Two weeks ago, the website for Waxwork Records crashed. There were timeouts, issues with shopping carts, and checkout times that took well over an hour. These technical difficulties were not due to any fault from the label themselves, but merely from the unforeseen and unforgiving wave of customers that were flooding their web traffic in an attempt to get their hands on a copy of the labels latest release, the Trick or Treat soundtrack. While this may have been an inconvenience for many of the label’s fans, Kevin Bergeron of Waxwork is used to this kind of chaos.
The same problem happened with their release of the Friday the 13th soundtrack in August—a website destroyed by traffic. After which the site was beefed up to anticipate and prevent any other incidences like it. Until this most recent release, where Bergeron says, “We were literally fucking slammed.” Despite the numerous complaints, and a website left in ruins for 24 hours, Bergeron is still in high spirits. “We really grew faster than we could have anticipated,” he says on the phone. “Hence why we are having these crazy website crashes and things like that. There is a huge interest in the stuff that we are putting out.”
After two site crashes, seven major releases and a year and half later, Waxwork stands as one of the premier horror movie soundtrack labels. With high profile releases like the surreal, jazz-infused soundtrack to Roman Polanski’s classic Rosemary’s Baby, to lesser known titles like 1986’s Chopping Mall, where killer robots decapitate young couples in a Los Angeles shopping mall, we, along with many others have taken a real interest in Waxwork and their impressive output. So we talked shop with Bergeron about his cultural duty to the film industry, friendly competition with other labels, and not being pigeon-holed into being “Just a horror movie reissue label.”
I feel like with film, there is a first time for everyone when you notice the soundtrack that is playing behind the movie. What was the first movie you watched that drew your attention to the soundtrack?
John Carpenter’s Halloween. Ever since I was a little boy that has been something that I’ve been attached to. It is like the most iconic soundtrack in my opinion. It is instantly recognizable. Anywhere you go and you hear that, you know exactly where it is from. It makes me feel like you actually get the essence of Halloween, like you can feel it.
It was watching Halloween when I was a teenager that I realized film music is as equally important as what is being presented to you visually.
What kind of experience have you had with the music industry prior to Waxwork?
I played in hardcore punk bands for 15 years and we were on different record labels and stuff like that. When my last band split up, I just wanted to see what it was like working behind the scenes as a record label. Instead of being the guy who is on stage and making the music. All of that is very rewarding, but at the same time it is just difficult. It is a hard lifestyle and I’m just not interested in it right now, I have a lot of experience with releasing vinyl. All of the bands that I have ever been in always cut a record. Whether it be just a few songs or an entire album. I love being in a recording studio. It just feels like home to me. I could literally live in a recording studio. Just the whole process of making vinyl and of actually manufacturing, is incredible. It is like magic to me. And that is the honest truth. It is insane that all of these steps go to making this product that you can have this nice intimate experience of this record. It has always been insane to me, ever since I was like a little boy.
This love for vinyl definitely translates over into your records. They all seem to have a strong focus on the design and packaging.
The packaging is extremely important. A lot of people make this argument that it is all about the music. They don’t care if it’s just like the most basic package and like black vinyl, and they try to tell themselves these things to help them sleep better at night, but it is not all about the music. The business that Waxwork is in, and the other record labels that are doing something similar, is about the entire presentation. You know anybody can put out a record that has a really thin jacket or on light-weight vinyl. We try to go the extra mile. We want to make sure that it is a definitive package. It is a very sexy item to have, in my opinion. The music is a huge part of it, but with vinyl it is about the packaging. It has always been about the packaging. We want to make sure that it is just cleanly and ridiculously nice. We want it to be something worth owning.
What are some records or vinyl that you have had this feeling of an all encompassing package about?
Out of our own releases, Day of the Dead. When we finally got those in, I was in Los Angeles because we had a record release event for Day of the Dead and George A. Romero was there. I was able to go to the pressing plant and pick them up. Actually opening them up, I felt as if I was doing the right thing for once. We worked for months on that release. Something that a lot of people don’t know is the amount of work that these labels like Waxwork, Death Waltz and Mondo put into creating these releases. We pull a lot of all-nighters, we put a lot of work into this stuff and it is just really rewarding seeing all of that hard work go into this package.
