Sonic Diet

Get To Know Your WMSE DJ – Tom Wanderer

WMSE loves free-form radio. Our format’s complete and genuine freedom allows our DJs to explore an insane number of genres — music without limitations! It’s a fact that each WMSE show has its own community within the larger, more inclusive WMSE community; diverse radio programming is rewarded with a loyal listenership like no other.

But because the WMSE DJs are only on the air for three hours each week, you the listener might not get to know them quite as well as you might like, so to give you all a bit more insight, we’re proud to introduce the Get To Know Your WMSE DJ series. Each WMSE DJ gets the same five questions, and just like our free-form format, they choose to answer however they want: short or long, intense or humorously…we ask, they answer, we post.

Sonic Diet will be posting a new addition to the series biweekly on Mondays and the first batch of WMSE DJs featured will be those whose show falls within the 6 a.m. – 6 p.m. show slots. First up:

DJ: Tom Wanderer

Show Name: The Tom Wanderer Radio Experience

Day/Time: Thursday, 3pm – 6pm

How do you spend your days and nights when not hosting your radio show?

I spend my week days working full time as a coffee equipment mechanic.  I’m also in a band called Red Stuff, we have a 7″ and an LP out on our own label (SKELL Records) and we’ve been working on a new album that should be out very soon called Pagan Rock.

I live with my girlfriend, Kelly, and most evenings we are cooking, grilling, hanging out outside, working in the garden, playing with the dog and cat.  I play guitar, work on old audio equipment, make demos, screen print, build stuff, draw pictures.  I love Milwaukee and I’ve lived in Bay View since I moved here from Illinois 8 years ago.  I like to take long drives on the weekends to thrift stores and used record shops looking to score something cool.  Milwaukeeans should count themselves blessed to have so many good shops; Bullseye, Rush-Mor, and Bay View Books and Records are some of the best.  I know people who live in cities that don’t even have a record store.

Do you remember what band, album or song took you from being a casual music listener to a passionate music lover? Is there a memory associated with that experience?

Music was always around the house when I was a kid.  We had a big console stereo in the kitchen and a cabinet of records next to it.  I was able to operate the turntable on the console when I was a toddler.  I always loved music and I remember listening to Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks and Desire a million times.  Crosby, Stills and Nash, Joni Mitchell, Jefferson Airplane, Donovan, Neil Young, Hendrix…I was raised on the classics and I loved that stuff.  To me, as a kid, that’s just what music was.  Then I think I was 11 or 12 when my sister started giving me mix tapes.  That’s when things started to change.  I think the first tape was Minor Threat and Black Flag.  I would listen to it as I walked to the bus stop every morning and that music spoke to me like nothing ever had.  The floodgates of a punk childhood were ripped open.  I got into The Misfits, G.B.H., all the Dischord records stuff like Dag Nasty and Faith and Void.  Then The SST bands, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr., Minutemen, Husker Du, then later Ministry, Nine Inch Nails, etc.

…So junior high was spent making band t-shirts with a Sharpie and dying my hair.  Going to tons of shows in Chicago, mostly at the fireside bowl every weekend.  Figuring out what a good record store was and how I could get there.

Punk got me engaged with the world of music at a young age.  By the time I was in high school I was rediscovering how great a lot of the stuff I grew up with was.  I had started collecting records a few years earlier when I bought the first Fugazi ep., and now I was buying my own copies of those Neil Young and Dylan records that my folks had.  Then I discovered Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath…Of course I had heard of these bands before, but classic rock radio doesn’t do much to convey the scope and story of a group.  I started coming across stuff like that at thrift stores and bargain bins and I was super into it.  Then one summer, I think I was 17, some important things happened music-wise.  I was working at a Goodwill in a western Chicago suburb and I knew that if good records came in, I had to risk my ass and just take them, because my boss thought they were worthless and would force me to trash compact them while he watched.  I wouldn’t even get to look at them first!  It was awful.  But one summer afternoon I was looking through a small stack of records and all of a sudden I’m holding something in my hand that I’ve never seen before.  An original copy of Blue Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum with the embossed jacket and silver ink.  I had no idea what it was, but I’d never seen another record that I wanted to listen to so bad based on looks alone.  I ran it out to my car, a ’69 MG B, and as soon as I got off work I went home and brought my turntable down into the kitchen.  My Mom and Dad were on vacation so I cranked the stereo and listened to that album at least 3 times start to finish.  That was probably the first time I realized that what I loved about Punk music that had drawn me in so much wasn’t a new thing at all…that I could trace that attitude, or heaviness, or aggressiveness or whatever you call it way back in time and all over music.

