Goodbye Old Needless Things, Thanks Dave, and Hello New Needless Things

Posted: September 11, 2018 in Entertainment, Life, Needless Things, Podcasts, The Blog
Tags: , ,

Sometime back in the early months of 2015, I was listening to my iPod while out and about and doing my thing. In my playlist that day was the then most recent episode of Needless Things. It was a podcast that I was more and more regularly listening to at the time.

Explaining some aspects of Needless Things to others was at times a bit of an odd duck back then. Well, sometimes it actually still is. It was hosted by a guy who had been a regular cohost on the Earth Station Who podcast as Dave, but now he was a mask wearing character named The Phantom Troublemaker. What’s funny looking back on that is how it was an almost odder and bigger transition as a listener thinking of him as Dave again when he decided to (most of the time) hang up the mask and persona than it was back then going from Dave to Troublemaker.

One thing I thought was a part of the character’s broadcast persona was Dave doing a stereotypical radio DJ voice and shtick for the show. I don’t say that in a negative way. His delivery typically worked perfectly. Hey, obviously I liked it as I was listening far more often than not. I even listed Needless Things in one of my early blog posts about podcasts I thought people should be giving a listen to.

I would later discover that, no, that was in fact his normal voice and (mostly) way of speaking. It turned out that Dave just naturally had a perfect voice, personality, and delivery style for entertainment based talk radio. It was just that his chosen platform of “radio” was podcasting via Needless Things on (at that time) the Earth Station One Network.

This particular Needless Things had Dave throwing out a request to listeners. He wanted more content for his website. He was posting his podcast every Friday and he was working on written content for most of the other weekdays, but it was just him. Things were getting bigger and busier and he wanted to open the site up to contributors in order to flesh out the overall content a bit and lighten up his own workload a tad.

I thought it sounded like an interesting opportunity, but I was a little skeptical at first because I didn’t really frequent the website all that much at the time. I mostly got the podcast through iTunes, and I only tended to check out a toy review he would mention when it was something that really hit my particular fancy. As such, I wasn’t exactly sure how stable a deal this could be because of that.

You have to understand, I’d done this kind of thing three times prior to doing anything with Needless Things. The first time was for a website that never even made it to the website stage. The second time was for a website that lasted about two or three months before the guys behind the site pulled it down and blocked on social media the dozen or so people they had gotten to help start up a new genre site. The third time was for a site that’s still out there and even still has stuff I wrote on it, but the couple involved in creating the site quickly became dependable only when it came to posting their own infrequent work while still asking the various contributors to generate new work for their site. By the time most of the contributors left, we all had, well, more than a few pieces pending in moderation while still getting requests to write about whatever latest thing needed covering. Several months after my ceasing doing any more work for them, I went in and pulled the eight pieces I had that were still sitting untouched and waiting to be edited and posted by the couple running the site. Several of those were later rewritten into Needless Things pieces.

No, I’m not going to name the people or the sites. Ever. Not even the one that’s still there.

Did I want to start doing work for someone and their site again if there was a chance of it going poof again or of the person running it deciding that the work of contributors was ‘whenever I feel like getting to it’ material? I checked the site out a little more thoroughly for a few days. The guy seemed serious about giving that a go. Moreover, he seemed very serious about the podcasting end of it and the site was being set up to be the internet home for and around the podcast. That part looked solid. Now I just needed to know what the writing deal was going to be like.

I sent out a couple of feelers (I think) via Facebook messenger. On my end of it, I had to be willing to commit to doing a piece of 1,000 words or more every week devoted to pop culture dorkery. The topics would largely be my choice with the occasional requests for themed months like August being devoted to Dragon Con and October being devoted to horror. Stringing 1,000 or more words together is easy for me, and I figured at the time there was going to be no problem for me with coming up with things to say about Dragon Con or horror. All he wanted up front was (if I recall correctly) four articles so he could get a feel for how I would write.

The thing that made the deal appealing to me was what would happen after that. If Dave liked the four trial articles and they seemed to do well, he’d give me limited admin access to the site. Basically, it would be my job to put up and schedule for posting the articles I was writing. So long as I kept the general subject matter and the basic format of what he wanted, I had free reign on topics and I didn’t have to worry about spending my time doing the work just to see weeks of it building up untouched in a moderation queue from which it would never escape. My first Needless Things piece went up in the last week of February 2015. He ended up giving me access to the site before all four articles were posted. I’ve been doing stuff for the site ever since.

There have been hiccups along the way, but working on the site was far more often than not a lot of fun. It was a nice platform to be able to play on, and, bonus, it was a platform recognized more and more in the same part of the country my favorite convention (Dragon Con) was located. I’ve also gotten to know some pretty cool people through the site and its social media pages, both readers and my fellow contributors. Additionally, I think it was good for my occasionally wandering sense of self-discipline to have to create work for someone else on a weekly basis. Sometimes I felt the odd bit of creator’s/writer’s block, but I had to create something. In 3 ½ years of doing a weekly article (and more than that each October) for Needless Things, I managed to only ever miss one Thursday, and that was when my mother passed away. Over the years, some of the articles were frustratingly only finally pulled out of my brain the night before they were to go live on the site, but I did manage to get them up. Surprisingly, some of those got more positive feedback than some of the articles I thought were the more polished and better-composed ones.

That wasn’t the only thing that occasionally surprised me about what did and didn’t hit with the Needless Things audience. A friend of mine told me how to use the admin end of Blogger (the foundation for Dave’s website) to get it to list the pieces I wrote by the most hits to the least. Not counting a later tribute article I wrote after the passing of Santos Ellin Jr.; the top two articles for hits that I wrote were for the longest time an article about an obscure and frankly weird comedy from 1930 called Madam Satan and an article I did looking at the late John Ashley and his contributions to genre filmmaking. Out of everything I had written up to the time I looked this stuff up, those two would not have been anywhere near my top guesses for most viewed articles. Live and learn.

