Ep. 35 – Films: Barbarian, Karen Gillan’s Conventional, Mia Goth in X, Music: Trevor Dunn & Trio Convulsant’s Séances.

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In this episode, Carl King presents reviews and filmmaking lessons on Barbarian, Karen Gillan’s Conventional, and Mia Goth in X. Then, a Feature Segment: Carl reads a section from his Sir Millard Mulch book “Robots And Aliens.” Finally, the Headphone Album of the Week: Trevor Dunn & Trio Convulsant’s Séances.

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Mark Borchardt’s Mr. Gradville (Radio Drama)

Mr. Bungle / Carry Stress In The Jaw: Transcription

Watch Barbarian

Donovan / Riki Tiki Tavi

Watch Karen Gillan in Conventional

Watch X Starring Mia Goth

Get Trio Convulsant / Séances


I’m Carl King, and this is The Carl King Podcast, where we learn about music, filmmaking, and the other creative arts. To support this podcast, head over to Patreon.com/carlking, and join for just $1 or $5 per month. Or send a tip through PayPal or Venmo to username CarlKingdom. Special thank you to my Illusionist $51 level patrons, both Hank Howard III and Chewbode. 

Quick shout-out to my music endorsements: Vienna Symphonic Library, Fractal Audio, Ernie Ball Strings, Toontrack, and Millennia Media.

Now let’s start to prepare to start getting started! To get this episode Beginned. 


Okay, VERY GOOD FRIENDS of CARL KING. Here’s a Carl King The Human Update. I’m over here recording this episode in Plosive Central, Studio B. Which means I’m… at home. My new video gear HAS arrived at Plosive Central Studio A, and I shot some tests this week. So far, it’s looking good. So I might be able to return to making a YouTube version of The Carl King Podcast as early as next week. 

1 – Folks. FOOOLKS. You might notice I’m putting this episode out a DAY EARLIER than usual. Because it’s Halloween time. So… Happy Halloween!

A year ago, I released an old timey, spooky RADIO DRAMA written Mark Borchardt called MR. GRADVILLE. It was produced and scored by Carl King, that’s ME. With all of the characters performed by Dan Foster and Julia Aks. It ended up being broadcast last Halloween night on WXRW Riverwest Radio Milwaukee. I decided I want to play you just PART the INTRODUCTION right now. Here we go.

I will put a link to the full-length, 53-minute program in the show notes.

2 – Second, a Reddit user named Gwendolyn Gristle responded to my Trevor Dunn interview with a question about the Mr. Bungle song Carry Stress In The Jaw. He or she or they wanted to know how to count that bridge ostinato. So, I transcribed it, and it’s actually a pretty simple 4 measure riff. You can see the notation as well as my explanation on my blog. And I’ll post a link to it in the show notes. 


3 – Third Item of news: I also just finished an updated rough musical demo for Episode 1 of Best of Five, The Classic Tetris Masters. I’ve been hacking away at this score and posting mixes inside my Patreon account. It’s about 35 minutes long, and still far from finished. But you can hear SOME progress IS being made. So Patrons, get in there and check it out. 

And now, let’s get into some Filmmaking Lessons. 


Up first, we have Barbarian, from 2022. Screenwrited and Directed by Zach Cregger. And starring Georgina Campbell. Some of you may know she graduated with a bachelor of arts in film studies. 

When I rented this film, I had to no idea what to expect. I had been invited to a private screening of it a few weeks ago but couldn’t go. 

The film begins with the protagonist, Georgina Campbell, arriving very late at night at an AirBnB. It’s dark, it’s raining, she has no idea where she is. She discovers the KEY is missing from the lock box, can’t get ahold of the rental company… and then realizes SOMEONE ELSE, some GUY, is staying in the house. 

Now let’s dig into the Implausibilities. What does Georgina Campbell do? She bangs on the door and argues with him. To prove she has the right address, she opens up her email and HANDS HIM HER PHONE. Then she even GOES INSIDE with him. 

I thought, this is stupid. There’s no way. This woman is an IDIOT. But I later discovered THIS on Wikipedia:

The writer / director was “inspired by the non-fiction book The Gift of Fear, citing a section that encourages women to trust their intuition. And not ignore the subconscious red flags that arise in their day-to-day interactions with men. He sat down to write a single thirty-page scene that would incorporate as many of these red flags as possible.”

