Dropping Bombs

Podcaster Aaron Roden can’t stop talking.

“I’ve created a hobby out of needing people,” says Aaron Roden, which is a clever quip though not entirely true. Roden’s hobby is podcasting and his show, Air Raid, recently logged its 249th episode in five-plus years. Those numbers testify to Roden’s unwavering dedication (obsession?) to conducting conversations with people he doesn’t know very well—chiefly luminaries of Seattle music, filmmaking and comedy—and making those conversations available to the public.

Born and raised on the Kitsap Peninsula, Roden, 34, is a married father of two and city-employed geologist by trade. His gregarious nature—“I’ve always had a knack for picking up and talking to a stranger,” he says—makes him a natural interviewer, whether or not he’s behind a microphone.

“When someone tells me, ‘You’re good at talking,’ I don’t take that as a compliment,” he says, sipping a glass of whisky on a Friday afternoon in the guest house behind his home in Bitter Lake, which he uses as his recording studio. “It’s gotten me into trouble and made me late a lot of times because I don’t know how to get out of a conversation.”

Whether driven by bravado or ignorance, when he first started Air Raid Roden aspired to the top-dog status enjoyed by seasoned podcasters like Mark Maron of WTF and Luke Burbank of Too Beautiful to Live. Unlike his heroes, he entered the game without any preexisting celebrity to boost his credibility. Early interviews with filmmaker Lynn Shelton and musician/writer Sean Nelson snowballed into subsequent interviews with nationally touring performers like Trailer Park Boys and Bob Saget.

Roden developed an interview style—part armchair psychologist, part just-happy-to-be-here superfan—to tease out the kind of offbeat, humanizing insights his subjects rarely give to fact-finding journalists. His conversations need to be discursive to fill Air Raid’s 45–50 minutes of airtime. Roden says his guests are roughly 75 percent Seattle talent, 25 percent national names that draw attention to the show. Presumably many of his listeners—which he says he doesn’t have the proper analytic tools to count—tune in no matter who Roden’s guest is; Roden, earnest and enthusiastic, is himself a draw. The mix of local and national names puts Air Raid guests on an equal playing field.

“I had no idea when I started the show that there’s so much awesome talent in this town,” Roden says.

In the past few months, he’s disarmed some notoriously prickly subjects to elicit unique, affecting on-air moments: Ishmael Butler revealed the story behind his first-ever performance, at a Garfield High School talent show, for example, and he inadvertently bonded with Montage of Heck director Brett Morgen who was fervently missing his kids during an 18-hour press junket. Most recently, while recording episode 249 at the Crocodile “all hopped up on Dayquil,” he pissed off Jon Spencer of the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion by referring to his music as “lo-fi.” Roden rarely edits out his flubs from the finished podcast.

“People enjoy hearing me fail,” he says.

Not enough so that his reputation suffers. Roden says that these days, publicists and artists like Spencer are requesting appearances on the show. To Roden, that’s validation in its own right. The show is a featured podcast on KIRO Radio’s website and occasionally, when featuring a bigger-named guest, gets top billing on iTunes.

“That’s something I’m always concerned about,” he says. “Do I have any cred at all? I don’t know.”

Roden hosts his second-annual Air Raid Live show at Naked City Brewery in Greenwood on Saturday, June 20. Guests are comedian Elicia Sanchez, musicians Mikey and Matty, and Galen Disston and Michael Parker of Pickwick.