Get Into It: “Independent Radio DJ”

The “Get Into It” interviews find interesting people and asks them three questions about their interests. Ideally, this will have nothing to do with literature. Too often while bopping around the louche, litmag web haunts, it can feel like a claustrophobic room of monomaniacal chatbots. “Get Into It” should serve as a reminder that we are all practicing an art, or refining a craft, or competing in a sport. Let’s hear what’s driving others to proliferating browser tabs and insomniac nights. And maybe we’ll find a new obsession while we’re at it.

By coincidence, Caitlin Lavin and I met for this interview on the two year birthday of CHIRP Radio. CHIRP (Chicago Independent Radio) was founded in 2007 to create a grass-roots, all volunteer run radio station, and began broadcasting in January, 2010. Presently, they’re only broadcast on the web, but they’re working towards obtaining a Low Power FM radio license, thanks to the Local Community Radio Act of 2010. As someone who spends his days chained to a desk, I find that their web stream provides an invaluable service. It is the only radio station I’ve ever encountered that reliably introduces me to new and great music.

What are you into?

I’m an independent radio DJ, I currently have a radio show on CHIRP Radio ( My responsibilities also include reviewing records for the station. These reviews can be either paper cards that are taped to CDs and records, and are also entered into our in-house record database. DJing has a lot to do with prep and figuring out what records to play. My day job is with a record distributor, so a lot of what I see during the week, either new release, or new old records that I’ve recently discovered, I play. Other DJs take a lot of prep time, but I’m more of a last-minute pull some records in my bag and then go with the flow when on-air kinda gal.

How did you get into it?

I’ve been doing volunteer radio since I was fifteen starting at WLUW, Loyola Radio. I majored in ‘Broadcasting Radio: Talent/Production.’ at Columbia College Chicago. During that time, I worked at WRRG and WCRX. After college, I worked full-time as a server while on the side scrambling to get into music industry. Once I finally got the record distribution gig and had a regular 9-5, I found myself having a lot more free time. I wanted to find something new that I could get into, as well as possibly make some new friends. Then I heard of CHIRP, which seemed like a natural fit given my previous experience. They were just in the planning phase. I liked that in addition to being a radio station, it had a political angle, organizing to have congress pass the Local Community Radio Act, so that we and groups in other cities could have a LPFM broadcast license, and was totally grass roots. To get the job, all I had to do was show up to a monthly meeting. [Ed. note:  “Eight percent of success is showing up” –  Woody Allen.] But part of being a member of CHIRP is putting your time in by “tabling” events to promote the station, DJing at events, fundraising to keep us going (we’re non-profit) as well as daily/weekly tasks to keep the station organized (reviewing music for the library, producing liners for on-air play, creating interviews for our blog, etc.).

What would you recommend to someone interesting in becoming an independent radio DJ?

If you are in Chicago, you should give CHIRP a try. People with ALL levels of experience are able to join, and we have new volunteer orientation meetings every quarter. If you are not in Chicago, then I suggest seeking out if your area has a community or independent radio station (a lot of them are at universities) and asking if you could volunteer. Most are always happy to find new volunteers.

I know I promised you just three questions, but one more please. Could you share a few gems you’ve discovered while working at CHIRP?

Music-wise, because I work at a distributor, I often hear/know about the music that CHIRP receives before they get to it. However there are several bands that I have discovered via CHIRP, like Las Kellies, a fabulous all-female post-punk inspired group from Argentina.

Just one (more) band, please? 

Royal Headache. They’re garage and very much rock and roll. You can hear the Australian Influence. They’re Radio Birdman meets Eddy Current Suppression Ring. [Anobium Note: ECSR fucking rules, man.]

Caitlin is on the air (internet stream) Tuesday nights from 10pm – 12am.  Check her out!

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