Wednesday, May 8, 2019

You Need to Be Listening to ''Derry Public Radio'' (Plus: A Trilogy of Interviews!)

Y'all know me; know what I'm about ... and it will therefore come as no surprise to you to know that I have a Google Alerts email subscription for stories pertaining to Stephen King.  I get a dozen or so of these emails a day, and they contain all manner of links: news items about upcoming movies or television shows; reviews (both professional and otherwise); items for sale on eBay, Craigslist, etc.; torrent mirrors; memes; random bullshit that has nothing whatsoever to do with Stephen King; news about other people named Stephen King (such as the economic advisor one or the politician/scumbag one or the photographer one); and so forth.
Also: occasional podcast episodes.  (More on which momentarily.)
Guess what?  I literally just got one of those emails while typing this.  Let's have a look:

Most of the emails contain links that are (like the sample ones above) entirely ignorable.  However, in my capacity as an amateur King scholar, I curate what I like to think of as an extensive archive of King-related news items.  That being the case, I take it as my solemn duty to sift through these emails in the hopes of finding something valuable to add to the archives.

On many days, one or two articles do indeed get added to the archives: today (May 3 as I am writing these words), for example, an interview with Greg Yaitanes about having directed the Castle Rock season two premiere.  Also today: an article on the website for the Bangor Daily News about King's love of baseball and how it has historically impacted the town.  Good stuff, especially that latter one (which has some nice photos) -- and I'd possibly never have known about it if not for Google Alerts.
I'd probably also never have known about Derry Public Radio.

Or if I had, I wouldn't have known about it immediately.  Luckily for me, though, I got one of those emails in early May of 2018, and it included an item about a then-brand-new podcast: Derry Public Radio.  The link was to a Reddit post the pod's creators had made announcing themselves to the world, within which was a link to a Soundcloud page for the first episode.

It sounded intriguing, so I decided to give it a shot.
This wasn't the first time I'd discovered a King podcast in this manner.  Matter of fact, podcast episodes pop up fairly regularly via Google Alerts.  That's how I found The Losers' Club, for example, and I think it may have been how I found the Stephen King Cast as well.  Terrific podcasts, both.
Those are the gemstones amid a field of pebbles.  Much more common, in my experience, for google Alerts to alert me to podcasts which I find to be annoying, amateurish nonsense.  And I say that as an annoying, amateurish blogger self-aware enough to know the hypocrisy with which he has just spoken.

I'm not wrong, though.  Nine times out of ten, the descriptions of the podcasts are sufficient to make me feel no urge to listen to them; of the ones I do decide to sample, nine out of ten of those are not to my liking.  Some come at the material as primarily comedic podcasts that use King's books (or, more often, movies) as a vehicle for delivering snark; others seem primarily to be interested in describing what drinks they are having during the recording; others are hosted by people who are not actually very good at talking.  
That last observation of mine brings me to an uncomfortable truth: in addition to be an annoying amateur, I'm also a judgmental prick.  Guilty!  No contest, judge, take me on away.

But look, man . . . you gotta sort the wheat from the chaff one way or another.  Nobody anywhere eats Chaff Thins.  So I figure that if a podcast hasn't hooked me within five minutes then it's best to move on.  In a perfect world, maybe I'd just listen to it all and be content with that; but in this imperfect world, where time is at an ever-increasing premium, ain't nobody got time for that shit.  So sell me on your podcast quick, or find yourself unsold.
I was sold on Derry Public Radio within about two minutes.

It was immediately clear that the three hosts of this particular show were (A) more interested in King's work than in proving their comedic chops; (B) possessed of sufficient comedic chops to have done it the other way and made it work if they had so chosen; (C) skilled enough at speaking to pull off podcasting as an artform of its own; (D) insightful; (E) determined to bring a polished production quality to the podcast; and (F) loose enough to not be precious about what they were doing.
In other words, they were/are naturals.

