Nathaniel Farrell's Eclectic KDHX Show, Cure for Pain, Will Fix What Ails You


Nathanial Farrell's KDHX show, airing Tuesday nights, features a wide mix of genres. - JESSICA BARAN
  • Nathanial Farrell's KDHX show, airing Tuesday nights, features a wide mix of genres.
Since January 2015, KDHX has been delightfully weirder with the addition of DJ Nathaniel Farrell’s program, Cure for Pain. A schizophrenic blend of Krautrock and freak folk, doom metal and early industrial, no wave and psych of all stripes, the show got the OK after Farrell served as a frequent fill-in on a 3 to 5 a.m. show with a punk focus called Non-Alignment Pact. Granted his own show, Farrell moved up the clock, if further away from the daylight. His show feels natural in the 11 p.m. to 1 a.m. slot, as the genial host moves through an eclectic playlist that’s meticulously timed to fit within its two-hour confines.

And that's probably the only boundary that applies to his show’s curation. One recent edition of Cure for Pain featured long cuts in the show’s first hour from Grails, Marbelbog, Coil, Colossloth, Lofthaus, Prurient, Rainforest Spiritual Enslavement and Hanchi. If these aren’t exactly household names, they’re the type of acts that slot themselves into his show regularly, with Coil most frequently heard, an every-few-shows playlist representative.

Asked if the show was pitched with total freedom in mind, the answer is a qualified “yes.” But Farrell’s a team player, a nice neighbor, and thus he wants his program to segue from show to show as seamlessly as possible.

“I did think about the range that I would want, but I’d also thought about the connection that I would have to make to the other shows," Farrell says. "I do think behind your question is, ‘How crazy was the pitch?’ I think that the show is more comfortable in playing experimental music the more that I’ve been on the air.

"Being on Tuesdays at 11 gives me permission to explore, as James Mullins used to say, ‘the sonic weirdness,'" Farrell continues. “His show, Stumble in the Dark, was what I first followed, and I started getting into guitar-forward psych music, which I thought would make a good segue from him.”

Now he follows Mark Hyken’s progressive rock-themed Time Warp Radio. Farrell says the advice he's been given is to not stray too far outside of his programming, for the sake of continuity.

"But I will aim for more African Head Charge and Adrian Sherwood to make the change into The Night Shift,” he says. “Being between Stumble and The Night Shift did inform the template for the show, starting with more traditional guitar arrangements, keeping the weirdest stuff for the middle and then transitioning into the beat-oriented stuff nearest the end of the show. I always say that if you listen to Cure for Pain long enough, it’s a dance show by the end.”

An instructor at Washington University by day, Farrell describes himself not once but twice as “not a musician, not a musician." That said, he does own some guitars, but he recognizes that ownership of an instrument does not a musician make. Instead, he notes that he’s foremost “a lover of music.”

What comprises his favorite music is an oft-changing thing. When he was living in New York, he says, he mostly listened to punk and country. Since making the move to St. Louis, it's been more noise and synth-based music.

“I do notice that I am more likely to play harsh noise in the middle of winter than in the spring," he says. "And in the summer, too, that comes back. I do think that the weather and the seasons help determine my mood and the mood of the show, in some regards.”

Above all, he says, his mission is to discover new music in the deep stack of new releases that come out each week. Which reinforces something told to him early on, the one bit of advice that stuck. “You’re going to run out of the music you love within the first six months," he recalls. "And that was true.”

In the spirit of disclosure: As a frequent fill-in host on KDHX, I was recently tapped by Farrell to host his program twice over the period of a couple of months. It was stressful to approximate his show, even in part, let alone in whole. When I tell Farrell that I had to ban myself from possible future duties on Cure for Pain, due to the extreme feeling of inadequacy those gigs brought on (more cause for pain than cure), the comment appears to register as the compliment intended. Because when Farrell’s on a roll he’s just got this way, curating the station’s twenty-minute mini-segments into a masterful, cascading set of moods and emotions.

“I’ve been proud, sometimes,” Farrell admits. “There’ve been moments where you can feel it, where I understand how I’ve faded one song into another and really why I put those tracks next to one another.

"I used to be very hard on myself for missing those opportunities, these stellar moments that I tried to plan. Now, I just let it happen.”

Cure for Pain airs on 88.1 FM every Tuesday night at 11 p.m.

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