Jon working at KCSU.We cleaned out our storage room last weekend – being an adult is glamorous! – and in an old box I haven’t looked inside of in probably a decade were bunch of old cassette tapes I forgot I had.
Holy shit, these are my old college radio show tapes! And not just the ones you pop into a recorder at the station that capture your breaks so you can do an aircheck with the station bosses to gauge the quality of your show so you can get better (Sidenote: I never once did this with my bosses, partially because I was punk rock and fuck you, you can’t tell me how to do my show! but mostly because I was afraid of their feedback), but the shows in their entirety! Music, promos, breaks, the whole thing!
I used to have either my roommate or my girlfriend record these things because the whole reason I started my show was because I was fed up with commercial radio and wanted to create a show that I’d like to listen to. And with these shows I recorded, I now could. Narcissism fully charged to 100% power!
My favorite, and the longest iteration of my show, was The Bi-Polar Show co-hosted by my good friend Kaycee. I did this show for four years, always on Friday nights. We played punk, ska, emo, and hardcore. We had bits and recurring segments we cultivated over the years, production specifically created for the show, and generally had a great time doing it. Kaycee used to have this giant old-school suitcase filled with CDs she used to bring into the show that, along with a couple of giant Case Logic binders filled with discs that I had, comprised our weekly playlists. Kaycee’s suitcase also made for the perfect smuggling mule for beer that we brought into the studio to drink while we cranked up the monitor and rocked out to some tunes. We were shockingly never caught drinking in the studio, which would have seen us promptly fired, so I call that a punk rock victory. (KCSU’s studio is now at the front of student media with a huge window that looks out into a main hallway rendering drinking nigh impossible these days, which is probably for the good, but also makes part of me weep.)
Before joining The Bi-Polar Show, my very first shift at KCSU was Wednesday mornings between midnight and 2:00 am for The Jonny X Show. When I think back on that, it amazes me how much energy and free time I had because I’d get geeked for my show all Tuesday night, go to the station for two hours, and then come home and drink ‘til 4:00 am or so. Thinking of doing this now makes me want to have a panic attack.
It’s now 12 years after my very last show, and my 2007 Acura inexplicably has a tape player in it, so let’s see how awful these things really were!
In terms of Bi-Polar, surprisingly not terrible! Kaycee and I had really fun banter, the music kicked fucking ass, and since we were both at least three years into our tenure at KCSU, we had pretty good technical mastery over the board which made the show sound semi-professional. As a bonus, I got to think about bands I hadn’t thought of in years like Guns ‘N Wankers, 30 Foot Fall, and terrific local band Dr. Neptune.
It was upon listening to Dr. Neptune that I remembered how I learned to open a pry-off beer cap with a lighter. I was in an elevator at the Gold Coast Hotel in Las Vegas for Punk Rock Bowling when Ross from Dr. Neptune got in. He offered me a beer from his backpack (it was a Beck’s, if memory serves), but we had no bottle opener. He asked me, “Do you have a lighter?” I did, I gave it to him, and he showed me how to use your finger as a fulcrum while wedging the butt of the lighter under the cap, and then just pull. Pop! The cap flies off, and you’ve got cold beer to drink. Score!
The Jonny X Show, on the other hand, is pretty embarrassingly amateurish and hard to listen to. I talked after nearly every song, and in some cases front sold and back sold the song you heard. Example: “Coming up next, ‘Gainesville Rock City’ by Less Than Jake!” [Gainesville Rock City plays] “That was Less Than Jake with ‘Gainesville Rock City!’ Coming up next off the request line…” I had clumsy control over the board and I tried really, really hard to be funny. It takes some at-bats to get comfortable talking to yourself in front of a microphone, and listening to dorky try-hard Jonny X from 16 years ago is cringe-inducing.
What also struck me was just how aggressive the Jonny X persona was. As I listened, I kept thinking, “Who is this angry young man shouting at me through the radio? Calm down.”
I can’t remember if I’ve told this story before (probably), but it reminded me of a conversation I recently had with Kristin, the context for which now escapes me. But I asserted, “I think I’m pretty high strung.” She looks me incredulously and says, “You’re just now realizing this?”
Yes? No? I mean it makes sense now that I’ve said it out loud, but yeah, I suppose I am just now realizing this.
This realization only enhances my belief that it’s a fallacy that we know ourselves well at all. I always fancied myself a pretty mellow and low-key guy (which is ridiculous as I type it now), but listening to these shows is a nice reminder that I’ve always been incredibly ambitious, pursued what I did with passion, and been pretty aggressive in achieving my goals. I think I confused myself in terms of self-assessment because so many of the other Type-A people I came across felt so disorganized. They were always running behind, flustered, and complained of being over-committed.
I need organization, structure. I crave it. I’m able to deliver the things I want and need to do on-time and on-budget because I can set the process fairly efficiently in my head. Having a shitload to do never really bothers me. It’s the idea that there’s not a good roadmap for getting it done that stresses me out.
Listening to these shows is also a reminder of something my dad said on Episode 146 of my podcast. One of his biggest regrets of his professional career was his need to give his superiors “the full compliment of [his] emotions when he was upset or unhappy about something.” I very much identify with that, and, as my therapist pointed out to me, when I feel my feelings, I tend to really feel my feelings and I’ve worked very hard to be more considerate of others as I espouse those feelings. And that lack of restraint, at times outright arrogance, comes across very starkly in listening to the old Jonny X persona on the radio.
When you record yourself talking into a microphone every week, and are forced to then listen to it back, you have no choice but to learn a lot about yourself. Radio is in my blood, and probably always will be. My podcast is now 4-years old. I produce a radio program twice a month for one of my clients that’s now in its third year. I love creating consumable audio for others.
The by-product of all this creation is having a living almanac of your past selves, which is both fun and cool, and also sort of harrowing in terms of understanding yourself.
I’m reminded of a line from The Bouncing Souls song “Kids and Heroes” that goes like this: “There are only a few things that really belong to me: who I am, who I was, and who I wanna be.”
The Bi-Polar Show and The Jonny X Show are who I was, the Jon of All Trades Podcast is who I am, and the shows I’m working to create that haven’t even been conceptualized yet are who I wanna be.