Photos by @printsheduk
Darren Page and Gary Dimes, aka Burning Tapes and All of Them Witches, aka co-owners of the UK record label Burning Witches Records have had a hell of a first two years of operation. Starting in 2016, the guys have curated and hosted some of the best artists working in electronic music and synth-heavy sonic excursions. For a rundown of the artists and how the guys got together, check out this Burning Witches retrospective here.
No matter how far-reaching and forward-thinking this label may get, there will never be a more important time of year than October for Burning Witches. I mean the name says it all, right? Page and Dimes, at heart, are two horror fans through and through. Now whether they meant to or not, they’ve created an expectation in their fans to wow them around Halloween. Last year the label dropped, in my opinion, one of the best Halloween compilations period. Witches’ Halloween Brew was a who’s who of heavy synth and electronic artists creating eerie and Gothic tracks that would easily score an old 80s horror flick you’d find on the wall of your favorite video rental shop. Collecting dust and taunting you with its visceral cover, you know what’s on that tape will be something that will haunt you for years to come(and if it’s on the Video Nasties list, all the better.) Witches’ Hallowen Brew was a musical ode to those movies, but more than that it was a musical ode to the feelings those movies gave you. Every artist that contributed to that comp was giving us a little piece of their own experience; from the late night viewing to the nightmares they had for a week afterwards to the excitement of renting the next forbidden flick.
It’s been a year since that seminal Burning Witches October treat, so what does Burning Witches Records have in store for us in October 2018? How about a trilogy of split EPs titled Pieces Vol: 1, Pieces Vol: 2, and Pieces Vol: 3, that’s what. A bit of an ode to Juan Piquer Simon’s exploitation slasher film from 1982, the classic tradition of the split EP, and of course the horror scores that rang in our ears long after the rewind button was hit when the movie ended.
These EPs will be released one week apart, starting on October 12th with Pieces Vol: 1, October 19th will see Pieces Vol: 2, and finally October 26th will see Pieces Vol: 3 dropping. In Burning Witches style, these EPs will be released on ultra cool, blood red cassettes and have incredible artwork and design by the amazing Luke Insect. Each side of the cassettes will have 20 minutes of an artist laying down the aural dread. Who’s on these you ask? Vol: 1 is Repeated Viewing and Burning Tapes, Vol: 2 is Epectrostatic and All of Them Witches, and Vol: 3 is Deadly Avenger and Graham Reznick.
Definitely more treats that tricks, guys.
I sat down with Darren Page and Gary Dimes and asked them a few questions about the Pieces EPs, their favorite horror films, and their favorite treats when they went trick-or-treating back in the day.
J. Hubner: You fellas have set a pretty high standard when it comes to October releases. Last year was the excellent ‘Witches Brew’ compilation. Now you’ve just announced the split EP trilogy ‘Pieces’. So what’s the idea behind this excellent October audio treat? Who’s involved? How did it all come about?
Gary Dimes: Well it’s our 2 year anniversary this October, and we wanted to put out something Halloween/Horror themed to celebrate. We came up with the idea of the split horror cassettes, and asked a few friends – Deadly Avenger, Graham Reznick, Espectroststic and Repeated Viewing if they’d be up for contributing 20 minutes of horror each. There’s also a contribution from myself (All of Them Witches and Darren (BurningTapes) as that’s how we kicked off the label 2 years back. We were blown away by the artist contributions, and I’m sure BWR regular customers will be too!
Darren Page: We like to offer a little thanks to all the support people have show us in the last year. It goes without saying we wouldn’t still be here without that support. Gary and myself have been kicking around the idea of artist collaborations or split EPs for probably a year. It just made sense to commemorate this anniversary by going back to how we started with some horror-inspired tapes, but push it up a level and ask some friends to join us. We were working on the D.A.L.I release at the time so ran the split EP idea past Deadly Avenger and Luke Insect and then we were off. We have been meaning to work with Repeated Viewing again since last year’s Witches Brew. Espectrostatic felt like a no brainer for some horror-inspired tracks. Even though Graham Reznick was deep into his new Deadwax series for Shudder he still had time to pull out an amazing EP.
J. Hubner: Was there any sort of collaborative work between Burning Tapes and Repeated Viewing, All of Them Witches and Espectrostatic, and Deadly Avenger and Graham Reznick? Any discussion of a narrative to follow? Classic horror to use as a reference point? I ask because each of the splits flow so well together.
Darren Page: We asked the artists themselves who they thought they would suit stylistically and sit well alongside. It worked out very well and the pairings make perfect sense. There were brief discussions about who was going in what direction, but for the most part people just did their thing and the pairings worked naturally.
Gary Dimes: No collaborations on this release, although we have plans down the line for a few. We think it worked out really well the way we’ve teamed up the artist for the split cassettes. We just let the artist do what they do, and each one of them came up with their own unique take on a horror theme.
