The Dialogue #3: Brian Ibbott

19 mins - Published Sat, Dec 15, 2012 by Breki Tomasson and Brian Ibbott

Oh noes! The FireWire audio drivers seem to have broken in the latest Mountain Lion upgrade, so there are “some” audio artefacts in this recording. I’m terribly sorry for that and working on fixing it before our next show!

Today’s interview is with Brian Ibbott, best known for his podcast Coverville and his co-hosting on The Morning Stream and Film Sack.

CSICON: Hello and welcome to another episode of The Dialogue. My name is Breki Tomasson and we’re joined today by Brian Ibbott; hello Brian!

Hello Breki, how you doing?

CSICON: I’m fine, thank you, and thank you so much for taking the time to join us here today.

Oh, thanks for asking me. I’m honored.

CSICON: No, no, the honor is all mine. … For the longest time, I’ve been looking for a reason to write an e-mail to The Morning Stream just so that I can call Scott and yourself “Shithead and Butthead”.

*laughs* That’s one that we haven’t gotten yet, surprisingly – or, at least, that’s one that Scott hasn’t read on the air if we have got anything like that.

CSICON: Right. What’s been your favorite ‘Name-starting-in-B’ that you’ve been given so far?

Ooh, that’s a good one. Bronn, from Game of Thrones, was kind of a … kind of a fun nudge. Boy; that’s a good question. Baratheon, I think, another Game of Thrones. There have been so many that it’s hard to come up with a favorite, but … I love the ones that are not just right out there and obvious, that you have to think about; “Oh, those are two references from such-and-such!”. Those are definitely my favorites.

CSICON: Like Spock and Bones, for example.

Spock and Bones is a great example, yes, and I’m surprised that that wasn’t one of the first ones we got. It actually took quite a while for somebody to do that one. Seems like that, given our repertoire on the show, seems like that would have been one of the first ones we would have got.

CSICON: Yeah; I’m actually quite surprised that it didn’t come sooner. I think you even commented on it when it finally came, like “Wow, I’m surprised that took so long!”

Yes, definitely.

CSICON: You’ve been doing Coverville since September 2004; that’s more than eight years now, which is admirable to say the least …

“Admirable” is probably the nicest way of putting it!

CSICON: What would you say is the secret to the show’s longevity?

Not really having a good exit strategy. Really; I mean, I joke about it, but there’s actually something to that. I’ve never wanted to stop doing Coverville, but I haven’t thought about how – if I were to stop doing Coverville – how I would go about doing that, because I’m getting so many new albums and new songs from labels and independent artists that if I were to stop doing the show, that would cut off that source of getting all this great music that I’m getting to hear, so longevity has really just become … I don’t know; you just treat it like a job and it becomes that. It becomes the thing you do.

A job doesn’t always have to be synonomous with drudge or something you don’t look forward to, and  in this case, it’s something that I love doing and something that I look forward to doing, and it kind of makes it that much more fun to do. That much more fun to keep going. I never really thought about stopping.

CSICON: I mean; there’s no obvious next thing in line, it’s not like a career.

There really isn’t, no, and it’s kind of spun off a couple of things that have become potential directions or additions to a career, like the Coverville Records thing that I did with Andrew Allen, and we’ve got another one that we’re talking about – and that’s another dream that I’ve always had, to have a record label, so Coverville is kind of the base foundation that’s allowed me to follow all these dreams that I’ve had – a launching pad for all these other things that I’ve wanted to do.

CSICON: How close would you say you are to being able to do Coverville for a living, or is that even a goal that you aspire to reach?

It’s definitely a goal that I aspire to reach, I would love to not have that point in the day where I stop thinking about music and covers and talking to listeners, there’s that point in the day when I have to switch gears and think like a computer consultant for a little while. It’s so difficult sometimes, you know; I can’t keep responding to listener requests, or I can’t keep checking out this new album from so-and-so, I’ve got to actually switch to the job.

As far as how close it is, I’m probably – I don’t know – probably half way to where I want to be financially with the show. The Coverville Citizenship does really well. It pays for itself, obviously, with all the t-shirts and things like that that I’ve produced, but there’s that little bit extra that helps fund the show. Having it go so far as to being “All right, this is an entertainment career, I need to think about not just making enough money to do a show, but making enough money to live beyond doing the show”, and I’m not quite there yet; probably, like I said, half way there.

CSICON: You say half way, do you mean half way in money per month or half way time-wise because, I mean, you’ve been doing this for more than eight years …

*laugh* Oh, half-way money per month! No, this Coverville is more than a full time job, there’s stuff on the weekends that’s going on that’s part of it, there’s stuff – and not just with Coverville, but all the things that go with it; Film Sack and The Morning Stream and all these other things that I consider part of the whole package. It’s easily more than a forty hour week job. I just wish it paid like a forty hour week job! Eventually.

CSICON: Oh, I know exactly what you mean; I have a full time job, and I have the CSICON network, where I do three podcasts and roughly twenty to fifty articles a week.

Oh, my. Yeah; it’s a labor of love, though, right?

