Turning the Dial to Monster Kid Radio

Turning the Dial to Monster Kid Radio

The Haunted Cinema (THC) – I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, watched not one, but three different horror hosts and had a steady diet of classic monsters, Kaiju films, Sci-Fi T.V. etc… You have mentioned on your show that this was not your experience growing up. In fact, you call yourself a 2nd Generation Monster Kid. Tell us about your background, how did you become a Monster Kid?

Derek M. Koch (DMK) – Oh, man! Whenever I hear someone talk about watching a horror host growing up, I get insanely jealous! I didn’t have one, and with the exception of seeing a few glimpses of Elvira when flipping through channels when visiting my grandparents when I was a kid (they didn’t let me linger on Elvira as apparently they thought that kind of television wasn’t appropriate for young Derek!), my childhood was host-less. My parents didn’t let me watch R-rated movies or anything too graphic or scary, but I did stumble across the classic monsters in the kids’ section in my grade school’s library.

The Crestwood House Monster Series of books became my entry point, and I fell in love with the monsters something fierce. But . . . I couldn’t really find these movies to watch or anything like that as, again, no horror hosted programming was available to me at the time. I grew up a military brat, and because my dad being in the Air Force led us to moving around to areas that didn’t really have that tradition – Montana, Wyoming, etc. – I had to rely on the books.

Between the Crestwood House books as well as the 1974 book Monster Movie Game by John Stanley and Mal Whyte, I learned all about the classic monster movies – their stories, their production, their stars and filmmakers – before I ever saw one! I even remember writing a paper in grade school about how Halloween should be about celebrating Lugosi, Karloff, Chaney, etc., instead of dressing up like pirates and princesses!

The first classic monster movie I did see was Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. I have a very vivid memory of sitting in the living room at my friend’s house and watching the movie on afternoon television with my friend and his dad. I think I drove them nuts because I kept interrupting the movie spouting off everything, I knew about the Universal monsters from those Crestwood House books. The books primed the monster pump, so to speak, and that film sealed the deal. And with the occasional drifting away a little bit here and there throughout the rest of my childhood and teenage years, the monsters were never truly that far away from my heart . . . or is that the other way around?

THC – One of the features on Monster Kid Radio (MKR) that you do with every guest, to get to know them better, is to play a game you call the “Classic Five” where you attempt to understand what makes that particular guest tick. I want to do a version of that with you to give my readers an idea of what makes you tick.

DMK – Let’s do it!

  • If you could only watch films from a single decade, what decade would you choose? Why?

Oh, man . . . that’s tough! I think, just for the sake of variety, I’d have to go with the 1950s. I love the previous decades, but in terms of sheer AMOUNT of monster movies, the 50s has the numbers.

  • After Lugosi and Lee, who played the best Dracula?

Now I know how some of my guests feel when playing the Classic Five on MKR! This one is TOUGH! You know, I’ve been thinking an awful lot about 1958’s The Return of Dracula, lately, so I’ll go with Francis Lederer . . . for now. Ask me again next week, and I may have a different answer!

  • Ants, Preying Mantis’, Tarantulas, or Scorpions – If nature decided “enough was enough”, which giant bug would you prefer to face? Why?

Butterflies. The absurdity of the world being done in by something as elegant and colorful as a butterfly would be . . . something to see.

  • You often say that Julie Adams was your 50’s girlfriend. Let’s say that she’s not available and you have tickets to the premiere of the latest, greatest, monster film. Which other Classic Monster Era actress would you invite?

You want me to cheat on Julie?!? Okay, okay . . . just don’t tell her I wouldn’t mind taking Mara Corday out to the movies. Please?

  • If you were giving the Oscar or Rondo for “Best Alien”, which visitor from Outer Space wins?

There are a lot to love, but in terms of iconic design and amazing look, I’d award the Martians in 1953’s The War of the Worlds.

THC – Monster Kid Radio is not your only foray in podcasting. Talk about your other shows, Mail Order Zombie, and 1951 Down Place. How did these come to be? What made you decide to host shows that talk about genre films?

DMK – You’re asking me to go back ten years! I’ve always been the kind of person that when I find something I like – film, music, podcasts, etc. – I want to be part of it. I was listening to a few podcasts and internet radio shows back then, and I got hooked on the medium. As a horror fan, I naturally gravitated toward the horror podcasting field, but there were a lot of horror podcasts at the time. There are even more now (and amazingly, some of those shows I was listening to back then are still around!). I didn’t want to get lost in the mix, so I tried to find something unique, and at the time, there was only one other zombie movie podcast so I thought I’d dive in to the podosphere that way. Back then, my focus was on zombie movies you had to get through the mail – Netflix, Amazon, etc. – and that’s where the name of the show came from. It eventually evolved to include all zombie media. That show came to an end in 2013.

