You may recall my review of Watch Out for Fireballs!, a retro video game podcast. Both of the hosts also run other shows. Gary Butterfield’s is called Dead Idea Valhalla. It is a variety podcast which most commonly features a monologue by Gary covering whatever topic interests him at that time, music that he has written/recorded, as well as a variety of skits performed between himself and a character he either adapted from an external source or created independently. I’ll cover each segment separately before discussing my overall impressions of the podcast.
First, the rants. They’re interesting and thought out. The topics Gary selects to talk about are varied and often pertain to whatever is happening in his life at the time, but he doesn’t just switch on the mic and speak off the top of his head (or if he does, it doesn’t show). Anything from GLBT rights, gender equality, vignettes of his life, and quirks of bus travel and universities and where he lives are fodder for his podcast. These segments are the parts where you learn the most about Gary as an individual. As I am always interested in other people (characters in fiction, likewise, are what will make or break a story for me), this is perhaps my favorite segment. I’d liked the rants so much that I’d actually e-mailed Gary with some of my responses while listening to the podcast, typing the message as I listened. He was grateful for the reply, although I’m a bit too wordy to respond to I think. 😉 I have listened to all of the episodes, and thereafter began listening to some of them with my boyfriend Kyle as well. Each time we sit down together with Dead Idea Valhalla, the rant segment is cause for a direct discussion between me and Kyle of the same subject Gary talks about. Whether you agree or disagree with Gary’s viewpoint, his presentation of the subject at hand includes a thoughtful argument for his case.
Second, the music. This is the part of the podcast that I feel is Gary’s biggest interest, as he has been in a variety of bands and has written/performed music for years (much as I’ve written stories and drawn for years). This is his biggest creative outlet, but because music is subject to each person’s individual tastes I feel like listeners may have a variety of responses to it. Simply put, Gary’s style is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. Kyle for example listens to a great deal of metal; I listen to a lot of J-rock and bellydance music. This does not mean that we don’t appreciate the songs Gary composes as we both do listen to a variety of genres, but my point is that not everyone listens to a range of styles, and not everyone listens to the sort of music that Gary produces. My personal favorites were the rap songs he did long ago with a friend under the monniker HWP (Honkies With Privileges), a lot of the music from his prior band The Metroids, instrumentals (I love instrumentals! :D), and random songs from the skits such as the music of The Bindle Suite. The songs related to skits are often rather distinct from one another and therefore remain very memorable. All of his music is also quite catchy, so it’s frequent that I find myself randomly recalling a lyric or humming a tune. There are a few episodes devoted to the songs Gary has recorded, but by and large this is the smallest segment of the show, usually only evidenced as a single song placed between the rant and the skit.
Third, the skits. The characters are recurring and will pop up again every few episodes. The stories range across the spectrum, from a new imagined ending for Brokeback Mountain to radio advertisements from a fictional town where Gary places a lot of the skits. Although I haven’t asked him, I believe that Kyle’s favorite part are these skits as he quotes lines from them incessantly and refers back to them often. He loves, for example, the stories of The Saga of the Dungeon Mister and The Behaunter of the Lobby Station. He’s asked to listen to these multiple times in a row, in fact. I must admit that these are often hilarious and full of references back to prior episodes of the podcasts, the rants, and also to whatever subject matter prompted the creation of the skit in the first place (D&D in the case of Dungeon Mister and Victorian novels in the case of Behaunter). They have the feel of a modern version of the radio adventure shows back in the era before TV was invented, and are very creative. This segment is, in my opinion, the most likely to be successful as the subject matter for a future podcast, whenever Gary decides to make another one (see below).
In short, I love this podcast. I quote it, I refer back to it, I think about it more than any other podcast I’ve listened to and/or reviewed here. Sadly however, it has suffered from a lack of listenership and so Gary has struggled with what he calls “The Void,” that is, a lack of feedback. This is a monster that plagues all creative people, myself included, and so I strongly sympathize with the sentiment and the war against it. It leaves a creative individual with the horrible sensation of, “why am I doing this anyway? No one seems to care.” As a result of this feeling, which has been magnified by a series of personal issues he’s been wrestling with in the past few months, Gary has decided to finish out the show and has posted the first half of the final episode as of the date of this review. He’d stated that he will likely create something new after his life has settled back down again, and after he’s dealt with the dilemmas which challenge him presently. Kyle and I both look forward to that time, and both wish him well.
I strongly recommend downloading and tuning in to Dead Idea Valhalla, either directly from Gary’s website or from iTunes. Should you do so, please take a moment to rate it on iTunes, friend it on Facebook, or just shoot Gary a message to let him know what you think of the show.