Imagine living in the 1930’s…You are sitting in the family room, just listening to your radio near the window when the dark descriptions of a monster crashing through the front door hit the air waves. Nervously, you look up at your door and your fingers begin to shake. Without the visual aid of a television set, the victim of this invasion would be you, as your imagination is left unsettled and the hairs rise quickly up and down your spine. Some part of you wants to turn the radio off but you can’t; you just have to know what happens next. Better yet, only you know what this grotesque creature looks like because you can see it in your imagination. Due to this level of personalization, the sensory impact of radio itself is arguably one of the most frightening mediums to endure.
In the 1930’s, the likes of Boris Karloff, Vincent Price and Orson Welles were mouthpieces behind those microphones, instilling an eager fear into humankind. Anyone who has ever heard of War of the Worlds knows just how Orson Welles was able to terrify his listeners into believing that an invasion from another world was raining down on us. His broadcasts led to hysteria amongst the public until they realized it was a hoax.
Radio and horror seem to be one of the least discussed aspects of the dark fiction world. Interestingly enough, horror and science-fiction radio were among the first ways we were terrified by the notion of creatures or otherworldly beings. My professional background is in radio and I oftentimes had the pleasure of listening to such programs as Imagination Theater and Twilight Zone. While many may think that radio is a dying field, it seems very much alive and has just simply taken a new form via Internet podcasts. This evolution is evident, particularly when it comes to the Red Horse Radio Network, begun by Jon Towers, but which has spread out into a variety of other unique shows done by David Fairhead and Nelson W. Pyles.
Read on, Horror Fans, to learn even more about the fascinating, changing face of radio and horror.
RavMon: Jon Towers, we have spoken with you before about your amazing zombie artistry and comic books and are bringing you back because of our interest in radio and horror. Also, since the interview last year, you have taken up indie wrestling again. Please, tell us a little bit about yourself (again) and what you’ve been up to lately.
Jon Towers: I am an artist, writer, podcaster and indie pro wrestler. I describe myself as an indie renaissance man. I have been working on my epic comic series The Books of the New Apocrypha for, um…let’s see…a decade now? This is actually my 10-year anniversary for when my first work on the project was published. I am running around putting my “X YEARS” logo on everything, sort of tooting my own horn. I can send it to you if you want…for the interview…just kidding. But seriously let me know if you want it.
A year or so ago I also made my return to the indie pro-wrestling ring. I used to live in the Cleveland area where I worked as a trainer at a pro wrestling school and I used to be in the ring 5 nights a week training then for the weekends. I would hit the road and wrestle shows. I ultimately gave it up to focus on my funny books. In truth, I love wrestling, and one day I realized that if I didn’t make a comeback soon I would seriously be too old and decrepit to do it. I found a local promotion here who welcomed me in with open arms and so a few times a month I get to hang up my pens and my mic’ and squeeze into a pair of tights and act like a fucking lunatic for 20 minutes and kick guys in their faces. And if all that wasn’t dramatic enough, I spend a few hours talking into a mic’ and posting my inner most thoughts and stream of consciousness ramblings on the World Wide Web for anyone to sort of tune in and listen to. I have said that I have an endless need to express myself. I guess that is what all of these things are for.
RavMon: How and when did The Red Horse Radio Network begin? What types of shows do you broadcast?
JT: Yes, I remember it like it was yesterday – RHR in truth started in 1984 in my Dad’s basement. All I wanted was a tape deck with a mic’ built into it so I could record myself. I was totally obsessed with this morning radio program on WMMS in Cleveland. And I’m sure it was just a horrible Morning Zoo program but all I wanted to do was this, like, DJ shtick. I would tape myself intro-ing songs and then I would dub the song in from the radio on these tapes – I had dozens of them hidden all over the place. Jesus, I think that’s weird. Is that weird? That’s probably like one of the early warning signs of a serial killer or something. Then, when I got out of the army, I discovered Howard Stern because I got this shitty job delivering potato chips. And it was off to the races again. There was no format back then, though. So I was managing my would-be multi-media empire with the website and the funny books and whatnot and I would occasionally listen to a buddy of mine’s podcast where he would talk about these urban meat market dance clubs and all the fucking stupid things that happen in them. And something sort of clicked. I was like, “I can talk into a mic’ AND figure out how to post it to the internet!” I call it a “brand expansion”, whatever that means. What it really means is that I can pour myself a tall drink or two, and talk about the world, politics, movies and the sad state of what passes for creativity in this day and age and crack myself up. So I ran out to the grocery store on Feb 11, 2011, came home and did a really short show on how the deli lady had a Mr. Spock haircut. And I was hooked. I called it Red Horse Radio.