The conceit: their show is taking place on "Derry Public Radio," and so each episode begins with a news-sounder chime and a brief "news" item read by one of the "announcers."  I'll transcribe the news story that appears at the top of the debut episode:
Welcome, listeners, to Derry Public Radio.  Reporting from the basement of the Derry Civic Center, this is C.M. Alexander with the news.  Ewen High in nearby Chamberlain is having their first prom in almost forty years; all nearby fire departments have been notified.  And now, the weather: cloudy, with a fifty percent chance of hail followed by stones.  This is Derry Public Radio.
Simple; effective; funny without being labored.  From there, the window-dressing conceit takes a backseat to the actual conceit of the show: a book-club type discussion between the three hosts, C.M. Alexander, Benjamin Graham, and Joshua Kahn.  
left to right: Benjamin Graham, C.M. Alexander, and Joshua Kahn
The idea for the podcast originated with Graham, who founded it as a sort of self-written permission slip to dive back into the world of Stephen King, whose books fascinated him throughout high school.  (I can relate, and I can especially relate to the fact that The Stand was the biggie for Ben; that was the book that got me into King.)  He and Alexander are the more experienced King fans of the trio, with Kahn being more of a neophyte King reader comparatively speaking.  However, Kahn's quasi-newcomer status is a major plus for the podcast, not a minus: he's coming to many of these books for the first time, and that newness factor combined with his enthusiasm and insight adds a terrific perspective to the analysis.  And don't get me wrong, he's read King before, just not to quite the level his co-hosts have.
All three hosts are a generation -- two generations? (I'm not clear on how generations are measured) -- younger than me, and this, combined with the natural fact that not everyone looks at things the same way, means that I don't always agree with them.  This is not a problem.  It can be a problem for me ... on other shows.  Even on shows I like, I sometimes find myself rolling my eyes at just how wrong I find someone to be.  (Yes, yes, I know, opinions cannot be wrong; judgmental prick, remember?  Also, I'm exaggerating.  A little.)  Even when I've disagreed with Derry Public Radio or one of its hosts, though, I've never done any eye-rolling.  The disagreements I have with them always come from their simply having a different perspective on things than I have, and thus far, I've found that difference in perspective to be instructive, not distancing.
That's a damn fine quality in a podcast; all the credit goes to the three hosts, and not merely to each of them individually, but also to the three collectively in terms of their ability to function as a unit.  That combined functionality was apparent right off the bat, speaking of which: I'm as pleased as can be to say that I've been listening to Derry Public Radio since almost literally -- maybe literally literally -- day one.  If I may be cheesy for a moment, it feels a bit like ka; finding the podcast that quick is happenstance as much as anything, so if that ain't ka, then what is?
Bottom line: I think that if you're reading this blog and if you also listen to podcasts but haven't given Derry Public Radio a listen, you owe it to yourself to sample an episode or two.  They've covered the following books thus far during their first year, and while I recommend starting from the beginning, you could probably dive in on any of them and be just fine:
  • Carrie
  • Joyland
  • The Dark Half
  • Different Seasons
  • Misery
  • 'Salem's Lot
  • Revival
  • The Long Walk
  • Pet Sematary

I'm not sure which of the ones they've covered thus far has been my favorite series of episodes; they've all been exceptional.
They recently joined Patreon, and I thought I'd reach out to them to see if they'd be interested in talking with me a bit.  I sent them a few questions via email, and I now present their responses to you, beginning with C.M. 
Bryant:  How did the idea for Derry Public Radio come about?
C.M.:  The idea to do a Stephen King podcast originated with Ben, who told Josh, who in turn thought I'd be a good fit.  Josh introduced us and we all had a nice chat about Stephen King and about forty-five minutes later agreed to give it a go.
Looking back, I'm flattered they welcomed me on board so easily because before we recorded our first episode, I'd never touched a recording interface and knew nothing about the technical aspects of producing a podcast.  In fact, I asked my husband if he'd record and edit us (he has a band and records other musicians).  
Before he got the chance to produce anything I caught the bug!  I realized there was no reason I couldn't do it all myself.  I bought an interface, computer, sound panels, downloaded the software, took some mics from my husband's stash, and started researching.  My husband gave me a lot of good tips for using the software and then backed away cautiously once he saw the manic, obsessive look in my eyes.  I can edit and mix for hours ... it's a sickness.
Bryant:  The three of you have terrific chemistry on the pod; was this a thing you kind of knew would be the case, of was it a surprise to you when you began?
C.M.:  Thank you!  And no, we had no idea!  Before I hit record on episode one, Ben and I had known each other for about an hour.  Josh and I were in a few movies together, but never part of a project that was all our own.  It was a wonderful surprise when people started commenting on our chemistry.  I give all the credit for that to Josh and Ben.  As performers, they have that wonderful talent of keeping the conversation going and adding to it.  I'm pretty concise, which isn't always great for a podcast, so I'm really grateful for their "entertainer" skills.
Bryant:  Do you have any test episodes in your archives, or did you just dive right in fearlessly?  (If you did, I'm even more impressed -- it was very polished from episode one, in my opinion.)
C.M.:  Doing a test episode is probably always a good idea but I don't think that ever occurred to us.  We were too excited!  We had talked about what we wanted to do to make our podcast unique and had agreed to a format before we hit record.  I don't think any of us were fooling ourselves with how much work we thought this would be, but it was still more than anticipated.  All that to say, we prepared as much as we could and have made a few minor changes as we've gone along.
Bryant:  Are you all in the same room when you record, or is this Skype magic at work?
C.M.:  What do you mean?  We're recording from the basement of the Derry Civic Center.

