Episode 104: Fred Greenhalgh

Meet Fred Greenhalgh

We’ve switched to a Monday morning release schedule, as you may have noticed. Better to do this early on than later – now you’ve got something to listen to on the way in to work. This weeks it’s a chat with Audio Drama Producer and Podcaster, Fred Greenhalgh of Alfred, Maine.

Fred Greenhalgh was born in Down East, Maine (Machias) to a back-to-the-land family that soon fell upon hard times. The middle of three boys, Fred found an escape from rural poverty and tragedy in the pages of many books and as he got older he found a desire to inspire in others the same sort of emotions which were inspired in him by the book genres he loved most: horror.

Drop in on a conversation that covers topics from Fred’s childhood to his present day. You’ll hear about a devious older brother, a spooky farmhouse, family tragedies, love, sound, and a little bit about a new movie.

Reveal Episode Transcript

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[00:00:01] Welcome to Portland speaks a podcast featuring interesting conversations with interesting Mainers recorded weekly at the Portland barn in South Portland Maine. Thanks for tuning in. Let’s begin

[00:00:38] A.. This is Fred Greenhalgh I am from Maine. I live sort of two lives one is a seller of Angeles that revision energy and the other my note identity is as audio drama podcast or field recorder collector of weird noises and other fun things.

[00:00:56] Also a part-time goat herder as you’ve heard.

[00:00:58] That’s Fred. Fred is a unique guy in a fair number of ways. For one he’s a back to the land homesteader living in Alfred Maine for two. He’s as he said a solar evangelist which being off the grid makes a lot of sense. And for three He’s also got this passion for sound and I don’t mean that he likes listening to things though that’s a necessary part of it. I mean and I don’t know that he’d phrase it this way but he hears in a different way than others do. Throughout this interview you’ll hear Fred mimic sounds as he shares excerpts from the story of his life a baying Wolf or a creaking floor for instance and when he does it is intentional. And to add a bit of depth to what he’s trying to convey and I suppose that that is what I mean when I say he hears things differently to Fred sound isn’t something separate from emotion. It’s a fundamental part of it. A car alarm going off on Exchange Street for example or the screech of a seagull as it flies over the lobstermen on commercial or the wind howling as it winds itself between the trees around Fred’s home and Alfred. These aren’t dismissive or unimportant extras. These are things which inform your mood and heavily impact how you perceive and remember the world around you. We’ll get into all that soon enough. But let’s start at the beginning and find out where Fred comes from.

[00:02:31] So my mom was really kind of part of it. Back to the land movement. So my family goes back in Maine at least on my mom’s side to like Revolutionary War period and actually may have been involved in the east Mariah’s fight. There a battle in the revolutionary war there. Know my grandfather was part of that generation that wanted to get out of down east Maine and you know make something of themselves and he you know he fought in World War Two and kind of you after the war settled in Long Island New York and it sort of perfect community.

[00:03:03] My mom lived this kind of idyllic almost that quintessential 1950s life and then like the 70s hit my mama out and came back to the farm in Maine. And so like within one generation get away from the farm was my grandfather’s generation my mom was like back to the land man. And I grew up in that and a big part of my childhood was the sort of the dream of the back land movement hitting reality really really really hard. And my parents loved each other passionately but there they were kind of messes at that point in time when I was young and you know there’s a lot of substances involved and despite them being really passionate and having really you know I think really earnestly loving us kids and at points loving each other there their life was not sustainable and kind of split apart. So you know then there was a pretty rocky part of the childhood you know set against the backdrop of rugged Washington County Maine. Certainly if anyone who knows much about watching county knows there’s any and no shortage of said tough rural poverty stories so you know mine’s not necessarily particularly unique.

[00:04:12] But yeah like we see that my grandmother for a time and actually was I’m really lucky that I had a grandmother who could really look up to and had some financial means to sort of always give me and my siblings the sense that there was more out there in the world than kind of what our surroundings looked like a lot of the time. You know that is one thing I’d say that they brought back from New York was that sense of dignity and of being classy people even if what was around us wasn’t always classy. And then yeah then my mom moved to Bangor area that I know as I run roughly third grade. You know she ended up remarrying with the Penobscot Native American gentleman who we lived in central Maine for a while and graduate little town in 2001 just as all the mills were collapsing right before the opioid crisis hit us real nice and got down to southern Maine to try and Neal makes it in myself.

[00:05:10] And you know he really has succeeded in doing so. I don’t know if he’d be that straightforward about it. Fred struck me as kind of a timid and non boastful super modest kind of guy so I’m not sure he’d be as quick as I am to say that he’s found great success in his life. But some of the work he’s put out the dark tome The Mayan crystal the cleansed to name a few. All of them thoroughly enjoyable and well-received by the communities for which they were created. Not to mention expertly produced all that sure seems like the echoes of great success to me. But it took him a while to come into his own.

