Iím a faculty member in the Biochemistry department at Carolina. So I teach and run a
lab and sit on like a zillion committees. In the summer time, Iím director of the
undergraduate research program, which keeps me pretty busy. We bring in 18
undergrads from around the country to work in labs and then we also provide them
with a whole slew of other activities. Some of them are academic in nature, like invited
speakers and workshops and graduate school and things like that. Most come from
small 4 year colleges that don't have much in the way of research opportunities. The
main idea is sort of to give the lab experience, give them a boost in terms of getting into
graduate school. Other than that...I hang out in bars. I don't do very much. I like to
read. I read a lot. I go to a few shows now and then. As I say, just hang out with
friends and at local watering holes, talk politics and stuff.
I came to XDU in the spring of 95. Iíd been working about 5 years at another radio station, saw the opportunity at XDU come up on the Internet and thought Iíd give it a shot. I just wanted dot get back on the air, I found it a lot of fun. I told Lisa, who was my trainer, I didn't know very much about current college radio, but I was willing to learn. When they put me on the sublist, the next day I got a call and it was for a playlist show and I thought "Oh geez." But I did it and it wasn't so hard and I had a lot of fun, so I just applied for a regular daytime show. I used to do 11-2 Tuesday afternoons, but that was a little early for me. 2-5 works out great, because I teach in the morning and I can go back to my office, relax, take care of what I need to, come out here and then just spend the rest of the day.
I didn't know anything about the station, Iíd never heard of it. Physically I thought the place was about to fall down around my knees. In a way it was what I expected - sort of a kitschy, funky sort of place...I was nervous for not being acquainted with the music. But I thought it would be a fun place to hang out...I sort of actually felt that maybe sitting behind the mike and talking to people was a good way to overcome some shyness. I still get nervous standing in front of a class, teaching. I wasn't nervous about speaking over there and doing my thing, I was just nervous about the equipment and screwing up, which I always generally do. So it was fun and again I met people from all walks of life and they were all committed to the same thing...As I got to know more and more people I was really impressed with the dedication most of the people put into the station, either doing their show, or serving on the board or doing other things. Right now Iím DJ training coordinator. When I first got on the board a year ago, I was sort of just helping out with promotions and I set this thing up with the Independent, just help make up flyers and distribute those and just help wherever it was necessary. I wasn't actually dong very much, but I wanted to stay with the board so Drema came up with this idea of splitting the DJ training off from the program director and having someone who would just be dedicated to coordinating something like that. Which turned out to be a lot of work more than I expected. But that was nice. In a way, it's sort of in line with what I do all the time. I train people in labs and stuff. I really like this notion of teaching, helping people to get accustomed.
[The playlist] is only about, what 12-15 minutes per hour. And for me anyway, because Iím still reacquainting myself with college radio, it's very helpful to have some stuff to rely upon as being airworthy...and also because we have 70-80 people who may be on the air any day of the week and I think the playlist kind of helps bring a little cohesiveness to the sound of the station. So I don't really find it an imposition. And there' so much variety.
Iím having a lot of fun out here. Iím rediscovering stuff, both new and old, it's just a lot of fun...I like indie-pop, I like rpm, I like techno. I like just straight-ahead rock and roll. I like, sort of the alternative country, if that's what they're calling it these day. I play blues, but I don't really care for it. And I like some jazz but I don't understand jazz...I like world beat music. All that kind of stuff...Iím really discovering stuff that's new that I never really appreciated before. Iím also getting back to the same music I listened to when I lived in New York. Iím discovering stuff, Iím relearning stuff, reacquainting myself with music that Iíve always liked but maybe just stopped listening to.
Music has always been a big thing. I grew up in Baltimore, listening to the soul stations. It was wonderful. I never really listened much to the commercial rock stations... very homogeneous and boring, playing the same stuff over and over again. But the soul stations in Baltimore, you could hear everything and anything - stuff that you couldn't hear anywhere else, plus some mainstream stuff...If music does something to me, I don't care what the genre is. It doesn't even have to do the same thing. I really like music.
