Friday, May 27, 2011

It's Not Dead: An Interview with Diego Russell, WRMC's 'Best Solo DJ of the Year'

Show name: Jammin' High
Is in it's: Sixth semester running
Genre: Jazz (one of the proud few on WRMC)

So I set out to see what Diego Russell, who was just awarded the title of WRMC's Best Solo DJ of the Year, could tell me about his show—the process behind creating it and its history—and that took us a few places, from his childhood sorting through his dad's CD collection to science fiction to his favorite trumpet players. When I walked into the studio Diego was advertising a fake lima bean festival going on in Middlebury on air, so I pretty much immediately counted on our half hour together being interesting, and it was. This is Jammin' High:

Discussed: Space Jazz, mail order pop compilations, the vitality of jazz in the modern age, BIO 145, and New Orleans jazz radio, among other things...

Me: Can you tell me a little bit about how you conceptualize or structure the show weekly?

Diego: Every week I'm just constantly gathering music. I'll be looking around and I'll find something that is new to me and I'll just start playing it. I'm a big fan of jazz and blues and funk and hip-hop and I'll pursue those genres.

One time I had this theme space jazz. There's a really good artist, Ornette Coleman, who does free jazz and he's really into space-themed songs. Sun Ra is another great and he has this album called The Heliocentric Worlds of Sun Ra. So those two guys got into space jazz. Also Herbie Hancock and his use of electronic music, that type of shit in the 80s, all that compiled into one show to become space-themed.

But I don't know, last week I was reading science fiction and I came across this opera that was based on a science fiction book by one of my favorite authors, Phillip K. Dick, and so I just started playing opera music, even traditional opera music, on my show. It's kind of spontaneous what my show's about for the most part, but I like it to have some kind of theme.

M: So do you see this as a jazz show or more just as your thing?

D: I predominately play jazz. But I don't think I can call it a jazz show anymore, but I wouldn't call it any other specific type of music either.

M: It's pretty rare to hear Jazz on college radio shows. (There's only one other Jazz show on WRMC). How did you get into the genre?

D: Mostly through my father's taste in music. A lot of the music I listen to comes from him. He's a fan of a lot of different kinds of music, but jazz kind of just took me. I've been listening to it since early high school and trying to kind of just accumulate as much jazz music as I can. What it means historically to musical development in this country I think is beautiful.

M: Did you start listening to a couple guys and kind of branch out from there? Or did you start listening mostly to the guys your dad listened to? I guess, where did your relationship with jazz start and how did it evolve?

D: I remember listening to Stanley Clark's album School Days really early on. I remember listening to Billie Cobham's Spectrum. I'll play a song from there called "Snoopy's Search." That's one of my earliest memories of weird music. I remember dancing to this when I was maybe eight or six. It has a really funny beginning that I would just freak out at and then it got into this really sick rhythm. The guy who wrote it is a drummer, it's just awesome. Hearing that on my dad's stereo system turned up really loud was really cool. [In the studio: fiddling with the aux cable, changing computers, some static, and then...]

M: When did you start discovering music on your own? And how?

D: Being at home alone, I had an older brother. My dad had a really large collection so we would just rove through that and play stuff. But also, I don't know if you remember this, but there used to be those ads in magazines like '21 CDs for 1 cent.' We would get CDs that were poppy and stuff, I remember Alanis Morrisette and Green Day and stuff, but that was more for my brother and that kind of wore off. Really where my music developed was from my dad's collection.

M: Do you play jazz yourself?

D: I play a little trumpet. I'd love to play a lot, but it's hard to find time. And I play a little trombone, which I just picked up this year. I love horns and brass music. Recently, as in this semester, I've really been listening a lot to this radio station streaming out of New Orleans called WWOZ. Check that out.

M: Has playing horns influenced what music you've looked for?

