Life with Kevin: Live at KEXP Volume Three, Part 1

One of the major projects that Kevin and I work on during the year is the Live at KEXP CD series. Listeners have often asked about the making of Live at KEXP: How do we pick the songs? Where does the artwork come from? Does anyone ever say no? I thought I would devote a few Life With Kevin‘s to the Making of Live at KEXP. (Please be assured that if Kevin does anything bizarre I will pre-empt the CD talk to keep you up to date.)

Live at KEXP begins with an email — it goes out to staff and DJs asking for them to send in their favorite live performances of the year. There were close to 400 live performances in 2006 — so far in 2007 we’ve had 329. That’s a lot of performances to choose from!

From this list we list the top vote getters, plus the ones that the programming team feels strongly about — like John did about Beirut for Volume 3. (I believe his exact words were, “If a track from the Beirut performance isn’t on Live at KEXP I’ll kill Kevin Cole. Even if it isn’t his fault. I’ll do it on-air.”)

The live performances are kept on CDs in the DJ booth. With the help of the programming interns, we grab the performance CDs that we want to listen to, rip them onto my computer, and burn copies for everyone on the programming team. Last year, I believe we delivered 15 CDs to them, each CD having 3-4 live performances on them. That’s a lot of music to listen to.

We start listening and cast our votes for our favorite tracks. Sometimes it’s easy — we loved Lady Sovereign‘s performance and “Public Warning” was the track. Sometimes there are two tracks that were really good. Sometimes a band will come in more than once, do a bunch of songs, all of which are amazing. This was the case with The Black Angels between their performance at the station and the Triple Door show, there were 15 incredible tracks to choose from. Kevin polled everyone, and every one of us had a different favorite. That’s when our job is tough.

Ultimately Kevin makes the decision as to which tracks make the short list to be remixed. Remixing tracks is expensive so we can’t do every song. This is all done over at Tom Hall’s studio, EarWorks Audio. Tom is a fantastic sound engineer and producer, and a huge supporter of KEXP. Honestly, I don’t know what Tom does to the tapes after we deliver them — sound mixing and engineering is a mystery to me. All I know is that when he does his magic and cleans up the sound, tweaking the vocals, fixing the sounds that shouldn’t be there (it is live, after all), and perfecting the mix of the instruments, the songs sound fantastic. It’s always exciting when I get the email from Tom that tracks are ready — I download, put them on CDs and we listen again. And again. And again. And again until Kevin knows exactly which tracks we want to use. I’ll talk about what happens next in an upcoming Life With Kevin, so stay tuned.

One of the tracks we chose for Live at KEXP Volume Three was The Gossip‘s “Yr Mangled Heart.” Kevin called this track, “Raw, in yr face punk rock soul music — your heart will feel mangled after listening to this song” The Gossip and their label, Kill Rock Stars were kind enough to let us use this as a download, to give you just a hint of some of the fantastic music on Live at KEXP Volume Three. Enjoy!

photo by Daniel Boud
The Gossip –
Yr Mangled Heart

download now!

Be sure to pick up a copy of Live at KEXP Volume Three, now available in retail stores in the Seattle area. You can also order it online at KEXP.ORG.

Check out exclusive live songs recorded in the KEXP studio from The Long Winters, The Shins, Ghostland Observatory, Grizzly Bear, Peter Bjorn & John, Beirut, and many others.

Most importantly, all proceeds go to support KEXP.

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  1. Matty Worth
    Posted September 20, 2007 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    So, if I understand correctly, it seems like there are tracks that get the full remix treatment but don’t make it on the final CD.

    Does this mean a “Live @ KEXP: The Lost Recordings” collection might be in the future?

  2. Posted September 21, 2007 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Vol. 3 turned me on to the greatest band in the world EVER (well, this week anyway): The Black Angels. Gun Club meet Mazzy Star meet somethingoranother.

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