Back when Cosmic Slop debuted in 1993, radio shows were still, you know, on the radio. Debuting over 15 years ago on the University's now defunct WMMR, the show became a Radio K mainstay in 1994 and spent the next decade being a weekly digest of all things lost but not forgotten in the annals of recorded music.
With his partner, Chuck Tomlinson, Joel Stitzel created a show that celebrated the overlooked and the under-appreciated, the dead trends never revived by Hot Topic and Ragstock. Less scholarly DJ's might have forged something unlistenably academic or self-promotional. But Tomlinson and Stitzel play affable keymasters to an endless wax museum for the ear, and tuning in is always revelatory and fun.
How do you manage to broadcast the obscure without being obscurists, and display elite knowledge without being elitists?
It's very kind of you to say that! I think the key is that, fundamentally, we're a couple of friends chatting about stuff we obviously enjoy. We're not trying to sell anything, and we're not trying to force our opinions on anybody. If the gestalt is that you're listening in on a conversation between two people who appear to know what they're talking about, you won't necessarily feel left out if that conversation veers into unfamiliar territory--you'll (hopefully) get carried along. And even if you don't have any idea what we're talking about...hey, there's music! We're sharing our discoveries with each other, and you're along for the ride. It's all done in the spirit of, "Wow, isn't this neat?"
After a long tenure on analog airwaves, and a hiatus, you've made the leap to podcast. How has it changed the way you run your show? Do you curse more?
I am, for all intents and purposes, unable to swear into a microphone--it's like the Fonz trying to say the word "wrong." We still take three hours to do a show, but two and a half of those hours are spent hanging out, idly chatting, playing random tunes for each other, and farting around on the web. After we get warmed up, we pick our songs, decide on an order, and bang out the spoken parts, which probably takes another fifteen minutes. The last fifteen minutes are spent tweaking transitions between the show elements and making sure all the audio levels are where they ought to be. It's VERY professional.
It's clear that you two share an uncommon passion for music. How do you find the time and energy to root out so many diamonds from so much rough?
It's not even a conscious thing, it just happens! I like learning--I read voraciously, watch a lot of TV, and take the time to research things that are novel or obscure. I don't even think that I listen to all that much music anymore, truth be told, but somehow I manage to keep digging this stuff up. Songs have always stuck with me, going back to when I was very little, so maybe it's just a matter of accessing a particularly comprehensive internal database. As far as the perceived quality of the things we play, we're really just playing things that we like--if they turn out to be diamonds, so much the better!