ASCII by Jason Scott

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Pud —

Philip J. Kaplan, “Pud” of (and a bunch of other sites) was interviewed for the BBS Documentary in 2002. I’ve now finally put his total interview up, and it’s definitely one of the more entertaining and hilarious ones, all the way through:

It’s about 43 minutes, and you can tell in the first 15 seconds how it’s all going to go.

Here’s the description from the notes for that interview:

Pud was a complete drop out of the dark for me. As a reader of throughout the late 1990’s, I’d always enjoyed his wry sense of humor and quick jabs at some of the foolish companies that took so much money from everyone in the name of pies in the skies. So it was very surprising when he contacted me, directly, out of the blue and said that he was interested in being interviewed.

It turned out that Philip Kaplan (“Pud” on his site) had run a pirate BBS in earlier times, before he’d joined the world wide web. And not only that, he really wanted to talk about it. This was big news, because in the amount of talking I’d done with anyone who’d touched pirated software or BBSes, the general reaction was a complete disinterest in talking about those days. A few mentioned the Statute of Limitations and their current positions in society as reasons; obviously Kaplan did not really care what other people thought. And really, it came out in his interview that he was no insane big player in the pirating of software; just another kid with a BBS who offered a few games for download that weren’t his.

The interview was to be done at his offices in New York City, and when I arrived a half-hour before the appointed time, I decided to stick it out in the lobby of the thin, strange building in downtown until the right moment. I got into the clanky elevator about five minutes before the appointment, not wanting to show up too early but not cruise in late, either. Imagine my surprise when I got to the floor, went into the hallway, and found all the doors locked and all the lights off.

I waited around for an hour and a half, figuring I’d messed up in some way, double checking the time, calling Pud’s phone number from the interview sheet, and trying to determine what to do next. It was apparent at that time that for whatever reason, Pud was not going to be available for an interview.

Outside, with my equipment, I decided that I really needed to make up for the 200 miles I’d driven in some fashion, so I called an old friend of mine from the BBS days whose number I had on my cell phone. He used to call my BBS in the 1980’s and ran a rival BBS for a while before his family moved away, and we’d connected again in the 1990’s after he came to work in NYC. I figured I could spend the day with him, and maybe even interview him, so I’d have some footage to show for the day.

As it turned out, my friend was not available for a visit or interview, as he had a bunch of other things to do that day. But in a level of synchronicity I still cannot believe, he said “Wait… pud? He hosts with the company I work for. Let me get his cell phone.”

Let’s just focus on that again. I was in New York City, home of millions, and I was unable to reach someone, and I called one number of one friend who lived there, and he knew how to reach that person.

Pud called me 10 minutes later and apologized profusely. It turned out he was rehearsing with his band late the previous night and had just fallen asleep at the rehearsal studio. He gave me directions to where the studio was and told me to call upstairs to be let in.

I decided to just bite the bullet and take a (expensive) cab ride the many blocks to the studio. It was a nondescript building, certainly nothing that looked like you’d go there to do music or anything else. I always have a slight amount of nervousness walking around in a city laden with an obvious pile of expensive audiovisual equipment, and the look of the place didn’t help all that much, but after some effort, I got inside and Pud came down to get me.

The building was basically all rehearsal studios, lots of rooms with black walls and tons of flyers and info sheets on hopeful bands trying to get a break. In Pud’s space, he had a massive drum set, a bunch of keyboards and drum machines, a few guitars and lots of other similar stuff you’d expect to see. He also had some intense stage lights set up, I guess so he could get used to doing his work while distracting lights blazed all around in his face.

Pud had a bandmate who was somewhat disinterested in the whole endeavor as I set up. Pud didn’t seem to have an interest in sitting anywhere besides his drum set, so I simply aimed the camera that way. I had a back light to shine at him from one side, but the weird lights on the ceiling provided more than enough brightness, although of course they killed anything resembling color balance.

Pud told me that this was the same rehearsal building where Madonna used to practice in her early Like a Virgin days. In the meantime, of course, hundreds of bands had been through this place, and many of them were playing that very moment.

In fact, they were playing around the room we were in, to the point that it was difficult to hear Pud from across the room. This was a sound nightmare. I couldn’t very well tell the other bands they had to stop playing, and so was resigned to the idea that none of this interview would be usable.

Since the interview was being conducted with a massive drum kit in the shot, I had a weird idea; maybe if I took the boom microphone I used and put it right in front of Pud’s face, inches from his mouth, I could get enough of his voice in there to drown out some of the background sound. I figured that with so much obvious music equipment in the shot, nobody would really think a boom mike out of place, especially if I aimed it as if it was always supposed to be there.

This worked; when I got the tape at my friend Delchi’s apartment later that day, I found that the sound on Pud was really, really good and everything he said came out clearly. You could hear the bands if you listened, but it was fuzzy background, not the in-your-face din that it was at the interview. In fact, it was so loud at the interview that I had to shout the questions at him for him to hear me some of the time. So really, all things considered, between the random call that got me in contact with Pud to the luck-out with the sound, the whole interview is a miracle.

The interview lasted about an hour before Pud got bored. While I was setting up, he played a bunch of drum solos and flipped his drumsticks around a bunch of times, so that’s on tape too. His cowboy hat and willingness to answer every question candidly adds a real spice to the whole interview, so it’s one of my favorites for that reason. We talked about running his pirate BBS, how he used his skills with BBSes to make’s web boards move smoothly, and we talked a lot about how the internet changed the face of BBSes forever.

After the interview, I got a cab ride down to where I’d parked the car, and headed over to Queens, where Delchi (another interviewee) had an apartment, and where I hung out before driving home. It was a great time.

By the way, as I said before… since I go through these interviews one more time, then I have to upload a 2 gigabyte MPEG file (and some additional other files) and then edit in all the relevant information into, the whole process is taking a significant amount of time to do. But it is being done.

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