Cool Stuff: ‘Stomp & Stammer Radio Hour’
As usual, I’m way behind in everything. Why bother explaining anymore.
A few months ago, my friend Jeff Clark, Owner/Editor-in-Chief/Writer/Majordomo of Stomp and Stammer magazine, invited me to create the playlist and co-host an episode of his weekly radio show, Stomp and Stammer Radio Hour, on WMLB 1690 AM.
The idea resulted from a conversation we had about ’90s music — notably, college/indie rock — and the sad state of radio.
I expressed concern over bands that received college radio airplay during the ’90s and have been lost in the shuffle since then. Bands that were influential, interesting, unique. How will future generations ever know about these artists? What are the possible outlets for exposure?
College radio? Forget it. Less than a week after Jeff’s and my discussion, it was announced that WRAS 88.5, a.k.a. Album 88, Georgia State University’s 100,000-Watt student-run radio station, was sold into a bum deal with Georgia Public Broadcasting. It’s a long story, but, basically, GSU programming is relegated to 7:00 pm-5:00 am, while GPB hogs peak listening hours. It’s a blow to my alma mater: to students, faculty supporters of the station, and the public. Now there isn’t a place in Atlanta to hear interesting music indie or otherwise.
Alternative radio? Forget it. Sure, two new alt radio stations, with essentially with the same playlists, cropped up recently. And… oh God, they’re so bad. I can’t even type out the stations’ names. I won’t.
Newsflash: Lorde, Avicii, The Black Keys, Imagine Dragons et al are alternative only in an alternate universe. “Join the revolution,” one station commands. Oh, please, don’t make my eyeballs roll all the way down to the street sewer. Is there some secret definition of “revolution” we don’t know about? Though, in fairness, this new radio format is touted as “Alt 40.” *gag* Fits in nicely alongside Atlanta’s 12 billion Hot 100 and Rhythmic stations. *puke*
Classic rock radio? Forget it. When the classic rock format first came to be, it was Beatles, Floyd, Stones, Zeppelin; King Biscuit Flower Hour, Alex Cooley’s Electric Ballroom (fond Sunday morning memories from my childhood!). Now what’s left of the dying format includes REM, U2, and so on. The format needs to be segmented by audience, of which terrestrial radio doesn’t do a very good job.
Satellite radio? Forget it. Though segmented, Sirius/XM still misses the mark. The Lithium channel is for the listener who thinks high school was the “best years” of his life. It plays everything you can hear on your local “alternative” terrestrial station: STP, Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Bush, Weezer and plenty of Offspring. So much Offspring that my friend Chris swears Sirius has a “boner” for the band.
Jenny Eliscu’s Old School show on the XMU channel is the closest you’ll get to hearing what needs to be heard. She does a good job, but there are some stones left unturned. Then again, maybe she can’t get to everything…
People in my age demographic (Gen X), who don’t want/need mainstream ’90s music shoved down our throats, don’t have a single radio station representing us.
For a couple hours of airtime, I had an opportunity to make things better.
It took a while to cull my playlist. So difficult to squeeze in as many “forgotten” bands as possible and still have a few relatively “well-known” artists in there, so not to alienate the audience completely. And I didn’t even get to the industrial, pop, electronic and rap/hip hop/R&B genres!
Song order was equally important. The ebb and flow had to be just right. My strategy: start off nice and familiar, descend into madness, go soft again, melt people’s faces off, return to familiar territory, and end with “WTF did I just listen to?!?”
The finished product turned out well: varied yet cohesive.
It had been 10 years since I last spoke on-air — at the aforementioned WRAS Album 88. The venerable Beau Johnson (I always describe him as “venerable” for some reason) invited me in the studio for his Catherine Wheel freeform show. There wasn’t an extra set of headphones for me to wear. So, unable to gauge my vocal volume, I kept my statements to a minimum.
This time around, I thought I could get away with the same course of [in]action. After all, it’s not MY radio show — who am I to talktalktalk? It’s not about mememe. In fact, Jeff gave me a choice: we could cut a song or two to make room for more talking, or we could play more music and talk less. I opted for more music.
The first few times Jeff engaged with me, I froze, for what seemed like 10 seconds, before responding. Who knows if I even made sense. I flubbed facts about bands — facts I KNOW like the back of my hand!
Yes, I should have made additional notes, talking points, in preparation for the radio show. But I didn’t.
But, as I move forward with my new career and replace music facts with medical facts, the pages of my encyclopedic music knowledge burn away. It’s been only five years since I worked at Sony, when music was my life, literally. It feels like 20 years ago.
