Harry Manfredini and Kevin Bergeron | FRIDAY THE 13TH WAXWORK RECORDS

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Last year, Waxwork Records began reissuing the Harry Manfredini soundtracks to the FRIDAY THE 13TH series on gorgeously-loaded vinyl LPs. One of Waxwork's goals from the label's inception, being able to give the scores the dedication and care they deserve has been a goal for both the composer label head Kevin Bergeron. We spoke with them about the process of bringing these iconic works to wax…

STARBURST: What is interesting that what you release is not just figuratively, but literally heavy. Of all the labels from whom we get stuff: when your releases show up, we’re afraid to drop them, because of the absolute heft, especially those double LPs.

Kevin Bergeron: Yeah, they're pretty intense, especially like, a couple of them. We're going to be doing even heavier jackets, for better or for worse. It's going to kill me on shipping. The shipping for Friday the 13th Part II and Starry Eyes – the packaging for those records and the jackets are literally so heavy, the freight to ship them across the country is a killer. It's thousands of dollars.

 [Artist] Jay Shaw was messing with me: he's like, Dude, people don't give a damn if it's going to be a heavyweight, tip-on jacket. People don't care about that,' and I'm like, 'Yeah, they do. Of course, they do! It's fun when you pick up a record, and it's like, heavy, you know? It's quality. And, you open it up, and the gatefold crackles? Isn't that rad?' and he's like, 'No. People don't care. Kevin, try to turn a profit off the next one, please? Stop doing this to yourself.'

But that's why I feel like, Waxwork is the sexy label, because I don't want to sacrifice anything, you know?

The other thing is that, when you make things that are that heavy, you're making something that is definitely supposed to be handled and used. I mean, they're artistic – they look good – but, they can handle some abuse and aren't meant to sit on a shelf.

People use this argument all the time: they say, 'Well, it's all about the music, it's all about the music,' and I think that's bullshit. People buying records – especially records that Waxwork puts out or any of the other soundtrack labels are putting out – it's not just music. Music is a very important part, don't get me wrong. It's a big reason. It's the reason people go see movies and why they're inspired and why they cry when they see these movies, because the music evokes an emotional response, right? But in terms of selling things and marketing things, especially vinyl records? It's the entire package, and artwork.

We commission new artwork, right? I could just go and get the original one-sheet for Friday the 13th or Day of the Dead or whatever, because the studio will give it to me. I just have to pay it whatever it's going to cost. But wouldn't it be cooler if we commissioned new artwork. And people love the new artwork. It's not just about the music that's included with the package. I know that I'm ranting and everything, but it's cool having something tangible. That's the whole point of having vinyl records and this whole resurgence or revival or whatever you want to call it.

People are saying that there's this whole revival, and it's because people have realised that CDs were a scam and while digital downloads are very popular – it's massive – there's a lot of people that want something tangible that they can collect and have, that has a story attached to it: 'I got this with my girlfriend that I was dating in 2011' or whatever. 'After that, we went and ate Indian food. I remember that about this record' – that's really important! Super-important.

With Waxwork – and this is going to sound corny, but I don't care – I'm trying to not just market the record, but a feeling or an emotion.


We know that Friday the 13th was in the plans for the label from the beginning.

When Waxwork got started, I was like, 'What is my favorite horror movie? What are my favorite movies?' and we made a list. Friday the 13th was on there, and I knew that Harry Manfredini composed a shit-ton of them, and I was searching high and low, and I couldn't figure out who had the rights. I was contacting the studio, and they were like, 'We don't have the rights anymore,” and I contacted the other studio, Warner Brothers, and they didn't have them, and the answer ended up being so simple: I just had to contact Harry.

He retains the ownership, which is a very rare thing. If you can contact a composer that retained the rights to a score that he composed, that's amazing, because that's really smart on his part. Whether or not he figured out a way to beat the system, good for him. I think it's kind of like a punk thing when you compose something and you keep the rights, because you don't give it up to a studio or whatever. So, for whatever reason, he retained the rights to that.

I just e-mailed him. Like, I cold-called him, and he was very appreciative and very flattered. A lot of the time when you're contacting these composers about releasing this music that they composed 35 years ago – on vinyl, of all formats! – they're like, 'What the hell are you talking about? This is science fiction! Why would you be contacting me about this? Nobody's going to buy this!' But, he was totally on board. Yeah: it was basically just e-mailing him right at the beginning, and getting him before anybody else did. That's kind of how we got him. It was really simple.

