The Optical Atlas Show


Sometime around 2007 I decided I would attempt to bring my Optical Atlas site to the next level by initiating a podcast. However, this was a case of intent exceeding my means. For one thing, I did not live in close proximity to the Elephant 6 collective. For another, I cut my landline (before it was cool), which meant I had to get clever to capture the interviews. These days, I’d use Skype – but for whatever reason I thought a traditional phone call was the way to go. For my interviews with John Ferguson (Big Fresh) and Robert Schneider (The Apples in Stereo) I grabbed a meeting room at work and used the speaker phone, placing my recorder up next to it, and proceeded to make a long distance call. The Robert one was particularly dicey because it was long, and because the door wasn’t soundproof – and my boss was sitting not very far away (and perhaps wondering where I was). When the interview was over I sheepishly slipped out of the room and back to my desk.

There were only three episodes because of these limitations – it was too much of a hassle. (Again, why didn’t I just use Skype?) I think what I really wanted to do was edit them together; that’s where I took the most enjoyment. For example, in episode 1 you’ll hear a snippet of audio I recorded in an elevator, secretly taping some girls chatting while the elevator beeps off the floors. Then Robert’s theme song for the show kicks in. If I could have had someone else perform the interviews, to hand over the raw materials for me to play with later, I would have been more than happy.

And yes, Robert, a big supporter of the site, did compose the theme song, performing it alongside John Ferguson I believe – that’s 2/3 of my show’s total guests! He said it could be credited to The Apples in Stereo. It’s very much along the lines of his “Apples in Stereo Theme Song” that he made for his band’s website a few years earlier. Surely his Apples song “Tin Pan Alley” was expressing a sincere wish to be a songwriter for hire, accepting any challenge to make a catchy melody. Of course I was overjoyed when he volunteered to do the song. (Now I’m remembering – I had put out a request to a swath of musicians asking if anyone would like to compose a short theme song, and Robert answered the call. I think I also asked Bill Doss, Andy Gonzales…I can’t remember who else.)

For the second episode, Jimmy Hughes was kind enough to perform a little Folklore concert in my basement. Joining him are Derek Almstead and Ian Rickert. I think Derek was appalled by my complete lack of preparation for that one – I had a single cheap little microphone and that was it. My half-assed idea would be that we’d create a seat-of-our-pants bedroom recording. Folklore pulled it off.


Episode 1: John Ferguson Interview (Big Fresh)

Episode 2: Folklore Live

Episode 3:  Robert Schneider Interview (The Apples in Stereo)