A couple months ago I became a podcast addict.
With shows like Radiolab, This American Life, and now Serial (which seriously ruined my life), I easily became obsessed with the journalism, narrative, and presentation of interesting science. I can't help but feel like I spend my time better when I listen to a podcast while working rather than throw on a rerun. But with so many podcast episodes I still hit a wall. I'd listened to all the Radiolab I could handle (all of them), and plenty of This American life. I'd also listened to the Serial season all the way through for about the 5th time and although I loooved the idea of trying to solve the case myself I knew I never would. I needed something fresh, something...different.
If you've ever tried to look for a new podcast on iTunes, it's a little overwhelming- the reviews are all over the place, and you don't know if it's good until you listen to a couple episodes. But Soundcloud lends itself to the local artist, the indi creator who produces professional material, but uploads to the creative mess that is the free media platform. Anyone and everyone can upload, listen, and share. Somehow in my feed surfaced a little gem called "Here Be Monsters" or HBM. I was instantly intrigued by the cover image of their episode about a crow funeral where a gal wears a disturbing humanoid mask while holding a dead crow. I thought "uhhhh...is this about some weird magic crow ritual?" and I was totally ready to hear all about it.
I was pleasantly surprised to find the podcast well written, well produced and edited, and extremely thoughtful. In fact, my favorite thing about the podcast is you know it's got a lot of heart backing it up.
I started diving into the archives, finding episodes about an ayahuasca trip, a white supremacist, mental illness, mating slugs, and much more. Jeff Emtman narrates these stories with genuine unbiased curiosity and a melodic baritone voice. Watch out when he unleashes his delicious prose like he does in "The Roman Slug Death Orgy". Who knew a story about otherworldly Seattle slugs could be so poignant and textured?
My other favorite thing about this podcast is it created by a community, not a company.
The episodes are written and produced by Jeff Emtman and a handful of other folks, it also features Emtman's music along tons of other local and independent musicians. He always plugs the music (which is good stuff by the way), and allows artists to contact him to contribute if they're interested. It all started from a grant given to Jeff from Soundcloud to create this podcast after he had the idea in 2011. Jeff saw a picture of his friend holding a human placenta on Facebook and was fascinated. From then on he decided he should start working on a project about the things that scare us. You can read more about this here.
As the show grows, the community dynamic might change. Perhaps it won't, but even if it does, the podcast deserves any notoriety and love it gets, and I'll be happy to see it transform in whatever way it needs to. Right now it's a really great time to see what the HBM crew has created and how they're doing it. The execution of the program is essentially open source- people coming together to make a product that's valuable to the community because they want it in their lives, regardless of payment. I'm glad Soundcloud took a chance and granted them the backing they needed, and that such a dedicated crew spent hours upon hours piecing together the podcast in a really lovely way.
Thank you Jeff for being brave enough to write about the things that disturb us. So far it's been fun and wild ride. There have been a few times when I've squirmed and squealed at the office while listening to an episode... and my coworkers have looked over at me so very confused.
I suggest you get started on some episodes here: http://hbmpodcast.com. Enjoy, and I hope it inspires you as it did me.