DJ spotlights are a great way for you to meet the awesome students and community members behind the voices you hear on KWVA each day. Stay tuned for a DJ Spotlight every few weeks, and if you’re a DJ who’d like to be featured, email Sophie.
This week’s DJ Spotlight highlights Blake Andrews, also known as DJ B. He’s hosted a regular KWVA show called Poplar Knull since 2012, although it’s currently on hiatus. He lives with his wife and 3 teenage sons on 7 acres near Spencer Butte.
KWVA Music Blog: Where are you from?
Blake: I grew up near Redway on the North Coast of California. Redwood/Marijuana country. The nearest radio station was about 60 miles away, and it wasn’t a very good one. But they did play Dr. Demento every Sunday evening. That was my first inkling that good music could be absurd and dissonant and funny. That probably planted the radio seed for me.
KWVA: How did you get involved in KWVA/when?
B: My dad’s a bassist, so I grew up in a musical home. But the radio bug didn’t bite until a few years ago when I sat in with a buddy on his weekly radio show in Portland. Shortly after that, I applied to KWVA and I got a regular slot in Summer 2012. In the beginning my show, “Poplar Knull” followed a pretty standard format. I played songs in sequence, bands I liked, blah blah blah. Radio is sort of like a drug. Your ears build up a tolerance to the familiar, and it takes stronger doses of alienation to get the same buzz. At least that’s what happened to me. So over the years, my show has become increasingly experimental and wacky.
KWVA: You don’t currently have a show, but when you did, what genre of music did you play?
B: I try to keep it wide open with a mix of genres, eras, and song lengths. I find a lot of public domain weirdness on ubuweb and The Archive, and I’m open to traditional audio, too. It all goes into a big shuffle pile, from which I’m always digesting unknown (to me) “songs.” When something sticks, I throw it in an iTunes folder. By the end of each week, I’ve usually got a hundred or so files in there. From that stash, I create two separate playlists, one in iTunes and one burned to CD. I use the iTunes sequence as the main 2-hr track during my show. On top of that, I mix in material from the CD whenever it seems right. I like to blend tracks during longer instrumental passages and song transitions, but I’m not too picky. About a third of the show winds up being a two-track melange with no clear rhythm, lyrics, or melody. When the combinations work well, they can be quite special, but of course there’s also some chaos. I’m sure it drives some listeners crazy. But however it turns out, I know I’ve shared something that I’ve created on the spot which will never be heard again, just like any live performance.
KWVA: Favorite artist to play on the air and why?
B: Probably the Minutemen. I’ve come to associate most Minutemen songs with memories of adolescence, which for me was an enjoyable period of awakening and transition. I wouldn’t call their music psychedelic, but it’s 100% unique. They sound like no one else. A lot of the time they don’t even sound like themselves. So a Minutemen song is a good way to inject discontinuity into any playlist.
KWVA: Favorite KWVA memory?
B: I loved the old studio when it was crammed into a refurbished girl’s room on the mezzanine. Every time I entered I felt like John Cusack getting off at the 7 1/2th floor. “Where the f- am I?” It had the vibe of a well-loved guitar case, covered with stickers and graffiti and door latches that didn’t close quite right. The new digs are great too, much more spacious and user-friendly.
KWVA: If you could have any band in the studio for a performance/interview, who would it be and why?
B: If I could go back in time and pick any band from history, I’d invite the Miles Davis and his crew circa Silent Way/Bitches Brew. Shorter, McLaughlink, Corea, Zawinul, Holland, f-ing Herbie Hancock! I mean, they were just on another planet. To see them live? Woah. If restricted to active local bands, I think Yob would be fun.
KWVA: Who (artists or bands) have you been listening to this month?
B: Lately, I’ve been working my way through the Album Sharity List on Egg City Radio. It’s a wide range of out-of-print albums, mostly proto-new wave from the 70s and early 80s. Black Randy and the Metrosquad, Cleaners From Venus, William S. Fischer, Vyto B, Strangulated Beatoffs, Kha-Ym, Pink Military, Amanda Lear, Athletico Spizz 80, Suburban Lawns, Chrisma, Cowboys International, Dymaxion, Wazmo Nariz, Moebius and
Plank, Friction, etc. All of it is great, but the stuff I keep returning to is a stash of old Devo outtakes collected on Recombo DNA and Hardcore Nos. 1 and 2. Devo can be kind of goofy. Their music shouldn’t work at all. I mean, any other band that tried to do what they did would fail. But somehow, they transcended themselves and became magic. Listening to old B-sides and early versions gives me a hint of how they reached their more polished state. So I’m in a weird phase now where I can’t get enough early Devo.