That same summer I found a copy of the first Stooges album in a friend’s basement and bought it from his Dad.  I also found The Mothers Of Invention’s We’re Only In It For The Money.  Those records confirmed my suspicions about the punk attitude existing long before The Clash and Stiff Little Fingers.  From that stuff, I heard Howlin’ Wolf, and then it was like, shit, this guy’s a total maniac!  He can convey more fear and paranoia with his voice than anything I had ever heard.  I wondered about people who think they’re tough listening to Pantera and bands like that.  They’ve obviously never heard Howlin’ Wolf.  That was how I got into blues, I had a portable 8 track deck with a Howlin’ Wolf tape, and Elmore James tape and a Muddy Waters tape.  By that point the only genres that I wasn’t really into were country music and jazz, but Johnny Cash and John Mclaughlin respectively blew those doors wide open.  So through punk rock I was basically introduced to an element of music that I really responded to, then I just started following that thread anywhere it would lead me.  Then I graduated high school.

What band have you heard or discovered in the past six months that reminded you why you want to continue being a wmse DJ.

Well…it wasn’t something new, but I hope it still counts.  I picked up the second John Entwistle solo album a few weeks ago.  His first one, 1971’s Smash Your Head Against The Wall, was one of the best albums I had heard in a long time…when I heard it it was the first time in years that I had just driven around to all the record stores in town with the sole mission of purchasing one record (I finally found it at Flipville, RIP).  Anyway, it blew me away that this solo album could be so good, made the same year as Who’s Next, and I had gone so many years without hearing of it.  It’s a very heavy sounding album with John playing bass, piano, horns and doing like 3 or 4 vocal parts per song.   It is an unapologetically dark and evil album subject matter and sound, darkly humorous yes, but look up the lyrics to the song “You’re Mine”.  I don’t use the word evil lightly.  Anyway, I found this totally killer album made in an important year by a member of one of the greatest rock bands of all time…and it’s like nobody cares how good it is and nobody appreciates how unbelievably and incredibly weird and excellent John Entwistle is.

So that was about 2 years ago that I got into Smash Your Head Against The Wall, and it made such an impression on me that I listen to The Who differently.  I listen for John’s high backing vocals and french horn solos.  I get pissed off when they don’t show him at all in old videos, even though he has a full length black and white leather skeleton jumpsuit on.  I have an Uncut magazine Ultimate Guide To The Who that just came out.  It’s like 150 pages of Who interviews, articles, pictures, reviews, etc.  They barely acknowledge that he was in the band in the whole magazine.  A couple pictures, a few mentions, no interview, no article.  I couldn’t believe it.  I just got his second solo album, Whistle Rymes (that’s how it’s spelled).  I had it on 8 track, but the tape was warped and I never really listened to it.  The cover is a weird scene from a children’s book with animals in a forest at night.  Peter Frampton, one of my least favorite names in early ’70s “rock” plays lead guitar on the album, just after Humble Pie, pre solo career.  So I had seen this record a few times and passed it by, but this time I saw it I was thinking of how seemingly no one addresses what a great song writer this guy was, so I bought it.  It is every bit as good as Smash Your Head Against The Wall, and better.  I was elated.  The lyrics are even weirder and darker, his vocal harmonies are even more cutting and huge.  Songs about suicide, hatred, being cheated, trying to pick up prostitutes, stalking a woman and watching her through the windows…there is a lyric in the song “I Feel Better” that goes “When I’m feeling great/it’s only ‘cos I’m consumed with hate for you”, but it’s in this incredibly well written and musical song that just sticks in your head, and then you find yourself singing these lyrics that just sound insane!
That’s why I’m so happy to be a WMSE D.J. because I can play the music of John Entwistle and talk about him and his records even if few people care, because the music is great and it deserves to be played.  Great music justifies its own existence, it just needs people to listen to it.

Who is your favorite non-you WMSE DJ and why? 

The best radio personality I have ever heard in my life, ever, hands down is Cosmo Cruz.  There will never and can never be another like him.  And even though the music is great (especially when he would do those Thursday morning shows and play Fear and Jesus Lizard and L7 at 9am)  I listen for him, the stories about Toni the cat, dedicating songs to women he saw at the grocery store.  Cosmo is what drew me to WMSE.  As far as shows go, Radio Drill Time with Tom and Brian is a kick ass show, I especially like the punk shows they do.  I mean, no offense to any of the other great punk show D.J.s, but they play Suicide and Stiff Little Fingers and there’s something really special about hearing The Misfits over terrestrial radio.  I also love the 5 and Dime Show with Shopkeeper Ken and Grasscutter Andy.  I’m not good at keeping on top of new music, my show makes that quite clear, and 90% of the new stuff I hear that I like comes from the 5 and Dime Show.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to have recorded at least 500 songs by the time I’m real old.

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This entry was published on July 11, 2011 at 5:52 pm. It’s filed under General, Get To Know Your WMSE DJ's and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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