Thursday, June 23, 2022

NNR Blog - St. John: Introduction to Nerd Noise Radio - 2022

For those who have never checked out Nerd Noise Radio, or who might've listened years ago and then never kept up; we are less of a "program" and more of a "network of programs", with two separate podcasts (of vastly differing formats and feels), and several supplemental or side offerings as well. It can all be a little confusing and maybe even overwhelming if you try to tune in without being aware of what everything means. And since NNR is participating in the massive (and glorious) Masters of VGM project [] that the greater VGM podcast scene collaborated on this June, it stands to reason that there will be a number of new faces at least dropping in long enough to check out our MoVGM contribution. So, I figured that a blog post laying everything out may be in order.

I'll do this in "short version / long version" format so that the reader can decide whether they just want a handful of pithy fortune cookie-sized bullet points, or whether they want "story time". The short version will be just an extension of our pinned tweet. The long why I'm making a blog post out of this! :-D

Choose your own adventure! :-)



------------------Nerd Noise Radio Programs:

------On the podcast feed:

"Channel 1": Mixtape-style (or radio-music-program-style) adventures in sound. Minimal talking, maximal music. Since 2017! 10/yr.

"Channel 2": Two mics, fourteen tracks, VGM and talk! Since 2020! 6/yr. [NOTE: Our "MoVGM" episode will be a Ch 2!]

"Channel F": Bonuses & Betas! X/yr.

------Not on the podcast feed:

"Archive-Exclusive SUPER BONUSES": Stuff that's "too Channel F for Channel F". Regular content also sometimes covert-releases early on Archive as well.

"The Blog": Repeater of the podcast feed (sometimes with additional show notes in a more blog-like format), as well as occasional "actual blog posts" covering various VG, VGM, or show-related topics.

"YouTube": Channel still exists, but has been dormant since 2019. Plans exist to revive it in 2023, however, recent crackdowns by Nintendo and Square do cast a little doubt on that. Old content is still out there, though, of course.

Social Media: Twitter, Facebook Page, two Facebook Groups ("Easy Mode" and "Expert Mode"). Adding a Discord is possible in the future. Maybe in 2023.



Channel 1 and 2: For two shows with a common host, a common central subject and a common set of production tools, hardware, and techniques, I wanted Channel 1 and Channel 2 to sound and feel and flow as UNLIKE each other as humanly possible! And I pride myself in feeling like we have accomplished this! The two shows are absolutely NOTHING alike! Meaning, if you've heard one and didn't like it, maybe don't discount the other, because it's very much deliberately a COMPLETELY different vibe and experience!

Ch 1 (subtitle "Noise from the Hearts of Nerds" and with episode numbering scheme C1EX) has been running uninterrupted since January 2017 with an average of 10 new episodes a year. It is a glorified mixtape, roughly approximating the style of radio music programs like NPR's Hearts of Space (which I had the TREMENDOUS honor of getting to guest curate one time back in 2019): a short semi-standard intro, and a housekeeping outro, both near totally scripted and delivered in a vaguely Stephen Hill-esque (Hearts of Space) "radio affect", bookending a giant block of uninterrupted music, designed to take you on a winding, twisting journey through sound. I literally put more time and thought and energy into track order than I do even into track selection. When I do my job right, the sensation will be, you'll listen, and not even realizing we're moving, but when you get to the end, you'll be like "how the eff did we get from point A to B to C to X", since often times these music blocks are made of elements that you would not think would work well together. Typical music blocks run 1-1.5 hours, though they can go over 2hrs every once in a while. No set number of tracks, though give or take a few of 30 is the most common.

