The Gothic/horror community is not typically thought of as inherently possessing a collective intelligence. Sure, fans of Goth music and horror films frequently have overlapping interests, often dress similarly, and are typically regarded with the same raised eyebrow by those existing beyond their realm, but not much evidence exists as proof that scary sounding music and horror films have a tendency form a superorganism. Regen Robinson’s podcast, Space Radio USA, may provide the missing link to prove that the dark side does, indeed, have a mind of its own.
As it was written in the good book, “No prophet is accepted in his hometown.” Robinson arrived in Long Beach after leaving her home in Detroit, Michigan, nearly six years ago. Around that time, the lifelong competitive swimmer, with a marketing degree, started sharing her gothic perspective through some freelance writing gigs, and then she decided to add podcasting to her résumé.
“I ended up making all these crazy, goth, electronic dance mixes just for myself to work out to, or what not,” she recalls.” And I kind of mixed in, like, horrible movie clips of really off-the-wall stuff that I found.” These early experiments served as the content she soon learned to put online and make available through iTunes. Then, the people responded. “I started getting messages from people telling me how funny these were,” Robinson says. “And then, after the initial embarrassment of realizing other people were actually listening to these things wore off, I decided to keep it going. I’ve had it for about six years now.”
The show’s tendency towards darker content is obvious. That being said, as with many products of dark-leaning entertainment, it is easy for audiences to identify a strong tongue-in-cheek bent in the programming. Robinson likens Space Radio USA to a mashup between a Goth aesthetic and Mystery Science Theater 3000. About the musical content, she reveals, “A lot of the music that’s in the Goth-bar clubs and that I play isn’t Goth or spooky at all; it’s really just . . . synth pop and dark wave type stuff . . . so [the show has] ended up being a little less like Sisters of Mercy and more like the Mortal Combat soundtrack.” Regarding the presence of samples from cheesy horror films, which are peppered throughout the shows, there is an aura of mystery.
Many of the film clips come from the work of a particular filmmaker, whose identity Robinson refuses to divulge. “It’s top secret!” she says “If anybody figures it out and asks me, then I’ll own up to it. . . . [But mixing the music] with these really over-the-top horror movies is kind of like my own little inside joke.” Fair use laws enable the incorporation of the film clips Robinson uses in her show, but the collective steering of programming comes directly from the community.
To a certain extent, Robinson has formed relationships with artists and labels that are similar to those of DJs. She routinely receives promotional packages; furthermore, she has remarked that artists in the goth genre are especially accessible to podcasters. However, the truly collective spirit of this enterprise is most evident through the activity of her listeners. Robinson reports that it is they who supply her with “updates on new artists that have come out or a new release I haven’t really heard. I place that all into the show, so it kind of becomes like a hive mind almost. . . . So you’re not just listening to me, you’re listening to a whole bunch of people coming together, and that makes [the podcast] a more interesting medium besides YouTube or Soundcloud or something. It’s kind of like more of a family.”
Robinson’s “family” is kept alive and free from advertising through listener donations. For wannabe podcasters, there are free platforms available. However, those enable interference with the nature of the organism by, say, inserting an Applebee’s ad, which Robinson says, “is like a total Goth kill.”