STRONG LANGUAGE AND VIOLENT SCENES is “the podcast giving a second chance to films that might not deserve them.” Hosted by filmmaker ANDY STEWART and musician MITCH BAIN, each episode sees them joined by a guest who defends a favourite horror movie with a poor reputation, and hilarity ensues...
STARBURST: How did the idea for the podcast come about?
Mitch Bain: When I first moved to Glasgow I didn’t really know many people, although I kind of knew Andy from general horror circles. We’d loosely become friends before then and we fell into a routine where I’d go to Andy and his wife Jackie’s house each week.
Andy Stewart: We wanted to make sure you were getting at least one hot meal a week. We’d also put on generally shitty films and as we were watching we’d talk shit about them.
MB: It eventually got to a point where, I think it was while watching Slugs, we were a couple of bottles of wine in and one of us wondered if there was room to do something with it, which makes it sound like ‘We started watching this and both realised we were hilarious!’ We spent about three months working the kinks out of the idea and coming up with some stuff, making it sound good, and lining up a few guests. We were really lucky after we started, with a bunch of people we had no business getting being very willing to come on and talk shite for a couple of hours.
How do you decide what films are talked about?
AS: That is always the guest’s choice. Sometimes we’ll receive a selection and we’ll pick something from the choices. For the most recent live show with Graham Hughes, Godzilla topped his list and we decided that would be the funniest to talk about. Sometimes it comes down to what we think has the most value, but then in the case of other films like The Ninth Configuration with Heather Buckley, we’ll decide a film deserves to be talked about, despite it not being the easiest to laugh and joke about. We don’t always go for the daftest film where I can get in the most dick jokes.
MB: The Ninth Configuration is probably a really good example of what we’re trying to do. The film was really well regarded, but it winning a Golden Globe was so controversial that it damaged the awards’ credibility to the extent they almost didn’t televise it the following year. We decided everyone needed to see this and hear it talked about. We try to give the guests as free a reign as possible, but we’ve vetoed things in the past because they were wrong for the format.
AS: We had someone wanting to do Men Behind the Sun, which I didn’t think was appropriate.
MB: I’m not an expert, but I think we might have had a fight on our hands mining that for lols.
You’ve had some illustrious members of the horror community on as guests. Is there ever any shortage of people who want to defend their personal favourites?
AS: We’ve been pretty lucky in the guests we’ve had, but there have been times from a production standpoint that it’s been a bit of a scrabble to get someone. Filmmakers spend a lot of time on the press circuit talking about their own work, and we try to get people on when they’ve got something to promote and give them scope to do that at the end. I also think sometimes it’s just nice for them to come on and talk about something separate from that, something that’s a little bit more about themselves.
MB: A lot of the time, especially when somebody picks something that was a big deal for them when they were growing up, it’s a nice insight into what shaped them as filmmakers and creators.
One running joke is the truly staggering lack of films Mitch has actually seen. How much of an education has this been for you?
MB: Massive. I don’t mind playing up to the fact that I’ve seen basically fuck all in terms of classics. The areas I know the most about are post-2000s or maybe ‘90s onwards, but we don’t get that much of a window to talk about that stuff. There are things I have no idea how long it would have taken me to come across, if at all, had I been left to my own devices, with The Ninth Configuration and House of Mortal Sin being two that spring to mind, and I’m always just so grateful to the people who flag them up.
Andy, have you enjoyed educating him?
AS: That’s an interesting question. I have, but it’s always frustrating. Sometimes I’ll be waxing lyrical about how great something is and he’ll be nodding along despite not having a fucking clue what I’m talking about. Even away from the show a lot of our relationship is essentially what you get in the show, including my amazement at what he has and hasn’t seen. He’ll have not seen The Exorcist but has seen this really weird indie film that played the smallest screen of FrightFest. It’s a baffling list, but it seems to be balancing out, and certainly those episodes of me sitting with my head in my hands are less.
MB: The episodes of me sitting with my head in my hands are far more frequent, but for different reasons.
AS: That’s another thing I love about the show: just watching Mitch cringe into himself when I say something inappropriate.
MB: Sometimes he’ll say something that I know is going to get cut out in the edit and he’s just saying it to get a rise out of me. The annoying thing is it always works.