[00:05:49] So going back to when I was a kid I’ve always told stories like I don’t I mean I guess there there is a bit of a storyteller vibe in my family. My father was a pretty prolific writer. My grandmother on my dad’s side is is artistic. And so I don’t know where sort of the germ comes from but going back to like my earliest childhood I always sort of wrote stories and lived in my own head a lot and honestly that became a coping mechanism as you know going through divorce a you know a substance filled divorce that was not amicable and all that that means and entails. And then my older brother was you know semi psychologically abusive and there’s all kinds of crazy stuff going on and the place where I was safe was in my head and with stories. So that that’s always just been a piece of me. And yeah that was always sort of written word and visual not new necessarily visual art. I did did you know lots of doodles and things like that and always love you know fantasy and maps and myths and all that good stuff and there’s just sort of some point where you think when you’re young and naive you can make that your life you know when I first went to school at USM I think actually it’s gonna be an English major.

[00:07:12] So I thought OK the English major and I like to write will be in English and then I realized that like an English major is about like taking the corpse of a text and like slicing it up like dissecting it not actually about creating art and then a balance to media communications and media and then that was you know frankly not the most developed program at USM. And you know they had some really neat things going on at the time so they they now have a pretty robust stone Coast MFA and at that point it was that the germ of that program was just being started and there were some like legit high end writers who were coming to USM and Freeport where they have the stone Coast program. And so that was though those were some of the more.

[00:07:57] That was a really cool part of what USM offered but like they for example I’d argue that they’re the technology in media communications was sort of sad.

[00:08:06] Like they didn’t really I didn’t really if I want to get into videographers there wasn’t really cameras like I would have to have buy equipment on my own and I get to sort of tell that like what they were training for you wasn’t on the level I wanted to be like I really did want to do this stuff professionally and then also just was like I’d love to get out of Maine for a little bit and see what else is out there and that’s what led to me looking at what kind of programs I might be able to do. My family didn’t have any money so I could be can cost us anything and there happens to be this program that I think all main schools at least the main humane system is part of where you can do an exchange at a different state school for basically equal tuition within this network. You can pick basically pick any state in the union you like to be in and find one that has a program and get be a guest student for a year. So that’s what I did. So I was able to get to New Orleans who had a film program and you know New Orleans at the University in New Orleans actually is not so different than us and it’s a heavily sort of commuter college.

[00:09:06] College doesn’t have a huge sense of sort of on campus resident life but what they did have is a wicked strong film program because at that time I never know how much has changed into the hurricane but several Hollywood films are being shot in New Orleans that period time Louisiana. I think they still do have pretty strong incentives tax incentives for film and so they were using the college to prep people for those that kind of work and so they took that film program really seriously even though it was it’s sort of tiny college and very you know you can imagine what New Orleans is like and the kind of you know the kind of people who’d be taking you know working class parents and nontraditional students as it were you know getting all sorts of educations but their film program was legit. So that’s that’s how I ended up studying film in New Orleans in the early 2000s.

[00:09:57] But filmmaking was in Fred’s words really hard. He had ideas which push the medium beyond what was possible with a beginner’s passion and a beginner’s budget. And so sound kind of accidentally presented itself as a more accessible creative outlet in film school.

[00:10:16] I was like ended up being the dude holding the boom pole and I loved audio and as this moviemaking thing is really hard and all my ideas creatively were like long form crazy complicated ideas and so somehow I got back to main you know someone turned me onto the old time radio dramas and like why is no one doing this anymore. These are really cool. So I basically at that moment decided to start doing them by taking what I learned from film school and applying that to radio dramas and things like recording actors on location. So instead of being locked in a studio environment. Take that good grab a portable shotgun microphone bring them out to a location have them sort of act out the part you’re not real face ambient noise. Yeah I mean it sounds like it saves you a lot of time sound designing when it’s like okay you’re there you’re you’re on a beach you’re in the woods. We were blessed when I first got in this. We could we had a lot of wonderful access to the mills and Bedford they let us roam free range that whole place before it all got built up. So we had all this stuff. We were recording underground and all kinds of crazy spaces in there.

[00:11:17] And yeah and recorded a lot. You know recorded I mean many many many radio shows and now I’ve actually kind of moved into the studio which is some people think I’m a sell out but there is there is some charm to you know having a controlled environment.

[00:11:34] And it turns out that Fred had a childhood that lent itself well to inspiring a lot of really creepy unsettling and macabre narratives. One place in particular continues to have a profound influence over the emotion that drives his work.

