Discovering KEXP last year was like discovering Back In Black, for me the album that pretty much cemented everything I'll love about music for the rest of my life. Suddenly there was this doorway to a magical world where DJs played whatever they wanted and whatever you wanted to listen to, where they knew what they were talking about and where they had this strange passion for not what the industry or the scenesters or the fads wanted you to hear but what moved them deep in the sub-cockle region. That's not say there aren't plenty of sites that keep the faith, just that these guys were winging their way to my crappy little headphones at work from thousands upon thousands of miles away twenty four seven. I wasn't just listening to the latest bands, I was listening to album tracks from them, and then some weird and wonderful old stuff and then hearing tunes I just couldn't have dreamed of discovering elsewhere; everything from country, indie, punk, world, folk, and reggae to rock, dance, hip-hop, jazz and blues (amongst others).
Although I have to admit, it was a few months before I started listening to the live stream. I'd been working through this wonderful archive they keep of every session they record and it would seem that just about every band that passes through Seattle, passes through the doors of KEXP leaving a few songs and worthwhile interview on tape. It started with a mate sending me a link to The Polyphonic Spree and soon I was discovering Low, Sufjan Stevens, Arcade Fire and more recently West Indian Girl and Oliver Mutikudzi to name but a few of my favourites. There's hundreds of the damn things, even a few full gigs. It's a wondrous monster pick'n'mix stand for the ears.
When I do listen it tends mainly to be the morning show with John Richards. Between 2 and 6pm our time you can here anything from Dylan to Soul Asylum to Elbow to Dungen to The Go! Team to Death Cab For Cutie to Dizze Rascal and yes, even some Nirvana, mixed in with numerous listener requests from this amazing global community. John was not only kind enough to answer a few questions (although he did diplomatically avoid our favourite question of have you ever been sick on your local underground transport network) but to also offer a copy of the Live at KEXP vol 1 cd as a competition prize. You'll have to wait till the end to find out how to win.
So, John, is KEXP the best radio station in the world?:
Yes. Because I work here. I kid! Its the best radio station in the world because of its mix of cutting edge technology and music and its mission to connect a world wide audience with each other and with the artists they hear here. That and our non commerical, non profit status and top notch staff.
So how do you choose what to play?
Good question and I don't really have an answer. I do know I take all the new stuff we have and about half the show is that and the other is just stuff I'm feeling or other listeners are feeling and mix them in. With tens of thousands of albums and hundreds of thousands of songs to choose from its always a great challenge.
Could you ever go back to working at a station with playlists?
Go back? I know not what you speak of. I would never be at a station with playlists. Those stations with a playlist are a joke.
What would John Peel have thought of KEXP?
John Peel was and is my hero. I'd like to think he'd love what KEXP is doing. I can't imagine he wouldn't. Just the passion and love of music and never resting on discovering and playing new music...and not turning your back on old stuff either....mixed in with thousands of instudios. We should be so lucky to remind anyone of that great man during our day.
Last year KEXP's album of the year was Arcade Fire's Funeral (it's taken the limeys a while to catch up), what are your recommendations for this year and what should we be listening out for in 2006?
1. Sufjan Stevens - Illinois (Asthmatic Kitty)
2. Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - clap Your Hands Say Yeah (Self-Released)
3. Bloc Party - Silent Alarm (Vice)
4. Death Cab for Cutie - Plans - (Atlantic)
5. KEXP-LIVE at KEXP Vol 1 (KEXP)
6. Kings of Leon - Aha Shake Heartbreak (RCA)
7. M83-Before the Dawn Heals Us (Mute)
8. Tom Brosseau - What I Mean To Say Is Goodbye (Loveless)
9. The National - Alligator (Beggars)
10. Cloud Cult - Advice from the Happy Hippopotamus (Earthology)
As for next year? I haven't even begun to think that far ahead. I'm excited for a new Radiohead album, that much I know.
In your opinion what's the best session that's ever been recorded for KEXP?
Hard to say...so many great ones....I thought Cloud Cult from our broadcast at the Museum of Television and Radio in NYC was great.....the Interpol session early in their career was really good as well.
What do you think of the current resurgence in British guitar music and any current favourites?
Oh man, its so sweet. Seems like everything new I'm hitting is a British band. I love so much of it, just got the Arctic Monkeys, no one knows them over here yet and love them.
Do you ever wish the 'Seattle sound' had never happened?
Of course not! Good times. Its funny that Seattle still is considered THAT city still. We have so much more and different things going on now. But if it weren't for that sound I may have never moved here. Those bands really had an impact on an entire generation let alone for us up here in the great Northwest. Its something to be proud of and never shy away from.
And finally, what would you be doing if you weren't a DJ or couldn't be involved in the music scene?
Drugs. A lot of them.
For the record, KEXP has broadcasting in some form since 1972 and online to the world since 2000. Through working with the University of Washington (from whence it originally came) they really are at the top of their game in the delivery of online streamed music and radio. There's a good piece about them if you want to read more here. As a public funded station they rely on denotions from their listeners and advertisers to survive but somehow you feel that giving to KEXP is like giving to yourself. KEXP's tagline is where the music matters and at the risk of signing off on a cheesy note, hardly has a truer word ever been spoken.
What's your favourite band?
Winner will be pulled completely randomly from our electronic hat. Deadline is midday on Monday 14th November and no correspondance will be entered into unless it's interesting. Oh and don't forget to put I love KEXP in the subject line.