J. Hubner: I have to ask, is the title ‘Pieces’ a nod to Juan Piquer Simon’s classic exploitation flick ‘Pieces’ from 1982? It’s a movie that I remember seeing at my local video store in the mid-80s and of course rented and was traumatized by.
Gary Dimes: We were throwing ides back and forth with Damon (Deadly Avenger) and artist Luke Insect. It was actually Luke that came up with the title ‘Pieces’, as soon as he mentioned it we all agreed that was the title. It makes complete sense, as it ties them as a whole, but still keeps them as separate entities. And yes, it’s also taken from Simon’s classic.
Darren Page: Yes there is definitely a strong nod. ‘Pieces’ was broadly the kind of visual that summed up the classic cult horror we wanted. I think we are all fans of the film for sure.
J. Hubner: Of course with every release it’s not complete without amazing artwork. As mentioned previously you guys have once again partnered with the amazing Luke Insect. His artwork here is creepy and amazing.
Now when you work with an artist to design album art, how do you approach that? Like in the case of ‘Pieces’, what was the process between Burning Witches and Luke? Do you share the music and he takes it from there?
Darren Page: The artwork can be different from case to case but with Luke it usually starts off with some heavy banter. haha. We had a rough idea of where we wanted to go with it already and that it would be 3 volumes in a set. We said to Luke we wanted them matched up or connected in some way. We worked the entire concept around what colour tape shells and cases we wanted. Then we left him to it. He came back with it 99% finished as you see it now. He floors us every time!
Gary Dimes: We didn’t actually share the music with Luke until after the artwork was finished. It was a bit tricky getting everything together and mastered in time, but we pulled it off! We have a bunch of artists we’ve been working with over the past 2 years, and we normally pick one we think suits the music/mood. Luke’s style was perfect for ‘Pieces’.
J. Hubner: Since this is Burning Witches Halloween release and ’tis the season and all that, what is one of your favorite horror films? I know it’s impossible to name THE favorite, so I’m showing mercy and asking for just one horror movie that had a major impact on you. For me, Romero’s ‘Dawn of the Dead’ will forever be one of my favorites. You guys have shown nothing but class with each release, so I know there was at least one movie that warped your minds enough to get us where we’re at now.
Gary Dimes: For me it’s the Shining. Just everything about it is perfect. The film is simultaneously scary, suspenseful, beautiful, and psychologically intriguing. And Wendy Carlos’s score, wow!
Darren Page: That’s tough, there were so many that really influenced me growing up. I was always particularly moved and horrified by the films that had a deep sense of isolation to them. The bleakness of it felt so cinematic and yet real. John Carpenter’s The Thing, Ridley Scott’s Alien and even Jaws had a deep impact in my pre-teen years.
J. Hubner: This is an important one, what was your favorite candy to get trick-or-treating back in the day?
Gary Dimes: I used to go trick-or-treating with a bunch of friends. Made an old lady faint at the door one Halloween. We pretended to be the headless horseman, I had my coat covering my top half, with my friend standing behind me with his head under my arm. Luckily she was ok! Favourite sweets were Jawbreakers, Space Dust popping candy and Wham bars.
Darren Page: As a child of the 80’s in the U.K, trick or treating was pretty much never done. I do remember seeing the American movies and TV shows around the season and feeling the sugar rush envy. I’m going to make sure my 3 year old daughter doesn’t miss out on the spooky fun as she grows up.
J. Hubner: I feel that Burning Witches has not only transcended the idea of the imagined horror score, but have legitimized dark electronic music in general. Starting out as a place for Burning Tapes and All of Them Witches to release their Gothic vibes onto the world, but then creating this mecca for musically creative folks from the UK and beyond to explore and share their music proclivities. Where do you two see Burning Witches Records going from here?
Darren Page: Strangely I’ve never really seen us as an imagined soundtrack label. In fact, the thought of it almost makes me recoil. I like to think we do electronic music and all areas of that are open to us. We probably do have a certain taste for the cinematic and dark but I would never want to restrict ourselves to just that. Next year is looking to be our most stylistically varied already. We have 3 soundtracks that we are working on as well as non-instrumental releases; dark synth, space synth and everything in-between. We want to continue to progress and evolve and build an audience that trusts our tastes to curate the best electronic music out there.
Gary Dimes: Yeah we don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves, pretty open to anything really. Like to think I have a pretty eclectic taste in music, and I’m sure Darren’s the same. We have a few original soundtracks coming up next year, plus a whole lot more, think they’ll be a few surprised fans of the label. We’re pretty booked up into autumn 2019 already!
Hit up Burning Witches Records’ website Friday morning, October 12 for Pieces Vol: 1. With all of Burning Witches Records’ releases, do not sleep on this. These will go fast. You want to be the ghoul that nabs a copy, not the fool that misses out.