KCRW's Jeremy Sole on the Importance of Radio and His Addiction to "Black Crack"
Between saturating airwaves with his weekly radio show on KCRW, throwing a nomadic event series known as theLIFT, and traveling constantly, Chicago-born DJ/producer/remixer/host Jeremy Sole is a busy and influential artist in the Los Angeles music scene. As a teen growing up in Chicago, inspiration came from old records and Chicago's rich history of jazz, blues and funk, as well as his discovery of house and disco at famed parties like the Edge of the Looking Glass. After moving across the country, he settled in Los Angeles in 2000 with an extensive record collection and an eclectic musical palette.
Since then, he has launched parties such as Afro Funke -- which is now going on its ninth year -- and has done production work for Lauryn Hill, who served as an influence for him becoming a radio DJ. Other projects include remix work of artists like Femi Kuti, Quantic and David Bowie, and his nine-piece Afro/Latin/Jazz/Dub ensemble Jeremy Sole's Musaics. We recently caught up with Sole to talk about his radio show, throwing underground parties, and his record collection. He performs Sunday at the Phoenix Hotel with local DJs Shortkut, Vinroc and King Most.
Tell us a little about theLIFT and the kind of artists you strive to book and showcase.
theLIFT is like a tree in the forest, it only happens if you were there. So, being that many of y'all haven't been there, it never happened. But if it did, this is how it would hypothetically go down. If I did a party called theLIFT, I would partner up with two other sonic and social troublemakers and spread the gospel on the apostles -- the dancers and aesthetically adventurous ears and hearts of Los Angeles. We would make sure only to book DJs and live performers that rarely visit this coast, or in many cases even this country; talent that is highly respected for, and devoted to, the arts of moving butts. Folks like Gilles Peterson, Quantic, Danny Krivit, Karizma, Cut Chemist, Nickodemus, and others with wide range and deep crates. We would make sure that, in every raw space, loft, or warehouse we inhabit for a night, there would be the largest disco ball you've never seen and the highest quality, loudest yet clearest sound system your stomach can stomach.
How has the concept of loft parties changed since you starting throwing them when you were a teenager?
Besides the fact that we can promote online, and don't have to spend all day at Kinko's making flyers... it hasn't -- and that's why I love it. It's a simple concept that's been preserved in this fast-changing world. It's the ritualistic process of transforming a cold, raw space into a familial gathering. The right people find out the address and venture into an often unfamiliar area of town, and the ceremony begins. The sweat in the room is like the sage, christening and sanctifying the space for one night.
What's the most satisfying aspect of throwing these parties?
It's that moment when a person approaches you afterwards to say, well, it's like they knew they had to come up, but didn't realize they don't have the words until we're face to face: 'I'm not familiar with these kinds of genres, never heard most of these songs, but yeah... yeah... yeah.' They stop themselves; we nod in a mutual, unspoken gratitude for the connection.
Have you seen a lot of changes in radio since you started at KCRW?
Radio is an interesting medium because the people you curate for are not physically there with you. You can't judge their response or alter your approach mid-stream like you can while DJing live. What you have is a general assumption of what people might be doing, and what role the music might play in their day.
Do you think it still holds the same importance with the emergence of podcasts, satellite radio, etc?
Now more than ever before, in this raging stream of media, people value a curator -- a trusted tastemaker to filter out all of the mediocre works and compose a linear journey through the musical gems. KCRW online is even more widespread than our terrestrial station on the radio dial, and people from all over the world tap in regularly. Even with the online presence, radio waves will continue to flow in the way that vinyl sales have maintained through the years. Many are creatures of habit. Also I believe there's a certain element of community that happens from "tuning in" to an ongoing broadcast as opposed to clicking "start" on a finite piece of media. It's as if they're diving into the ever-flowing stream of information and inspiration with their fellow citizens, a societal watering hole of content.
What's the process like putting together your Wednesday night sets? How do you go about finding raw talent to showcase?
One day I plan to change this, but for now I'm feeling the benefit of improvising my weekly radio shows, for the most part. Throughout the week I'll go through my process, contacting record labels, stopping in random record stores while traveling, remembering songs and putting them in a folder on my computer, and trying to listen to as many of the new promos I've been sent as possible. Still though, many of the selections I make come from just keeping my ears open in life -- out in the world. Songs, or even random sounds, stop me in my tracks and trigger a thought of the radio show. The world tells me what to play.
Next: Sole on his "out of hand" record collection