CSICON: It is, it is, definitely. So; you’ve been doing this for eight years, you’re a veteran. What kind of lessons have you learned along the way? What would you have done differently had you started over?

That’s a good question. I don’t know if there’s anything I would have done differently, it seems to have all gone so well. Probably figuring out, and this is probably because I’m in the thick of it, the last month and a half of the year for me is so extremely busy with the Coverville Countdown, the 24-hour Coverthon, of course all the bonus shows and things like that, that – if I were starting over – I’d probably say, “okay, let’s do one thing in the first quarter of the year, let’s do another thing in the second quarter”, and kind of break those things out a little bit, but it’s all gotten me to the point I’m at right now, where I’m enjoying everything I’m doing, so I can’t think of anything I’d do differently.

Lessons, though, it seems it seems like it’s a constantly lesson-learning deal. I mean, you don’t want to let any negative feedback affect how you do what you do. You want to make sure that you take it constructively and – if it’s something that’s valuable, if it’s something you can glean something from – then use that, otherwise you let it roll off you like water off a duck’s back, it’s not … You’ve got to make sure you don’t take things like that personally and just take it as any constructive criticism.

The funny thing is, I’m saying this, and I can’t think of the last time I’ve gotten any real criticism, any genuine criticism for the show or what I do, but in those rare times that it’s come up, *laughs*, that’s how you’ve got to look at it.

CSICON: Well, you’re an easy guy to like, so I can’t imagine you getting a lot of criticism.

Yeah, well, I try. I try to be a real badass sometimes, but it just never works out.

CSICON: Would that be your advise to people starting podcasting, or would you have any encouraging words to people who are just getting started today?

Yeah, absolutely. Number one, make sure that you’re entertained by the stuff you produce. Don’t put it out there thinking you’re going to do it this way because you think that’s going to be more entertaining to other people. Make it entertaining to yourself; make it something you would spend your time listening to and your listeners will follow. Kind of on that same note; don’t do anything on the show that you just don’t feel passionately about. Like, if you’re not intocountry music, don’t do a country music podcast. If you’re not into Call of Duty, don’t do a Call of Duty podcast. It seems like it’s common knowledge, but I do see people coming into this every once in a while who seem like they’re doing it for the perceived fame – and there’s really not fame in this; there’s no fame! *laughs*

If they’re doing it for the fame … You’ve got to do something that’s entertaining, that you don’t cringe when you listen to, this is something I’d listen to, quality-wise and content-wise.

CSICON: We have a lot of people who start up new podcasts and then maybe they do a weekly episode for three or four months and then say that “Nobody’s downloading my shows, nobody’s giving me any feedback, nobody’s saying anything, I might as well cancel it”. What kind of advise would you give those people?

Basically, figure out the reason you’re doing the podcast. If the reason you’re doing the podcast is to get that feedback and a certain X number of listeners, you’re probably in it for the wrong reason. I did Coverville really just to kind of entertain myself and there were some people that I knew that I was always making mix tapes for and always bringing music over. We would always gather at somebody’s house and I would always bring music and I would say “Oh, you’ve got to hear these new tracks from this album”. Sometimes they’d be covers, a lot of times they’d just be rare tracks, and so Coverville started off as something where I’d produce this for them.

When I was talking to the listener in those first shows, I was imagining those people here in the room with me and talking to them. I wasn’t thinking about how many downloads and things like that. Certainly, I was getting out there and saying to people who I thought would enjoy the show, “check out an episode or two of the show and let me know what you think”, but if the only reason that you’re doing it is to get a certain number of listeners, then you probably want to reevaluate whether or not it’s going to be fun, you know. Whether or not it’s going to be something you’re going to want to continue doing if you don’t get those listeners.

I guess it’s working itself out if they’re stopping doing what they’re doing when they don’t get those listeners, then I guess it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy for the wrong reason.

CSICON: That said, though, how many listeners does Coverville get, on average?

You know, in kind of going along with what I was saying, I don’t check the numbers that often. I think the last time I did, in the middle of this year, and it was really just looking at Feedburner for something else, I happened to glance at how many, and it’s right around ten thousand between the two different versions of Coverville, the MP3 version and the AAC version. Surprisingly, the AAC version does a little better – well; not surprisingly, because that’s the one people find when they search in iTunes, and they get the chapters and the album art work for whatever song is playing, things like that.

CSICON: You’ve been involved in a couple of other projects as well as Coverville. You mentioned The Morning Stream and Film Sack and so on, but one that I’ve kind of been hoping you would revive at some point is

Oh my gosh! Wow! How did you ever find that? I thought I deleted everything that was on there!

CSICON: It’s a completely blank page today, yes, but I seem to remember, back in the days, that this is something you were involved with. Have you ever considered reviving it or doing something similar. I know you do quiz shows and so on, and AskBrian was quiz-ish, answering obscure questions in a way.

Yeah; and it was more along the lines of … Where did this come from, or where did the phrase such-and-such come from, that seemed to be a lot of … Let me go back and give some background to it.

