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.
Now and again in addition to co-hosting the reggae radio program Positive Vibrations on KDHX I do club spins. No chatter, just a lotta platter. Roots, dub, dancehall from eighties to present as long as the music’s conscious, or at least thoughtfully sexy and wittily worded, with a couple of shakes of rock steady.
One October Saturday night a couple of years ago, I did the early set, 6-10 p.m., at Atomic Cowboy. As regular denizens know, even among nightspots in the Manchester Grove, Atomic is set apart, a 3 a.m. nightclub-restaurant (better than average food, too) with music ranging from hip hop and house DJs to indie rock and jam bands. Servers can be expected to wear a mélange of leather, denim, piercings and tattoos, a point I mention only because of the contradistinction soon to appear. I was in their outdoor space on a raised stage in front of the patio and covered bar. A bonfire to my left would begin as soon as the sun went down.
The night was warm with a light breeze. First hour I came out with old time Treasure Isle, original riddims sliding into newer versions, same thing with Studio One, stirred and shaken with top-shelf dub. People arrived in trickles. Next hour I flicked the discs experimentally, Ernie Ranglin merging into Thievery Corporation, a Bob Marley “Stir it Up” running into a Nigerian tune with the same structure, and ran a sequence of new takes on old riddims, including Bob Marley’s “Coming in From the Cold” and Desmond Dekker’s “(007) Shanty Town.”
The real energy was at a picnic table, eight middle-aged folks of Indian descent hunched into each other, six on the benches and two on chairs on each end. A couple of the women wore saris, but the rest were in western attire. Several times I looked their way; the people didn’t seem perceptibly affected by the music. They ordered a full dinner and several rounds of drinks. Off to the side, purely for decoration, the bonfire was lit.
In the last hour I put on a dub and went to the bar so I could start tapping the $20 credit that came as part of the deal. One of the men from the picnic table was standing there, and I nodded at him. He began talking.
The man was sixty-ish, wearing the retiree’s regulation plaid shirt and a crisp haircut, and bore the aura of an immigrant freshly dispensed from the church van for an elderhostel lecture. He and his kin had heard my jams for a solid hour and a half, and I would have enjoyed being reggae ambassador for a minute but I had set the music loud. I could hear almost nothing beyond chin-kuhchun, chin-kuhchin of guitar, backbeat and the wicked Prince Jammy-produced crash of the cymbals.
I began thinking the man was a pharmacist, likely somebody unaccustomed to nightclubs. Maybe he and the missus originated in New Delhi early that morning and had been in transit all day. I began trying to imagine his story. They had just gotten off the plane, and the diasporan relatives had taken the weary couple directly to midtown St. Louis for their first night in America. To Atomic Cowboy for dinner and music. This must all seem very strange.
“You shouldn’t do a job just to do it; you should do a job because you give a damn,” says Jason Robinson, host of the Mixtape on 88.1 KDHX.
Now that he’s settled into his new, earlier time slot (Monday evenings, 11 p.m.-1 a.m. Central), the father of two and member of St. Louis rock band the Orbz paused for a discussion about music, life, mixtapes and how it all comes together.
Matt Champion: Let’s start with an easy one.
Jason Robinson: Sure.
How did you get started with KDHX?
Well, I started volunteering after I met [KDHX Co-Executive Director] Bev Hacker. I was doing my undergrad program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville majoring in communications, and one of my projects was to talk to someone who was a director at a station to get the feel for how it is day to day. I visited the offices over on Euclid and it was really interesting. I got to learn about how to volunteer and I picked up a packet that day and was like, “I’m going to take the first class, do orientation and become a member.” So that would have been about 10 years ago at the ripe old age of 20.
I had a nice interview with Bev and got interested right then. So I became a member, put in a demo and waited and waited until I heard from Andy [Coco, Production Manager] then cut another demo. At the time the name of the show was Ninja Rock Radio. I was working doing production and one of the things was to put together a package. What I did was a fake radio show that I recorded myself. It was interesting. I got to learn the board and the equipment there. That was my first demo. It was only about three or four years ago that I submitted it. I had to submit three shows worth of material. I was like “Okay!” Actually, I still have those mixes around somewhere.
Around three years ago I was working, well, volunteering I guess, for Riverfront Radio, one of the Internet radio stations. I had a show on there. That’s where I learned how to structure a show, and once I got that I was comfortable enough to approach KDHX. About two years ago I got a call in January that said, “Hey, we’ve got a slot open” and I was so jazzed that I didn’t even care that it was from 3 to 5 in the morning on a Monday. Well, Tuesday morning/Monday night. I made it in and started doing the show and found out that my wife was pregnant. 3 to 5 a.m. was not going to cut it since I needed to be up with those kids. It kind of snowballed from there.
I changed time slots about a year ago in January. I switched to 11 p.m.-1 a.m. to take over for Tim and Matt of Super Happy Fun Hour. I’ve been at that particular time slot since then.
