Kyle Byrd has been a big name in kaiju-related journalism, and is most well-known for co-founding the ambitious and prolific Kaiju Transmissions Podcast with Matt Parmley. Over the course of only about five years, the Kaiju Transmissions Podcast has really exploded and netted tons of huge interviews and over two hundred episodes! Byrd also was a huge part of the Kaiju Masterclass online virtual con, which our own Patrick Galvan also helped to work on. Nicholas Driscoll asked Kyle to do an interview on his kaiju-related activities, and he graciously accepted, with the following as a result.
Nicholas Driscoll: I like to start with a few standard fan questions if you don’t mind! How did you get into tokusatsu films? What are your favorite tokusatsu films, favorite Godzilla costume, favorite monsters other than Godzilla, favorite Godzilla film, least favorite Godzilla film (you are allowed to not answer that!)? If Godzilla could fight any other giant monster from any other franchise, what would you like to see?
Kyle Byrd: I feel like my story is the same boring story as most fans my age. I was a huge dinosaur lover as a kid. I loved dinosaur movies, toys, etc. When I was around 4 years old, my mom bought me the small Imperial Godzilla and King Kong figures, as well as the Imperial Godzilla bubble blower. I thought they were neat but I never really sought out any of the movies at that age. I had seen bits and pieces of films here and there and knew the characters from commercials, pop culture references, etc. though.
Anyway, a little less than a year later, I entered into the second grade and one of the other kids was huge into Godzilla and we struck up a friendship. From there, I rented Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972) and Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla (1974) from the local video store and became obsessed. I made it my mission to find every Godzilla, Kong, and Japanese monster movie I could. This was in 1993, so I couldn’t hop on the internet and have the entire filmography in front of me, so it was always exciting to come across one I hadn’t seen before on TV or at the video store. I checked the Ian Thorne Godzilla book out from the library so many times that my grandparents just photocopied the damn thing for me so we didn’t have to keep checking it out! From there, I really lucked out in discovering stuff like imported Bandai toys and bootleg VHS tapes through catalogs we used to get from the local comic shops. One called Toy Shop led me to a lot of cool stuff. They were basically catalogs of independent toy and collectable vendors. Think eBay before the internet. Anyway, that allowed me to find out about things like the Heisei Godzilla films (and where to obtain them as they were being released), G-Fan magazine, and G-Fest (then called G-Con) pretty quickly. Those years are extremely sentimental to me and I have tons of stories about being a young kaiju fan discovering all these different things in the pre-internet days of the early-mid 90s, but it’s probably time to get to the rest of the question. Oddly enough, that same school friend fell out of the interest pretty quickly. But he made me into a fan for life.
As for favorite toku films, I love most of the obvious ones. Godzilla (1954), Mothra vs. Godzilla (1964) and Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965) are probably my top 3 Godzilla films. I’m a huge fan of Ishiro Honda, so most of his entries are favorites. Setting those aside, I love Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972), and GMK a lot. Non-Godzilla favorites include the 90’s Gamera trilogy, Daimajin, Matango (1963), Mothra (1961), The Human Vapour (1960), The Last War (1961), Frankenstein vs. Baragon (1965) and The War of The Gargantuas (1966).
My least favorite Godzilla films would be easily be the anime trilogy that Toho did with Polygon Pictures. There are little sketches of decent ideas in those but I found them so lacking that they really did nothing for me whatsoever. After that it would probably be the 1998 Tristar film. My least favorite live action Japanese Godzilla films would have to be Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994) and Shin Godzilla (2016). I’m ok with that. I think fans expect to love everything a franchise puts out but the more stuff that comes out, the more likely it is that something may not sit well with you and that’s perfectly ok.
My favorite Godzilla suits would probably be 1954, 1962, 1968, 1989, and 1993. My favorite monsters other than Godzilla would include King Kong, Anguirus, Titanosaurus, Mothra, Rodan, Ghidorah, Baragon, Iris, and Guiron.
On the subject of crossovers, I kinda prefer franchises to live and breathe on their own. They can be kinda fun sometimes, I’m just not super eager for them. So gun to my head and I HAVE to choose one, I think I’d say it would be interesting to see Godzilla go against something like Daimajin. I guess Gamera is the common answer here, but I’d prefer something that would provide a starker contrast to the Big G.
Driscoll: How did Kaiju Transmissions get started? Can you give us a little history?
