Stuff We Like: An Interview with the Hadron Gospel Hour Podcast
by Christa Weiss
The Hadron Gospel Hour (HGH) podcast is like a mad scientist’s dream, provided that said scientist was also a huge comedy nerd. Part old timey radio show, part sci-fi sitcom and part sketch comedy, HGH is nothing short of a uniquely awesome audio experience.
Created by Richard Wentworth and Michael McQuilkin, the podcast has a sensibility that is akin to a combination of Mystery Science Theatre 3000, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Monty Python. In addition to doing a high quality and meticulously produced podcast, HGH also do live recordings of the show.
On Sunday, Aug. 10th, the Hadron Gospel Hour will be holding yet another live comedy sci-fi sketch spectacular to coincide with Boston Comic Con. The show will feature a live never-before-heard episode of HGH along with the most special of guests!
To commemorate this momentous event (and because I felt like it) I mean sat down with Rich and Mike to find out just what makes the Hadron Gospel Hour tick.
How the heck did you come up with the concept for the podcast?
Mike: We had a shared desire to create an audio-only radio-style show in an environment that allowed us nearly limitless story potential…namely a fractured multiverse in which the characters could easily traverse drastically different timelines and settings.
Rich: Yeah, as Mike mentioned, we’ve been wanting to do an audiodramedy, or at least some kind of podcast, for years. As far as Hadron Gospel Hour goes: I was in a band briefly (The Unlivin’ Dead) where I’d come up with the idea of Dr. Oppenheimer, the Hadron Blast, and the fracturing of the multiverse as a backstory and a way to frame our songs. When The Unlivin’ Dead ended, I was really reluctant to let that idea die, so last September Mike and I sat down and I pitched him the idea of somehow adapting it to a radio drama format, with the “Tales from the Hadron Rift” part as comedy sketches instead of songs. Everything just clicked.
What are your influences?
Mike: Everything. Comics, movies, classic TV. Obviously lots of 60’s, 70’s, and 80’s nostalgia trickles in to our storycrafting…and we couldn’t be happier about that inevitability.
Rich: Comedywise, I think we’d both agree on a lot of these: Mel Brooks, Tex Avery, Peter Sellers, Monty Python, 60s and 70s Hanna-Barbera action/comedy cartoons, The Monkees…
We also love lots of more “modern” stuff though, too — like Workaholics, Tim and Eric, Arrested Development, the UK version of The Office… more minimal, single camera-type shows that take the tropes of situation comedy or sketch comedy, amplify ‘em and strip away the chaff. Science fiction-wise, it’s stuff like The Tomorrow People (original UK version), Doctor WHO, Misfits of Science, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, The Lost Saucer, Far-Out Space Nuts and the novels of William Gibson. And our theme was obviously inspired by the Incredible Hulk, the Six Million Dollar Man, Space 1999 and high-octane kids’ sci-fi adventure of the 70s and 80s.
What’s the writing process like?
Mike: The season starts off with a brainstorming session by fireside in Rich’s yard in Lowell, coming up with the rough outlines for each of the 10 episodes and some story threads that will run throughout. We then split duties, each taking every other episode and creating a completed script in 2-4 days. This constitutes the first week of production. We then schedule and record the performers by that weekend. The 2nd week is editing and post-production, with me editing the episode together and Rich focusing on sound design and sound mixing.
Somewhere in there, we throw together the ‘Tales from the Hadron Rift’, writing, recording, and editing those on the fly. The deadline is the 2nd Sunday, where we broadcast the completed episode live on our streaming server, finishing up with an impromptu record party. Monday morning, the episode is loaded to iTunes and it’s back to the races.
Rich: What Mike said. I’ll just add that now that we’ve got a season under our belt, the characters have really started taking off and almost writing themselves. We’ve got their voices in our heads now, which both helps us write and makes us extremely annoying to friends and family.
Twilight Zone vs the Xfiles, which is the best TV show?|
Mike: A seriously difficult question, as the first time I saw the X-files it evoked similar feelings of wonder and excitement as my first exposure to The Twilight Zone. I have to go with Twilight Zone, if only for it’s historic position in the annals of long-running sci-fi and the team of writers. Matheson, Ambrose Bierce, Serling…how many did he write alone? Close to 100? That’s just bananas. Although I absolutely love it, I feel as though the X-files ran out of steam after the first movie. That’s still quite a run of rare and wonderful television…plus it has perhaps the greatest onscreen platonic couple of all time. I’m so glad they never went to way of ‘Moonlighting’ and…oh wait…
Rich: Twilight Zone, just for Rod Serling’s weird swagger, its sheer mood and the wackiness of the premises — and the twist endings! There wasn’t much on TV that had that kind of weirdness at the time, so it’s got that going for it too. Great guests, too — I mean, Burgess Meredith? William Shatner? So yeah, Twilight Zone. Although the fact that William Gibson wrote a couple of X-Files episodes is hard to beat. Mike will be able to elucidate further on the X-Files, as he is perhaps our nation’s preeminent X-Files fan.
