Seattle, 2000, summertime. I’m in the Communications building on the University of Washington campus, late-night DJing for a non-commercial alternative radio station called KCMU. It’s spooky in here and dark. I look through the vinyl stacks for familiar faces to keep me company. I am most familiar with the rock and jazz artists: Tom Waits, Nina Simone, Louis Armstrong, Jimi. I prop up their albums in the booth and their eyes follow me as I float in my post-midnight haze from the record library to the control room and back again.
It’s a very difficult shift. As one of the new DJs here night shift is required. I was psyched to be hired for three nights a week, but I’m totally useless the rest of the time. And broke. I take any job I can get to pay the bills: nanny (not bad until a month in where the parents start to forget their manners), landscaper (outside work is refreshing, but very hard on your body), temp office jobs (in my experience these are dehumanizing). And finally in a fit of desperation, where I have to choose between homelessness and DJing weddings, I choose the weddings. Hello YMCA. Hello Electric Slide. Hello sellout in the mirror. I hide the most offensive CDs (Vanilla Ice! Britney! UGH!) and claim to not have them with me.
The consolation for all this awful work is this radio job. It feeds me in some deep way. And this station KCMU (which years later would be renamed KEXP, but the music never really changed) has a bin of the best, newest music around. There are artists from all over the world in the bin (called “rotation”) and best of all these artists push my envelope. I crave this push out of the box.
At this point in my learning about music I’m a bit intimidated by St. Germain’s Tourist album. It’s in Heavy rotation and I’m scared of it, yet fascinated. This French band does so many unexpected styles: from Latin to soul, from jazz to edgy urban beats. But the song that finally wins me over has samples of Johnny Lee Hooker — playing LIVE with Miles Davis.
That fall my sweet boyfriend pays for us both to go to Europe for 2 months. We land in Paris, wander through Spain and take a plane north to spend 3 weeks in the Netherlands. Before we head to our final destination (the islands of Friesland, which is as chilly as it sounds) we’re sitting in a coffee shop in Amsterdam and I hear St. Germain’s Tourist come on. I am blown away by the futuristic feel of Amsterdam, and the fact that my radio station had this record months before. I am completely absorbed by the texture and soul of this album. The newest of the new.
8 years later Michele Myers was hired at KEXP for the show Nite Life — It’s on every Friday Night at 9pm. Each Friday at 12 she does a Midnight Album Spotlight. She also produces KEXP Documentaries — short radio stories on musical subjects. This weekend a TV documentary airs on Michele’s job as a DJ and Documentary producer at KEXP. Saturday at 9pm on CW11 in Seattle on “Underground”. You can also see the TV feature online here.