Byrd: I started podcasting in 2011 with my friend Trevor Snyder. We had a show called If It Bleeds, We Can Kill It, which was kind of a show about general geek media. We did that until early 2018, and at that point we’d both had other podcasts we were doing and it just kind of got phased out, but that’s really how we both cut our teeth. Trev shows up on Kaiju Transmissions quite a bit still. Anyway, my friend Matt Parmley had the idea to do a kaiju podcast in spring of 2016 and asked myself and a mutual, Tom Gueli to join. Tom had been a friend and fellow podcaster and I knew both him and Matt from the old Monster Zero website forums. They thought to ask me because we’d posted on those forums for a long time. Anyway, that original idea didn’t really take off, but Tom gave his blessing to Matt and I to move forward anyway, and thus Kaiju Transmissions was born! Tom is a very frequent guest host on the show these days. He, my old podcast co-host Trevor and Kevin Derendorf (author of the Maser Patrol blog and the book Kaiju For Hipsters) show up so often, they’re basically in a revolving door of third co-hosts. Then a few months after we went live, our friend Christopher Marti made up some logo graphics and also wrote and recorded our theme music (under his musician moniker Cosmic Monster) and we were off to the races.
Driscoll: How do you decide what you will cover? Do you have a specific goal for your podcast that makes it different from the many others out there?
Byrd: What we like to cover is kind of tied into the goal of the show and how we want to be a bit different. I’d really enjoyed what Kyle Yount was doing with his Kaijucast, but I knew I didn’t want to copy his format. So when the idea of doing a kaiju podcast was brought up to me, there was a good handful of them out there… there’s even MORE of them now, but we started around the same time that they were starting to pop up more. A lot of them had a similar format- a lot of “we go through the Godzilla series with someone who has never watched a Godzilla movie” and things like that and then they’d kind of just review the films. Furthermore, a lot of the ones out there were fairly limited in scope- they JUST covered Godzilla, Gamera, etc. And that’s fine, I don’t have a negative opinion of that or anything. I’m just saying that I wanted us to have a looser range in what we would cover. Lots of Godzilla fans won’t even watch non-Godzilla kaiju films, and I really wanted our goal to get fans to check out similar/adjacent things that they might not check out otherwise. Another big part of the goal is to provide as much cultural and historical context to the productions as possible. So in addition to just doing reviews, we want to provide as full of a retrospective as possible about the subjects. There’s a strange lack of discourse sometimes about the historical and cultural contexts of these productions, as well as the artists who created them. Sometimes there just isn’t that much info out there, but we always try to include as much as we can.
I drew inspiration from some of the stuff I’d read when I was growing up that offered a variety of content. Reading Stuart Galbraith’s books like Monsters Are Attacking Tokyo!, or Japanese Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror Films, and even things like old G-Fan and Markalite magazines really made me aware of all kinds of genre stuff that didn’t really have anything to do with Godzilla. So that’s where our descriptive slogan “Exploring giant monsters and Japanese fantasy” came from. Most giant monster movies and most Japanese sci-fi, fantasy, and horror films are fair game. That opens up all kinds of possibilities to talk about an eclectic mix of things and hopefully turn some people onto some new stuff. So we’ve done Harryhausen movies, Jurassic Park, tokusatsu disaster films like The Last War (1961), Death Note, anime like Neon Genesis Evangelion, Japanese hero stuff like Kamen Rider and Ultraman, etc, etc. As long as it fits within that slogan, it’s eligible. For example, you might not subscribe to this podcast and expect to hear about something like the Starship Troopers franchise, but in addition to having giant monsters in it, there’s an 80s anime series, and the original book was massively influential on lots of Japanese anime and science fiction creators. And the two most recent films were Japanese/American co-productions. So that right there is enough for us. I figure if anyone thinks it’s too off-track or if they aren’t interested, they can hang in there because we’ll most likely get back to more traditional Japanese monster stuff in the following episode. One of my favorite non-kaiju things to do is Japanese horror films every October. We’re big horror movie fans so we’ve done that every October since we’ve existed. So we’ve done things like Kwaidan, Shusuke Kaneko and Ryuhei Kitamura’s horror films, Toho’s mutant trilogy, etc, and that’s always a lot of fun.
Driscoll: Are there any particular episodes you are especially proud of?
