Meet the DJs- Rev Carr, "Vinyl Interiors"
By Noah Oldham
In a time when virtually all music has gone digital, WRFL still has DJs who play their music from other, more vintage sources. This time on Meet the DJs we're meeting Rev Carr, the DJ behind WRFL's Vinyl Interiors. You can hear this mix of all-vinyl music on Tuesdays from 2pm-4pm.
How long have you been a WRFL DJ?
A year and a half.
Have you been a DJ anywhere else before?
From 1987-1990 I was a DJ at WHCL-FM in Clinton, New York.
Why did you join WRFL?
I really love the mission of college radio, and I wanted to get back into it. As a member of the faculty, I wanted to engage with the Lexington community in a way that connects with my teaching, but is less formal, and I can play entire songs compared to the short excerpts I usually play for my students. I last hosted a college radio show when I was a college student in the 1980s, and working for WRFL has rekindled my love for the creative process of doing a radio show.
What do you play on your show?
I am an all vinyl show, so I play a lot of vintage records from the 1950-1990s and newer stuff when I can get it on vinyl. Each week I choose a theme and find tracks that capture the theme, kind of like an old school 80s style mixtape. Sometimes I'll do a tribute show to a particular band, or songwriter, or play an entire album, mostly in genres like progressive rock new wave, folk rock, along with some jazz and world music. This semester I'm planning shows on the Irish band The Clancy Brothers for St. Patrick's Day, and a show on Ravi Shankar for Holi, as well as shows on movie soundtracks, George Gershwin, Miles Davis' album Bitches Brew, and noted Kentuckians: Owsley Stanley III (sound man for the Grateful Dead), and folk song collector John Jacob Niles. The radio station has a great variety of stuff, and I have around 1000 albums in my own collection, and I love hunting around at local record stores and antique shops looking for unusual vinyl, so I shouldn't ever run out of interesting music to play.
Why do you play what you do on your show? What sparked that interest?
I am an ethnomusicologist, so I study and talk about this stuff all day. I love to share music with people and talk about it with them. As I said, I had a radio show in the 1980s and I loved it then: I had a late night psychedelic rock show, and for a while I did an all Grateful Dead bootlegs show. So, I've loved college radio my whole life and have really enjoyed getting back into it.
Who are some of your favorite musical artists?
The Grateful Dead, Pink Floyd, The Beatles, Dylan, David Bowie, The B-52s, The Clash, Sonic Youth, and The Ramones. Also, Phish, Frank Zappa, King Crimson, and also Miles Davis and John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, and also Ralph Stanley, Tommy Jarrell, and Roscoe Holcomb, and Loretta Lynn, Wanda Jackson, Bessie Smith. Also world music artists like King Sunny Ade, Cesaria Evora, Zakir Hussein, Fairuz, and Hawaiian stuff like Alfred Apaka, The Kalama Quartet, Makaha Sons, Eddie Kamae and Gabby Pahinui. I like a lot of Jamaican music like the Skatalites, Alton Ellis, The Wailers, The Paragons, etc... Also I like newer stuff like Alabama Shakes, Janelle Monae, St. Vincent, Sleater Kinney, but I don't have as much of that on vinyl as I'd like, plus I'm a music historian by trade so I mostly listen to older music.
What's your process for planning your show?
I come up with themes each week. Sometimes it's connected to a class I'm teaching, but it's also just my interaction with what's going on in the world, or a particular holiday or historic event. Then I do some research and see what I have access to on vinyl. I use my own collection a lot, just because I know what's in there, but sometimes when I have time to explore the WRFL vinyl stacks I find some real gems in there. Sometimes I make a song list ahead of time, and time out the songs, but most of the time I get in the station with a stack of records and an idea in my head of the songs I want to play and a basic progression, but I like to be flexible.
What do you do outside of WRFL?
I am a professor of ethnomusicology in the UK School of Music and I am the director of the John Jacob Niles Center for American Music.
Do you have a favorite memory of something that happened at WRFL, either during your show or at a WRFL event?
Not exactly a favorite memory, but one I'll never forget. My very first show, I was doing the 2-5am slot, and I was nervous because I hadn't hosted a radio show in almost 30 years. I turn on the radio in my car on the way over to the station to hear what the DJ before me is playing and and it's this interesting kind of grindcore metal. But as I'm driving over the music stops and there's dead air, and it goes on, and on, for almost ten minutes as I drive over there, so I'm thinking, the new station has lost its signal or something, Anyway, I get over there and the earlier DJ had locked himself out of the new studio. It's almost 2am and he's been calling and calling people. Finally someone got out of bed and came over with the key. He was so embarrassed. I was kind of miffed at first, but after I while I just thought it was funny. Not the best way to start my first show, but memorable.
What other WRFL shows and DJs do you like listening to? Why?
I love the show that comes after mine, Indrani gets next to you. Her show just always has a great chill vibe, and she plays really interesting soul and R&B. I like the Psychedelicatessen, because I love psychedelic rock. I also listen to The World Beat and Blue Yodel #9, and of course Democracy Now!
What do you want listeners to take away from your show?
I want them to feel like they've been back in the archival stacks with me, exploring interesting music that's all on vinyl. And I want them to appreciate the warm, analog sound of the vinyl format. It is really different from listening to digital music.
What do you hope for the future of your show?
I look forward to getting to know more people in Lexington, finding more great and interesting music on vinyl, and sharing it with everyone.
You can tune in to Vinyl Interiors with Rev Carr on Tuesdays from 2pm-4pm on WRFL.
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