Longmont Potion Castle: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

Can prank calls be an art form? It isn’t hard to answer “yes” once you’ve heard Longmont Potion Castle. Armed with surrealist wit, daisy-chained guitar pedals, and a deep understanding of the mechanics of telephone manipulation, this mysterious artist has proven that the field of crank calls has a higher creative ceiling than often realized.

Working under total anonymity, LPC has produced a massive discography, dialing people all over the world. His recipients include celebrities—notably Jeopardy’s Alex Trebek—US Army recruiters, record store clerks, business owners, and motel dwellers. Utilizing familiar area codes and scrambled caller ID, LPC is a master at getting someone to pick up. But it’s what happens after that showcases his sidewise genius. LPC builds a miniature world out of sound effects and strange with each call. The results are almost always quotable.

Born out of cassette trading culture, the bulk of LPC’s 30-plus-year work has mostly been appreciated by DIY followers and musicians: Longmont Potion Castle’s calls seem tailor-made for driving cross-country in a tour van, and have been lauded by members of the War on Drugs, Deerhunter, Sebadoh, Black Moth Super Rainbow, and other faithful fans. But thanks to the internet and social media—and the accessibility provided by platforms like Spotify—Longmont’s charm is steadily gathering fans outside these cloistered circles.

A new documentary, Where in the Hell is the Lavender House aims to give the public a closer look at this obscured figure. It’s being helmed by directors Vivik Venkatesh (Grimposium) and David Hall (Uneasy Sleeper) with actor Rainn Wilson on board as executive producer. Partially funded by Indiegogo contributions, the doc features interviews with LPC admirers, including members of Pissed Jeans, Municipal Waste, Destroyer, Weyes Blood, Cattle Decapitation, and Pinback. Naturally, “victims” like NBS Electronics and staff members at Twist and Shout Records are also featured. It’s truly a fanatic’s dream come true.

Ahead of its release, Longmont agreed to speak with Aquarium Drunkard about the documentary and his penchant for raising hell over the phone.

Aquarium Drunkard: What is Where in the Hell is the Lavender House like?

Longmont Potion Castle: I feel a heightened sense of reality with it. You’re experiencing the LPC material, and getting all these different opinions about it, while following around these two listeners on their journey to dig deeper into it. Will they see it through? What conclusion will we get to?

AD: What were your high school years like?

Longmont Potion Castle: I was pretty independent. Not a good student. Did a lot of bedroom recording, ’round the clock. I used a really bad Vestax recorder. It was awful. And I had a Vesta Fire cassette recorder [too]. I think it had three tracks. It sucked. I was 19 before I got a good four-track recorder.

AD: When did you start home recording?

Longmont Potion Castile: The phone calls? [Note: LPC also makes music under various aliases.] I was really young. Probably like 12. I didn’t have any money. I didn’t work until I absolutely had to. I lived at home and just avoided jobs for all my teenage years. So I couldn’t buy much. But the inventiveness and creativity were there.

AD: Which came first with home recording? Music or calls?

Longmont Potion Castle: It was one and then the other, and it still is. Not much has changed for me there. I am compartmental about it and am always trying to add new ideas.

AD: Deceased caller you miss the most?

Longmont Potion Castle: Eddie Money. Even though he’s not dead…just dead to me. He canceled his number and was like, “Fuck this guy, I’m out.” I mean, he straight up spelled out his name, address, and different phone numbers. It was like, maybe cool your jets, there. But yeah, I’d still be calling him if he didn’t block me. Also Delmo. He’s old school Longmont.

AD: Your body of work includes full-length albums and a variety of EPs, remixes, spin-off projects, and videos. Do you have any favorites?

Longmont Potion Castle: It goes through phases for me. In the ’80s I made some pretty original types of recordings. Some of the stuff I was doing was not highly precedented. It was around the time of the first Longmont tape. Some of that stuff was kind of amazing, actually. But everything was lost in a storage locker incident. But a couple of those things were fucking mind-blowing. I wish I had those. In the ’90s, it was getting to tour a lot with a band. That was like the only time that ever happened with me. In the 2000s, I got busy again. There’s a lot of high points there, it’s hard to pick one thing. I usually like the newest thing the most.

AD: Are you working on a new LPC album?

Longmont Potion Castle: I am currently working on LPC 16. It is up to about 30 minutes of good stuff right now.

AD: Any plans to press more LPC releases on vinyl, especially the back catalog?

Longmont Potion Castle: I was kicking some numbers around and it would be like six figures to do that. It would be really expensive to do it right and put everything on there. But I totally hear you on that, it’s perfectly suited for vinyl. There have been periods where I have a windfall of money and I’m able to put out nicer versions of stuff. Other times I’m just broke. But I try to keep creating new things regardless. I do definitely try. words/ a merclean

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