What made you decide to choose the name “The Mixtape” and go with the random format?
It had a lot to do with the fact that when I was a kid that was how you expressed yourself to other people. You would put together a 90-minute tape of just stuff. That was when cassettes were the new thing. I’d go get some $5 compilations over at Streetside Records and mix the best tracks on those and give them to my friends and say, “Listen to this, you gotta hear this stuff, man.” I remember BMG mail order CD service. That was huge for me since I would send off for a bunch of stuff and then never pay for them. I’m sure that somewhere out there a BMG representative is still out there looking for me.
Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst covers many genres and sub-genres — British Invasion, Mersey beat, folk rock, garage rock, power pop, jangle pop, pub jock — but without the influence of African Americans it’s doubtful that many of those genres would exist, and if they did they would most likely not merit our attention.
It is because of this that I will be recognizing and celebrating those contributions by setting aside the four February shows (February 2, 9, 16 and 23) on P!TBBB.
This year I’ll be expanding said celebration. During the show’s first three years, the month featured three weeks of the bands that appear regularly on P!TBBB covering blues, soul R&B and other material either written by or performed by African Americans. The last show of the month has featured selections from the first three shows performed by the songs’ originators.
This year valis from Trip Inside This House will be joining me and providing the music for the February 2 show. Trip Inside This House is valis’ weekly exploration of the last 40 plus years of psychedelia; he will be bringing that expertise to P!TBBB. The show will feature two hours of music by the likes of Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone, Muddy Waters and the Temptations, which will showcase the contributions African Americans have made to psychedelia.
The remaining three shows will revert to the format from the last three years of Februaries. Those shows have not been finalized yet, but will no doubt mine selections from the following: Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, Cliff Bennett & the Rebel Rousers, the Kinks, the Searchers, the Rolling Stones, the Beatles, Tony Jackson, Manfred Mann and many more. You can expect to hear original versions by bands and performers like: Brenda Holloway, the Supremes, Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Otis Redding to name several.
So, please join me (and valis) and celebrate Black History Month as we pay tribute to and celebrate the unique, dynamic and undeniable contributions made by African Americans to the music of Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst (and beyond).
Pop! The Beat Bubble Burst airs Thursday mornings, 5-7 a.m. Central on 88.1 KDHX.
A panel of judges from a range of St. Louis-based interactive media outlets recently selected the KDHX Blog as Best Music Blog of 2012. Here’s what they said:
OK, it’s not really fair. KDHX (88.1 FM) has tremendous resources, including an army of volunteer writers and DJs and an in-house studio for shooting great live performances. But, hey, at least the radio station isn’t squandering its opportunities. Instead, it has made KDHX Blog the envy of any music site out there, with expert reviews and interviews of local and traveling acts, music downloads and a breadth of content as diverse as its over-the-air broadcasts.
Dozens of dedicated volunteer writers, photographers and DJs contribute to the KDHX Blog every month, and dozens more power all the music features, videos and live performance sessions you’ll find on KDHX.org. It’s a true community effort.
We thank each and every one of our volunteers, and thank you for reading, watching and listening to KDHX.org and the KDHX Blog. Independent music plays here — because of you.
We’re shutting down our Central West End office and that means there are great deals on office furniture, electronics, storage cabinets, filing cabinets, audio and video equipment and building materials.
The sale is at 625 N. Euclid, Suite 100 in the Euclid Plaza Building (corner of Delmar and Euclid) from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, January 14.
Here’s some of what we’ve got for sale. And check it out on Craigslist. Don’t miss out!
- portable TVs $10 and $25
- file cabinets $25
- office chairs $10
- desks $50
- Consumer grade video cameras $25
- Lots and lots of cables $1 each
- printers $10
- metal storage cabinets $25
- ceiling tiles
- TV wall mounts $10
- refrigerator $25
- microwave $10
- table and chair set $75
- desks $25
- Kitchen cabinets and countertop $50
- VCRs $10
- DVD players $10
- various electronics
See photos of items we have for sale after the jump.
St. Louisians D-Ex and Furius “Iceman” Stylz, the award-winning DJs and hip-hop diehards behind Deep Krate Radio, have a combined 50-plus years of experience as DJs.
That isn’t including the other members of their respected collective of veteran DJs and producers in the Wax Murdaraz crew. Individually, D-Ex and Iceman have made their names primarily as battle DJs, showcasing their innovative turntable talents on regional and national stages. Despite their experience and accomplishments, the two remain humble devotees to the art form of DJing, both on-air at 88.1 KDHX, and all over St. Louis.
I had the pleasure of conducting the interview at the Wax Murdaraz HQ where the crew rehearses and runs a DJ school. The basement-turned-bat-cave is decorated as an encyclopedic shrine of action figures, posters, comic books and of course plenty of vinyl. The HQ even has a pinball machine.
