1987 release. If you can find an original pressing, it’s really expensive, though. Which brings me to another point – if we do re-issue something, we make sure it’s worth it to the fans. For example, if you can find an original pressing of Tourist Trap on vinyl, it’ll be like $100 or more. What we try to do is offer something even better than that, better than the original to make it worthwhile and more cost-effective for the true fans. So, our deluxe version has not only been remastered with new artwork, but it can be had for like 25 bucks.

What would be your dream project to work on?

There are some passion projects we’re working on right now, but Taxi Driver was definitely the one for me. The second disc of that is the film score, which had never been released on vinyl. We found the master tapes, and we worked with the studio closely on that one. They allowed us to re-release the original soundtrack from 1976, but because I’m a pain in the butt, I asked about the actual film score, too. And we were able to transfer the tapes, and release that, as well. That was like the holy grail; it was Bernard Herrmann’s last score before he died, and it’s just one of my favorite movies. Everything now is just icing on the cake.

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