[00:11:50] His family’s farmhouse in East Machias I don’t know that I sort of literally believe in ghosts or the supernatural but I do believe that humans and especially the way that humans feel about things and the energy that humans bring to things kind of leave an imprint on things certainly going to New Orleans and knowing the all the human suffering that that city endured sort of leaves its imprint and echoes of those events that transcend across generations. So when I think of the house needs which is where I grew up just an old farmhouse that was a family farm house yeah probably people died in it because that’s what happened. It was a old farmhouse in Maine and they got buried out back and maybe or maybe not any of those people had their own imprint on the building. I don’t know but something about that house in the time I was there you know to me was a haunted house. And again I’m not going. Are there literally ghosts. It’s hot hot haunted. I don’t necessarily mean that I’m some cuckoo who who thinks it’s gonna be a Ghostbusters show but there is there is there is. It was a very powerful place. And so yeah and we’re going you’re going through a divorce going through a older brother who like would wake me up in the middle night with a glowing skull mask with blood you know fake blood pouring out the eyes like you know. Yeah I had a wild imagination and then these old houses. So some people who’ve lived in an old house with single frame glass might know the sound and the way that the wind can whistle through the glass and an old old window frames. And there is a big oak tree just outside my window and we like to and I don’t know what it was was did the room at the top of the stairs that I was my childhood bedroom actually have a ghost in it. Was that something that someone planted my mind.

[00:14:00] But then of course there would be ah ah ah ah ah ah. So you put this all together and you’re seven and you’re like waking up in the middle of night you did your brothers made you watch aliens you have this vision that mother alien coming out with the second mouth thing in your face and you wake up and you’re in that weird space you’re hearing

[00:14:23] Her and then maybe there’s a light as like a car comes by and they I don’t know I saw ghosts it wasn’t just spooky sounds and strange environments helping to spur on that vivid imagination and friends it was also a very creative and some might say torturous older brother.

[00:14:41] So I mean well to say it. So look my older brother wasn’t allowed to sort of physically abused me and you know I think they’re made they think honestly we never talked to about this really or we just one of the things you just don’t go there. But I do think there was some abuse from my father to him and it was just sort of just been there and I think he had strong feelings that sort of got pushed down on me you know shit flows downhill kind of thing. And because he couldn’t just beat the crap out of me he instead develop these extremely elaborate psychological torture devices. So as an example he might have seven years my elder so he’s got some years to figure out some crazy stuff. So he might suggest you know on a Monday that there are wolves that escaped from the zoo and then by like Tuesday or Wednesday convinces me to go out in the woods you’re blindfolded because like that’s what you do when you’re six and your older brother seems cool and you want to please him and then he takes you out in the woods and then and he’s like has all his friends come out of the woods go on

[00:15:50] And then he starts screaming and then you get pushed over and your line in the ground in the woods screaming that kind of thing. Another example is when that movie Tremors came out. He. Yeah we live next near a lake and he had a friend. We’re just going up to Lake. And again there was something about how tremors are real or something implanted planted some ideas his brain and one of his friends like like stand behind a rock and pretend to get sucked down underneath the earth by disappeared behind the rock and again I screamed and apparently ran as fast as he’d seen anyone run. And then maybe the greatest coup de gras was when he got my grandmother and my mother in on one of these you know torture devices and I think that made me like Invaders from Mars or some other probably as an adult fairly forgettable B horror movie but that kind of conceit was that all these people were getting taken out of their small town and converted into aliens and and you know we didn’t know what was happening but it was bad. And so I was like yes I could go over the hill and we went over the hill like you were. You’re a goner. And then on the back of your neck they would put bandaids on it now is how you knew someone was in on the aliens they a bandage on the back of the neck. So like some point after we saw this movie he thought it would be funny if my grandmother mom brother and two brothers my entire family said come over the hill Fred and turn around and take their Band-Aid showing it again screaming and running as far as possible thinking that my grandmother mother and complete family was possessed by aliens. So I guess that probably did help my imagination get stranger.

[00:17:25] Stephen King was also a huge influence and Fred says in fact that there is no way to overstate that influence but not just King’s influence on him on any rural Mainers with dreams of becoming someone or making something of their lives.

[00:17:39] I think it’s hard to underplay how important Stephen King is to a lot of Mainers who because Maine is one of those places where you can really not feel like you’re worth much and feel like you’re remote and that the state’s not important and that you know your life experiences is not worthy. And then you see someone like Stephen King who has a background not super dissimilar than my own who’s become you know mega famous and is like one of the most powerful forces in modern publishing. It makes me feel validated and you’ll certainly is again probably way too young started reading Stephen King books and I still remember having Kudrow and I don’t know maybe I was 10 or 11 at the time and I remember going to a bedroom and I had like the paperback copy of Kudrow there and it gave me like my stomach. I would physically have this visceral feeling of dread looking at the book. It scared me so badly. But then I couldn’t not read it. I also think I kind of got hooked on that feeling that feeling of of that work affecting me so deeply that I have. It’s almost like a drug fix trying to find that next high. And I to be honest a lot of media has just never gotten me there and a lot of what I’m trying to do in media is to create work that could ever evoke in this someone else how well powerfully King’s work moved me at a certain certain time.

[00:19:03] Of course like so many good writers and creatives it wasn’t just a vivid imagination spurred on by interesting environments or torturous older brothers Fred has seen a fair amount of tragedy in his life too. His mother passed away a few years ago and before that his father and while the passing of parents isn’t something uncommon for people to experience that doesn’t make losing them any easier especially if you are young and especially if the loss comes in a particularly horrific way as it did in the case of friend’s father.

