Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Channel F - Backtracks: The OTHER 50!

[edit: A technical glitch I caught fairly quickly: if you go to listen to "Backtracks: 'The OTHER 50'", and it stops about an hour and 44 minutes in, and/or the timestamps behave all weirdly, delete it, mark it unread, and download it again, then you'll get the full episode....first timer blues, we'll call it. Deets of the glitch available upon request] :-)

You are tuned to Nerd Noise Radio – Channel F. For newcomers to the show, see below the track list for an in-depth explanation of what Channel F is, and how it relates to the rest of Nerd Noise Radio’s content. Allcomers: also see below for the story of the confluence of why I am making such a big deal of newcomers, as well as how today’s Channel F “F-isode” ties into our April Fool’s episode from earlier this month, “Backtracks”. Timestamps to the individual tracks included below. However, like we did with Backtracks, track specifics are being temporarily withheld for those who wish to play “the guessing game”. A separate blog post, dated April 30th will provide the track information in full, along with a repeat of the timestamps. Again, see below for all the deets. Meanwhile, enjoy “The OTHER 50!” 

Mystery Tracklist (a blogspot.com article with full tracklist info will be coming in the following days) 

01) Intro – 00:00:00 
02) Track 01 – 00:12:13 
03) Track 02 – 00:16:33 
04) Track 03 – 00:19:44 
05) Track 04 – 00:21:21 
06) Track 05 – 00:23:01 
07) Track 06 – 00:25:06 
08) Track 07 – 00:27:36 
09) Track 08 – 00:32:38 
10) Track 09 – 00:36:45 
11) Track 10 – 00:40:02 
12) Track 11 – 00:41:10 
13) Track 12 – 00:42:56 
14) Track 13 – 00:46:40 
15) Track 14 – 00:50:00 
16) Track 15 – 00:51:26 
17) Track 16 – 00:54:49 
18) Track 17 – 00:58:00 
19) Track 18 – 01:00:05 
20) Track 19 – 01:02:23 
21) Track 20 – 01:08:44 
22) Track 21 – 01:13:03 
23) Track 22 – 01:16:12 
24) Track 23 – 01:18:45 
25) Track 24 – 01:20:31 
26) Track 25 – 01:22:05 
27) Track 26 – 01:22:43 
28) Track 27 – 01:25:59 
29) Track 28 – 01:29:13 
30) Track 29 – 01:31:26 
31) Track 30 – 01:33:36 
32) Track 31 – 01:34:43 
33) Track 32 – 01:36:48 
34) Track 33 – 01:38:24 
35) Track 34 – 01:40:05 
36) Track 35 – 01:42:07 
37) Track 36 – 01:44:22 
38) Track 37 – 01:47:47 
39) Track 38 – 01:49:03 
40) Track 39 – 01:50:46 
41) Track 40 – 01:55:13 
42) Track 41 – 01:58:37 
43) Track 42 – 02:04:06 
44) Track 43 – 02:06:22 
45) Track 44 – 02:08:51 
46) Track 45 – 02:10:06 
47) Track 46 – 02:11:09 
48) Track 47 – 02:12:12 
49) Track 48 – 02:15:24 
50) Track 49 – 02:21:46 
51) Track 50 – 02:25:58 

Total Episode Runtime: 02:28:13 



Longtime listeners of the show will know well what a Channel F “F-isode” is (as well as realizing that this is only the second one we’ve had in over a year), but with two simultaneous inflows of new faces to the show (explanation below), I feel it only fitting to provide and introduction to Channel F, and how it fits into the larger wheelhouse of Nerd Noise Radio’s content offerings, including Channel 1, and Archive-Only Super Bonuses. 

Three words will be important here: Canon, Gaiden, and Underground, as will be the general concepts of “top tier, middle tier, and bottom tier” content. 

