Monday, March 25, 2024

The Local Music Show on WHCM


In the world of college radio, WHCM is a relatively young radio station. They only won their FCC license in the year 2000, buying it out from the EMF station WCLR. It's the only occasion I know of where an EMF station became a college station, and not the other way around. Prior to that acquisition, they only broadcast via a PA system inside campus buildings. Before 1997 the call sign WHCM actually belonged to a country station in Parkersburg, WV.

This radio show actually caught my eye on social media. It came as a series of playlists typed out on what looks like a Smith Corona. It it's not AI, it's not a meme-generator, it's an actual analog clickity-click typewriter, complete with the ribbon texture impressed upon each page. For us geezers that's an evocative thing. Unlike most playlists I barely knew any of the artists. That is exactly how you bait a music geek.  Thankfully, show host Erik Hanson was up for an interview.


JF: Can you tell me about your criteria for local music?  How local does a band have to be, to be local enough for your show?

EH: To be on the show, you have to be from Chicago or the suburbs. People have tried to get me to expand to Milwaukee, Rockford, and Indiana, but through 170 shows, I've played 719 different bands and artists from Chicagoland alone! Of those 719, most are (or were at the time) current independent working bands. Plus, I'm finding new bands all the time. There is so much talent in this town.

JF: The Local Music Show debuted on May 12th, 2020. You just posted the playlist for show 170 consistently numbering them. How has the show changed over the last 4 years?

EH: Not much has changed about the show since its inception in terms of the format, but how I pre-produce the show has evolved.  When I started, I only knew a few local bands and artists.  Bandcamp quickly became my go-to source for searching out local music. I would find a band I’d like and reach out via email or social media. It was a slow build. Now, between the show’s growing profile and the relationships I’ve built with artists, finding music has become easier and shows often fill up 2 to 3 weeks in advance. I do miss the Bandcamp hunt sometimes though :-). 

The other big change was getting on Instagram around the 40th episode. I didn’t realize that's where all the bands were hanging out and it opened up a lot of avenues for the show in terms of connecting with artists. Coincidentally, having to create new original graphics every week helped me develop my design skills as well.

 JF: What's your connection to the RecRoom? I found a series of videos branded as a collaboration between The Local Music Show and Rec Room Studios and your playlists describe a live broadcast.

EH: I know Eric Block from Rec Room Studios through a recurring freelance gig we both used to work.  Eric pitched the idea to me: we bring in a band to do a 15-20-minute live session at Rec Room Studios. He records the audio and I shoot and edit the video. When it’s ready, the session debuts on The Local Music Show and then we release it on YouTube later that week. Additionally, the bands have the option to release the session as a “Live from the Rec Room” album after it debuts on the radio.  We would love to do more, but coordinating has been difficult (which is 100% on me and my schedule). You can check out the sessions here:

JF: According to legend, WHCM is an acronym for William Harper Community College. Have you ever thought of any better ones?

EH: I'm glad you asked this because it gave me a chance to go back and clarify it for myself. Technically, WHCM doesn't stand for anything. However, we have discussed the idea of "Harper College Media" to reflect the opportunities at Harper College beyond Radio, which include video, podcasting, and the new Audio/Visual certificate. I feel like this question was set up for me to be funny, but I can't come up with anything witty enough.

JF: You also host the Basement Records show a few days a week, and though the schedule doesn't say it, I see local artists creeping into its playlists as well. Can't resist? Or is Chicago music inescapable?

EH: The best radio is local radio and that should reflect in all aspects: community events and info, local non-profit PSAs, local hosts sharing their stories, and local music, which for me is inescapable. There is so much talent here that deserves an outlet.

I grew up in the golden age of Chicago radio, listening to Dick Biondi, Steve Dahl, and Kevin Matthews. They were always grounded in local community. They featured local artists and businesses and they made you feel like you were a part of it. Those are my influences and it's is why I love being part of Harper Radio. The station is committed to serving the college and community.

JF: I regularly see an asterisk on your playlists which reads "World Premier".  How did it come to pass that you're broadcasting one or more world premier singles every week?  