[00:19:37] So we talked a bit about my childhood earlier. My. You know I said there is a divorce basically my father banished from my life till about 16 and then he re-entered some of your older listeners on the show may recall a certain chat service called ICI Q that existed in the early 2000s or you know ninety nine ninety eight ninety seven thereabouts and my father rediscovered me through AC Q And then we started a new connection then and we’re trying to sort of like you know we’re still in the sort of awkward dance part where we’re like that and trying to start a relationship again and he changed a lot. You know he you know he was an alcoholic when I was a kid and you know he was not when I met him again as an adult. And then and there you know again they’re just like locked crates in the attic in the basement that I don’t go into about what he was like as a child. But the person I met

[00:20:36] As a teenager was a decent human being had started this aviation magazine had all these sorts of dreams it was very validating about both me and my younger brother about us pursuing our passions.

[00:20:49] A lover of the outdoors you know writing a lot playing guitar as being a really good decent human being. And then April 22nd of 2001 we decide to go for a canoe trip and he didn’t come back.

[00:21:05] I’d like to stop here for just a moment and warn you that the story Fred is about to tell could be upsetting to you. What happened that day was the very definition of tragedy and Fred was there he saw it happen right in front of him and as a result he had to as a fairly young man confront his father’s death in real time. That’s not how it happens for most of us most of us lose our parents to less dramatic and more expected things. I want you to listen intently because this experience shaped a part of the person and father that Fred is today 36 years old and to not know it is to not know an important part of his history and of his character. I’m just giving you the chance to be ready to hear something pretty terrible.

[00:21:56] The water was at a high flood stage. He really wanted to run this series of rapids in a canoe. And for some reason he had to wear blue jeans. He had a life jacket both had life jackets. But we started to go down the river and the river started picking up speed the water and there was at some point the deer just got there was burnt rendering like legit white water. I had no clue what I was doing. Water started entering the canoe and we started sinking. We got flipped around and the current capsized and then he starts yelling Freddy swim to shore. Friday’s from the shore and I was on the swim team. So I was at least a pretty good swimmer tried to get to the shore.

[00:22:41] And then whack I’m pulled down a series of rapids. I don’t really recall what happens but suddenly there’s there was a waterfall area. And I went down a series of cascading rocks. He went over a dam. Now a dam is one of those dangerous things that can happen to you on a river because the power of the water so there’s a concrete obstruction that doesn’t occur naturally. And so what happens is the force the water that goes over the dam basically it’s like a washing machine on the bottom. So what happened is that he went over on the wrong on the on the on the you know the river split. He went over on the washing machine side I went down. I got the crap kicked that a man a series of rocks. But I got down and then to a flat calmer part was able to swim to shore. Now he got recycled in this water until he drowned.

[00:23:43] And when you drown you know something happens to the air in your body that kicked him out of it and started pulling him downstream. And as I came out of the water I remember running to this bridge where his girlfriend not my mother. You know it’s growing at the time it was supposed to be taking pictures of us coming by. OK. That it fun the boy. You know that that in his Boyer canoeing down the river and she was screaming in horror. And I watched my father’s dead body float downstream.

[00:24:12] That happened around 2001. Fred was about 18 years old. Eight years later he lost his mother.

[00:24:20] She was a very strong woman and she I mean she loved us boys me. So he had two siblings. I’m the middle child.

[00:24:29] Three boys. And you know she really really made tremendous sacrifices to get us as far as she could.

[00:24:39] And you know she was loved the earth and she was so sweet and sort of eternally optimistic optimistic to a point of sort of folly. But yeah I think a lot of sort of my values when you look at my life today and I’m like the freakin solar panel off grid dude like you know she had this is sort of a central faith in humanity. And if you looked at some of her life events you might question whether it was valid cause she she went through three count em three messy divorces and yet in her life did not go the way that she thought it would but she worked her ass off and tried to do the best life she could for us kids and she also had a lot of fun and was really fun to be around and. And this was always sort of sweet and eternally and childlike and not you know there’s there’s a big difference being childish and childlike and Jesus are like childlike always having this sort of sense of wonder at the world and all the many miracles. And so yet she was tragically not just CEOs 2009 so not quite not even 60 when she died of liver disease as a result of you know stuff she got drug abusing days and that was the end of her story hey I guess I’m the one who got the news and I screamed and kicked the bed and just it’s like you just puts you in a completely numb state.

[00:26:17] And I also you know my my dad it also passed 10 you know just about 10 years prior. Not quite. And I was the one who had to carry the weight in my family my hair yeah love them. My brothers were not there my grandmother was a disaster. And so I had to carry all that weight in. And what really funny thing about life is that you know people in the moment kind of allow like the current of their life to pull them in a certain direction but then when you hit a rock when it one thing there are these certain life changing events that remind you of your own mortality. And so when my mother passed I had know to take a sobering look at like where my life was and what I wanted to do and what I and also my father died at 50 my mom died. Yeah. She was also in her 50s and I’m thinking OK if I am 20 something now that I get 30 more years on the planet I keep going down that path and going now am I going to be happy if I check out it. And I was like I don’t think I would be.