Jeff liked our on-air mistakes, which revealed us screwing up song and album titles, band origins and present-day projects. We publicly lamented our failing memories. Jeff said it made things sound “real.”
I felt different about it. Jeff is a public figure. He has a platform. He’s revered (and almost equally reviled — a true sign of having “made it”). He can redeem himself week after week on radio, month after month in print. I had one shot to get things right.
Only the discerning listener would notice this screw-up, when I recounted the album title for the Kitchens of Distinction song, “Breathing Fear”:
“Breathing Fear,” I answered, in a matter-of-fact tone, after a second of purposeful pause for comic effect.
Then a slow wave of “whuhhhhh…???” washed over me.
“Why does that sound wrong?” I thought, staring, dumbfounded, at what notes I did have on hand.
Three days later, it hit me.
I wasn’t wrong. But I wasn’t right, either. While making my playlist, I must have been thinking about two things at once. Yes, “Breathing Fear” is on the Breathing Fear EP… as well as the full-length album, The Death of Cool — THE ALBUM I ACTUALLY OWN. Ugh.
It’s really not that big of a deal. And I’m certain my anxiety over that minutiae annoyed Jeff. But I wouldn’t beat myself up over it if I weren’t constantly having to fight for credibility.
What do you mean?
Oh, it’s been an ongoing battle for years. But that doesn’t mean it gets easier. Intelligent, pretty female, never played in a band or worked in a record store, actually knows her shit about music, all on her own, and doesn’t need outside assistance or advice from a self-righteous cadre of “experts.”
This frustration comes not only in recreation but also in the workplace (not with my current job — I feel very safe and respected there).
If you don’t think what I’m describing is real, you’re naive. Or you’re one of those people who secretly loves to keep your peers underfoot, powerless, discredited. We all know what that stems from…
No, go ahead — fill in the blank. If you can be honest with yourself, that is.
Still don’t believe me? Put yourself in my place. Two examples from my Sony days:
1.) While listening to music at my desk (which everyone did, every day), a male co-worker walked by and was suddenly overcome with impress.
“Hey, you’re listening to Silversun Pickups!” he exclaimed. “Who told you about them? Me or [another male co-worker]?”
Wow. Thanks, Daddy. By the way: fuuuuuuuuck you!
“WHAT?! Excuse me, I found them on my own — no one had to tell me about them,” I shot back. Not the most creative comeback. But I was stunned.
I’d rather have been sexually harassed. Maybe I was sexually harassed, in a way.
2.) Another male co-worker, for whom I loyally bent over backwards when I was his intern, apparently thought so little of me, he suggested I could be his assistant if I ever moved to New York. He announced this as if it were the greatest idea he ever had. Sorry, dude. I’m not moving to NYC to live in a depressing $3,000-a-month shoebox to be a fucking assistant.
A year or so later, after I was laid off and stupidly paid him and others a visit at the New York Sony office, he told me his current intern was “the only [one] better than [you].”
Who says shit like that?!
I worked my ass off for that twunt while I was still in school and interning for Stomp and Stammer. I even SAVED his ass, once — and, incredibly, he still found a way to undermine me. If I were so sub-par, I wouldn’t have been hired on full-time at Sony. And if my boss thought I were a shitty employee, he and his family wouldn’t still be friends with me. They think the world of me (and vice-versa).
Had I not felt so vulnerable by being unemployed at the time, I would’ve told him, “Go fuck yourself,” and marched right back down to Madison Ave.
But I didn’t have to do that. Because I know what people say about him behind his back, what they really think of him. Joke’s on him.
Why did these guys — my peers in age, profession, education and skill — dispense this treatment? I can’t say for sure, except for maybe this: they were late bloomers to indie music.
It wasn’t until college when they realized music could make them “cool.” Suddenly, they could be tastemakers, go-to guys. People could seek them for music advice, concert tickets, CDs, backstage passes. They could tell their girlfriends what to listen to. People could look up to them. They could be “the man.”
Me, I found indie rock early, in 8th grade — too young to know a relative “cool” even existed; too young to portend what I would be up against throughout my adult life.
As truly erudite as these guys were about millennial music, and because they are a couple years older than I am, I erroneously assumed their expertise extended farther back. Yet, any time I tried talking ’90s music shop — the music of our teen years — the subject would shift to who they knew — which, I finally gathered, was limited in scope. When they were challenged with the unfamiliar, I’d get a curt, “Never heard of them,” as if my knowledge were inferior and not in line with which bands were “actually” worthwhile in the ’90s. If the bands I liked didn’t fit into their idea, their mold, those bands must have been shit.
