To all of you who jumped on the podcast bandwagon when Serial became a thing: there are other ones out there, you know. And if Serial is your bag then you are either a mystery buff, a true crime buff, or both. And that means for a lot of you the Thinking Sideways Podcast will be right up your alley. It brings you shows ranging from mysterious murders to disappearing dirigibles and creatures cloaked in confusion. I contacted their Facebook Page publicist to see if I could interview them and they said sure thing. So if I publish this with a bunch of questions with no answers under them you will know they (Devin, Joe, and Steve) are big fat liars. Your ball, Thinking Sideways….
Oh, and for those of you who understand Reddit and its 1997 layout, the Thinking Sideways Crew will be doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit on (March 7th, 2015 at 12:00 PST) so go and don’t steal any of my questions. But definitely ask them about their fancy interview they did for the Gallery! They will publish the link a week before. I’ll update it here.
Superficial Gallery: I have to tell you guys, when I originally asked you for this interview your site didn’t have an FAQ page and I was banking on your laziness to let me coast through the first few questions just covering the basics, but now that I know that the three of you hooked up in a bar I guess I can jump right into some hard hitting questions.
SG: Why don’t you specify “Oregon” when you say Portland? Those of us from Portland, Maine did invent you people, you know!
Devin: Because Portland is the only Portland that matters. Portlandia doesn’t specify, why should we? (Editor’s note: *seethes*)
Steve: Do people from Portland, Maine say “Portland, Maine” when they say where they’re from? (Editor’s note: shut up, Steve!)
Joe: We like to keep it kind of mysterious and ambiguous is why. And you’re overlooking something important–there’s another Portland out there, and it’s in neither Maine nor Oregon. (Editor’s note: You made a wise choice, my friend.)
SG: Speaking of PDX, you three seem to be pretty private with your actual identities (which I obviously respect) but I wonder if you are getting known in your town? A free beer once in a while? Anything?
D: Since we don’t post pictures of ourselves or anything, people don’t really recognize us. I don’t think that our voices are really so unique that someone could recognize them without the voice filters we run ourselves through… No, honestly with as many listeners as we have, I’m a little surprised it hasn’t happened. I’m just going to start telling everyone I meet I’m Devin from Thinking Sideways and sooner or later someone will fanboy/girl out on me.
J: Yeah, I keep waiting for the girl checking my groceries to say Omigod you sound just like someone on my favorite podcast which is like Thinking Sideways Podcast and Omigod it’s like the best podcast ever but I know it’s not you because I’m sure he’s younger and better-looking.
But so far it hasn’t happened.
SG: So the basic format of the show is: Describe the mystery, go off on tangents, list the different theories as to what the deal is, pick which one you each like, say chupacabra, then sign off. So on a scale of “Everything we say is scripted” to “What do you mean someone is recording this” how do you prepare for an episode?
D: “Two cheap beers and a crappy outline”. We do script our shows, but it’s not a word for word, and only the host is scripted. So when Steve hosts a show, he’s written out everything he wants to say (again, not word for word), but Joe and I get to say whatever we want. Joe often holds back his story-ruining facts until we’re almost done recording, so when those crop up, we are actually surprised. We got a lot of guff for a while for “acting” so surprised, but we very often genuinely surprise each other with the additional stuff we come up with. It’s pretty fun, but sometimes you do a show you just know is going to get railroaded.
S: I research the story until my eyes are bloodshot from staring at a computer screen, then send the links to Joe and Devin. From there it is the laborious process of chasing down all the details about each theory and whatever catches my eye. Just because it’s on the internet or in a book doesn’t mean it’s right so there is a lot of fact checking. Eventually I get around to writing up something that covers the story and explains as much as possible (when it’s possible). Then we sit down, hit record, and see what happens.
J: Whoever is “presenting” the mystery writes an outline or a script, which is never stuck to. We don’t really talk too much about the subject with each other beforehand, so if any of us come up with a little-known fact, or a theory that’s not already out there, the others are genuinely surprised, nonplussed, taken aback, floozeled.
SG: (if you don’t answer above) If you aren’t the person who is the lead on that mystery, what do you do to prepare?
D: I don’t do anything. No, just kidding. We post links in a shared document so we can all do a little research. If something catches my eye, I’ll do a bit of extra digging.
S: Check out the links that Joe or Devin provides about the story and then look for anything else that seems pertinent. It’s a lot like leading the episode but I get to go a little wild with the research and peek under the rug for any angle I want to knowing that it could be totally off or wrong but just as fun.
J: Depends on how busy I am–I do have a day job–but if I have time I’ll Google the subject until it’s begging for mercy and try to come up with a little-explored angle. Then Google that.
SG: Your shows are pretty polished. Do any of you have previous experience with recording or whatnot? Who does what?