Okay than. I will let everyone know. 

I consider myself new to horror movies. But they seem to REQUIRE the characters to make bad decisions. Like walking backwards into the dark. Not leaving dangerous places the first chance they get. Not making sure the bad guy is really dead.

Anyway, we get some character setup: Georgina Campbell is in town for a job interview. And it ends up having NOTHING to do with the plot. We think we’re going to see one thing and we see another. It makes me feel like, why did they tell us all of that? 

A total of THREE victims go into that house. And from that moment onward, nothing about their lives mattered. I end up feeling it was kind of brilliant that the setups are so digressive. The first THIRTY minutes of set are completely irrelevant to the ACTUAL story. It all gets thrown out.

The character played by Justin Long has a Coen Brothers type eccentricity, which lightens the tone. He owns the AirBnB and he stops by to check on the place because he intends to sell it. To pay for legal fees. He discovers medieval tunnels and torture dungeons far beneath his property. It doesn’t phase him, and he gets the brilliant idea that he can count all of it to claim it as square footage. So he’s down there measuring every tunnel with a measuring tape, seeing dollar signs, thrilled every time he finds a new room. Totally ignores the blood-stained mattress and metal cages. It’s the same way The Dude only cares about his rug, or Walter only cares about bowling. 

Now why is this movie called BARBARIAN? I was thinking… was it because the mother is named Ann, and she lived on Barbary Street? Making her Barbary Ann? Or couldn’t it come from scrambling up the letters of Air BNB? Well, the director claims it was just a placeholder title that stuck. Okay than. I will let everyone know. 

Folks. Fooolks. There are some WILD dynamic arcs here. Brilliant sharp turns. Like that shocking scene where the “bad guy” shows up and brutally kills someone? WOW. And then it cuts to black for a bit. I thought the movie might suddenly be over. Wait. Is this a short film? And what the hell did I just SEE? It was so intense I had to rewind it and watch it a couple times. 

After that long cut to black, it jumps into island-y reggae music with Justin Long driving a sports car down the PCH in Malibu.

He’s singing along, poorly, to a song by Donovan. It’s called Riki Tiki Tavi. I’ll put a link in the show notes in case anyone wants to re-enact that scene sometime. 


This is the most shocking and oddly-shaped film I’ve seen since Titane. Remember that one, where a girl gets pregnant from having sex with a car? Wow. 

Here’s my Takeaway / Filmmaking Lesson from Barbarian: don’t be afraid to crank up those dynamic contrasts and shifts in mood. Like Mr. Bungle, jump from death metal to jazz and back. Go to extremes. Because those extremes will support each other. The lighthearted scenes make the scary scenes even more scary. And vice versa. 

So I gave Barbarian 5 out of 5 stars on Letterboxd, and a little heart. 

FILMMAKING LESSON #2: Conventional (Karen Gillan)

Up next is Conventional, a short film from 2015. Just 9 minutes long. Screenwrited by and Directed by and STARRING Karen Gillan. She’s an actor with a catholic background. 

Conventional is actually daring and creative and funny. 

It’s the story of a horror actress who now spends her time at small conventions, catering to her intense fanboys. It seems she was only in one horror movie, and all of her followers cosplay as the murderer. So she’s surrounded all day by creepy dudes with bad haircuts and axes.  

My favorite detail is that she has inflated plastic surgery type lips that are never addressed. It’s entirely visual. No one ever says, “I notice you have big injected lips.” It has nothing to do with the plot. It’s just THERE and you can’t not notice it. It would have been a totally different feel without that absurd visual. 

The story goes to some dark places, showing what it’s like to have been in the spotlight and then fallen into obscurity. But still craving that validation and attention. 

We see Karen Gillan’s forced CHEERFULNESS as she takes photos with her fans. She says the same thing to every nerd she poses with: “Hi, how ARE you! Thank you so much.” CLICK! “Hi, how ARE you! Thank you, thank you so much.” 

But who out there HASN’T had a job that becomes repetitive? 