Bryant:  Touché!
C.M.:  We record in my craft room, which has been taken over by recording equipment and sound panels.  The room is equal parts Stephen King stuff and Star Trek: TNG stuff.
I really love being able to record in person together.  There's so much hilarious body language some episodes that I wish came through on the podcast.  We really react to one another and (with some creative editing at times) I think that helps the flow of the episodes.
Bryant:  My apartment has a literal Star Trek nook in it, which means I am now resisting -- and not futilely! -- the urge to ask you about two dozen TNG questions.  So instead of those, I'll ask you this: what is your favorite moment from the podcast so far?
C.M.:  I'm happy to say that it's really hard to pick just one.  My favorite moments usually come from a collection of things that carry through across episodes (like Josh and Ben giving me a hard time for defending Annie ... or if I'm being fair, Josh and Ben reminding me that Annie is not the protagonist).
Bryant:  Yeah, that was good stuff.  And the thing is, I think it's very possible to read Misery with an eye toward Annie actually being defendable.  I mean, yes, sure, she's a child murderer and whatnot ... but in her own mind, she's absolutely the hero of the story, and that comes across in so vivid a manner that I guarantee you plenty of readers have felt conflicted impulses toward Annie.  I think even Paul might feel some of that.
I digress.  Speaking of Josh and Ben do any of your co-hosts' comedic stylings stand out in your memory?
[Bryant's note: C.M.'s next response might not make sense if you have not listened to the relevant episodes, but trust me: if you have, they totally make sense.]
C.M.:  I'm really proud of paying Ben back for "Thaddy Daddy" (it was painful to type that) with "delicious foreshadowing."  I nearly died when Ben read us the line about The Major taking off his sunglasses to reveal a second pair of sunglasses!  Roundgeeps Strumpet was a lovely moment too.  I still have no idea what Josh thinks that's supposed to mean but someday that's going on a cake.
Bryant:  This brings up one of my favorite aspects of the show, which is that each episode has a subtitle that comes from a memorable moment within the episode.  (I'm pretty sure "Roundgeeps Strumpet" is my favorite of those thus far, by the way.)  I'd be curious to know: who chooses the subtitle for each episode?
C.M.:   After I edit each episode I send them to Josh so he can listen and write the episode descriptions.  I suppose he picks the line that tickles us the most!
Bryant:  Do you listen to any other King-centric podcasts?
C.M.:  I haven't.  I support them in spirit but I'm terrified of accidentally copying them.  Right now I'm sticking with Small Town Murder.  Well that sounded threatening.  It's a podcast.
Bryant:  Not, legally-speaking, a threat; gotcha.
What is your best King-reading memory?
C.M.:  It was the summer after my freshman year in high school (I'm sorry that sounds like a bad intro to a poorly written book) and I was reading The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass.  I was at the perfect age to be completely swept away by the friendship, love, adventure, and growing pains of a similarly aged Roland, Cuthbert, Alain, and Susan.  When I finished that book I couldn't bring myself to open another for a few weeks because I couldn't stand the pain of leaving that universe.
Bryant: I can relate to that.  I was in college when I read Wizard and Glass, but my memory of reading it for the first time is completely entangled with memories of a creative-writing class I was taking at the time, and of a classmate with whom I was deeply smitten in a completely doomed way.  Not in a somebody-got-burned-at-the-stake way like Susan . . . but just, you know, the mundane Bryant-never-had-a-chance-with-her-but-didn't-quite-figure-it-out-for-months way.  Point is, any time I even think about that book, boom, there I am feeling little afterquake reminders of the feelings I felt in the real world at the time I was reading it; this is not, I am surprised to find myself saying, entirely a bad thing.  In any case, holy hell do I love that novel.
On another subject, I know you've mentioned that you are a King collector as well as a reader.  What is the one thing you've collected that you are happiest to have, and what is your holiest of holy grails you hope to someday obtain?
C.M.:  The first King book I read was Rose Madder and I picked it up at the airport because I forgot to bring a book for a long trip.  Best mistake I ever made!  Being the first one, it will always hold a special place in my heart.  My husband got me a signed first edition for my birthday.
As far as the holiest of grails, that would be an excellent first edition copy of The Gunslinger.  It doesn't even have to be signed!  Actually, that would be awesome if it was signed.
Bryant:  Who is your favorite author other than Stephen King?
C.M.:  Horror and science fiction share equal space in my heart.  Another favorite author of mine is Dan Simmons.  He wrote the Hyperion Cantos.  In the same way that King pulls me into his world and makes it difficult to leave, I found myself being touched by the world Dan Simmons created with this series.  It's intriguing, heartbreaking, beautiful, and brilliant.  
He also has some fictionalized historical books that are a ton of fun to read.  I love The Terror, which is about Franklin's lost expedition of the Northwest Passage -- but with a monster!  I read it during the summer and I got so wrapped up in it that my memory of reading the book feels cloudy, gray, and cold -- much like how the crew of The Terror felt.  I've never had a book make me feel cold while reading it.
Bryant:  I've had a copy of the first Hyperion novel (and another of Carrion Comfort, also by Simmons) for literally decades now and have yet to actually read them.  All of what you just said makes me eager to move him up my list, though.
What is the worst King-based movie you have ever seen?
C.M.:  I've enjoyed all of the King movies I've seen, even the bad ones (Maximum Overdrive, Sleepwalkers -- she has sex with her son for goodness sake!), but if I had to pick one it would be Apt Pupil.  I didn't enjoy the way the story made me feel and seeing it brought to life was, I suppose, ultimately very effective.  I wouldn't put myself through that again though.
Bryant:  King Easter-eggs in movies: lame or rad?
C.M.:  Rad!  It's so much fun to spot them or to realize later that I missed some and go back.
Bryant:  Not King-based, necessarily (although it might be) -- what is the scariest movie you have ever seen?
C.M.:  Embarrassing but here we go!  1999's House on Haunted Hill.  This movie made me realize that I cannot handle rapidly shaking heads or jerkily moving toward you spooky anything holy crap make it stop!
Bryant:  What is your favorite short story by King?
C.M.:  "Low Men in Yellow Coats" (in Hearts in Atlantis.).  I read it after I read some of the Dark Tower books so I loved that connection , and something about it reminds me of a (very) dark version of Daniel Pinkwater's Borgel -- fantastic story!
Bryant:  What is your favorite cover art for any King novel?
C.M.The Dark Tower IV: Wizard and Glass cover art by Dave McKean.  He also did Neil Gaiman's The Sandman.  It's awesome stuff.