[00:27:19] And he didn’t think he would be partially but largely because he was nearing 30. He was in a job he hated doing work. He didn’t care about working for someone who was as you’ll see in a moment. Not altogether the most empathic human being. So Fred did exactly what so many of us have likely done at least once in our lives. He accepted the risk of jumping into the void of an unknown future. And he quit his job having no idea what would happen next.

[00:27:48] My my boss at the time told me I probably would be mopping floors that come. Come

[00:27:53] On farms and I said you know what I would prefer that to what I’m doing right now. And I walked out the door and then two weeks later I got a call from Phil Cook.

[00:28:05] It’s like I heard you quit because I had worked with him as a client and the previous work.

[00:28:12] And as you know that happened years ago we should talk.

[00:28:15] And Phil offered me a job and I have my dream job. Sometimes you have to like jump first before you know we’re going to land. And that’s I mean I think that’s the most important lesson I learned from my mother’s passing.

[00:28:29] And at that point the tides began to turn for Fred. And life started getting better with the new job. He was happier and had a better balance in his life. He’d also been dating a girl named Amy for five years and they married in 2012. When I asked him about her his countenance changed immediately. He sat up. He gave a shy happy kind of smirk and he was visibly more excited to talk about her than he was anything else we discussed up to that point. Fred is in love and it is quite plain to see when he talks about her.

[00:29:05] She’s bad ass. She comes oh my god I’m going to say this she’s a tit. Come. Her family found a town of Farmington. They’re like everything my family was not.

[00:29:16] They’re like just like really responsible you know reasonably well to do good.

[00:29:24] Strong family old main family comes and she’s a adventurer with a very strong moral heart that a lot of travel in Southern Africa and eastern Africa. And is your big heart and full of grit and I love it from a strong family has a good heart.

[00:29:46] Loves travel was actually quite into the idea of going off grid and living off the land. This woman seems to be tailor made to match the best parts of Fred but from such different backgrounds I wondered how it was that they ever crossed paths. I was happy to find that the story was one part average and one part dumb luck and for me that was really nice to hear because Fred’s life hadn’t been that average and it wasn’t full of too much luck up till then. He was long overdue for a bit of that stereotypical romantic comedy nonsense you know. Chance encounters love at first sight and all that terribly wonderful stuff.

[00:30:30] In New Orleans I was I turn into a mess and I was up here in Maine trying to figure out what to do with my life and I decided that I was gonna go back to New Orleans and do it. It’s been another year down there and I needed to sort of get to Boston MA is taking a I I take a train to New Orleans from Boston and so as bumming rides and a place to stay and I found myself like I just got a U.S. M.A. If I can find a sign someone’s couch to crash on. And in fact my friend Brian Farrell’s car which had a big Howard Dean bumper sticker like Brian is here. Yes and I looked around the campus and there’s like one light on in the middle of summer so wasn’t normal campus life. It was basically a vacant campus and I saw like a light on. Oh there’s that must be the classes and I go up and there’s a third out my friend Brian Finch in class and there’s Amy and it remember like locking eyes as I go the whole love at first sight crap. And go Oh we just go to the class with the summer school let’s go to the bar.

[00:31:22] You’re like yeah yeah whatever Brian she govern Yeah exactly.

[00:31:25] And so like this is like one of those things where we never would’ve met crossed paths but so she she was at Boden because again she’s from a nice family.

[00:31:34] And she needed like one science electives she had to take this like geology class at USM that she was like never ever ever ever going to set foot on USM campus ever again.

[00:31:43] And then we just happened across pass that night. And this is the year that the Red Sox won the first World Series like port like it was just a sizzling in the air like I was like Oh my God

[00:31:53] I think this is a night where they were down by the way. I know nothing about sports and pricing is all wrong but they were like down whatever for games or whoever won the next game if the Red Sox lost they would be out.

[00:32:05] And this is the game that they beat the Yankees and then just crushed them mercilessly and ended up winning the World Series. So that it was that night when I was watching baseball on TV and were like Is it boring.

[00:32:16] I was like looking at each other as is this is really boring.

[00:32:19] I really don’t like baseball and the cheese I kind of like and I want to do Irish car bombs and the rest is history.

[00:32:29] It makes me smile thinking of Fred now knowing some of his history. Getting the chance to just do something normal like enjoy a night of drinking with a girl he had a crush on. Getting the opportunity to fall in love and more himself to something happy and simple and nice it just feels like something he deserved way sooner than he got and this seems like a good place to take a short break.

