This piece has been censored for the UIC Radio blog.
It’s difficult to write about punk without draining it of its chaos.
The greatest punk shows are soaked in sweat and blown into the red. The best punk lyrics are incomprehensible, the best punk venues include a highly suspect dirty mattress in the corner, and the best punk showgoer is one who will sweat all over you, push you into other strangers, scream in your face, and then let you bum a cigarette at the end of the night. When writing about punk neglects to include that sense of disorder and entropy, you get sterile talk of what is, above all, the art of violent, cathartic release.
When I was a teenager, DIY punk shows in Chicago were my safe haven. Growing up gay, there are very few spaces in which you know that you’re not the only outcast- which isn’t to say that I was some sort of hunchbacked adolescent hermit, but when you come out of the closet early, there’s a very thin line you have to walk, knowing all the eyes that rest on you. Getting drunk, then moshing and screaming and sweating in trashed apartments on the weekends was just the sort of chaotic release I needed to keep from cracking under the pressure.
There’s an energy at every great punk show that finds its way up your spine and lets you know you aren’t the only one who just needs a f*cking break. There are systems in place working against all of us- some more complicated or institutionalized than others- but the fun of a punk show is sourced from the moment it allows for young, frustrated, bored, and fed up people to stop needing to think for a while.
Eventually though, you stop being seventeen years old and it’s no longer socially acceptable to struggle through an Aquafina bottle full of whiskey, sweat through your shirt and make out with a high schooler at the end of the night.
The Dr. Paula Show will be re-airing our interview with Dr. Mona Khanna, M.D on Tuesday, May 16th at 11 AM. She will be sharing her thoughts on the delivery of health services and information to the incredibly diverse populations, the importance and challenges involved in providing the public with clear and accurate information and the challenges experienced while promoting health literacy in terms of patient care.
Dr. Mona is a triple board-certified medical doctor and an Emmy award-winning medical journalist who is committed to making a difference in the lives of others through raising health literacy and promoting healthy behaviors. Dr. Mona attended Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism, and then went on to medical school at the University of Illinois, where she is now a Visiting Clinical Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine and Associate in the Center for Global Health. After completing medical school and three specialty residencies, she became one of the country’s youngest medical directors. She left executive medicine in 2002 with the goal of empowering patients through health education on television as a medical reporter. She travels annually on medical missions and is an acclaimed humanitarian and disaster volunteer for which she has been recognized with the 2013 American College of Physicians Volunteerism Award . At Ground Zero on September 11th , Dr. Mona became the first physician to report from the frontlines of a disaster site while providing care. She reported from New York after Superstorm Sandy, Port-au-Prince after the Haiti earthquake, New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, and Indonesia after the Indian Ocean tsunami. Dr. Mona has received more than 50 honors in the past decade, including five Emmy Award nominations, the Award of Valor from the National Association of Minority Media Executives and the Leadership Award from the American Medical Association Foundation. She has hosted and co-produced two award-winning ½-hour medical specials “Diagnosis: Cancer,” and “Cheap Medicine: Mexico’s Medications.” She has empowered people across the globe through television, radio, magazine, newspaper and online heath reports as well as her work as an emergency volunteer, and is a popular event speaker on health disparities, leadership, public health, emergency preparedness, humanitarianism, and medicine and the media.
Do you have an idea for a Dr. Paula Show topic? Is there someone you would like to hear interviewed on the topic of health literacy? Share you suggestions with us! Contact Brienne Lowry at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next Dr. Paula Show will feature Dr. Susan Magasi, Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy in the UIC College of Applied Health Sciences. The show will air on Tuesday, May 2nd at 11 AM. She will be sharing her thoughts on her research project, the implications of her research in terms of Health Literacy and how her research methods are beneficial to people with disabilities.
Dr. Susan Magasi is an Assistant Professor of Occupational Therapy in the UIC College of Applied Health Sciences. Her work focuses on qualitative methodology, knowledge translation and health care equity for people with disabilities. Her work is conducted in collaboration with renowned researchers and disability advocates, with the purpose of improving the lives of individuals with disabilities. She has developed a national and international reputation as a qualitative methodologist and health disparities expert, and was a recipient of the 2016 UIC Researcher and Scholar of the Year Rising Star award.
Do you have an idea for a Dr. Paula Show topic? Is there someone you would like to hear interviewed on the topic of health literacy? Share you suggestions with us! Contact Brienne Lowry at email@example.com.
“In the write-up, how’d you like me to refer to you?”
“See, that’s a little complicated now.”
Austen Nobles has been making music since we met in 6th grade. He’s been writing and performing as “Nobility” as long as I can remember. He’d release tracks that sound so professional, no one would expect a high school student had anything to do with their production, much less author every aspect himself.
On February 20th, I met the further improved A U S T E N.