D: No, and Steve is the guy responsible for making it happen. He edits all the shows, and then I listen to them to be sure nothing weird happened. But it’s all him.
S: I had a buddy who used to make music and host a college radio show, I asked him to show me how things worked when we were first wanting to do the podcast. After several conversations and “How does that part work” sessions with him, and a ton of reading on the subject, and we were ready to roll. I’m obsessive, I went pretty far down the “how does recording work” rabbit hole.
J: You obviously haven’t listened to our earlier shows.
SG: What kinds of stories do you try to avoid? Like, “Mythbusters” refuses to do what they call ‘ooga booga’ myths like ghosts. Are there some things you just won’t go near?
D: We don’t do stories that are less than 5 years old- usually. We’ve made a few exceptions. We try to only do stories we’re reasonably sure are real, not just something someone wrote in a book and has somehow made it into accepted lore. I’m irrationally terrified of people lost in space, so we don’t do those so I don’t have a panic attack. We also have a list of “unsolved mysteries” we collectively agree are solved and not really worth a show.
S: Sorta. We have the 5-year rule for stories, if it’s newer than that then we typically won’t do it (though we have broken that rule a time or two). Otherwise the playing field is open, if I think that we can make any headway and get some traction on the story then I am usually up for it. Though honestly I really hate the ones that deal with missing kids, they just skeeve me out.
J: We all love a good ghost story, but the problem with stuff like that is that, once you’ve told the story, there’s not really much more to say. Was it really a ghost? Or someone in a bedsheet? Discuss, then tell people to find us on iTunes and be sure to leave a comment and a rating. There have to be at least a couple of real-world possibilities for us to chew over to make a good story.
SG: Out of all the mysteries you have covered to date, which one would each of you like to solve (if you could only do one)?
D: This question is impossible, so I refuse to answer it.
S: Any of the cypher based stories, cryptology is so interesting and it would be nothing short of amazing to be the one who cracked the code.
J: There are several that we’ve covered that I think could potentially be solved. I’d like to revisit the disappearance of the passengers and crew of the MV Joyita. Plus a few others.
SG: How many of them do you think will never be solved?
D: I’d say about 85%. Since we cover older mysteries mostly, it’s likely they won’t be solved.
J: 92.35%. No, seriously, almost all of them. By the time we get around to talking about them, the trail is pretty cold.
SG: I have noticed you trying harder on social media lately. Have you taught Joe to stop putting “The” in front of everything (like: The Twitter)?
D: Joe is unteachable. Old dog/ New tricks.
S: I’m not even sure what that question means, it is The Twitter isn’t it?
When we first started up we did the whole social media thing because it seemed like we ought to, when people started not only following but actually talking to us there we realized how cool it was. So yeah, we’re trying harder because who wants to post on a FB page/Twitter account and never hear from the people that it belongs to?
J: I’ve never said ‘The Twitter’. It’s ‘ A Twitter’.
SG: Is fame going to your heads? Any backstage squabbles? Are you the Fleetwood Mac of podcasts????
D: I very often scream at my co-hosts. I accuse them of stealing from me, I insist we hire a professional makeup artists to come do my makeup for every show, I’m constantly late to our recording sessions and I just get up and leave to be on my phone mid recording.
S: We’re good, I don’t see that becoming an issue. Joe’s cats on the other hand are a different story.
J: What Devin said. But so far fame hasn’t gone to our heads because we’re not really all that famous. When we’ve got the listenership of, say, Radio Lab, then I plan to insist on a special assistant whose only job is to pluck the red M-n-M’s from my candy bowl.
SG: Please tell me you have plenty of material to go. My commute is 45 minutes each way so I need you to keep things going.
D: No, we’re actually totally out of material. We’re about to shitcan the show. (Editor’s note: SASS!)
S: We have the entirety of human history to draw from so I doubt that we’ll ever run out of content. Plus our listeners have sent us so many stories that I hadn’t heard of that I am pretty sure if we never looked for another ‘new’ one, stopped accepting listener suggestions, and only worked off of our current list we’d have 3+ years worth of episodes. (Editor’s Note: Steve is now in charge of Marketing)
J: Of all the good unsolved mysteries, we’ve covered all but three. Everything else is kind of boring. So pretty soon here we’re planning to do a re-boot and become a cooking show. (Editor’s note: if this had been an interview where people let me talk to them I would have totally made some awesome joke about how Joe’s cooking could still be an unsolved mystery but instead I have to write it here. I need to get a phone or Skype or something.)
SG: When you say “studio” do you mean an actual studio or just someone’s house? Or maybe a studio in someone’s house? I bet it’s Steve’s. Is it Steve’s? Seems like it would be Steve’s.
D: Our studio is in a bunker. It keeps us safe.
S: A room in a house that is loosely set up for recording.