My takeaway here is this: if you’re a big-named actor or actress, don’t take yourself too seriously. Take chances. Make some fun short films with your friends, like Karen Gillan does. 

I gave this film 5 out of 5 stars on Letterboxd, and a little heart. 


Up next, we’ve got a horror film called X. 

Screenwrited and directed by Ti West. He’s a guy from Delaware. 

This film stars Mia Goth as TWO characters… both a sort of younger AND older version of herself — the antagonist AND the protagonist. I watched the entire movie and didn’t even know until I saw the credits. And I’m still confused about how that works, if it’s time travel or something, but that’s okay. 

Let’s talk about that opening shot. On first glance, I thought this was a 4:3 aspect ratio but I realized that’s because it’s just framed by a doorway. Gives it a retro look, like Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. If you recall, that was the first film to ever be shot in the taller, better16:12 aspect ratio. 

Now we move on to the first line of dialogue. “Sheriff, you oughta come take a look at this.” It’s one of my least favorite cliche lines, right up there with “We’ve got company.” They could have instead used a silent head gesture to indicate… come with me, let’s go over here. Why not keep the tense silence going? 

They go into the basement and shine the flashlight on the wall. And the sheriff says, “my god.” It was a strong choice to NOT show what he’s seeing. The filmmaker left it up to our imaginations. Good. Good. Good. 

A couple of scenes later, we get an abrupt tonal shift to lighthearted. It’s daytime. Mungo Jerry’s “In The Summertime” is playing. The year is year 1979 and our character exit a strip club. And here we see one of the most horrific shot in this horror movie: Those factories and the city in the background. Disgusting industrial nightmare. 

They get in a van, and turns out they’re a small film crew. They stop at a gas station, but it begins with a closeup shot of a rooster. Wow. How did they get that rooster to stand there and then walk out of the shot with such perfect timing? 

At the end of the gas station scene there’s a Transition to the next scene. Now… common transitions between scenes are hard cuts or wipes or dissolves. But instead, it cuts back and forth a few times like the movie had to make up its mind before settling on the next scene. This happens throughout the film. I don’t know who made that up, but I’ve never seen that in my life. 

There are also what I would call compound shots where a character will leave the scene. The camera keeps rolling and moves over to another mini scene. Like, panning over and pushing in on a television screen. Or it might start with a mini scene before moving over to the main scene. It gives the impression that the viewer kind of wandered into or out of it. Well-done. 

The premise of the story is this: the characters are shooting a porno movie out in the country. And at one point the boom operator decides SHE wants to be on camera and be in the porno they’re making. Her boyfriend, the director objects to it with: “the story can’t just suddenly change mid way through.” She says, “Why?” He responds: “Because it just isn’t done.” I thought, OK, is this what the filmmaker intends to do? Because there’s not much time left in the movie to pull it off. 

Throughout, there are drastic dynamic shifts. There’s a scene with an old woman dancing to oldies music, covered in blood. 

Watching films like this is very much like listening to a Mr. Bungle album. It changes moods quickly. A good way to do that is to drop in unexpected music that’s contradicts the visuals. Someone once called that “ironic counterpoint.” I’m into it. 

But then, about 3/4 of the way through the movie — I guess it’s because it’s now nighttime, the killings start. The slashings, the shootings, the stabbings. 

And I tuned out, took a break, went and did something else. It’s not that gore in movies upsets me. It just feels like a waste of time. Too predictable, like watching sports. It’s like the bad guy lines them up and kills them all, one by one. I think MAYBE if the violence happened off-screen, it would be more powerful. But this movie shows it up close in full detail. 

It’s a bunch of murders that have nothing to do with the setup of the story. None of the backstory ever mattered. Is that good or bad? Sometimes it feels like the right thing. But to be honest I enjoyed the movie a lot more before the horror began. 

By the way, this is another movie where a girl walks down into a dark basement. And guess what. “Hey, I’m locked in!” Same thing as Barbarian. Oops. 

In another scene, the porn star dude wakes up because his bedroom door creaks open. He gets out of bed, NAKED, and walks out into the kitchen, and drinks milk right out of the carton. I don’t remember the crew having milk with them in their van. Where did it come from? Maybe they got it at the convenience store. Only the second thing that grossed me out in this horror movie… a naked porn star dude drinking out of the milk in the middle of the night. Kind of rude and maybe even traumatic, in my opinion. 