Before I shuttered Mail Order Zombie, I did put the show on hiatus to allow some time to catch up on some non-podcast-life things. But . . . I missed podcasting. A lot. And I already started to feel the pull toward the classics in a much stronger way. Scott Morris (a frequent collaborator and contributor to Mail Order Zombie as well as the cohost of the Disney, Indiana podcast) and Casey Criswell (a fellow podcaster with the Bloody Good Horror podcast) and I teamed up and launched 1951 Down Place as a podcast devoted to the catalog of Hammer Films. The gimmick was that Scott had seen very few Hammer movies at the time, so Casey and I kind of introduced him to the studio’s work every month on that show. Now, that show did go on hiatus as well, but it’s come back, sans-Casey.  We have an episode recording we’ve never released in which halfway through Casey started passing a kidney stone, and he abruptly left the recording, and we haven’t seen Casey since. (Okay, that’s not true. He’s still around, but he hasn’t come back to the podcast as he’s been replaced as the third co-host by his kidney stone.)

THC – Let’s talk about Monster Kid Radio. The amount of attention, love, and polish that you put into this weekly show is both staggering and inspiring. Talk about the amount of work it takes to host a show of this quality that releases on such a tight schedule.

DMK – Some episodes take longer than others. The introduction, wrap up, and any bits with just me reacting to a segment can take around 20 minutes to record, with another 20 to edit. The amount of feedback received and to review varies from week to week, and we have a few other pieces of content that come in regularly, so that can run another hour of production. But the bulk of the show – a long discussion about a classic (or not-so-classic) monster movie with a guest – can take around an hour to record, and then maybe up to another hour to edit.

That all said, I don’t really think about it. This might sound . . . well, I don’t know how this sounds, but podcasting is just a part of who I am. I love creating content and editing audio gives me a thrill. Sure, I might stay up much later than any mundane person should on a Wednesday night to make sure that week’s episode is released on Thursday, but I really don’t mind!

THC – What challenges do you face when putting a show together? What advice could you give other people who may want to start a podcast? Is there particular equipment needed, or software that should be acquired?

DMK – I didn’t pay for any of the software I use when producing a typical episode of Monster Kid Radio. Audacity can be a rather robust audio editing program, and it’s met my needs consistently for the past 10 years. I also sometimes use a program called GoldWave for some audio editing or effects. As for equipment, all you need is a microphone. I know people who use their phone. Obviously, some microphones and mixers are better suited to podcasting than others, but as long as you can capture audio and turn it into an .mp3, you’re good to go! Sure, you can get fancy and use a portable recorder like the Zoom H6 I use when recording somewhere other than my home base, but you don’t have to. And, really, you don’t even need to do a lot of editing if you don’t want to.

I mean, I’d recommend it to try to get rid of some of the filler words that we all use – uh, um, you know, like, and so on – but don’t let any of this hold you back if you’re considering podcasting.

My biggest advice would be that you produce the kind of show you’d want to listen to. I often say on Monster Kid Radio that even if I didn’t have the podcast, I’d still sit around and talk with my friends about classic monster movies!

THC – 1967 is the unofficial cut-off for what you talk about on the show (although you have talked about films outside that era), what made you decide to keep the show focused in this direction? How did you decide on 1967?

DMK – With Mail Order Zombie, I covered everything from White Zombie to Night of the Living Dead to Zombieland, and everything else (as well as novels, videogames, role-playing games . . . even a zombie opera!). I’ve talked about this before on my podcasts (and I’m sure my listeners are getting sick of it!), but I used to think I was going to be a filmmaker when I grew up, and I really focused on special make-up effects. Zombie movies really became my thing (partly due to an odd Tom Savini hero worship thing I had going on at the time!). But . . . things changed. My life changed a bit. I lost some family members. Podcasting was a little different then. And I just needed to surround myself with the things that made me happy, and that happened to be my first monster movie love – the classics.

Because of my earlier connection to zombie movies, I always viewed Night of the Living Dead as one of the big game-changers in horror cinema. There have been others since, but the big paradigm shift for me was NotLD, and since that was released in ’68, that’s where I typically draw the line. (But as you said, I’ve veered outside of that timeframe from time to time! Any Hammer film, any kaiju film, even any luchador monster movie is going to have a home on MKR as far as I’m concerned, regardless of release date! And that classic monster movie aesthetic can be found in plenty of movies post-1968, so I don’t want to close up the Monster Kid Radio wheelhouse too tightly!)