Yeah, I tried to pay attention to more trumpeters, like Freddie Hubbard, Lee Morgan, those kind of bop, post-bop guys. Who else is good in that sense? Donald Byrd, Miles Davis, but he's not just a trumpeter you know. But yeah, listening to trumpet and kind of knowing how it works more so than another instrument that I've never touched before definitely makes me want to pursue that sound and understand the goodness of it.

Also, there's a jazz festival in my town. I live in Cape May, New Jersey, and there's a jazz festival there every spring and fall. I haven't been since I left high school, but that was also really, really awesome as a kid, seeing some awesome groups. Like I saw McCoy Tyner and Bobby Hutcherson play there.

M: Has the show always been Jammin' High?

D: No, it's evolved. I forget what they used to be, man. I had so many.

M: So has the idea for the show changed over the semesters?

D: It's just what I've been listening to. That's changed a lot or gotten enriched you know. It's always been around jazz, but I've gone off in different areas of it. Latin jazz; to some New Orleans jazz; to jazz from California— cool jazz kind of stuff; jazz that's influenced by samba— Brazilian stuff. There are so many different types of jazz.

M: What's your interaction with the Middlebury community like in terms of the show? Do you get calls or people talking to you about the show?

D: I get calls every once in a while from people. The time I got the most calls was when I had a slot like 6-8 and all these people would call and be like, 'we were listening during dinner and it was awesome.' There's this one guy, who I know other DJs have gotten calls from—his name is Peaches, and he suggested some cool music that I listened to. He called every week for seven weeks one semester.

Right now BIO 145 listens to my show. I think they decided to put on the radio one time and I was playing some real funky stuff and the professor liked it a lot and was like we should listen to this all the time.

M: Anything else you want to say?

D: I'd say listen to jazz. It's still alive. There's plenty of young artists. To give out one name, one trumpeter who's awesome: Jeremy Pelt. I saw him in Philly a month or so ago. It's not dead.

-Interview by Moss Turpan

Thursday, May 26, 2011

New York in the Summatime: Land of So Many Good Concerts

So since it seems like people flock to NYC over the summer for internships and jobs and such things, I thought I'd share links to the few websites that will direct you to most of the good live music in the city over the summer. The idea was born out of a conversation I had in the library that literally went something like "Oh you're going to be in NY this summer for the first time? You're going to hear SO much good music. Here are the websites that can tell you where and when:"

For all things indie:

(The feature where you can choose what bands you like and get e-mails when they announce new shows is great, but a lot of the summer shows have already been announced so I'd recommend looking through the listings for the time you'll be there. There's a nifty 'save this show' feature so you don't forget which ones you want to see).

For many of the same things indie, from a different source:

(A lot of the big indie venues of the city— all the ones owned by Bowery Ballroom group— are listed on this website. Sometimes I end up coming across stuff here that I don't see on Ohmyrockness, but if you don't feel like spending the time, Ohmyrockness should have most of it).

And for Jazz, check out:

(There are a zillion shows listed, so you definitely have to pick and choose the ones that you think sound best. To pare it down a little, it might be worth checking individual venue websites if you find/hear about venues that sound good.)

Have awesome, music-filled summers all of you who are there! I'm jealous!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Middlebury Presents: Martin Sweeney

My hall-mate, Martin Sweeney, has a talent that he kept hidden from me until the final week of school. A talented producer and standout WRMC DJ, Martin has made several solid mash-ups and remixes. Standouts include a mash-up of Crazy Town's "Butterfly" with The xx's "Intro" and an original remix of Phoenix's "1901." They're both embedded below.

Butterfly/Intro by shweeneypeas

1901 - Sween Talk Remix by shweeneypeas


It's hard to be disappointed about Wolf Parade's hiatus with imminent releases by both Spencer Krug and Dan Boeckner. While Krug will be releasing Organ Music under the moniker Moonface on 2 August, the third album from Boeckner's Handsome Furs, Sound Kapital, drops on 28 June (zomg so soon). Below is "Repatriated", the second single from Sound Kapital, a track that embodies the one thousand and ten reasons why I heart a synthesizer.