Nerd Noise Radio – Channel 1: Noise from the Hearts of Nerds: This is “the show proper”. These are the “Main Episodes”. These are the numbered pieces of content which come out regularly on an average of 10 fresh episodes a year. These are the ones that HAVE TO come out. Like, these are the “stay up til 3am several days in a row to get them out on time” level commitment on my part. These are also the ones that get included in our retrospectives. These are “Canon”. These are the top tier of Nerd Noise Radio content. They go out on our podcast feed via podbean, and by extension, on iTunes, Google Play, and Stitcher. They also go out over the Blog (sometimes with extra, blog-exclusive show notes...like these), they go out over Archive.org, and until fairly recently (with alternate plans in the works), they went out over YouTube as well.  

And barring incredible and generally rare circumstances, they always follow a very standard format: Short, standard intro at the beginning, a standardized housekeeping outro at the end, and the meat and potatoes in the middle: a winding, twisting, carefully curated journey through the sounds and modes and moods of video game music. Though the differences abound, many by design, many by circumstance, and some even by accident, the template, and principle inspiration (among others) for Nerd Noise Radio – Channel 1, is, of all things, NPR’s decades-running, worldwide reach, San Francisco-based new age / world ambient / electric space program, “Hearts of Space”, which I had the unimaginable honor of guest-hosting one time in 2019. Program 1228, “Game Scores”, from October, to be exact. It can be said that my goal with Channel 1 is nothing less than “to be the ‘Hearts of Space’ of video game music”. The proper flow, and “journey through multiple moods and modes” is so important to me that I literally spend more time trying to figure out track order than I do even on deciding which tracks to include in the first place. 

We have had a spate of recent Channel 1 episodes that played a lot more fast and loose with the standard channel 1 format than usual, and two that even threw the format out the window completely (C1E50a and C1E50b, “The Golden Episode pts. 1 and 2” – Dec 2019), which is why I am going out of my way now to highlight what “normal” looks like on Channel 1. Also, why I have a few months of “very normal” reruns queued up on both the main podcast feed (Nerd Noise Radio), and a separate set of reruns on our secondary dedicated reruns podcast feed (Nerd Noise Radio Reruns)....because we needed a dose of “normal” to give the new listeners something concrete to hang their hats on....amazing mixed metaphor that that is.  

Anyway, that’s Channel 1. Let’s look at our middle tier of content, and the star of today: Nerd Noise Radio – Channel F! 

Channel F (named after the Fairchild Channel F video game system, a system which predates even the Atari 2600, or Atari VCS as it was originally known) is my outlet for bonuses, and betas, and extras. Stuff that either doesn’t fit the mold of a standard Channel 1 episode, doesn’t align with the timing, or is supplemental material relevant to a recent episode that I felt worth sharing. It can be, well, basically anything. I have done a candidate episode or two for a theoretical potential future “Nerd Noise Radio – Channel 2” (such as December 2019’s “Nerd Noise Game Club” collaboration with Hugues Johnson of the “Retro Game Club” podcast), supplemental mixtape music blocks (like today), and have even done things like exposes on a certain episode outro. They really can be just about anything. 

Like Channel 1, they go out over the podcast feed, the blog, Archive.org, social media, and until recently – over YouTube. However, unlike Channel 1, they are not included in retrospectives, or eligible for “Best of 20XX listener picks” (though changing that last bit is under consideration). They also do not come out with any sort of  regularity. Over the course of 2019, we only had one Channel F...ONE! And in December, at that. They just come out whenever they make sense to come out, whenever I have time to undertake their production, and whenever there is the occasion for one....like right now. They are “Gaiden”. They are my “side story”. They are the middle tier of Nerd Noise Radio content. And I’m sure as time goes one, there will be countless unique ways they manifest and present unique content. In this sense, they are more “freeing”, both for myself, the creator / producer, and for you the listener, than Channel 1 is. And I suppose you might even be able to say that in a certain way, this makes them “cooler” or “more interesting” than a Channel 1 episode, even. 