Byrd: As far as traditional KT episodes go, I do have some favorites. I’m not counting any of the interviews we’ve done because those are too obvious. But I think our audio commentaries have been a lot of fun- our King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) commentary and our Godzilla’s Revenge commentaries come to mind as being ones I think turned out well. Our episode covering the Dino DeLaurentiis Kong films is one I’m proud of because we were able to get into not only how messy those productions were, but also the long and convoluted history of the King Kong rights. I’ve had a lot of people compliment our episode all about the politics of Shin Godzilla (2016) that we did with Chris Marti, so we must have done something right there. Oh, our episode we did last year with Kyle Yount from Kaijucast where we talked about the Japanese legend of Yamato Takeru and the films about it is also one I felt came out particularly well.
Driscoll: As a related question, I know that Kaiju Transmissions has had a number of memorable interviews like the legendary Sonny Chiba, author Greg Keyes, directors like Norman England and Mitch Teemley, and SRS cinema’s Ron Bonk. Can you tell us about some of your experiences interviewing some of these individuals?
Byrd: So far every guest we’ve managed to get has been nothing short of wonderful. Sometimes we get offers to interview certain guests and other times we just ask the guest or someone that we may know that works with the guest. Either way, I’ve found the easiest way to get an interview is to just ask. We’ve been lucky enough to interview many actors, directors, and writers over the years. Some of them like Steve Wang and Linda Haynes got incredibly candid and personal at times. Linda Miller was another favorite; she was a total blast. Our recent interview with the author of the Monsterverse novelizations, Greg Keyes, turned out really well I thought. Also, I got to go to the Grand Rapids Comic Con to interview suit actor Mizuho Yoshida, which was a great time. With Norman England, he was actually one of the first sort of “known” people to reach out to us. I got a very nice message from him about the podcast shortly after we started. I didn’t really know him at all back then, so it was super encouraging. We ended up getting him on to talk about his experiences on the Godzilla sets and he’s since come back numerous times, including talking about his own film The iDol and doing a full commentary for GMK with us. I think that helped us quite a bit early on.
Sonny Chiba was a funny one because that was done at the Fandom Fest convention in Kentucky (as was our interview with the actor Kenji Ohba) and for reasons that are escaping me at the moment, it got moved from a convention center to an abandoned Macy’s store in a nearby mall. So the interviews had to be done in the old dressing rooms. I wasn’t able to make that show, so Matt did those by himself, but just the idea of him having to interview Sonny Chiba and Kenji Ohba in a dressing room of an abandoned Macy’s cracks me up. It was already amazing and surreal enough to get a star like Sonny Chiba on our podcast, but the environment in which it was done takes it to a whole other level of weirdness.
Driscoll: Which episodes were the most difficult to put together, do you think?
Byrd: I think the hardest episodes to do are definitely the ones covering television shows. I don’t think we have the hang of it yet, even though we’ve done plenty of shows at this point. With TV there is just so much content that trying to condense it all can be a challenge. With things with under 30 episodes like say, Neo Ultra Q or Zone Fighter (1973), it wasn’t so bad. But when we get into shows like Godzilla: The Series or Ultraman Ace, where they have over 40-50 episodes, it becomes unwieldy. Another show that was really hard was the first season of Pacific Rim: The Black because it basically ends during what feels like the middle of the story, so it was like reviewing a show of just setup. So we’re definitely still learning when it comes to doing tv shows.
Driscoll: I enjoyed listening to some of your commentaries, such as on Ghidorah the Three-Headed Monster. How do you go about preparing for and putting together your movie commentaries? How do you choose which films to do?
Byrd: Thanks, the commentaries are great fun. Sometimes we will choose a movie that kind of ties into something current- Ghidorah was intended to be done around the same time as Legendary’s King of the Monsters, but we couldn’t get it done in time. We did King Kong vs. Godzilla right before Godzilla vs. Kong came out. But usually, the big thing is choosing a movie that we feel like we have a lot to say about. We kind of plowed through the entire Godzilla franchise quickly at the beginning, so we’ll usually choose a movie that we think we may have skipped over a lot of history on or maybe one we’ve learned a lot about since our initial reviews. So it is usually something we feel like we aren’t quite done talking about or something that has a lot of history that people might not know of. From there, we do a big deep dive into the production. We will research things like early script drafts, the cultural and historical context of the time period, stories from the set, how certain effects were done, the lives of the people who made the film, and the overall production process. We’ll also take a look at some oft-repeated falsehoods and rumors about the film and provide information to debunk them. That’s kind of the goal with the commentaries, along with just trying to have an entertaining and fun conversation. So far we’ve only had two exceptions to our usual commentary formula. Our GMK one we did with Norman England because he was there constantly during the shooting of that film, so it was really about his stories from the set. The other was Legend of Dinosaurs and Monster Birds, which we didn’t do a regular episode for previously, but the author John LeMay was such a huge fan of that film that we figured we would just do that as a commentary with him instead of a traditional episode. John is another good friend of ours that is always down for coming on the show.