Austen finished his degree in Recording Arts at Tribeca Flashpoint College. He produces beats to match his own lyrics, or at the request of other musicians. His own lyrical strength is in verses. He laughs as he admits it’s too bad, because choruses are what make you like songs. He’s always been good at free-styling, but we both felt awkward just calling his music ‘rap.’ So we talked about it. He sighed and spoke honestly: “It’s a joke to say you’re a rapper; you come off like a try-hard.” We moaned about Soundcloud-pushing artists, but Austen admits you don’t need to be signed anymore, if you can build your own fan base. And no, that’s not easy, and yes, I have no shame.
Austen produces for different artists based on reference tracks. He tells me a lot of beats get made and never used. But they always get finished. Of course, that doesn’t mean he’ll stop working when a track is technically complete. “I was going to release a song for Valentine’s Day,” he said, “but it’s still not good enough.”
I hate asking the question “what are your influences?” because it’s so plain. Thankfully Austen had interesting answers which managed to save this part of the write-up.
The first name mentioned was Childish Gambino. I was giggling and said he and Donald are both quintessential “Black Nerds,” and added if I’d had to guess his favorite influence, that’s who I’d have picked. Austen laughed and explained. “I really just relate to Donald Glover. If you’re a suburban black kid, you probably really like Childish Gambino.”
*Pause for 12 minutes of fawning over Atlanta.
“Childish Gambino expresses insecurity in his songs, and that’s relatable,” Austen continued. He added that we’re bored of the overconfident theme. Austen tries to portray a mix of some confidence and some insecurity in his music. “Where I’m at now, I could make sexy songs but I don’t feel comfortable doing that with my style just yet,” he smiled.
“So no ‘Adult Music’?”
“No ‘Adult Music’ here.”
I pressed him to elaborate on style: “Your music is nostalgic and fun. You have such a range and it’s not every day you find a rap song you just enjoy listening to. How did you manage to do that?” Immediately, Austen gives credit to his upbringing. He had plenty of exposure to indie, folk, metal, 80’s, you name it, and a love for different genres shows in his imaginative tracks. “Taste,” he says, “is the give-away that you’re new to this.” An artist unsure of their style won’t cross genres and their music feels limited. Austen continued, “You’re either a niche artist or you’re an evolution artist. I am—at least—I’m aspiring to be an evolution artist so my music can change.”
I looked down at my paper for the next question.
“How’s your foot?”
Austen leaned his head back and covered his eyes with his hand. He grinned.
The last time I saw Austen perform, he had kicked off the brace holding a stress fracture together so he could dance. “Did it hurt? Yeah. But there’s this thing called adrenaline,” he added simply. I hate to say the risk of him getting hurt was worth it, but that was one hell of a performance. I didn’t know rap could be so engaging to watch live. He obviously cared a lot about how he performed, so I asked him why.
To him, gigs are a lesson. “What worked? What didn’t? Like, I learned which songs the crowd participates with and which ones not perform.”
“How do you tell an artist has experience based on their performance?”
“They’re calm. They already know how to capitalize on moments in a song, but they won’t look rehearsed. Each time performing feels fresh.” Austen earns this by treating each performance like it’s his last, and cited that sage advice was from his dad.
I sure would like to tell you about Austen’s unfinished songs I got to preview, but that’s not for me to disclose. I will say I’m excited and I’m really feeling the perks that come with writing for college radio.
When my questions had been exhausted, we wandered around campus catching up. I made Austen do something I like to call “The BSB Challenge.” We walked into the center of the Behavioral Sciences Building and I asked him to find a random numbered classroom. After 20 minutes in the riot-proof, unfinished, Brutalist cement trap the Flames call home, there was no sign of Room 357 and we were in need of some fresh air. We did make it onto the roof though, and what BSB lacks in aesthetic, it makes up in location.
Humble to the end, Austen stood staring at the skyline and said, “I’m really not one for photos, and I hate to ask, but this view is so good.”
“No worries! And it’s not just good, it’s un-BEAT-able.”
Nothing like dancing your feet through a fog machine and cutting your hands through flashing neon lights to clear up your writer’s block.
I was lucky enough to learn about a show put on by MILKSHAKES in combo with Rora TEAM, an online label that deals with creative DJs and EDM composers. The event took place in the Digital Art Demo Space and featured artists from New York to California. Each performance was accompanied by customized visuals projected on a screen behind the stage, accentuating every turn and change in the music like an accompanying instrument. The team behind the visuals, lights, and smooth-running set ups of the show made the night beautiful.
At the expense of journalistic integrity, I’m going to play favorites. I couldn’t complain about any performer, but three really stood out.
