There are people involved in the Memphis music scene who do things simply because they need to be done. Robin Pack and Kyle Johnson are those types of people. No one asked them to start live streaming and archiving concerts in Memphis, but you'd be hard-pressed to attend a big local show in Memphis and not see Kyle, Robin, and their dedicated crew running sound, streaming the concert, or both.
Since starting their variety show two years ago, some of the biggest names in local music have played their studio (the Oblivians, Grifters, Gringos), with each iconic performance streamed live and then archived for music fans across the globe to enjoy. We caught up with Rocket Science Audio co-founder Robin Pack to get a little bit of the backstory of his company and to learn more about what the Midtown recording studio has planned for its 20th episode.
- Chris Shaw
- Rocket Science Audio headquarters on Madison Avenue
Flyer: First off, can you talk about how the variety show has evolved since it started two years ago?
Robin Pack: When we first started the variety show we didn't have any pre-recorded segments or skits. The idea was to just have live music and that's it. When we started introducing the skits and different pre-recorded segments, people didn't really know how to respond to it, I guess because they were under the impression that they were only going to be seeing live music. It got to be so awkward that we decided to cut down on the comedian segments and focus more on the music. But since we needed to fill up time, we started making our own clips and segments to throw in there too. It's a variety show, so we try to include everything from puppet shows to magicians, and the segments have evolved into people talking about there jobs, which is very similar to the kind of small talk that goes on at local shows.
So the segments are almost like an extension of meeting people at a local show?
Yeah, exactly. I mean, inevitably everyone ends up talking about work when you are at a show and waiting for the next band to play. The idea for those segments is just to give someone a few beers and let them talk, and we usually get some pretty good footage out of it.
You guys have been on a short break after doing the variety show almost every month for the past two years. What do you have planned for your 20th episode?
We are constantly trying to do new stuff with the show, and having Mancontrol here will be really fun because we've never had a band like them play our space. It's basically become ADD theater at this point, and we are still trying to book bands that would otherwise never play together. The goal moving forward is to expose every part of the Memphis music scene fairly, even if a band isn't our particular cup of tea. Everyone making music in Memphis deserves to be put out there. We've been talking about trying to have a one-man band show, and instead of having the traditional two bands we'd have four or five one-man bands. We also want to bring more out-of-town bands in. We've done that a little bit, but I would like to get a lot more touring bands through.
Who is on the 20th episode?
Nots is playing, and they are a band we've wanted to get on here for a long time. They've been touring so much lately that it's been hard to get them nailed down. We were hoping to get them in last month but because of South By Southwest it just didn't work out. They are a band that we've been excited about for a long time, so we are stoked that they are playing. We've done some stuff for them before like transferring stuff from a cassette tape and making tracks digital, but they put on an amazing performance that I think people will be excited to see.
I think this show also does a good job of showing how incestuous the Memphis music scene is, as well. Bill Curry [local drummer] has been on this show three times in three different bands, and Dave Shouse from Mancontrol has also played the show with his other band the Grifters. It's also important to recognize the comedians that come through because they are really important to what we do here. The whole point of a variety show is to expose people to a bunch of different stuff, so I always tell people that if they don't like something that's on, just wait five minutes and something completely different will be on camera. Comedians have been assaulted by full beer cans here. They've had to put up with a lot, but it's important for them to have another venue where they can come and perform.
How does Rocket Science Audio compare to local podcasts and streaming services that focus on Memphis music?
One of the comedians who will be coming on the 20th anniversary show is Gil Worth, who also runs the popular OAM podcasts. The only real difference I guess is that our stuff is always 100 percent live. We don't go back and edit anything, and that gives you a very authentic feel. There are places that do live streaming like Ditty TV, but they aren't a recording studio. We are trying to do something that hasn't been done in Memphis, and that means there will be a lot of trial and error. We are always trying to do one more thing.