Apr 19 2010 6:00am

GGG#016: Geek Rock! Mad Scientists! Dave's Alien Ancestry! (Guest: Jonathan Coulton)

Jonathan Coulton, geek singer/songwriter, joins us to talk about music, video games, and becoming an internet rock star. Dave and John discuss music for geeks. 



0:00 Introduction by

0:38 Dave and John introduce the show

Interview: Jonathan Coulton

01:34 Interview begins

01:50 Jonathan’s geeky interests growing up

03:15 On computer programming, and the indisputable fact that the client is always wrong

04:10 Fake it ’til you make it: Pretending to be a full-time musician and how it paid off

05:26 how you can get JoCo to play a show in your town

06:54 Mad Scientists vs. Zombies

07:39 Regarding Dr. Horrible and making art without a net

08:29 Jonathan’s zombie contingency plan: a speedy death

09:28 Working with Valve on Portal

10:35 Jonathan’s songs are available in Rock Band! Also Jonathan proves his corporate geek past by using the term “core competency” in relation to rock music

13:02 Jonathan’s move from core to casual gaming (there are kids and family involved, who’d have guessed?) and a few recommendations

14:55 Other musicians in the geeky field: MC Frontalot; They Might Be Giants; Weird Al Yankovic

16:00 On being in the zone

16:59 Re: being mentioned by people he admires on the internet

19:03 Blogs Jonathan enjoys these days: Daring Fireball;; microblogging site

20:52 Performing at the Penny Arcade Expo

21:47 Playing at cons vs. music venues

23:20 What’s coming up from Jonathan: the Rock Band Network and the BEST. CONCERT. EVER. DVD

24:41 End of interview

Dave and John talk about metal, nerdcore, and speculative fiction with musical themes

24:47 How Dave was traumatized by Aerosmith, and also is possibly an alien here to study our culture

29:13 John establishes metal’s geek cred and defends the continued existence of MySpace

33:25 The difficulty in being a fan on the fringe

34:27 John expands on fantasy themes in metal

37:03 Dave explores the idea of changing themes in popular music, and John recommends Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny

42:56 Stephen King’s "The Raft," writers in bands, and the science fiction/rock-and-roll cross-over

44:54 More fiction with rock-and-roll themes: The Armageddon Rag by George R.R. Martin; Lucius Shepard’s "Stars Seen Through Stone"; Michael Moorcock’s "A Dead Singer"

48:24 How the fictional band is incredibly useful for writers, and Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist

50:15 The advantages that music has over prose fiction

54:05 Young authors, and how defining youth differs in fiction from pretty much anything else

56:25 Dave and John explore the different ways we respond to fiction and music

58:39 About Pandora and LastFM (Software engineers: please create the Pandora engine for short fiction!)

01:01:34 Other geek icons in the geek music scene, MC Chris and MC Frontalot; for your viewing pleasure, documentaries Nerdcore Rising and Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey; combining metal with animation (very geeky!) is Adult Swim’s Metalocalypse

01:03:21 Show wrap-up

Next week: Bestseller Naomi Novik, author of the Temeraire series!

Thanks for listening!

John Joseph Adams ( is an anthologist, a writer, and a geek. He is the editor of the anthologies By Blood We Live, Federations, The Improbable Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, The Living Dead (a World Fantasy Award finalist), Seeds of Change, and Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse. He is currently assembling several other anthologies, including Brave New Worlds, The Living Dead 2, The Mad Scientistís Guide to World Domination, and The Way of the Wizard. He worked for more than eight years as an editor at The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and is currently the fiction editor of  Lightspeed Magazine, which launches in June 2010.

David Barr Kirtley ( is a writer living in New York who has been called “one of the newest and freshest voices in sf.” His short fiction appears in magazines such as Realms of Fantasy and Weird Tales, and in anthologies such as The Living Dead, New Voices in Science Fiction, and Fantasy: The Best of the Year, 2008 Edition.

Show notes compiled by podtern Christie Yant. Friend us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

1. KurtRoedeger
Thank you, David. I now have the image of a stereotypical geek throwing lacy unmentionables in your direction.
2. kaytlen
hi i dont like the way u talk about it
Eugene Myers
3. ecmyers
I'm glad I'm not the only geek with a serious gap in my musical knowledge. When I was a kid, I exclusively listened to oldies from the 1950s and 60s, and the occasional 80s music (which was contemporary at the time). I have actually learned about more recent bands and picked up some new favorites in the last few years thanks to Pandora and YouTube. I guess it's just a matter of exposure to music I haven't heard before, but I also tend to like individual songs more than whole groups or albums.
Sandi Kallas
4. Sandikal
Thank you, David. I now have the image of a stereotypical geek throwing lacy unmentionables in your direction.