First up is Brackets. When she got behind the table, I recognized her as the gal who got the crowd jumping even before her performance; her dancing was practically contagious. Her set was high-powered and loaded with variety and tons of crowd-pleasing references. Also worth mentioning: she’s a Chicago native and Rora TEAM co-founder. If Brackets can find the time, she says she’s down for an interview and a visit to UIC Radio. No clever segue here, just click the brackets for the sound cloud: 
Though a tough act to follow, Brackets had no weight on Skinny McToothpick. His white hair and neon jacket gave the impression of a radioactive cartoon character. The music only contributed. So much energy packed into each brilliantly composed song kept everyone on their toes. You know when a performer gets so pulled into their work and enjoys them self so much, it makes you feel good just watching? Skinny McToothpick was more of a performer behind the table than most instrumental musicians and singers I’ve watched. I’m surprised he had the energy to rejoin the crowd and keep dancing after his set. See for yourself!
The real reason I attended was to watch a good friend of mine, VenoSci AK(to me)A Aaron. I’m very lucky that the people I grew up with pursued their creative passions and then invite me to their performances. It’s been amazing, watching my friend improve and develop his music, but personally, I’m thankful it hasn’t changed too much since the shows he’d put on in high school.
What was that about journalistic integrity? Ah, yes. My unbiased review:
VenoSci makes chiptunes, and if you aren’t familiar with the genre, it’s well worth looking up. Here’s his Soundcloud for you to stream while finishing this article. Anyone who says DJing isn’t performance art obviously hasn’t seen this artist in action. VenoSci performs like the buttons he presses on his set up send electricity up his arms and moves with his music like he’s modeling for the crowd how to dance to his compositions. No wonder he describes performing as sweaty, exciting, and fun. During the show, he used a few pieces of Toy Box’s “Best Friend” and let the audience sing along. He even left the table and danced with the crowd to his own creation.
VenoSci rocked the house and then agreed to be interviewed for UIC Radio. What a fabulous Saturday for this blogger!
Asking him to explain how his set up works to a non-tech, non-video game savvy person was an awkward inquiry, but he managed to get his process across. He uses 2 original Nintendo Gameboys, 1 Korean GP2X handheld, and a PsP 1000. Aaron added that, “since some of this equipment is over 20 years old at this point, things often go wrong: devices crash, SD cards aren’t recognized, batteries die frequently… It’s always an adventure having to maintain a quality set and also to troubleshoot hardware on the fly.”
To make music on his Gameboy, he uses a special cartridge. Rather than containing a game, it contains a piece of custom music software. This allows the artist to control the sound card directly: “I can sequence out full songs which I then playback live. I use similar methods for playing back songs on my GP2X, but instead of synthesis, I sequence samples.”
What always amazes me is Aaron’s ability to make music feel nostalgic and classic, though it’s most at home among modern EDM genres. He credits this to the “built-in ‘nostalgic’ feel” in his software, as it’s an original Gameboy. He explained the soundcard is 100% stock, so the same soundcard has produced soundtracks to Pokemon and Zelda, two games our generation knows pretty well, even if we only got to watch our older brothers play them.
Aaron cites Japanese dance music as his biggest inspiration, mentioning Maltine Records, MadMilky Records, and artists like Tofubeats and Perfume. Combining these more complicated influences within the comforting 8-bit framework of the Gameboy is Aaron’s main challenge and inspiration. It ensures his music stands out while making his audience cheer.
I left the venue Saturday night with a hug and a promise that I’d be the first to know when he was on deck for his next show. That means you’ll be the second.
Chicago has been put in the spotlight for many years to work from city natives Twista, Common, Kanye West, and more recently: Chance The Rapper. For years, social media has been exploding over good friends of Chance and affiliates of the “Savemoney army”. Talent in this super-group are Chance The Rapper, Vic Mensa, Joey Purp, RnB artist Brill, Towkio and more. Although all of these are artists have developed over the past few years, they still give back to Chicago and often host concerts and secret parties for their most loyal fans.
In the month of January, fans have expressed their excitement for one of the member’s new projects: Dally Auston. It is his first project in about 3 years and everyone is very eager to jam on his latest work. On January 20th at 3pm (CT), Dally released his latest project, titled “99¢”. Check it out and let us know what you think!
Dally will be live on UIC Radio’s Thumpin’ Thursdays show on Feb 2nd at 3:30pm (CT)
Make sure you follow us on Instagram: @CeaseDays @DjSoundUTB @LiveLenora @ThumpinThursdays
And tune in Thursdays from 2-7pm (CT)
My friend, Clara Tang, is a musically talented chick who hails from Connecticut. She samples pop vocals and mixes dreamy beats to create chill electronic music you can cruise late nights to. Under the moniker SleepyHaze, her tunes have been making waves.
When did you start making tracks?