[00:32:57] When you come back Fred and I will be discussing his production company final rune and all the great things it’s working on as we reached the halfway mark of our discussion with Fred I wanted to take just a moment to say that it has been truly amazing to see our listenership grow at the rate it has in these first few weeks. It has been especially rewarding to see that ninety nine percent of you are living right here in Maine. And that’s mostly because it’s not an easy thing given the potential global reach of podcasts to produce something specifically for your home state. And it’s probably the most insane route to take if you’re hoping to carve out a living by doing it as we are so to see these first few episodes be so well-received by the main community at large is inspiring and it helps to keep me motivated to stick with it.

[00:33:54] If you’re looking for a way to let me know you’re enjoying the Portland speaks podcast leave a review on iTunes and let other Mainers know what you think of the program. If you’re looking for a way to help me keep the mikes on and to turn this local production into something I can give a full time effort to consider becoming a patron of the program by visiting Patrick on dot.com forward slash. Portland speaks in pledging five dollars of monthly support folks who choose to share their hard earned dollars with us in this way we’ll be rewarded with access to the full and uncut versions of our conversations every week. They’ll also get discounted ticket prices to the live events we’re starting in late 2019. A pretty sweet Portland speaks bumper sticker for your car and your second month of support and an equally sweet. Portland speaks t shirt in your third month of support. Patrons prevent us from selling out to sponsors and putting adverts in the show and ads are annoying.

[00:34:53] So support the Portland speaks podcast and keep the program ad free. By pledging five dollars a month at Patriot income forward slash Portland speaks. All right that’s enough of that. Let’s go ahead and get back to Fred

[00:35:10] Final rune is Fred’s production company. And in 2010 it got front page recognition in the Wall Street Journal. The piece was called Return with us to the thrilling days of yesteryear via the Internet. It highlighted Fred’s work on an audio adaptation of Archer Mayer’s open season but well before this story put final ruin in the national spotlight. Fred was creating great sounds of note. In 2008 he won a gold Argyle Award for Best Fantasy audio drama for his work on waiting for a window. In 2006 he wrote directed and produced day of the dead and the blind man’s confession. He’s been written about in numerous publications from The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian to The Journal Tribune and the mochi US Valley observer. And while final Roone had been a name he’d liked since the early days of AOL and 14 bad internet connections. As you’ll hear in a moment the name took on an entirely new meaning after his father died and Fred discovered something bizarrely serendipitous in his dad’s attic. You know I think in many.

[00:36:24] For most people. Identity is very important part of their life’s journey.

[00:36:27] Try to understand who you are where you come from and you know and maybe that journey will always continue for me. At one point I had an opportunity to go look through some of his belongings once enough time had passed that Beverly. His girlfriend at the time who who had been living with who had all his stuff said you know I just back having to be able to handle it. It’s all there in the attic. Come take a look and kind of figure out what you want. And there’s like there’s photos you when you’re a kid and they’re just stuff that you should probably have and one of the things they stumbled across a sort of paused for this moment. So I my AOL screen name was final rune. I didn’t want to have I guess I don’t know somebody and I was I’ve always been into runes and thought runes have been interesting and in those early days of AOL you’re always trying to get a screen name that and having numbers in it and somehow final rune was the screen name I could get and I just was always final rune didn’t really mean anything to me either.

[00:37:23] I thought runes were cool and being low on the last runes. Cool and then then I’m going through my father’s things and I come across this room reading for the room and having my neck bagasse which is the rune of daylight the rune of transformation and then in the reading that we had it’s the final rune transformation as a boom I just stop. Final rune here it is and Dag as means it’s the ruin that you draw. When is the transition from one thing to the next thing and so that can be a passage from boyhood childhood to adulthood. It can be from know one phase of your adulthood to another phase nonexistence the birth and from birth to death. And so it’s actually quite a powerful it’s a it’s a sort of the gate between one thing and another thing. And so for me then suddenly this symbol that I had clung to suddenly had all this deeper meaning that I had never anticipated actually having until that moment.

[00:38:27] Being a somewhat traumatic person that I am I couldn’t help but see Fred in that moment as his father’s final rune. Fred had said that his father’s greatest wish was to reunite with his sons and that he was able to do that before he passed in that way. It is as if Fred and his brothers were the runes which enabled their father to make his final transformation from estranged parent to the sort of dad who takes his son on a canoeing trip and has his girlfriend standing by to take a photo of them coming down the river together reunited father and son it’s important to note that Fred didn’t so much agree with that interpretation. And as I said I do have somewhat of a dramatic sense about me. But he did admit that it strengthened his connection to the concept of runes which had initially been more about the seemingly magic ability to communicate important things across time and generations.

[00:39:28] So runes have always fascinated me and the thing that is still fascinates me about them is they come from this time when the idea of putting thoughts on to something permanent that could extend across generations was considered basically magical slash religious slash spiritual. So runes have this yo quote magical property because it the idea that a an object in a thought and a story could cross generations was so profoundly powerful an idea that it was had religious connotation in that Norse era and that that still moves me that the power of the written world word is that profoundly powerful to us as a species.

[00:40:26] And I think that’s a good place to start wrapping it up. But Fred has two pretty awesome projects on the horizon and I think you’ll like them both.

