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Today we’re making a playlist. Halloween is around the corner, and many people already have their jack-o-lanterns, candy and spider webs ready. But, how many of us have our music planned? For some advice on building the ultimate Halloween soundtrack, I consulted an Anchorage DJ.
Spencer Lee Shroyer – AKA DJ Spencer Lee, formerly DJ Encyclopedia Brown – has DJ’d just about every kind of event you could think of over the past 10 years. “We’re talking everything from cross country races to Sweet 16 parties. I’ll do a new hire orientation for a big company. If there’s space for a DJ in the room, I’ll come and DJ that party and we’ll get wild,” Shroyer says.
And some of his favorite parties to DJ are the Halloween ones. He gets to be even more creative than usual with his music, and people tend to be at their wildest. “People love the anonymity of being in costume. They can say ‘that wasn’t me out there last night. That was Gumby.’ Also, Halloween is one of those parties where everyone comes out, and that’s part of the fun,” Shroyer says.
Not many of us are DJs though, so I asked Shroyer how to build a good Halloween playlist. Whether it’s a house party or a trick-or-treat town, Shroyer says great Halloween music is essential “You can’t overlook it. A crucial component of the Halloween party is having thematic music,” Shroyer says.
OK, so how do we start this playlist? Shroyer suggests starting with a classic.
“A mandatory component of a Halloween playlist is the Monster Mash by Bobby Pickett. That’s just one of those you-have-to-have classics and frankly if you’re doing a playlist, I’d put that in there a couple of times just because it’s one day a year you’re going to play that song, so go with it,” Shroyer says.
Once your party is established, you can get more creative with songs that fit the spooky theme, but that people probably haven’t heard before. “Duck Sauce has a song called The Big Bad Wolf that has a wolf howling on it. Every time I play it my dog goes crazy,” Shroyer says.
The DJ says you don’t have to confine yourself to traditional albums for your playlist. He likes to use movie soundtracks for his. “Jaws has a great scary soundtrack vibe. Or Halloween by John Carpenter. And then if you want to do classical you can do some operatic stuff like Phantom of the Opera. That’s kind of scary,” Shroyer says.
But we all know if you’re going to have any kind of movie music, you can’t forget this: “Ray Parker Junior’s Ghost Busters. Not scary, but good scary association. That’s a good Halloween jam,” Shroyer says.
So how do we end this playlist?
“You could really go out with a bang and do something like the psycho vibe, from the Psycho soundtrack. That’s kind of like a fade to black anyway,” Shroyer says.
I asked the DJ if there was a song that says ‘You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.’ For example, Tom Waits. “Tom Waits is all around scary, not just Halloween scary. People might think this party is going in a direction I don’t want to be around for,” Shroyer says.
And that’s something the DJ can’t stress enough. Even though you’re playing music that’s scary in a campy way, or scary in concept, the worst thing you can do is actually scare your guests. “It’s a party Dave, don’t kill the party vibe,” Shroyer says.