So then he turns and looks out the window, and sees the old man outside in the dark with a flashlight. He opens the door wide up and talks to him, with his huge ding dong flapping in the night breeze. Just stands there in the doorway, proudly, legs apart, no attempt to cover himself. 

And it does another one of those “false triple cut transitions” when Mia Goth is running to the truck. Does anyone out there know if this was the first film with that type of edit? 

We get a solid composite shot of the TV closeup and characters in the far background. “That’s what I call divine intervention! Glory be to Jesus!”

In the final scene, the officer says: “What do you reckon happened, Sheriff?” The sheriff says: “How the hell should I know?” Which is kind of funny, and it reminds me of the end of Burn After Reading. 

My Filmmaking Lesson / Takeaway is related to cinematography. Use those slow, compound shots. Explore the scene and the location. Start closeup on an object (or like they did in this film, a rooster) and move out and THEN begin the main scene. Wander back out of the scene at the end, and move in on another detail. First of all, it’s more creative — it adds atmosphere. And second, it’ll help you avoid jump shots later in the editing. It gives you more material to play with. 

I’m giving this one 5/5 stars on Letterboxd. Even though, if it were up to me, I would have cut out the last 1/4 of the film.

And now, onto our FEATURE SEGMENT. 


The following is an abridged excerpt from my book, ROBOTS AND ALIENS, which you can only get on Patreon at the $5 Level and Up. It’s 125 pages or so, and this segment was edited together with portions from a few different chapters. Here we go. 

In June 1997, I released Sir Millard Mulch: 7 Pot-Boiling Delusions.

The cover of that cassette featured an awkward black & white photo of me in my friend Brad Fries’s bedroom, wearing a light gray shirt that was too big and some sunglasses (not the famous green ones, though). I superimposed a dollar sign on my shirt. My thinking at the time was: “This photo makes no sense and also makes me laugh.” But it wasn’t weird enough to be attention-getting, and it didn’t convey anything about the music. I look back at that photo as a bad choice for cover art.

About the title: a “Pot-Boiler” is a work of art made solely for commercial purposes. Since my music was instrumental prog- rock with absurdist humor (the opposite of commercial), it felt like a proper, ironic name.

The cassette had, as you can guess, seven tracks:

1 – “Broccoli”
2 – “Perfectly Square”
3 – “Grandpa Al vs. The Hoth Wampa”
4 – “The Definition of Banana”
5 – “Who?”
6 – “15 Interesting Things To Do With Tiny Chairs”
7 – “Goodnight!”

It was Pat McDonald on ddrums, and me physically playing everything else. All the guitar, bass, vocals, and keyboards. 

I ordered 100 tapes, duplicated by Klarity Kassette in Maine.

I designed the packaging myself using CorelDRAW at MaxGraphics. When it came time to print, their pressman messed up the 3-color offset printing of the J-cards, which were on glossy cardstock. It’s rare to run only 100 prints of a 3-color job, due to each color needing films and a separate pass through the press. It was overkill. The fact that almost all of that short run was wrong is a testament to my lack of resources and Venice conspiring against me.

I selected one print from the failed batch that looked acceptable, and resorted to running it through the MaxGraphics color copier. Color copies were expensive at the time, which sucked. I think they were $4 each.

Understand: I had to do all of that because there was no way to directly print from the multi-color computer file to the color copier on the far side of the room. PDFs existed, but were unheard of in small print shops at that time. Having an original cassette cover with any kind of color was a big deal. I was attempting to distinguish myself from black & white photocopied cassette covers.

I’m pretty sure I mailed out just three copies to important people: One to Trey Spruance of Mr. Bungle, one to the address in the liner notes of Steve Vai’s Fire Garden CD, and one to Jello Biafra at Alternative Tentacles. It’s likely I sold a few for $7 each to some locals, but nothing worth remembering.

To my delight, the cassette got a couple of reviews in regional magazines: Jam and INK19. 

