is profoundly dangerous to your genitalia.”
If Richard La Plante wanted to build a perfect customer for his “ear movie,” the podcast/ radio play/audiobook Hog Fever, he would probably look a lot like me – middle-aged, neurotic, and a passionate lover of riding who also enjoys listening to podcasts and audiobooks in his spare time. I don’t know if that describes you, but if it does, you should read this.
This is a product review, technically speaking, but it’s a pretty low-stakes one. That’s because this product can be yours for the low, low price of nothing at all, with no money down, and $0 a month on approved credit. All La Plante wants from you is your time, your ears and your brain. When Hog Fever is released on Dec 1st, it’ll be available as a CD or an audio download through Downpour, an audiobook download site. Don’t know what a podcast is? It’s just a really long-format audio recording you can easily download to your favorite listening device – phone, iPod, laptop, what have you – so you can listen to it at your leisure. Have your grandkids show you what to do.
But it’s more than just a podcast or audiobook. He was making an audiobook version of his 1994 book Hog Fever, which documents his love affair with Harley-Davidson motorcycles, when he realized he was bored. “I was three days in the studio recording when I thought, ‘why don’t I do something new?'” La Plante wanted a new kind of media with “extraordinary sound design, mixed like a music album,” and collaborator Kevin Godley agreed, calling the concept an “Ear Movie.” The idea melds podcasts and audiobooks with the soul of the old-time radio dramas Richard’s father, Roy La Plante, wrote and announced for RCA decades ago.
Hog Fever follows the psychotherapy of an American writer living in London named Robert Lourdes. He tells the story of his disintegrating marriage, his flat career and his obsession with loud, rumbly American-made motorcycles. The Shrink, played by Terence Stamp – you may remember him from Billy Budd, The Limey, or Priscilla, Queen of the Desert – tells Robert he has a sexual obsession with machinery, and the story takes off from there. Drugs, sex, biker brawls, high-speed riding and lots of cursing ensues as the tale unfolds in five 30-minute (ish) episodes.
I could tell you more about the story and characters, but I won’t. I didn’t know much about it before I popped the CD (provided for editorial review – you will likely download it from iTunes or Downpour.com) into my car’s stereo – but the fun was hearing the interesting new format, great acting and slick production. Director Kevin Godley, in addition to starting the bands 10cc and Godley & Creme, is an accomplished music video and documentary film director (Police: Every Breath you Take and The Beatles Anthology), and it shows in the production’s constant action and engrossing storyline. I asked La Plante if he thought it was too intense to listen to while riding. “Did you crash?” he asked me. When I told him I didn’t, he replied, “well, there you go.”
At first, I found the driving, thrumming rock-n-roll soundtrack and macho, male-oriented story cliché, but by the second or third episode, the characters’ depth and the funny, clever writing made me feel good about listening (I brought this up with La Plante, and he said, “this is all thinly veiled reality for me. If you call this a cliché, well, then life is a cliché. I don’t particularly give a fuck if somebody calls it formulaic.”) By the end of the story, I was ready for more of La Plante’s creative and engrossing storytelling, combined with the great acting from Stamp and crisp editing and sound design from Godfry and the show’s producers. Luckily, another project is in the works, along with Daniel Ash from Bauhaus.
So what does La Plante want from you, the listener? I’m sure he wants you to purchase his production, but it will be available for free. I really think he just wanted to make the project and put it out there for us to enjoy. I did enjoy it, but I seem to be his target audience: middle-aged, vaguely neurotic and paranoid, with a disturbingly physical attraction to motorcycles (a confession – I once dreamed I was French-kissing a 1991 BMW K75S until my girlfriend slapped me awake). If that describes you, you’ll love it, but if it doesn’t, you should give it a test ride as well: La Plante just hopes you’ll have a thoughtful laugh and think it’s funny.
Hog Fever was a great way to pass a few hours and maybe gain a new perspective on your own life and how you interact with the world. Start pouring it into your ear-holes: you won’t regret it.
Hog Fever will be available as a free download at Downpour.com as a serial for five weeks starting December 1st, or listeners can purchase it all at once in downloadable or CD format at Escargot Press.