December 13, 2018

Milestones Part I: Radio


From a young age, I was always influenced by music, being stimulated by my father’s ever-growing collection, and eventually forming my own interests which sometimes deviated from what my parents found acceptable. Nevertheless, I remember the nostalgia from days of sporting a cd mix or album in my jog-proof Walkman on the way to school. Music still had that feature of physicality and gentle handling that made the experience all the more rewarding, and I doubt today’s generation will ever feel that simple pleasure of having a few CDs or CD wallet where your precious few choices mattered and made the soundtrack of your day. The only way future kids and young adults could discover the pleasure of handling music would be to discover vinyl records or invest in their own stereo cabinets, but I divulge. The point I am trying to make is that music has been ingrained in my being since I was very young, and if not for a chance presentation during one of my first general elective courses at the University of Connecticut, I may have never become a longtime radio host and DJ in February of 2008.

You would think that I would have actively sought out a time slot all on my own, after everything I have said so far, but I was never an active radio listener myself. I never took to the music that was played on all the major channels, and optioned for my own path of discovery instead, so I was very much in the dark about college radio programming. When I learned that UConn’s radio station, WHUS 91.7FM, was focused on providing a vast open variety of genres and social topics to the local campus and surrounding towns, I was sold. I had developed such a long list, or library, of artists in different fields, that I was over the moon to have the opportunity to share my musical tastes over the airwaves.

After promptly signing up and training, I was offered my first time slot, from 3am to 5am Wednesday mornings. Now was the tricky part: I had to come up with a name for my show, and an alias for myself, which would feel right, and stay with me for a long time. It wasn’t my intention of having multiple artist names or not seem solid with one identity. It was during these late nights when I came up with the name “Adrift in the Airwaves with DJ Dark Flow”. The name of the show came from my fascination with the word “airwaves”, and thinking about how the radio waves are broadcasted to people’s car systems, radios, and now computers. I wanted to make a play on the word, and I brought it together with my interest in outer space, as well as the double allusion to riding the waves as if on water. The goal, in my mind, was to create a program which sounded fluid, and even though I had multiple genres I wanted to play with, have them transition in such a way that the listener might not notice, or so that the switch in material made sense with the flow of energy from song to song. I wanted my listeners to feel as if they were drifting through a movement of different sonic landscapes. As for my name, I applied the same notion, as a curator of multiple styles of music, but with a dark twist, and a dichotomy of aggression versus soft beauty, and also based on the dark flow theory of our universe at the time.

From then on, DJ Dark Flow became a part of me. In a way though, it was always a part of me. Both words apply deeply to own personality. I grew up reading as many Goosebumps books I could get my hands on. I loved space movies and horror films, and often a combination of the two. I played horror video games and eventually started getting into heavy metal music. I was obsessed with the existential crisis and fascinated by the exploration or discovery of what’s unknown, and that formed the basis of my curiosity and imagination. I was always drawn to the darkness and I don’t know why. I guess some of it could be attributed toward adolescent rebellion, but I also believe that consuming or creating some of this work is good for mental well-being; sometimes art is therapy, and works as the vessel to channel stress or aggression, or even exorcise personal demons.

The Flow part of my name reflects my general easy-going nature, with my philosophy of taking life as it comes, trying to be flexible with life’s many obstacles, and being mindful and gracious with its gifts. Now I haven’t had an extraordinarily hard life by any measure of the imagination, and for that I am grateful for, but I do believe, or hope, that my essence of being would be more or less the same in a different set of circumstances. Now that I have picked apart my name, the mission of my show becomes all the more clear: to share music that is either ignored or missed by mainstream stations, and to nurture a community of like minded fans and artists, and that’s exactly what I’ve had the pleasure and opportunity to do over the following 8 years.

I made many friends through the show, and some of them I probably would have never met if they hadn’t heard the program through their radios. My first chance encounter and music buddy I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and making friends with was done exactly this way, when one day, during my second time slot I got, from 1pm to 3pm, I was announcing over a mic break that I would be willing to play anyone’s original electronic music or DJ mixes if they wanted to have the promotion through the air. I wanted to create a platform for those who didn’t have access to the station. It wasn’t even 10 or 15 minutes later when a tall, cool looking dude walked into the studio. He had a mix CD in his hand and he introduced himself as Will Haynes aka BEATGOSZIP aka DJ Daysix. He said he was delivering pizza in his truck and he had it tuned to 91.7 when he heard my mic break, and luckily, he had a CD of some of his mixes on there. It created a feeling of immediacy and connection that was just awesome and couldn’t be replicated any other way, and moments like these happened many more times over the years.

