Underground Sounds

On Monday, August 23rd I’ll be returning to my old stomping ground: CKUT. I spent about 4 years co-hosting Underground Sounds on CKUT with Agata De Santis. Now Agata is leaving the show – after 15 years of holding down the fort. On Monday the dream team reunites as I join Agata as co-host of Underground Sounds.

Underground Sounds has been a show on CKUT since, well, forever. The show mandate is to promote local and independent music, with an overall emphasis on Canadian bands and artists. I learned a lot doing that show, and really liked the rock’n’roll boot camp afforded by volunteering at the station. In addition to hosting the show I was given a weekly stack of promo CDs to listen to and categorise for the station’s music library. I can’t imagine, nearly ten years since I left the station, how they’ve managed to maintain an ever-growing library that was already bursting at the seams, like a mini musical archive, walls lined with vintage vinyl on bowing shelves.

Anything I wanted to hear was there, anything I’d heard about or read about, I could listen to and I felt really lucky to have that privilege…just by being a volunteer. I suppose that these days this isn’t such an exclusive thing – everything is digitised now and can be previewed usually for free on the internet. I was at CKUT between 1996-2000, in the years before the internet broke and the term “MP3” was in its infancy.

All of this “radio talk” has got me to thinking: podcast? The idea’s been floating around in my mind for a few weeks now, but I was always troubled by the idea of what I would fill a podcast with. I’m totally stoked to be going back to CKUT, even if it’s just for one night because it’s got the ideas flowing…maybe I should go back on a more regular basis? And who are the new kids hanging out at the station? What’s the vibe over there? CKUT continues to have some really great music programming: if you haven’t already, consider listening to shows like The Lion’s Den, New Shit, Roots Rock Reggae, Positive Vibes, and the quintessential 90’s Montreal rock show, Aack! Check the programming grid for downloads of all these shows. Consider it a lesson in what makes this city tick.

Radio has certainly changed a lot, since the fall of the “analog” or “physcial” music industry. Everything is digital now, and local radio is less about who is listening locally and more about the city that informs it’s programming. The popularity and portable-ness of online media has pretty much allowed radio to remain relevant. Stations like WFMU in Jersey City really set the bar: local freeform radio without commercial constraints, supported by a far-reaching community of dedicated listeners. Music “culture” has become so sadly diluted by corporate incentives, marketing bravado, hidden subtexts and carbon-copy, cookie cutter bands. And all that totally drains the soul out of art.

CKUT has remained pretty much un-compromised, with music shows curated by music lovers for music lovers. Take a listen, volunteer for an afternoon, support your local station.

Underground Sounds: Tune in and listen: Monday August 23rd from 8-10PM EST on CKUT 90.3 FM in Montreal and online at ckut.ca. I’ll also post a link to the show/podcast once it is archived. Call us while we’re on the air on Monday: 514.448.4013.

Use the comments below to let me know if you think I should make a second go of this radio thing. Would you download/listen to my podcast?

Listening to the Radio

Yesterday I went to pick up Neptune from pre-school at 5:00PM: driving during drive time. “Drive time?” you may question. Yes: radio stations have premium content during rush hours: buying a commercial is more expensive, and getting your song added during “drive time” is every label’s wet dream. Because we are captive, in a car, trying to get home from work (presumably), and stuck in traffic. For this very reason I usually try to not be in my car during drive time. I live against the grain like that.

So yesterday was a treat(-ish), to be stuck in my car, driving across TMR, scanning through the FM radio waves for something to listen to. I stopped on what I initially thought was CHOM (our classic rock station) because there was this song that sounded new-wave but who’s production sounded too, uh, today. I listened on and got into the chorus, thinking: “Oh my god this HAS to be Canadian,” like a Burton Cummings/Neverending White Lights collaboration: an anthemic chant “I love this city tonight!” in a 12-part harmony including one voice singing an ultra-high impossible-falsetto. Methinks: “This is a song about Winnipeg.” As the song broke down for the ending, my reaction was: “Oh no they didn’t!” as the rock radio break down of just the vocals for a round, then just the lead vocal for a round with tons of delay. Cue lasers and station ID. I was listening to CISM, one of our college radio stations.

Still driving, I had to know what that was. The clock hit 5:00 exactly, so I had to sit through ten commercials for indie rock shows the station was promoting – another mind-boggling exercise, hearing snippets of all these bands that are “on the scene.” Barf. I hit the scan button a few times. I wanted to find Richard Tefry’s show on CBC Radio 2 but they were breaking for the news, too. I kept scanning. On the next station I heard synths: lots of layered synths – like Daft Punk or Depeche Mode – and I was kind of into it, but thought the song would be really, insanely heavy if there were real drums (instead of the 808, techno kick). I imagined a band that wrote orchestral, synth rock as I made a turn into some really dense Decarie traffic and learned I was listening to The Killers new single, “Human.” Not sure about that lyric: “Are we human, or are we dancer?” But it’s a little sci-fi, so I’ll let it pass.

This morning I woke up determined to find out who wrote the former eye-opener. I tapped the lyric: “I love this city tonight” into Google and there it was: Snow Patrol. “Really? Not Canadian at all.” A lot of unconventional, unexpected songs get “chosen” to play on the radio…its an exclusive club…although CISM and college radio stations play us a lot so I can’t complain. Last night, as I was making dinner, we did a really long interview with a radio station in Hawaii. Listening to the radio is like an experiment…maybe I’ll hear something interesting, revealing, terrible, laughable, unbelieveable or amazing.