The two things that most folks point to or say about the station, or stations like these, is one, it gives some exposure to artists and bands who aren't going to be heard otherwise. And two, it advances the listenerís horizons beyond what they're accustomed to. I embrace those philosophies...I think those are worthy objectives and I think the station achieves them in a large part. Granted, 90% of students at Duke hate the station. But that's okay. You know, if you're doing something different or experimenting and trying to do something out of the ordinary you can't expect people to embrace it right away...I don't think they should. I would feel better if most people at least took a glance at it, or listened to the station for an hour a week. Not one hour steady, but an hour a week, maybe something will catch your ear and say, "Hey, that wasn't so bad. Iíd like to know more about that." When I was meeting with the Dean of the medical school, he got up and said "Our function here as faculty is to change people's brains. Give them something that they didn't have before: knowledge, a new way of looking at the world, or a way of looking at their subject matter. That's our function." I think in a way that's the function of a college radio station - to change their brains. Maybe theyíd listen to something and say "I hate that, I never want to listen to that again." But at least it defines who they are and what they like and what they dislike... Iím confident that if people gave a listen, not steady like fans of the station do, but enough, so that they will discover something that they like or werenít familiar with. I think if you can go through an entire day, which is either very boring, very affirmating, or something in between, and just for like two minutes something stimulates you, it's worthwhile. I can't imagine the commercial radio stations are very stimulating...I mean, you ask the university to support something that most students who help pay for don't really appreciate, they don't care about or think is a complete waste of time. But I think there have to be things like WXDU. There's room for peculiar art forms in other areas. I mean people just have to look beyond what they're comfortable with. Organizations such as XDU, and college radio in general, constantly needle people to stop, or reconsider where they are...I mean Iíve picked up something on the playlist that people on the music staff have reviewed and said this is the greatest thing ever and I think ďGosh, I can't wait for this to end." But you know, it's worth it anyway to just sort of get a little stimulation, be thinking about things...You have to be sensitive that everybody has different tastes, you know. If Iím doing a three hour show Iím going to play as many different kinds of music as I can, hoping that if someone's just twiddling the radio, there maybe a chance that person will hear something and continue listening. They may find the next song really abhorrent and turn me off...I would like to think that on a college campus, like Duke, that students would be a little more inclined to explore. When they go into the bookstores, they may like to explore reading materials that are in areas that they're not familiar with, so why not explore their radio dial?
I think it would be nice to have a larger turn out by students working at the station...It's important to have a good showing by the students at the station, because it's their station. Let's face it, their student fees help run it, the university sanctions the station, the university applies for the FCC permit, this is university property....I think it's important to have good student turnout here. Because they're the ones who are going to bring the word back to the masses on campus, "Hey, give us a listen or come to one of our meeting or shows." I think the stations would still sound just as good if it were largely community members, but I would hate to see that happen. And I think that the station manager should always, at least if possible, be a Duke student. There has to be that bridge between students and the radio station...Maybe first priority should be to the students.
Iíd like to see more community members coming in to do special shows or be interviewed. We do PSAís for a lot of community organizations or non-profits. Some of those, it might be nice if they actually had a representative come out here for ten minutes, some time slot, and tell us more about what it is they do. I get annoyed sometimes because I hear DJ's reading PSAís in a sort of flippant manner because they don't care, or they read them very rapidly so nobody can possibly hear what they're saying. I donít know, I think they're important.
People are always making comparison between XYC and XDU. Even if I weren't working here, I think Iíd enjoy XDU more than XYC. I think they try too hard to challenge people and if you want to expand your listenership, challenge is great, but you have to realize that there are all sort of different tastes. I think we have a little better mix system...I think they're both great stations. Overall I think they're both accomplishing their missions: the DJs are able to explore, be creative, to mix different kinds of music in their sets, on their shows, and I think the average listener is getting a good deal. Iím happy with the way XDU operates. I wish people would take care of the equipment a little bit better. But overall, I think we're doing a good job.
I think it's important that people appreciate that we're all here for the good of the station, not for our own benefit. If you donít gt to meet a lot of people and have fun with them, you don't get to really see that big picture. I think that it's really important to have a sense community at the station. We're all working for a common goal...and coming to board meetings, doing whatever it takes to get connected to the folks at the station, I think is a good idea, whatever's necessary to promote that bond. If we're having fun, it's going to come through over the air and it's going to come through when we meet people who discover that we work here, or when we tell our friends...It's good to be excited about what you do. After all, you're here so if you're not excited, it's pointless....Iíll be 50 years old in a couple of years, another generation away from most of who's here, maybe two generations. But I really have fun, I enjoy the people Iíve met here. I like their energy. I like their commitment to what theyíre doing, whatever they think it is they're doing....It's hard at a radio station, where you donít come day after day like a regular job. And when you do come, it's only for a couple of hours.
If it had lasted, lack of full broadcast ability, if it had lasted for three or four months, I think it has had a beneficial effect. Not for the listening audience of course, but for the DJs and the staff here. Because you've got to be really be committed to this place to come out here and do your thing when you know no one is going to hear you. We're not getting requests, we haven't given away a pair of tickets in about 6 months, but it's still important. We still have to play the music so we can notify the services that we're playing these bands so they keep sending us stuff. So, it's been kind of a rallying kind of thing. I think board meetings have sort of been more interesting than they had been...but it's time. I think people on the outside who know the situation have stuck it out, but six months down the road, it's becoming more difficult.
Working in any radio where you don't get paid is a privilege. FCC grants a license, either the university or some other organization owns the license, owns the facilities, grants you the privilege to come out here and have a hell of a good time. So I would really appreciate it. I wish there were more places like this that people could get involved in. I think for most people, music is not really a big part of their life. It's just background.