I think that Mondo’s Halloween release is really cool. Like honestly, I think that is a very definitive package. I was really impressed with that. Fuck it, I am just going to talk about other labels. Like Death Waltz’s release of The Fog was incredible. It is so cool. Everything about it was so deluxe. Those are the three out of the [horror soundtrack] labels that are working right now.
Yes and no. It is definitely competitive. There is no getting around that. This is a very competitive business to be in. Everyone is always after the same titles. You always have to be thinking outside of the box with things like presentation. We are all trying to one-up each other.
Like, “check it out, we have a blood-filled record or some crazy packaging where it changes colors or something.” But on the other side of the coin, we do correspond with each other. Something that the fans don’t really know is how much we actually communicate to one another—through email, through phone calls—it’s friendly competition. We are competitors, but we also work together to continue making cool products.
We just did Mondo-Con in Austin and all of the labels were there. We were there, Death Waltz was there, One Way Static flew in from Belgium and it was just a very positive experience. You know it was cool being able to see all of these labels that we all view as competitors, but at the same time we were able to bro out and look at each others records. Just kind of hang out and shoot the shit.
Are there ever any movie titles that the three of you all go after and you all have to duke it out?
I’m not going to go into details about which titles, but there were titles that I would have loved to have put out and someone else got them. And I think there is some stuff that Waxwork has put out that the other labels would love to put out. We actually traded releases with other labels before. There is something that we really wanted and another label didn’t want it as badly. And we had something that they wanted, so we just made a nice little trade, it was really easy. That has happened before.
So it is like a game for the soundtrack rights?
Yes and no. Sometimes it’s hardball.
How difficult is the process securing the rights to these films in the first place?
Some of these titles can literally take over a year to lock in. Others we can lock in within 24 hours. We actually did that recently for a really cool horror movie from 1979 that we are going to be announcing very soon. That one we locked in very quickly.
It can happen in a matter of days. Or we can be on copy with like 50 different people through email. Sometimes it is a movie studio that has been out of business for months. And with these really obscure movies, you wouldn’t believe who had the rights to them. Like they will lead to some Chinese restaurant owner who just happen to have the rights to it. For example, the original score to the Stepford Wives is owned by a massive, billion-dollar pharmaceutical company. With that one I just kind of bowed out gracefully. I said I’m not even going to look into this anymore.
I saw that in 2015 you are releasing The Warriors. Is this an attempt to sway away from the horror movie soundtracks into some different genres?
We don’t want to get pigeonholed as this horror soundtrack reissue label, we are big fans of different genres. The Warriors is one my favorite movies of all time and that soundtrack is incredible. I feel like that kind of release defies a lot of different genre’s and cultures . Because that is something that pop kids can be into, DJs can be into, that punk and metal kids are going to want and even people who are just complete film nerds are going to want to buy. It is just one of those titles that you can’t put it into any little box.
In 2015 we have a lot of stuff like that lined up that is just totally outside of the realm of what we have been working on for the last year and a half. It is not horror related. Hopefully the fans that we have acquired along the way are going to be along for the ride. Like these new releases, some of them have never been put out before. They are from films that have been around since the ’70s and they have never received a proper definitive, soundtrack release. They totally deserve to. The film scores are incredible. They are awesome.
Is there ever a point when there is a soundtrack that you would want to do, but you have to reconsider because the movie is too obscure or because you just think that it wouldn’t sell well?
Yeah, it does happen. It does happen sometimes. We have a couple of titles coming out in 2015 that I don’t want to say they are big risks, but they are definitely super-obscure movies. Obscure to the point that I don’t even think they were ever given a theatrical release. But I feel as if they are culturally important films. Some of these films that were created by film makers who literally have created how we view things. It is going to be really interesting. I know I’m being very vague, but with these releases you are going to see that they are very obscure movies. They deserve the treatment that we are going to be giving them.