On Podcasting: Part 1

I was first introduced to podcasting in 2008 when I began working for Horrornews.net . As I explored the site, I saw they had an official show, entitled The Horrornews.net Podcast From Hell. I got a kick out of the couple of episodes that were posted and I began searching out other horror podcasts.

If you were to ask me now what those other shows were that I found back then I couldn’t tell you, as none of them really made an impact, except one.

The Midnight Horror Show at the time I found it was hosted by three guys, Wolfman Lucas, Dr. Dark and Danny Trioxin, and the show blended reviews, news, and humor that I quickly became addicted to. I downloaded every past episode I could get my hands on and slowly began working my way through their back catalog.  With each episode I listened to, an idea began to bloom.

I wanted to be a podcaster.  I knew about horror movies, and I loved talking about them, and knowing that three guys like this were online doing a show gave me hope that maybe all this seemingly “useless” knowledge I had could actually be put to some use.

The problem was that I knew nothing about podcasting.  So I did the next best thing. I offered my services to the editor of Horrornews, saying I’d be more than willing to guest host on the show should they ever need me.  A week later I was being offered the job of producing the show.  There had been a falling out after the last episode between one of the hosts and the producer and the show was now in a state of limbo.

I jumped at the chance.  I was given a rough idea of what my new job entailed and the following Sunday, I was the new producer and host of The Podcast From Hell.

I can’t say all of my time with the PFH was bad, because it wasn’t, but it wasn’t all good times either. On the bright side I got to meet friend/former co-host, actor/director  Brandon Slagle and I got to sit in on some interesting interviews with various people from around the genre, but I hadn’t quite found my voice yet, and some of the guests were involved in projects/films I’d never seen, so with nothing to say I often spent the majority of my time on the PFH not saying much of anything outside of the opening of the show.

As time went on, I was quickly losing my passion for the show. This wasn’t at all what I had gotten into podcasting to do. I hated the format of the show, not only because it was a weekly live show, but because we were using the abysmal blogtalkradio.com service that was unreliable at best.  Every week became more and more bleak, as each episode bled into another, the same old thing every single week, introductions, news, banter with my co-hosts until the guest called in, sit in silence for the majority of the show, take calls, end the show.

When Brandon left the show and was replaced, I felt the entire tone of the show shift, and I didn’t like it.  As fortune would have it, circumstances in my life began to conflict with my weekly hosting duties and I quietly left the PFH after nearly nine months as producer.  I don’t think my departure was ever addressed on air.

When I left the PFH, I was exhilarated, I felt as if now I could really break out and do my own thing, and that I could create a new show that would be my vision.  It was around this time that I got in contact with the guys from The Midnight Horror Show and started inquiring about how they produced their show.  Wolfman Lucas patiently explained everything and suddenly I had the information and the idea but what I was still lacking was a name and co-host.

Prepare to enter The Crypstcast

I had the tools I needed, a new computer and an idea. But I still needed a co-host. I wasn’t sure enough of myself to strike out completely on my own, so I started talking to various friends who I thought would be good co-hosts.  After several false starts, I found my co-host in my friend Joe, AKA: Dez. Dez had what I needed, a similar sense of humor to my own, a passion for the genre and we always had interesting conversations.   What Dez may have lacked in movie knowledge, he more than made up for in video game and book knowledge.

In January of 2010, The Cryptcast was launched.  From a content perspective, the shows were good, as we had interesting conversations, and commentary, but the show lacked finesse, and that was my fault. Recording a podcast is the easy part, it’s editing that’s a nightmare and back then I had no idea what I was doing.  Between a completely inexperienced editor, and our less than high tech recording set up (a USB microphone from the game Rock Band plugged into my laptop, recording with Audacity) the shows ranged from sounding like  barely listenable , to un-listenable crap.

Production problems plagued The Cryptcast its entire life, and one of the worst was one fellow podcasters will know immediately as “The Crash”.  Audacity is a free recording program, and while it can be extremely useful, it can also be incredibly temperamental, and there’s nothing quite as aggravating as losing an entire hour and a half of recording because the program just crashed.  I can’t tell you how many episodes of the show were completely lost because of this, but I can say that the blow of losing all that work damaged our morale.

Another problem the show suffered was scheduling problems.  We initially set out to do a weekly show and while we managed to get shows out on that schedule at the beginning, the set back of lost episodes was just a precursor to our next setback.  When we started the show, Dez and I both worked at the same store, and so we always knew each others schedules and could plan episodes accordingly.  When Dez got a new job, suddenly his schedule was completely different and planning episodes became harder and harder, not to mention we both were having trouble making time to watch movies to review for the show.

The final nail in the coffin was a slow cancer. We had set our goals impossibly high when we started the show, and while initially using Podomatic we could see our shows were being downloaded, but as episodes got longer, the files got bigger and we started to have to pull old episodes down due to the space constraints of our basic account.  The numbers we were seeing for downloads were not corresponding to the amount of feedback we were getting, which was almost none.  We started questioning why we even bothered to record episodes.  We had decent downloads but no one was writing in or commenting on the show.

Toward the end of the show’s life, when scheduling recordings with Dez became nearly impossible, I started producing solo shows or asking fellow podcasters to come on as guest hosts.  Wolfman Lucas, Mike Cadaver (then of The Cadver Lab, now of The Corpse Cast) and Monster Mark (Monster Mark’s Horror Podcast) all made appearances.