Bryant:  What is the one King book/story you haven't read that you are most looking forward to?
C.M.:  I can't wait to read Firestarter.  I've watched the movie and it was a lot of fun.  With the new book coming out, The Institute, Firestarter is back on my radar.
[Bryant's note: King has mentioned Firestarter as being something of a touchstone for The Institute, in such a way that many fans -- myself included! -- think it might be either a spiritual sequel or perhaps even a literal one.  We'll find out later this year!]
Bryant:  I'm sure you have obsessions beyond Stephen King's works -- what are some of the other things you love to immerse yourself in?
C.M.Star Trek: TNG, 80s Italian horror movies.  I'm also a sucker for pretty much any vampire, mystery, science fiction, and detective stories.  Frank Herbert's Dune is great (books, movie, and tv series), Jim Butcher is fun, Kim Harrison is a guilty pleasure.  I also love to play virtual (and real) pinball and the video game Don't Starve, among others.
Bryant:  Do you feel that the process of creating Derry Public Radio has changed your relationship with King's work at all?
C.M.:  Absolutely.  It's forced me to read a little more critically because I want to contribute to our discussion and I don't think "Yep, I loved every moment of this book" will cut it.  I'm also reading some of these books for the second time as an adult, which is a different experience than when I read it as a teen.  My experiences have changed what I get out of the books the second time around.
Bryant:  Tell us a bit about your Patreon goals.
C.M.:  Even if no one ever listened to DPR, I think our connection to each other and to King's work gives us something worthwhile and meaningful and that would be enough for us to keep doing it.  Of course, we all work full time and I'm getting my master's so it's nice to have some monetary love for our hard work.  It keeps us on track and pushes us to give back even more.  Most importantly, we love being immersed in the community that having this podcast has allowed us to be part of.
Bryant:  What do you hope and/or plan for the future of Derry Public Radio?
C.M.:  I'm fortunate in that I love my day job so I'd never quit it, but I would be blown away if we were making enough to support doing DPR full time.  Podcasts have done a lot for me to take my mind off stress and make me laugh.  At the very least, I want to make something that other people enjoy, something that makes them laugh when they feel like they can't.
Bryant:  Thus far, I've you've nailed it.
Let's now ask some questions of Benjamin Graham, the founder of Derry Public Radio:
Bryant:  What is your favorite moment from the podcast so far?
Ben:  There have been so many, but I have to say I really loved getting to do some . . . ahem . . . creative writing at the end of The Long Walk.
Bryant:  Yeah, that was gold, dude.  I mentioned this on Facebook, but it's worth repeating: I was working on a project in my apartment while listening to that episode, hanging new posters on my walls.  I was putting up a poster from Star Trek: The freaking Motion Picture and had the push-pins I was using kind of loosely held in between my lips so I could easily grab them while standing on a step-stool, and there was one part of that bit of yours -- "bit" seems too light a word, actually, let's call it a comedic reverie -- that kind of caused me to reflexively suck my breath in.  When I did, I damn hear inhaled one of the push-pins, which, if I had, I assume would have somehow led to my death.  Benjamin Graham, your comedy almost murdered me, and I salute you for it!  I will know to be more physically safe when listening in the future!
[Bryant's note: Watch along now in horror as I attempt to do my own comedy bit and fail miserably.  Watch also as Ben nimbly handles my foolishness and continues his stride, purposeful and confident.]
Have you ever, as I did once upon a time, gotten drunk on Zima and watched The Shining?  If so, when you inevitably found yourself hollering slurred words of support for one of the characters, which one was it, and why?
Ben:  I've been sober for three years and I haven't seen The Shining in awhile, but if I was going to yell at The Shining it would probably just be about Kubrick's framing.
Bryant:  That's fair.  What is your best King-reading memory?
Ben:  The first thing that comes to mind is the end of The Gunslinger.  I was in high school when I first read about Roland's palaver with Walter in the golgotha.  the purple blade of grass in Roland's vision, each atom containing a new world containing an infinity of new worls, and at the center of them all, The Tower.  It was my first glimpse at the scope of King's work and it blew my goddamn mind.
Bryant:  I'm with you on that.  Very little in fiction, for me, tops the feeling I'm left with at the end of The Gunslinger.

