with Joe Kendrick of WNCW
Joe Kendrick is one of those people who undeniably shapes future musicians behind the scenes. He led WNCW’s ARC overnight to be one of the best places to discover weird music in the days before the internet. We’re glad to call him a friend.
QRD – Between iPods, Spotify, & economic issues; a lot of stations have disappeared over the past five years. What makes WNCW still relevant?
Joe – We engage, entertain, & inform our audience with programming that is fresh, with music that is both familiar & challenging, both reassuring & surprising. We draw from a very deep well of music & culture & juxtapose the old with the new in complimentary ways. We like to have conversations with our listeners on the phone, in person, & in social media; we’re not over the top. We’re having fun creating unique radio & people respond to that.
QRD – For years you had your program What It Is that played through the week of a few panelists talking about a music topic. Why did it end & will it come back?
Joe – I always knew it wouldn’t last forever. The show was a great deal of fun, a big challenge & usually a great boost to my day. It was a ton of work, too. Eventually it became harder to keep the show fresh with panelists & topics, plus there wasn’t a lot of encouragement or support from others at the station. There was no reward for producing the show other than the joy & sense of accomplishment for doing it & eventually that waned, so I retired it from radio. I have thought about bringing it back to WNCW, but have no plans as of now. It does, however, air in video form on iamavl.com, which is a great group of folks from Asheville. We get together for a recording session once every month or so & explore music news, history, & culture with a rotating panel much like we did on the radio.
QRD – You’ve recently been trying to go into video for your web program Lingua Musica. What has been the biggest challenge of the switch from audio to video?
Joe – Lingua Musica grew out of my experience with What It Is & was initially a grand idea. I hoped to create a live video talk show filmed in front of a studio audience & streamed online, which would take comments & questions from social media in real time. We could then work those into the show, which also incorporated a live band to play in between topics & for a full set after the one hour broadcast. I produced three of those shows in 2010 with an all-volunteer staff, except for the videographer. It was exhilarating, demanding & ultimately successful in that the shows could upload off of just the DSL connections we had available from the venues we shot at & we had lively conversations with panelists & audience. It was completely exhausting as well & I couldn’t get sponsorships that could pay for the series to continue, so the next year I went in a new direction. The next iteration of the show was an interview session with artists. Several different interviewers took turns at talking with everyone from regional artists to stars like Roseanne Cash & Lloyd Cole. That, too, relied on volunteer videographers & that iteration also floundered after I couldn’t secure funding. It was a lot of fun though & a great learning experience.
QRD – Have you ever thought of starting a label?
Joe – I haven’t really considered doing that.
QRD – How has being a DJ effected the way you listen to music at home? Does it make you lean towards listening to single tracks instead of albums?
Joe – I tend to listen to WNCW most of the time, but review a fair amount of music for work at home too. This is mainly playing a track or two or just scanning, but sometimes leads to playing a whole album, especially when I’m cooking. I still love to play vinyl, but rarely have the time or right mood. I play my personal collection of CDs occasionally, usually putting discs in the changer & letting them shuffle, or do the same with all the music in my PC.
QRD – I think you told me you try to keep your CD collection down to around a thousand CDs. What has to happen for a new disc to kick an old one out?
Joe – I culled some of my collection a couple of years ago & the shelves are again at capacity. I might just get another shelf this time though. When I was in my early to mid 20s, I would only keep a couple of dozen discs & would sell them off even if I really liked them at times because I had played them into the ground. Nowadays I browse through my collection & see things that I didn’t remember were there. There are fundamental flaws to both approaches.
QRD – For your personal listening, what’s your preferred audio format & what’s your preferred format as a DJ?
Joe – I tend to play CDs mostly but .wav files are good too. Vinyl is wonderful, but is the “slow food” of the music format world. I might listen to MP3s on my phone or on a computer in a pinch.
QRD – I assume your job at the radio station was your teenage dream. Is it still your dream job?
Joe – Pretty much! I get a charge out of performing at a high level, of having the freedom to make up a music mix on the fly every day, & connecting with the audience. It’s great to do something that makes someone’s day better. There are other things I would like to accomplish in radio & media, however, so I’m open to new challenges & opportunities.
QRD – I know a lot of the overnight stuff at WNCW is pre-recorded now. Do you think that effects anything at all? Would you prefer the station to be live 24/7?
Joe – There are usually just two nights a week that are automated now & that’s by design. We have Rob Daves hired on as our ARC Overnight anchor & he is live four nights with volunteer hosts rotating the other night. Live hosts are always better than recorded hosts. It’s the same difference as between an album & a live concert. Today it’s more & more rare for stations to have live hosts late night & we find that even though there are a fraction of the listeners we get during daytime, their excitement & loyalty is huge.
QRD – What do you think is the best possibility for there to be financial support of professional musicians both now & in the future?
Joe – That’s such a tough question. You could argue that the record industry could be more equitable with its artists & that people should always pay for the music they acquire, but that only addresses a few aspects of the dilemma & does not address all music professionals either. The condition of professional musicians is much like that of professionals in other walks of life: tenuous. We’re living in a world with ever expanding economic disparity & to address the plight of musicians alone is impossible without undoing that disparity for everyone else.
QRD – Anything else?
Joe – I have an idea for a music game that I have rolled around in my head for several years. It would be a kind of “music battle” video or parlor game where players would match songs against each other, either one at a time or by whole playlists. I’ve also got an outline for a music game that has songs on a deck of cards, with things like the year the song was released, its key(s), highest chart position, etc. Who would like to collaborate with me?
Other QRD interviews with Joe Kendrick:
Interview with Joe Kendrick of WNCW (October 2013)
Christian Musician interview with Joe Kendrick of WNCW (March 2011)
Music Director interview with Joe Kendrick of WNCW (April 2008)
Musician Dad Interview with Joe Kendrick of WNCW (May 2007)