El Diabolik and Simon McLean host the somewhat-monthly podcast, El Diabolik's World of Psychotronic Soundtracks. It's an in-depth exploration of film and television scores, and an absolute must-listen for fans of genre music. We reached out to El Diabolik and McLean for this month's OST column, and weren't able to fit in everything. The interview turned out so well, we're sharing it here as an online bonus.
STARBURST: When did the podcast actually start? I checked the website, but couldn't quite make out the precise date. It's been at least a few years, right?
El Diabolik: We started the podcast at the beginning of 2010. Initially, it was going to be a general music podcast, but the person I was supposed to be recording it with kept putting it off, so I went ahead and recorded a podcast on my own, while waiting for him. And this is what became El Diabolik's World of Psychotronic Soundtracks. As I was a bit nervous in starting on my own, Simon McLean was supposed to just be my guest for the first show, 35 episodes later, he's still here!
Simon McLean: I was very pleased to be asked - when we started, I had no idea I'd still be doing it four years later, but certainly when we did the first one there was a definite sense of 'We could be onto something here!'
What's the response been to the podcast - people's reactions / number of subscribers?
El Diabolik: We've had really great support from the listeners from the start. Of course, the first few shows were mainly listened to by our friends etc, but we had a couple of online mentions and the ball started rolling. It's hard to say with 100% accuracy how many people listen to the show, we have a rough idea from the site and hosting stats, each show will usually get 300-400 unique downloads in the first week or so of publishing, then by the end of the month, they mostly end-up around the 1000 mark. Obviously, some shows are more popular than others.
How do you determine what gets played - the themed episodes are pretty self-explanatory, but do you start with a theme or find one comes together?
El Diabolik: There are no actual criteria, it's mostly music from a certain period. Loosely, this would be from 1962 to 1985. When we started, I had no idea why we only played music from that period, something to do with my childhood? But when I thought about it, I realised it all seemed to start with the early sixties and the beat boom of The Beatles etc. From the early '60s popular music invaded film scores, from John Barry's score for Dr No, with Vic Flick's twangy guitar, to Ennio Morricone scoring A Fistful of Dollars with Alessandro Alessandroni's whistling and twanging guitar, to people like James Brown and Isaac Hayes putting soul and funk into film scores, then later, the rise of the synthesizer with the likes of John Carpenter - these are the sounds that make a psychotronic soundtrack.
You've participated in the occasional film screening, DJing film scores as part of the screening. Does that happen often?
El Diabolik: I DJ mostly in London, mostly film nights, various clubs and bars, I DJ at a few vintage events and quite a few private events. One of my more regular DJing gigs is playing with the film club Filmbar70. Filmbar70 are a like-minded bunch who show fantastically cool films from the same era we play music, it made perfect sense when we joined-up. I always try to play a set of music that fits the film they are showing that night, and of course, only ever from vinyl!
How long have you and Simon been collecting? I'm guessing you're older than myself, given that some of the things you've discussed - especially in the recent TV episode - date back to the '70s.
El Diabolik: Simon is a few years younger than me, but he may as well have been born in 1950 for all you'd know. Seems he was born 20-30 years too late! I've been buying records all my life. I was born in 1974, so there have always been records everywhere, my dad had a nice selection of '60s LPs, Stax soul, Beatles and Stones, that sort of stuff. As far as OST collecting goes, I started buying them as a kid in the mid-eighties. Most of the soundtracks I wanted were certainly not to be found in my local record shops, so I took to recording them from the video recorder to a tape deck, editing out some of the dialogue - I remember doing this with Dirty Harry, Enter the Dragon, Halloween and Once Upon a Time in the West . So, the sounds and obsessions of the podcast have been with me most of my life. This was the pre-internet days, so it was almost impossible to know what was available and what wasn't, I looked in vain for years for the Dirty Harry soundtrack, only to find (on the internet) there never was a Dirty Harry soundtrack LP! So, I've always bought soundtracks, but I'm much more serious these days, I've always got my eye on LPs online and check my local record shops weekly. Any vacation has to be divided between sights and record shopping!
Simon McLean: Records have always held a bit of a fascination for me - my parents' collection was in a box in my room as a child, and as we didn't have anything to play them on at the time, I was always curious as to what they contained. I started properly collecting when I was 10 and got my first record player, buying anything in the charity shops that took my interest. My own musical tastes were heavily influenced by television - the music that really interested me was the stuff coming out of the speakers... theme tunes, adverts, the music on Pages From Ceefax, that kind of thing. When I was about 9, my local branch of Woolworths had a copy of the BBC Sporting Themes cassette in it, which I was amazed by - you could actually buy this stuff! That was my introduction to the magic letters 'KPM', and my library music obsession started from there.
You talk about secondhand shops quite a bit. Do you find that they're a better source for material than proper record stores?
El Diabolik: In the UK, we have a huge number of charity shops, they sell everything from clothes to old LPs. These can be great places to find records, but as the years have gone on, finding a bargain is getting hard, as they tend to price depending on price guide books. So you can find a smashed-up worthless Beatles LP for £100, because they've looked it up and seen the mint value and don't understand that a battered copy is almost worthless. In the old days you could find some genuine amazing finds, less so now. I mostly look in these shops for private pressed local entertainer albums, made on short runs for the acts to sell at their shows. I have a bunch of very good local secondhand record shops that I visit pretty much every week. I could of course buy all my records from Discogs and eBay, but I'm a digger and have been all my life, the joy of digging through record shops will never go away. Besides, I still find records all the time that are not listed on any site online, the thrill of taking a chance on an odd obscure record is too strong!
Simon McLean: I am a cheapskate by nature, so buying records from secondhand shops makes perfect sense to me. Sadly, they're more expensive than they used to be, but I'm glad I caught the last few years of charity shops being really interesting, before Mary Portas got her hands on them!
Is there a set schedule for releasing the podcast to which you try and stick?
El Diabolik: There's is no exact schedule, I try to do one a month, but it works out more like one every 6 weeks. Simon is a real local radio newsreader who works quite a bit at weekends, so it is hard to get him over to London sometimes. When I know there will be a gap in recording, I prepare a special music only mix to bridge the gap. These, so far, have been 'Dawn of the Synth' parts 1 and 2. I was rather shocked to see that the first part made the Top 40 iTunes chart in Germany.
Is there a means by which people can support the podcast - other than booking you for a DJ gig, of course?
El Diabolik: People continuing to listen and spread the word is more than enough support. But if anyone does feel like going that extra mile, there is a donate link on the website which goes to help with the costs of running the podcast.
You can find out more information regarding El Diabolik's World of Psychotronic Soundtracks and subscribe to the podcast at their website.
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