Friday, September 12, 2014

Radio 616 - Tales From The Multiverse

Posted By on September 12, 2014, 8:36 AM

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Geek podcasting may be rampant in Utah, but actual radio shows based around geek culture are pretty slim across the local airwaves. We could go into a giant rant about how there are only two kinds of radio in this state and how few stations are willing to take a chance on something new, but that's a tired statement that's become the norm. The real conversation is about those who do, and 801FM took charge by getting Radio 616 on their Internet broadcast. Every Wednesday evening, the duo of Andrew Earley and Justin Strange break open the latest comics to talk about what's happening on the shelves and everything related. Today we chat with the dynamic duo about their show and current rise on 801FM. (All pictures courtesy of Radio 616.)

Justin Strange & Andrew Earley
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Gavin: Hey guys, first thing, tell us a little bit about yourselves.

Andrew: I’m Andrew Earley, I grew up here in Utah, I’ve always loved comics and talking critically about them and other pop culture phenomenon, so the podcast seemed like the next logical step. When I’m not reading comics, I’m usually drinking coffee, eating, or bartending at Brewvies. I’m vegan and straight edge, and like to think growing up in hardcore and punk rock scenes helped shape some of the stances and opinions I bring to the show.

Justin: I'm Justin Strange. I'm a queer vegan anarchist who loves comic books, bad movies, Bungie's Destiny and Hercule Poirot. I use to be a prominent club DJ in SLC and I also did a small stint of radio back in the day on KRCL with Troy Williams, called Now Queer This!

Gavin: How did each of you get into comics and geek material, and what were your early favorites?

Andrew: As a kid, reading the comics in the newspaper was a very important daily ritual around my house. My dad was a huge Calvin & Hobbes fan and he instilled a love for cartoons when I was very young. Apart from Calvin & Hobbes, my favorite daily newspaper strip was The Amazing Spider-Man, which I read religiously for as long as I can remember. With a little help from the X-Men and Batman animated shows, as well as a love of reading and art, a lifelong infatuation with comics was born. I’m ashamed to admit, as a kid, Cyclops was my favorite, but I’ve come to my senses as I grown up. The first comic book that I remember collecting was a Daredevil issue that was a prized possession for a lot of my youth... I must’ve read that book 200 times.

Justin: I first got into comic books at a very young age. When I was a kid, my Mom would buy me Archie and Jughead comics. I was probably about 11 or 12 when I was finally able to buy my own comics. The first being Ghost Rider No. 1 (1990). Ever since then, I've been hooked. By the way, I'm still a huge Jughead fan. My love for Agatha Christie films stem from listening to mystery radio in the kitchen with my Mom as she prepared dinner and hanging out with my grandma watching Mystery on PBS. I got heavily into bad horror movies and exploitation films for the completely opposite reason, because I wasn't allowed to watch them. Oh and I grew up in the '80s and loved watching the original Star Trek (which is still better than Next Generation), Buck Rogers and all the fantasy movies that came out during that time. Also, I probably shouldn't mention this, but when I was a kid I went to a lot of SCA (Society for Creative Anachronism) events with my oldest sister. They are still some of my fondest memories. For you newbies, that's larping before larping was cool. Is it cool? Yeah, it's cool.

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Gavin: What was it like for both of you growing up geeky?

Andrew: I grew up to a houseful of older kids whom I idolized for many many reasons, most of them being for things they got away with that I couldn't. Their parents let them have video games and comic books, while I had to sneak over and borrow theirs in order to get ‘the good stuff’ (I was allowed Mickey Mouse Comics or the rare Spider-Man issue they didn't think had too much violence) so from the very beginning comics and video games were a social experience for me. As I grew up, I gravitated to kids who shared those geeky tendencies and although I was a little ostracized because of it, I always found more camaraderie in geekdom then persecution.

Justin: Awesome. My mom is an artist and always encouraged us to be creative and to use our imagination.

Gavin: When did you both first meet each other and become friends?

