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RadioSurvivor’s Top Radio Shows – Paul’s #3: Incoming Wounded

Edlee B'n Hadd & Incoming Wounded

Late night has always been a special time for radio, ever since station owners decided not to turn off the transmitter at midnight. Now that it’s no longer necessary to have a live human being operating the station during all the hours it’s on air, commercial late night radio is mostly a bland mash of automated music, syndicated programming or Coast to Coast AM. But late night continues to be a truly sacred time in the noncommercial band, especially on college and community radio. As long as there are sleepless, nocturnal, caffeine-fueled college students and volunteers willing to stay up all night in sacrifice to the radio gods, the overnight hours will be DMZ of truly free form radio born of inspiration and insomnia, where nearly all of the normal rules of proper radio can be safely ignored until 6 AM.

While most college and community stations have their own local variety of late night brilliance, my favorite example of the species is on community radio WEFT in the college towns of Champaign-Urbana, IL, home of the University of Illinois. Broadcasting from storefront studios in Downtown Champaign, I spent fourteen years volunteer at WEFT and avoiding earning degrees in graduate school. In those years it was my distinct honor and privilege to listen to, and often participate in WEFT’s longest running program, Incoming Wounded.

Hosted by Edlee B’n Hadd (a/k/a Ed Hadley) since sometime in the 1980s, Incoming Wounded takes over the airwaves every Saturday night at midnight to bring a continuous wash of sounds to the night owls of East-Central Illinois. Ostensibly Incoming Wounded is a show that features ambient, electronic and experimental music. But that’s like saying Monty Python’s and the Holy Grail is a movie about some guys searching for a cup.

Edlee's Favorite Keyboard: Casio VA-10

Beginning each week with his introductory collage of weather-radio reports, the sound of rain and other found sounds, Edlee never lets silence get a toe-hold over the course of the next four to six hours. Yes, he does play recorded music and CDs, but they just function as the foundation for the host’s active imagination and assorted sound processors, electronic toys, homemade musical instruments and found sounds. These external stimuli all serve as inspiration for an improvised story, monologue or sequence of mouth sounds turned musical through Edlee’s beloved Casio VA-10.

There are too many nights that I fell asleep listening to a particularly soothing portion of Incoming Wounded only to wake up an hour later realizing that Edlee’s story about an enormous bongo-playing worm had invaded my dreams. With his voice buried in the mix, pitch-shifted to sound like there is a giant and a gnome in the room along with him, it’s often difficult to know what’s live and what’s Memorex.

In the last decade or so the use of toy keyboards, cheap effects units and found sounds has become more common and popular on the fringes of indie rock, so to many this might not seem so unique. But I contend that Edlee B’n Hadd is an OG in this business, bringing it to air before many of the newest indie rock Casio-slingers were out of diapers. Like so many artists, Edlee’s employment of cheap keyboards and homemade instruments was born out of necessity, since so-called “real” synthesizers were much more expensive two decades ago.

Edlee B'n Hadd on the mic

But what really elevates Incoming Wounded for me is Edlee’s anarchic impulse and communal spirit to open up the doors to any like-minded noisemaker ready to “surrealize everything.” On too many drunken nights, Edlee opened up the warm studios to me and other friends of the show to join in the sonic mayhem and drop some fresh grist into the mill. Some nights were a little more ambitious and planned, resulting in guests bringing their own noise and music makers for an impromptu noise jam. (But don’t get to thinking just anyone can show up unannounced. Edlee is welcoming, but not gullible).

These ad hoc sessions eventually led to somewhat more planned live on-air performances of what became known as the Noiz Assembly. Inspired in equal measures by Negativland, John Cage, Aphex Twin, the Church of the Subgenius, King Crimson and Napalm Death, over the course of the last decade the Assembly turned into a near-quarterly affair, with an annual pre-midnight date for Halloween on WEFT’s live music program, WEFT Sessions.

Unfortunately there is no podcast of Incoming Wounded, although those outside of the Champaign, IL area can tune in online. I’m pretty sure that Edlee has recorded nearly every show he’s ever done. What we need is an archivist intern ready to make a significant contribution to the history of late night radio to dive in and digitize it all for the sake of posterior…er, posterity. Yet, part of the magic that is Incoming Wounded is the fact that it is ephemeral, constructed in the moment, for the moment, in a burst of nocturnal inspiration. That is the best way to experience it.

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