Monday, November 29, 2010

INTERVIEW: The WCSB Record Exchange

While I was in Cleveland a few months back I caught a program late at night that piqued my interest. Not only was the music all over the board.. but there was something odd about the amplitude and compression and fidelity. I heard an audible click at the end of one song like on an old mono tape deck. I recorded a bit and caught an aircheck that explained everything. Ryan Kheun was not just playing CDs, or LPs, or tapes for that matter. He was actually playing all of them, and several other formats I'd never considered really radio centric. Here was a radioman obsessing not on radio formats, but audio formats. Here's a clip in glorious mono:
The popularity of a format is directly proportional to it's utility and cost-efficiency. Most radio stations playback from CD or from a database at this point. Many still have serviceable turntables which keeps LPs and 45s in use. But then things go off the cliff. Carts (aka Fidelipacs) are fading out, and a scant couple determined DJs on a scant few tolerant stations still play 78s. There was one program [Thomas Edison's Attic]on WFMU that played cylinder recordings but it ended in 2008. That homogeneous trend makes programs like The Record Exchange all the more rare. Host Ryan Kheun spared some time to answer a few questions about it:

1. Do you have any kind of definitive list of formats you have played in the past?
Usually its just the "popular" (or formerly popular) formats..CDs, LPs, Cassettes, VHS, DVDs. Back in the day I used to play lots of Minidisc bootlegs of live shows but that MD pooped out.

2. Please describe "The Record Exchange" for a new listener. 
I guess basically I just want to create the most confusing experience for the audience as possible...whether it's jumping around from radically different genres or just weirding people out with crazy music or "found sounds"...try to keep the listener on the edge of their seat. Plus it keeps me from getting bored from just playing the same kind of stuff all the time.

3. I notice your taste in music is really to the extreme side of weird. Did that come from your taste in odd formats, or vice versa?
Back in the late 90s and early 2000s I was really into hip-hop and underground scratch music, somehow that weird skratch music gradually brought me more over to the "noise" and "experimental" genres and now I'm into old country and christian music and 80s hip hop and electro. So it all comes full circle somehow I guess.  Now as a youngin' going vinyl shopping I didn't know what anything was, so I looked for long song lengths and weird instruments and synths and stuff in the credits. So I'd buy the Tangerine Dream records in the dollar bin at the record exchange and stuff like that. Now you cant find a Tangerine Dream album for like less than 8 bucks.  What's up with that? Of course, for every Michael Hoenig album you find for a buck, you buy 5 Windham Hill records....ew. I learned to avoid that label real quick. So yeah, much of my musical tastes is self discovered in that sense, but after I joined the station, of course many new bands and music was discovered from the radio's library or other DJ's and new and cooler friends recommending stuff to check out and what not.

4. Are there formats you can't play for logistical or musical reasons?
Well, I'd like to get my hands on a wire recorder and play some uber-vintage gems, but that's probably not going to happen unless someone surprises me with a secret gift.

5. When did you first debut The Record Exchange?
The show started in fall of 2004.  The 6 year anniversary is coming up in December. Buy me something nice...like a wire recorder!

6. Have you ever had a co-host?
I am the only host although I used to have a co-host, DJ Mannequin Man. We would use the production studio and main air studio and play all 5 turntables and 6 CD players at the same time. It was just shenanigans all night, basically he later went on to host his own show for a year or two before he moved to China or whatever.

7. Is WCSB the first radio station you have broadcast on?
Under my own show yes, but I used to occasionally go down to Press The Button on WRUW at Case Western Reserve and fool around on their show. I'm sure that re-inspired me to try to get at show on WCSB
in Cleveland and do all kinds of weird stuff....

8. Do you have any plans for work in commercial radio?
Although digital media is one of my majors, my station membership is totally unrelated. All the station members are volunteers and are no way affiliated with the School of Communication at Cleveland State. We are actually a student run organization, which is pretty cool because basically the DJ's get to play whatever they want. Some college stations have playlists BLECCHH! While it would be nice to have some kind of job somewhere, someday, utilizing my talents (and what talents they are,) but I am not banking on it, as it seems to be a dying industry: corporate oligopolies, automated music, etc. etc.

9. Before you started working in radio, were there radio programs (college radio or otherwise) that you listened to that initially got you interested in broadcasting?
Yes, I definitely got very much into WCSB and other college stations such as WRUW.  I would record my favorite DJ's shows to tapes so I could listen to them again and again-schooling me in the history of   "underground" music or whatever you wanna call it.  The more "out there" shows definitely opened my eyes, or ears rather,  to tons of new music I would have never otherwise heard, and that is what is so cool about college radio: you never know what you are going to hear or what obscure genres the new kids coming in are going to specialize in. So it is constantly evolving and giving folks new stuff to check out.

10. Any predictions about College radio in the future about WCSB or otherwise?
I think this is the year WCSB will start archiving the broadcasts so that would be super radical-like!!! Something to look forward to there I guess.