Today, I have the pleasure of interviewing the creator, host, and narrator of the podcast Let’s Not Meet: A True Horror Podcast, Andrew Tate. A podcast with a unique twist on horror that also straddles the line of true-crime told by first-hand accounts in the first-person perspective that covers all kinds of horrific and terrifying tales that range from creepy neighbors to stalkers and even run-ins with serial killers. The podcast can even double as a learning experience for red flags and undesired behavior. You can clearly tell Andrew takes pride in his work with the apparent production quality and fidelity. So, with all that being said, enjoy this one.
Andrew, thanks a lot for doing this interview with us today! It sure has been a crazy year, hasn’t it? What have you been doing to fill in any free time caused by all this craziness going on? Play any video games? Any favorite music? Do you collect tapes, vinyl, or CDs?
I’m currently in search of the next perfect video game to tackle. I finished Firewatch and recently finished my 10th viewing of the Twin Peaks series. I have a very specific type of narrative that I search for in media and entertainment. I like cryptic, mysterious, and story-driven content with a very light splash of supernatural and bizarre. I hear Call To Sea is in that realm. So, that might be the next one. I’m really big into video games, though. I don’t like the big AAA games or online competitive games. I prefer slower, more emotionally charged, indie experiences.
Since I started podcasting, I’ve listened to very little music. However, with the passing of my favorite artist MF DOOM, I’ve been binging his catalog quite a bit. I really like the King Geedorah album. His whole body of work has such a great story narrative.
My wife used to work at a used record store. She would often get the first pick of tapes, records, videos games, etc. However, since she’s left that job, we kind of got rid of a bunch of physical media and ended our collecting obsession. I still like to collect hard-to-find DVDs and retro video games, though.
I do recall you having a live episode released after season 1. How was your first experience doing a live show?
The first live show was really small. I didn’t have a very large following (it’s still not that big, honestly) and it was pretty uncomfortable. It was in a tiny comedy club at a podcast festival. It was also early in the day (1:00 PM, I think). I did have some people drive from a few hours away to be there, though. So, that was really nice. Since then, I’ve stuck to Livestream episodes for any kind of live performances of the show. It allows me to include guests and focus on video as a medium. It will probably continue that way since we still don’t see an end in sight for this pandemic.
You seem like you’re very busy with your podcast, churning out weekly episodes and even whole other shows to boost up your Patreon members. What were you doing before podcasting and when did you realize podcasting was something you’d like to get into and eventually become successful at it?
I did a lot of podcasting prior to LNMATHP. I had a music podcast and then a comedy podcast that lasted for about a year. We didn’t know what we were doing and I don’t even think he had an actual RSS feed that put the episodes out there for all the podcast apps. It was a lot of fun and we are planning to bring that back this year along with a couple of other shows I have in the works.
Before podcasting, I did office work in the insurance world. Prior to that, I worked a million customer service jobs, which I really preferred to the office job. But, I knew narrative audio (before I knew what podcasts were) was something I always wanted to do ever since I was a kid. I used to listen to old-time radio mystery shows on cassette tapes that my dad would buy for us. I found audio to be scarier than movies or TV, much like reading a book. Your imagination creates a much scarier image than any other medium…at least, mine does. I may need to get that checked out. The first podcast I listened to was Mysterious Universe about 15 years ago. I still am a plus member of their show and listen every week to this day. So, I guess it would be around 15 years ago that I knew I wanted to do it.
I did LNMATHP for a few years before I was able to do it full time, though. I worked every night and weekend for those three or four years trying to make it sound as good as I could with the equipment I had. It took a lot of hard work and all my free time.
Can you tell us a bit about your Patreon exclusive shows and what they’re about?
I do a few things on Patreon. I now do weekly half-hour bonus episodes of the regular LNMATHP shows. On top of that, I also do another Patreon-only podcast called Hey, Y’all. It’s a weird stream of consciousness show where I blabber on about esoteric and existential garbage. I’m really into lucid dreaming, out-of-body experiences, and alien encounters. So, I will often cover those topics. It started out as just an audio blog for behind-the-scenes stuff about my show but evolved into a really weird and unique show. Sometimes it gets really deep and I talk about a lot of personal stuff that others would probably never talk about or disclose. I’m a really open person and I think people are a little too closed off about their inner selves. It bums me out, honestly. I also curate some of my favorite old-time radio mystery shows for the nerds like myself and provide exclusive merchandise and bonuses for the patrons.
I can imagine it could be difficult to break out into podcasting when there’s a sea of other true crime and horror podcasts out there, but you bring something else to the table, right? Would you say you kind of made your own genre of “true horror?” There are plenty of other podcasts out there that do listener stories but you seem to take it to a whole other level.