One of the most popular segments is Mitch’s Pitches [where Mitch invents a title and synopsis for a movie based on just a poster image]. How did that start?
AS: It came from our friend David Malcolm, who did an episode on Feast and whose short film Mannequins I produced. It was his idea to show Mitch a poster and get him to guess what the film is about.
MB: The first couple of times I was taking them quite seriously, which I don’t do at all any more, mostly due to the listener submissions. The tone shifted from being something quite inward-looking that I mumbled my way through, to looking forward to seeing what people come up with week to week. I don’t brief Andy beforehand, so his reactions to the pitches being read out are genuine. It’s more fun for all of us if I keep the element of surprise.
One amazing aspect of the podcast is the high volume of listener interaction and the community that has built up around it. Do you find this makes for a better experience?
MB: It’s my favourite thing about the podcast. It blows my mind that we can go into every minisode on a Monday and confidently know that we’ll have a decent-sized feedback section.
AS: I’m happy to echo that sentiment. We never knew if anyone would listen when we started doing this. I don’t think anyone does when they start a podcast, unless they’re famous and people already give a fuck. When people started listening that was nice, but when people started to engage we were like, fuck, that's a really lovely thing. Then they started to engage with one another. When we do live shows people meet up who have never met before, it’s just a really lovely heartwarming thing that we couldn’t have anticipated.
MB: The most gratifying thing about it is when you see that translate to real life. Before the live show at FrightFest, people were putting out feelers to meet up with one another. It’s the kind of thing we could never have expected, and we’ve made a lot of great friends through it as well.
AS: More than anything else, it’s the listeners who keep me coming back to do it every week. It’s also why I beat myself up so much on social media if for whatever reason we occasionally have to miss an episode or we’re going to be late putting one out. I just don’t want to let anyone down.
MB: People are always exceptionally sound when that has to happen. One that sticks out most in my mind was the Final Destination 3 episode with Gabe Robertson. I was up at 5am to get in a couple of hours of film score composing before work, and the minute my alarm went off I got a text from Andy telling me his son was about to be born, meaning I’d have to edit the episode. That was the first time I’d ever done so, and my message was ‘We’re going to be late this week, but honestly, there’s a really good reason!’
AS: Since we started doing this we’ve had house moves, bereavements, babies, job changes, and all manner of crazy stuff, but we’ve managed to keep to the schedule, which just hearing the words come out of my mouth is wild.
Do you have any specific films you’d like to get around to covering?
AS: I really want to do Tammy and the T-Rex and Riki-Oh: The Story of Ricky.
MB: I’ve not seen fuck all so I’m the wrong person to ask.
The standard or gore cut of Tammy?
AS: It’s got to be the gore cut. I’ve got the Vinegar Syndrome Blu-ray with both versions. I would prefer to do it live because it’s the kind of film that would get a much bigger response from the audience face to face. Hearing people laughing at a live show is my next favourite thing after the community that’s built up.
MB: My nightmare scenario is someone putting on a recording expecting laughs and sitting stone-faced for a 45-minute train journey. So when you do a live one and you get the laughs it validates everything.
Is there anyone, in particular, you’d like to have as a guest?
MB: I’d really like Lucky McKee. I’m a big fan of his work, in particular May, which was a big one for getting me into indie horror and looking past the likes of Paranormal Activity and Saw, as good as they are, and trying to find what else was out there. Joe Begos would be also be good.
AS: I’d love to get on Travis Stevens, Elijah Wood or Brea Grant. A lot of time we try to approach people who we think might be fun and not take it too seriously, who would get the format and we’d be able to have a laugh with.
Do you have any plans to develop the format further?
MB: I think the format is fine, but we’re looking into the possibility of doing a Patreon that would see us trying a few extra things and see where that takes us, so the chances are you’ll see more stuff rather than any change. We’d also try and get out to do more live shows.
AS: If anything does change it’ll be the individual segments in the minisode. We’re also toying with the idea of a live podcast, where people can chat to you while you do it. In this weird time we find ourselves in where there are viruses lurking on every surface and around every corner, we’re quite keen to do what we can to just give people something to distract themselves from how fucked up everything is. A hundred main episodes down the line and over two hundred recordings in total and we’re doing what we did when we started, just picking out the ludicrous stuff in films that makes us laugh.