Driscoll: What was it like putting together the Kaiju Masterclass online convention?
Byrd: That was definitely kind of a surreal experience. Steve Ryfle came up with this idea to do this virtual convention that would be focused specifically on the history, the subtext, and the creators of tokusatsu. With everyone isolated by COVID-19, he felt like it was a good time, I guess. We had Steve on the podcast when the Ishiro Honda biography he wrote with Ed Godziszewski came out and I had chatted with him at G-Fest and stuff, but I never thought he’d be asking me to help him produce a virtual con! I grew up reading his articles, and I used to take his book to school for our “reading for pleasure” time. And it turns out he was an admirer of the podcast. So when he sent me a message in April of 2020 asking if I wanted to do this with him, it was a no-brainer. Shortly after we brought Matt, my co-host in as well. So Steve had rounded up us, Patrick Galvan, John DeSentis and Erik Homenick and then we had Kyle Gilmore doing graphic design and that made up the core team. He knew we were all passionate about learning about how the films are made, why they are the way they are, and the people who make them, so we had a common goal there. The biggest surprise was how nearly everyone we asked accepted our invitation to be involved. So having guys like Shinji Higuchi, Shusuke Kaneko, Bear McCreary, David Arnold and all these wonderful guests really wasn’t something we could have seen coming. The cool thing about virtual cons is everything is just saved to YouTube and will always be there for people to check out or use for research or whatever. It was a great time and we really hope to do another one.
Driscoll: I understand you are also a staff writer for Scifi Japan. Could you tell us about your experiences over there? I definitely appreciate SFJ and their coverage and writing!
Byrd: Ha, I haven’t written for SciFi Japan in ages. Their website is a bit out of date. But yes indeed, that was something I did for a little bit. I had nothing but great experiences doing that. Keith Aiken and Bob Johnson are both great guys. We’ve had Bob on Kaiju Transmissions also, and I really hope to get Keith on at some point. But I got involved with that because I knew Keith on the old Monster Zero/SciFi Japan forums and I just asked him if I could do some writing for the site. At the time I was kind of trying to muscle my way into film journalism (which didn’t really happen), and Keith said he really liked how I write, and that was that. So I would write things like reviews of new genre films or sometimes Keith would send me these massive press release documents with the task of kind of going through and editing them to fit the site’s format. Once I started podcasting, I kind of fell out of doing the SciFi Japan stuff, but I loved doing it and those guys are really great and supportive. Speaking of, I believe they are doing some really big updates on the site. We’ll see if my old staff credit survives the overhaul! Either way, it has been nothing but an honor.
Driscoll: What are some future plans you are willing to share with us? For example, are there any episodes you have been wanting to make but haven’t had the chance to do yet?
Byrd: Definitely. We have a list of names we are hoping to interview soon that I can’t really put out there yet since nothing is set in stone. But the hope is to have lots of cool interviews to put out over the course of the summer. In the more immediate future coming up, we have a sprawling Ultraman Ace retrospective, our Godzilla: Singular Point episode, and an episode with Steve Ryfle on the political aspect of the Godzilla films. Some movie retrospectives we have coming up include some more obscure stuff like the comedy film Big Man Japan, Toei’s rarely seen disaster movie The Final War, and Jun Fukuda’s Toho sci-fi comedy Konto 55: Grand Outer Space Adventure (1969). We also have a crossover planned with another podcast, but once again, my lips are sealed for now! If people want to stay tuned for the newest podcasts and announcements, I’d encourage them to follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Driscoll: Thank you again for your time! Take care and I wish you all the best!
Byrd: Thanks Nick, this was a lot of fun!
Kyle Byrd is co-host of the podcast KAIJU TRANSMISSIONS and former co-host of the podcast IF IT BLEEDS, WE CAN KILL IT. In the past, he has made appearances talking about science fiction and horror films on numerous other podcasts. He graduated from Eastern Michigan University with a Bachelor of Science in electronic media and film studies and has written pieces for SCIFIJAPAN.COM, THE LOST FILMS FANZINE and the recent book, KONG UNMADE: THE LOST FILMS OF SKULL ISLAND. He is also one of the producers of the KAIJU MASTERCLASS virtual convention.
The Kaiju Transmissions podcast is available on Apple Music, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Amazon Music/Audible, and Stitcher