Who is your favorite author other than Stephen King?
Ben:  This is a tough one.  I'm too indecisive to decide on a favorite anything.  Off the top of my head I'd say Kurt Vonnegut and Douglas Adams are definitely up there.
Bryant:  What is the worst King-based movie you have ever seen?
BenCell.  Holy shit.  I don't think it was ever commercially released, and for good reason.  I was excited when I found a copy because John Cusack stars and 1408 is one of my favorite adaptations, but boy howdy it's not good.
Bryant:  No, it really isn't.  Dreadful, top to bottom.
Not King-based, necessarily (although it might be) -- what is the scariest movie you have ever seen?
Ben:  Another tough one.  I don't know about the scariest movie I've ever watched, but the scariest single scene is hands down a tie between the boat scene in Willy Wonka and "Pink Elephants on Parade" from Dumbo.  (I was an easily frightened child, okay?)
Bryant:  Oh, man, no judgment here; I was too!  So much so that to this day I am astonished that my favorite author is Stephen King.  Anyways, that boat scene in Willy Wonka is terrifying; surely that's one of the all-time great horror scenes in a non-horror movie.
Shifting gears a bit, what is your favorite cover art for any King novel?
Ben:  There are so many!  I mentioned in our first episode that the cover of It holds a special place in the dark part of my brain that processes primal fear, but I'd have to say my favorite is either The Stand: Complete and Uncut (it was my first, and the battle of good and evil is so iconic) or the first edition paperback cover of Night Shift ("I Am the Doorway" really fucked me up the first time I read it). . . or maybe Desperation. . . or Firestarter. . . or. . .
Bryant:  What is your favorite short story by King?
Ben:  I don't know if I've mentioned it on the podcast before, but I LOVE short stories.  I might prefer them to novels, actually.  There is no way I can narrow it down to one, so here is another list (including novellas): "The Boogeyman," "I Am the Doorway," "Apt Pupil" (what can I say, it stuck with me), "The Jaunt," "Survivor Type," "The Langoliers," "Suffer the Little Children," "Crouch End," "All That You Love Will Be Carried Away," "The Road Virus Heads North," "1408," and "That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is In French."
Bryant:  That's a damn fine list.
Ben:  P.S. -- I know it's not King, but his son Joe Hill has a short story collection called 20th Century Ghosts that is unbelievably good.  Specifically the stories "Best New Horror" and "My Father's Mask."  Read it.
Bryant:  I have, and I agree -- that collection is dynamite.  If anything, I think it's better even than any of his dad's story collections.  One of my favorites in it is "20th Century Ghost," not only because it's a great story but because I spent years as a projectionist at a movie theatre.  The idea of my theatre being haunted by a basically sweet lady ghost is rather appealing to me, I have to say.
I love Hill in general, though, and I have to confess that even though I know I shouldn't, I basically just lump all of his work into the subfolder in my brain labeled "Stephen King."  Speaking only for myself here, but if Derry Public Radio ever decided to tackle a Joe Hill novel, there'd be no complaints from me.
What is the one King book/story you haven't read that you are most looking forward to?
Ben:  If you had asked me a month ago I would have said Pet Sematary, and it did not disappoint!  Now I'd have to say that I can't wait to dive into some of his most recent work.  I've been wary of modern-era King ever since Under the Dome, but I loved Sleeping Beauties so I'm looking forward to finally getting the chance to read the Bill Hodges trilogy or The Outsider.  Not to mention The Institute when it comes out in September!
Bryant:  Do you feel that the process of creating Derry Public Radio has changed your relationship with King's work at all?
Ben:  Absolutely.  Having people to discuss and analyze with has made me enjoy reading King so much more.  The discussions I get to have with Josh and CM are so fun and entertaining that even the books or movies I don't enjoy become a shared experience that I look forward to every week.
Bryant:  Tell us a bit about your Patreon goals.
Ben:  Personally, I would be happy to just make enough money to make up for all the time and effort CM has put into making this podcast as good as it is.  Seriously, you guys.  This podcast would not exist without her.  Give CM your money.
Bryant:  I'm sure you have obsessions beyond Stephen King's work -- what are some of the other things you love to immerse yourself in?
Ben:  You're killing me.  There is no way I can make a comprehensive list and the thought of trying is stressing me out, so instead I am going to recommend one thing that I love with all my heart and expect everyone reading this to become as obsessed as I am.  The Mountain Goats.  For the love of all things beautiful in the world, listen to The Mountain Goats.  I'm not going to hard sell you, just start with Tallahassee or The Sunset Tree or all Hail West Texas and dive in from there.