[00:40:34] The first is a short film entitled 1918 it happens to be one hundred years since 1918 and the fall of that year there was a influenza epidemic that was an event that really profoundly reshaped society and has not been well remembered in society. Now the movie is really about Milton Ford a young man from Maine who goes to college in Boston and finds this enigmatic character called Professor sparks and then has his world turned upside down. And so it’s sort of a sensibly a horror movie. We did it for this festival we do every Halloween in Maine called damnation land but really it’s about it and it’s I mean it’s only an 18 minute short but it opens ups and opens up a lot of questions and I don’t know it doesn’t attempt to really answer them it tends to explore them it asks questions about it sort of explores the tension between tradition and modernity. It explores you know it adds layers of sort of magic versus science. It has layers of you know religion versus science and has asks all sorts of it raises all sorts of interesting questions and explores them and this mad romp and hopefully leads the audience pondering what we’ve been talking about with beautiful period costumes by the way and at ridiculous regalia and all the wonderful things you’d expect in a period film.

[00:42:06] The second project is long running it’s been around for a while and it’s something you really ought to take the time to check out if you’re into works of weird fiction.

[00:42:16] Yeah. So the dark tome is a serialized weird fiction anthology that uses a framing device which is Cassie.

[00:42:26] So Cassie is a teenage girl from a sort of anonymous central Maine town who doesn’t really fit in in school and her kind of only friend is this cantankerous bookkeeper called Mr. Gussie and Mr. Gussie sort of does his best to keep her away from one book called The Dark tome. And when Cassie decides to start messing around with the dark tome it’s revealed that the book literally transports you into the world the story. And at that point forward Cassie starts experiencing stories. And so so sort of the premise is that each so the first story episode one of the dark tome is a story by Joe Hill this gentleman who happens to be the son of Stephen King is not his preferred not to be known that way. He’s fine writer in his own right. Joe Hill’s Devlin is scared staircase is the first story and so it’s it sort of plays a dramatization of that short story but also has this frame narrative of Cassie and what happens is that at the end of each story the little parts of the story start to come back into Cassie’s world. And then as the story unfolds it becomes clear that Cassie’s story becomes takes on a life of its own.

[00:43:44] And the dark tome really she she learned she’s actually sort of she’s skipping the sideways dimensions and the world that she reenters is not the world that she left exactly. And so in weird stuff starts to happen then her world starts to unwind and get out of control. And so over the course of Season 1 we sort of set up this scenario where what I’m working on now season two of the dark tome bad things are happening. So Cassie Cassie has been missing from school for weeks. Her you know the police are after her because she’s this missing person. There’s also this these bad people after her who may or may not be ancient demons who want to resurrect an ancient evil. And you know the world’s in a bad place and so she needs to unlock some magical powers. The book itself can offer her which means that even though she would rather stop going in the dark tome she’s continued this activity in order to get the sorcerer powers she needs to fix what she said.

[00:44:46] So it’s a little bit of like that Sorcerer’s Apprentice thing where you relation to gone you know opening that book Mickey and that’s when the sorcerer’s away. But you did. Now the place is full of water and you got to do something about it. And the big sorcerer may not be coming to save you. He’s got kind of that feel and it’s yeah. And it’s about and it’s about kind of the power stories ultimately to to help us. And they’re all very interesting.

[00:45:10] I mean my opinion really interesting and very dissimilar interior stories that the writers we’ve worked with are all mostly reasonably well known published authors and we’re trying to find kind of the voices you haven’t heard as much in particular in Season 2 there’s a lot more it’s more than I think like all but two of the stories are female writers and about half or writers of color.

[00:45:36] And what’s really interesting in that set of stories is that you just sort of voices you on here as much in the sci fi fantasy space. Yeah just just just fresh perspectives.

[00:45:46] We don’t hear that many stories set in like a near future dystopian Toronto where people do body modification is to look more Western because that’s what society seems to want from them and what kind of crazy repercussions might that lead to another story we’re working on just finishing this week is a sort of climate change horror story of this Caribbean island and what it looks like after it’s been basically wiped out due to rising tides and hurricanes and zombies.

[00:46:21] So it’s it’s tremendously fun because each episode episode they really have a different feel and we sort of designed it so that the kind of casual podcast listener could just drop into any episode and be like OK I might not know what’s going on with Kasey but like I can follow the interior story arcs and standalone and then hopefully you get hooked and you want to go back to the beginning and listen to the whole series again.