I wouldn’t say I did anything special in terms of creating a genre of true horror. These kinds of stories have been around forever online on the /r/letsnotmeet forums. That’s where a lot of the early stories came from until I started getting listeners emailing in stories. Now I really only read the emailed stories. I prefer those because you would often hear stories from the subreddit all over the internet. As you said, plenty of other podcasts out there do these kinds of stories, and they use Reddit as a primary resource. I started this show because, at the time, no one had a show strictly dedicated to first-person, true horror accounts. They would always mix in creepypasta or fictional stories. So, I saw a need in the podcast circuit and jumped on the chance to provide the kind of show I personally wanted but couldn’t find out there. But, I’m not doing anything original or new. Like I said, these stories and the subreddit have been around for years. I just try my best to bring life to the stories and present them in the most sincere way possible. I do think that I spend a lot of time on the audio quality and editing…sometimes to a fault. I’ll spend 4 hours just trying to get the EQ perfect, then another 4 hours on compression, and so on. I obsess over little details that you can’t even hear after the files are compressed down to an mp3 and played on your headphones. So much so, that I rented studio time and now have my producer friend help to narrow in on that exact sound I want. It’s all unnecessary and silly, honestly. When all is said and done, nobody can ever tell a difference.
You’ve covered a ton of creepy, horrific, and scary situations. That said, do you have any stories you’ve narrated that stuck with you?
Anytime I find a story that really scares me, I give it to Soren Narnia. He writes and produces Knifepoint Horror, my other favorite podcast. I’d say, just search out the episodes he’s on and you’ll hear the ones that truly scared me.
People send you the stories for you to cover on your show, right? How many do you get and how many end up making it on the show? How far out in advance do you record episodes and the turnaround time from accepting a story to it being in an episode?
A story can linger in my inbox for a couple of months before I get to it. I spend the bulk of my workdays reviewing entries (I’m a slow reader). Honestly, a lot of them end up on the show, they just take a long time to get to. I get stories every day so it’s non-stop reading and reviewing.
You’ve had some guest voices on your show. One of my favorite voice actors was David Ault from Nosleep and also Em Schulz and Christine Schiefer from And That’s Why We Drink. What was it like working with them? Have you been a guest on other shows as well?
I was on Sapphire Sandalo’s previous show Something Scary, as well as her live stream show Ouija Wednesdays. I was on The No Sleep Podcast a couple of times and I recently joined the team permanently. So, hopefully, I’ll get to work more with David. He’s such a rad guy. Em and Christine are two of my favorite podcasters. They are super genuine and sweet.
On the topic of other podcasts, what are some of your personal favorites that you listen to?
As previously mentioned, I love Mysterious Universe. Primarily because it’s the first show I ever listened to, and because they cover some really scary topics with some really great humor and personality. I don’t listen to a lot of horror, though. I regularly listen to comedy podcasts. I’m a huge goofball, much different from my LNM personality. While that spooky narrator person is a part of me, when I’m not doing that, I prefer to just relax and be funny/inappropriate. My regular shows are My Brother, My Brother and Me, Last Podcast on the Left/Side Stories, and some shows on the new cloud10 network like Endless Honeymoon and Minor Adventures with Topher Grace.
One thing that I always like to ask people in the business is what kind of equipment do you work with? What hardware and software do you use for recording? What’s the process like going from accepting a story to its final form that we end up hearing?
Now we’re getting to the fun stuff. I’ve used different gear throughout the life of the show. Here’s the gear history list:
- MXL BCD-1 broadcast dynamic microphone
- 1st gen Scarlet 6i6 interface
- Reaper for my DAW and basic plugins
- iZotope Ozone 5 for additional plugin support
The second setup is the same except that I upgraded to an SM7B microphone then eventually had to incorporate a fethead to boost the signal since that thing is so power-hungry. However, even with the boost from the fethead (which is basically just phantom power, don’t let them fool you), it wasn’t enough gain. I had to turn up the interface preamps so high that the noise floor was unbearable. Like I said, though, most people did not notice. I did, however. And it bothered me a lot.
I used that setup with SM7B because it helped with a lot of the room noise (crummy apartment). I eventually built a little booth with my wife that consisted of moving blankets and a partially disassembled kitchen rack. It looked like a blanket coffin. It was cool and helped stop all the noise reflection.
In the last month or so, I decided to use some of the Patreon funds to move into my friend’s recording studio in town. Best decision I ever made, especially since we were able to experiment with other microphones and preamps. We ultimately settled on switching to a condenser mic since he has a really nice vocal booth with zero background noise or reflection. It looks like the black lodge on Twin Peaks (I’m obsessed). Currently, we are using a really simple Slate setup that consists of:
- Slate Condenser Microphone
- Slate preamp
- Slate microphone emulation plugins
- Some other supplemental plugins I’m not even familiar with.
