Is This On? Is There a Crowd to Be Sourced?

Man you can tell how seriously I take this whole personal brand thing when you see the last time I updated this site was two baaahahahahahaha three years ago. Really workin’ it out here. Growing the profile. Yup.

Anyway I’m breaking my silence to talk about a couple projects I’m tangentially involved in that you might find worthy of your consideration.

You might remember my friend John Davis from his work as one half of the Folk Implosion or, if you’re really hardcore, from a run of startlingly beautiful solo recordings he made for Shrimper in the ’90s. These days he’s a schoolteacher and maintains one of the more compulsively readable blogs you’re likely to run across, and last year he released his first new music in more than a decade, a sprawling and cinematic album called Spare Parts. Happily, he’s not going to make us wait so long for the next one, and a couple weeks ago I got to spend a fun couple days in North Carolina playing bass on it. Ever wondered what a fretless hollow-body Godin tuned to drop-C sounds like played through a Leslie? This will be your chance to find out. (Hint: it sounds unhinged. Thank you, Scott Solter.)

John has set up a kickstarter to help fund the album’s recording, which I’ll let him tell you about. Reminder that John is a teacher. He’s trying to raise a measely four thousand bucks, which is half what he’s figuring he’ll spend on it. That kickstarter link again.

I just moved away from Rochester, New York, where I lived for most of the last fourteen years, but it’s still close to my heart. One thing I’m bummed I won’t be around for is a new radio station called WAYO that seeks to bring truly independent, free-form, community-based programming to a city that, while it actually has a surprising number of non-commercial stations, the “free-form, community-based” parts? Maybe not so much.

Mike Yates hit me up for a mix CD for their fund-raising campaign, an easy enough thing to do. But then I got ambitious, and started digitizing a bunch of thirty-year-old cassettes that I knew would soon be going into storage purgatory, perhaps never to be seen again. Several months and an eight-hundred-mile move later, my mix CDs—two volumes!—are done. Last night I wrote up a description about them.

It’s hard to believe, I know, but once upon a time there was no such thing as Pitchfork, or Spotify, or YouTube, or The Pirate Bay. When I was growing up—and here I betray my age—the way you found out about cool music was by having cool older siblings, or, if you weren’t so fortunate, by listening to the radio. And if buying an album meant wiping out two entire weeks’ allowance, you filled the gaps by hoarding blank tapes and keeping one paused in your boombox with the play and record buttons pushed for when you heard something come on that sounded intriguing.

Luckily for me, the cultural wasteland of suburban southern California in which I came of age did have one thing going for it, and that was KSPC, the Pomona College radio station which was and remains one of the best and most fiercely independent in the country. And so I would sit there by the radio listening, pausing and unpausing, filling up cassette after cassette which I would then listen to endlessly while carefully weighing my next investment.

Thirty years later, these tapes represent a time capsule, a window into an alternate narrative of ’80s music, one that overlaps slightly with the version that’s been codified, repackaged and resold by a thousand and one “eighties nights” dance parties but is mostly made up of stuff that’s been largely forgotten for one reason or another—the songs that didn’t have massive publishing companies behind them trying to wring a few more bucks out of their back catalog by pushing ’em onto nostalgia comps.

These CDs compile a cross-section of minor classics ranging from synthpop to punk rock, and I present them as evidence of what a truly killer radio station can mean to a community and especially the people growing up in it. Today there is no shortage of other paths to discovery out there, but radio is unique in that it’s so much closer to the cool-big-brother/sister model than almost anything else: it’s made up not of playlists and algorithms but actual human beings with their own ideas, their own tastes and opinions, sharing them with an audience of engaged listeners. KSPC opened my eyes and ears to things I would never have otherwise encountered, and there is an absolutely direct connection between the music I discovered through it and my career in music today.

Here’s hoping that someday someone can say the same of WAYO.

What I fail to mention here is that of course these CDs consist of rips from thirty-year-old cassettes of shit taped off the radio, and they sound like it. Still, they’re pretty entertaining. Check out the WAYO indiegogo site for info on how to get a copy.

 

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