Anyway, that’s Channel F. Let’s look at our final tier. The “Archive-only Super-Bonuses"!  

While it’s not fair to call it “an exclusive club”, since anyone with internet access can go to Archive.org to get them, the Archive Super Bonuses are decidedly “underground”, in that they do not go out over the podcast feed, or the blog, or on social media, and they have never once graced YouTube. They are only for those in the know, those who know to check in on Archive.org – the only place these ever come out. Though, I do at least work [usually] subtle messages into the corresponding episodes and F-isodes to clue-in those individuals in the know that there is stuff over there to go check out. It makes these outputs into “semi-secret”, “underground”, “cult” pieces, and, I hope, over time, will become something of an informal clubhouse for semi-insiders as a result, developing its own vibe, and own allure.  
So, what do these Super Bonuses include? Well, basically anything that I feel worth producing, but don’t feel like clogging up the podcast feed, or the blog, or social media with. It could be something resembling a Channel F “F-isode”, I suppose, but usually will take the form of “remixes”, or unreleased alternate versions of otherwise already released content.  

The only way I feel like I can REALLY paint the picture of what Super Bonuses are all about is to talk in specifics about some of the Super Bonuses we’ve recently produced. So, let’s start with the first two Super Bonuses we made. They were both “remixes” on “The Golden Episode”. First, a bit about The Golden Episode itself (themselves): 

As I had said before, The Golden Episode was a complete throwing out the window of the standard NNR formula for a one-time retrospective on the life of the show in review to that point. It was actually a two-part mini-series, but each part was so long that collectively, they added up to almost 10hrs (when a normal episode is usually 2 or less.) Also antithetical to a typical NNR, they were VERY talk-heavy! We had talk-heavy intros and outros (especially the part 2 outro), and then the space in-between was done like so: ten 5-track mini-blocks of music sorted, not into flow order like usual, but into chronological order, such as 1-5, 6-10, and so on, with one track from every episode over the span of the Channel 1's history, minus existing retrospectives and the format incompatible April Fool’s 2017. Preceding each mini-block was a talkie segment telling the story of those episodes, with an additional piece of music from one of the relevant previous episodes playing softly in the background during each of those portions.  

Parts 1 and 2 were both this way, with the only difference being in how the tracks were selected. Part 1 was called “popular picks”, and part 2 was called “personal picks”. In both cases, the tracks already used in previous “Best of 20XX” retrospectives were outlawed, leaving what was left over from the large body of available tracks. Not having the time to put together an actual listener picks event for part 1 like I would’ve wanted, “popular picks” was my best attempt to emulate one by picking tracks which would be my best estimate of what the listeners might have picked, given the opportunity. And then, of course, “personal picks” was my own personal “greatest hits”.  

In the grand scheme, both parts 1 and 2 were for both the listeners, and myself alike. But in a narrower sense, part 1 was a love letter to the listeners and a thank you, where part 2 was my own reward, my own self-gratification. Lastly, the stories of the previous episodes were divvied up between the two installments. So, in the “talkie” for the episodes 1-5 mini-blocks, episode 1 (long story) was told in part 1, where the stories for episodes 2-5 (shorter stories) was saved for part 2. In the talkies for the episodes 6-10 block, episodes 6 and 7 were talked about in part 2, where 8-10 were talked about in part 1, and so on. I tried to spread them out as evenly as possible, though of course, imperfectly. In total, because of that outro, part 2 is about 30 minutes longer than part 1. But if you factored out the out the outros to each, part 1 actually would probably have been about 10 minutes longer. Though still, a 10 minutes discrepancy in almost 10hrs of content is not a bad distribution, I guess. 