RavMon: How did cohorts David Fairhead and Nelson W. Pyles become involved and then branch off on their own?
JT: Well, David and I are really good friends and we were working on a comic book project together and I kept telling him he should have his own podcast or whatever. And although my goal was to have a show a week, RHR was suffering. Whenever anything on my schedule had to go it was the poor audio show that would get pushed to the back burner. So I had this great idea to import hosts. So the podcast had four hosts who would rotate through, weekly, and do whatever they wanted for their show. I asked my old army buddy Shane Guernsey to take a shift, I asked David to take a shift, and one of my oldest friends from high School (who for legal reasons has to remain nameless right now).
That is the way we went for a long time. And I would get frustrated and want to ditch the whole fucking thing. And poor David would have to talk me off the ledge and deal with all my hyperventilating and stuff. Soon, since Dave’s show was moving in a different direction and he had his own thing going on anyway, we kicked Dave off of the RHR show and he had his own show with Heather Taddy and it is still going very strong as Kettle Whistle Radio.
Gods damn is this is a long story! I was having conversations with “Thee” Nelson W. Pyles – we had met from the Big Book of Bizzaro adventure and whenever we were together or emailing back and forth we were always bouncing ideas off of each other and really looking for ways to work with each other. And although the Possessed Shark/Exorcist Movie we were outlining sort of fell through, we came up with this idea for The Wicked Library. Nelson has this great sense of humor and awesome reading voice. So I sort of pitched him my idea. And he took it and made it his own and he grabbed that podcast and rolling-German-Suplexed it. I am very proud of David, Shane, Nelson and the other guy. And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the never-not-awesome Kristin Ross, occasional RHR personality and co-host of Hey Girl! When I need a girl to come on and ‘vag’ my show up she is the only choice.
RavMon: Do you have a favorite radio influence, past or present, for your podcast?
JT: Rush Limbaugh, Howard Stern, and Paul Harvey of the WMMS Morning Zoo. In that order. In there somewhere would also be Stephan Hoeller who did this awesome lecture series for the Gnostic Society and Joe Campbell who is one of the coolest intellectual story tellers ever.
RavMon: Where are you planning on going in the future with Red Horse?
JT: The network is going to go away. It has birthed some great shows, but I am selfish and I am going to take the name back. We will stay together and do something new, I suspect. The show will be what it has always been, me babbling into the mic’ about the virtues of being independent, and creative, and probably drunk. And recounting stories of me kicking people in the face.
RavMon: Please tell us where you broadcast and how we can listen in.
JT: You can get the current biz here: redhorseradio.podomatic.com. You can get the back log here: redhorseradio.com. Here is our ITunes store: itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/red-horse-radio/id591660133 and you can find my comics and wrestling matches here: www.jonnyaxx.com.
RavMon: Thank you, Jon….
David Fairhead, you came on board with Jon Towers as one of the initial cohorts for The Red Horse Radio Network. Thereafter, you branched off to do Kettle Whistle Radio where you tend to discuss and interview independent writers, filmmakers, artists and even play music from bands during your show. Today, we will dig deeper into your show, how it began and what the listeners should expect. Please tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been up to lately.