Sadly, I didn't envision the underwear as lacy.

I was really surprised to hear about Viking Metal and Deathclok on this podcast. I am hearing way too much of the stuff lately thanks to my 14 year old metalhead.
Josh Kidd
5. joshkidd
Just a couple quick hits with some of my favorite geeky music from recent years.

Secrets of the New Explorers, an EP by Glen Phillips. A collection of Glen's songs with science fiction themes. Includes a song about a space elevator!

Picaresque, an album by The Decemberists. Features restless ghosts, international espionage, high seas revenge, and athletic failure.
6. Andrew J. Liptak
I've got a couple recommendations:

The Decemberists, with the Crane Wife and their latest, the Hazards of Love, which delves into mythology, fantastical tales and history. Very wordy geek music.
Led Zeppelin, obviously, has some cool LOTR references in Ramble on and Misty Mountain Hop, Battle for Evermore.
Bombadil has a couple geek songs- Suzy Marie comes to mind.
John Anealio is good if you like JoCo - he seems to be a bit more influences from literature.
Josh Ritter - he's got some fantastic songs about the west, mummies come to life and nuclear war. (highly rec.)
Man or Astro-Man? Is fantastic post/alt- punk
Symphony of Science takes scientists and autotunes them. (great)
Anias Mitchell's latest album can only be described as a post-apocalyptic, folk opera retelling of Greek myth.
David Bowie - need I say more?
Lastly, Children of Men by Pink Floyd is a fantastic song, based off of the novel by Arthur C Clarke.
7. Celia P.
Thanks to this episode I impressed someone yesterday with my knowledge of Ancient Gaulish metal with flutes. GGTTG - improving my social standing among metal fans.
John Joseph Adams
8. johnjosephadams
I just saw Eluveitie live and before their set and in between songs I kept hearing some guy shout "Hurdy Gurdy!" which was totally metal.

If you really want to dig into the ancient Gaulish, check out their all-acoustic album, Evocation--ALL of the lyrics on that album are in Gaulish.
9. Celia P.
@Andrew J. Liptak - thanks for mentioning Anias Mitchell's Hadestown. I thought it sounded intriguing and went out and got it - what a fantastic album.
Steven Klotz
10. MentatJack
I was tickled to hear you call out developers to make a "Pandora for short fiction."

It's not Pandora by a long shot, but I'm working hard on a science fiction literature recommendation engine. I'm making a point to include both novels and short fiction of all lengths.

I take user generated tag cloud, represent it as a giant matrix and then project the data onto a 2 dimensional map. The goal is to cluster stories and novels that are similar. Personally, I'd love to help people find short fiction similar to the novels they've enjoyed.
Fred Himebaugh
11. Fredosphere
For the last few months I've been watching, on and off, Booklamp, which calls itself the Pandora of books. (Sorry; that's books, not short fiction.) They've been in beta forever, and I don't know if it will ever take off, but anyway, there it is.

I tried it a few times when it was just getting started, and the results were disappointing, naturally, due to its still embryonic database. Perhaps they've expanded and improved since then.

Enjoy. Or not.
12. BD Merz
well jonathan mentioned They Might Be Giants who are awesome, the first geek rock that i was ever aware of. Weezer has also been labeled geek rock, which i suppose makes sense with the lyrics from In The Garage, "I got my dungeons masters guide, i got a twelve sided die, ive got kitty pride and night crawler too..."

Also, Atom and His Package, total geek rock.

John, im not sure you know it but your promotion of fantasy themes in metal music brought to mind for me one of the few examples of metal that i really like, Aina: the Heavy Metal Opera. it is a piece of art.

on the more literary side, since i was young i have really liked Warren Zevon, his album Excitable Boy had songs about ghouls, ghosts and of course his hit Werewolves in London but he also released Transverse City in 1989 that is said to be inspired by Cyber punk novels. its pretty neat, although the only song i really like is Splendid Isolation. Billy Idol also released an album inspired by and titled Cyberpunk but it was pretty bad.

lastly i really liked the insanely lyrical quality of the music themed short story Rock On by Pat Cadigan in the mirrorshades anthology.

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