Every Monday 7-10 a.m. Central on 88.1 KDHX, Cat Pick hosts “Emotional Rescue,” a wide-ranging mix of pop, rock, R&B and so much more.
I chatted with the award-winning DJ (the Riverfront Times named “Emotional Rescue” Best Rock Radio Show in 2009) about her history with KDHX, her early discovery of music and what keeps her going as a volunteer on the radio.
Dani Kinnison: How did you get started at KDHX?
Cat Pick: Well, I started with my first husband and we started volunteering in like 1988 maybe, so it’s been a long time. We did music library stuff, so of course we wanted a show and put our application in. Then we got a show near the end of 1988 and that was a Saturday night into Sunday morning, 3 a.m. to 6 a.m. We had that for quite some time.
How do you pick stuff for Emotional Rescue?
In the past, I think it was different when we started because it was just so important to play certain things that nobody knew about. That was before [the Internet] and everybody knows everything now, you can find it in a second. Our first show was called “Left of the Dial,” because we loved the Replacements so much, and normal people didn’t know about the Replacements.
And I think now, the older I get and the longer I’ve done it, it’s kind of just what sounds good that day. And I do the birthdays, so that’s kind of a starting point every week, things that I’ve never heard before necessarily, so it’s fun. But I think it’s less, the way music is now, it doesn’t feel so like “Oh my god, everybody must love every single thing I play because it’s so important” you know what I mean? It’s way more, “I wanna play this song so I’m going to play it.”
Does your own personal music taste overlap with your show?
Absolutely. I think it’s pretty clear. People tease me about things that I’m obsessed with that I’ll play a lot. I started my show with Elbow a lot, for probably more than a year, and now I don’t do it very often anymore, but that’s what people say to me. So yeah, definitely my own tastes absolutely come through, but I do play a lot of stuff off the new shelf. We don’t rule out something necessarily just because it’s popular on regular radio. But a lot of people who listen to KDHX don’t listen to regular radio so they don’t hear it.
Do you have a certain format for “Emotional Rescue”?
I probably have about half of my show done beforehand. I do playlists on my computer, probably about an hour and a half’s worth, and the rest is just whatever. So that works out. I like having that so I know if something happens I don’t freak out and I’ll have something there to play.
Some people are very planned with their shows, down to the minute. I can’t even imagine that. It just seems to work out. After you do it for such a long time, I mean I haven’t done it solidly since I’ve started, but for the most part, I think you just get the rhythm down and you just know. I don’t even think about it.
This past June marked my second year as a music writer for KDHX. I had just moved back to the St. Louis area from New Jersey and found myself listening to 88.1 KDHX more and more often.
Part of the reason I gravitated to the left side of the dial was because I didn’t want to hear the same 20 songs all day. The other, more important part was that I could tune in at any hour of the day and hear something I’d never heard before. Whether I liked what I heard or not, it was expanding my horizons little by little.
Over these past two years the work I’ve done for the station has helped me grow as a writer, a music lover and a person. I’ve met and befriended some of the greatest people I’ve ever had the pleasure to interact with, both volunteers and the community that we serve.
When I look back at the profound changes I’ve experienced through my work for the station, the one that stands out the most is that I take more risks in my musical life. When I began writing concert reviews for the station, I didn’t know who most of the bands on the concert calendar were. Instead of doing research, I decided to take a more hands-off approach and just pick from the review opportunities that came via email.
That all changed one night when I won some tickets elsewhere on the Internet and asked if I could review the show since I was going to be there anyway. I got the green light and showed up with notebook in hand to document the evening. That show was one of the most powerful, positive experiences in my life. Ultimate Fakebook (who I had heard a total of one song from before that night) was playing one of four reunion shows with the Dead Girls (from Lawrence, Kan.), the Highway Companion and the Orbz at the Firebird midway through December.
I still can’t put my finger on exactly what the source of that magic could have been. Maybe it was the fact that the opening acts were huge fans of Ultimate Fakebook and put that passion into their performances. It may have been the fact that the bands loved what they were doing and it showed. Maybe it was that everyone was singing along with UFB while they were rocking the place to the ground, each song becoming my new favorite track.
Whatever it was, it made a huge, indelible mark on my mind. I’d never before seen a crowd so in love with the acts and the acts returning the feeling in abundance. I’d heard people talk about transcendent experiences brought about by music, but had never experienced one myself until then.
For those of you still reading, I’m about to make my point.
None of this would have come about had it not been for KDHX. I would not have been exposed to the progressive bluegrass of Punch Brothers, the raw honesty of the Rural Alberta Advantage or the focused power pop of the aforementioned Ultimate Fakebook had it not been for that short announcement I’d heard while cruising down Highway 30 and decided to put my name into the volunteer hat.