Amidst the mass quantity of cultural relics, D-Ex and Iceman shared their thoughts on the “vinyl versus digital” DJ debate, the process of putting together a Deep Krate Radio show and their contentment with where they are professionally.
Kenji Yoshinobu: How did you guys hook up with KDHX?
D-Ex: Before we had Deep Krate Radio the first show I was hosting was a show called “Street Vibes.” That was G. Wizard’s show. He was going through some transitions with hosts on the show. At the time I was hosting a hip-hop video show backed by Double Helix, called “Fat Clips.” G-Wiz wanted me to host “Street Vibes,” but I turned him down. Not that I had a problem with his show — I loved his show! But it came on Friday nights, and for me it was more comfortable to sit back at the crib on a Friday. At the time I had to work early Saturday morning, at like 4 a.m., so I just wanted to kick back and enjoy the show. But push came to shove and I took him up on his offer.
So from ’95 to ’98 I did “Street Vibes.” G-Wiz semi-retired from radio DJing at that time, and DJ Alejan and myself started DJing on Street Vibes around ’97. Then we started “Da Science,” a radio show on 88.1, but then six months later we took it out of the studio and to Blueberry Hill and did that for maybe eight years. Then we came back to the station and continued “Da Science” for a while, then I brought in Iceman and we changed the name to “Deep Krate Radio.” That was 2007 and we’re still at it now.
How long have you guys been DJing?
Iceman: I’ve been DJing since like ’88.
D-Ex: I first started to teach myself to DJ in ’84. From that point on I was pretty much just in the crib getting my skills together recording. First time I DJed publicly was like ’89.
You guys have pretty much seen hip-hop since its beginning. How has DJing changed since then?
Iceman: For the most part, I really don’t like the new DJ because the DJ used to mix. Nowadays the DJ just puts on a record and doesn’t mix it into another record. I used to go to the club and watch a DJ cut and mix and it created a certain vibe. These days DJs have got all the technology and they are just pressing buttons. You don’t even know what they are doing. It is just changing.
D-Ex: Part of the excitement was looking at the DJ and seeing what they were doing. It was cool to see how they would bring in a record and overlap it over another. They’d do little tricks with the crossfader. Just watching them made me want to learn how to do it. It is different now. You definitely have DJs, like Iceman said, that don’t do much. They bring their computer in and they might not even have turntables. They just are pressing buttons, looking like a mad scientist behind the computer, and music is just coming out.
It is probably harder for people to follow someone who might want to become a DJ and get a grasp on what is going on. We were always looking at hand movement, style, all of that. There are still a lot of DJs who use the new technology, but still get busy with the mixing. But Iceman and I use the technology on the radio too. All the digital formats. But we are also using our analog skills.
Pat Wolfe hosts the Interstate every Friday, 10 a.m.-noon Central on 88.1 KDHX. His specialty is Americana music ranging from alt-country, traditional country, bluegrass, folk and rock ‘n’ roll.
I had a chance to sit down with Pat at KDHX a few weeks ago to learn about his passion for music and his long tenure at KDHX as a volunteer DJ.
James Kaegel: This seems like a conversation between two old friends, because I’ve been listening to your show for quite a while. Does that seem odd to run into people that act like they know you because they listen to you on the radio?
Pat Wolfe: People say all the time, “I’ve been listening to you for three years and I’ve never called before, but I just wanna tell you that you do a great job” and it’s like, wow, there’s a lot of people out there. I get a lot of phone calls on the show every week. I want people to call in and request music because I end up learning a lot from the listeners. People have turned me on to a lot of different artists that I wasn’t really aware of or I didn’t pay enough attention to. I knew they were out there, but the listener tells me, “No, you gotta listen to the song on this album,” and then it’s like “Wow, you’re right.” It’s a shared experience. I love it. It’s great.
How much of your show is prepared and how much of it is based on feedback and interaction with the listeners?
If someone requests something and it’s something I have that I didn’t bring that week, I’ll make a note and make sure that’s one of the first things I pull from home to bring in next week. I usually bring enough to do a complete show if nobody calls, but that usually only happens a couple of times a year — if my show happens to fall on a holiday. When I first started, I would plan it out. I would actually plan sets and specific songs I was gonna play. Sometimes I would print out a playlist, but as things evolved I kinda chucked that out the window because it was just too hard to follow a set script. So now I just kinda go through the music at the house and pick things out. It’s just random, and when I get here and start the first CD, it just kinda goes from there. I never really know what I’m going to wind up playing from week to week because a lot of people call in and ask for music. It’s probably half my library and half the station’s library.
Do you have a sizable music collection?
Yeah, I probably still have about 400 vinyl albums. I used to have a lot more, but over the years I’ve sold some and traded some for different music I was trying to pick up. Nowadays I download from sites like iTunes or eMusic. It’s really convenient. I can find a lot of stuff that I wouldn’t be able to find in a normal record store.