A series of unfortunate and embarrassing events.
I am a perfectionist. As a teenager, I thought that made me harder working, more discerning, more reliable. But there are negatives to that trait. Being a perfectionist can make me unfair, unkind, unrelenting and discontented, with myself more than anyone. I still struggle with perfectionism, which is why I type this blog post with a cringy sense of nausea.
On April 9th, I launched my podcast In the Telling. I meticulously prepared for this launch for over a month. There was a lot I had to learn, and I was doing it all myself. Complete novice DIY–not a situation in which a perfectionist tends to find total satisfaction. But I threw myself into it and have really enjoyed the learning process, mistakes and all. Then, I messed up the audio of an interview I really loved.
I was at Mystery Escape Rooms in Salt Lake City with owner and founder Leslie Pardew. I was totally digging our conversation. Les was so articulate and interesting. It was one of my first interviews. And it was one of the first interviews I edited. If you want the technical breakdown of how I screwed up the editing and engineering of the audio file, see the long italicized paragraph at the end of this post.
When I went back to edit the interview later, I realized what had happened to the audio file and that it couldn’t be fixed. I could ask Les to interview again. That would involve explaining my mistakes to someone I admired, but it would likely get me a better audio file. I could use the file and pretend I didn’t notice the difference in quality. I could scrap the interview. Instead, I decided to publish his entire interview in small chapters.
Why not re-record the interview? For one very important factor–a factor I’ve decided I care about more than embarrassment or even quality audio. The content of Les’s interview is exceptional, and there was a kind of magic in speaking with him. I think you can hear in my voice and in his, in spite of what’s happened to the audio, how deeply engaging this conversation was. I don’t want to lose that moment, that authenticity. I don’t think that magic would be quite the same if we tried a do-over.
So, here is the full Leslie Pardew interview (a privilege I normally reserve for my Patreon supporters) conveniently broken out into manageable chapters. And as embarrassing as it is to send my flawed work out for all to see, I hope absolutely everyone listens to all of it, because it was a fantastic interview!
Les took me on a behind the scenes tour of Mystery Escape Rooms which I recorded with my phone and because the tour included background music that was essential to the experience, and I didn’t touch the file until after I made the mistake with his interview, that file is awesome! I didn’t make the same mistake with that audio. You can listen to that bonus material on the link below, or here or download it here. Everything embedded on this post can be found wherever you get your podcasts.
I kept my phone recording during the first part of our sit-down interview and have replaced the wonky file with what my phone recorded for as long as I kept my phone recording. I wish I had let my phone run for the whole interview! (sigh)
Thank you Les for sitting down with me. Thank you for the full access to your incredible Mystery Escape Rooms in SLC. Thank you for geeking out with me and being so generous with your time. And Reader? Listener? Thank you for being part of my learning trajectory. Thanks for supporting my early efforts and sticking with me as I try to meet my expectations.
Technical Issues: I use Audacity to record and edit the audio for my interviews. I love Audacity and it’s free, but a program is only as good as its user. Here’s what happened. Les was my first on-site interview. The room we recorded in had a lot of hard surfaces and a consistent background noise of humming, hubbub, music, etc from other parts of the building. This is a terrible situation for recording. But I didn’t want to be ungracious to my guest and I figured, with what I knew about Audacity and noise reduction, I could “take care of it in post.” Les’s interview wasn’t my first file I edited, but it may have been my second and the first didn’t have nearly the same background noise situation because it had been recorded in my basement. My previous experiences with Audacity had been very successful under the following routine: find a segment of relative silence where no one is speaking, get a noise profile and blanket wash the file with noise reduction, then move on to any other editing needs. Having recorded Les straight into Audacity, when I got home, I got the noise profile, cleansed the entire interview with noise reduction, saved the file and closed it to do the remainder of the editing later. If only I had listened to what noise reduction had done before I saved and closed, I could have undone the effect. When you have a lot of background interference, and you try to take it all out, you will get real silence between the speaking voices, but something awful happens to the quality of the spoken voice and you can end up up with a strange mix of remnant background noise and tin-sounding spoken voice in the same wave-form that I don’t know how to separate. That’s what I did. It worked in the past, and it was exactly the wrong choice for this circumstance. I didn’t listen to the file before saving the changes. I was working on the original, raw file, without having a backup copy.