Anyway, over the river, and through the woods, to the Golden-related Super Bonuses, I get 

One of them was just the music, with no talking. The format was to reuse the mini-blocks from the episodes, just as they had appeared, and in the order they appeared, and then make new, slightly longer 12-track mini-blocks of all the incidental music used in the talkie portions, and tack it on after each episode's final mini-block. I did that for each part, and then combined them both into one Super Bonus. So, part 1 mini-blocks 1-10, the part 1 “incidentals” mini-block, and then repeat with part 2’s parallels. In total, it clocks in mere seconds under 6hrs long and is pure music – though again, in dual-pass chronological order, rather than in “flow order”, or “sonic journey” order. It’s only music, but still not an unbroken journey. 

The other was the story, just the story, along with the incidental music that played in the background during the telling. However, the story was broken up in the original, broken into ten segments, and then split between two separate episodes. This reunites them back into one piece, told in-order, without any interruption. It omits the intros to each version, the outro to part 1, and includes a heavily truncated part 2 outro. The background music during each speaking portion was the same as in the proper episodes with one exception. The background music during the outro is split between the part 2 outro music for the body of it, and the part 1 outro music for the tracklist (cobbled together from snippets from the episodes proper), and the housekeeping. 

Another example of a Super-Bonus: the February 2020 episode of Channel 1 (C1E51) was in celebration of my 40th birthday, and featured a music block of exactly 40 tracks. But the music block had originally been created in Sept 2018, and not originally conceived to be used for a birthday episode. The original draft was only 30 tracks long. When the idea came along later to use it for my 40th birthday, I expanded it to 40 tracks, with a couple additonal tweaks and substitutions along the way. Between the original 2018 draft and the final 2020 product, there were 11 tracks added, one removed, and then one of the additions removed for a last second substitution. However, I thought it might be fun to let people hear the music block as it was at its moment of birth in 2018, especially because, though different tracks were interspersed amongst them, the 29 tracks that both versions had in common appeared in the same relative order in both versions. Case in point: tracks 1, 3, 5, 6, 7, 8 in the final were 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 in the original. There was no reshuffling of the common tracks. As such, the original 30 were made into a Super Bonus for you to hear. 

And now, with all the Backtracks (April Fool's / Backwards music) stuff going on, a number of relevant Super Bonuses are in play. We've already released the four-part “The 100 – Back to Front” mini-series, which are the 100 tracks from “Backtracks” (50 tracks) and today’s “The Other 50” (ordered differently, and broken up into different groups, of course) with the twist that on a track by track basis, you get to hear each piece backwards and forwards….back to back. The backwards version ends in most cases at the precise instant that the forward version begins. It’s quite an experience, as you almost feel a physical lurch, like you would feel when reversing directions in some kind of vehicle or large machine. 

There will also be “Backtracks - Unbacked”, and “The Other 50 – Unbacked”, which are just what they sound like – those two productions just flipped back around, so you can hear the Backtracks outro played forwards, and hear what all was going on in that chaos, and what chocolate chip cookies and banana and the Tetris game over sound had to do with all of it – as well as getting to hear the music in the music blocks played forward (albeit in backwards firing order, last to first instead of first to last), and finally, get to hear the forward intros backwards as well.  

And lastly, we will share one more four-parter: the full 275 tracks!!! The four original candidate list that I worked my way through to get us down, first to 100, and then finally, to 50. These final installments, I realize, will only hold interest and value for the nuts like me who actually super geek the backwards music stuff. But hey, you'll soon be able to hear every single thing I heard as I worked my way through putting all of it together. And then, you’ll be able to start forming opinions of how well, or how poorly I did in the narrowing down process. 

After these, I anticipate a period of radio silence from the Super Bonuses – maybe not til December, when the Best of 20XX episodes come out. I wouldn’t be surprised to see something then.  