Where do you find your performers?
Mike: Besides our host of talented friends, we scour the land for talent…both locally and online. Rebecca Courtney is a voice actress based in England that Rich found on Twitter. Jon Mikl Thor is a living rock legend based in Canada, but touring the world. We are truly blessed with a host of talented folks willing to contribute.
Rich: We’re lucky to have a core group of friends that we’ve been working with for years on different projects. Mike Atkinson (Cyrus) is a longitme friend and collaborator from Malden (and everyone should see his standup), and Lisa McQuilkin (A.S.H LE) happens to be Mike’s ladycompanion. The legendary Kevin Harrington (Higgs_B) was introduced to us by the equally legendary Carrie D’Amour (Esmerelda), and they are both fabulous.
We’ve just been really lucky with our cast. Everyone’s attacked the learning curve involved in acting on the mic, and they just keep getting better and better. As far as new talent goes, like Mike said, we’re always listening for new voices. We’ve got a short list of folks we want to work with, but we’re always listening. So send us your reels and come visit the Hadron Bunker, folks.
What did you learn from the first season?
Mike: Time-management skills, juicing techniques, and the desire to take Hadron Gospel hour on the road for some live shows.
Rich: Do not binge-watch Hannibal/Fargo/etc. while there’s scripts to be written. Get sleep when you can, eschew sleep when you must. Always have an alternate plan when writing for a special guest. Stay focused, but stay loose! Hydrate. Also, people love Commander Funk.
Who is your favorite Doctor?
Mike: While I love the new Davies, Moffatt and Gattis incarnations…all excellent by the way…the Doctor will, and forever shall be, Tom Baker. It was amazing seeing him in ‘The Day of the Doctor’…I am getting teary-eyed just writing that.
Rich: Tom Baker. Handily. Pertwee a close second. Curly-haired Docs for the win. My least favorite? Celery lapel. Can’t remember his name offhand.
Who would win in a fight to the death, a bear or a shark?
Rich: Basically, if a bear and a shark are fighting, WE ALL win. Because if those two ever realize they can team up, the human race is screwed. No. No, my friends. We WANT them to fight.
Mike: In water, a Bear…on land, Shark. The desperation that arises when one is out of his or her natural element is not to be underestimated.
Amidst a sea of horrible audio nightmares, the quality of your podcast is top notch. What’s your approach to podcasting?
Rich: Early on, we made a gentleman’s agreement that we’d do this right — and for us, that means “good-sounding” — so we researched things like the best mics for our (nonexistent) budget and cheap ways to treat a room for the best sound. Mike and I both have backgrounds in recording and producing music, and I’ve done a lot of voiceover work, so we also have an ear for what works and what doesn’t. Mike’s logged many hours as a film editor, so his dialogue editing is super tight and efficient, and really swings. The process we’ve come up with really allows us a lot of control over the quality of the finished piece. It’s nice to hear that it comes across, because we’re definitely anal about it.
Mike: Thanks so much! We really appreciate that. It’s a lot of work, but in the end…on that 2nd Sunday night…I just want to be a member of the audience and tune in to something that I can enjoy. This practice is a self-imposed experiment of discipline…once it’s done, it’s done. We’ve had a lot of half-started projects that we were equally excited about, but we wanted this to be something of a ‘best-foot forward’ for the both of us.
As formerly (and currently) frustrated artists, we have set the bar particularly high for the type of thing we both want to hear and see, and Hadron Gospel Hour is no exception. Our audience deserves it.
Join Rich, Mike and the entire cast of HGH (including Michael Atkinson, Lisa Perry McQuilkin and Kevin Harrington) along with special guests Ken Reid (creator of the TV Guidance Counselor podcast- tvguidancecounselor.tumblr.com) and Rick Canavan of The Comedy Studio (www.thecomedystudio.com)
this Sunday, August 10th at the Hadron Gospel Hour Live!
Hadron Gospel Hour Live!
the Button Factory
50 Melcher St. Boston MA 02210
August 10th, 2pm
Presale tix: $8 via http://hadrongospelhour.brownpapertickets.com/
Tix at the door: $10.
For more information on the Hadron Gospel Hour, visit www.hadrongospelhour.com