This is my challenge to you, dear reader: Throw caution to the wind and seek out something that might be a little out of character for you. Turn to 88.1 KDHX at a time you usually don’t listen and see if something grabs you. Make a mix CD of the great songs you’ve discovered here and give it to a friend who is still stuck in the commercial stations. Flip through the concert calendar and go see a band based on its name. Catch a touring act on a Sunday or a Tuesday night when no one shows up at the venues. Skip that Extra Value Meal at lunch and use that $7 to catch a show of local acts at what could become your new favorite watering hole.
Even better, hit the volunteer page at KDHX.org and throw your own name in the hat or support the station with donation during its membership drive. No matter your skill level or income level, there is something you can do to better yourself, the station and the community at large.
Matt Champion is a Senior Music Writer at KDHX. Read more of his reviews, interviews and features.
If you search Google maps for “Chicken Shack Alley, Garage” (I don’t know why you would, but if you did) it’ll point you to someplace in Collinsville, Ill.; that’s not the Chicken Shack Alley Garage I have in mind.
Let me clarify: On Sunday September 9 from 6-8 p.m. Central join me and Tony C. in a garage on the Chicken Shack Alley. Tony C. will be filling in for Rich Barta on the regular Sunday night R&B show that night (Rich Barta and Bruce B. alternate every other week). Tony has asked me to help put together a show that we’ve been talking about for a couple years. We were discussing the connections many of the garage bands had to blues, R&B and soul, and we’ll be broadcasting from the studios of 88.1 KDHX in St. Louis…not Collinsville.
Many garage bands based their sound on that music, filtered through the British Invasion bands of the mid-’60s: the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, the Kinks, the Who, Them and others. So we will be playing garage bands — and their British equivalent “freakbeat” bands — covering the blues, R&B and soul, or doing music that was heavily influenced by those genres.
Please join Tony and me on Sunday, September 9 from 6-8 p.m. Central — you can listen online at KDHX.org on mobile device via TuneIn — as we explore these specific meandering musical paths as they crisscross the crossroads of the blues, R&B and soul. Oh, and don’t bother looking for it on Google maps.
Every early Tuesday morning, from 5 a.m. to 7 a.m. Central, valis guides 88.1 KDHX listeners through the netherworlds of psychedelic music on “Trip Inside This House.”
In this interview, valis and I chat about his history with KDHX, his passion for psychedelic sounds and the obsessions of being a DJ.
Dani Kinnison: How did you get started DJing at KDHX?
valis: I didn’t volunteer. I was strictly a listener, a longtime listener. We moved back to St. Louis in 2005 I think, and in July 2008 I went to the orientation at the urging of a good friend and my wife. So I went and had a great time at the orientation, and emailed Andy [Coco, Production Manager] the next day and said, “Here’s the track I want,” the DJ track, and I think I went in a few days later and got through that portion of it.
My trepidation has always been the technology fear. There’s too many buttons and stuff, and I was afraid I would either hyperventilate or just freeze around all that machinery. Jeff Hess [host of "Afternoon Delight"] allowed me to come on to his show, sit there for two hours watching him do the stuff. He confirmed what Andy told me: that we’ll only use four buttons tops during the two-hour period. A lot of it is just superfluous. That eased my mind and about two and half months later I was offered a show and have been there since.
Do you have any background in music?
I got a guitar in 1991 and bought a guitar book and learned some of the basic chords. At the end of about a month I knew close to 200 songs, but they all rhymed with “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” That’s about the extent of my musical career.
Why psychedelic music?
Well, in the late ’80s when I was in my mid-20s, all my reading was on that kind of stuff. I was very interested in the exploration of it and where it came from, what things push it further, etc., alternate realities, things like that. I was not listening to psychedelic music at all. I had no idea that there was a whole, massive genre dedicated to all those things I was reading about. When we were living in the Grand Canyon in 1991, it’s a musical vacuum there, community wise.
So I probably read a review of Primal Scream’s “Screamadelica” and bought it and put it on rotate the whole night. I don’t think I slept the first night I got that album. It was just an extreme revelation to me that that was music that was matching what I was reading about.
So that’s really the genesis of that. I found music that matched what I was reading about. You could almost say I was a latecomer to it. I’m a latecomer to a lot of things.
“All Soul, No Borders” is weekly proof of why Josh Weinstein is sometimes described as a musical holy man and shaman.