David Fairhead: Well, I’m 42, and have been writing since I can remember. I love Comics, horror and sci-fi. I can remember being intrigued at an early age with movies like Jaws, Night of the Living Dead, Godzilla, Exorcist, and even the old black and white ‘50s and ‘60s sci-fi. I would stay up late or get up early to catch these movies. In NY they played every Saturday morning, be it the original The Blob or Plan 9 from Outer Space all the way to Creature from the Black Lagoon and the creepier foreign flicks that made little sense even with subtitles. Then there were those that did make sense – Baron Blood, Mario Bava, etc.
I used to re-write the stories really young with “HOW I WOULD HAVE MADE THIS…” so I was remaking stuff even when I was nine, whether on paper or with my toys. I have two published short stories under my belt, one novel completed, two others I’m in the middle of and a fourth that is almost complete and will be sent for publication.
But, growing up, all the time, music was in the background. Radio, or scary music in the movies, the early vinyl from my dad while I wrote or acted out these movies in my head, or some that I actually made on my own with minimal analogue equipment.
…Always had a Radio on too. Still do.
RavMon: Can you tell us about how and when you first agreed to work with The Red Horse Radio Network and Jon Towers?
DF: I worked with Dr. Jon Towers for roughly seven years in an office environment, under a good amount of stress. But don’t take me wrong I really liked my job…to a point. That point being a breaking point, where things got more stressful than they should have due to some unprofessionalism in the work place. Jon recognized my frustration. Maybe at times admired my anger, or both, and said he came up with a good method of therapy – talking to oneself – cause, hey, that’s normal. But not just talking to one’s self, but talking to one’s self and recording it. Then broadcasting it! I came to find through Jon’s girlfriend Laurie, that he’d been podcasting Red Horse Radio for some time then, maybe ten episodes in? I think. He offered me a spot to bring in my own flavor. We had already made our comic together, World Zombie Wrestling Association, or just completing WZWA. I think Jon’s plans grow as he grows restless, and needs more input. That’s where I came in. He showed me the ropes and I hung myself with them.
RavMon: Describe to us that moment that sparked something in you to follow your own path with the shows. Or was it a gradual transition that led you into the inception of Kettle Whistle Radio?
DF: I grew up with Imus and Howard Stern, who paved the way in New York, and driving around with my dad listening to Long Island Radio, there were “HOLY SHIT” moments, when my dad would laugh and I would wonder, “Did they just say that? Can you DO that?” AND they played music. ‘70s stations were so much cooler than now too, granted, I was young, but the variety was amazing. With all that radio did back then, and even later. It introduced an audience to a new sound, something they never heard before. That’s exciting to me. I see the excitement in music is gone now, almost completely as it is stolen and taken for granted. So I based my shows around horror movies, music and even music found in horror movies. Always on the darker side of music because it was more interesting. Go as far back as Elenor Rigby by the Beatles. Have you ever really heard the lyrics to that? Dark.
So, Red Horse Radio was a spoken word show, and I came in with my own intro, as I’ve always produced mixes and recordings of my own with just a dual cassette device in the ‘80s. I even recorded stuff from HBO in the ‘80s to mix in to my music, sound FX from Star Wars or funny moments from SCTV and SNL and anime as well. Jon was impressed (so he said once…) and he was there when I met Heather Taddy the first time at that Pittsburgh Comic Con. I had her on Red Horse Radio for two of my shows, and Jon liked our chemistry.
Right around that time he came up with the concept of multiple shows, and bringing on Rick Dembroski and Shane Guernsey, his old buds. So during my 2nd show with Heather, Jon Skyped-in and said, “Hey, you have good chemistry. How about your own show?” Heather didn’t hesitate. Poor thing, she’s just as strange as I am. And ECLECTIC. THAT was the key! We had a long conversation about Jane’s Addiction at the convention and found that Denise and I were at the same show as Heather about 7 years ago. Her love of Jane’s led to her joining us for two shows and we thought about dedicating a show to Jane’s Addiction, but as all things must evolve….it did.
I always wanted a show about music, where we played music! We get permission now to play the bands’ full songs that we play. Some are really good friends now. We both love horror, not to mention her Paranormal State background. But the focus was on the music!
RavMon: Do you have a favorite radio influence, past or present, for your podcast?
