Larry Fessenden and Glenn McQuaid discuss the brand new tale INT. COFFIN – NIGHT, now available at TALES FROM BEYOND THE PALE The Podcast.

LF: Hello Glenn, and happy thanksgiving. Are you celebrating thanksgiving in Ireland?

GM: Yeah, we’re going to take the day off and go get a nice bit of fish to fry up, call over!

LF: I want to congratulate you on putting together INT. COFFIN – NIGHT and in time for our regular slot, the listeners won’t know it was a bit of a scramble.

GM: We have been busy little elves putting the final touches to the piece. You and I recorded some foley for this quite a while ago at your place up in the Catskills and I have been gathering sounds here and there over the last few months but once I got the recordings from Grace Cooper it was time to lean into everything and, yeah, it became a bit of a crunch.

LF: Tell us how the idea came to you. We love to talk about pushing the boundaries of the audio tale but this one takes the cake, there is no dialogue at all!

GM: The piece is a reaction to what I consider over-narration and over-exposition in the audio-drama format. I mean, I use it, we both use it, there is a grand tradition and an art to it, shows like THE CRUSH and THE HOLE DIGGER do it and do it well but I’m seeing a spoon-feeding mentality going on within the industry right now and it’s annoying me, lol. I met with some people a while back and they had a list of does-and-don’ts regarding the audio-drama: Absolutley no more than four characters per show… No more than a couple of minutes before the narrator re-seats the audience, and so on… and it was all just so fucking boring and it really got my goat up.

I’m also reacting to the ridiculous drop in the attention span of the listener too. INT. COFFIN – NIGHT demands full engagement, the more the listener gives the more they will get out of it.

It was a challenge to create the piece in terms of making sure the listener does not get too lost but once I let go of the desire to explain every little beat I began to explore the idea that the show is also a puzzle box to be solved. You don’t just fumble around with a Rubik’s Cube and expect it to be solved, similarly with this, the challenge is to put your social media down, stop whatever else you’re doing and give the piece the same attention you would any piece of art that is worthy of your time, the return will be worth it.

LF: You have a wonderful cast. Tell us how you found your performers.

GM: I’ve been a fan of Grace Cooper (who plays the vampire) since her time with The Sandwitches and I’m absolutely in love with what she’s up to now under her Grace Sings Sludge moniker. I always thought the Sandwitches sounded like they should be the house band at The Blue Whale in Dark Shadows. There’s a fun but really dark and freakishly honest sensibility to everything Grace does so I thought who better to play the role. On her latest album Christ Fucking Mocked and the End of a Relationship she does a spoken word piece called The Hackers and listening to it I thought we have to do something togther, she’s also a fan of Tales so that helped.

We’ve worked with Martha Pardee when we’ve vistited Colorado to perform Cold Reading and Tales We Tell. On top of being a lovely person and talented actor Martha does a mean baby and rather than use canned sounds for that character I wanted there to be an actual performance. As for the guy that plays the father, he’s an actor I only use when I’m absolutely desperate! I did have fun getting into the headspace for those screams though.

LF: Tell us a bit about the foley. The sound is so vivid it almost feels like you went through the whole ordeal that your protagonist experiences.

GM: As mentioned, we had a foley session together probably last spring. We recorded the barn, stream and lot of the coffin scraping and banging there. The coffin work sounded great but when I went to supplement it with more scrapes and knocks there was a disconnect with the timbre so I redid a bunch of that stuff here in my house. Luckily a crate arrived from New York recently so I was able to get in there and break a few nails. Those sessions were pretty intense to be honest as I couldn’t breathe while pounding away at the lid and I did try to get into the character’s situation.

LF: You’ve been releasing music under the name Witchboard before and during the pandemic; tell us about your process scoring your tales.

GM: Scoring audio drama is tricky, I remember doing a hi-hat techno track for a scene in Brahm Revel’s JUNK SCIENCE. It was for the scene where Nick Damichi’s character is being chased by space rats but when I layered it in it completely took over and suddenly we were at the club. So with Tales I tend to think less is more and usually go for something subtle. Having said that I am reminded of how cool it was working with Richard Band for Stuart Gordon’s THE HOUND, he brought a full-on bombastic and whimsical score that really brought the piece home.

The music I create with Witchboard and Lunatic Asylum really is a form of personal therapy, there’s a nostalgia going on with both those projects, one for my time as a goth, the other for my time at the club, I get a lot out of puttin my own weird spin on those genres.

LF: I want to celebrate our illustrator Brian Level. When I was little, I would listen to an audio play like this and stare at the illustration the whole time. The artwork he provides is literally the whole setting of the piece.

GM: I really wanted to throw the listener a bone with the title as well as the art work so I was delighted when Brian said he was up for the job. I love what he’s already done for us with Reappraisal, Who Killed Johnny Bernard and so on, so I knew I was in good hands. The art-work he delivered perfectly suits the piece, gives a nod that it’s a period piece and, actually, the entire journey the vampire takes is right there, and the style of it reminds me of MISTY- a girl’s gothic horror-comic I got (and hid) when I was a kid, so I’m a happy camper.

LF: Ok Glenn. I just want to say, as your long-time collaborator on TALES, congrats on realizing this ambitious piece. I gave you a few notes along the way and I loved when you said, “I don’t care if it is completely clear what is going on, it is for the audience to interpret” Thanks for believing in art and your audience and for being an inspiration and partner on this journey into the awesome world of audio. Today I am giving thanks for knowing you Glenn!

GM: Thank you, Larry. I’m thankful for our friendship and for our various collaborations. As you know, filmmaking is a long and slow process so I am very grateful that we can get content out through Tales in such a hassle-free and revitalizing way. What a pleasure to be able to tell these stories our way and get them out while they’re fresh!