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Overly Prepared

by Noah Lugeons

(Warning: The following post has nothing to do with anything. It’s sort of a rambling bit of personal reflection loosely disguised as news about the show. )

I have this habit of over-preparing.  Now, I know that sounds like a blatant ego stroke so I feel like I need to qualify it a bit.  Let me give you a recent example.

Shortly after we started the podcast I got an unexpected and very welcome compliment from the host of a podcast I really enjoy.  Cecil from Cognitive Dissonance dropped me a line just to tell me that he really enjoyed the show.  He offered a few words of encouragement and closed the email with a preliminary invitation to guest on his program.  I believe his exact words were, “When you’ve got a few more episodes under your belt we’d love to have you on to talk about the show.”

I’ve been a fan of his show for quite a while and I suppose it’s fair to say that he and his co-host Tom were a big part of the inspiration that got Heath and I started with this whole project.  So needless to say, I was quite excited and flattered by the thought of appearing on their show.

A couple months went by and last week Cecil emailed me again to set up a date we could get together for a Skype interview.  We locked down the date about 6 days in advance.  So I had 6 days to over-prepare.

Now, with that long preamble, allow me to elaborate on what I mean by “over-prepare”.  Here is a (non-exhaustive) list of all the things I did to prep for guesting on their show:

  • I re-listened to their last 6 shows so that I’d be sure to be on point if I needed to refer back to a statement one of them recently made.
  • I went back into  their archives and grabbed 8 different episodes where they interviewed podcasters with the hopes of learning some of the common questions they ask.
  • I wrote out answers to the dozen or so questions I anticipated and practiced them a few times until they sounded natural.
  • I talked my wife and Heath into doing “practice interviews” so that I could work on transitioning from one topic to another, improvising for curve balls, keeping my answers non-rambling and concise, etc.
  • I wrote a 6 stanza poem that incorporated 5 inside jokes about their show.
  • I tested a new set up on my audio rig that would allow me to record my end of the audio without degrading the audio I was transmitting (using 2 mixers, 2 mics and an H4N Digital recorder if you’re interested in that kind of thing).
  • I made two pages of hand written notes, including notes on a news story they wanted to cover with me.
  • I read said news article and found 3 ancillary articles on the same subject in case anything not covered in the original came up.

This is, of course, in addition to running the interview through in my head two or three times a day for the six days leading up to it.

Now, I should clarify something here.  As flattered as I was by the invite, this wasn’t an atypical prep-schedule for me.  I did as much prep work when I appeared on Thank God I’m Atheist and Post Rapture Looting.  I over prepare like this when we record each episode.  I over prepare like this when I conduct an interview for the show.  I over prepare like this when I go hiking or camping or to the 7-11.  It’s the kind of person that I am.

And what’s more, I recognize that most of it is useless.  Of the 12 questions I had prepared answers for, they only asked one of them and I didn’t give them the answer I’d prepared.

In truth, I already knew that Cecil and Tom were damn good interviewers and even if I was woefully under prepared, I’m sure they’d have kept things interesting and funny.  I knew that they’d do all the heavy lifting and make it as easy on me as possible.  And still I drove myself (and my poor wife) crazy for a week with an insane determination to be the most prepared guest in the history of their show.

I suppose much of it comes from just being a control freak.  When I record our show, I’m the editor.  I know that if I don’t like the way a joke sounded or if I say “um” one too many times I’ll be able to cut that out.  I know that if I listen back over it and don’t like the way I worded something, I can re-record it.  If I make a mistake, I can fix it.

Ultimately, my preparation marathon probably made no difference at all on the quality of the interview.  I suppose that most of it could be considered an elaborate nervous tick.   But it fooled my brain into thinking it was in control long enough to convince it to do the interview, and I suppose that’s all that really matters.

Categories: Random
  1. Kevin
    July 26, 2013 at 5:00 PM

    As an audiophile, what mics and mixers do you use? Also if you’re into expanding your draw maybe a little, and want to do another couple interviews which are just about your story, I like the guys from A Matter of Doubt. It’s really laid back atheism, and they’ve interviewed some really great people in the past.

