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Radio Survivor's Top Radio Shows – Jennifer's #1: Radiodrome

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For me, the main reason that I’m so addicted to doing a radio show week after week is the music. I’m interested in new, independent, underground, and underexposed sounds and artists and the easiest way for me to get access to this music is by volunteering at a college radio station.

I’m lucky that at my station, KFJC, we add as many as 40 items to our library every week. The music that KFJC adds isn’t necessarily new, often the Music Director is adding things that are decades old that may not have gotten much exposure when they were initially released.

Even though I’m at a station with a  massive record library and am exposed to new sounds every week; I still get the chills when I hear an amazing artist on the radio who I have never heard before.

For my #1 Top Radio Show I have to give credit to a college radio DJ at University of San Francisco station KUSF: DJ Schmeejay, the host of Radiodrome every Tuesday morning from 9am to noon. On several occasions while listening to his show, I’ve had to pick up the phone and call to find out more information about the incredible music that I was hearing. A few of the artists that he’s helped me to discover are Vashti Bunyan and Virginia Astley, two women producing ethereal sounds with folk and psychedelic influences.

KUSF

I remember calling to find out about Virginia Astley and he told me that it was a hard-to-find release that he’d picked up at a KUSF Record Swap. Probably that very night I headed up to KFJC and found numerous Virginia Astley LPs in the library and learned that may of them hadn’t been played in over a decade. So I played her music on my show as well, exposing more listeners to the treat that I’d heard on a fellow college station.

What I like about DJ Schmeejay’s show is that he crafts interesting sets of music, with a mix of new and old across a range of genres that make sense sonically. You might hear lovely folky sounds from the 1960s, beautiful atmospherics from the 1980s, or a seriously old school Jimmy Durante piece.

I talked to DJ Schmeejay over email about his nearly 7-year-run hosting Radiodrome and he shared with me some of his thought process behind the program and also how his role as one of the Music Directors at KUSF leads to some interesting finds. Here’s a bit of our conversation:

Jennifer: What’s the basic format/flow of your show and how do you prepare each week?

DJ Schmeejay: “Visceral, cinematic radio” is what I like to call it – psychedelic music, that is, if you consider flapper-jazz and contemporary minimalism psychedelic – which you should!

I love pop, acid rock, barbershop music, polka, noise, grime and Jimmy Durante. I like to celebrate birthdays that might otherwise fall through the cracks each week on my program and I do quite a bit of research for that. Last week we celebrated Alice Babs, Paul Pena and Eartha Kitt.

My “The Joyful Noise” and “The Best Album in the World, Ever” segments are always fun. I want my show to introduce and induce at the same time – but first and foremost, it’s gotta be fun. And it often is, you can hear me laughing a lot on the air – I’m having a blast.

Jennifer: How does being one of the Music Directors at KUSF influence your show?

DJ Schmeejay: Being an MD means I’m exposed to a lot more music than the average DJ each week. This can often be a good thing, but it can also be really exhausting. I’m very lucky to be able to grab an unmarked CDR some unknown has sent us with some crazy free-jazz sax and drums and bird sounds and put it into rotation as I did last week (Zach Kouns).

Jennifer: Did you do radio before KUSF? Where?

DJ Schmeejay: I did a little radio in the 80s at a small college station in Wisconsin.

Jennifer: What do you love about doing radio?

DJ Schmeejay: I love doing my show every week. I love that the show has reached people of all ages and geographies. The internet has made the radio dial so huge, it’s just amazing. Hearing from listeners in New Zealand or Italy or Holland or St Louis each week is a gas – it never ceases to thrill me.

I’ve been an avid record collector for over 30 years now, and having a chance to get some of these recordings out of the house and let them breathe a little is one of the things that I love about being at KUSF.

When someone calls and says they had to pull the car over because they haven’t heard some particular song for years and are having a memory-moment, I know I’m doing my job.

Jennifer: Anything else?

DJ Schmeejay:  I’m also a co-producer of “The Classical Salon” our 3 hour Saturday night classical show, where I play only early music and contemporary composers, with nothing in between. KUSF offers such varied programming, I’m trying to get involved in as much as I have energy for while I’m here.

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KUSF now offers online archives of recent radio shows, so you can catch DJ Schmeejay’s show from this week, in which he threw Eartha Kitt, Felt, and Aztec Camera into the mix.

Even though I’m giving this #1 slot to Schmeejay, there are lots of other college and community radio shows with skillful DJs who have talented ears for music. Don’t be afraid to seek out the stations in your town or take a listen to some of the following:

The Brian Turner Show: Airs on community radio station WFMU-FM in New Jersey on Tuesdays from 3-6pm Eastern time. Archives also available on their website. A wide range of sounds from heavy stuff to pop, live performances and interviews (including Yoko Ono in a few weeks!).

DJ Pop Tart “The Pop Tart Show”: We were actually both DJs in the 1990s at WBGU in Bowling Green, Ohio and I always dug Pop Tart’s infusion of girl energy into her playlists. Now she’s in New Orleans at the Tulane University radio station WTUL with a show on Friday mornings from 8 to 10am Central Time. On her show you’ll hear a range of ladies, from the Japanese band OOIOO to Ellie Fitzgerald to hipster folkies like Julie Doiron. You might also hear some dudes, ranging from Tom Waits to Robyn Hitchcock to the Beastie Boys.

DJ Hallogallo’s “Infinite Eargasm“: His show airs on the online-only community radio station East Village Radio on Thursday afternoons from 2-4pm Eastern time. You’ll hear Neu, maybe Negativland, retro sounds by perhaps Elvis Presley or Dusty Springfield, and newer artists like Julianna Barwick and !!!.


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2 Responses to Radio Survivor's Top Radio Shows – Jennifer's #1: Radiodrome

  1. Paul Riismandel January 29, 2010 at 10:05 am #

    I’m also a big fan of Brian Turner’s show on WFMU. It’s like he has very similar preferences in music as me (obscurities, lots of underground black and death metal, found sounds, collage, musique concrete), but much better taste with access to a better music library. It’s worth pointing out that Turner is also a music director (in addition to program director).

    While, as DJ Schmeejay points out, being MD is a lot of work, it also means you’re more likely to catch that hidden gem by an unknown artist because you do kind of have to listen to everything at least once.

    Now I’m going to have to check out all these other shows you mention!

  2. Jennifer Waits January 29, 2010 at 10:25 am #

    Thanks Paul. I actually visited WFMU a few years back and got toured around the place by Brian Turner. You might be interested in reading the article that I wrote about that visit as it gives some insight into Brian’s take on music programming. Beyond being a great DJ and MD, he’s a super nice guy.

    http://spinningindie.blogspot.com/2008/10/radio-station-field-trip-4-wfmu-in.html

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