It took us a while to put it out because we were working on other projects, plus it took us a while to figure out who owned the rights to various elements, like the logo and things like that. But when we got it out, [Manfredini] was so impressed. He was like, 'This is amazing! This is awesome!' And that was such a great feeling, because there have been a couple of times where we've been in positions where someone that was involved with the movie wasn't completely happy with the packaging, and we were devastated because, you know – we're fans.

But, yeah, he was totally happy. He was writing me, in all caps: 'YOU GUYS ARE AMAZING! THIS IS SO GREAT! THIS IS SO COOL! We have to do the rest of them. Let's do parts two through six and other stuff I've composed.' So, it was really easy getting Friday the 13th after we had to do a little bit of digging.

Do you have a plan for how you're going to release the rest, or is it that you need to finish with each one before you know what you're going to do with the next? 

There's no plan, really. We definitely want to do different artists, and get a different artist for each Friday the 13th film. We won't be using Jay Shaw again, and we won't be using Rich Kelly again. They might make a return doing something else for us, but it's going to be a series, with new artwork.

And really, there's a lot of work. There's remastering. They've never been put out on vinyl, so it's been really cool, getting to work with the actual music that came from the tapes. But, no, there's no plan. If we can do something unique – like, for example, make a blood record – that's cool, but we're just approaching as we would with any release. Jason's hockey mask will definitely have a big part to do with Part 3. We're just playing it by ear as we move forward. 


Given that you've got these reissues of the F13 releases coming out, and it's a whole series of releases, what's the difference between scoring the first film in a series versus the future installments?

Harry Manfredini: At least in terms of Friday the 13th, the first one was really a completely different movie, because it was more like a murder mystery – like a whodunit, really. Who's knocking off all of these people in various ways? Whereas, after that, it just becomes Jason, who's like the shark, you know? He's going to knock off everybody, no matter what. It's a completely different attitude.

I know that you get the question: “How in the world do you keep doing sequels of these movies?” The idea, though, was to somehow or other keep the same sonic quality to the film and keep the Jason sound in there [for the sequels], but the idea that made it easier for me to do it is that they took enough time between pictures that, somehow or another, I'd buy a new piece of gear. [laughs]

And another thing is that every film had a scene in there where I'd go, ‘Oh, that's a really cool scene,’ and that scene would perk my imagination. In Part II, for example, Return To Chez Jason – where Amy Steele went back into the sort of lair where Jason had his mom's head, and there's some candles, and she puts on his mom's sweater and looks like her – blonde hair, and sweater and all – and she just psychs him out. I saw that and thought, “Wow. Now that's an interesting approach to something.” That's what inspired me and got me motivated to go and create the sound that was new for the whole film.

With each ensuing one, that's what would happen: I would buy a Yamaha DX-7 or CS-80 or whatever new piece of gear that I had, and I would go, “Well, I can do that!” You'd be surprised at how easily that can go. So, a lot of times, it's just a function of that and something in the picture that says, “Oh, that's what this is about!” I know it's a long answer to a short question, but that's sort of what happens.

Do directors now come to you with a specific idea of what they want from you, given your decades as a composer?

Some do, some don't. Sean [Cunningham, Friday the 13th] pretty much lets me do whatever I think, and then subsequently, will listen to it and say, “Hey, can you do this?' or “I really like that” or “Oh, you went in that direction – why don't we try going in a completely opposite direction?” Because you can score things in a lot of different ways with something like that, but usually, he lets me go my own way and I'm usually right, because he usually says, “That's sounds really good” or “Could you give me an extra helping of this over here?" 

Other people have almost specific instruments or a specific example in mind. At other times, you get the dreaded temp score, which I don't dread as much as some other composers, but basically, it's that the guy has already put in some music that he really likes. Sometimes, it's music he likes, other times it's music he absolutely loves, sometimes it's music he's been married to and has five kids with. In other words – literally, “Write this. Don't even think of doing anything else: just write this and I'll be happy,” which is always a pain in the neck.

But, sometimes, the director – if they're not very good, they don't always communicate well, in a musical sense, and it allows me to hear a piece of music that they liked. It lets me say, “I see what you like. I can make something that sounds like that: I can use those kinds of instruments, I can manipulate the melody somehow that is a little different.” That's a challenge in its own kind of way, but more often than not, I'm able to hear in the music that they've selected what they hear that they really like.

You'd said in a past interview that “frantic comes with the territory” in terms of composing, and we wonder: what's necessary for sustaining and maintaining that pace?