- Reaper DAW for editing
I don’t know everything he uses in posts for plugins, to be honest. I kind of let him go nuts until he came up with something I loved. He has been a huge help in getting the show to sound exactly like I’ve always wanted it. It pays to have talented friends with gear that want to help. I am in love with Slate’s equipment, though. I’ll never go back to dynamics or use other mics unless I’m forced to. There is virtually zero noise floor and it complements my vocal register perfectly (which has been a struggle for me).
Andrew, thanks again for taking the time to go through these questions and speak to me. Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? Favorite sponsors, charities? How about some words of wisdom for anyone trying to get into podcasting?
All my sponsors are my favorite sponsors, my friend! Give to the charities that your heart tells you to, not the ones I recommend. Words of wisdom:
Tip 1 – Ignore the bad advice. I’ve seen this tip out there over and over again for some reason. You have these blogs and other podcasts about podcasts telling you that your gear and trying to sound perfect isn’t important. They’ll say that the most important thing is that your content is good and that your listeners enjoy your show. I think that’s really bad advice. I think you should take the audio quality of your show as seriously as the content. No, you don’t have to drop a thousand bucks or more on the best microphones, preamps, etc. Hell, my first setup cost me about $300. But, you should try to do the best you can with what you can truly afford. If all you can afford is a snowball USB microphone and an old computer, by all means, get to podcasting. Think about getting an SM57 and a cheap interface with XLR. It may not be pretty or fancy, but you’ll already be miles beyond anyone with the former. Also spend some restless nights online learning how to properly record, edit, and make your audio sound good. There’s no reason to spend all your free time on your content and just let the audio quality sit at the bottom of your list of priorities. I spent years learning new tricks and techniques in audio production to make my show sound the best I could, and I’m still learning to this day.
(I’d like to cut in here for a moment and say that I wholeheartedly agree that audio quality is incredibly important. I’ve quit listening to podcasts because of horrible audio quality that doesn’t get tended to within the first 5 episodes or so even if the content is something I’m very interested in).
Tip 2 – have your vision of your podcast (artwork, theme, co-hosts, format, and sound) actualized and in place before launching. Record your first few episodes multiple times and listen back over and over until you get it just where you like it. Then rerecord them again before uploading them. Work out the kinks before you launch and know exactly what you want your show to be and you’ll be ahead of the game.
Tip 3 – EDIT. Edit your heart out. Every UM and UH, every little mouth smack or click, all the dead air (when it doesn’t complement the content or performance)…edit it all out unless it adds to your show. Sometimes it’s good to have these things in, though. For example, if it’s a comedy or interview show and you just want a natural flow, you can minimize some of the editing. You don’t have to go crazy. But, if you’re a narrative or informative kind of show, edit your fingers off and create that perfect performance the listener wants to hear.
Tip 4 – Listen to Audacity To Podcast. Daniel Lewis has a lot of good info on his site and his podcast to help you get started. I don’t agree with him on everything 100%, but he’s a great resource if you’re just starting out.
Tip 5 – Use a proper podcast host that will get your podcasts on all the major platforms. Definitely get your show on Spotify ASAP too. I used Libsyn for most of the life of LNMATHP until I moved over to my podcast network’s hosting service.
Tip 6 – Always credit any sources of material or stories you use on your podcast and treat those sources or authors with respect, especially if your content is really dark and heavy like LNMATHP. Also, interact with them and your audience whenever possible. This will be extremely fulfilling for you as a human as much as it is for them. I’ve made so many great new and talented friends from just DMs and comment sections on social media. I wouldn’t have made it through the pandemic this far emotionally or mentally without them. I’m responding and interacting with them all day, every day. It’s the most rewarding aspect of the show besides getting to bring life to these amazing and terrifying stories.
In conclusion: Spend time learning techniques and never stop learning. I recommend XLR over USB (in most cases/when possible). Edit, edit, edit. Check out Audacity to Podcast. Use a proper host for your RSS feed. Interact with your base and be sincere.
Bonus tip: Just my personal opinion – Don’t beg people to rate and subscribe to every episode. When you’re first starting out, I’d recommend trying to get your friends and family (probably your main audience at first) to do it so you can get on the map. However, if your audience likes your show, they’ll do it. I probably asked a few times in my earlier episodes, but I realized it was a waste of words on the show and it made no difference. I never saw an increase or decrease based on asking my listeners to do it. Be prepared to spend years doing it for free. Every night and weekend. If you’re in it in hopes of a career and a future, YOU CAN DO IT! Just be prepared for the long and hard. Pun intended. Goodnight everybody!
Thanks so much for having me and listening to me rant.
Dig this? Check out the full archives of A.M. Radio, by Anthony Montalbano, here: https://vwmusicrocks.com/a-m-radio-archives/