Ch 2 (subtitle "Nerd Noise Game Club" and with episode numbering scheme C2EX) is much newer, beginning in September 2020, and up until the end of 2021 was only quarterly (now it's six times a year). It is a more conventional non-mixtape-style "conversational share-a-thon" type program in the vague style of countless shows from Legacy Music Hour to Rhythm and Pixels to Pixelated Audio to Super Marcato Bros and so on. Contrary to Ch 1, it is almost completely unscripted, and I almost exclusively use my real-life "regular speaking voice". It is co-hosted by Hugues (pron. "Hugh") Johnson of "Retro Game Club", and an alumnus of a certain now-defunct, but seminal, nearly decade-running video game talk podcast / community - a man I’ve been a fan of since 2011, who I got to meet in person in 2014, and who I never would’ve EVER dreamed I’d be able to snag as a co-host for my show! The name "Nerd Noise Game Club", of course, is a portmanteau of Nerd Noise Radio and Retro Game Club. On Ch 2, Hugues and I will take turns sharing tracks and talking about them and [mostly] relevant topics.  On even numbered episodes, Hugues gets final say on the episode's theme and title and also goes first with the episode's opening track (I get the closer), where it's the opposite on odd-numbered episodes. Colloquially, we refer to even numbered episodes as "Hugues episodes" and odd numbered episodes as "St. John episodes" even though we both get the same number of tracks (7 apiece for 14 total), and both participate in the conversation all the way through. Episode theme and title decisions are also -USUALLY- a collaborative effort between the two of us with the one or the other just getting to make the final decision in case there isn't unanimity - which you will hear (or have already heard) in action in C2E8 (MoVGM).

So, Ch 1 is a very planned, very controlled, very "clean room" environment, like a professional radio program would be, and goes for that vibe, whereas Ch 2 is much more lively and off the cuff, and unpredictable, like a conversation between friends, and goes for that vibe instead. Ch 2 is also deep where Ch 1 is shallow, and shallow where Ch 1 is deep. On Ch 2, you get to learn about the music, the composers, the games, and get to know your hosts. Ch 1 is much more standoffish, and contains little to none of that unless it's brought up briefly by way of episode introduction / post mortem. On the other hand, Ch 2 has sooooo much less music, and much less robust music collections. And, even though Hugues and I do meet ahead of time to sort tracks into optimal run order, that run order is less solid and flowy with that few tracks featured, and what flow we do achieve is interrupted by all the talking anyway. 

So, in the final analysis, Ch 2 is meant to be the "yang" to Ch 1's "yin" - and vice versa. And with the two being so very, VERY different from each other, the hope is that they will collectively "cast a much wider net" together than either one could possibly achieve alone. Maybe someone won't like Ch 1, but will like Ch 2, or vice versa. Ch 2 is hard to listen to as "just background noise", and demands a more active ear, where Ch 1 can be happily listened to either way (enough little hidden nuggets to reward active listening, but unobtrusive enough to make excellent BGM while you're concentrating on other things!) My hope, of course, is that people will like both, and listen to both, and get completely different, but equally powerful itches scratched by both. Each are a labor of love for me, and the outpouring of my creative energies.

The most recent Channel 1:

Spotify Users:

Non-Spotify Users:

My very first Channel 1 (January 2017 - please forgive the TERRIBLE production quality):

Spotify Users:

Non-Spotify Users:

The most recent Channel 2 (prior to C2E8 - or, prior to our MoVGM episode):

Spotify Users:

Non-Spotify Users:

Our first Channel 2 (Sept 2020):

Spotify Users:

Non-Spotify Users:

Now, let's talk about "Channel F" and "Archive SUPER BONUSES": I don't consider either one to be "their own shows" like I do Ch 1 and Ch 2. Instead, each are free-form outlets for bonuses and betas and extras; things that don't fit the mold of either one, or at least not the constraints of a numbered episode. Neither release on any set schedule, and there can be many or few (or NONE at all) in a given year. Ch F "F-isodes" (whenever they do appear) will just appear on the podcast feed right alongside the two main shows. 

But there are also things that I want to make and release and share with the world that I don't want to clog the feed with, and worry would turn feed followers off. So, I put them on as an Archive-Exclusive thing instead, and call them "SUPER BONUSES". Most of these are remixes of existing episodes and/or outtakes from existing projects - such as music-only SUPER BONUSES of each Ch 2 episode we release (so, like a miniature Ch 1 only with no intro or outro: a "headless Ch 1 mini", if you like - a "pure mixtape"!). Or, like, say I limit myself to 50 tracks for a retrospective, but had to cull that 50 from a pool of 200. And say I'd still like to share the lost 150. Well, the 50 will hit the podcast feed, and the remainders might end up hitting Archive. 