But, as they say, all good things must come to an end. At least I basically saw this end coming before it was official, though.

I posted that JPEG up on Facebook and Twitter last week, tagging Needless Things in the Twitter post. Issues with the website caused it to go down. There was no website to post to and Dave was to the point with that specific provider that he just wanted to dump them. This meant the site would be down for the immediate future and Dave was going to have his hands full putting a new site together. For you fans of the podcast, it’s still there and being delivered every Friday on Podbean, iTunes, and other podcasting platforms, so no sweat there.

But, the thing is, I knew that having to completely revamp the site and figure out how to best move it forward was going to cause Dave to start thinking about and reevaluating some things. For those of you who aren’t following the performer who is Dave West via his social media platforms, you’ve both missed out on some cool stuff before now and might be setting yourself up to miss out on a lot of cool stuff down the road.

Dave works his ass off to build, expand, and hustle his brand, and, ultimately, he is his brand. If you follow his podcast, you already know that he’s been snagging some impressive interviews for some of the shows. He’s been building up his reputation and presence at shows and conventions- including Dragon Con –and been putting together events at shows and cons that have been becoming feature attractions in and of themselves. Additionally, it recently became known (once the trailer dropped) that an actual documentary filmmaker followed Dave around for a year in order to put together a documentary about Dave West.

Some people reading this may be too young to remember this kind of thing, but Dave is at this point almost becoming regionally what some entertainers were back in the glory days of the horror host. The very best of the horror hosts were every bit the world class entertainers as some of Hollywood’s best celebrities, and this gave them the ability to build regional fan followings that opened a lot of doors for them. The result was they would end up doing a lot more than just hosting a movie on Saturday night, and some of them, such as guys like Zacherley, were even given opportunities to shine that gave them some level of national fame. Dave is doing that right now down in the greater Atlanta area and the Southeast with his podcast, his convention shows, his appearances as a part of events and videos, and, most of all, his hard work.

Maybe most importantly here, Dave isn’t dumb. He’s hitting a point where his hard work is paying off and maybe about to earn him a lot more eyes on his brand. While he may feel loyalty to those who have tried to do things for him along the way, the fact is that, at least right now, the best thing Needless Things can be in order to grow Dave’s brand is less of other people’s voices and styles and more undiluted Dave West. Maybe one day he’ll be in a position to give other people a hand up and do so by once again adding more voices and styles under the umbrella of his brand. However, right now? Looking at everything that’s happening, even I was able to work out that the best thing for Dave right now was probably a tighter, more focused representation of and for his brand.

He’s not really big on being on Twitter these days, so he didn’t see the bit I posted last Thursday when he got in touch with me Sunday night. I’m not 100% sure, but I think it may have even surprised him a bit with the discussion. I don’t think he was expecting that when he was thanking me for the work I did while also trying to let me down easy over the news that he had decided revamping Needless Things would mean dropping me and some of the more infrequent contributors as regular, prominent fixtures that I was already in the mindset of telling him that, yeah, dude, you have to do it right now to best serve your brand and yourself with everything that’s happening and potentially blowing up big for you. Because, hey, I’m occasionally also not dumb.

So, again, repeating what I said in my JPEG post last Thursday, I want to thank Dave for letting me play in his sandbox for all this time now. I probably brought the occasional toys into it he wasn’t the biggest fan of, but, to his credit, he never made a big deal over it. So long as nothing I wrote got too overtly political or got too far afield of what the site was supposed to be devoted to, he basically let me have free reign to play in his sandbox from week to week as I saw fit. So, thanks for that opportunity, Dave. It was fun while it lasted and it has actually helped me get better at some things over the last few years.

So, what am I going to do now? I’m going to start doing more work on the site I’m posting this on right now. I’m going to devote some of my freed up weekly focus to both The Assignment: Horror podcast and its companion blog. I might also start pulling some stuff together for a project for the upcoming New Year that I’ve been thinking about but not sure how to go about launching just yet.

What else am I going to do now? Well, as I said last Thursday, I’m going to keep being a fan of Needless Things- whatever new form the site takes -as well as promoting the site and the podcast. As I started this out saying, I began my association with the Needless Things website because I was a fan of the podcast and of the performer behind it and I’m still a fan of the podcast and of the performer behind it. I’m looking forward to what the new site will have to offer and what the new projects will bring down the road. (Video, Dave. Make sure the new site is really video friendly. I have a feeling that will start becoming more and more important as you move along with things.) Given Dave’s history with such things, his creative drive, and his ability to put in an insane amount of hard work, I have no doubt it will be every bit as entertaining as what’s come before it if not more so.

My only regret in all of this? The only damned episode of the podcast I was ever on- a pre-Dragon Con special back in 2015 -was never aired because technical issues during the recording made the audio unusable. Well, at least that was Dave’s story at the time. I still think he was just trying to spare the lot of you from having the sound of my voice inflicted upon you for 90 or more minutes.

*** EDIT *** THE NEW  NEEDLESS THINGS WEBSITE IS LIVE. FOLLOW IT HERE.

Jerry Chandler is a lifelong geek who, while enjoying most everything fandom has to offer, finds himself most at home in the horror, dark fantasy, and science fiction genres. He’s a former contributor to Needless Things and Gruesome Magazine and occasionally remembers to put up the odd musings on his own blog. He’s been a guest on several podcasts from the ESO Network, on Decades of Horror, and on the Nerdy Laser. He is also a regular co-host on The Assignment: Horror Podcast as well as the primary writer for its affiliated blog.

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