DF: Currently, I love Ron & Fez on Sirius XM. Ron Bennington is radio genius. I also listen ritually to Opie & Anthony, but I’m more prone to Ron Bennington and his love of all Music. They talk music, and play songs occasionally, opening a new audience to new sounds. Opie & Anthony are burned out on the music-in-radio thing, and I don’t blame them. They did it for 15-plus years. I never will get sick of new music. I make sure I listen to 8 of the satellite radio stations every day while working, switching back and forth between them all the time.
[I’ve] always loved Headbangers Ball and even Friday Night Videos in the ‘80s with Theo Huxtable. We had a show called Night Flight too, I believe, on Saturday nights in NY where they’d mix Pet Shop Boys, Madonna and occasionally a Heavy Metal video.
RavMon: Where are you planning on going in the future with Kettle Whistle Radio?
DF: It’s ever evolving. Our favorite shows are usually the unrehearsed ones which are almost all of them. Heather will come over, we’ll drink some Earl Grey, her and my wife Denise will talk crafting and Jane’s Addiction, occasionally share a weird clip I recorded or concert footage and Heather will eat cookies, cupcakes, candy or any sweets that my wife put out, it’s like her backstage prep…I ‘m not sure what that’s about…but Denise provides the goodies. But mostly that chemistry that started this thing just comes out in a ½-hour to an hour in conversation, then BOOM, we have a show on horror, music, literature, videos, subcultures – that just happens naturally. Then came John Russo and Cary Hill and Eric Powell from 16VOLT and of course Jon’s friends Wings For Armor. Some folks we knew, others I just reached out to in their environment. At a convention, a concert, or what have you.
I drive my wife crazy with this. God bless her. I’m always looking to meet new artists for that reason and I have! There are some good shows coming up.
The main focus for me personally is that since we live in a time when no one is paying for music and everyone is stealing movies, and there is no money going into new production, it’s important to provide an outlet that can expose folks to new music, movies and things they never heard before. Granted, it’s all a given on the web, but a band that I found in the Strip may never get heard by my friends in California or Texas. Radio does not do that anymore for local scenes. And independent film – same thing!
RavMon: Please tell us where you broadcast and how we can listen in.
DF: Well, we have made it on to iTunes. More on that soon. Previously and still, really we are at RedHorseRadio.podomatic.com and Kettle Whistle Radio can be found on Facebook at its own page as well as my page; Always new on Monday nights. Also at RedHorseRadio.com. All our shows are archived there and you, Christine, appear now on 3 of them, no, 4 of them ha!
RavMon: Thank you, David….
Nelson W. Pyles, you came on board to create what began as Story Time at The Wicked Library after a collaborative discussion with Jon Towers of The Red Horse Radio Network. For your show, you read short horror stories with a blend of music and sound effects. Tell us a little bit about yourself and what you’ve been up to lately.
Nelson W. Pyles: Mainly these days, I’m an author, although I used to wear a lot of different hats. I was a performing musician and even a stage actor for a while. Over the years though, the writing eventually demanded the most time from me, and the other two stopped being fun. For whatever reason, the writing provides the most satisfaction. I’m working on a second novel — the first is in consideration for publication. I’m also in two upcoming anthologies hopefully to be released in March. And then there’s the podcast…
RavMon: Can you tell us about how Story Time at The Wicked Library came about after discussing this idea with Jon Towers?
NWP: Jon, Dave Fairhead and I all met at the book signing for The Big Book of Bizarro when it was released. We all had similar personalities and became pals. We started plotting things and stuff and I always secretly wanted to do a podshow, but never said anything to anyone about it. Jon sent an email saying he had an idea for a show and wanted to know if I’d give it a shot. He always backs away from the credit, but he’s responsible for the show’s inception. I think I took about 45 minutes and pitched the idea for Story Time at the Wicked Library. He liked it and said, “Run with it.”
