One of the many reasons I look forward to Halloween each year is that it truly is the holiday what inspires the best mix tapes. Also they're usually the most fun sort of mix to compile as the novelty encourages limitless experimentation. For the last thirteen years I have made and exchanged Halloween mix tapes with a dear friend and kindred spirit thus becoming a Halloween tradition that means as much to me as pumpkin carving, inventing the best costume for the day, and impaling candy corn on my canines.
Naturally, we here at Amoeba Music make the most of live-mixing music for our Halloween festivities (see DJ Teen Wolf, pictured right) and this year shall surely be no different so, by all means, do come out and join us! Remember to dress to distress, bring your little dogs too and, since we close early at 7pm so that we may all celebrate Halloween right frightfully, feel free to consider ours a warm up to your Halloween party plans -- I know i do! In fact, I'll be manning the decks this year!
Now, if you're into making a Halloween mix but as yet haven't attempted your own here follows some seasonably solid Halloween mixtape advice from some reasonably seasoned compilation enthusiasts, highlighting some of the content that made the cut for my own mixer this year. What the heck, let's call it seven hot tips for Halloween mixtape success -- it's been a while since I've listed anything.
Halloween mixtape hot tip #1: When culling content for a Halloween mix never discount an entire genre as seasonally inappropriate as fear knows no formal bounds. I'm talking about Country, y'all. Famed Country and Western convoy outlaw C.W. McCall's "Night Rider" from the recently reissued Wolf Creek Pass (on Omni) is some great C&W for Halloween what with its odd moog-a-delic reverberations and badass Rap-esque delivery droning on and on about driving at night and stuff. While not as frightening and perfectly Halloweeny as, say, Porter Wagoner's "The Rubber Room" it is an entirely appropriate track for a diverse, genre-spanning Halloween compilation in that it provides a departure from the more standard, obvious fare. That, and the fact that most songs about driving at night are cool.
C.W. McCall - "Night Rider"
Halloween mixtape hot tip #2: Know of an artist that already claims more than enough material suitable for a Halloween mixtape? Then don't be afraid to dig deep into the fallow reaches and nasty darkened corridors their catalog, especially at the eleventh hour of your compiling for the devil sends the best of the beast when he knows the time is short. I recently exhumed this little Bruce Dickinson (vocalist of Iron Maiden) novelty number called "Dracula" from it's resting place (i.e. it's buried on disc two of the Best of Bruce Dickinson retrospective collection of his solo works) for use in this year's Halloween mix. This song, purportedly Bruce's earliest recorded effort circa 1977, really has it all: chilling wind effects, a stalker-ish bassline, cheesy lyrics, patent Dickinson delivery. Seriously folks, this is right up there with Tim Curry's "Anything Can Happen on Halloween". A++
Bruce Dickinson - "Dracula"
Halloween mixtape hot tip #3: While Michael Jackson's Thriller will be forever after the cornerstone R&B camp champ and go-to track for Halloween Soul-takers, do yourself a favor and refrain from slipping it into your mix (if you can). Instead, much in the vein of hot tip #2 above, dip into the crypt for some similar soul from the same era. I keep an ear out all year for fresh fuel for my annual mix and found more than a few potential tracks lurking in the shadows of a new release compilation titled Personal Space: Electronic Soul 1974-1984 -- a mix of synth-drenched and drum-machined homespun electro-soul, just barely predating Thriller's overwhelming success, swelling like a wave of unheard soundscapes from beyond the void only to retreat before breaking against the rocks of popular culture. Excellent mixes eschew the obvious; go underground.
Personal Space Jerry Green - "I Finally Found the Love I Need"
Halloween mixtape hot tip #4: When in doubt, go goth. Goth is basically Halloween disco music made for and by people who tirelessly celebrate the holiday pretty much every day of the year, amirite? Even on Christmas. Lately there's been a delicious resurgence of gloomy gothic pop dance jams inspired by 80's goth/darkwave/ethereal/coldwave and 90's electroclash and stuff. I dunno, I heard some hippers referring to some of it as witch house. Call it what you will, just get some of that crispy darkness and cut it into your mix. Check out Zola Jesus, Salem, Tamaryn...even a little Grimes will do really. A co-worker put on Trust's TRST at the other day, wondering if gothy synthpop was a bit much for a daytime Amoeba sales floor soundtrack. I immediately snagged it for my mix, "Chrissy E" did it for me.
Trust - "Chrissy E"
Halloween mixtape hot tip #5: You probably already know this but the "Monster Mash" is the best song in the history of songs. Bobby "Boris" Pickett's perennial holiday jam just never gets old which is perhaps why it's been covered by the likes of the Beach Boys to The Smashing Pumpkins. Even the Misfits who are in no way short on patent Halloween mixtape material once took a stab at the "Monster Mash". Horror host John Zacherle also honed is own cover on his Halloween novelty album Dinner with Drac in 1958 (recently reissued on CD as a two-fer with his Scary Tales record and other sundry bonus content, just in time for Halloween 2012), but the title track, "Dinner with Drac, Pt. 1", is the perfect alternative to rehashing "Monster Mash" many times over, cover after cover.
John Zacherle - Dinner with Drac, Pt. 1"
Halloween mixtape hot tip #6: A fog of extra dense bass and heaps of Halloween samples and sound effects creep forth from this chunky fat plate o' dub known as Tino's Breaks 6 - Hallowe'en Dub. I've gotten a lot of Halloween mixtape mileage out of this spooky slice of seasonal delight. Chock full of snippets from old Disney records, some choice Vincent Price sound bites and the usual suspects of dollar bin SFX wax, this record offers much in the way of transitioning between oddments when live mixing a Halloween party or putting the party down on tape (or CD or even MD or what have you). My favorites are the opening track "Bats in my Belfry", "It's Halloween Dub" and "Doomsday Dub" (below). If you come across this record on vinyl and you love Halloween, snatch it up! It's a rare find nowadays.
Halloween mixtape hot tip #7: TV themes are go! I'm a glutton for nostalgia and novelty and nothing improves a Halloween mix more than a heady dose of spooky movie/TV soundtrack fare. Even most Sci Fi themes, like that of the Invaders or Dr. Who, can find a place in any thoughtful Halloween mix. But you don't necessarily need to keep it in the Addam's Family realm of obvious cuts, stretch out with one of the many collections of international horror proffered by the Finders Keepers/B-Music label or strike out on a sinister soundtrack safari of your own! This year I'm including the retro intro theme song for Ge Ge Ge no Kintarou -- a 1960's Japanese cartoon about a boy creature and all his kooky monster friends in the graveyard. Sometimes it's not about what you find or how you find it, it just finds you. Happy Halloween!