THC – Even though it’s out of the wheelhouse for MKR. How do you see the state of horror and genre, in general, today?

DMK – This is a hard one as I don’t really watch a lot of modern horror movies! Not that I don’t think they’re any good; they just don’t speak to me the way a Karloff or Lugosi film do. However, I’m friends with a lot of folks who do watch and enjoy contemporary horror, so by proxy, I’m still somewhat connected to the genre as a whole.

What I do see is a divide between what horror fans seem to want and what the studios want to provide. I don’t think it’s any mistake that movies like Get Out and A Quiet Place get a lot of positive attention, but Mummy: Impossible . . . er . . . The Mummy didn’t exactly work out the way Universal wanted it to.

I don’t know if that answers your question, but as a monster kid, I still see slight glimmers of hope when a monster kid like Guillermo del Toro wins an Oscar. And, I was just thinking about this the other day, but we now have three Hotel Transylvania films. I haven’t watched any of them as I’m definitely not the target audience, but that kids and their parents are being exposed to Dracula, Frankenstein’s Monster, werewolves, mummies, and the rest? That’s a little hopeful, isn’t it?

Now if only Universal could figure out how to successfully continue the legacy of their classic monsters . . .

THC – One of the best parts of your show is the wide variety of guest hosts that you have each week. Not taking away from any single guest, who were some of your favorite guests and topics that you have featured?

DMK – I honestly can’t think of an episode or guest that I didn’t enjoy, even if the guest and I had different opinions about a particular film. I will say, though, that some of the episodes that stand out the most to me are the episodes when I’m able to speak with someone who was actually involved in these classic, or not-so-classic, monster movies, like Donnie Dunagan (Episode #242) or Jackey Neyman Jones (Episode #297). And I’m very proud that I’ve had Sara Karloff (Episode #151) and Victoria Price (Episode #98, as well as the most recent Monster Bash coverage) on Monster Kid Radio, too.

THC – If I am a new listener, what episode would you point to for me to get a feel for what MKR is?

DMK – This actually ties in to your previous question a little bit. Thanks to podcasting, I’ve met many amazing people, and one of those people is Scott Morris. He and I have been podcasting together for years, going back to my Mail Order Zombie days, and I really enjoy the chemistry he and I have. Any episode with Scott and I on it together would be a go-to episode of Monster Kid Radio.

THC – You and Steve Sullivan host the Monster Rally’s every year on your site. Tell us about these awards, and how can the listeners participate?

DMK – I’ve always liked it when podcasts have some sort of awards show, and I wanted to continue that tradition on Monster Kid Radio. The Monster Rally Retro Awards is a way for the listeners to honor the Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Movie, and Best Monster of the genre films we cover on the podcast. We do a round of these Rallies every year, and we look for the best of the three major decades of classic monster movie-dom – the 1930s, the 1940s, and the 1950s. We started with 1931, 1941, and 1951 when we started the Rallies, and this year, the ballot covers 1934, 1944, and 1954.

Participating is easy. Just head over to http://tinyurl.com/rallies2018 to cast your vote. Ballots are due at the end of July (although I may push that back), and we’ll announce the winners in September (as August is already spoken for in terms of content on Monster Kid Radio).

THC – MKR is an award winning show. In 2014, you won the Rondo award for “Best Multi-Media Site”. Talk about winning this award. What did it mean for you to be selected? Has winning the award changed anything that you do at MKR?

DMK – I’d been aware of the Rondo Hatton Classic Horror Awards for years, and I’ve seen my podcasts on the ballot before. It’s true what they say – it’s an honor just to be nominated. I’ve been incredibly lucky that Monster Kid Radio has been surrounded by so many other amazing podcasts on the annual Rondo ballot. The year that I won? That took me totally by surprise! I was in the chat room when the winners were being announced, and when David Colton (the man behind the Rondo Awards) said Monster Kid Radio won, it took me a couple of times to try to get the words out of my mouth to tell me wife!

Has it changed anything about what I do? No, not really. I’d like to think that MKR is getting better and better in terms of production, so if anything’s different between an episode I do now versus an episode I did in 2014, it’s because I’m always trying to learn more about the production process and I keep wanting to up my own game, award or no award.

It was a real honor to win the Rondo, and I have it sitting on my bookshelf in my living room. It’s always watching over me!

THC – MKR is part of the inspiration for The Haunted Cinema. I don’t think I would be doing this site, this way, without the work you do on MKR as a push for me. Who or what inspires you?

