With six episodes to their name and recording quality that rivals that of FM radio, the Pinheadz Pinball Podcast has quickly become one of the preeminent pin podcasts available for free download on the web. Broadcasting from the Australian capital city of Canberra, hosts Rod, Gaz and Pintech Stevie take a monthly stab at the world of pinball from their own unique perspective, which they have coined “Americana from Down Under”.
Every podcast has to have a hook. Coast 2 Coast Pinball has volume, with concise forty-five minute episodes appearing (sometimes) twice per week which allows for discussion of trending topics in the pinball universe. The Pinball Podcast takes the conversational, ‘round-the-campfire approach with few recording frills, allowing them to draw the listener into the causal presentation. For North American listeners, the Pinheadz hook relies heavily on the podcast encapsulating the Australian sub-set of our pinball community. It is interesting to get a foreign take, identifying differences and similarities in the way Australians approach the hobby. Pinball seems to be a universal language, however, and it turns out a lot of our interests and concerns are mirrored, regardless of the time zone. I originally had the term “outsiders” written down in my notes to describe the Pinheadz, however, that seemed to be a bit too dismissive. After all, we are all in the same parking lot; some of us just happen to have closer parking spot to the mall entrance.
The show itself is recorded in-studio at a radio broadcasting facility. I guess this is one of the perks of being a radio personality, which is Pinhead Rod Cuddihy’s day job. He’s a morning host at Mix 106.3, which apparently plays Canberra’s “widest variety of music” (this bold statement has not been confirmed or denied by the author as of press time). Joking aside, the recording quality and production value achieved by the Pinheadz Podcast is unmatched in the field. Mr. Cuddihy begins each show by introducing the topics that will be discussed on the show through a series of teasers and audio clips, before launching into the official show theme—the celebrated Sesame Street/Pointer Sisters “Pinball Countdown”. The topics encapsulate news and happenings within the community, with a fresh Australian spin. Gaz Christiansen and Pintech Stevie Hyde are along for the journey providing entertaining colour commentary on the topics at hand. The rapport between the three is fantastic. In true radio host fashion, Mr. Cuddihy massages the conversation in such a way that all three have an equal share of the discussion, playing on strengths. Pintech Stevie is the equivalent of Mr. Fix-It for capital region collectors, and each show he provides a “life-saving” tech tip, which can range from voltage issues to identifying spider infestations. I get the impression that Mr. Christiansen and Mr. Hyde are old hands at pinball collecting, and their personal gamerooms skew more to the Electromechanical era, while Mr. Cuddihy’s interests have a more Solid State bent (one of his most wanted games is a Party Zone: don’t hold it against him). Together, they have quite the breadth of knowledge, and communicate it in an entertaining fashion that never seems pompous or overbearing. As for guests, the Pinheadz regularly call upon local enthusiasts with impressive collections and those who have acquired/homebrewed pinball oddities (a prototype Data East Robocop, a Mad Max retheme). They have also scored exclusive interviews with HomePin Pinball’s Mike Kalinowski (Thunderbirds) in Episode 4 and SkitB’s Kevin Kulek in Episode 3, the latter being an in-depth, comprehensive and informative talk with the Predator pinball creator. Rod and company ask all the right questions, and the interviewees always seem at ease and excited to talking about the hobby they love. The show features little in the way of in-depth reviews and rankings of specific games, like Coast 2 Coast or the Pinball Podcast, but that is just another way the Aussie fellows stand apart.
My interest in this podcast lies in its national flavour. In listening, you get a good idea what is going on within the Australian scene, from both a player’s and collector’s perspective. It is also interesting to hear the challenges of being a pinball enthusiast removed from the pinball hub that is the United States–problems such as exchange rates, shipping costs, transit time, machine scarcity, geographic space between collectors, and, of course, the deadly spiders that tend to nest in the on/off switch cavity underneath machines. As a Canadian, I can relate, somewhat, to the challenges of being a “pinball outsider”, having to deal with a few of the same issues. We, too, have to consider roller coaster exchange rates when considering the purchase of a new-in-box game, geographic barriers within the national landscape and exorbitant shipping rates from American distributors…but, of course, not the extent as our brothers and sisters from Australia. My takeaway from the podcast is that Australia has a finite amount of games in the secondary market for collectors to amass. The game population is supplemented by the importation of “container loads” from overseas, much like it was in North America in the early 2000s. I get the impression in listening to the Pinheadz that the pinball pricing in Australia skews a bit on the high side, which is a simple issue of supply and demand.
The Pinheadz Podcast is a welcomed voice in the recently crowded world of pinball podcasts, and one with a unique perspective that sets it apart from the rest. They hit the right mix: between in-depth discussion to keep the hardcore collectors happy and explanatory education of some of the more complex concepts for novice listeners. Its monthly format leaves some news items a bit stale for those who stay on top of the latest happenings, but the special features and general discussion allow for interesting insights to be made about the state of pinball within Australia and abroad. These guys are doing it right.
Can you believe it? I made it through a review of the Pinheadz Podcast without once mentioning their accents. See…it can be done.
Catch the Pinheadz’ latest episode, their sixth, here. Topics include a Mad Max pinball machine, an interview with the creator of Slam Tilt ‘Zine, qualifying for the Australian pinball championships, and much, much more. The Pinheadz are also available for free streaming on iTunes.