Andrew: My first real memory of Justin that went beyond just saying 'hi' at clubs, or punk rock shows or hanging out at his house with mutual friends of ours was actually talking to him about the comic book adaptations of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower. Soon after that I ended up getting evicted from the apartment I was neglecting to pay rent for and I moved into the tree house in the backyard of the house he lived in, and we've been friends and room mates ever since.

Justin: We were introduced by mutual friends with the same interests. Back then the vegan community was very tight. I definitely remember our conversation about The Dark Tower. It's probably one of my favorite fiction series of all time and I'll talk to anyone who will listen to me. If you're a Dark Tower fan, you need to be reading the comic books. They give much more depth to the world and characters. 'Nuff said. Anyway shortly after he moved into my house we became very good friends.

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Gavin: Prior to the show, what other stuff had you each worked on in geek-related material?

Andrew: Does spending more time on D&D campaigns in high school then homework count as work? For that matter, does end game raiding WotLK era of WOW count? Because that’s more work then any job I’ve ever had.

Justin: Trying to beat everyone's ass in Halo Reach PvP. JK. I've always been a music snob (a must if you're a DJ) and have collected for years. Really rare stuff as well. Doing a lot of research into queer music, not only for Now Queer This, but for myself and others who know our community is more talented then shitty circuit music and straight female artists who steal our culture and take our money. When it comes to comics, I moderated the Alt Press wordpress for the Salt Lake City Public Library and started reviewing graphic novels in their collection. But with my work load it became a little to much so I passed the torch to someone else.

Gavin: How did the idea for the show come about, and what made you go with the Marvel-influenced name?

Andrew: Bartending at Brewvies opened my eyes to the world of podcasting. Geekshow does a monthly event, and most of those guys hang out there all the time anyway. Sharing opinions on movies, comics and TV shows with them gave me confidence in my abilities to talk critically and with the added help and encouragement of Tui (the program director at 801FM) and some other co-workers the idea of recording our enthusiastic comic book conversations and broadcasting them was born. Shortly there after, I joined the Steady Diet of Music podcast with Skunk and Brandon, and from there Radio 616 was only a mater of time.

Justin: Andrew knew I read a lot of comics and was always badgering me to do a podcast. I always told him I would, but I tell people a lot of things. Eventually he cornered me on a good day when I had nothing going on and we made it happen. The name came about from our first introduction to comics, which was Marvel. But in no way is our show purely about Marvel. We talk about all comic books and comic book related media. The name Radio 616 was just a geeky name that we could both relate to in some way.


Gavin: What was it like for you both pitching the show to the 801 FM crew and fully coming on board?

Andrew: Most of the time they were pushing me. Tui played a big part in the show coming to fruition, he’d seen more than his fair share of my rants about Superman or what have you and was very enthusiastic about making the show a reality.

Justin: Andrew did all the work, but the 801 FM family has been very welcoming and we are all misfits in our own way.

Gavin: What was the first episode like for you guys and what lessons did you learn?

Andrew: The first episode is one of two "lost" episodes ... we hadn't really figured out how the recording worked ... so that was a thing. We were lucky enough to have a bit of our structure already planned out, but it’s still something we work on and learn a lot with each episode we do. One of the biggest realizations we made was the decision to let the end of the show happen naturally instead of shooting for a particular length.

Justin: What Andrew said. I still wish we wouldn't have lost that first episode. It was really good and a lot of fun.

Gavin: How do you prepare for a show and figure out what you want to discuss?

Andrew: We spend way to much time on Twitter, Reddit and comic-book blogs, way to much money at Black Cat Comics, and we have way to many opinions about just about everything. Add all those things together and the show just kinda writes itself.

Justin: We pay attention to comic-book related industry news and gossip. We also use a format with changes here and there. That really helps us focus on what we want to talk about. One week we might do a creator spotlight as our main focus or an issue in comics we find important.

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Gavin: Do you find it's better to just sporadically start conversations or finding material ahead of time?