DMK – When I first started podcasting, there weren’t nearly as many podcasts in the genre film fan space but shows like Night of the Living Podcast made me want to get involved with podcasting in the first place. In fact, one of NotLP’s co-founders – Freddy Morris – gave me some excellent advice and guidance when I first started podcasting.

I try to listen to as many different kinds of podcasts that I can, and not just in the film genre category. Good podcasting is good podcasting, and I’ve learned a lot about what can be done through the writing podcasts, the comic book podcasts, the wrestling podcasts, the gaming podcasts, the history podcasts, and all the rest of the different kinds of shows I listen to. I even listen to a podcast about copyright and entertainment law, and find myself learning more about the medium.

Lately, I’ve been really enjoying The Secret History of Hollywood podcast by Adam Roche. It’s phenomenal, and has given me an idea for a long-form project I want to do with Monster Kid Radio in the near future.

THC – In listening to the show, I know that The Monster Bash convention is something you look forward to every year. Tell us why you feel that this convention is so important. You live on the West Coast, and only recently were able to attend. Share your Monster Kid Memory of attending the first time.

DMK – The first time I went to Monster Bash was in June 2014, and it was magical. I knew somewhat what to expect as the late Vince Rotolo had been talking about Monster Bash on his B-Movie Cast for years, and I’d watched pretty much all the Monster Bash DVDs Creepy Classics had released up to that point. None of that could prepare me for the experience, though. Everyone was so friendly, so approachable, so willing to share their experience and knowledge, and I was in love. Although, love might have been in the air because one of the guests was Julie Adams.

THC – Are there other conventions and shows that you look forward to as well? Tell us what makes them special.

DMK – I’m based in Portland, OR, and we’re home to the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival & CthulhuCon. I’ve been attending this film festival every year since 2002. My main genre love is always going to be the classic monsters, but I don’t think a month goes by on Monster Kid Radio in which I don’t mention H. P. Lovecraft. I love the old pulp stories, the old pulp writers, and something about the Cthulhu Mythos called to me.

The first year I went, I was just a fan. The second year, I actually had a short film in the festival which was an adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s “Casonetto’s Last Song,” (I love Lovecraft, but I love Robert E. Howard even more!) which was my last filmmaking experience. For the past several years, I’d been involved with the festival as a panelist or moderator, and, of course, I always try to cover the HPLFF on Monster Kid Radio.

There are still a number of conventions and events on the monster bucket list, though. I want to go to Robert E. Howard Days. I’d love to get out to a premiere of a Christopher R. Mihm movie. I want to get to G-Fest and Blobfest. And, coincidentally, I was just speaking with Vicki Smeraldi from Scary Monsters Magazine this week and she was telling me I really need to get out to Monsterpalooza at some point. (No offense to Vicki, but I already knew that because Kyle Yount’s Kaijucast always covers it!)

THC – You won the “Lifetime Achievement Award” at Monster Bash. Tell us about winning that award. Where do you go from here?

Derek accepting his award at Monster Bash

DMK – It still feels surreal. I mean, “Lifetime Achievement?” I’m in my 40s! I’d like to think I still have a long way to go! I was shocked when Ron Adams called my name and presented me with the award. I didn’t know what to say then, and I barely know what to say now. I don’t do what I do for awards, and to be recognized by the premiere classic monsters convention like that shows me that I’m doing something right. Whatever it is that I’m doing, I wouldn’t be able to do it if not for the incredible support I’ve had over the years from all the guests, all the fellow podcasters, all the friends I’ve made since getting into podcasting. I don’t how I did it, but I managed to embed myself into the most amazing community!

THC – MKR has been an ever evolving project. After meeting you in person and seeing how passionate you are for what you do, I know that you are looking ahead. What’s next for MKR? What other projects do you have brewing? What are some things you would like to tackle?

DMK – I’ve started a YouTube channel (www.youtube.com/monsterkidradio), and I’m working to really make that shine this year; I’m also working on revamping MKR’s Patreon page.

On a non-podcasting front, I’ve got some fiction projects in the works. Fingers and tentacles crossed, I should have a novel finished by the end of the year. There’s also a super-secret-okay-not-really-because-I’m-telling-you magazine project in the works.

Of course, anything I do is going to have a monster kid bent to it. I can’t, and don’t want to, get away from my monsters!

THC – Where can people find you and the show? Can anyone come on as a guest, if so how do they do that?

DMK – www.monsterkidradio.net is where you’ll find Monster Kid Radio, and you can also find the podcast in places like iTunes, Stitcher, and several other podcast catchers and directories. I do have a form online prospective guests can fill out (which reminds me that I really need to get back to some people!).

A cartoon drawing of a zombie in cinema staff attire