While driving today, I was stuck in the middle of a freak occurance. On the radio, the Edge, FM96, Radio 1 and the rest of the stations that I have programmed at the touch of a button were running commercials. All of this at the same time! After a quick scan of the allowable FM frequencies for broadcasting in North America, I found two stations that I stupidly forgot about. They were CKMS from UW and the Condor from Conestoga College. Yup, student-operated radio. No other stations in the vicinity were playing anything like Bloc Party, Sigur Rós or Hot Hot Heat at 5PM, except for these two stations.
This reminded me of the shows that I had on WLSO back in university. If Soo, Ontario and Soo, Michigan weren’t inundated with the likes of Pavement, Pixies, Sonic Youth, the Cure and the the Butthole Surfers before, they were after I was through with them 😉 First year, I had a show with one of my roommates, Bill Burrell. It was a good start but he flunked out so that was the end of the “Bullines and Bill Show”. I was only involved with one more radio show but it lasted until I graduated; “Oral Oompah” with Matt Newman. I met Matt and his roommate Rich (aka: Stinky) during my first year; they lived across the hall. They were both from St. Johns, Michigan and had a curious fascination with Canada and Canadian culture. They watched Strange Brew and Canadian Bacon constantly and even kept their windows open in the winter (until a frozen water pipe in their room burst). They definitely were the exception to the rule that Americans are ignorant to the rest of the world unless it involves war or a fight of some kind. Anyway, Matt and I had similar musical tastes so we decided to do a show together. We definitely had a lot of fun with it. I think if we would’ve had a video camera in the studio with us during our shows, it would’ve made for hilarious TV, or hilarious Internet TV at the very least. We even had faithful callers to our show and in-studio guests would occasionally drop by (usually the in-studio guests were Dena and Matt”s girlfriend, Mariah, though). As far as music goes, I was partial to the bands I listed above but I also played other bands that I may not have owned any of their material but I thought should be heard like Ween and Front 242. I even pushed the Canadian content on the Michiganders with bands like Sloan, Eric’s Trip and of course, the Tragically Hip. As a matter of fact, I even played some Timmins bands; mostly the bands that Lee Hannigan was in like Puddy (apparently they’re known as Red Elite now) and Nancy Raygun. Matt was a drummer so he was partial to bands with technical prowess like Primus and the Chili Peppers. We always concluded every show with our signature freestyle oral oompahs…basically mouthed oompha (think Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) doo-wop scat stuff. Good times.
My point behind all of this reminiscing is to emphasise the beauty of student-operated radio. It’s a place where you can hear all kinds of music without a corporate agenda behind it. You also can’t forget the diversity. One of the perks of being a DJ at WLSO after you had a few years under your belt was that you were given the task of reviewing the new CDs that the record companies shipped to us. I was exposed to all kinds of music that I normally wouldn’t listen to. The same goes for the listeners. In an 8 hour span, you will hear music on college radio that won’t hear on commercial radio or music video channels (but you will on a station like KEXP from Seattle). I learned to appreciate bluegrass, ambient, death metal and a lot of other genres. The last thing I’d want to be is a hardcore indie rock dork (I don’t want to get into a rant against geek chic indie trends, fashions and scenesters now) and I know that exposure to different music definitely helped me. Sure, there’s the immediacy of the Internet nowadays when you can go and listen to what you want, when you want, whether legally or illegally. Lately, I’m guilty of leaving a browser window open on Silversun Pickups‘ website so as to listen to whatever their media player will offer, but there’s something unique in allowing someone else to expose you a blend of music while you take it all in. Much like post-secondary education itself, student-operated radio is all about experiencing and processing new ideas.