Handsome Furs - Repatriated by subpop

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Soak it Up

To commemorate the beginning of summer, I mixed a tape of songs. RIYL: sand in the bottom of your backpack, air conditioned libraries, swimming to the buoy, and multiple tan lines.

Download the zipfile here:

  1. Star Slinger – Mornin’
  2. Saskatchewan – Dreamboat
  3. Beat Connection – Silver Screen
  4. Taragana Pyjarama – Ocean
  5. Houses – Soak It Up
  6. Washed Out – Eyes Be Closed
  7. Mood Rings – Indian Hills
  8. How to Dress Well – Ready for the World (Star Slinger Remix)
  9. Washed Out – Feel It All Around
  10. Summer Heart – Please Stay
  11. Sun Airway – Oh, Naoko
  12. Broken Social Scene – Shampoo Suicide
  13. Foxes in Fiction - School Night

Monday, May 23, 2011

The World at Large

Although Broken Social Scene ranks amongst my favourite bands, a BSS cover of “The World at Large” had me dubious. Given that Issac Brock’s lisping vocals are what define the sound of Modest Mouse, any attempt to emulate the whistling, bah-bah-bahpping glory of “The World at Large” seemed risky. Yet pared down to a snare, saxophone, and guitar, “The World at Large” becomes Broken Social Scene’s own. Slightly longer than the original song, the sparseness and sprawl of BSS’ rendition imparts a hazy yearning absent in the Modest Mouse version.

Check it:

Broken Social Scene » Modest Mouse from The Voice Project on Vimeo.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

WRMC Presents: Top 91

WRMC DJs have voted and the powers that be (read: the exec board) have tallied. Before you sits the top 91 songs of the past 365 days. If you missed the live broadcast from The Mill last Sunday night, shame on you. However, WRMC holds no grudges. If you know what is best, make a playlist with the following 91 songs and dance unabashedly in your room. There's no reason that the soundtrack to your summer can't be the best songs of this past fall, winter, and spring.

91. Matt & Kim - Cameras
90. Cee Lo - Fuck you
89. Das Racist - Rapping 2 U
88. Flo Rida - Club Can't Handle Me
87. Radiohead - Codex
86. J. Cole - Blow Up
85. Peter Bjorn & John - Second Chance
84. Radiohead - Lotus Flower
83. Rihanna - Only Girl In The World
82. Tallest Man On Earth - Like The Wheel
81. Tyler, The Creator - Yonkers
80. The Radio Dept. - The One
79. Twin Shadow - Castles In The Snow
78. Young Galaxy - We Have Everything
77. Smith Westerns - Imagine pt. 3
76. Girls - Heartbreaker
75. Patrick Wolf - The City
74. Oberhofer - I Could Go
73. Summer Camp - Jake Ryan
72. Architecture In Helsinki - Contact High
71. Balto - The Lover
70. Adele - Rolling In The Deep
69. Baths - Apologetic Shoulder Blades
68.Childish Gambino - Freaks And Geeks
67. Yuck - Operation
66. Star Singer - Mornin'
65. Toro y Moi - New Beat
64. Skrillex - Scary Monsters
63. Robyn - Indestructible
62. Kanye West - Lost In The World
61. Panda Bear - Slow Motion
60. Kanye West - Runaway
59. Peter Bjorn & John - Lies
58. Lil Wayne feat. Cory Gunz - 6 Foot 7 Foot
57. Panda Beat - Jetty
56. Robyn - Fembot
55. Lord Huron - Mighty
54. Rihanna - What's My Name?
53. Small Black - Despicable Dogs
52. Patrick Wolf - Time Of My Life
51. Kurt Vile - Jesus Fever
50. Kanye West - Devil In A Dress
49. James Blake - The Wilhelm Scream
48. Destroyer - Kaputt
47. Destroyer - Chinatown
46. Fleet Foxes - Ocean Grown
45. Deerhunter - Coronado
44. Cults - Oh My God
43. Ceo - Come With Me
42. Britney Spears - Till The World Ends
41. Big Boi - Shutterbugg
40. Best Coast - When I'm With You
39. Arcade Fire - Half Light II
38. Akron/Family - So It Goes
37. Yuck - The Wall
36. Wye Oak - Civilian
35. Wavves - King Of The Beach
34. Tennis - Marathon
33. Sufjan Stevens - Get Real Get Right
32. Robyn - Call Your Girlfriend
31. Oberhofer - Away FRM U
30. Janelle Monae - Cold War
29. Dirty Gold - California Sunrise
28. Destroyer - Suicide Demo For Kara Walker
27. Cults - You Know What I Mean
26. Braids - Lemonade
25. Best Coast - Boyfriend
24. TV On The Radio - Will Do
23. tUnE-yArDs - Bizness
22. Small Black - Photojournalist
21. Robyn - Hang With Me
20. Pains Of Being Pure At Heart - Heart In Your Heartbreak
19. Oberhofer - oO0OoO0O0
18. Janelle Monae - Tightrope
17. Cut Copy - Take Me Over
16. Crystal Castles - Not In Love feat. Robert Smith
15. Smith Westerns - Weekend
14. Lykke Li - I Follow Rivers
13. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
12. Deerhunter - Helicopter
11. Cults - Abducted
10. Arcade Fire - Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
9. Duck Sauce - Barbra Streisand
8. Yuck - Get Away
7. The Strokes - Under The cover Of Darkness
6. James Blake - Limit To Your Love
5. Delicate Steve - Butterfly
4. Kanye West - Monster
3. Kanye West - All Of The Lights
2. Delicate Steve - Wondervisions
1. Cut Copy - Need You Now