I'm serious.  Go.  Now.
Bryant:  King Easter-eggs in movies: lame or rad?
Ben:  Rad.  As.  Fuck.
Bryant:  Do you listen to any other King-centric podcasts?
Ben:  I don't.  I listen to a lot of podcasts (when you work third shift you've gotta do something), but they're mostly comedy podcasts.  I highly recommend Welcome to Nightvale, Hello From the Magic Tavern, and literally anything that features Paul F Tompkins or the McElroy brothers.
Bryant:  What do you hope and/or plan for the future of Derry Public Radio?
Ben:  Planning ahead isn't my strong suit, so mostly I'm just excited to keep reading some good books with my friends! ...and maybe get into some of those short stories.  Some of them are pretty bonkers, you guys.
Bryant:  Indeed they are, in the best possible way!
We'll now complete our trilogy of interviews by speaking with Joshua Kahn:
Bryant:  What is your favorite moment from the podcast so far?
Josh:  Picking a favorite is so hard because each series has at least one moment that makes me think, "This is why I love this show."  If I had to choose one, it would be from Episode 13 -- Misery Pt. 1 -- "Mr. Picklocks."  The titular moment of this episode made me laugh so hard I started crying.  It's a great moment to listen to but what you don't get when [C.M.] said "Mr. Picklocks" was the look in studio that she was giving us.  She was 100& positive we were going to pick up on the joke and watching her face as she realized we were not was one of the funniest studio moments of all time.
Bryant:  What is your best King-reading memory?
Josh:  The ending of Needful Things.  Without spoiling the book, there is a point at the end where everything the book has set up pays off in an epic way.  I remember when it started I didn't put the book down until it was finished because I was entranced by all the action.
Bryant:  Who is your favorite author other than Stephen King?
Josh:  Chuck Palahniuk is one of my all-time favorites.  I maintain that I want HBO to make a series out of Haunted because that book is insane in the best way.
Bryant:  What is the worst King-based movie you have ever seen?
Josh:  Hands down, Apt Pupil.  It took everything interesting and captivating about the original story and made something distinctly less than.
Bryant:  Not King-based, necessarily (although it might be) -- what is the scariest movie you have ever seen?
JoshSaw.  I went to see it in theaters and did not sleep the rest of the night.  Psychological horror is what really gets to me and before all the sequels there were so many unanswered questions.  So my brain kept going down the rabbit hole long after the movie was over.  I would think "if this is true, then what else is true" about the world in which Saw takes place.  It holds a special place in my heart.
Bryant:  Right on; that first movie is awesome, for sure.  Some of the sequels I watched were also good, but they were just too much for me, I wasn't strong enough for those flicks, and I do not mind who knows it.
On a different topic altogether: your beard game seems pretty strong.  Is there any chance that it was the cover of King's book Danse Macabre that caused you to want to grow a beard?
I'm guessing not, but that'd be pretty cool.
Josh:  Haha!  That's fantastic!  I have never seen that cover before!
It's actually kind of funny; I was always clean shaven until about 8 years ago I was hosting a St. Patrick's Day Vaudeville Review.  There was some stage combat in the second act of the show and during intermission several attendees bought my cohost and I tequila shots.  Needless to say, we were not on our game after.  I took a fall too hard and my chin landed where two parts of the stage connected and tore my chin clean open.  I put my hand to my chin and pulled it away to see all the blood and ran off stage.  I got a fistful of paper towels from the bathroom, ran back onstage, and held my chin together for the rest of the show.  I ended up having to have it glued shut the next morning, so it was bandaged and I couldn't shave for weeks.  Then I saw I could grow a pretty sweet beard and it's stayed ever since!  The running joke is that I'm such a narcissist that I grew an entire beard to hide one minor facial scar.
Bryant:  Better than trying to emulate a Stephen King book cover, I suppose.  Not that that's my reason (ahem) or anything...  Anyways, speaking of cover art, what's your favorite King book cover?
Josh:  The cover of Night Shift, with the bandaged hand covered in eyeballs!  I've never read it but I know the story that goes with that imagery and it has always stuck with me.
Bryant:  What is the one King book/story you haven't read that you are most looking forward to?
JoshInsomnia.  While I haven't read it, you're shocked I know, what I do know is that there is a plane crash in Derry at the Derry Civic Center.  So when I was doing my Derry due diligence while developing the "radio show" for our intro, I was looking into locations in town and discovered this story.  Ever since it's been on my radar as a must read.
Bryant:  It's a hell of a novel.  Big, weird, wonderful stuff; not necessarily one of my personal favorites, but good stuff, and one of the relatively few novels that ever made me cry.  What is your favorite short story by King?
Josh:  I absolutely love "The Mist."  It's also one of my favorite movies!
Bryant:  Have you ever heard the "3D" radio version from the eighties?  [Bryant's note: I'm referring to The Mist In 3D Sound, which for many years was the only "audiobook" version of that novella, but in actuality was a radio drama produced in "Kunstkopf binaural" sound and later released on cassette and, eventually, CD.]

Josh:  I have never heard of "3D Mist"!  But now that I know it exists, it's at the top of my to do list!  I have been wanting to listen to the audiobook versions of some of the books I've already read to see what that experience adds so this seems like a great place to start!

Bryant:  I think you'd dig it.  And I'm going to highly recommend the audiobook of Needful Things, which is read by King himself; he's got a love-it-or-hate-it voice, but I think he is killer at reading his own work, and I think this is maybe the best one he ever did.
Changing topics -- King Easter-eggs in movies: lame or rad?
Josh:  Rad!  I am someone who gets overly excited when I see an Easter Egg in anything.  I will literally hit you in the arm if you're next to me.  The casual reference to all things serving the beam that was dropped in the Gerald's Game movie nearly caused me to throw the remote it made me so happy.  Even though it's not a movie, my favorite Easter Egg is the newspaper article about Leland Gaunt that is in one of the early episode of Castle Rock.
Bryant:  I've got an adversarial relationship with Castle Rock, which I've wanted to love and mostly haven't.  Knowing that Needful Things is your favorite King novel, I'd love to know how you felt about the show's treatment of Alan Pangborn, and especially about the way it consigned Polly Chalmers into apparent nonexistence.  I was kind of furious about it, but you seem like someone who might be able to change my mind about that.
Josh:  The Castle Rock series is such a divisive issue!  I can completely see why because the purist in me hates some of the completely incongruous things and the fan in me loves the broad strokes that lend themselves to cool Easter Eggs.  I mean "Jackie Torrance" is so on the nose that I rolled my eyes but also smiled.

But the moment Alan Pangborn was on screen I was beyond excited since he is my favorite protagonist.  First off, I love Scott Glenn and I think he does an amazing job playing Alan Pangborn.

Bryant:  No arguments from me there!

Josh:  My opinion on this character is actually influenced by doing this podcast.  When we covered The Dark Half and Pangborn was in it, I was so happy and as we talk about in the episodes Thad Beaumont despite winning the day has a terrible and tragic life ahead of him that ultimately ends in suicide.  The Alan Pangborn we meet in the Castle Rock series is an old man who has survived every nasty, supernatural encounter he's ever been through.  He's won so many days and seen so much but normal life still just doesn't work out for him.  I had assumed we never heard about Polly not because she didn't exist but because whatever did happen is something he buries.  This is Alan in his darkest timeline, or on his darkest level of the Tower, whichever analogy you prefer.  It was so true to who I imagined Alan would become if his happy ending didn't last.  Still a hero at heart but so beaten down by time and life.
Bryant:  That's an interesting perspective.  I think my due diligence as a blogger might involve rewatching the first season and writing about it before season two begins, so when and if I do I will try to watch it with that perspective in mind and see if it changes my feelings.  It just might!

