|ISSUE 10.1||Spring 2000|
Jack Devoss is the Music Director at local Columbus radio station WWCD CD101. He started as an intern with the stations morning show in August of 1993. He then was hired in part time as morning show producer and soon started doing dj shifts on the air on weekends. In early '94, CD101 had some personnel changes that opened up a spot for an overnight dj. Jack's shifts consisted of doing the 12am to 6am on the air and then the morning show until 10am. This lasted for about two years. - Melvin B. Strange
Melvin: So you paid your dues with the overnight shift.
Music Director, CD101
Melvin: Did you enjoy it when you were doing the band thing where you were going out and seeing the bands?
Jack: Yeah, that was great. I didn't get paid to do that, but we were on salary so it didn't matter. I took over Frontstage completely in 1998.
Melvin: You view most of the press kits that come in with CD's for Frontstage?
Melvin: What is probably the biggest mistake you see in a press kit?
Jack: Some press kits are underdone and others are overdone. The overdone press kits tend to be a little bit lame because you can just see through it. You can tell they are really reaching for something. They exaggerate to the point where you can see that they are exaggerating. "Hey we've opened for Matchbox 20 ... " Well, just because you were playing the parking lot across the street from the Newport when Matchbox 20 was there, doesn't mean you opened for Matchbox 20. It's real easy to call the Newport and go, "Hey have you heard these guys? Were they the opening band for Matchbox 20?" Some of them are underdone where they just give me a paragraph, "the band's from Upper Arlington, it's Bob, Steve and Chris ... " And I'm like O.K. I need a little bit more. Do you guys play out and stuff like that.
Melvin: Generally do you get more overdone press kits then underdone?
Jack: I get more overdone press kits then overdone, yeah.
Melvin: Does that just take away from what you are looking for?
Jack: It just throws you off.
Melvin: When you get the big press kits, how many pages do you actually read?
Jack: Oh, I tend to go through the whole thing. That's why it takes me a while to get to some stuff. When they send me a huge packet it takes forever to get through it. I don't need an 8x10 glossy of the band, ya know. I need to know where you play out on a regular basis and where the CD is available. Those are the things I want to know. To me, having bands play out is the most important thing, because then on Frontstage I can try to drive people to their shows. We've got a lot of great bands and a lot of great clubs here in town. Go see a show. It's better than seeing a cover band.
Melvin: It works, one night I was listening when you had Platypus on the show. You gave high praise and some show dates between tracks that you played. A week later I was at a Platypus show.
Melvin: What are the parameters of CD101's Frontstage music? Are there any limits to what you will play? Save profanity because that's obvious.
Jack: The limits really aren't that stifling. The only one that I have is that you have to be within a four hour square radius of Columbus. I can accept bands from Mineapolis, Cleveland, Louisville and Pittsburgh. We always say local and regional, and by regional we mean four hours from Columbus. And I prefer to play bands that play out a lot. Just because I can say "this is band A, and they play at club B all the time, you can catch them this Saturday ..."
Melvin: Do you find yourself with the Frontstage program playing a lot of stuff over again because you just don't a lot of stuff you can play? Or??
Jack: Well lately I've been playing a lot of stuff over again because the local labels have really been putting out great things. Like Derailleur Records and Anyway Records and Diaphragm Records have been putting out quality music that is produced well and sounds great. So, lately Frontstage has not only been a vehicle for trying to get people into the clubs but down to campus to buy these albums. Because there is actually something more than a lo-fi recording that people can buy and purchase with cover art and actual CD's.
Melvin: A finished product ...
Jack: A finished product, like Pretty Mighty Mighty ...
Melvin: People like to have a collection of CD's of their favorite music ...
Jack: I've been playing a lot of bands that are having CD release parties. I'm doing Emperors of Bad Luck this Friday for their CD release party.
Melvin: I've talked to a lot of musicians that play the heavier stuff or more "metal". How do you feel about the metal genre of music in relation to Frontstage?
Jack: I've never really been against the hard rockin' stuff. It's local, that's the big thing. I don't care if you are doing rap, I don't care if you're doing electronica, I don't care if you are doing straight up alterna-pop, I don't care if you are doing metal. I don't care if you are doing jazz or swing or rockabilly. If you are local we want to expose you to Columbus.
Melvin: Do you get many submissions of metal bands music in here?
Jack: No, because I think that metal is kinda on the down swing..
Melvin: Do you think it is also that the metal musicians are convinced they won't be played?