A case-in-point of this ides in action: when I did the 50 track "Backtracks" episode of Ch 1 for April Fool's 2020 (a collection of VGM played in reverse), it came from a pool of over 300 candidate tracks, and that entire 300+, albeit over multiple installments eventually made it onto Archive. So, that's the idea of SUPER BONUSES - a bonus too "bonus-y" even for Ch F! A sort of "super Ch F", if you'd like. And since they're almost never announced anywhere, they're the sort of thing that listeners would just have to scout out on Archive on their own to discover. As such, even though it's an open website with no login or pay walls, it still creates this sort of quasi, I guess sort of pseudo "insider's exclusive club" effect, to go scouting out and listening to the SUPER BONUSES since they will never hit the podcast feed, and since so few people will actually ever hear them (the Archive click numbers are dramatically lower than the podcast feed numbers - somewhere between 5-20% of the larger body). 

It's ironic: SUPER BONUSES actually tend to be more frequent and abundant than F-isodes, and yet they're so much less heard and discovered and explored. And so, I would encourage you to go do so. It's "a whole other side of Nerd Noise Radio than what you'll find on the podcast feed - and one that's  always hiding in plain sight". On top of that, there is yet another bonus / function / feature / perk to following NNR on Archive: a lot of times, I work on episodes way ahead of time, and schedule them way ahead of time to release at the planned time….and then release them way early over on Archive as soon as they’re done. So, you also end up oft-times getting early access to podcast feed episodes over there. And since such a small number of my regular audience turns up over there, I can get away with doing this without "wrecking things for the main feed".

One of my favorite F-isodes (a one-off that would eventually retroactively become an unofficial “beta” or “pilot” for Channel 2):

Spotify Users:\

Non-Spotify Users:

One of the SUPER BONUSES from the greater “Backtracks Project”:

We also fill in the blanks between episodes with “Nerd Noise Radio - Reruns”, which can be a rerun of anything from Ch 1, Ch 2, or Ch F (no SUPER BONUSES for these). These reruns are almost always presented without any modification over the original. But one time, we ended up doing a gigantic tribute to a dear friend of mine who was a local musician / radio personality here in Des Moines named Chris Chandler and who died decades too young. The original C1E10 (channel 1 episode 10) from May 2017 was created in his honor, but was far too diffuse, opaque a tribute, so I ended up turning the occasion of a C1E10 rerun into a gigantic, much clearer extended tribute to the man on what would’ve been his 40th birthday. It was over 2hrs long, featured several pieces of his original music, testimony and stories from his father, Mark, and an unmodified complete presentation of C1E10, which only made up about 40 minutes of total 2hr presentation. And this extended “rerun in name only” tribute was called “Chandlerfest”. Here’s the link:

Spotify Users:

Non-Spotify Users:

Lastly, let's look at the blog, YouTube, and social media:

If you’re reading this, you’re at least acquainted with the blog. Prior to the launch of the show, I used to periodically post actual blog posts on it - including an entire series on all the different Yamaha FM sound chips used in various video game sound systems, and an expose on YM2612 FM “fake square wave” vs SN76489 PSG “real square wave” on the Sega Genesis. After the launch of the show, the blog basically devolved into a simple repeater of the podcast feed. Recently, I’ve made some effort to at least occasionally revive actual blogs. In February, I wrote a super long blog on my enthusiasm and excitement for the then imminent Steam Deck (an enthusiasm that has since almost entirely been borne out in the reality of the Steam Deck as I’ve since experienced it as a now owner of one). I also very recently posted a blog listing my personal top 20 episodes of Ch 1 as we near episode 70 and 6yrs of the show - which I intend to edit up to top 25, and add links to each episode.

