CAMERON DEAN runs the soundtrack reissue label STRANGE DISC RECORDS. Their first release, Jon McCallum's score for the Troma trash classic SURF NAZIS MUST DIE, is out now. We reached out to Dean for this month's OST column, and weren't able to fit in everything. The interview turned out so well, we're sharing it here as an online bonus...
STARBURST: How'd you get involved in the soundtrack business?
Cameron Dean: I kind of like had this idea about a year ago. It wasn't that original an idea, 'cause other people are doing it, but I've always listened to soundtracks, always liked soundtrack albums – I think they're cool, you know? I think it's really interesting to take all the sounds that come from a movie and kind of transform them into an album. I think it's a really cool concept, and it's something that has fascinated me. That's kind of why I wanted to dive into it, you know?
Kind of on the topic of taking sounds from movies and putting them on an album – what's your opinion on dialogue on records?
I know a lot of people dislike it, but I'm kind of indifferent to it. If it's overdone with dialogue, it can get in the way, but to me, it's the same thing as an interlude on an album. So, if it can be done tastefully, it can be cool, but if it's overdone, it's overdone, just like anything. I'm not against it 100%, every single time it's been done, but I definitely understand why people don't like it. People say, “Oh, if I wanted to listen to the dialogue, I'd watch the movie,” which I get, but it can be done tastefully.
Since you decided to do this a year ago, has it taken that full year to get your first release – Surf Nazis Must Die – together?
Yes. I think I started this project last May or June, and it's taken a really long time – way longer than I thought it would take. You think you can take these songs, put them on a record, pay a guy to make some artwork, and that's it, but for some reason, it always takes a long time. That's what I've been hearing from everyone else I've talked to at all the other labels: it always seems to take way longer than you'd expect.
What were some of the hurdles along the way?
One of the major hurdles was locating one of the songs for the soundtrack that was done by a different artist. It was tough, because the master doesn't exist for it anymore. We were asking people if they had even a cassette of it somewhere – anything like that. We tried every single option and there was nobody who had it. So, we ended up having the dude who did the song originally re-record it. It wasn't ideal, but everybody involved in the project felt that the song was important enough to the album that it should be on there in one form or another, do we ended up using the re-recorded version of it – which, again, isn't ideal, but I think that it's better with it than without it, for sure.
I saw mention on Twitter that someone else had tried to do this at one point.
Yeah – I was talking to the director, Peter George, and he said – and, actually, Jon McCallum said this, too – that three or four or five other labels over the years have asked them about doing the soundtrack and for one reason or another, it just didn't work out. Either the label backed out or, for a while, they didn't have access to the masters. The masters were stuck on the 4-track they were recorded on. The liner notes explain the whole process. So, for a while, they didn't even have access to the masters. They actually had to repair this 4-track and replace all of these broken parts on it to get the tracks off of that. And, it just so happened that when I contacted Jon McCallum, it was just within the last month and a half or so that he had gotten the masters off that 4-track. It was really, really coincidental timing that I stepped in.
Did you do any work to the tapes? Are they remastered at all?
Yes. They were remastered by Josh Bonati in New York City. He's done a lot of cool stuff: he's mastered the Mechandise records, he did the remaster for the Eraserhead soundtrack… he does a lot of work with Sacred Bones. I had him in mind, and wanted to work with him from the beginning.
Sacred Bones is kind of a nice dovetail with the whole Surf Nazis Must Die aesthetic. That's very sonically similar.
Yeah, definitely. Sacred Bones is kind of like an inspiration for this label, among a lot of other labels that I'm trying to model after. Sacred Bones, aesthetically, I definitely like what they do: you look at a record and you pick it up, and you know what label it's on. You know what it is, and you kind of have an idea of what it might sound like. Usually pretty good, you know?
The question that always comes up when a label has their first release in the pipe and ready to go is: do you have anything coming up next?
Yes. I have a few things I'm working on I can't really announce yet, because they're not finalized, but there are three, maybe even four records that I'm working on at the moment.
Are you aiming for a particular niche, other than music you enjoy? The Strange Disc logo says, to me, a sort of '80s VHS focus.
Yeah, I'm glad you noticed that, because that's kind of the idea. I really want this label to have a vibe. Like I said with the Sacred Bones thing – you pick it up, and you know what label it's on. That's kind of the idea for this label, too. But, yeah, you're right – very '80s-influenced, but at the same time, I want it to be very modern. I want it to be very deeply rooted in the influences, but not rehashing things that were cool thirty years ago, by being very modern at the same time.
For more information on STRANGE DISC RECORDS and their products, visit www.strangedisc.com.
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