However, now, with all of that, I hope that the purposes of the Super Bonuses, and my third-tier, “underground” content is clear: it's mostly going to be limited to when I want to present an alternate take, or twist on existing content without clogging up the podcast feed, and other outlets with essentially redundant content. Like, in December, where my usual output is between one to three hours of content a month, between both parts of the Golden Episode, and Nerd Noise Game Club, it was more like 13 hours. Now I imagine you just had 10+ more hours of content in a month than you’re used to come across your podcatcher, only to have me dump an additional almost nine hours on top of that of essentially the same content, only rearranged. Nothing would drive off listeners faster, I would think. Also, how much sense would it make, so hot on the heels of sharing 40 tracks for my birthday, to share 30 of them all over again?  

So, instead, the Archive-only Super Bonuses, in addition to being a way to drum up a little “underground vibe” excitement, and add a little zest to my presence on Archive, which til this point had really only been a repeater for the podcast feed, it principally serves as a way for me to put out these alternate twists and spins on recent heavyweights so that they can be heard by those who would find that interesting, but far off to the side, so that it doesn’t clutter up and big down my main outlets for those who wouldn’t. Lastly, one final Archive goodie is that I often work ahead on episodes and F-isodes, and sometimes (not always), I will slip them out early on Archive. So, there is a chance that occasionally, at random, you might get a little bit of early access. 

Anyway, I hope that that puts Channel 1, Channel F, and Super Bonuses in context, how they work together, why I have them, and how today’s “Backtracks – The Other 50” fits into the grander picture of Nerd Noise Radio. Above all, I hope it'll give you a deeper appreciation for them. If you are one who goes to Archive to flow the Super Bonuses, you'll have to let me know what you think! J 

Now, for the story on the new faces! The events which hopefully brought new faces to the show are twofold: 1) I was included in a mini-feature of Des Moines-area podcasters in Des Moines Cityview Magazine early this month (link below). I was one of four podcasters, actually, the first of four podcasters in the article by Jeff Pitts. Also, at around the same time this month, I had made a tweet that would go on to become my most seen, and most liked tweet in my history on the platform. It was about how I had produced my first ever music block in Linux, specifically, in Ardour 5, running in Ubuntu Studio 19.10 with a Kubuntu 19.10 / KDE 5.18 layer over top, on a Dell Latitude 7480, where previously, just about all my production work in total*, and a full 100% of my music block production work had been done in macOS via GarageBand on a circa 2016 late-2014 model Mac Mini, and how this moment was a very big deal for me personally, as one who is working to move away from Mac and Windows-centric computing in my personal life over to a Linux-centric model, with Mac and Windows being relegated to the fringes of my world. So, the way I had put it at the time was that this moment was “one small step for the show (and maybe even less than that for the listeners), but one giant leap for me, and my desire to move ever deeper into Linux.” This tweet was picked up by, and generously boosted by Jason Evangelho of Forbes magazine, one of their tech writers, whose central focus these past two years has been on Linux, and the world thereof (link to his artcles below as well). The response from the Linux community the world over to this, what would seem like such an incidental moment in one podcasters journey has been tremendous, borderline overwhelming, and very encouraging.  

So, these new faces come from two very different camps: the nearness, and intimacy of my fellow Des Moinesers (and other Central Iowans) contrasted with the vastness and global scale of my fellow Linux users and fans (with ever the possibility for a little overlap) is such a striking and breathtaking confluence.  If you are reading this, if you are within the [text-based] “sound” of my [digital] “voice”, and you are a newcomer that came through either of these avenues, please drop me a line, either at nerdnoiseradio@gmail.com, here on the comments on the blogspot article, or on any of our social media outlets (facebook page, facebook groups (plural), or on Twitter @NerdNoiseRadio), and let me know you’re here! Also, let’s get to know each other a bit! 

