As more music listeners turn to free Internet radio and blogs to discover new music, building an audience for a new terrestrial radio show is increasingly difficult. DJ Bobby Analog took on an even greater challenge this year when he launched his new show on KDHX by choosing to play only vinyl. Smokestack Lightening airs every Tuesday from 3 a.m. to 5 a.m.
We met at Analog's south city home on a warm Sunday afternoon to discuss the launch of his new radio show, stealing his first turntable and Japanese psychedelic rock.
Last Collector Standing: Having just debuted your new show Smokestack Lightning on KDHX three weeks ago, how does it feel to be starting a new radio show in 2011?
Bobby Analog: It's weird because I sent the demo in two years ago and kind of just wrote it off. They even told me in the beginning, you could be waiting as long as six months but you also could be waiting as long as three years. I figured in six to eight months I'd probably hear something. I didn't hear anything. All of the sudden [I] got an email out of the blue. I finally got a hold of the program director. It was bewildering.
Has independent radio found a sustainable niche to compete in the digital age?
I would hope so. [KDHX] really prides itself on trying to offer stuff that you can't get on the corporate radio stations. That's another sad thing because a lot of the radio stations that are out there are corporate owned, which also means the DJs don't get to pick their music. They're just a body to press a button. There is no personality to it. What's the point of being a DJ if you can't pick your music? What are the perks? You get a coupon to the Ground Round? Who gives a shit about that?
Do you play vinyl on the air?
Yeah. I just bring all my stuff. [KDHX] has a pretty impressive CD library. They've got a room full of records. I usually get there a half hour early and dig through what I am going to play and at least pick out the first couple of tracks.
Do you think your audience responds differently if you choose to play vinyl?
You can tell when somebody is playing a record. Usually there is going to be a pop or crack. I would assume that most people that are playing records are bringing stuff from their own collection; Stuff that they've held onto and felt the need to put it out there. I get a good feeling about it, as far as anybody else getting a good feeling about it... from what I can tell I don't think people really give a shit as long as you're playing good music.
How did you get your DJ name Bobby Analog?
I've always been a big fan of Hip Hop, especially Wu Tang. Rza had a side project [called] Bobby Digital. I was thinking my middle name is Robert. I usually go my Bob. Bobby Analog just sounded like a nice transition since I just use vinyl when I'm playing out.
Now that digital technology makes everything so instantaneous, why do you still have a respect for analog technology?
Ever since I was a kid I always had a certain fascination just watching [records] spin on the table. Then around sixteen or seventeen, I stole a turntable from my high school library and started collecting vinyl. I went uphill or downhill from there, however you want to think about it. [Laughs] I had some CDs, but slowly got out of them. There is no warmth in them. I never had the appreciation for CDs that I did for vinyl. Think about it. You buy a used CD, it's not really been around that long. You buy an original copy of a Black Sabbath album [and] you think, how many joints have been rolled on this? How many hands has this been through? Has this been extremely loved? Was this just bought and tossed aside and ended up in some shitty bin with Lawrence Welk?
Nine thousand songs on an external hard drive doesn't mean anything to me. It really pisses me off when you've got guys going out there calling themselves DJs and all they're [doing] is just plugging in a laptop to a PA. It really makes me mad. There is no personality to it.
If you lost all your [digital] music tomorrow you wouldn't cry about it, because now you just have to spend eight hours downloading however many songs you had. Whereas, if I lost all that over there [points to record collection] I would be fucking crushed. I could get rid of everything in this room, I don't even have to have a bed, but if I lost that shit... I've put so many paychecks and sinus infections into. I can't get rid of it. It's who I am at this point.
It's bad because it's like crack cocaine. There is never enough. There is always one more record that you'll need. I don't think I'll ever be truly satisfied as for as my collection goes.
What is that 'one more' record that you need right now?
I really want Lucifer's Friends first album. It's been out of print forever. I've seen it pop up on ebay from time to time, but it goes for a ridiculous amount. That specific album was super solid, whereas the rest of their work was mediocre at best. That one album was awesome 70s prog rock.
If you did lose all your vinyl is there one album that you couldn't live without?
It's one of my first records, Frank Zappa's Apostrophe ('). That was the first album I listened to when I realized there was more music out there than what they play on the radio. That album changed my life.
Actually, the first time I heard it was on CD. We would drive around after school and smoke weed and listen to Apostrophe(') really goddamn loud. I heard that when I first started collecting records. That was probably the fifth record I bought. I saw it and immediately jumped on it. I was already renewing my love for records. By around sixteen or seventeen I was starting to remember how much it fascinated me as a kid. I would do the same thing [where] I would buy a record and just stare at it on the turntable until it was over.
It feels more personal. You're taking time out to pay attention to it. You're absorbing it more than if you are just passively listening to it while you're washing the dishes or taking a shower. Listening to records seems like more of a commitment. You have to be in that mindset, and you have to be close by too because whenever the record ends you don't want it to just keep clicking on the label.
Do you have any other records that you feel makes your collection unique?
This is a record I heard years ago and didn't know who it was. I rediscovered it not too long ago. Flower Travellin' Band Satori. That's kind of a crown jewel. I was really happy to find that one. They are Japanese psychedelic rock. The first track is really great. He just screams his ass off in Japanese and kind of in English.
Do you have a favorite experience DJing live?
The best time I have whenever I'm DJing is whenever you start off at a place where nobody is dancing but you get to a point where you have everybody dancing. Then you're in the unique position where every record you're picking out you're scrutinizing the shit out of even if you don't have the time to do so. A lot of times you can put on a record that is super danceable but nobody knows it and that just makes everybody dissipate. That's what is good about the FBC proms. Everybody is there to dance. Everybody is there to just have fun. I've never had any problems with people asking for stupid [request]. It makes it a whole hell of a lot more fun [when] everybody is into it.
How long do you think people will continue to collect records?
Until they stop pressing vinyl. There were a couple guys I was playing records with and one of them was like, "In the next couple years they're going to cease production because of the petroleum they use in them." He told me that, but then you started seeing more and more of it. A lot of indie rock bands started releasing it. They started re-releasing a lot of old jazz. It didn't really seem like there was an end to it.
I guess it's kind of a thing that has caught on because it gives people an alternative. People are gravitating towards that warmth. There is something to it. It might sound contrived but there is a bit of soul to it. There is just something about it and that's what draws me to it.
If spent many, many paychecks on it. If I could calculate how much money [I've spent] I would probably have a very decent used car, but I don't have a decent used car. I got a lot of records and I'm fine with that.
Bobby Analog will be DJing the Halo Bar on April 21st at 10pm