As for YouTube: while Nerd Noise Radio entered the podosphere with the launch of Ch 1 in Jan 2017, NNR itself had already existed at that point for four years to the month (and very nearly to the day), initially as a social media VGM aggregator service on Facebook, then Twitter, then Blogspot, and then shortly thereafter, I began uploading VGM to YouTube. When the podcast launched, I also started uploading video versions to YouTube. While I actively go out of my way to AVOID seeing my click counts as totally as absolutely possible (to avoid the rollercoaster of extreme emotions rises and falls creates in me), in late 2018-early mid 2019, there was one trend I was unable to avoid noticing - a migration away from YouTube over to the podcast feed (as evidenced by a precipitous plummet in YouTube clicks occurring simultaneously with a nearly identical surge in podcast feed clicks.) With the clicks on YouTube being so low, and with a then infant (now toddler) in the house, and with even such basic, rudimentary video productions still requiring an additional 3-5 hours of work with as distractible and inefficient as I am, I decided to suspend them indefinitely - though I decided to not actually shut down the channel as I had always hoped to reignite it someday. I now have a vision of how I would do that (which I guess I will still keep to myself for now), though with the draconian shifts in policy and policing by Nintendo and to a lesser extent, also by Square Enix, it does cast at least some uncertainty and doubt on whether my plans for a “glorious, triumphal return to YouTube” will ever actually happen. I guess we’ll find out together.

Finally: social media:  I do not [yet] have a Discord channel for NNR, or an Instagram account. Though at least the former is likely for some point in the future. Also, I do hope next year (for the 10yr anniversary of the existence of NNR as an entity) to revive the practice of daily track shares on at least Twitter, and maybe FB and Discord as well. As for Facebook, I have a Facebook page which is nearly entire dormant, as well as a pair of Facebook groups which are similarly sleepy right now: “Nerd Noise Radio - Easy Mode” - where the idea is to just share tracks and have general video game and nerd fun, as well as “Nerd Noise Radio - Expert Mode” - where we would hope to have in-depth conversations about video game hardware (particularly sound hardware), music theory, and composer info. Moving to Discord would probably make this easier, as I could just create sub-channels for each one (and beyond).

My recent blog about the Steam Deck:

My [to date] final upload to YouTube (my special announcement that the YouTube channel would be going dormant for the foreseeable future):

Anyway, that’s Nerd Noise Radio. I hope that makes more sense of all the various parts and pieces you see flying about as you pop in to check us out - potentially for the first time in a very long time - or ever! And hopefully this presentation will inspire interest in certain parts of what we offer. If you end up checking us out, especially if you plan on sticking around - drop us a line, let us know you’re there! You can find us on all the ways listed above, as well as by e-mail at! We always welcome the engagement, conversation, and feedback!


-St. John (Nerd Noise Radio)

Thursday, June 9, 2022

NNR Blog - St. John: my top 20 episodes of Channel 1 (as we approach 70 episodes and 6yrs)

I'm nowhere near committal enough to be able to actually rank these, so I'll just present them chronologically. But as we approach 6yrs and 70 episodes of NNR Ch 1 (most of the rest of the year is already planned out), I think I have finally managed to successfully identify what I personally believe to be the top 20 episodes of Ch 1 over the course of its run to date.

They are (again, presented Chronologically, rather than ranked):

Season 1 (2017 - Episodes 1-20):

C1E2 - "Twisted Sine" (FM synth music focus)

C1E16 - "Mishmash Monday - vol 2" (Freeplay)

Season 2 (2018 - Ep 21-40):

C1E28 - "Sense of the Scene - vol. 1" (focus on stuff "just outside VGM")

C1E30 - "The Big Sound of the Little Guy" (indie game music focus)

C1E32 - "Mishmash Monday - vol 5" (Freeplay, but guest curated in collaboration with "St. Jodee" for her and St. John's 19th wedding anniversary - outro guest hosted by St. Jodee and a much younger St. Chloe!)

C1E35 - "The Floppy Show" (computer game music focus - the episode title also being a great double entendre which references a great piece of "Des Moinesicana"!)

C1E40 - "Listener Picks - vol 1" (a community curated Freeplay - and probably the most FUN I've ever had with an episode!)