At some point, I also sent a copy of my tape to Devin Townsend, and he mentioned it in an online magazine as one of his current favorites.

That year I attended the Florida Drum Expo in Tampa, where I interrupted Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater on stage (as he spoke to the audience) to HAND HIM my very important cassette. I never heard anything about it from him, but years later, he did buy one of my albums on CD Baby.

The experience of making that tape was a high point in my life. I felt proud of myself and I expected the world to feel the same. I thought it was so good that I feared how much it would blow up.

I believed success would come from the outside. Any day now, an external force would reward me for my talent and hard work. I imagined it would be one of these things:

1 – A record label would sign me.

2 – A band I loved would ask me to join or open for them (Steve Vai, Mr. Bungle, Primus, Devin Townsend, etc.).

3 – Someone important would wave their hands and make things happen.

If one of those things would occur, I’d never need to get a stupid job again. I’d be on a sort of “train” with perpetual career motion.

It was an urgent matter. And when nothing immediately happened, I crashed into depression and felt like a failure.

I had no idea what to do next. Pat McDonald had moved to Nashville, and I didn’t know anyone else who could play my music. I had no band. Everyone said the same thing: I had to TOUR. I felt STUCK until I could do that.

At the time, it seemed unacceptable for me to just plug in my bass or guitar and play over backing tracks. It wouldn’t have felt legit. But looking back, I could have easily done that. I truly didn’t need a band.

The rest of 1997 was a dark time.

I continued in music school, but I was consumed with anger.

I didn’t want to be there. I wanted to be touring, playing my complicated music. What was I supposed to do, make yet another tape? And without Pat?

For the fall semester at school, I switched over to Percussion

as my principal instrument. I joined the Wind Ensemble which played a lot of patriotic Sousa marches. In one of the pieces, I had my very own extended snare drum solo.

My financial condition (broke) would have been completely normal for a full-time college student (which I was). But at the time it was a source of embarrassment for me. I felt enormous pressure to make something of myself. I resented having such crappy jobs and being dependent on my mom. In that situation, I lacked the power to do what I wanted: record my own albums, run a record label, put a Sir Millard Mulch band together, and tour the world. Every day that I didn’t “make it” was another day of feeling like a failure.

College was taking too long. I was freaking out. The truth is, I was too impatient.

Back then, I didn’t view those years as “my early years.” As far as I was concerned, there was no future. Whatever I was going to do, I had to do it now.

When they were my age, Mr. Bungle had already made their first album on Warner Brothers, and Steve Vai was working for Frank Zappa. At the old age of 22, I felt that I was falling behind. My standards were impossibly high. I was comparing myself to the only examples I knew of: highly visible “rock stars” who achieved an unlikely and outrageous level of success. But I was committing a thinking error. Since I didn’t know of anyone who DIDN’T succeed making that kind of music, I must be the only one failing. I know now that I was unfair to myself.

In September, Flail drove me up to Atlanta to see Strapping Young Lad. I was determined to meet Devin Townsend in person. We got to the venue early in the day and I found Devin sitting outside in the tour van, which was crudely painted with the SYL logo. He was drawing a pencil sketch of Johnny Cash. He told me he hated hair, and that “Humans are pink blobs of flesh with shit growing out the top.” We talked for a couple hours. I asked him naive questions. I shared my frustration about “The Definition of Banana” being the memorable track on my tape, to which he replied: “Technical ability be damned when delivering an exposition on fruit.” He wasn’t living a glamorous life. He showed me the jars of peanut butter the band lived on. And how many CDs and tapes bands gave him. He had the naked discs jammed all along into the sides of the ceiling of the van. I thought, wow, so many people are trying to get him to listen to their music. I felt kinda lucky to be sort of friends with him. Through our continued correspondence, he went on to disillusion me about the music industry. His own bad experiences related to me via email made me angry. I identified with all of it.

Out of desperation, I plotted the creation of a full-length Sir Millard Mulch CD. The idea for including 50 songs came from a package of Christmas lights I saw at Target. Hey, you gotta get your ideas anywhere you can. Plus, 50 songs was the perfect, absurd amount for an album. Because who does that? I would stand out from everyone else.