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Final Radio Event of The Year

So WRMC's Top 91 will air this Sunday at 9pm. The top 91 songs of the year as decided upon by the greater WRMC DJ community. Tune in to hear some of the best music of the past 365 days (yeah, we adhere to the school calendar, Jan. 1 is meaningless) hosted by a slew of WRMC DJs.

The annual WRMC Awards will also be given out in the following categories:

Best Show Name
Best Duo or Group
Best Solo DJ
Sexiest Radio Voice
Strangest Radio Voice
Best Show Concept
First-Year Award
Most Attractive DJ (pair or singlet)
Most Attractive Programming Directrice
Best Non-Music Show Award
Worst Attendance Award
3-5 AM Appreciation Award
WRMC Lifetime Achievement Award

Lastly, there has been some talk of senior week programming by graduating seniors, so if any of your favorite DJs won't be coming back next year, keep your ears perked!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Study Bands: Diamond Rings

For everyone here at Midd it's a tense time of year. But, as everyone knows, finals go a little bit easier with some solid background music. However, not all music is designed to sit in the background without distracting while still remaining interesting. For me, Diamond Rings fits the bill perfectly. While 2010's album Special Affections isn't necessarily hot off the press, I feel that it deserves a shout-out over this finals week. John O'Regan, the creative force behind Diamond Rings, hails from Toronto, Canada. He takes the stage alone and recently finished a tour with Robyn.

His synth backed, droned-out songs sit perfectly in the background of a study sesh and his melancholy lyrics fit into the mix well. On "It's Not My Party" O'Regan straightforwardly sings, "And if you wanna throw a party I can cry tonight / You would cry too if it happened to you right / I keep falling in and out of love with you / I never loved anyone the way I do you." I don't know about you, but I can write a paper to that.

Check out the videos for "It's Not My Party" and "Something Else" embedded below.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Balls of Steel - Acidstep EP

Hello radioheads,

Yours truly, Balls of Steel, has just self-released his debut EP, the Acidstep EP. It's acid (the music, not the drug)-influenced dubstep. The first track is a dubstep stomper, and the second is some weirder late night business featuring the sultry vocals of the mysterious "Messmore" (who could this Messmore be?).

Acidstep EP by Balls of Steel

You can stream or download the tracks above. Do with them what you will.