Season 3 (2019 - Ep 41-50):

C1E41 - "Mishmash Monday - vol 7" (Freeplay)

C1E47a - "Turbotastic" (pt. 1 of 3 TG16/PCE music focus - co-hosted / co-curated by Bryce Dumond of the Turbotastic Podcast)

C1E47b - "The Little Engine that Could" (pt. 2 TG16 focus w/ Bryce)

C1E47c - "Tidal Wavetable" [aka "The Continuing Adventures of Buzz Light-year] (pt. 3 TG16 w/ Bryce)

C1E50a - "The Golden Episode pt. 1: Popular Picks" (story-heavy retrospective of the first 50)

C1E50b - "The Golden Episode pt. 2: Personal Picks" (the rest of the story on the first 50)

Season 4 (2020 / 2021 - Ep 51-60 - 5/yr):

C1E51 - "Mishmash Monday - vol 9" (Freeplay - also, my 40th birthday episode - intro and outro guest hosted by "St. Jodee", "St. Chloe", "St. Chuck", "St. Val", and "St. Jesse" - aka, St. John's wife, daughter, parents, and brother respectively. Also, the first appearance of then infant "St. Wyatt"!)

C1E52 - "Backtracks" (VGM played in reverse - ostensibly as an April Fool's gag - also what I personally consider to be my best episode EVER)

C1E56 - "Mishmash Monday - vol 10" (Freeplay)

C1E60 - "Listener Picks vol 2" (a very non-standard format Listener Freeplay - co-hosted by Trey Johnson of NintenDomain and W.A.R.T. Radio)

Season 5 (2022 - Ep 61-70) - CONTAINS MILD SPOILERS:

[CURRENT EPISODE] C1E64 - "ThreeFer Thursday" (a Freeplay, but in triplets)

[SPOILER - FUTURE] C1E68 - "They're Coming to Get You, Barbara" (spooky and dissonant Halloween themed Freeplay)

[SPOILER- FUTURE] C1E69: "Mishmash Monday - vol. 12" (Freeplay - also the long-lost "Original C1E41")

Honorable mentions that each ALMOST made my list:

4, 8, 10, 12, 15, 18, 19, 22, 24, 27, 33, 43, 44, 46, 48, 54, 57, 58, 59, 61, 63, 67.

If you have only either just started listening or listened forever ago and stopped, and if you were interested in listening again (or for the first time) to Ch 1, these would be where to start! The production value and track sort quality are WAY better the more recent you get. But there is a freshness and energy and optimism that is stronger the earlier you go. 

I would say the "production quality 'epochs'" of Ch 1 (from worst to best) are 1-10, 11-20, 21-40, 41-58 (59 was guest produced, and 60 we had to rely on lower-quality "fallback audio"), 61-63, and then finally 64 and onward. From a production quality standpoint, 64 is the best thing I've ever done in any context ever.

As for the stuff outside of Ch 1: there haven't been enough Channel 2 episodes, or even Channel F "F-isodes" to make a similar list for them. But I will say my standout F-isodes have been "Chandlerfest" (my celebration of the life and music of my long-time friend, Chris Chandler, and a rerun of C1E10, which has been made in his honor), "Nerd Noise Game Club" (the one-off with Hugues that ended up retroactively becoming something of a "beta" or "pilot" for Channel 2), "Backtracks - the OTHER 50" (an additional 50 pieces of VGM played in reverse to supplement "Backtracks"), and "An Introduction to Channel F" (our first ever "F-isode, back before the term "F-isode" was even coined.) And as for Ch 2, I think C2E2: "Deck the Halls" had the best overall consistency in the music block, though a number of episodes had individual tracks that I liked even better than anything in C2E2. And as far as conversation quality and theme, I don't even know that ai could pick any winners. They've all been great, in my opinion. Maybe in several years when we plan to shut down NNR, I'll be able to do a similar list for Ch 2. We'll see!

So, that's that! Long-time (and especially all-time) listeners, what do you think of the list? Anything you would hope to have seen there that's not there? Anything that baffles or alarms you for being there? 



-St. John