Keeping Real Music Alive: Death Waltz Recording Company

Supporters of KEXP know that listener-powered radio is a pretty incredible institution. At KEXP, we create a community of artists who all work in conjunction with each other for mutual gain. Without our favorite records, KEXP DJs would have nothing to play. But without KEXP’s help as a tool to expand listenership and garner deserved attention, a lot of independent musicians around the world would be out of luck. This same symbiotic relationship plays out in all of KEXP’s activities around the city of Seattle, sponsoring shows, putting on events, and connecting you with your favorite artists. This is KEXP’s world - the world of real music.

It’s fun for us to see kindred spirits in the fight for survival in the current landscape of the industry, and Spencer Hickman is just one of those people. He’s a veteran of the independent music industry as the manager of Rough Trade East in London. But last year, Hickman branched out in a fun new direction to work with a fresh community of artists, giving the reissue market some fresh blood and gore with his fantastic Death Waltz Records.

In brief, Death Waltz reissues soundtracks to cult films. Their first release was perhaps one of the most famously sought after horror soundtracks (perhaps with exception to Goblin’s Suspiria) ever: Zombi 2. Lucio Fulci’s zombie classic (an inferred sequel to Zombi, the Italian release title for George Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, though the two are unrelated) has a synthed up late-70s soundtrack that is unmistakable, and with Hickman’s help, now you can find it on beautiful blood red vinyl at your local record store. Next came the soundtracks for John Carpenter’s Escape From New York, the 2008 Swedish vampire masterpiece Let The Right One In, and the 80s movie that blew everybody’s mind the first 10 times, Donnie Darko. Six more followed last year including Halloween II and Halloween III, and more to come this year include the wonderfully retro soundtrack to 2009 indie horror movie House of the Devil and John Carpenter’s They Live. These timeless odes to the genre are finally available on remastered, colored vinyl to scare the pants off of all interested.

While soundtracks themselves are reason enough to fall in love with Death Waltz, the real magic happens in the whole of the product that Hickman is creating with each release. Each record carries with it a unique community of artists involved, all assembled to celebrate each other’s work. Each Death Waltz release has custom artwork, made specifically for this vinyl release. While the imagery may be similarly haunting, you won’t find this wonderful artwork anywhere else. A gallery has been assembled on the Death Waltz website, but just to give you an idea of some of these cult conundrums, here are a couple:

Along with the original artwork and the remastered vinyl, Hickman also manages to get liner notes from both the director of the film and the composer of the soundtrack. Here, artists each in their own field get to go back and forth about the amazing collaboration that is creating a movie with a memorable and haunting score. After all, everyone knows that the music (or the absence thereof) does half the battle for you when you are nestled into the couch hiding behind your friends or your pillow from whatever horrible thing is going to pop out next. Hickman isn’t trying to turn an insane profit off of these classics, nor is he trying to get you to buy a rerelease that has no business existing. Rather, he’s creating a unique offering from an entire team of artists in different fields to give the music from the films he’s fallen in love with the credit they deserve.

Check out more Death Waltz releases on their website or at your local record store, and be on the lookout for the soundtrack to your favorite cult film in the year to come! Keep supporting real music!

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