LONGMONT POTION CASTLE: THEY HAD TO PLEASE ME
Longmont Potion Castle is a phenomenon originating from Colorado in the late ‘80s: a series of five (soon to be six) records consisting entirely of surrealist phone calls and metal sound collages. Discussed topics include peacock bowel, owl bowel, peacock meat, squid meat, gorilla ointment, Nugent, Orange Julius, bilioduwangus, the Eiphone Dolphin, pumpkin brew, G.G. Allin, UPS and opportunities to engender a coalition with the Vatican. All recordings were made by at least one totally anonymous human being, who speaks now with Kevin Ferguson.
Who did you vote for?
I voted for… wow, the shoe’s on the other hand now, huh? I voted for John Kerry. Yeah.
Did you ever get anyone to answer that?
No. Just some people who aren’t even running. They thought I really cared, and they really had to please me.
Why Orange Julius?
They cuss a lot. And it’s funny—on Longmont Six, which isn’t out yet, I found this eight-minute call. It’s like the longest one ever where Orange Julius just says like one hundred cuss words. They may not be brainteasers, but they’re funny because they cuss so much.
Is it their work environment?
I don’t know. I think it’s the teenage guy who manages it. I’ve never met him but I used to live right next to him. I didn’t go in there too much after that.
Longmont Six is your last record. Also the last prank record ever?
I doubt it—why would it be?
It seems like with cell phones and caller ID that prank calls are becoming less feasible.
Yeah, the other day this guy was telling me, ‘You know, nobody cares about audio art—people don’t wanna pay attention to that anymore. You know how everything is all visual now.’ And I just say, ‘Yeah, that’s cool.’ I don’t have ADD. I still enjoy audio—I still listen to music and I still listen to prank phone calls. You know—stuff that doesn’t involve looking at anything. It’s something I’ve done my whole life, so why would I start invalidating that? But he’s a visual artist so he’s kind of biased.
There aren’t that many people now—there was Crank Yankers but that wasn’t that legit.
I can’t really think of any contemporary people now. I’m not really hip on the new people.
Where do you draw the ethical boundary in prank calls?
I give a copy of the CD before it comes out to a couple of polite people. If they sense any weirdness—you know, that makes them uncomfortable—it’s usually when people sound scared as opposed to angry. I don’t wanna hear that either—I don’t want to hear people sound scared. I think they like it when people cuss and get mad and stuff.
Did you ever hear about the McDonald’s strip-search prank call scam?
There was this guy who would call pretending to be a detective, and he would ask managers to strip-search their employees.
A lot of times it seems like those things start because a person has a specific issue with a specific place. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard ‘Arnie Vs. Binnie,’ but that has to be the world record for the amount of times this guy called the same person over and over—like a thousand times. Then they actually made it into a movie. It was called The Corndog Man—kind of a drama.
Have you ever done a full band show?
No, I don’t really ever do a live show as Longmont. I did a show when the box set came out in 2006 to try and maybe promote it. Then I played like two shows since, but I don’t plan on ever doing it again.
How did that Safari Sam’s show in October come together?
A friend just asked me to play the show. I threw together a 25-minute set. I can do every single thing I have in a 35-minute set—all the songs off of all of the albums in a row.
When do you play shows, do you get requests and hecklers?
I mean, we’re talking about twelve Longmont shows. Out of those twelve, I’d say it was half and half. I’d be in other states and other places where they didn’t necessarily know me. There was a music-only 7” that I was on and there were a surprising amount of people who came based on that. But half the time there were people yelling and the other half of people thought it was probably an extended soundcheck.
SF. In SF, they were treating me like I was a band. Yeah, there were some requests, but you can’t do requests when everything is pre-recorded. And the pyrotechnics worked that night, too. I was completely frustrated musically in Denver. I’m a lot less frustrated musically here.
And the callers?
There was this guy who’s recurring through the new album from around here who was a random number I called when I was bored one day. It ended up becoming the highlight of the album—he gets really really angry. He sort of inspired me to finish the album.
Have you ever thought about calling PETA for sponsorship?
No, I haven’t. But I did used to think that that was the aesthetic of it—like in the early ‘90s it went from being this weird thing that I wasn’t sure I was gonna do to this thing I was sure about. I kind of tried to attach that sort of theme or aesthetic—animal rights and so on. And then I realized that that was stupid too, probably, and then it went back to being random again. More surreal.
What imitators are out there?
There are a couple. I’m more interested in people who have something to say about rather than replicate it.
Why do you think you appeal to musicians?
It seems to do well with musicians—I don’t know why. Maybe the fact that I’m a musician has something to do with it.
Which reminds me: what delay pedal do you use on your voice?
Oh, it’s my favorite rack-mount digital delay ever. The Digitech RDS 8000. It’s not even stereo—it’s a mono digital delay, rack-mount, 8 seconds all they way. You can do all kinds of cool things with the knobs that you can tweak. It’s really heavy.
I thought it was a KAOSS pad.
I have shitloads of gear, man. I been collecting audio and recording gear since like ‘92. I have a buttload of gear, but not a KAOSS pad.
You mean respondent?
I don’t know—people who get mad. I just don’t like it when people act like they’re all hurt or something… but that can be good, too.
In that one Sam Goody call about snorting tang, did you call South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa?
It was South West Plaza in Denver, actually. That’s one thing that’s improved with the Potion CDs—it’s easier to hear.
Why did some of your early tapes have only responses?
I was calling the project ‘Various Artists’ and I thought that if my voice wasn’t in it, listeners might think that it was a group of people producing this stuff, not just me. But then I figured that if I was gonna continue it, it was just not gonna be feasible to keep that up. I just decided to make it a prank call album instead of a pseudo-comp. A lot of people that liked it were like, ‘Why did you cut yourself out?’ and I was like, ‘Yeah, alright.’
How did you get the celebrity phone numbers?
There used to be this magazine called Pop Smear and they used to publish celebrity phone numbers. It had circulation, and it wasn’t around very long, but I remember every time the new one came out I’d wonder, ‘How the hell could they do this?’ I would call everyone on the list. Like Sidney Poitier. I called Scott Baio, and he was there and he answered and everything, but he would just keep hanging up on me. I don’t know who they thought they were giving those numbers to, but I was one of them. I have Barbara Walters’ number—it was also in there, and even with the phone number they have people answering it. I almost had her, though. I told her I had some transcripts that she needed to see, but they weren’t buying it.
Longmont Potion Castle Six will be out in early 2008.