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Here’s the scene: you’re in your car, your iPod is dead, there’s no CDs to be found, and you have an hour left before you reach your destination. You’re forced to listen to the radio. If you are like me this is one of your biggest nightmares (along with a giant Snake-Bear.) It sounds terrifying until you find that little local gem playing alternative music. I caught up with Chris Tollack from Clemson’s WSBF, the Upstate’s own little gem.
Jake Hougaboom: Tell me about your show on 88.1, Live Sessions?
Chris Tollack: Live Sessions is my on-air performance show where we highlight local, regional, and national artists by having them perform live in our broadcast studio every Thursday night from 7-9pm. It has grown quite a bit since I became Production Director in the Fall of 2010. We now are broadcasting the show, both audio and video on air and on the internet. CTV, Clemson’s student run TV station, handles the video broadcast along with recording the video to be put together with the audio recording later. I’m very excited about the next step, as we have started recording HD video this semester and are looking to really step up the quality of Live Sessions.
JH:How long have you been working for 88.1?
CT: I have been a DJ since Fall of 2009 so close to three years now. I have worked as the Production Director for about two years.
JH: What has been the coolest experience for you so far during Live Sessions?
CT:I’ve had a lot of great experiences on the show, but I’d say my most star-struck moment so far was when Toro Y Moi agreed to perform back in January of 2011. Him and the band were all extremely down to earth and quite funny. Since then he’s gone on to perform all over the world and show that South Carolina’s music scene is more than just Hootie and the Blowfish. It was a big thing for us to have such a respected South Carolina artist in studio. It helped me realize what Live Sessions and WSBF could accomplish in the music industry.
JH: With radio tycoons like Clear Chanel, that seem to play only the Top 40, what do you think the future of smaller Alternative music radio stations will be?
CT: Having playlists picked by individuals on air that range across multiple genres is a big part of what makes Alternative radio stations so much more unique than Top 40 and other large format radio stations. I feel that there are a lot of people who love the radio format but have gone away from it because the Top 40 format is so limited in scope. Alternative music radio can appeal to the niche audience and that provides both more freedom for the station as well as an audience that specifically appreciates radio programming.
JH: Your show Live Sessions deals with just that, live sessions with local bands, what are some other shows that listeners can enjoy?
CT: I also co-host a show called 128 with Jordan Young. We spotlight downtempo experimental electronic music, especially sample-based artists. However, WSBF has a very wide range of programming. I’d say that a significant portion of the DJs prefers independent rock and electronic artists, but we have shows that concentrate on everything from jazz to loud rock to talk and sports.
JH: Talk about a Live Sessions that went horribly wrong…
CT: In my first semester as Production Director, I brought in a fantastic psych rock band named Marionette from Richmond, Virginia and we got everything set up and ready to go. However when we started the show, we realized pretty quickly that the connection between the recording studio and the broadcast was not working. The band was still playing in the studio, while a few others and myself were panicking in the adjacent room trying to get everything back on track. We finally found out that it was bad patching through our studio hub to our broadcast studio, but the band had already finished their set. I felt terrible because Marionette played brilliantly. Luckily we had a show lined up for them in downtown Clemson the night after but I definitely regret not having that session come together. I’m looking forward to bringing them back to the program and the Upstate area.
JH: Is it possible to classify the type of bands on Live Sessions? If so then what type are the bands?
CT: The bands are mostly independent alternative artists. I try to select acts that embody the spirit of alternative music, regardless of genre.
JH: Why is it important for people in the Upstate to get out, see shows, and support local music?
CT:Alternative music has a hard time in the Upstate. There are few venues really willing to invest in smaller acts and artists pushing their creative limits often lose out to safer options. The downturn in the economy has made this an even greater problem because many venues do not see supporting alternative music as a valid way to make money. Despite that, there is a wealth of wonderful music in the area and the scene is only getting stronger. Its important that people go out and support music they love, and who knows that local act just might become their new favorite band.
JH: In your opinion what are the best venues in the upstate to see shows?
CT:This is a difficult question for me because there is a lack of proper sound systems to be found in many Upstate venues. As an audio engineer, I can be pretty picky when it comes to sound, but there are some great atmospheres around town. Now that the RadioRoom goes smoke free during the shows* its become one of my favorites as the bar really supports the musician’s who play there and the crowds always are looking to have fun. I also like Gottrocks a lot and have heard great things about the sound engineer who works there. The Brooks Center for Performing Arts in Clemson is also a wonderful venue for jazz and world music and has the best sound system in the Upstate that I have encountered thus far.
JH: Is radio something you see yourself doing in the future?
CT: I definitely hope so. I love the medium and it has allowed me to meet so many great people in the industry and the local music scene. I can only hope that radio loves me back.
JH:If the moon was made of spare ribs, would you eat it?
CT: That brings up more questions than it does answers. First, how would I get to said ribs? Are they vinegar or mustard sauce based? If I eat the ribs will I cause terrible gravitational problems on earth? But in the end, moon ribs sound delicious and I can’t imagine why I’d pass that offer up.
You can catch Live Sessions on 88.1 every Thursday night from 7 -9
*not all Radio Room shows are smoke-free, but the venue let’s people know when the shows are smoke-free in advance*
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