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The author interviewing a guest on <em>The Marketplace of Ideas</em>.

Courtesy Photo

The author interviewing a guest on The Marketplace of Ideas.


Profiles in Radio

Starting With the Columnist Himself


Having completed our tour of KCSB’s past, we now turn to its present. I closed this column’s brief history of the station by reiterating what would seem to be its main lesson: that KCSB the media entity has always been an expression of KCSB the community. This is as true today as it was when that clutch of UCSB engineering students banded together to build a radio station nearly 50 years ago. The KCSBeat will, therefore, in the interest of capturing the station at the most fascinating level of detail, periodically profile current KCSBers, examining their lives, their broadcasting interests, their DJing techniques, their radio weltanschauungen.

If I intend to subject others to such a level of scrutiny, it’s only right and proper that I test it on myself first. Practical too: I’m a very convenient guinea pig on which to test my profile-writing theories. I thus need only pick up from the tail end of the previous column, when I revealed that the existence of KCSB provided my sole motivator to fill out a college application.

What got me from high school-imprisoned hopeful to six-year veteran KCSB programmer in reasonably good standing? Perhaps I’ve elided a more pressing question: Why in the world would an otherwise healthy 18-year-old be so into radio? The obsession’s roots run deep, back to a childhood consumed not by soccer, not by superheroes, but by old-time radio drama. Rarely a night would pass when I didn’t fall asleep to a cassette from my collection of shows from the 30s, 40s and 50s. Suspense, X Minus One, The Great Gildersleeve, even the ones like Amos & Andy that we’re no longer supposed to talk about: I had ‘em all, and I listened over and over again until the very oxide coating wore off the tape. Logical, then, that I came to consider radio the ideal entertainment medium. Given the chance to create some myself, how to seize it?

The first step carried me into the would-be DJ’s crucible, KJUC. (For details on its founding, check out The KCSBeat’s November 16 installment, “Power Up: A Brief History of KCSB, Part V.”) As KCSB’s AM training station that broadcasts only to certain UCSB dorm buildings-though it initially feels as if the ears of the teeming millions are on you nonetheless-KJUC offers a safe environment for the fledgling broadcaster to make every radio mistake imaginable. I committed all these, some several times per hour. Ejected a CD in the middle of a track? Check. Played the same song thrice in a row? Check. Flubbed every single word of an announcement? Check.

Someone smarter might have been deterred, but I wasn’t one to take my eyes off the prize. A week after my quarter on KJUC ended and I’d tremblingly submitted my demo tape to the powers that KCS-Be, that prize came: a two-hour time slot on the spring 2004 schedule-starting at 4 a.m. Never has anyone been so thrilled to drag themselves out of their dorm bed at 3:30 in the morning, cross a dark, desolate campus and try to remain awake while spinning tunes for the sort of people with an ear at the radio after last call but before sunrise. But still, I was on the radio!

Entitled Colin’s Bachelor Pad, my first program faced one challenge above all others: how to seem genre-defined without actually restricting myself from playing whatever I felt like, whenever I felt like it. Fortunately for me, listeners awake at the hour the street sweepers come out tend to possess a certain openness of mind. But it turns out that most KCSB programs operate under a similar mandate, shaped by the twin (and occasionally opposing) pressures of their ostensible formats and their DJs’ personalities. No surprise, then, that programmers often opt for total liberation via the “eclectic” designation.

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Courtesy Photo

This, for both participants and listeners, is one of the prime coolnesses of KCSB. Its DJs are human. Human tastes and attitudes change over time. Freeform radio offers the DJ complete creative control. KCSB’s shows, therefore, mutate and evolve with each passing quarter, mine being no exception: the Colin’s Bachelor Pad which featured mostly contemporary jazz begat the Colin’s Bachelor Pad which featured soul and electronic music which begat the interview program The Marketplace of Ideas when my love for broadcast conversation simply grew too strong. Forking off the lineage from there is Soundforum, my show devoted to ambient music and field recordings. This is exactly the sort of experimentalism KCSB fosters-and I’m far from the most experimental DJ there.

Having thus vindicated my reason to attend an institution of higher learning, it turns out I didn’t even have to be a UCSB student in the first place-KCSB accepts broadcasters from all walks of life. Now they tell me! But whether we’re talking about students, townies, or otherwise, the call is out, KCSB listeners: Would you enjoy seeing a particular KCSB personality profiled in The KCSBeat? Tell me who at colin@independent.com.

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