Pulling practical jokes on people over the phone ain’t nothing new. Prank calls — they’ve been a thing of beauty since the late ’70s and they were probably something you did on a nightly basis with your friends in high school. They’re easy to pull, but hard to really execute and impress others with.
Prank calls aren’t just for The Jerky Boys or your typical morning zoo crew radio show, either. As hilarious and vulgar as they can be, there are folks out there who strive to push the cult genre to its boundaries. There’s room for creativity, and experimental phone calls actually exist, with pranksters warping voices, creating audio collages, and arranging vocals in an almost artistic way. And they’ve been active since around the ’80s.
One of the unique and predominant prank callers on the scene is an anonymous man who releases tapes under the name of Longmont Potion Castle. While credited under that moniker on wax, his prankees may know him by his multiple other aliases…Dirk Funk, Reuben Norman, Curtis Nayla, Gomez, Levi Goulet, Reginald Maplethorp, Dudley, Gianini, Dan Lyman, Nuno Gloop, Herbert Prick, Buddy Gripple, Grover Knox (which is what he chooses to go by, via email), Desmond Sanford, Holmes, Tanyo Lubbock, Enrique, Kermit Neville, Nipper, The Polish Stallion, Lars, Don Savage, and an extremely longer list of names that I cannot possibly fit in this article without going overboard on detail.
We reached out to Longmont Potion Castle to get some clues on his mysterious being. While he wouldn’t agree to a phone interview (unfortunately), he provided sufficient answers over email. He also provided me with the three obscure images that are found in this article, which we’re assuming are all just blurred/weird photos of himself. We’re also just assuming the answers he gave us are genuine and not, you know, a prank.
Mass Appeal: What is Longmont Potion Castle and why the name?
Longmont Potion Castle: The name came purely from free-association. I grew up in Colorado. I think the name fits. If I had to think of a better name now, I doubt that I could. It started off with a pseudonym because of my own uncertainty about it, and it stuck.
MA: Why record prank calls?
LPC: I was a runaway when I was 14. I had some of my records over at my friend’s house. One night I was over there and he was saying, “Let’s go to a party, and you should bring that one ‘weird’ album along.” It was The Communists Are Coming To Kill Us by John Trubee. So we went to the party. I knew no one there. He put the record on the stereo and suddenly the whole house was laughing. I was sitting in the corner and I instantly thought, “I could totally do that.” At that exact moment I had the realization of making experimental, collage, prank call albums. That’s one way to spend your life.
MA: You consider your prank phone calls experimental?
LPC: I probably wouldn’t be any more descriptive than that. It’s more interesting to hear what other folks think. In general, I can say that sometimes the ones on the other end of the phone are funnier than I am. Which is fine. Or, the opposite is also true. Sometimes my voice is going through such an elaborate signal path that it’s crazy-sounding, even if the other person is just totally stunned. And everywhere in between. As long as the recording is engrossing in some way, it’s a keeper.
MA: Where do you get your aliases from?
LPC: Just my personality and my brain. I have to like my ideas reasonably well to want to use them. Soundboards (or playing pre-recorded voices over the phone) came about way later, and they eliminate the need to be quite as inventive. I still like them and do use them sometimes. I would just rather have LPC albums be uniquely my own. And um, sometimes partying helps the process.
MA: How long have you been doing this and why keep it up?
LPC: I have experimented with the phone since I was a small child. Out in the mountains, they used to have a ‘party line.’ This meant that because the area was so remote, phone service was not available to each house. So, if you picked up the phone, chances were good that other people would be on there talking.
You were supposed to hang up and wait for them to finish talking before you got to use the phone. But I didn’t hang up, it just occurred to me to listen to them. I have basically been a pretty depressed-type person since I was about nine. So, when junior high school hit, I really started to use phone recordings as a means of cheering myself up. I never thought anyone else would care about it. So, thank you.
MA: Is it getting difficult to prank people now with caller ID, or have you moved to Skype?
LPC: Nope, I’m not going to answer that one. If it was guitar equipment we were talking about, I would be happy to impart the details about my rig to your readers. But technically, I’m not even supposed to release LPC albums. Sorry.
MA: How did you first start out?
LPC: With people shouting at me over the phone. And parents shouting at me to stop. But other folks were saying, you have GOT to keep doing this. Those were pretty much the factors. And I thought my first cassette from 1988 was cursed. The master tape got shredded. I had to ask somebody to give their copy back to me. And then THAT one got broken AGAIN. Fortunately, I had made a backup by that point. I had poor equipment then. Ultimately though, it was and is a solitary process.
MA: And how did you gain such a cult following?
LPC: I always played in bands, I’m a musician. So, the LPC recordings got passed around a lot that way. But if I had it to do over again, I wouldn’t have even got involved in the music scene at all. Bands I played in were always disregarded, etc. There was never any serendipity for musical projects I was in. I would probably just make a variety of albums, and play music at home, like I do now.
MA: Obviously, you’re choosing to remain anonymous. How many bands have you contributed to?
LPC: Five. They were: Tushie, Balloonatics, Deduct Tape, Bumble Beeotch, and Floating Concrete Octopus.
MA: Are there any people of the same art form as you who you admire?
LPC: Sparklebomb is a New York-based musical project whose vocals are done on the telephone.
MA: What are you working on now?
LPC: Surviving longer than I ever imagined. At any moment, I am ready to keep doing this project forever, or stop doing it forever. It just depends on what day it is. My attitude is, “If you have the time, always record.” That is the closest thing to a motto that I have come up with.