We May Have Been Pranked by Longmont Potion Castle
Longmont Potion Castle is not a household name, but it should be.
Starting in 1987, Longmont Potion Castle began making his absurdist prank calls to businesses, regular folks and celebrities, recording the proceedings across more than a dozen releases. The albums, mostly available on digital and cassette, became an almost secret handshake amongst the comedy and music set, eventually growing into full-blown cult classics. And while these releases are worshipped amongst this small but devoted sect, little is known about the mysterious man who helms the calls.
A new documentary aims to change that. Longmont Potion Castle: The Official Film is currently crowdsourcing, and promises to be a "hybrid biographical and investigative documentary that will be a testament to Longmont Potion Castle's art, an exposé on his fans and respondents, and ultimately, a vérité exploration of who he really is." Helmed by David Hall and Vivek Venkatesh, and executive produced by Rainn Wilson (of The Office), their crowdsourcing effort ends on December 18, 2016. Contribute if you can.
With all of that in mind, CLRVYNT interviewed the underground comedy legend about the film, his new LPC 13 and his inspiration. By the time we hung up the phone, we weren't quite sure whether it was an interview or we were another one of his victims. (See below.)
LPC 13 hits on January 3, 2017. Order yours, but check out one of the tracks, "Meat Streets," here for the first time, available below as well.
Before all the LPC stuff, how did this journey start for you?
I would talk to people in person and make "jokes," and people I didn't know would say, "What's with this guy?" [Laughs] People, like, you know, would say, "Oh, that's just his way." So, I put that onto the phone; I had lots of time. That's where that came from.
When did that start? Junior high, high school?
Yeah. Junior high, so 1985.
How long did it take you to put together the initial album? They always say the first you put out is the one you've been working on your whole life.
That one took especially long because it kept getting ruined. I had the crappiest equipment, tape; I don't do this anymore — giving people copies of things before they're finished — but I did back then. Fortunately for me, the tapes kept getting ruined, so I had to [ask], "Oh hey, can I get that back?" They'd go, "Yeah," so I [get] it back, and that'd become my new master tape. I had no money, nothing. So, it took extra time.
But now, with technology, it's a lot easier. What do you think is your signature piece? What's your favorite one? Obviously, there are ones that are fan favorites, and there are ones that are your favorites.
I really like LPC 13 and the brand new one. I'm pretty crazy about it. I hope, yeah. I'm really fond of the first album. I had this thing for a long time; I didn't feel like I could outdo 3. Everyone thought that was their favorite. And 4, but I don’t know. 1 and 13 are my current favorites. I like "Lamb Dilemma" a lot.
Is this something you can get away with doing full-time?
Man, I've never had this much trouble finding a job. Where do you live?
I live in New York City.
Oh, sweet. I'm in Colorado. I've been having a heck of a time finding a job recently. It'll get better; it'll pick up.
So, you do this in your spare time, and then it does make you money, but it's not a full-time venture.
That's a fair assessment.
Have you ever done anything in person, like a live call?
Yeah, with a small group. Not as a publicized event, but yeah.
Just like a you-and-friends kind of thing?
Yeah, it's not like a total Unabomber-type scenario. I do get together with people sometimes, but most of the time I'm alone. Just in my studio going for it. I have a home studio here. So, it's a very studio-based project.
When you were coming up, as far as recorded comedy heroes, there really weren't that many. Carlin, Pryor, Steve Martin and maybe Eddie Murphy, Dice. There wasn't a lot going on. Was there anyone you looked to for inspiration when you started doing this stuff?
Even being in the same league as those people, I would never even think of ...
Well, someone that you listened to and looked up to?
There's some precedent. Steve Allen. Jerry Lewis, a really long time ago, made some prank recordings. I was aware of it, and I do know that when people start to hear it, they go, "Hey, it'd be funny if you did this or said that." I didn't want to hear anything like that. I didn't want to hear anyone's suggestions. I just wanted to do it completely the way I wanted to do it. I didn't want to listen to anyone or be influenced by anybody. With music, it's real hard to get away from, and it's even harder to bury your influences so that they're not detectable, so people know that they're ripping off someone else's idea. I think with this, it's a little easier. I definitely nick some parts of other people's stuff, but you know, not so much.
