Today, Colorado-based prank-call artist Longmont Potion Castle will release a career-spanning boxed set of his recordings. Before the Jerky Boys began their long career as high-profile prank callers, there was Longmont Potion Castle. LPC's debut release was a 1987 cassette called Butcher the Paleontologist under the moniker Implement of Prognosis, and the recording was made using his parents' answering machine.
“You just put a cassette in and hit two-way record,” recalls LPC. “I don't think my folks knew that feature was on there; they just wanted an answering machine. All the old stuff had beeps on there because there had to be a beep so people knew a recording was taking place.”
LPC was fifteen when he made that first recording, and as he got older, he had access to a cassette four-track machine, and when the ’90s hit, other types of four-tracks, a reel-to-reel eight-track, a sixteen- and then a 24-track. By the late ’90s, he was able to use digital recording that made it easier to manipulate the audio to make it sound better — and by then, LPC had become a legend in Colorado. With only four albums of prank calls, he found an audience that spread far and wide with his surreal conversations between himself and the often confused and, at times, bemused recipients of those calls.
By the 2000s, LPC was able to track down the phone numbers of celebrities like Alex Trebek, Kiefer Sutherland, Jeremy Piven, Bob Beauprez, Bobcat Goldthwait and Eddie Money. LPC says he could call Trebek today and the Jeopardy host could recount to him the last ten years of their interactions. Some of those celebrities maintain the same phone numbers.
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The style of every LPC call is surreal and, depending on who's on the other end, potentially hilariously hostile as LPC goads them and takes the conversation in absurd directions. In recent years, with the advent of easily available VOIP technology and software like Skype, LPC has been more easily able to sync up calls with multiple people, whether they are celebrities or unsuspecting clerks at a wide variety of local and non-local businesses (past notables include Wax Trax Records and Twist & Shout Records).
Over the years, LPC has garnered fans outside of Colorado; at first his reputation spread as musicians who toured through Colorado picked up his albums, and then the advent of YouTube brought his project to a wider fan base. Once, Tom Fec of Black Moth Super Rainbow hit up LPC, asking the prankster to do a remix from the 2012 album Cobra Juicy.
“They're very electronic in nature, and I thought it would be neat to take their basic tracks and add acoustic instruments like a real drum kit and guitars and more wooden stuff,” says LPC with a chuckle. “He sent me the multi-tracks, and I left one of the synths and his vocals, and I added real drums and such.”
A decade ago, LPC issued his first retrospective, Longbox Option Package, which included the five albums available at at that time, as well as bonus material and a DVD. At the time, LPC also performed his first live shows. Interest in LPC was high enough that he was able to tour and perform the records' music, not the prank calls.
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“I like to do all kinds of recording projects, musical or not, and I've put musical interludes on the albums, and they're very thrash-metal in nature,” LPC says. “Pretty much every album has one. When I play live, I play those thrash interludes in the live setting. The voice on those songs is actually a synthesizer on a preset with a fax-machine tone. So I play the keys on a fax-machine preset and put it through a talk box so it sounds like a talking fax machine. Live, I take out the guitars and leave pre-recorded drums, bass and voice and play live guitar. Sometimes I add pyrotechnics to make it interesting.”
LPC rarely plays live, though he's likely do so locally in the future, even though the shows won't include prank-phone call performances. Longmont Potion Castle 12 came out earlier this year, and now, a very limited edition of the career-spanning Longmont Potion Castle Official Compact Discography is available through longmontpotioncastle.com. It runs $250, but it includes 24 CDs; two DVDs of rare LPC material including live performances as well as the rejected pilot of a LPC television show; a booklet; and a shirt.
You may be able to catch a live LPC performance soon, but perhaps the best way to experience the work that made him a cult figure in underground music and comedy is to check out any of his albums, none of which disappoint.