Nada Mucho

KEXP’s John Richards The Second Greatest DJ Ever (Named John)

Posted by June 2nd, 2006 No Comments »

thumb_j_richards2Independent vs. Commercial Radio: The Smackdown
An Interview with KEXP’s John Richards

John Richards hosts The Morning Show from 6a.m. to 9a.m. weekdays on KEXP is 90.3 in Seattle, Washington. He is also the station’s program director and the second greatest radio disc jockey in the history of the world, behind John Peel.

KEXP broadcasts streaming audio at www.kexp.org.

Nada Mucho: The station seems to have really stepped up its philanthropic activities in the last year. You’ve done live showcases to benefit folks in New Orleans and are benefiting a different local charity each month with your live Audioasis shows at the High Dive. Being a nonprofit yourself, how do you manage to do some additional fundraising and give back to the community? Where does the passion and energy for this type of thing come from?

John Richards: We’ve worked for years to be self-sufficient and be able to hold our own in the community and thanks to our community that is what we are in 2006. It was a bit of a "start-up mode" for KEXP and now its time to give back to the community regardless if we’re also one of those stations that needs that same kind of support. There is always worry that the money going to these other places will be a loss of income, but in the end, I totally believe in our listeners and know that they will support us even more knowing we are trying to make a difference not just with our airwaves but to the community. For me, the passion and the energy come from a desire I’ve had for years to do more in my city. Working 50 – 60 hour weeks and getting up at 4 a.m. and raising a little …

j_richards2Independent vs. Commercial Radio: The Smackdown

An Interview with KEXP’s John Richards


John Richards hosts The Morning Show from 6a.m. to 9a.m. weekdays on KEXP
is 90.3 in Seattle, Washington. He is also the station’s program
director and the second greatest radio disc jockey in the history of
the world, behind John Peel.

KEXP broadcasts streaming audio at www.kexp.org.

Nada Mucho: The station seems to have really stepped up its
philanthropic activities in the last year. You’ve done live showcases
to benefit folks in New Orleans and are benefiting a different local
charity each month with your live Audioasis shows at the High Dive.
Being a nonprofit yourself, how do you manage to do some additional
fundraising and give back to the community? Where does the passion and
energy for this type of thing come from?

John Richards: We’ve worked for years to be self-sufficient and be able
to hold our own in the community and thanks to our community that is
what we are in 2006. It was a bit of a "start-up mode" for KEXP and now
its time to give back to the community regardless if we’re also one of
those stations that needs that same kind of support. There is always
worry that the money going to these other places will be a loss of
income, but in the end, I totally believe in our listeners and know
that they will support us even more knowing we are trying to make a
difference not just with our airwaves but to the community. For me, the
passion and the energy come from a desire I’ve had for years to do more
in my city. Working 50 – 60 hour weeks and getting up at 4 a.m. and
raising a little boy stops me from being able to do that on my own. It
hit me one day that the thing I love, KEXP, could not only be helpful
in this passion but it could really take the station to a new level. I
hope that continues to grow, I’m looking for more and more ways to get
the station and myself involved in giving to those who need our help.

NM: Speaking of the Live Audioasis shows, can you tell us a little about those? Have they been successful?

JR: They’ve all sold out so that’s a good sign. We’re thrilled. High
Dive has been great and supportive. We spend the month raising
awareness for the charity/non-profit and the show is almost the cherry
on top. I feel like awareness is the best thing we can provide, but a
few thousand dollars from a night of great music isn’t bad either! The
live radio element really brings the station out to everyone as well,
it changes the show and makes it something really special.
"If you believe everything The Stranger says: Paul
Allen owns me, I play Jimi Hendrix every day, I’m a Christian rocker.."

NM: Everyone at Nada is really excited about co-promoting the June showcase. Why did you ask the group to get involved?

JR: We want to work with people and organizations that have passion for
local music and are working hard championing bands and doing it because
they simply love music and the people involved in music. Nada was one
of the first groups I thought to ask because of that. You’ve always
been really supportive of my and Audioasis’, and the station’s, mission
as well. We love getting more involved with you all. Plus on Saturday
you have to battle Lisa Wood for drinkin’ rights.

NM: KEXP is a bit confusing for many of us. We remember KCMU as
a college station, then all the sudden it moved, Paul Allen’s involved,
and the call letters changed. Where do things stand right now? Are you
still involved with the University of Washington? Are you affiliated
with the Experience Music Project (EMP)?

JR: Unfortunately, most of that confusion comes from a poorly written
Stranger article. Everything we’ve put our website, everything we’ve
done in public, and everything we’ve ever talked about has been very
open and honest about our relationship [with EMP and the UW] and about
how it went down.

NM: Well, the truth is most people don’t read the website but a lot of people read The Stranger.