There's a crowdfunding campaign for a documentary on you. What is the film about? Is it about unveiling you and the process and where you come from and that kind of thing, or is it something else?
It's the story of a modest priest who falls in love with a much younger gal, who's really conflicted about the lord and this young lady. No, it's a documentary, sure, but with layers — lots and lots of layers. It's an onion of information. I do have say in the way that it comes out in the final cut, as they put it. I want to use my vision, if you will, and I want to bring that to bear in the end result of the movie. So, anyone who enjoys this, they should get that sense in a visual realm. It's factual and fictional, factual fiction. [Laughs]
How much stuff are you sitting on? Do you have a plan to get other stuff out? Do you have 14 and 15 laid out?
Today I was talking about 14, not because I have a bunch of extra material necessarily, but because I do have a surplus of contacts, folks who called who were referred to me that I didn't get to, or didn't get anything usable, or et cetera. Usually, I am just completely exhausted ... physically and content-wise by the end of it, completely starting from scratch, but this time I just have a lot to work with. It was so much fun, which is why, a) it turned out to be almost 180 minutes long, but b) why I'm kinda thinking, "Gosh, it was so much fun this time and not a bummer like sometimes it is, and why not get right into 14?" So, to answer your question, no I don’t have anything that's not being used, but I'm into going forward and no delaying. At any given time, on any given day, I can just see myself stopping forever or continuing forever. But right now I don't want to stop — that's my attitude at this instant. That'll probably last for a while. We'll see how long it lasts.
I think one of the wildest things are all those celebrity calls. How you called — I think it was Alex Trebek. Will you do any more calls like that? Hearing a recognizable voice is kind of amazing.
Yeah, Alex Trebek. It was also Jeremy Piven, Bobcat Goldthwait, Kiefer Sutherland, Ric Flair. Did you have any trouble believing it was him, or recognizing his voice on record?
Oh no, totally believable.
That's what I thought. Some people were like, "Nah, that doesn't even sound like him." I'm like, "Fuck you. Yes it does. You don't know anything. Your ears are full of it, man. You don't know anything. You have no ear. You have no recognition. You're not smart." I hate it when people are like, "Nah, I can spot people's voices a mile away." Go make your own album if you don't believe me. If you think I'm lying and I would actually lie and misrepresent something, then just go make your own fucking album then. Don't listen to mine.
I don’t know if it puts our names in the title, but they're in there. Eddie Money, yeah. Alex Trebek, yeah. Kiefer Sutherland, sure. But there's other folks that I don't title in their name, especially if they're part of a medley or a larger collective of stuff. I don’t want to always title it. Fuck 'em.
A lot of these releases are out in physical formats and gone immediately. Do you think you want to repress some of these?
Oh yeah. Oh sure. I'm more inclined to move forward. I would really need help. There's only so much I can do as one person, and I do mostly everything, so I would need help to do it. That's something that's no one has ever asked me, at least not in a general sense. Someone is just usually looking for a particular record or something. That's something to think about. Huh.
What about vinyl?
Well, Longmont 9 was on a double vinyl. 13, that would have to be a five-record set. There's just — it would cost $25K minimum to press, or something like that. I love the idea, though. I've done some 7"'s. It'll come back around, I'm sure. I just need help. I don't run to crowdsourcing every time I have a new release I'd like to put out. Some people do; this is my first foray into that. We'll see what happens. It would make things easier. I would prefer to put it out and let people come to it if they want to, as opposed to this sort of newer emerging approach. I guess it works for some people — some people quadruple or quintuple their goal, and it's like, "Jesus, you really get $500,000 to make an album?" I certainly don't begrudge those people; it's just that i'm floored by it, if anything.
You've done work on this documentary, and obviously 14 is in some kind of mental preproduction. What else is going on? What else are you working on?
To coincide with [the] album release, several styles [of T-shirt], so that's something. Usually, there's one shirt and that's it, but I'm going to have a variety this time. I think that's the majority of it.