After graduating, I had no choice but to leave WHUS in 2011, because my commute would have been far too long to continue the show. Still, I was determined to take my program to another community radio station. After a few months of research, I discovered WPKN 89.5FM in Bridgeport, Connecticut. I signed up to start volunteering, and quickly got in and continued Adrift in February of 2012. The next three years contained the most growth for my program in musical diversity and community.

During this period and revival of my program, I've had the pleasure of meeting many talented independent artists, many of whom became good friends. Some of them were brought in by mutual friends we shared, and others had interesting chance encounters as well. I remember one show, where during a mic break, I believe I had one of my semi-regular guests in the studio, E-ryDa, and we had a call in, something that I welcomed during my program, but had little success since my time slot was during the wee hours of the morning between 2am and 6am on Wednesdays. What followed was an exchange with an artist who was requesting himself, and after the brief awkward exchange over the air, we became acquainted with each other, and Long Island emcee and producer B. Dvine became one of my most regular guests during this time, calling in during nearly every show thereafter, and I returned the love with features of his tracks sprinkled in with my eclectic mixture of hip-hop and electronic music. He even took it a step further and produced an exclusive freestyle series for Adrift In The Airwaves.

The radio love didn't just come from the Connecticut or tri-state region. The benefits of the internet brought WPKN to anywhere in the world. Artist friends from different states or even countries, such as Jimmy ELE from Florida, or XL, formerly called Sticky Bud, from across the pond in the UK, were some of the artists who's ideas I felt were aligned with my own and the message of the show, and their music started to fit into the regular rotation. There have been regular listeners in Hawaii, Alaska, as well as Michigan, Vermont, and the Carolinas, to name a few. Some artists who became regular guests on the show were DJs who played a lot around the New York or Connecticut area, such as DJ C-Kaos or DJ Daysix. Others I have had the pleasure of featuring on my show in slightly less frequency, but with the same great result of an awesome communal radio experience, such as Ancient Origin, DJ Slav, Eddie G (from WPKN's own Lounge Sounds!!), DJ Deafstar, or Cykada. Some of the hip-hop artists I've had on the show were already prolific in their craft, such as Jahan Nostra, B. Dvine, or E-ryDa, and had released their own full length albums or mixtapes during my tenure at WPKN, and I have had the pleasure of rotating, debuting brand new tracks at the time, and even writing and publishing reviews of their musical works. Ultimately, there are simply too many guests to name during the WPKN years. I have enjoyed working with them all.

Another feature that became a part of my show was the introduction of pre-recorded social, or "truth", commentaries during the last hour or so of my colossal 4 hours that I had to fill. Through my time on social networks, I became acquainted with a person very dedicated to the task of recording shows on various topics of interest. Jason Bailor, then became an important addition to some of my shows, as I would very much like to put on the final hour, a pre-recorded show of his, which always was presented with very well-informed and researched data, and the show-within-a-show became a part of Adrift In The Airwaves. Jason also ventured into electronic music production and DJing as well, and I started to promote him in this new venture of his. Another couple of "truthers" I had contact with and was able to play some of their pre-recorded interviews.

This journey doesn't just disappear. It is recorded history, the memories and the community that became a part of it, and altogether, there are 182 recorded shows which document some of my first recordings when I decided to archive them in October of 2009, up until April of 2015, when I had my last show for WPKN. I went from just naming them with the date, to eventually writing in parenthesis anything significant or standout about any particular show. If any guest or artist took part in any show during WPKN (2012-2015), there will be a mention of it in the title of the show. All of these shows have been graciously hosted by Internet Archive, and can be downloaded in whole or in part, if there's a favorite show of yours.

This isn't the end of Adrift In The Airwaves, either. Somehow, someway, it will be back, either in a podcast format or traditional FM/internet stream, but when that day comes, I will be happy to continue to build our community of prolific and talented artists who were so willing to take their time to be a part of the magic. And so ends the first chapter of my personal milestone and creative leap. When I left the radio, I had a lot more time to develop musically, which is why part II will focus on my creative steps I took as DJ Dark Flow solo...
From Left: C-Kaos, Zack from Off The Dome, DJ Daysix, B. Dvine, E-ryDa, Jahan Nostra, Cella, and myself
From left: DJ C-Kaos, Zack from Off The Dome, DJ Daysix, B. Dvine, E-ryDa, Jahan Nostra, Cella, and myself during my final show.