On Friday the 13th, those Masters of Horror, Larry Fessenden and Glenn McQuaid released the second season of their excellent, radio drama series Tales from Beyond the Pale.
Tales… follows in a similar tradition to E.C. Comics Tales from the Crypt, or those wonderful portmanteau horror movies produced by Amicus Productions in 1960s and 1970s, Doctor Terror’s House of Horrors, Torture Garden, The House That Dripped Blood, Asylum and Vault of Horror.
Glenn and Larry were inspired to create Tales… after listening to an old Boris Karloff radio drama during a long, rainy drive along the east of coast of America.
Larry is the brains behind Glass Eye Pix and has been hailed as a latter-day Roger Corman. His long list of films (several award winning) as producer, director and writer, includes Beneath, The Last Winter, Stake Land, and Bitter Feast. So prolific and successful a film-maker, it’s suffice to note that Fessenden was inducted into the Fangoria Hall of Fame in 2011, and was honored as Total Film‘s “Icon of Horror” the same year.
By comparison, Glenn is just starting out, but don’t be fooled, for Irishman McQuaid is the young and impressive talent behind the excellent I Sell the Dead and more recently contributed one of the best segments, “Tuesday the 17th” to the hugely enjoyable compendium horror film V/H/S. Together Fessenden and McQuaid have created a thrilling and superlative radio drama series with Tales From Beyond the Pale
The first season was produced over the winter of 2011, and was made available to download in Fall 2012. What makes Tales… so successful, is the high level of production values Fessenden and McQuaid bring to each drama. As curators they bring together the best writing with the best of acting talent. Writers include Kim Newman, Ashley Thorpe, Joe Maggio, Simon Barrett, Jeff Buhler, and of course, Fessenden and McQuaid themselves. While the tales are performed by Sean Young, Ron Perlman, Vincent D’Onofrio and James Le Gros.
Larry Fessenden and Glenn McQuaid.
The first season of Tales… proved such a hit, that Fessenden and McQuaid produced a second series, but this time each drama was recorded live, in front of a studio audience.
Glenn McQuaid: “Last October we had a chance to put on a few new Tales…, and we thought it would be a new challenge to put them on live, as opposed to doing them in the studio. We basically booked this place for a month, where once a week we would put on a double-bill of Tales….
“What made it different, I suppose, was the chance to do it live. We also invited new collaborators into the mix, like Kim Newman, Simon Barrett and Clay Mcleod Chapman. Basically, it was a really great chance to get back in the saddle and get some new content out there.”
Larry Fessenden: “We wanted to pull back the curtain on the process on what is ultimately destined to be audio entertainment. We didn’t hesitate to have the director on-stage, even rushing over to an actor and whispering in the ear, ‘Speed it up a bit,’ or….”
Glenn McQuaid: “...Falling apart!”
Larry Fessenden: “Glenn was helping out the Foley guy [sound FX], and doing footstep sounds. It was a fun thing to watch, because you really got a fun sense of the process.
“Another thing I always say, as an actor you really need to be relating to the microphone, not to your fellow actors, which is the traditional way of performing. In this case, each individual performer is in some way intimate with the sound environment and their microphone. All of this is fun to observe when watching the process unfold, and that was sort of the premiss of the evening.”
Glenn McQuaid: “I think having that much activity happening with various actors, technicians and Foley artists. Once we’re rolling time flew by and the job was a a joy. I was always a nervous wreck prior to each evening, you know, that didn’t get easier. It was a bit of a roller-coaster getting back into theater, which I hadn’t done since I was in my teens. It was an awful lot of fun, and it was good getting into that environment, which gave it an edge.”
Larry Fessenden and Glenn McQuaid recording ‘Tales…’
The new season of Tales from Beyond the Pale includes “Ram King” by Joes Maggio; “Like Father, Like Son” by Clay McLeod Chapman, “Stranger” by Jeff Buhler, “Dead Man’s Shoes” by Ashley Thorpe, “Sarah Minds the Dog” by Kim Newman, “The Crush” by Glenn McQuaid, “Dead Air” by Simon Barrett, and “Caper” by Larry Fessenden.
What makes Tales… successful is the high standard of story-telling involved with each drama. Horror and Sci-Fi fans will appreciate the intelligence at work behind these scripts.
Glenn McQuaid: “When we originally thought of the ideas for Tales…, it was very much Larry that brought this idea to reach out and collaborate with all the colors of the dark.
Larry Fessenden: “Often we go back to our original collaborators and say, ‘Do you have anything that would fit this format?’ We both have new associations, people we’re curious about.
“We always ask for synopsis, and then Glenn and I look at them and think, ‘What makes a good season?’ We don’t want to have four alien stories in a row, it has to do with finding a balance within the different genres that exist.”