I’m not saying my being an early adopter makes me better than anyone else. But I am going to give myself credit when no one else will, because I earned it independently.
As a 12-year-old girl with Northeastern family culture living in the Bible Belt and heavily into “weird” music, I didn’t exactly have the comfort of being surrounded by a peer group with similar interests to justify my place in the world. In my 20s, I got closer. In my 30s, I got even closer. Or, so I thought.
Yup, I have a new round of haters. I know who the players are. It became especially evident when I noticed someone — presumably a Power Hater (to be read like “power user”; adept) with too much time on her hands (Men don’t give .0000005 fucks about such matters) — artificially inflated page views on several Stomp and Stammer Radio Hour playlists… except mine.
Gee. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say it was a personal grudge.
Yes, I know. You put yourself out there, you open yourself to haters; they come with the territory. And I know you’re not supposed to address them. Yet, the Power Hater can’t expect to be exempt from excoriation any less than what I’ve already encountered, albeit subtle.
During the twilight hours on a Wednesday night, are there really suddenly 100 people more curious about the succeeding week’s radio show, thereby yielding juuuuust enough hits to surpass mine?
Given my observations on average daily site traffic, the answer is “no.”
Nope. That’s the work of a lone loon hitting the browser’s “refresh” button over 100 times. Wow. Revolutionary stuff.
More like manic.
Technically, there isn’t a point to that page view nonsense — it’s not a competition; it’s not important. No one gives a shit. No one is looking at that number as a recommendation or barometer. However, in the eyes of the Power Hater, that number is important. There is a point, and one point only: to make me look like the most unpopular kid in school.
Page views is a variable the Power Hater can control — a type of pitiful domination equivalent to spreading a rumor about you, egging your car, spiking your drink, and whatever other vicious, unkind things teenagers (a relative term) do to terrorize each other (I was a BOR-ING teenager. I’ve never done any of those things to people, but those things sure have happened to me — in my adulthood, by adults. ‘the fuck’s wrong with people?!).
Funny thing, about popularity: I don’t care about it. Because I’m not in middle school. Ironic (or perhaps not), because, listening to college radio while in middle school was, ummm, unpopular.
If I were interested in being the Queen Bee of my peer group, if I wanted to be “popular,” I’d, ummm, do “popular” things to elevate my “popularity.” Which means I would’ve played, uhhhh, “popular” music that all the “popular” people would like for the radio show. If I wanted to be “popular,” I’d try a whole hell of a lot harder than I have been.
So, whatever the Power Hater hoped to accomplish is null.
At the very least, I do find this… mishap… this strange, hilarious example of anonymous cowardice and destructive behavior… to be a compelling study on social hegemony. So puzzling, the rest of the week, I turned to PLOS ONE articles for answers — which only raised a new round of questions about why people behave the way they do.
But, enough about those insignificant things. I had a blast doing the radio show. By the end of it, I’d found my stride and relaxed. I felt comfortable talking on-air, and I would definitely do it again — whether people like it or not.
Big thanks to Jeff for the opportunity, for treating me well, for believing in me, for taking me seriously, for being patient, for acknowledging my musical prowess, and for providing me with a soundboard.
Originally, I was going to link to my playlist — overall, it would garner new visitors to the Stomp and Stammer website. But, since I don’t give a good goddamn about my perceived “popularity” in public, I’ll simply purvey the list here.
Now you can instantaneously put a price on my credibility without having to deal with those annoying hyperlink thingies. Enjoy!
Polvo – “Solitary Set”
Moose – “Boy”
Versus – “Glitter of Love”
Long Fin Killie – “Hands and Lips”
Saint Etienne – “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”
Loop – “Arc-Lite (Sonar)”
Six Finger Satellite – “Cock Fight”
Cows – “Whitey in the Woodpile”
Heavens to Betsy – “Nothing Can Stop Me”
The Auteurs – “After Murder Park”
Poem Rocket – “Small White Animal”
Arcwelder – “Smile”
Bailterspace – “Begin”
Kitchens of Distinction – “Breathing Fear”
Brainiac – “I, Fuzzbot”
Chokebore – “Bad Things”
Curve – “The Colour Hurts”
Tuscadero – “Holidays R Hell”
U.S. Maple – “You-Know-What Will Get You You-Know-Where”
Seam – “Rafael”
Super Furry Animals – “Hit and Run”
Mercury Rev – “Chasing a Bee”
If you’d like to survey Stomp and Stammer on your own, you know how to find it online.