After KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic” broadcast had reached its end from inside the SONOS Studio amidst all the SXSW hullabaloo, Milk Made got a chance to sit down with the host and KCRW’s music director, Jason Bentley. We talked about his experiences at SXSW and his dedication to radio, which not surprisingly, started at a very young age.
Milk Made: Your first SXSW experience was over 10 years ago. What do you see as your current role and responsibility at SXSW?
Jason Bentley: As music director of KCRW it’s really important for us to have a presence here—it’s legitamitely a key point of reference for the rest of the year. A lot of the bands they’re playing are things we’re playing and developing further. It’s a chance to see bands up close. The thing about SXSW is [bands] play 500 times in a week and they don’t have a lot of production support or a lot of time to sound check.
I think what that does is it forces the band to be themselves in a raw and true way– it’s about their songs, passion, and talent. There’s not a lot of smoke and mirrors. It’s like: throw you in the corner of a warehouse, you have 20 minutes to set up and you just flew in from Germany… now do it! So I think that environment shows [a bands] true intentions, you’re not being coddled or provided with all these other things. It’s a key breeding ground for new music.
MM: You’re also a successful music supervisor, moderator, and club DJ in addition to being KCRW’s music director. Why have you chosen radio as the focus of your career when you could be pursuing other more lucrative careers, and possibly receiving the fame and glory like many of today’s renowned DJs?
JB: I’ve always loved radio, even as a child. The voices coming out of this box was sort of that theater of the imagination. I had a make believe radio station when I was a kid. I would record songs on the radio and then record my voice. This is when I was 12 years old. It’s a strange example of how I always knew what I wanted to do. Radio at college was the first accessible way for me [to DJ]. You could walk into your college radio station and join, just like a club or a student organization. That was my real entry into DJing.
You’re also terrible at mixing when you start DJing. You have to work at it over time, you have to get heckled, you have to face a lot of empty dance floors, and terrible requests. You have to get through all of that before you actually come into your own. The beauty about radio is you’re essentially in your room alone and you can lock the door and be like, “No, no, requests!” and not answer the phone.
MM: So, you’re saying you don’t like taking requests when you’re DJing?
JB: 90% of the time, it’s a bad idea.
MM: SXSW is a place known for breaking new artists. It’s a platform for a lot of careers and a reaffirming turning point to know that people are excited by and enjoy your music. Was there an event or time in your life where you realized what you were on the right path and doing what you’re supposed to be doing?
JB: I always knew what I wanted to do, I always knew I was committed to this idea. I’ve always been a serious person, so I think the thing that helped sustain me is finding a community of people in the club scene - people who I’m still very good friends with today, years later. We all sort of came up together in the scene at that point and none of us really have a grand plan. We were just listening to the music we loved and just had this voracious appetite for music and culture, and I think the trick is to be able to harnass that enthusiasm and shape it and put it in a positive direction going forward. So maybe some of it is luck or intiative.
I think it’s really about being true to yourself, what feels good, and the things that you love doing. I think if you just keep at it long enough… I mean, I’ve been at KCRW for 20 years - It’s almost like, if you’re going to hang around that long they have to make you music director.
KCRW put on their official showcase Wednesday night, with a diverse and talented line up as expected from the station that is known for selecting and supporting talented emerging artists.
Jason was cool enough to handpick a song from each of KRCW’s featured artist for a Milk Made Mix Tape. You’re gonna wanna have a listen to it.
Photos By: Koury Angelo
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