Jack: Yeah, some metalheads are like "Ugh, CD101, that's a queer station ... " So there is a bias from them towards us. If they have got a narrow mind about what we play, and they don't want to take advantage of the opportunity to have their stuff played out because they don't understand our philosophies, then that's their problem, not mine..
Melvin: Do you receive a fair amount of stuff that you don't play?
Jack: Yes. Stuff which just doesn't sound good. Some of it is just really bad recordings, some of it is just awful. Just pure bad music that I just like "No one wants to hear this.."
Melvin: How many CD's do you get a week?
Jack: Fifteen to thirty, it depends on the week sometimes. Sometimes I get slammed, sometimes I get nothing.
Melvin: And on average, how many of those are not good enough to play?
Jack: Uh, percentage wise? 40% are pretty good. 60% are pretty bad. I get a lot of cassettes. And I can't play cassettes on the air and a lot of stuff is just dribble. I try to e-mail and let 'em know, give them pointers. You know, "Hey you need to be a little more melodic, I can't understand what you are saying ... "
Melvin: Are you friends with anyone that is in any of these local bands?
Jack: Oh yeah. The guys who appreciate what Frontstage can do for them. And after they realize that we're here to help them and not to exploit them. They tend to lower their guard. I'll see them at a show and we'll hang out at the bar and talk about music or whatever.
Melvin: As far as, I have heard a few times on the drive home, local bands being played in the regular rotation.
Jack: We have one slot that we keep open for a local act. We play them for sixteen weeks. Depends on the requests and how they are doing.. We always have one local band in regular rotation.
Melvin: What's the format as far as when that is played, is it very random?
Jack: It gets 15 spins a week. It averages out to three times a day. Once in the morning, early afternoon and then night. If it is a little harder edge we play it more at night.
Melvin: Is it always the same amount of plays, or does it depend on anything?
Jack: The requests drive up the plays. I mean, we get a ton of requests. Watershed, their fans are loyal. So when we started playing Watershed in that spot, their fans blew the phones off the hook. Pretty Mighty Mighty got a lot of good calls, so it went longer than the sixteen weeks, because it got a lot of phone calls.
Melvin: How do you choose which songs get regular rotation?
Jack: The only real determination other than the strength of is it a good song is the recording quality. The lower quality I can't push for that ... like Betaroric ... But then the Stepford Five gives me an album that's polished up and it sounds great.
Melvin: So is it pretty much your own call, your own decision who gets the slot?
Jack: Andyman and I decide which one. Every five weeks, I bring him a stack of local songs that I think are really good. We listen to them and that's who we keep a list of "ok, what is the next band that we are going to put in the local slot."
Melvin: Can you name some bands that were say, really close to getting regular rotation airplay but just didn't make it?
Jack: Well I mean, that no one is ever out of the loop. The only time they are out of the loop is if they break up. Like Ishkabibble, we were getting ready to put Ishkabibble on regular rotation and they broke up. So, you know, the Johnson Brothers, we would have gone a lot deeper into that album, but, they broke up. (note: Jack is aware they just lost their horn section)
Melvin: How long has the regular rotation spot been there for local bands?
Jack: That has been going on since late '96.
Melvin: Are there any bands right now that you think should be checked out?
Jack: Silo the Huskie, the Stepford Five album is really good, it is really hooky, really poppy. That will appeal to a wide blunt of people. It will appeal to people that don't listen to music and analyze everything. It will also appeal to the record geeks, the people like us that are too hip for the room because we listen to Mercury Rev over and over again. Bands that are not really known ... A ska band out of Pickerington called Jack Handy. They are like sixteen or seventeen year old kids, so you know, they're punks. But uh, if they stick with it and mature they could be something really good. Pretty Mighty Mighty, Templeton, The Velveteens. Those guys are doing great. What I call Hippie music, like Ma Rainy, and Sister Flow. There is a ton of stuff that is really good, like I said, it's maturity level. They know what direction they are going. A band called Go Evol Shiki, that I'm biased about because Tom Butler is our overnight guy and their guitarist, but they are awesome. A band that just moved here from Seattle called The Emerald Down, and they are really good, they are kind Radioheadish. The new version of Howlin' Maggie is pretty good. A band that I really dig right now is Superstar Rookie. The album is really good. It's very lo-fi melodic alterna-pop with crunchy guitar.
- Melvin B. Strange (April 28, 2000)
Melvin, the strangeness behind the local music site Out of Order, is offering up some regular features to Cringe. Look for his interview with either Dan Dougan or Fat Johnny from 99.7 The Blitz next month.