I was never happy with these episodes, not because of the guest hosts, but because I generally felt awkward podcasting under the Cryptcast banner without my friend, without whom there would have been no Cryptcast.  So Dez and I sat down one afternoon and had a discussion about the future of the show and decided to put the show on “Indefinite Hiatus” figuring that it sounded a hell of a lot better than “Fuck it, We Quit”.  A week or so later we sat down and recorded what was to be the final Cryptcast episode with both of us.  With the exception of two episodes that I recorded specifically for the blog (proto-Devour episodes really) I let the Cryptcast rest in peace.

Exit The Cryptcast, Devour The Podcast

 

Between the aforementioned end of The Cryptcast and the two episodes recorded for the blog, I more or less completely removed myself from the horror community.  I still listened to The Midnight Horror Show (until it’s untimely and abrupt end) as well as a few other horror podcasts, as well as reading Horrorhound and Rue Morgue magazines, but I was burned out.  I still caught the occasional new releases from the local video store and from Netflix, but for the most part I was too preoccupied with more pressing matters than what was going on in the horror world, namely my job.

As I’ve previously mentioned on Devour the Podcast I was one of the unfortunate souls who got to ride out the last three years of Borders Books life as a company. If you’ve never had the displeasure of working for a company as it goes through its death throes, be grateful.  My attention was more or less fully on surviving the day to day war zone of my job until it’s end, and when the ride was finally over, I was more than happy to be done with it.

With my unemployment (and ongoing job hunting) I spent my free time getting back into the swing of things, watching movies and listening to horror podcasts again.  It was around this time that I started Devour the Blog and started listening to Night of the Living Podcast. This blog was my way of doing something creatively productive, getting back into the swing of reviewing horror films and stretching my writing skills which I hadn’t used much in the year and a half prior.

My fiction writing came in spurts, a short story here, an unfinished screenplay there, but it was reviews and opinion pieces and articles that I start thrive on.  Non-fiction had never been of much interest to me, but suddenly I found it much easier.  However, a problem that had caused me to quit writing reviews in the first place suddenly reared its ugly head.  Word count.

While it may not seem like a such a big deal, and considering I was writing for my own blog, I didn’t have an official word count that I had to hit for my reviews, but if I wasn’t cranking out at least two pages for a review, I felt like it wasn’t enough.  Of course, the driving factor behind this problem was simple.  I can write pages and pages about a film I love or hate, but I can only write so much about a film I feel apathetic toward.

So I switched back and forth between producing opinion pieces and other various things, but I felt like the blog was beginning to falter, and that it might well become just another of my many abandoned projects.

And then the podcasting itch started again.  I knew I could kill two birds with one stone, doing a podcast and posting it on the blog would fulfill my desire to podcast again as well as produce new content for the blog.

Two problems however stood front and center.

  1. A Name
  2. How?

Naming a project has never been one of my strong suits. Oh, I can come up with interesting titles for things, but I can never decide on a title that I feel is “Right” for a given project. Often it comes down to whatever I feel is the least terrible sounding of a batch.

Of course, the problem of how I was going to do the show was a bit easier to solve.  I knew I didn’t want to deal with Podomatic again, so I started researching various podcasting services. None really stood out as being a great option considering I didn’t have the money to spend on any of the better services, and my free options were none too appealing, I took a slightly more challenging option.

I used Archive.org to host the shows, posting them onto the blog and hosting the feed through Feedburner.  With this sorted out, I started planning out what would be the first episode.  Of course, I spent a good month and a half not recording because I kept coming up with reasons to put it off.

Finally, I sat down with Dez and we recorded the very first episode of Devour the Podcast.  The first episode of a podcast is always the hardest, especially if you’ve never done a podcast before, and even if you have, the first episode is still a mountain to climb.

I’ve said often that the first episode of Devour is un-listenable, and I maintain that stance. The recording quality is terrible, the editing is bad, and it all together just sounds awkward.  I tossed the episode out into the world one Saturday and suddenly I had a release day.

With each episode, getting the show recorded and edited got a little easier, but also a little harder.  I was producing a weekly show, but I wasn’t getting much, if any feedback, and while I had set my goals to be much more realistic (simple milestones of 5) I still wasn’t quite feeling like I was doing anything worthwhile.  As the episodes continued, I started considering dumping the show all together and just giving up on it.  The major problem was that frankly I was getting bored with doing a solo show.  So I put out a message here on the blog and on a few forums seeking a co-host.

No one bit, and it seemed like things were going to come to a screeching halt for Devour The Podcast before it even reached episode 10.   Then on a whim, I posted the co-host request on a new forum I had started frequenting, Horror-movies.ca and quickly I got a response from several posters telling me I should hire someone by the name of “Jamie”.  Jamie of course introduced herself and after much poking, she sent me a batch of episodes of her previous podcast.  After listening to two, I knew she was right for the job.

Jamie joined the show and on episode 9 she debuted.  Devour The Podcast suddenly had a direction, and a slightly new format, not to mention the new co-host. Things were starting to look up.

Next time I’ll tell you about how we went from the rising stars of the Horror Palace Network to the outcasts.

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