Every Sunday, 10 p.m.-midnight Central, Josh plays what I would describe as a record, historical or otherwise, of what great musicians were saying from many places, at many times, and from many perspectives. This results in what could be described as very much like getting a soul recharge for the low, low price of paying attention. Josh has honed the skill of finding the commonalities between what musicians are saying; as a result, there isn’t a single genre, era or time that could be associated with what is played on his show.
If you listen, Josh will play it — where “it” is something you needed to hear.
In this email exchange he and I discussed the finer points of programming music on KDHX and why music makes life worth living.
Jared Corgan: Would you say that you first approach your show’s music analytically then aesthetically or some other method? How does that work?
Josh Weinstein: No, I do not analyze the music first. Just as I don’t initially approach a beautiful sunset analytically. I take it in as it is. I let it affect me how it will. I try not to bring any expectations to it. That’s a good way for me to experience what it is and what it does to me on different levels. Of course, there’s an intellectual level, too. That’s a different state of listening for me.
How long have you been a volunteer with KDHX and how much of that time have you been a DJ?
I have been a volunteer at KDHX since the spring or summer of 2000. I became a DJ in the fall of that year.
How would you describe yourself as a person outside of the role of DJ?
Here’s someone else’s description of myself on and off air: “Hey you know that I truly meant the things I said about you on the show — I think you are a musical holy man and I feel I learn just being around you and picking up on what spills off — as a human being you are just as flawed as the rest of us but as a musical shaman I really believe you might even be able to heal.” (recent email from KDHX DJ Bob Reuter.)
So, let’s just go with “flawed.”
What do you want your audience to take away or get from your shows?
Firstly, I’m grateful that there is an audience. This reinforces my belief that there is a need here for The Music. What I want is for this need to be satisfied. I hope that it does for you what it does for me. Has your ear ever been so thirsty that you cupped and aimed it at a source to get as much in as possible? That happens to me sometimes. I’ll try to really get inside the sound of a ride cymbal, for example. I just noticed it again yesterday at an outdoor concert at Laumeier Sculpture Park. I was listening to Thollem McDonas, Arrington de Dionyso, and Eric Hall and I realized I had my hand around my outer ear and my head cocked to the side. Then I visualized/experienced my ear as a deep void being filled with the sound waves. This felt so good. It was like a metaphysical itch being scratched. Or my brain being massaged. I want to rub your brain.
Event review: KDHX fans and DJs share love, music and chaos at Midwest Mayhem at the City Museum, Thursday, May 10
While walking towards the entrance one could glimpse the familiar school bus extending over the street as the mantis praying from above seemed to bless the mayhem ahead.
The night began with the sounds of Bob Reuter’s Alley Ghost welcoming patrons at the first floor Whale Stage (Reuter is host of Bob’s Scratchy Records on Friday afternoons on 88.1 KDHX). The crowd continued to grow throughout the evening as attendees wandered and climbed through four floors of entertainment including an excellent variety of live music, indoor and outdoor playgrounds, spin sessions by DJs, burlesque performers and even an in-house vintage clothing shop featuring its own side stage.
Like KDHX, the City Museum is ever evolving. Areas under construction at last year’s event were now open to exploration as renovations were being done on new sections. The evening was highlighted by musical acts ranging from traditional folk and country to modern rock and electronica.
Opening on the second floor, synth-pop group Née provided dance tunes beneath white icicle lights hanging from the ceiling. Meanwhile, the third floor was washed over by the folk and country blend of the Five and Dimers. On the other side of the building, burlesque performers entertained a packed house with three sets that included a grand finale male performer.
As the night continued, featured drinks by New Belgium and Sailor Jerry ensured a well-lubricated evening. Javier Mendoza was second to take the Whale Stage; the St. Louis veteran offered up a selection of singer-songwriter rock tunes attracting familiar fans and passers by who were simply following their ears.
Up again on the third floor, the Lawn Chair Brigade was present and in full effect as they marched around, snap-folding their chairs and providing a welcomed pre-show for the KDHX Blues Band (which included long-time 88.1 KDHX DJs Papa Ray, Art Dwyer, Ron Edwards and Michael McHenry). The crowd continued to expand as the band wielded wildly entertaining harmonica solos over lively and tight blues jams, attracting a wide variety of listeners.
An 88.1 KDHX DJ for 17 years, Rob Levy still calls Juxtaposition, his show that airs every Wednesday from 7-9 p.m. Central, “a work of chaos.”
A few weeks ago Rob and I met at Meshuggah coffee house in St. Louis to talk about how writing, the ’80s and KDHX have influenced his musical taste and affected his long-running show.
Kate Williamson: How did you get started at KDHX?
