Disclosure: Mondo and BMD are both owned by the Alamo Drafthouse.
Mondo’s music releases practically define modern collectability: from the label’s earliest releases to its newest and most elaborate, every record is lovingly mastered and packaged to celebrate the person who buys it as much as the material that’s being bought. Even as the prevailing winds of fandom provoke different levels of appreciation for different titles - some are an indisputable part of genre canon, others an irresistible curio - Mondo ensures that the established and obscure alike look and sound equally incredible.
Following in the footsteps of the July 25 release of Alan Howarth’s music for Halloween 4 and 5 in a new bundle that includes a special box to house other Halloween titles, Mondo announced the upcoming release of a new version of Halloween III featuring remastered sound and all-new packaging by longtime collaborator Alan Hynes, who created packaging for their Fight Club and Anomalisa LPs. Pre-sale for the title begins on August 29, to be followed by releases of Halloween II in September and the original Halloween in October - just in time to commemorate its 40th anniversary.
Spencer Hickman, head of Mondo Music, said that even among their extensive library of releases, this one is special, in part because it brings together Mondo and Death Waltz Records, the company he founded out of the UK. “This one came about a little differently because Mondo issued Halloween a few years ago, and Death Waltz issued II and III before that, before I joined Mondo. But they had signed 4 and 5, so me and Mo [Shafeek] were discussing when we were going to release them, and how were we going to do it, and obviously it’s the 40th anniversary of the first film. So I just thought it would be really nice to put these first five films out, and then we had the idea to tie them up with a box that we would get one of our artists to design.”
Hickman, who helped spearhead sets for the Nightmare on Elm Street and Hellraiser franchises in the past, said that Halloween’s serpentine mythology afforded Mondo the chance to take a few risks when tackling this set. “We wanted each release to be covered by a different artist, because each movie in that franchise has its own personality, and we wanted the records to reflect that,” he revealed. “But I wanted to sort of tie them in overall, so Mike Saputo did the artwork for Halloween, and we asked him to do the box because he had so many great ideas. And he tied it into the first movie - he put Halloween III on the spine, and he’s got something from 4 on the back. So it just feels like a really nice thing, and it leaves it open if we want to do the other movies further down the line to create something special for them as well.”
Even for hardcore collectors, “remastering” can often be an ambiguous term that means little in terms of the listening experience, especially if the material hasn’t come from the original source. Hickman said that all five titles in the series were carefully restored by their in-house mastering team, and where possible, by the original artists who composed and performed them. “Every single piece of audio has gone back to the original tapes and they have been baked, transferred, and cleaned up,” he said. “The audio is direct from the recording source. We’ve gone back to the original tapes to make these sound the best they can possibly sound.”
Alan Hynes, who has worked extensively with Mondo in the past, said that the success he’s found on their previous releases only adds pressure each time he’s asked to do a new one. “Primarily as a result of having worked with Mondo on a bunch of their releases, they kind of expect me to push the boundary a little bit,” Hynes said. “So when I present work on some of these projects, they’re not really expecting an image on a record sleeve. They’re expecting me to try and make it into something a little more interesting.”
Hynes indicated that Halloween III's outlier status in the franchise eliminates one big visual idea that designers of the other films probably start with, but as a result, he feels free to come up with a broader variety of concepts and generally be more creative. “Because Halloween III was the only film that didn’t have Michael Myers in it, it gives you more options in terms of the artwork. Whereas if you were working on any of the other Halloween movies, you pretty much have to go the Michael Myers route because that’s what people are expecting.”
Although the film’s reputation has (deservedly) shifted favorably in the past several years, Hynes indicated that the increased popularity of the film doesn’t make his job any easier; in fact, the familiarity of its imagery challenged him to really come up with something unique - and most of all, worthy of fans who love the film and its music, whether they’ve been fans since its original release or simply rediscovered it through one of the Death Waltz releases. “You don’t want to come up with a great idea, or think it’s a great idea, and it’s already been applied to the same franchise or property,” Hynes admitted. “And if it was just about putting great artwork on the front of a record sleeve, there are people who are far better at it than I am. As we’ve seen in the first two album covers that were released, they are referencing the movie in a more literal, illustrative sense. This movie is harder to conceptualize because it doesn’t have the iconic Michael Myers art to play with.”
With two more Halloween releases arriving in as many months that fans may already have, Hickman said that he and the rest of the Mondo team remain vigilant about creating real, unique and exclusive collectibles for their fans, be they of the movies that inspire them, or of the label itself. “On these releases, we’ve done a Mondo exclusive, and then we’ve done a retail [version], but we don’t want to flood the market with tons of variants, because we’re aware there are people who collect both labels, and will buy every variant,” Hickman said. “With something like, say, Halloween III, I knew we had to do something special with it if we’re going to reissue it.”
“It’s about making sure the audio is as good as it can possibly be, and it’s about making sure the record sounds as good as it can sound, and obviously we want it to look great as well,” he continued. “And then it’s about that package where people go, ‘I don’t actually feel like I’m double dipping on this. I don’t feel like I’m being ripped off.’ So if we do go back and revisit a title, it’s how do we make it special.” But even with a thriving business, legion of fans and some extremely high-profile releases yet to come, Hickman indicated that the key to “special” is actually much simpler than it seems. “As long as you realize the release is for the people who love this franchise and want to listen to these records, and you’re giving them the best possible presentation, it’s fairly easy,” he said. “You want something that you would be happy with, and for people to enjoy.”