By: MOANER T. LAWRENCE
One way of coping with Halloween’s passing is to remind yourself that there’s less than fifty-two weeks to go before for the next Halloween… If that doesn’t work, a sure-fire solution is to listen to episodes of Tales from Beyond the Pale. A series of ghoulish audio dramas hosted by Larry Fessenden and featuring the work of Glenn McQuaid and our own April Snellings, as well as the voice talents of renowned actors like Vincent D’Onofrio (Daredevil), Ron Perlman (Hellboy), and Sean Young (Blade Runner), Tales from the Beyond the Pale has just released its fourth season. And did I mention you can listen to some of those tales for free? With all their plotting and scribbling, Glenn and Larry have been very hard to get a hold of. Fortunately, I was able to catch up with them to fill you in on the latest from Tales HQ!
1. You’ve done three seasons with a fourth on the way. What’s changed?
Glenn: We’ve been doing [the show] for six years now and the initial inspiration for Tales from Beyond the Pale (TFBTP) was to get some of our content out there in a more affordable manner than making a movie; which can take years and millions of bucks. Over the years, as we’ve continued to work in the studio, and in a live environment, a deep-rooted passion for audio drama has blossomed within me. I’m happy to keep going ahead and making a name for ourselves. I think the more we continue with the mission, the easier it has become for us to experiment and explore new ideas in ways that we wouldn’t have necessarily been able to do with filmmaking.
Glenn: As a storyteller, [the audio format] provides an ease with which you can experiment with because it’s a more affordable format to get content out there. Just being able to do that has been tremendously liberating for the writer and director in me. So, I think, as we’ve continued with the mission, there’s a certain confidence we have now – as we’ve made nearly forty audio dramas. There’s a feeling between myself and Larry that is actually a vital format. We’re not trying to harken back to the days of old time radio. It’s a format ripe for exploration, and there’s endless possibilities.
Larry: Season 4 is comprised of live shows we performed in Los Angels, Boulder, Colorado and in Montreal over the course of three years. What’s been exciting for me is that there’s also the thrill of the anthology and working with many, many different types of artists, writers, directors, and of course actors; and seeing how much variety is possible within this format. I’ve also worked in video games and there’s the whole idea of the branched storytelling that was promised years ago when digital started, but here is this basic art form which is the audio drama that has quietly persisted through all of that. I think radio is very popular. I know I listen to news on the radio more than I watch it on TV; certainly podcasts are incredibly popular now and the series Serial had a binge-listen-ability that set a new standard. People have earbuds in throughout the day and I think it’s a wonderful way to assert that we don’t need more technology; we just need smart technology. And smart storytelling in this old fashioned realm, where the imagination is doing half the work, I think it’s really fun to invite artists into that challenge and see what people come up with.
2. Last year you did an adaption of Lovecraft’s The Hound, are there any classics you guys would like to try adapting?
Larry: When talking to people we encourage they come up with an original piece. That is our first and foremost mission. When we met with Stuart Gordon he had such a a passion for Lovecraft that we said of course whatever is going to ignite your passion. We’re open to it. There’s a lot of short stories that I think we’d be tickled to adapt. You’ll find that peppered throughout. It’s like if you’re a band you may throw in a cover, but it’s not our initial mission.
Glenn: I personally like the idea that we’re bringing new content, but should something arise… I actually read an awful lot of eighties horror anthologies and every now and then I’ll read a wonderful short story. I recently read a piece by Brian Lumley that I was blown away by and would considered it making a wonderful Tale from Beyond the Pale. At the same time, I enjoy bringing new content to it. As continue on down the road sometimes the format talks to me in new ways and the fun of experimentation really starts to shake the storytelling. For instance, in Season 3 I did the “Ripple at Cedar Lake”, which was a story about a colliding universe and that whole idea came from the question: What would that sound like? How far can I push that without it becoming difficult listening?
3. What’s your favourite episode thus far?
Glenn: I too enjoyed “Hole Digger” greatly. When you’re behind the process it’s sometimes hard to separate yourself from actually being involved. I had a hell of a lot of fun making “The Hound” with Stuart Gordon and sort of being a fly on the wall to his process. “The Hound” was a reunion in a way because it brought Stuart, Demis Paoli, Richard Band, and Barbara Crampton back together again. So, being part of that and one of the instigators was just a tremendous joy. Similarly, on Season 3, I really do enjoy “Junk Science”, written and directed by Brahm Revel with Michael Cerveris, Nick D’amici and Alison Wright. I think that’s a lovely and sad space story, I enjoyed it. That’s one I go back to quite a bit.
Larry: I have a deep fondness for my very first tale (“Hole Digger”) it was such a fresh adventure. It was a story based on my youth, though it’s not a real recollection, it drew from that. It evokes a place I actually go in Cape Cod. So I can almost answer the question. It’s a slippery slope, it’s like choosing your favourite kid. That’s why I only have one kid – it makes it very easy. So I don’t seem self serving, let me say Glenn McQuaid’s “The Crush” is the highlight from the whole series. It captures a pulpy-ness that, while there are many different tones that we achieve (some of them more modern), but there’s something about “The Crush” and Sean Young and as a femme fatale, and the goings on there that I think are spectacular. It’s also the only one where we had audience participation. There’s something very special about the fact that the audience is invited to be on the final recording and therefore forever part of the piece-
Glenn: And screaming for the death of Sean Young!
4. Are you ever going to release the soundtrack to the series?
Larry: I think we’d consider everything. We do love making products. In the days when Jeff wrote the theme we were all thick as thieves, working hard on one film after another that I think the main theme might have just been a little freebie. I said Jeff can you whip something up for a couple hundred bucks – anyway we’ve certainly milked it for six years now, and it just shows Jeff’s skill. It’s so catchy and so appropriate, and we never re-recorded it that’s the very first thing he ever created for us.
Glenn: I love the idea of releasing the music as we’re working on Season 4 right now, and I’d produced some piece for something I’m working on right now that I co-wrote with April Snellings called Cold Reading, and I’m delighted with the quality we achieved. But I really enjoy what an audio drama can be – it’s just this blend of performance, but also music. It’s really inspiring to just dip your toes into all of these elements. So I’ve been making music – sort of minimal stuff – and it’s just been a real pleasure to get it out there with this format so yeah I’d love to. We put out a piece of vinyl that contained “Trawler” and “Hole Digger”. So we do love a physical format and love the idea of putting some stuff out in the future.
5. What’s the funniest thing that’s happened on set while recording on Tales from Beyond the Pale?
Glenn: During Season 2 we recorded live, and when we were performing Ashley Thorpe’s “Dead Man’s Shoes”, our sound effects malfunction. Michael Cerveris was supposed to shoot somebody and of course it didn’t happen. Michael is such a wonderful improv-er that he simply said, “Ugh, this damned gun!” trying to make it work. Meanwhile, I’m on my hands and knees behind them just banging and clattering everything I can to make some kind of noise to excuse the silence; and I look up, and Michael and Larry had just turned around, stopped performing, and stared at me like I was a crazy lunatic. That was very fun. It was mortifying when it was happening, but it spoke to our live shows. Looking back it was a really cute moment. It’s a lot to accomplish – getting everything right in one take. I think when things do go wrong they lend a charm to the show.