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: Erin Wolf
Show Name: Rockleidoscope
Day/Time: Tuesday, Noon – 3pm
How do you spend your days and nights when not hosting your radio show?
I’m the music director at WMSE during the day and the rest of my time is divvied up between other part-time jobs. I also help booking and promote shows with Battlecry Milwaukee, do a fair amount of freelance writing and am in two bands: Group of the Altos and Hello Death. Free time is kinda precious, so I try to spend as much of it outside as possible in the nicer weather months. Always been into reading, too, listening to records at home, drawing. Try to see as many shows as I can, when I can.
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?
No particulars, just music in general always had an impact since a young age. Growing up, radio was mostly of the working-in-the-garage or riding-in-the-car variety. Dad would listen to baseball and when he wasn’t doing that, he’d listen to jazz or classical: Vivaldi, Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Debussy, Handel, stuff like that. We went on a family camping trip to Yellowstone, and The Four Seasons by Vivaldi was on in the car – nice soundtrack, right? By the time I was in high school, I probably knew more about classical music than most people twice or three times my age. Now, I’ve got a pretty crappy memory for it. I listen, but not as frequently, unfortunately. I took piano lessons from 1st grade through high school and got sucked into classical through that, too. I really liked all the sonatinas from Clementi and the dramatic waltzes and mazurkas Chopin wrote.
As a kid, my brother and I listened a lot to my dad’s vinyl: Moody Blues, Santana, Herb Alpert, Jim Croce…there’s a song called “Don’t Mess Around With Jim,” by Jim Croce, which we thought was hilarious, expressly because my dad’s name was Jim. The song, “Aqualung” by Jethro Tull, also, was hilarious. My brother and I would sing along, “sitting on a park bench!”. Cracked us up. If you read those lyrics though, that particular song is super creepy, but we had no clue; we just thought his intonation was funny. And the flutes. Our uncle always put on “Fat Albert” by Bill Cosby in the car when we went on family camping trips. The best. I’m glad my family had a sense of humor.
The first song I remember digging was “Back in the High Life” by Steve Winwood; think what you will. I think Curtis Mayfield’s “It’s All Right” also tied. And Fleetwood Mac’s “Little Lies”. I remember singing it with my best friend in kindergarten when her mom drove us to gymnastics practice. Middle school, I started taping stuff off the radio, but growing up in West Bend, we didn’t get WMSE. Too far away! We did get New Rock 102.1, though, and that had me buying a bunch of cassette tapes to catch Dinosaur Jr., Nirvana, Beastie Boys, The Cure and Beck, They Might Be Giants…as Sebadoh said, “just gimme indie rock.” Seriously! I was super into Elastica, Belly, The Breeders, The Clash. I listened to as much stuff as I could manage when I wasn’t at school or doing homework. My brother introduced me to Smashing Pumpkins and Soundgarden. He liked Pearl Jam, though, and that’s when I realized I had certain tastes. He still likes Pearl Jam. I still don’t. Back in the 90’s (and still, today) we had The Exclusive Co. in West Bend, or you just bought CDs at places like Shop-Ko, but seriously, they were $20/pop back then — a lot of money for a teenager. I rarely got into Milwaukee and never went to Chicago. I kinda regret missing out on record stores at a young age, but I eventually caught up and continued taping and spent my babysitting dough on more blank cassettes and books. I taped stuff from my parent’s record collection – I really liked Simon & Garfunkel and listened “Crystal Blue Persuasion” by Tommy James & the Shondelles on repeat. The Hollies, Bread, Joe Cocker, Van Morrison, Curtis Mayfield – still, some of my absolute favorites.
In college, I started writing about music (UWM Post) and was introduced to local bands like The Benjamins and The Promise Ring and found Fugazi, Sonic Youth,The Sundays, Jawbox, Velocity Girl, Slowdive, The Pixies…Red House Painters. Compound Red/Ida were on a mix tape someone gave me. I remember listening to it on winter break my first year away at college. It was a more modern and exciting type of ‘indie’ music that I had never been introduced to, and it changed everything. I paid attention to labels, bought The Big Takeover and Magnet Magazine and read them all the way through.
When I started to go to shows, I saw some pretty awesome ones: Jets to Brazil and Crooked Fingers at The Globe, Death Cab for Cutie at The Miramar when they were still a young band, Antibalas and The Walkmen at Onopa, Luna at Shank Hall, Low at The Miramar and Jucifer at Cactus right after they moved the stage around. Holy loud! That’s the first time I wore earplugs at a show. I saw the ‘last’ Dismemberment Plan show at The Modjeska. I’m still sad I missed one of the last Fugazi shows up in Green Bay (2000?). I think it was because I couldn’t get off from work or something silly. I made up for it a wee bit by seeing The Evens a few years later, but not really. In the late 90’s/early 00’s, there was definitely a magical indie music culture in Milwaukee that sped up my love of the genre: making and trading mix tapes, shows at venues and basements, writing. I went to Atomic and Exclusive and just bought stuff because it looked interesting or because Mark, Erik, Matt and Dathan recommended stuff. Slint’s Spiderland was pre-tty cool the first time I heard it. I listened to WMSE and heard Stuart playing Ash’s “Girl From Mars” and Supergrass’ “Alright” and Melissa play stuff off of Dismemberment Plan’s Change…sold. It all was tied together. When I started volunteering for WMSE in 2004, something clicked. The DJ family and the constant sharing of new music was just so exciting. I can’t imagine being in Milwaukee and notbeing a part of WMSE.
What band have you heard or discovered in the past six months that reminded you why you want to continue being a WMSE DJ.
Recently listening to Hal Rammel and Jason Weitlispach’s shows on a Sunday afternoon, back to back, reminded me of how amazing WMSE is to broadcast that kind of music live, on the radio. I love that much of it is played on vinyl.
Who is your favorite non-you WMSE DJ and why?
Foremost, the Five & Dime show is great. Shopkeeper Ken is great. I look forward to those shows because he’ll play a lot of stuff I personally geek on, but won’t play on my own show. I admire his musical guts. Grasscutter Andy will play Ulver (a black metal band from Norway) and my band mate will be tripped out when I see her at practice because that was her favorite band in middle school and she heard it on the radio. Awesome. I adore Tom Wanderer’s show for playing stuff I grew up with and reminding me of childhood musical memories. Same for the amazing Cosmo Cruz. Wow. He was such an inspiration and would play these singles that I remembered hearing as a kid, that somehow you knew, but had nearly forgotten. Little gems on every Tuesday afternoon. It would be nearly impossible not to sing along to everything he played, sometimes. Also, Erik’s (Void) show because he introduced me to a lot of cool bands like Lali Puna, The Prids and stuff on the Ghostly International and Morr record labels, bts.wrkng for introducing me to Ulrich Schnauss, the Dewey Gill Big Band show for the depth of knowledge he’s got on his genre, Jason Weitlispach’s classical stuff, Paul Cebar for his creativity and genuine love of music, Dr. Fell for being fearless – he’ll put anything back-to-back, Faux Eyes, because he’s such a sass, Jules because of her enthusiasm, Tom Crawford when he’s side-kicking with Brian Kirk forRadio Drill Time. The Mad Kids, Team Metal, Jerry Glocka’s old-school Friday nights, Dori’s dance parties and both Von Munz and Buzz’s awesome garage and punk programming. Those guys put time into their shows and it shows. I love nearly everything on WMSE. No lie. And no, not lame.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
When one stops asking questions, you’ve either become a know-it-all or a quitter, so I always hope to be someone who continues to question and not accept stuff for face value.