Rob Levy: I got out of college in ’95 and I had a broadcasting degree with a marketing degree like every kid who comes out of a mass communication degree. I had done, in college, a radio show before, so I was kind of looking around, and my options if I wanted to work in radio were to go to Sikeston or Warrenton or some of those places and bounce around.
Back in the day people would go to a station in Warrenton or Sparta, Illinois, they’d be there for six months, there’d be a change, then they’re off to some other station. And I didn’t really want to mess with that. So I was really looking for marketing and PR jobs and trying to get a radio job, but figuring I wasn’t going to. This was right around the time that the Point was in full swing, but I think I was a little too rough for that in terms of stuff I played and my style.
So, I’d listened to KDHX and I recognized a lot of people from shows and stuff growing up. I just thought one day on a lark I was going to call down there and see what would happen. And I called and it wasn’t organized like it is now. It was like literally going through four or five people. I got a call back and it was like, “What would you like to do?” and I had a demo and it was a cassette. I got a slot, it was an overnight, I started off doing 3 to 5 [in the morning] which in a way was good because I got a feel for the station, and they kind of know you really want to do it. I don’t remember much about the overnights other than I just sort of played what I wanted to play and did requests and tried not to make anyone mad. And then a slot opened up in the afternoon. I did an afternoon show for about a year, and then I ended up in the evenings.
Did the style of the show change? The type of music?
Yeah, kind of. When I was on in the afternoon they didn’t have the schedule set up like they do now where they try to make everything flow into the next show. So I was playing everything from Fat Boy Slim, Billy Bragg, to Front 242 in the afternoon, which in a way was probably kind of jarring. Once I got the evening slot I thought I’m going to be able to do some stuff with this so let me build what I’m going to do. So then it was like ok, I’m always going to want to play new music. I’ve always thought the core of KDHX was new music and I’ve always tried to play new music.
I’m always going to try to play stuff that people aren’t going to hear anywhere else because I think the basic reason people listen to the station still is because they want to hear programming that is alternative to anything else they’re going to hear. But I always have tried to play something new or something really cool ahead of time before it comes out but also mix in something like these great records from the ’80s that people may not have heard or may have forgotten about. And I don’t really put any handcuffs on what I want to play. I try to think about the show that comes on before me — Dr. Jeff and Kate after me — in terms of what I’m doing and what other shows are on during the day. So it’s about how it’s all going to fit together as a puzzle and try to make it work.
Every Saturday night JJ Loy keeps the two-decade run of Ska’s the Limit bouncing from one foot to the other.
Joe Duepner: How long have you been at KDHX?
JJ Loy: About three and a half years now.
You started out doing the show?
Yeah, I’d done a ska-themed podcast that Paul Stark (previous host for 16 years) knew about. Paul stepped down to do the Musical Merry-Go-Round show and he told KDHX that he was going to end Ska’s the Limit. A few people said they didn’t want the show to go away as it was a weekend staple. I was on the list of possible hosts, and when they asked me if I wanted it, and I took it. So I didn’t have to go through a lot of the rigmarole that other hosts have.
I mean they did stick me on in the middle of the night for about a year to prove I could do it, but other than that…
Where did the logo come from? I really like it.
I had that designed. Before Ska’s the Limit had the standard checkerboard thing. It was done by Steve Kitchen from Combination13. He does skate decks and album covers for bands. He did it up real nice.
The way you said Ska’s the Limit, are you not a fan of the name?
Well I feel like it’s kind of a joke name.
But a lot of ska bands are pun names.
That’s a trend that’s kind of ending though. I think that did the scene a kind of disservice. You’d have trouble selling yourself today if your name was the Veal Skallipinis or something. There’s a lot of stigma attached to the word ska as well even though the music the current scene is playing isn’t the kind of ska that people hate.
Which would be what?
You know, ska punk has probably got the worst reputation. I’m thinking the Reel Big Fishes and No Doubts. The ones with the really big names are the ones that make people think, “Yeah I know what ska is now and I hate it.” It’s not that I hate the name, but it’s more that I think I could find a more fitting one. Honestly I play only about half ska. Mostly it’s Jamaican and retro music. Most of the bands that you would call a ska band are playing more reggae than ska. So I think it’s not a fair descriptor.
So this fourth wave of ska, it’s more back to roots?
There was an argument about that for a while. It doesn’t seem to be a wave anymore. There aren’t peaks or breaks, just a steady movement. I think the Internet has kind of normalized the popularity of genres. It’s not such a flash in the pan or revival to revile or to backlash. I’d say for 10 years now it’s been steady growth. At least on the early reggae scene. Not so much regarding the ska punk stuff.