[00:46:41] So if I’m understanding the story features other real life books that kasey goes into so when you say you work with authors you put their books into the story and their short story. Yeah. So there’s a short story that’s an existing short story and we dramatize it. And so she goes into a story and it’s a dramatization of a short story that’s a published short story that exists to bring out bits of each one of these existing real life short stories into a story that combines all things from them into one single news. Yeah that’s very cool. Yeah. It’s kind of fun because so there’s a lot of fiction podcasts out there when my favorites just came back from pod fade Drabble cast and H.P. Lovecraft. Well let’s say it says it’s a lot of things. It’s a very H.P. Lovecraft and infused but there’s more stuff too. There’s a guy in nightmare magazine lightspeed had all the podcasts the whole escape artist saying escape pod and so almost all of those have a format where it’s like a host who says Hi this week on the show we’re gonna play this short story and it’s a reading of that short story by somebody and they’re all like a lot of them really have you good taste and really nice short stories but we want to do something a bit different. And so nobody First off nobody was really doing adaptations and taking short stories and dramatizing them and using your dozens of actors Original Sound Design original music like I have a guy on the next story which is set in ancient India who like is doing music with ancient Greek Greek lyre adapting a 5 8 piece of music from Greek scrolls for the piece and really just really bringing them to life as if it was movie or TV show.

[00:48:25] And then connecting them with the framing narrative as opposed to a host’s narrative. So it’s kind like neverending story but evil the never ending story.

[00:48:35] But evil see you’ll love it. Okay. So this is the last question I have time to ask. And it’s going to be the main question what does Fred think is the best thing about Maine.

[00:48:49] Maine Maine Maine Maine Maine. I mean everyone else is Maine in their lifetime you know loves it and hates it. I mean people in place are tied tightly connected to even though the. I think it’s hard to say Do I like people or place more. I mean Maine has room to breathe his air to breathe and it has beautiful breathtaking sights and there’s just I mean people are carved out of the rock the people you know the rocky shores of the coast you know a lot of Maine are the carved out of rock as well you know Maine’s got some wacky people in all parts of Maine and Mainers have a grip to them which is remarkable. And Maine at the present moment if we can get over ourselves and stop having this weird stranger danger thing is attracting really cool world class people from all over who see Maine as a really interesting place to have have a room to breathe and to and to make stuff and to create and you know the world.

[00:49:46] If you go to major cities it’s just the world is so crazy and so fast that Maine is this wonderful place where we have sort of a minimum viable creative economy and we have you know we have a lot of things that you might want in a big city right here in Portland but without a lot of the crappy stuff that goes with some of the bigger cities. And so we can sort of hold on to that and continue make it a wonderful place to live like the creative economy and the outdoors economies is wonderful part of Maine.

[00:50:14] So it’s also like this place is awesome and it has got such a unique character that there’s sort of few places in the United States or anywhere else that they have what Maine’s got.

[00:50:26] So you know Maine hashtag stay quirky.

[00:50:33] I’d like to thank you for listening. And please remember leaving a review on iTunes is a great way to help others find out about this podcast. So it’s sharing us with your friends by the way or posting links to our episodes on social media. So please review the show when you have a moment and share it as often as you can. If you’re looking for the uncut version of this discussion please become a patron.

[00:50:57] You’ll get extra content as well as a sticker for your car and a T-shirt for your person become a patron today at Patreon AECOM forward slash. Portland speaks. This podcast is written produced engineered and hosted by Tanner Campbell at the Portland pod Maine’s first commercial podcasting studio located at fourteen eighty 86 Broadway in South Portland.

[00:51:23] The Portland speaks podcast as a proud member of the League of Maine podcasters and to find out more about them. Please visit Portland pod. Scott.


References

Revision Energy – https://revisionenergy.com
Final Rune – https://finalrune.com
Washington County Poverty – https://bit.ly/2QzdXIn
The Dark Tome – https://thedarktome.com/
The Mayan Crystal – http://themayancrystal.com/
The Cleansed – https://thecleansed.com
Stonecoast MFA – https://usm.maine.edu/stonecoastmfa
National Student Exchange – https://www.nse.org/
University of New Orleans – http://www.uno.edu/Academics/FTFilmBA.aspx
Biddeford Mills – http://www.biddefordmillsmuseum.org/
Machias, Maine – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machias,_Maine
Invaders from Mars – https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091276/
History of Stephen King – https://www.stephenking.com/the_author.html
Cujo – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cujo
ICQ – https://icq.com
Howard Dean – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Howard_Dean
Return With Us… (Wall Street Journal) – https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052748704240004575085313479028540
Rune of Dagaz – http://runesecrets.com/rune-meanings/dagaz
What are Runes? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Runes
1918 Film – http://1918movie.com/

Credits

Music used with permission from Chillhop Records. Tracks used are “Slopes” by Philanthrope (feat. Yasper), and “Blankets” by Fantompower. Both songs are from the Chillhop Essentials: Winter 2018 album and can be purchased here: https://chillhop.bandcamp.com/album/chillhop-essentials-winter-2018

The Portland Speaks podcast is a production of the Portland Pod, Maine’s first Podcasting studio, located at 1486 Broadway in South Portland.

This podcast is a proud member of the League of Maine Podcasters, a private but free community of podcasters living and creating in Maine.

To learn more about the Portland Pod or the League of Maine Podcasters, please visit https://portlandpod.com.

Additional Notes

Producer & Engineer: Tanner Campbell
Run-time: 51:44

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