If a foundational part of music is expression, then it’s not much of a stretch to reason that expression also means conversation. That in creating or listening to music, we’re also having a conversation. As listeners. As lyricists. As song-writers. We’re connecting in some meaningful way. Of course, the conversation also extends to the media that surround music. Zines. Blogs. Message boards. And now podcasts. Through the conversational format of podcasting, we get an intimate and often revealingly candid peek into the lives of all sorts of people. Yet, cutting through the clutter of podcasts is the toughest part in the search for those worthwhile conversations. One that seems to be carving out its own current is the If I Ruled the World Podcast, led by Mind Over Matter frontman George Reynolds and Playing Dead singer Sam Hoyos.
For his part, George’s influence on the Long Island hardcore scene is both undeniable and enduring. The impact of Mind Over Matter, his most notable band, is echoed across Long Island hardcore’s sonic spectrum. And George’s time as a frontman translates interestingly to the podcast world. “For the more than 25 years that I’ve played music, I’ve studied everything I can get my hands on that has to do with communication. Personally, it was always about writing a better lyric or being a better frontman, so in that sense you can see how podcasting fits me perfectly at this time in my life,” offers Reynolds. Indeed it’s about the conversation, the communication, that’s drawn George to this new medium. For If I Ruled the World Podcast though, the content also needs to be thoughtful and compelling. The conversation itself matters.
The way Sam sees it, they’re here to offer narratives. “We wanted to talk to as many interesting people as possible. Let them tell us their story,” says Hoyos. So the purpose is to break into the sediments that make up the foundations of their guest’s lives, musically and beyond, and to make a conversation out of that. And they do go past the music itself in their dialogues, a trait that sets them apart from other podcasts in their genre. A recent episode with Danny Diablo/Lord Ezec offers great stories about Ezec’s run in with Lemmy from Motörhead, his first show with Chaka from Burn, and even a revealing anecdote about his thoughts on Harley Flanagan. What makes these stories so compelling is that they’re not what we typically hear from a guy like Ezec, whose grandiose persona has always been balanced by his aversion to getting particularly personal. But Sam and George have a subtle but terribly important talent for finding their way into the more private stories of their guest’s lives.
That talent seems to spring from the dynamic that exists between the two. They’re both seasoned musicians. They’re both from the same island. And yet they both bring very different perspectives to If I Ruled the World Podcast. George views Sam as having “the ego of a Zen monk.” While Sam is a bit more to the point, offering, “George is not only smart but when it comes to words, he’s fearless.” Despite their different personalities, they trust each other. And there’s a clear conversational balance in the podcast’s episodes that makes it so compelling. George knows that Sam brings a necessary energy to the podcast, commenting, “[Sam] approaches it as a songwriter. A songwriter thinks of what’s good for the song, not what’s good for the ego. He knows when and how to interject and lay back.” So it isn’t about whose voice is dominating, or who knows the guest better. It’s about making the best possible podcast for their listeners.
Sometimes making the best podcast also means controversy, something Sam and George do not shy away from. Their seventh episode features Kevin Caputo, formerly of Disciplinary Action and Soulsick, whose political leanings have garnered him more than a little contentious backlash. Caputo’s uber-conservative views flirt with alt-right provacatism, and that makes him a compelling guest. “We did it because he’s an interesting guest and of course very different than some of the other people we’ve had on,” George reflects objectively. George and Sam don’t want another echo chamber podcast. They want a diverse menu of guests, and sometimes that feels counterintuitive in the musical underground. Yet, neither has anything to prove or reconcile. “Having a guest on doesn’t necessarily mean that you are giving tacit approval to everything the guy has ever done or said. I think we are living in a time where we see every issue, every person and every idea as black or white,” George continues. “So, I kind of feel like a podcast interview is the opposite of that. You hear when someone is joking. You get a fuller sense of who they are and where they are coming from.” If I Ruled the World seeks to cut through those black and white lines and offer its listeners a conversation that forces nuance and subtlety, and debate.
For all the momentum, the podcast is still very young. They’re only eleven episodes in, and that’s a good thing. Sam and George have managed to pin down some amazing conversations. Their eighth episode is a journey through the storied history of Silent Majority and Tommy Corrigan’s influence on the Long Island hardcore scene. Their sixth episode is a laid back conversation with Vinny Caruana, and his odyssey as a full-time musician, not to mention his California edge-breaking misadventures with Daryl Palumbo. Sam’s favorite episode, however, is not with a musician, but with an author and journalist: “So far my favorite was this author from Long Island named Greg Prato. I’ve never been more impressed by a guest and his output.” For George, though, his favorite episode thus far is one closer to home: “I’d have to say the Tim Williams episode was probably most likely my favorite. The type of history I’ve had with him made it especially enjoyable. We’ve been friends for a long time, but I’m also a huge fan of his.” Williams, and his band Vision of Disorder, came to prominence by following, at least in part, the ingenuitive paradigm laid out by Reynolds’s Mind Over Matter after all.
There’s promise in their vision for the podcast because Sam and George are doing what we’ve all done at shows. “The biggest thing that jumps to mind is how much I used to enjoy simply talking with friends in the parking lot of a hardcore show. I used to have some of the best conversations and exchanges of ideas with friends, band members and other musicians out there leaning on a car just talking and listening and I’m not sure I really realized that fully until I stopped playing music,” George reflects. There’s something plainly genuine in that. And true enough. Music alone simply isn’t enough to sustain any underground, and it’s very much the people we meet and the stories they have to tell that keeps our community alive.
The future is bright for If I Ruled the World Podcast. And yet the podcast world is shaky ground. Content is king, and there’s always pressure to keep the dialogue fresh and interesting. But there are innumerable conversations waiting to happen. Lucky for them, the underground is rife with unique characters whose stories deserve telling. Their toughest task will be reining in the comedy, nostalgia, and controversy of those stories. Lucky for us, Sam and George seem very much up to the challenge.
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