JR: Yeah, a lot of people read The Stranger and I’ve read stuff in
there enough times…if you believe everything The Stranger [says]: Paul
Allen owns me, I play Jimi Hendrix every day, I’m a Christian rocker…

There a few things to look at after everything went down, as far as the
station is concerned. The first being that no DJ left the station. Now
that speaks volumes to what the relationship is from KCMU to KEXP. If
they had left the station I think it would’ve shown that things had
gone bad. We also always felt that the programming should speak for us,
and I think over the years it has spoken for us in volumes. But after
time we’ve been had an increasing desire to get the story out about how
everything went down and about how we became KEXP.

The first thing is a public radio station can’t be bought. A lot of
people have asked – friends, family – a lot of people still think that
Paul Allen bought us. And the Seattle Weekly wrote a story about our
station, about music and technology and we had talked about our story
and about being self-sufficient and I actually got people writing who
were freaked out because suddenly they thought we weren’t being backed
[by Paul Allen] anymore.

What went down was we, just like KUOW, left the campus.
j_richards

NM: Where did KUOW go?

JR: All non-essential UW agencies had to go because they needed the
space. So we both had to leave. We were a little scared; we didn’t know
where we’d go or who our program director would be. And that’s just
about the time that EMP got involved by giving us seed money that was
supposed to last for three years and get us started off. Before we had
no support staff – none. It was a total charity thing. This building is
a charity thing. We have a lease where we pay a dollar a year. We
couldn’t have afforded this place. It was a gift from EMP. And it was
set up so that their support would go down and the support for the
station – we hope – would go up. We didn’t have an underwriting
department or a membership department, so we couldn’t raise any money.
We couldn’t have a programming team that could do all these things we
wanted to do to get the station to be bigger and better. And by bigger
and better I mean better programming and a little more wattage, and
studios and all that stuff that we’ve done since then.

So, basically through the three years we went from, I think, it was
fifty percent to twenty-five percent to last year it was about
one-twentieth of our budget and now this year it’s none. It’s nice
because you know, the way a non-profit works you need money in the
bank, so it’s nice to have that little amount. But other than that
we’re pretty much self-sufficient this year.

It’s been great. It’s been a very successful collaboration with EMP,
even though they have barely been able to stay above water themselves.

NM: I was just talking to my husband about that, how EMP gave
you a helping hand and if they’d stayed affiliated more closely with
the station maybe they would’ve been more successful now. But then I
guess there’s a public relations issue?

JR: Yes, public relations issues and at the same time trying to
understand what we do. I was nervous about it too. I was a listener and
a DJ at KCMU and you couldn’t find someone who loved it more. And I was
concerned because I’d heard rumors way before it all went down and with
rumors it’s even scarier. And the fact that they kept us on our own and
with our own staff and didn’t influence our programming at all, we
asked them to get more involved. We wanted to collaborate on some more
things. It’s unfortunate we couldn’t work even better together. We had
some great relationships and some great things happen over there but at
the same time we didn’t like seeing them have to lay off a lot of
people and then not be able to be self-sufficient. We hope that they’ll
rise again and things will work out over there because they’ve been
very generous to us.

NM: The call letters changing to KEXP thing kind of tripped up a bunch of us old-timers as well.

JR: I was one of the few at the office that wanted to do that. First
off, CMU [of KCMU] is the CMU building so leaving it at that makes no
sense. There’s nobody here that feels any sort of bitterness or “How
dare we change the name!” But there’s more to it than [changing
location]. I think we sort of started again. But what we’ve done with
KEXP in this short time, in the few years we’ve had it, it’s a hundred
times better than what we were able to do. I mean support local music,
have bands come in here and play, to play music that nobody else is
playing, to reach people we haven’t been able to reach before. And I
feel like with the new name we were able to start over a little bit in
Seattle because I think after awhile people just started to ignore the
KCMU name. And for a lot of people who are just discovering KEXP they
have no idea what KCMU was, which is why we put the station’s history
on our website. And you can’t really get on the air and talk about it,
there’s no reason to talk about it, but in the pledge drives we will
[talk about KCMU] when we talk about the station. And I’d say over 50
percent of the DJs here were KCMU DJs.

NadaMucho.com is co-sponsoring KEXP’s June 1 Live Audioasis show at the
High Dive. All proceeds benefit Fare Start (www.farestart.org.)


j_richards4
6:30 Velella Velella www.velella.net
8:00 Mercir www.mercir.com
9:15 10:00 Mr Hill DJ Set www.myspace.com/mrhill
Plus special DJ set in between bands
10:00 10:45 The Saturday Knights www.thesaturdayknights.com
11:00 11:45 Cancer Rising www.myspace.com/cancerrising
12:00 1:00 Mountain Con www.mountaincon.com


Click here to see the poster – http://www.darlingsofthelofi.com/img/posters/audiooasis.jpg.

 


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