From the get go, I wanted to be different from the other podcasts that involve horror fiction. There are some really good ones and some really awful ones out there. The focus on my show isn’t just the story, although that’s certainly a big part of it. I want the podcast to be more of a showcase for both story and author; something they can actually use as a promotional tool. The show is free and downloadable, so authors are encouraged to burn copies and either sell them (money is nice!) or give them away as promotional items.
It’s all about getting good solid stories out there and hopefully attracting a newer audience to their work. Since I’m an author as well, getting new eyes on your work is important.
RavMon: How did it feel to start your own show all by yourself? And just how difficult is it to splice together each episode full of sound effects?
NWP: I’ve always worked pretty well left to my own devices. I love working with other people, but I really love seeing what I can do. This is still pretty new to me and the whole process is really fun. Every week, I learn something new and I’m constantly trying to improve things on the show, like how it sounds, or different mic’s and mic’ placements.
Since I was a musician for so long, I have pretty good ears for certain things. The editing takes a bit, but I’ve gotten pretty good at doing it quickly and cleanly. You can hear every single edit on the very first episode, which is Dave Fairhead’s story. I’ve always felt bad about his story being first because it was a huge experiment. He loved it, but it makes me cringe when I hear now because I hear every flaw from edits to performance to music. Twenty or so episodes later, I’ve gotten pretty good. The current batch of stories for Season Two have been quite good, especially the second one with author and poet Stephanie Wytovich. I pushed a lot of things with music and vocal effects to drive things home and it worked better than I could have hoped for.
The music and occasional sound effect take a while to work through, but it’s like building a house. Once the foundation is set, you get to decorate. And if the foundation is there, you can create the right mood to accompany the story. It’s hard at times, but it’s also so much fun, I don’t notice that it’s work until I look at the time and notice I’ve been editing for 5 hours straight and didn’t blink.
RavMon: Do you have a favorite radio or story influence, past or present, for your podcast?
NWP: When I was a kid I loved anthology shows like the reruns of The Twilight Zone, Night Gallery, and movies like Creepshow. I also listened to a lot of old radio shows in my local library. Old stuff like The Shadow and a ton of science-fiction stuff that the tiny old Boonton Holmes Library had lying around. I ate it all up. As I got older, I just kept finding more things that turned me on — the radio play version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for example. I had a really, really shitty childhood, but this stuff was always around and available to me. It was a great place for me to hide. Maybe that’s why I enjoy it so much.
Eventually, I think I’ll start doing other kinds of podcasting. I wrote a radio play a few years ago and maybe that will see the light of day.
RavMon: Where are you planning on going in the future with The Wicked Library?
NWP: Funny you should ask. I know you’ve interviewed Jon and Dave and did Dave’s show, so mine is kind of the progression of this particular question. Initially, Jon, Dave, and myself were going to move Red Horse Radio to a new network we designed, including a new server that can grow with the content. Jon sadly had to take a huge step back due to all of his projects, so effective as of March, he’s taking a hiatus and so is Red Horse Radio. Dave and I are running our new network called Society 13. It’ll be the new home for both Dave’s show and The Wicked Library. Jon remains the co-creator emeritus for Society 13 and neither Dave nor myself would even be doing podcasting if it weren’t for him. He may return in some capacity, either with us or a RHR revival, which would be awesome.
There are a lot of big things planned including the return of Joe R. Lansdale and new programming like TBA with Mr. Pink which is a political show. Our tagline is, “Music, Horror, Art, Politics, Badassery”. Catchy, huh?
RavMon: Please tell us where you broadcast and how we can listen in.
NWP: You can always find The Wicked Library on Facebook. There are new episodes every week with an occasional “best of” thrown in for fun. You can also find us at iTunes. And Society 13 will have a website very soon. You can find my ever-growing pile of work at my author page at Amazon.
Thanks Christine! If you have any readers that are also authors, they can submit their stories to (email) [email protected]!
RavMon: Thank you, Nelson….
…To close out this radio broadcast, I want to share this site I found, which gives some of the radio players of the past in case anyone is interested in reading more about horror radio from a distant time: ww.otrcat.com/horror-and-mystery-on-radio.html.
If you’re interested in the future of radio, well, then look no further than the podcasts above!