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Vinyl Scream

Local horror fans release cult score

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AMERICAN MOVIEMAKER ‘Coven’ soundtrack gets a remaster 20 years after the film was released.
  • AMERICAN MOVIEMAKER ‘Coven’ soundtrack gets a remaster 20 years after the film was released.

This story starts in 1999, the year the acclaimed documentary American Movie introduced audiences to the idiosyncratic brilliance of independent Milwaukee filmmaker Mark Borchardt. The funny and inspiring film followed Borchardt as he worked to complete his short, low-budget horror film Coven (which Borchardt pronounces to rhyme with "woven") while facing financial and personal hardships.

American Movie painted Borchardt and his associates in a humorous light, but the fact is Coven is an intense and visceral achievement, shot in stark black-and-white and featuring a creepy synthesizer score composed by Milwaukee musician Patrick Nettesheim.

It was that score that hooked Sonoma County musician and podcaster Josh Staples. Since 2013, Staples, Jef Overn and Brian Henderson have hosted the horror podcast Forever Midnight, described as a joyful discussion of horror in cinema. Last week, the Forever Midnight crew went from enthusiasts to entrepreneurs by releasing the official Coven soundtrack on vinyl, nearly 20 years after the film's release.

"I love putting out records," says Staples, who's been producing albums as a member of Sonoma County bands the Velvet Teen and the New Trust for two decades. "I've also been a horror-movie music collector since I've had records. The music is so intense."

Two years ago, Staples introduced Overn and Henderson to American Movie and Coven. Soon, the group was addictively watching and rewatching Borchardt's film, about a struggling, alcoholic writer who joins a support group that appears to have demonic motivations.

"To me, Coven is a symbol of artistic struggle, but the movie turns out to be great," says Staples. Coven is regarded by fans as the quintessential cult classic, and its ominous, dreamlike score is one of its strongest elements.

Staples reached out to both Borchardt and Nettesheim about releasing a soundtrack, and was happy to find both were excited to work on the project. From there, the Forever Midnight crew collected Nettesheim's original recordings, remastered the tracks and worked with Borchardt to assemble a high-quality vinyl package that includes hand-painted artwork, liner notes by Borchardt and Nettesheim, and an original Coven movie poster. With a pressing of 500 copies, this first run of the soundtrack also includes a digital download of the film and a page from the screenplay.

"We went as far as we could with it," says Staples. "It felt like what the movie deserved."

'The Coven Original Motion Picture Soundtrack' is available now at the Last Record Store, 1899 Mendocino Ave., Santa Rosa, and online at forevermidnight.net.

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