Now, finally, to the place “The Other 50” plays in the whole “Backtracks” story: 

The idea of doing a backwards April Fool’s episode was something in my playbook from as far back as early 2017, not long after the very beginning of the podcast. It was borne of three pieces of video game music that I reversed on a whim, and was surprised and delighted by. All three of these tracks made it into Backtracks, though they are so innocuous that I wager you’d never guess which ones they were. None of the real “standout tracks” were among them. They were “Cylic (Heavily Armored)”, Stage 4-3 (Bram Stoker’s Dracula), and “Fourth Cause”. Then the idea of including The Reverse Will occurred to me shortly thereafter, and that’s when I “had my hook” for the show! The surprise forward-speaking voice, a young girl character repeating “if I should die before I wake, I pray the lord my soul to take” excited me as I felt that it would be one of those “delightfully jarring” jolt moments to catch the listener off guard. I did get some feedback that it had done just that. However, though the depth of my knowledge of video game [and related] music is deep enough that I feel confident that I’m only halfway through the show’s journey having already shared somewhere between 1500 and 2000 tracks, my knowledge of BACKWARDS video game music was very, very shallow.   So, I had two choices: just spitball it, grab 30 or so tracks at random, reverse them, sort them into play order (if even that), and just hope for the best. I mean, it’s only an April Fool’s Episode, after all, right? Or, I could take a handful of my favorite past music blocks from the show’s history, as well as a few other straggler tracks, reverse the whole lot of them, and deep dive. So, that’s what I did. I spent I would say no less than three months where I was spending more time listening to backwards video game music than forwards video game music, or really any other kind of music at all, for that matter, having amassed a collection of give or take 275 backwards pieces that I tasked myself with narrowing down to a reasonable length. And this was a long, difficult, PAINFUL process for me – not the so deeply immersing in backwards VGM part- I loved that part! It was like getting acquainted with 275 fun new friends! But having to choose which of those fun new friends not to invite to the party – that was the not fun part! Of the 275 or so, given the theoretical of unlimited constraints, I would’ve wanted somewhere between 225 and 250 of them. But I had set my hard limit max number of tracks at 50, with 40, or maybe even 30 being the ideal.  

At one point, I had successfully narrowed the list down to 100. And if that wasn’t painful enough already, I still had to cut a full 50% or more of even that 100 out. At great length, and at great pains, I did finally achieve 50....and that’s what made up the music block for Backtracks. But what about the other 50? Was I to just discard them? I had the aforementioned Super Bonus “Back to Front” series out on Archive, yes. But as I was putting that together, I would feel a pang every time that one of the 50 that didn’t make the cut came on. I realized that something else had to be done for these other 50. At first, my idea was to do a special installment for them on Archive as yet another Super Bonus. But seeing as how listenership to the Super Bonuses is so tiny (and probably always will be), I wanted to give it something a little higher profile. That’s when I settled on doing a Channel F “F-isode” instead. And here we are. As I said in the episode, comparing The 50 (“Backtracks”) with The OTHER 50, I feel the former is deeper, and richer, and weightier, and had more of those “have to” moments in it for a proper backwards episode. So, from a textbook perspective, it is probably fair to call it the “better” of the two, and I definitely feel like I made the right choice making it the block that appeared in the actual episode. But by contrast, I feel the music block to The OTHER 50, on balance, is lighter, and fresher, and more fun. And as such, there’s a part of me that kinda likes it better. If you hear both, you’ll have to let me know what you think. 

Anyway, that is Channel 1 vs Channel F vs Super Bonuses. That is the story behind the new faces and the wonderful two men who gave me the boost at the same time. And that is the story of where “The OTHER 50” fits into all this. And other than the links directly below (which I heartily encourage you to check out), to quote Forrest Gump.....”that’s all I’ve got to say about that”. Take care dear listeners.....and wherever you are....Fly The N! Oh, I should probably explain for the newcomers...”Fly The N” basically means “let your nerd flag fly!” Flaunt your nerdiness, embrace it and revel in it. Be a nerd proudly and openly.....Fly the N! 


-St. John 

Link to the Cityview Article: 

You can find previous articles by Jeff by searching www.dmcityview.com or as compiled on Muck Rack: 

Link to Jason Evangelho’s Forbes articles  (@killyourfm on Twitter) 

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