I wish podcasts weren’t called podcasts. I like them very much otherwise. I’ve been fooling around with the medium the past four years, but in the last few weeks something changed and I decided to focus on it ‘for real’. What that means on a practical level is finding a program that records audio conversations remotely without the horrible video component and lousy sound quality of the ubiquitous conferencing apps, investing in a new mic, and inviting writers and artists to test their patience for technical incompetence by talking to me through the screen.
I’ve recorded three long talks so far, with varied success. The first took three tries. We spoke for an hour and a half the first time. I thought it went great. Then, when I played back the audio, I could only hear my voice, with long pauses in between, where my guest used to be. It reminded me of Garfield Minus Garfield. During our second attempt, there was equipment failure on his end; the third time was the charm. There were still hours of watching tutorials and banging my head against virtual compressors, faders, gains, and echoes, but in the end, I had a conversation that I think a few people will be interested in hearing.
Just as I’ve refocused on podcasts, Substack—which also hosts my newsletter—began to have a glitch where audio wouldn’t upload. It went on for days, and, because they have virtually no customer service, I decided to move my podcast elsewhere. Then, as so often happens in my life, I started pulling on that thread of dissatisfaction, and decided to move the newsletter as well. It’s never sat well with me that they pay already successful/famous people to write letters. Feels like a fancy tech-bro era infomercial. That’s not my scene. The audio glitch was the proverbial straw that pushed my frustrations with the company over the camel’s broken back and off a cliff.
The last time I did this was November 2020. It was a colossal amount of tedious busy work. Took me about a week to push, pull, lurch, and haul a five-year archive across town to the new digs. It worked pretty well for awhile. I made a little money and clarified as time went on what the purpose of the whole newsletter project has been. It’s a kind of episodic public diary and sketchbook, to be plundered for more coherent expression later in other forms. It’s been a valuable if sometimes grueling exercise. I would have never guessed I could crank out two a week for so long. Now it’s become a matter of pride and expectation to maintain the pace and routine. I expect I’ll slip at some point, but it won’t be for lack of effort.
I hope to post podcasts more regularly than I have up to now. I’m relaunching the show on a new platform. I’m not sure yet how frequently episodes will be published but will do my best to keep you apprised in this newsletter. Please subscribe there if you like what you hear. The first episode features a talk with my favorite living writer, Lucy Sante. In the second, I talk to Chicago painter Frank Spidale, who is one of my oldest friends. Talks with more painters, musicians, and writers will follow. I’ve also reedited episodes from the old version of the show into something that is hopefully more coherent. Scroll through the archive if you’re curious.
These talks will be an extension or expansion of the newsletter project, in a way. I don’t expect to become Terry Gross or Marc Maron. I remain a painter, first, second, and third. But these recordings are another way to connect, for someone who has such a hard time doing so.