Glenn McQuaid: “I think a lot of color has come form Larry and Glass Eye Pix, and the idea of reaching out and collaborating with many different artists, coming from many different walks of life. There’s something very New York about it. I get that with Glass Eye Pix, and I do get it with Tales… as well.”
Larry Fessenden: “I feel the one thing I’m proud of with Tales…, and I think it’s something to do with the way Glenn and I approached the medium, we’re not setting out to make a scary story with traditional scares. It’s not as deliberate as that. We obviously make spooky, off-kilter tales, but I think we encourage the authors to come at us with something that isn’t deliberately sitting in the genre. For example, “Ram King” by Joe Maggio, he wrote “On a ledge” from the last series, you could tell he was writing form the heart about things that preoccupy him, and he just suddenly decided to make a period piece. And I think it’s very odd and very chilling when you finally get to it, but that’s clearly not just the agenda of the story.”
Glenn McQuaid: “One of the final stories we added to the collection was Clay McLeod Chapman’s “Like Father, Like Son.” We felt when we got that in, it added a nice flavor to everything else, and that was important to us. We were looking at a few other story-lines, but that was the one would be the icing on the cake.”
Larry Fessenden: “I think it’s also worth noting that we don’t come to these scripts finished and polished. Glenn and myself spend a lot of time really challenging the writers to tighten or otherwise consider how to make effective audio pieces. It’s always a fun and challenging series because you don’t want to overstep, and you want each artist to be representing themselves in a unique product.”
Glenn McQuaid: “I think everyone that comes in to us with this process has enjoyed it because there’s a difference in that we’re talking to them as fellow artists—probably closer as producers at that stage. I think a lot of our collaborators spend a lot of time shifting around scripts that are bouncing around from one acquisition person to another. We’re free of all of that. We’re more interested in the actual story-telling at the moment.”
Ax part of the story-telling, Fessenden and McQuaid are aware of the importance of the sound, and they ensure each episode is richly layered with Sound FX, which bring an extra dimension to Tales….
Larry Fessenden: “I think we want to remain true to the audio format, and continue to deal an anthology of these spooky stories and keep pushing the envelope with what you can do with sound with these stories.
“Glenn and I think more of doing a series where there’s a continuing story-line, familiar characters—a community of characters—that’s one idea. And, of course, one is always drawn to other media, because with our home base in audio drama there’s potentially television, because what inspired us in the beginning was the audio element because Glenn and I were interested in an anthology and how it could present a series of stories that somehow relate thematically or will compliment each other. So, we’re always exploring, you know, but it’s tough, because we’re also trying to make films.
“In this day and age it’s possible to work in different formats, there’s a cohesion in the end, which we will let the critics sort out.”
Sean Young in Glenn McQuaid’s ‘The Crush.’
Larry Fessenden: “The other thing we try to do is reach out to actors, like Sean Young who’s in Glenn’s show “The Crush” and gives a tour-de-force, she is the femme fatale. Sean is a delightful. Mark Margolis who’s in “Caper” has just an amazing voice. Ironically, he was made most famous recently in a TV show, where he didn’t even speak. It was a treat to get him to talk again. And so many of our old pals from Vincent D’Onofrio to our stable of actors, John Speredakos, and so on, just wonderful guys. We really enjoy that—the core community of people.”
Glenn McQuaid: “I am looking forward to getting these eight tales out there, I think it’s a strong season, and it’s a bit of a balancing act, they are live and I think it’s nice that you are reminded that it’s live—we kept our audience in, we didn’t try to clean-up pieces too much. Also, one of our many goals with Tales… was the opening-up of the environment, really getting people out of their heads.”
While Fessenden and McQuaid have several other projects they are working on, both are keen to continue with Tales…
Glenn McQuaid: “I love the idea of doing a Tales from Beyond the Pale soap opera. We have some great collaborators and great producers, like Lisa Wisely and Jenn Wexler, who are doing a lot of the work behind the scenes, and as we move forward, we’re going to have work out a way to make it viable to keep doing it. But I really, truly believe there will be another season, and the possibility of an on-going series.”
Larry Fessenden: “Part of the reason we’re releasing the second season is that it might brings some eyeballs, or some ears to the first season of Tales from Beyond the Pale. We have a very strong core fans who are loyal, and we want to expand that. We’ll see where that takes us.”
Tales from Beyond the Pale: Season 2 is available to download from the site, or at iTunes and Audible from Friday the thirteenth.
Previously on Dangerous Minds
‘Tales from Beyond the Pale: An interview with Glenn McQuaid and Larry Fessenden
Rising Star: An interview with Glenn McQuaid director of ‘I Sell The Dead’ and ‘V/H/S’