Change-of-topic time again: do you listen to any other King-centric podcasts?
Josh:  While I don't regularly listen, I have listened to probably one or two episodes of every King podcast I find.  The reason I don't listen has nothing to do with the shows themselves and everything to do with the fact that I don't want to be influenced subconsciously or otherwise.  It's likely overboard but I want to guarantee that the thoughts and feelings you hear from me on Derry Public Radio are truly mine.

Bryant:  That makes sense to me; I sometimes worry that I'll inadvertently poach something from another blogger -- or from a podcast, even -- in writing my posts.  I'm okay with being influenced; I just want to be able to cite any thoughts that aren't my own, and I worry that my memory isn't good enough to ensure that.  So your approach makes complete sense to me, and my gut tells me that it's a part of what makes the show work so well.
Moving along ... I'm sure you have obsessions beyond Stephen King's works -- what are some of the other things you love to immerse yourself in?
Josh:  I like to stay busy performing mostly.  I am an improviser and have played with ComedySportz, for 10 years doing family friendly improv comedy.  I have done some voice acting here and there, most notably on a few episodes of Unsolved Murders: True Crime Stories on the Parcast Podcast Network.  I created and acted in a web miniseries called "Against the Odds" which you can watch at with my production company Two-Toms-Two Productions.  And I have been a Burlesque show host with Bottoms Up Quad City Burlesque for about 10 years as "The Ghost of Vaudeville," Joshua Kahn.
Bryant says: glorious.

Bryant:  Do you feel that the process of creating Derry Public Radio has changed your relationship with King's work at all?
Josh:  It absolutely has.  Recording with CM and Ben has been an eye opening experience.  Hearing their perspectives and having the discussions we have, has made me look deeper and notice things I've never noticed before.  Add on to that their higher knowledge of King's work and it's almost like I'm getting a guided tour as I discover King books for the first time.  Plainly, I am a bigger King fan now than I have ever been because of this show.

Bryant:  C.M. mentioned earlier that you choose the episode titles.  What can you tell me about your process on that?

Josh:  When I listen back to the episodes to write the title and description, the way I inevitably choose what will be our title goes all the way back to episode one.  Ben's philosophy on movies being named after the best line in them in why You've Got Mail should be called Hello, It's Mr. Nasty.  It inspired me to name the episodes that way.  While "best line" is a subjective term, to me it's something that makes the episode unique.  What did we do or talk about that would never happen in another episode.  Some of my personal favorites being, "The Major is a Bigfoot," "Mr. Picklocks," and "Thaddy Daddy."  When those moments happened, I didn't even have to consider it, I knew instantly those were the titles.
Bryant:  Tell us a bit about your Patreon goals.
Josh:  When it comes down to it, our Patreon has two major goals that go hand in hand.  We want to grow, while breaking even.  What I mean by that is that I've been a performer for most of my life and unless you're in a very small percentage, it almost costs you money to create art.  My dream is to generate enough through our Patreon that we can do more and not have to worry about the financial risk.  That means we can dedicate the resources to starting our bonus monthly show (which we are in the process of developing now), or it means we can travel and do live shows (which is an insane dream of mine).  I want us to feel comfortable taking those risks with the future of DPR.  When someone signs up to support us, it means they believe in us and they are helping us take those risks.  I cannot overstate how much that means to us and we're not going to take it for granted.  You're giving a little of yourself to us and we are going to put that time and energy right back into the thing you're supporting.
Bryant:  What do you hope and/or plan for the future of Derry Public Radio?
Josh:  In broad strokes, the plan for the future is to keep making Derry Public Radio until people get tired of us!  A more short term plan, I want to tackle a King epic in our second year!  We've stayed away from things like The Stand and IT so far because releasing bi-weekly means you're going to likely have to hear us talk about the same book for about two months and we just want to make sure our audience is on board for that kind of commitment!
As far as my hopes for the future go, I hope that we never stop loving what we do.  I hope we are fortunate enough to take every opportunity we are given.  I hope we make the most of this passion project that we never thought anyone outside our friends, let alone hometown would listen to.  And I hope that our listeners continue to love all of it right alongside us.
Bryant:  I'm only one of those listeners, but I can say honestly: so far, so good.  I thank you all for it, and I thank you for taking the time to speak with me!
And that brings our conversation to a close.  I'd like to encourage you all to check the show out, and if you enjoy it, consider chipping in a few bucks a month to help support this trio of enthusiastic young King fans
And if you do, tell 'em Large Marge Bryant sent ya!


  1. (1) This probably goes without saying, yet it's nice to know C.M. has such broad tastes when it comes to King adaptations. She should probably come back for a total Trek devoted interview, or something like that.

    (2) I sampled a few minutes of the first episode before pressing on with this article. So I had the chance to hear Graham talk about his dad's King bookshelf. That just sounds somehow impressive. Ir makes me wonder what his family's old basement must have looked like. I picture it as the same from "It", only instead of a monster, there's this big bookcase devoted to all the works.

    (3) Interesting thoughts re: "The Institute". That said, I hope this is something new and stand-alone. From what I've been able to understand, it sounds like a continuation of this public conscience streak King has been on with his latest round of works. In other words, King spoke out on Me-too with "Sleeping Beauties", and social harassment and fears of strangers with "The Outsider". It sounds like the next one will be more or less about the return of those old paranoia fears that were all the rage during the 60s.

