One of the most unique true crime podcasters out there, Jake Brennan of the Disgraceland Podcast, sits down for a chat with Morbidly Beautiful.
This is a gilded age for true crime podcasts. From miniseries focusing in on a single crime or criminal, to long-term shows with an almost infinite range of topics, there’s something out there for everyone. This glut of shows about crime also means that people breaking into the scene have to be unique. You can’t just force your way into someone else’s niche like a stubborn Junji Ito character; you have to carve your own space.
This is what Jake Brennan has done.
Brennan, a Massachusetts native, has carved a special niche in the world of true crime podcasts by focusing on the music world and the crimes, tragedies, and madness within it. From Sid Vicious being given a fatal dose of heroin courtesy of his mother to the sex-fueled path of misery and torture wrought by post-war swing star Spade Cooley, and a whole sky of stars both nestled between these stories and coming in later seasons, Brennan uses a creative edge and some wonderful instrumentals to paint a morbid, exciting, and strangely beautiful portrait of stars being dragged down by death, either their own or others’.
With heaps of praise behind the podcast, Disgraceland has a bright future ahead of it…and so does Brennan. That’s part of why I, a fan of the show myself, was so happy to be able to interview Brennan about the show’s past, present, and future.
INTERVIEW WITH JAKE BRENNAN, HOST OF THE “DISGRACELAND” PODCAST
What’s your favorite scary movie?
That’s a good one. Pure fright? The Strangers. Pure awesomeness? Exorcist or Rosemary’s Baby.
What made you get interested in podcasting?
It was something I could do completely independently (at first) and meld my love of music, true crime and history.
What podcasts have influenced your work the most?
I’m not really influenced by podcasts. I’m more influenced by films and television. I’ve ripped complete devices from some of my favorite films and transferred them to the podcast medium. The most obvious being the “Victor Takes A Trip” scene from Rules of Attraction that I used in my Brian Jones episode.
Disgraceland gets very dark, very often. What episodes have been the hardest for you to make?
The last three of season 2 because they all involved abuse of women. When I slated the season I didn’t take into account how brutal it would be to depict these crimes. It was stupid on my part. I would have done it differently or some of them not at all but Big Lurch, Rick James, Spade Cooley was a pretty horrific run.
What episode is your favorite subject wise?
That’s tough. Maybe Sinatra because of the mob ties and I get to voice some tough guys which was fun.
In the Brian Jones episode, you have a rapid-fire portion where Brian’s detailing his journey to A.A. Mline’s house. How much practice did it take you to get that down?
That’s the “Victor Takes A Trip” scene I referenced earlier in the interview. Dunno. We did that one weird. I got a hold of Roger Avary’s script online and tracked what his Victor character was doing to what Brian was doing; line by line. Swapping out 90% of Victor’s escapades for Brian Jones’ escapades. Once I had that, I had my script but more importantly my rhythm. I recorded that sick, with a sore throat believe it or not. I think I did it two or three times, kept all the takes, did the read fast and then sped up the “tape” and had my wiz engineer, Sean Cahalin cut it all together to match the film sequence in the Avary movie.
As a bonus feature on your GG Allin episode, you had an interview with Michael Alig, the subject of a previous episode. What was that like? Out of all of your other previous subjects, who would you like to interview most?
That was wild. Real wild. Not so much the interview but the correspondence before and after. You’re dealing with someone who, I’m very familiar with the heinous crimes he’s committed, and all of a sudden we are texting each other. Freaked me out. I’d like to interview Yoko Ono. She knows where all the bodies are buried.
Something that separates Disgraceland from other true crime podcasts is the amount of original music you have in the background. What made you decide to include homemade instrumentals? What’s your favorite track you and the other Disgraceland Players have made?
I’m a musician first and foremost and so are most of my friends, so it just seemed obvious. In a lot of ways, Disgraceland is just an excuse for us to keep making music. Of all the tracks, probably the “Frankie Is The Reason” track in the Sinatra episode — because without the podcast, that type of song probably never would have occurred to us, specifically Adam Taylor who drives most of the music production. We’re like, “Ok, Sinatra…. the mafia… and MASSIVE ATTACK! GO!!!!”
You’re very in touch with your fanbase, frequently connecting with them over social media. Does your fanbase influence your choice of subjects at all?
For sure. I want to know what they want to hear and deliver it as best I can. Plus, they’ve turned me on to stories I didn’t know existed.
Who’s your dream episode subject?
I’ve had a couple I either produced and didn’t release, or started to research and write and then stopped out of fear for my own safety. Don’t want to really go into it any more than that, but let’s just say, I’m waiting for some people to either die or get sued into oblivion so that I can access their stories.
There’s a lot of podcasts delving into live shows. Have you ever considered something like that for Disgraceland?
Keep your ears open in 2019!
Where can people find you and the podcast online?
Everywhere! But my website disgracelandpod.com is a good place to start.