It would be titled: 50 Intellectually Stimulating Themes From A Cheap Amusement Park For Robots And Aliens, Vol. 1. 

Well. To read the entire Robots And Aliens book, join my Patreon for $5 or more. https://www.Patreon.com/carlking

OK, now on to the Headphone Album Of The Week. 

HEADPHONE ALBUM OF THE WEEK: Trio Convulsant / Séances

In my last episode I interviewed Trevor Dunn. And of course you listened to that, so you’ll know his new Trio Convulsant album came out this weekend, just in time for Halloween. And it is called SÉANCES. And the first E in the title has one of those little diacritical marks over it.

Mr. Dunn describes its contents as “Chamber-Jazz-Metal inspired by bizarre tales of an 18th-century French religious sect.”

Okay than. I will let everyone know. 

But what is this thing called Trio Convulsant? In my recent interview, Trevor said THIS: “Trio-Convulsant initiated out of the concept of having a jazz trio but using rock language and using power chords and being kind of heavy with it, but also composing for it as if it’s classical music.” 

Hmm. So let’s examine this TRIO. The MAIN and obvious part of the TRIO is a 3-piece rock band: guitar, bass, and drums — but with Trevor instead playing UPRIGHT BASS. And he brought in Mary Halvorson on Guitar, and Ches Smith on Drums. You might know of Ches Smith’s drumming from John Zorn and several Secret Chiefs 3 records. 

I recommend getting on YouTube and looking up some videos of Ches Smith and Mary Halvorson. Super impressive musicians that I was previously unaware of. 

Anyway, as I said, those THREE musicians, are just one PART of the Trio. 

The OTHER part of The Trio are… 4 MORE musicians playing flute, bass clarinet, cello, and violin. And by the way, that violin is played by none other than CARLA KIHLSTEDT. That’s right, from Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. 

Back to the mathematical part of this podcast: Trio Convulsant has a quartet INSIDE the trio. It’s kind of a nested tuplet taken to a meta level. Seven inside of three? I think it’s the only place on earth you can pay for the Trio, and get a SEPTET. 

FOLKS. FOOOLKS. This is the kind of music that can take time for us to understand and relate to. The more we listen, the more it makes sense. Hard to make, AND to enjoy. But it’s worth it. It’s like looking at one of those optical illusions, where if you look at it long enough a coherent image pops out. I’ve listened to the album probably 20 times in the past couple of weeks, and I feel like I’m just now starting to find my way through it. 

Because if I squint my brain, only half paying attention, it sure does sound like Stravinsky. 

You’ll probably realize that Mr. Bungle is fairly accessible by comparison, as they had SONG STRUCTURES with lyrics — while THIS music goes off into the deep end of instrumental complexity. The shortest track here is just barely less than 5 minutes. The longest is a little over 9 minutes. Average is about 7 minutes considering the total running time is 47 minutes and there are 7 tracks. 

Now I could be wrong, but I think some of this music follows a form that’s common to JAZZ. A piece will start out with the main theme, which I think is called a HEAD? And then there’s a long middle section where the musicians explore. Then they give the signal to return to that head.

But the thing is, this music is so dissonant and complex, with so much counterpoint, I’m not entirely sure that’s happening, and it’s easy to get lost. So if you’re one of those prog rock snobs who thinks an occasional bar of 7/8 is impressive, try making sense of Trio Convulsant. 

So put on your headphones, turn off the lights, close your eyes, and listen to Seances. At this point you can stream it anywhere but it’s even better if you buy it at BandCamp — so the largest amount of cash will go straight to the artist. I’ll put a link in the description. 

Trio Convulsant / Séances on Bandcamp



OK, that’s the end of this Episode of the Carl King Podcast. Remember to subscribe on Spotify, Apple Music, or anywhere else you listen to these dang podcasts. And support the creation of more episodes by joining my Patreon for $1 or $5 a month. That’s Patreon Dot Com Slash Carl King. Or send a tip through PayPal or Venmo to username CarlKingdom.

And as always, special thanks to my $51 a month Patrons, at the special Illusionist level, Chewbode and Hank Howard III. And thank you to ALL of the Very Good Friends of Carl King for listening, and as I always say: Okay Than. I will let everyone know. 

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