    • July 26, 2013 at 6:29 PM

      The primary motivating factor in our audio-equipment selection is cost, so we use the cheapest everything we can get away with without completely sacrificing sound quality. We use AudioTechnica headset mics (though I have a USB Condenser (Yeti Blue) and a handheld AudioTechnica that I use on occasion for certain effects and skits). I primarily use a Mackie 4-track to mix, but it only has 2 USB inputs, so whenever we have 3 or more voices to record I have a Yamaha MG102c 10 track. To be honest, I can’t detect a difference in sound quality, but I prefer the Mackie in the interest of keeping the whole rig as compact as possible.

      This is the rig we use to record the bulk of the show, but when I record the Skype interviews it gets a bit more complicated.

      Oh, and we’re always up for interviews…

  2. Derrick
    July 26, 2013 at 9:49 PM

    I can tell you as a regular podcast listener (to yours and a pile of others on a variety of subjects), your preparedness certainly comes across (either that, or your exceptional editing). Even playing various episodes for various friends, they all comment that you pack a tonne of information into a mere 30 minutes.

    I, for one, very much appreciate the level of effort you put in and it definitely shows.

    • July 26, 2013 at 9:57 PM

      Well thanks… and yeah, I must admit, a lot of it is in the editing. I wish more and more that I had the same powers in a real conversation.

  3. Kevin
    July 26, 2013 at 11:28 PM

    I’ve heard the blue yeti is a good budget,all around USB mic, though I’m unfamiliar with pretty much anything that isn’t analogue. To be honest, while things were going financially well in my family earlier this year, I considered buying and donating an SM58 to you guys. We’ll see how things are in another year. Lol just to tease you.

  4. Kevin
    July 26, 2013 at 11:31 PM

    Also, what is the mackie’s name? You make it sound as if it has USB inputs, but I’ve never seen that.

    • July 27, 2013 at 12:02 AM

      The Yeti is a phenomenal USB mic, but I don’t have a good record space for a condenser so I rarely use it unless I need a wide sound (and usually I’ll use the H4N for that, as it has a good XY stereo set up).

      The Mackie is the 402-VLZ3 and no, no USB ports. I meant XLR ports but I’d just been writing about the USB mic. My bad.

  5. Kevin
    July 27, 2013 at 3:10 PM

    For small recording projects I’ve had to do in the past, I’ve liked the little Peavey PV6. 4 xlr/ 1/4 inch inputs. It’s compact as you mentioned, has a 3 band eq on two channels, and a 2 band on the other two, Pan, an extra fx send, (i’m comparing them online right now) I think the only thing the mackie’s got the peavey hasn’t is a volume control for the tape in. Hmm… there’s also a version of the Peavey with a USB out. Both consoles are on for $99, (if you’re interested) so they’re comparable in that sense.
    I don’t usually end up with such small boards, and I haven’t made the jump in my brain from analogue to digital boards, so usually I end up using an Allen and Heath, or Soundcraft. I typically spend my summers helping large bands set up Digicos, Digidesigns, or Midas boards, so I’m left with only the slightest impression of how much about audio I really don’t know.

    • July 27, 2013 at 10:29 PM

      The specs on my Yamaha are really similar to the PV6 you describe and cost about the same. But the Mackie is something I can nearly fit in a cargo pocket. If I upgrade from that one it’ll probably be for sound quality when I’m recording music for the show. My wife has a temporary cease and desist order on buying more sound equipment for the show (not until the donations pay off the shit I’ve already bought), but that should be lifted pretty soon.

      • Kevin
        July 27, 2013 at 11:14 PM

        Well, what bit rate do you record/upload at? If it’s at anything 192 or less, sound quality between the different consoles is essentially all the same,it just matters what you want to do with the mixer. Now if you want something that can fit in your pocket, the mackie onyx blackjack is for you lol. It looks like it would almost be inconspicuous in a breast pocket.
        The mics on the otherhand… Audiotechnica? I know there’s a budget and all lol. A 58 for you and a 57 for your guitar. But of course I’m biased. A pg56 can sound really cool for a low end heavy acoustic guitar, and there really isn’t anything wrong with the senheizer e935 for vocals, it’s really only that the 58 has been around forever that makes it the go to.
        Good luck with the titheing. Once your pledge of purchasing abstinence is over the future is one giant orgasm… In your ear hole.

      • July 27, 2013 at 11:49 PM

        I should note that I’m a reluctant audiophile. I don’t have much of an ear for it, but I feel obligated to do the best I can for our listeners. Everything I know about sound-tech I’ve learned since January 17th of this year…

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