EH: What I'd like to think is that bands and artist recognize that I value local music and I treat their work with the respect it deserves, but that sounds arrogant. Maybe I'm just available. I think more than anything, the best parts of my show have come from building relationships with artists, whether it be live shows that I have had the chance to be involved with or premiering new music. Sometimes it is a coincidence and the timing works out, but other times, an artist will reach out. For example, next week, I'm debuting a new track from Impulsive Hearts. They were on the very first episode of The Local Music Show and Danielle Sines has been supportive ever since. They're gearing up for an April release of their new record Fit 4 the Apocalypse and she reached out to say they're thinking bout releasing a second single and asked if I'd like to premiere it.  Yes, I would.

It's the same with the live shows. The first show happened because Bridget Stiebris from Kickstand Entertainment (whom I first talked to through her band Ok Cool) and Jesse Ewan of Speed Babes both asked me a day apart about collaborating on a show. We ended up merging those ideas and did our first live event at the Beat Kitchen in August 2022 with Speed Babes, Impulsive Hearts, and 8-bit crEEps...three of the most-played bands on the radio show at that point.

Even some of the fun IDs on my show are a reflection of community. Getting out to shows, I started to meet non-band people who were just as important to the local music scene and I wanted to find a way to feature them on the radio show as well. Now you can hear contributions from photographers Vicki Holda and Tracy Conoboy, Noelle Salazar who runs The Darkroom, and Sarah Beidatsch and Zac Emry from the Album Rebrews Podcast.

JF: Thanks for playing Ike Reilly. I feel like he never got his due. Any other Chicago musicians you feel should have become rock stars? 

EH: Ike is great and I will never understand how or why certain bands get big and others do not. As an Urge Overkill fan back in the day, I never understood how they weren't the biggest band on the planet after Saturation came out. I'd like to know who's in charge of picking which bands will be the next big thing because I'd like to get in on that. On a serious note though, since starting the show in 2020, it's been fun to see bands I've played on the show grow and start to venture off on tours and play larger venues. Just a couple of weeks ago Pinksqueeze headlined the Metro. It was great.

JF: As Professor Erik Hanson, you also teach at Harper College. Do you have any radio experience prior to Harper radio?

EH: Yes, I covered High School football games at WBIG in Aurora and sat in as co-host on a sports show for a while. I am part-time adjunct faculty at Harper. My day job is in multimedia production, so I've worked on various audio projects through there as well, including developing two podcasts.

JF: I see you've been making a list of Chicago bands at Bandcamp: Is this a means to an end?

EH: When I started the show, Bandcamp was the go-to for finding Chicago music. So, I suppose  you can say it was a means to an end. Not only was it a good resource to go back to, but it still helps to this day when I get Bandcamp emails about new releases, especially if I missed those announcements on social media.

JF: You have added one record to It was The Sueves – Tears of Joy. Can you tell me about this band?

Before I started the show in 2020, I hadn't been keyed into the local music music scene in a while. Apparently, in the mid-20-teens, I completely missed a great garage rock revival in Chicago with bands like Son of a Gun, The Bingers, Ovef Ow, Furr, Mama, and The Sueves.

The Sueves add a touch of surf influence to their fuzzy guitar riffs and raw vocals, everything that falls right into my wheelhouse as a music fan. Tears of Joy is a great record; all killer, no filler. The album cover for the vinyl release is beautiful;  hand-pulled silkscreen done by main Suave Joe Schorgl, who has since moved to Cleveland, but returns to Chicago once in a while for art shows or to play with one of his bands The Sueves, Skip Church, and Wülfpac.  

JF: Can you tell me about the doggo?

EH: That's Mora, our family dog! She's a sweet pup. It's funny, I created that circular logo before knowing what I was going to feature in the center. I tried all sorts of stuff, an illustration of a tiger, lightning bolts, and radio-related stuff, but nothing worked. It didn't reflect me or the show. Then, I remembered the low-angle photo of Mora looking stoic.  It worked perfectly and now that she's getting up there in age, I'm grateful she's become the face of the show.

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