Way before Coverville, about – you know, when things were launching on the web – I bought the domain and was going to use that as a website where people could send in questions like “Where did the phrase ‘the whole nine yards’ come from?” and then I would do the research and find out and then post it on there, and this was actually before blogs. Blogs are the perfect manifestation and delivery system for something like that.

It’s funny how quickly that seemed to grow, too, because I put up a few questions – again, from family members and friends, and because of search engines and content on the page that seemed to draw a lot of people. Other people discovered it and started sending questions like, you know, “Why are candy canes red and white-striped; how did that come to play?” or “Tell me about the – ” there’s this island in Oak Harbor, I think it is? I can’t remember the name, but there’s this island where there’s this pit and any time they try to send video cameras and things down into this pit, they get all wonky and they can’t get video footage, people have gone down there and either turned out missing or blacked out; things like that. Some people have asked questions about that. It kind of developed into etymology and hoaxes and myths and things like that.

But it just got to be such a pain to maintain after a while and then something new and shiny – Coverville  – came along at just the right time and distracted me from doing anything with that. I have given some thought to actually bringing it back and not just bringing the site back the way it was, but actually making a podcast about it, so you’d start off the show with a call, and it’d be “Hey Brian, tell me about the origination of the phrase ‘the whole nine yards’.” and then the rest of the show would me saying where the phrase comes from, and it comes from tailors who used nine yards of fabric to make a quality suit, blah, blah, blah, if that’s really the thing – there’s a lot of controversy as to where “the whole nine yards” comes from, but – long story short – I’ve thought about bringing it back as a podcast, but never felt as if I’ve had the time to pursue it.

CSICON: Right. I mean; that would be an amazing podcast. Just the listener interaction that you can would be a lot of fun to listen to.

It could; it could be a lot of fun, and it would be one of those things where I’d get a kick out of listening to. It just kind of goes to show you that it’s entertaining for me as well, so … Yeah; I got to find less new podcasts and more ways to live off the podcast that I currently produce. Before I add any I’ve got to make the time by taking out the other work.

CSICON: Of course, of course. I checked around just before we started this interview, and checked if anybody had anybody else wanted to ask you a question, and I got one from Iyagovos. He wants to know to know what is your secret for getting your head so shiny.

*laugh* Lemon Pledge … No … Boy, is it shiny? It’s really shiny the days that I shave it. I shave it probably about once every four-five days, and on those days it just feels great to rub my hands around especially the back – I don’t know why the back feels so soft. Those three or four days in between it seems, the stubble really seems to kill the sheen, the glare.

CSICON: So there’s no secret, It’s not two parts Turtle Wax, three parts water.

Oh, no, I wish it was something that easy. It’s just the luck of the Ibbott skin to have a nice patina to it.

CSICON: Okay, well, in that case, one last thing, I think, and I think you’re going to find this familiar. I want to ask you a “Rather”!

Oh, gosh! Okay! *laugh*, because that’s because my favorite part of The Morning Stream! Ask away!

CSICON: Would you rather … add a law or remove a law?

Ooooh, I like these, this is kind of the one that makes you think as opposed to just picking whatever is not the horrible thing that’s going to get you killed more quickly.

CSICON: Like “Would you lick a hobo’s armpit …”

Right, yes! And it’s funny how quickly Scott does tend to go for the hobos and the grandmas, those are the things that tend to come up a lot in rathers … Add a law or remove a law … Wow. I know the follow-up question, no matter what I say, is going to be “what is the law you want to add or remove”, so let’s see here.

You’re asking on a day where there’s this horrible thing that just happened up in Connecticut, so my first thought is going to pertain to adding gun laws, which I know is such a controversial topic here in America.

CSICON: It’s hard to avoid that being the first thought, of course.

Yes … Okay, I would like to add a law! *laugh* It would be that people who move to Colorado from any other state take a driving exam to make sure – this could apply to anywhere, actually – that when you change states, take a new driving thing that makes sure that you know the rules of the road, because it’s funny how whenever you see somebody do something that really ticks you off in traffic, the first place your eyes go – well, maybe second place after the back of their head to see what they look like, because it’s always going to be “Oh yeah, I know, it’s because they’re [blank]”. But the second place your eyes go is the license plate, and “Oh yeah, they’re from California!” or “They’re from Wisconsin”, so it would the completely comedic result of adding a law to make sure that people coming into Colorado take a new driver’s test.

CSICON: Very good! That’s actually all that I had, and thank you so much for joining us today!

Oh, Breki, my pleasure! Thank you so much for having me!

The Dialogue

The Dialogue is CSICON's interview-themed show. Posted on rather irregular intervals, depending on when we get the opportunity to hold interviews, it will be a one-on-one discussion with people relevant to Geek Culture. Expect authors, thinkers, writers, pundits, actors, Internet broadcasters, directors and people involved in other geek themed online endeavors.

If you want to get in touch with the people behind the episode or talk to others who like it, feel free to join the CSICONauts chat room. Alternatively, you can find some of this episode's hosts and/or guests on Twitter: Breki Tomasson and Brian Ibbott.