J: When Steve says ‘loosely set up’, what he means is that we’ve glued egg cartons to the walls and ceiling of the room. Other than that, it’s a pretty normal room.
SG: This is dorky but who did the intro? I like it.
S: I would like to say that I made it totally on my own but I can’t. I hunted down a bunch of sound clips and music and assembled them in countless variations. It was only after vetoing a bunch of horrible audio collages and a lot of input that Devin and Joe gave the thumbs up for what we use now.
J: Steve. I was lobbying for more gunfire and explosions and flying saucer sounds, but the other two vetoed it.
SG: Have you been hiding secret clues in every episode that you will then explain to people that they can solve it in order to win a big prize? Please note you can still do the second part without doing the first part….
D: If we told you that, it wouldn’t be a secret. (Editor’s Note: annnd just like that, Devin is in charge of Marketing)
Um, no. That sounds way too organized.
That’s actually a good idea. But, no.
SG: What’s your favorite thing about my site, superficialgallery.com? And you have do better than the worst answer I have ever gotten to this question: “The colors”. Seriously. ☹ YOU CAN JUST GO LOOK AT IT NOW!
D: The colors. (Yes, I’m hilarious)
S: The article headline font, I spent at least 15 minutes trying to decide what font it was. No, I’m not screwing with you. I’m a bit of a type-geek… Listen, I make my living as a graphic designer so it’s totally normal. Really, it is.
BTW if you have control over it you really need to fix that drop shadow on your social media section, I can’t tell WTH it’s supposed to say. (Editor’s note: Where? What? I HAVE NO SKILLS, STEVE! Also, “the font” goes on the shelf right next to “the colors”. Sigh.)
J: The writing and the humor. And thanks, BTW, for publishing the Charlie Hebdo cartoon. Take that, Radical Islam!
SG: Has anyone other than me figured out that Devin is using her mysteries to figure out a good way to kill her two white, middle-aged co-hosts?
D: No Comment.
J: Actually, not until now. Thanks for the heads-up.
SG: In order to prove that I didn’t make this all up, can you send some sort of picture proof that it is you? I mean, nobody knows what you look like so maybe just drug steve and write “I’m Steve and I love superficialgallery.com!” on his forehead or whatever. You know how it goes….
Caption Rebuttal (Devin rebutted nothing!):
Steve: Didn’t catch my misspelling did you:)
Joe: How do you know that isn’t my hand?
SG: And now because I love you I am going to give you the Thinking Sideways Podcast Drinking Game. Rules as follows (and no I am not doing the “Steve makes statements sounds like questions” thing because nobody would make it past the initial description):
|Steve says: “Here’s the thing.”||
|Second time in episode means you drink twice and so on.|
|Joe says: “Anyway”||
|Second time in episode means you drink twice and so on.|
|Devin says: “Ostensibly”||
|Second time in episode means you drink twice and so on.|
|Opening Introductions done flawlessly||
|Don’t worry, it won’t happen.|
|Devin mispronounces a word and apologizes.||
|Shotgun a whole beer if Steve and Joe then pronounce it two different and equally wrong ways.|
|Slap the person to your left|
|Slap the person to your right|
|Steve says: “It didn’t say” in answer to a question he clearly never looked up.||
|If Devin asked, you drink. If Joe asked, you can make someone else drink.|
|Joe says “Hard Hitting”||
|Joe name drops some odd place he has been or thing he has done.||
|Anyone who has also been there or done that (like visit an old submarine) drinks double.|
|Someone blows up the hosts’ spot by asking a question that gives a way a big chunk of the whole story.||
|Drink three times if it is Joe, Drink three more times if the person it gets done to says “We’ll get to that”.|
|Joe ruins everything by saying everything the previous person said was wrong.||
|Five is an approximation since you actually have to drink for the duration of the time Joe spends explaining why it’s wrong.|
|Joe does NOT declare the mystery solved.||
|The whole point is Joe declaring it solved. If he doesn’t do it, something is wrong.|
|There are extras after the closing credits like in Marvel movies||
|Rare but fun. You really stepped up on the floating sneaker eppy.|
|The hosts admit who runs which social media.||
|Someone says: Tangent||
|Just high five everyone playing.|
D: Do I really say Ostensibly that much?? S: Yes, evidently. (Editor’s Note: in retrospect, I should have gone with “That’s Fair”)
S: People still play drinking games? I feel a little embarrassed that our (now obvious) speaking habits could be responsible for someone having hugged the porcelain god.
J: I’m going to print this out and force my friends to play it. As for name-dropping places I’ve been, I’m giving you people clues to track down my secret identity. Was I in Ushuaia, Argentina 10 years ago? Should be a simple matter to go there and visit every hotel and hostel and see how many Joes got a room there. Don’t know why nobody’s done it yet.