Andrew: A lot of both. Most of our conversations are sparked by research we do throughout the week but we’ve found that having natural, impulsive conversation makes for our best shows.

Justin: I like to find all of my material I plan on talking about before hand and then not talk to Andrew about comics until we start recording. Which is hard. The drive to the comic book store that morning is really boring. Our conversations our pretty sporadic though.

Gavin: Considering all that you could discuss, do you try to balance it out or stick with specific areas each time like film, comics, television, etc.

Andrew: We tend to try and cover comic book news, then comic book related (TV, movies, etc.) news, and then move on to a specific topic or creator spotlight for the week. We always wrap up talking about comics that we’ve picked up that week, and a Black Cat Comics sponsored Comic of the week that the staff at Black Cat pick out for us the week before.

Justin: We do try to balance it out a bit but it just depends whats going on that week and what we feel is the most important things our audience should know. We definitely jump around a lot, though.

Gavin: Now that you've gotten into a groove, do you plan to stick with what you're doing or change up the format from time to time?

Andrew: We are hoping to continue to evolve as a show. It’s been recently that we've felt solid enough in our weekly show and credible enough with our viewership that we've branched out into creator and industry professional interviews, which is something I hope to focus more on in the future.

Justin: I'm down to do what ever it takes. If we need a format change then we'll definitely do it. I still feel we are evolving and learning something new with every show.

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Gavin: What would you say is your most favorite topics to talk about and why?

Andrew: I personally love applying critical lenses to pop culture, exploring issues like feminism and race through how they’re portrayed in different mediums. I love promoting independent and creator owned comics that I’ve discovered, or how excited I am for upcoming projects

Justin: What Andrew said. Also topics that make reading fun and the world of comics easily accessible.

Gavin: What do you hope to achieve with the show in the long run?

Andrew: I’ve had quite a few people come tell me that I’ve reinvigorated them on comic books. That was huge for me. But long term, if I could get comic creators to value my input enough to send me a couple books for free ... that’d rule.

Justin: We originally just started it for fun, hoping that there might be a few people out there that might enjoy what we had to say about comics. I'd like to see our audience grow and for listeners to come to us when they are looking for a critical opinion about comic book related material from people that actually care. I'd also like to get free comics out of it. Haha! Maybe one day get paid?

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Gavin: What's your take on the massive amount of geek-related shows in the state, and do we have too many for our area or not enough?

Andrew: There’s always room for more. I listen to a handful of geek shows, follow local geek blogs, and I think the dynamic is great. I love listening to people talk about comic books in particular and I think that everyone has a different take and ideas and things to share, so the more the merrier.

Gavin: What do you think about where we're headed locally as a geek culture, now that we have all these conventions and attention coming to Utah?

Andrew: I think the best way to put it is that it’s been a long time coming. My whole life in Utah has been immersed in some type of geek culture and it’s awesome to see it start to be recognized. Hopefully this legitimacy leads to more networking, more discovery and more creative outlets being explored.

Justin: We are already proving that Utah is a utopia for geek culture. I don't know if it's because of our weird culture, but everything we do, we do exceptionally well. Geek culture is going to blow up here and everyone will pay attention.

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Gavin: What can we expect from both of you and the show over the rest of the year?

Andrew: Lots of not ever seeing us because we’re broke from buying comics and resort to hiding away in our rooms reading comics! Also more activity on our blog where we post reviews and comic news to help round out the show.

Justin: I really want to interview more comic book creators and the people who are doing something new in the industry. Also more reviews and laughs. We're still evolving as well so you might see new segments that we add to see what fits and what doesn't. We also have a monthly movie event we are planning that you can look forward to in Novemberish.

Gavin: Aside from the obvious, is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?

Andrew: 801 FM, Black Cat Comics, Xmission and everybody out there who’s listened or commented and everyone reading comics and keeping the medium alive!

Justin:, you can also find us on Stitcher and iTunes.

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