    I think the real fuel there is precisely because a lot of the fears and ideas of those times are starting to become common currency once more. So in that sense, a book like "The Institute" was almost an inevitability, if not a certainty. Whether it holds up, however, remains to be seen.

    (3) I'm pretty much willing to write off Castle Rock as non-canonical at this point. The writing sort of reveals that the whole show is a mess of a hodge-podge, with very little to recommend it except Easter Eggs. They might be fine for a trivia game, or something like that, however the trick with narratives is that the story has to go somewhere interesting, and that's just not happening with this show.

    (4) It's nice to know that Graham also liked the end of "The Gunslinger" novel. In fact, I think he just helped me to organize my own thoughts on the whole Tower series as a whole. That's still for later, though.

    (5) Ah, yes. The Willy Wonka Tunnel scene. What I find interesting, looking back as an adult(?) is just how one-of-a-kind it all is. There has been perhaps just one other time when I saw something that kind of reminded me of that sequence.

    It was Peter Gabriel's music video for "Shock the Monkey":

    I think the reason why is because the frenetic nature of the video and it's tone just somehow matches up well with the Tunnel scene. Considering that "Wonka" was already a musical before that moment, part of me wonders what would it be like if they'd made that a musical sequence similar to Gabriel's video.

    I don't know, I think it would have hurt more than helped. It's just one of those neat what could have been ideas that occur from time to time. In honor of that sequence though, here's a fan trailer:


    1. (2) Yeah, the bookcase sounds awesome. I think a lot of devoted King fans probably have some totem like that in their King-fandom origin stories. I love hearing about that stuff!

      (3) I kind of hope you're right about "The Institute." If the sixties were about paranoia, though, what's the current decade about?

      As for "Castle Rock," yeah, to me it's well-produced but otherwise illegitimate. It had its moments, though; and who knows, maybe I'll love the second season. I fear not.

      (4) That's a guarantease!

      (5) I hadn't seen that video in decades, probably. Definitely got a fever-dream sort of vibe to it. That scene in "Willy Wonka," though, is a straight-up waking nightmare.

  2. Great stuff here. I really need to tune back in to this one. I'm terrible at keeping up with podcasts. I enjoyed the one on "The Long Walk" I listened to, though.

    Seem like three cool cats.

    Incidentally, my girls love that tripped out boat scene. I'd forgotten about it when we were watching the movie for the first time and had an "Ohhhhh crap" moment when the scene began and I remembered it. But they both are fascinated by it. "Did he just cut that chicken's head off?? SLUGWORTH!!" Truly my offspring.

    1. They'll be watching "Dawn of the Dead" in no time flat!

  3. I've got that Mist-3d on tap. never heard it before but I remember hearing about it way back in the first edition in Beahm's SK COMPANION, so this is a long-delayed treat for me.

    Say, have you ever ranked the BBC Radio King adaptations, or audiobooks? Just curious - it'd be a hell of an undertaking and would take forever. But I can't recall if I've seen that in these pages.

    1. There are only a handful of the BBC adaptations, so ranking them would be relatively easy. Not sure there are quite enough to bother with a ranking, per se; but an overview, now maybe that's something...

      As for audiobooks, I'm actually kinda/sorta working on a chronological overview of all the audiobook releases that I know about. But it's really slow going, and if I'm honest with myself I have to admit that I'm not super invested in it. There are just so many of them ... and listening to them takes so much time ... and I tend to feel that all but the truly great ones color my opinion about the novel/story itself negatively, which is an outcome I dislike intensely. All of which combines to make it a thing perpetually on my agenda, but one which is hard to make myself commit to.

      A better idea might be to do a list of my recommendations for essential King audiobooks. Now THAT'S not a bad idea...

  4. Listening to the latest one right now... holy moley, they LIKED THE "Pet Sematary" movie? It's "brilliantly directed?" What??

    And is there a dig on Kubrick's framing up there? What the second what?

    It's difficult to get past "brilliant" and the Pet Sematary movie in the same sentence. I don't hate it, but... I just don't know if you can credibly make that claim. Opinions are opinions, but come on.

    1. I myself would certainly stop short of calling Lambert's work on it brilliant, but I can't deny that that movie seems to exert an unshakable hold on people. Me included! It's by no means alone in the King-movie landscape for having that quality, of course; and if anything, that list of movies is growing -- there are a lot of the older movies that have taken up what seems to be permanent residence in the YEA category in my mind, some of which I'd once have thought impossible to get there with. And yet, "Graveyard Shift" and "Silver Bullet" and "Sleepwalkers" (fucking "SLEEPWALKERS"!!!) and so forth. "The Mangler" is on the verge of getting there.

      And yeah, for me, "Pet Sematary" is unquestionably there, too, warts and all. So I don't fault the fine folk at DPR for their enthusiasm; I don't think I have quite the same level of it, but that's alright.

      As for the Kubrick dig, I actually thought he meant the opposite -- that he'd be ranting about how well-framed the shots were. I could be wrong, of course, but Ben strikes me as the kind of guy who'd like the movie AND the book.

    2. I hope so re: Kubrick. Everyone's entitled to their opinion but sheesh.

      I can't hang with PET SEMATARY as a brilliant movie or even a good adaptation of the novel, so I had to turn that episode off. I don't know how people arrive at these ideas. I was curious to learn but I wasn't getting it from that episode. Ah well. Just my two cents obviously.

    3. Man, I still want to blog my way through all of Kubrick's movies one of these years. That's a project worth tackling!