You've got to generate four minutes a day of completed music. Not just sketches: it's got to be completed. That's something that's not so bad, but if it's orchestral, you'd drop it down to two minutes, and you'd have an orchestrator. But in this case, I'm writing it, orchestrating it, recording it, mixing it, producing it. So, it's completed when I'm done with that cue. I'm not just handing it to an orchestrator and saying, “This is what I want you to do, here.”

What [that quote] came from is that there are a lot of composers who want to do film music, and I don't think they realize that frantic comes with the territory – you have to be able to manipulate your material and generate material at a much faster speed than you would if you were just writing a piece of music. A lot of people can write very good music, but I'm not sure they can do 72 minutes in two weeks.


What's the process been working on these reissues with Waxwork versus working on the CD box set that came out on La-La Land Records a few years back?

Well, there's way less tension, I'll tell you that. No, what happened was this: you have no idea how many times people came up to me and told me they wanted to put out the first six Friday the 13th scores. One of the problems was that these scores did not exist. I didn't have the masters – I'd sent them to Paramount, and I had nothing. No one seemed to know where they were. No one could get their hands on them. They were just not available. And, they would really need to be cleaned up and worked on, blah blah blah 

Eventually, at a lunch somewhere, the guys at Lionsgate told me they wanted to do it for their website that releases CDs. I told them that I have no masters, and I don't know where they are. Then, in the middle of lunch, a light flash, and I said, “I just thought of something. They just re-released the six Friday the 13ths Paramount did on Blu-ray. They've been remixed, and how on earth could they have remixed them if they don't have the music? They must have something.”

One guy said that he knew so-and-so at Paramount, and he made the call right there at the table. Then he says, “You have an appointment on Monday. Go over there and see what you can do and what they have.”

So, I go to Paramount, and it's really cool, because I get to go into the archives, and it's like going into a museum. Every movie you ever saw – the costumes and all kinds of cool things. I'm walking through, just going, “Oh, boy! Oh, wow! This is just great!” Then, I walk into the room, and there are the actual 24-track – and the first Friday the 13th might've even been done on 16-track 2-inch – really old tapes, which I'm sure that if you just played them would fall apart. 

I say, “What in the world is all this stuff? I'm going to have to get a machine to do all this ...” and then the guys says, “No, you can't have any of this.” I say, “Well, then why am I here?” and he says we'll try to figure out something. Then I point at this little plastic suitcase on the table and ask what that is. He says it's the Pro Tools files for all the music. Oh? Hello! Then I went, “Can I have that?” and he says no. 

I was like, “Well, jolly. What now?” and he says, well, if you come back with a big enough hard drive, we'll copy the six Pro Tools files for you and that would be a chance for you to start putting a CD together. So I said, “Cool,” and made an appointment for the next day, and came back with a couple terabyte hard drive and now I've got sound effects, I've got dialogue – I've got everything on this hard drive.

Then La-La Land comes to me and says they want to put out everything. I say, “EVERYTHING? It's just film music – some of it's just 'walking through the woods.'”

“No, no: we want to put out everything. Every note that's in the score, we want to put out.” They wanted to put out a six-CD box, and they showed us a couple of ones they had done, like The X-Files, and said they wanted to do that with this. Everybody was real excited about it, so between myself and them, we went through all of these Pro Tools files. This fella up in Washington State [James Nelson] did the mastering and made it sound even better than it was.

After that came out, six or seven different labels came up and said they wanted to do the vinyl version of it, and I said that I didn't even know if that was possible. We got in touch with La-La and they said that they only had the digital and CD rights, so it was okay.

I really just liked Waxwork. Kevin said, “Here's what we want to do,” and then, next thing you know, he's sending me artwork, and “we're gonna have all different kinds of records, like a slimy green, and one with blood in it,” and I'm all, “Wow. These guys are going to make it more of an event, above and beyond just putting out a record.

We worked out an agreement, and he wants to do all six, so we just took all the materials, and after that, it was pretty easy. I mean, they had to be reprocessed so they worked on vinyl, and I've heard the vinyl. It's actually warmer than the original sound, because it's not digital anymore. It really sounds great, and the thing is, Kevin's just created a package that's really worth having.

And from a composer's standpoint, you can't make a copy of a vinyl, so I'm very much excited about that. I've had some bad experiences with people buying my CDs and putting them up on the Internet for free – but why should I be any different than any other person that's ever put out a CD? Anything you want is there.

But, no – I've really hit it off with Kevin, and we're going to do all six, and I know he's in the process of trying to get House, House II, and Swamp Thing, as well. It's just a guy I liked. He's been very, very fair, and very, very honest. I've been in the record business long enough to know you don't often find them.

Waxwork Records' Friday the 13th Part III is released soon.

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