I started making music midway through junior year of high school – so two years ago. My brother made music, so he had me download software awhile ago. Basically, I got super depressed and I couldn’t play violin anymore. So then I started making electronic music to fill the void – the creative void – that I had. So at that point I didn’t really listen to electronic music. I was in a huge indie phase, but I had just started listening to Tokimonsta and Flume. They are kind of younger. Especially Tokimonsta; she’s a Korean female producer and I thought that was really cool. You don’t see many female producers lately. It made me realize that I could do that too. Those were the first two that kicked off everything else, and then I started to get into more electronic stuff.
Who or what do you sample from the most?
Honestly, I just have a folder on my computer of random vocal stems that I find on the internet. Most of them are pop songs. I’ll just kind of shove it into a song until one of them works, and then usually I’ll put a bunch of effects and then make it seem like – you usually can’t tell what I’m sampling. I like that about it. I try to blur the words a little bit so you can’t really tell what they are saying. I’ve sampled One Direction, Rihanna, Miley Cyrus, and stuff like that.
What is the best set that you have experienced that you want to pay yourself?
Favorite set that I’ve ever seen was my first show here, in Chicago! It was the Soulection show. I saw AbJo, Stefan, and Joe Kay. The sets were really – they start off a little bit more chill and vibey and they got really – not hype but more trappy and future-bass. I really like that and it kept you dancing for a full four hours. I think that if I ever were to play a live show it would be – I don’t know. My music is too slow, I think, for a live show. I’d probably do more of a DJ set and I’d want it to be that kind of vibe.
How did you come about with the name SleepyHaze?
It’s so lame! SleepyHaze… I was tired as hell, so I took a shower at 5 p.m. and was feeling all groggy. Then, mid-shower, I thought of the name and realized it was totally my sound.
What is the ideal scenario you would want your songs to be played during?
Well a lot of it is inspired by night driving, so that would probably be a good situation. Or like a montagey, lo-fi indie film type thing – I could see my music being played on top of that. Teen angst type, I guess.
If you are, like most of us, feeling that teen angst because of recent political events, take a good hour to relax with SleepyHaze’s recent release, WeakNights, on blast. A chill, downtempo feel is what you will get from this electronic piece. Inspired by thinking too much late into those dead nights that you just drift, the album’s ambient soothing is what SleepyHaze stands for.
On Tuesday morning, two Chicago brothers, Nick Demeria and Christian Ferrer, and their friends Vic and Pre met me at the UIC Radio station for an interview. I’d witnessed this group called FreeFAM in action at a Music Garage concert for independent rap artists this summer. Performing as NV and Cheech Beats respectively, Nick (lyrics and vocals) and Christian (beats) absolutely stunned their audience as they provided the closer for the concert.
I’m not in the habit of repping amateur musicians. So if my usual abstinence from this topic doesn’t speak for itself, I encourage you to see for yourself. Thirty seconds on Sound Cloud, Spotify, or YouTube will prove that this article doesn’t break my usual rule. There’s nothing amateurish about the group I spoke with Tuesday.
After we managed to fit enough chairs for the five of us in the studio, I broke out the questions.
FreeFAM has expanded from a young rap artist to a musical theme, visible style, and legal corporation since we met in July. I started by asking the group to describe the set-up of FreeFAM Inc. What exactly did they do, and how?
Nick and Christian explained their intent to help others produce music while supporting their own sound. This means being the studio and providing engineering, mixing, and mastering under the FreeFAM name. When I asked what goals they had for their new Inc, Nick immediately responded that the most important thing is to keep an open mind so they didn’t find themselves limited in the future. The potential for this group to master the artistic and administrative side of the music industry seems unlimited and inevitable, given their collective energy, creativity, and eagerness to hear what others have to contribute.
I felt too clichéd asking which artists had influenced his style, but when the possibility of FreeFAM becoming a label was mentioned, I asked the group what they’d look for in an artist they’d like to sign, assuming they wouldn’t limit themselves to rappers. The unanimous verdict was drive. “They’ve gotta have the work ethic,” Christian commented. There also had to be meaning, or a point to their music. When Nick added that they didn’t want to hear drill music, Pre, Vic, and Christian wrinkled their noses and shook their heads. But of course, you can’t have a point if you don’t have the talent. “Lots of people have a positive message, but not that sound, and it’s not appealing to the people who need that message,” Nick explained. He used Christian rap as an example of quality music, quality message, but lacking the appeal to get to where it was needed most.
Listening to FreeFAM’s music, you get a feeling of nostalgia, unity, and a humble confidence that’s unique in hip-hop. I mentioned this to Nick and he laughed and told me that the cocky artist is an overplayed stereotype. “Not everybody can be Kanye,” he mentioned. He preferred to show that he took nothing for granted and valued what he’s been given, what he earned, and his connections.
This theme of fraternity is omnipresent in each FreeFam track. I was curious how he ensured the message gets across in his writing—surely consistency across years of work isn’t easily earned. Nick shrugged his shoulders and recommended artists should “Practice what they preach.” “It definitely also helps that we’re brothers,” Christian laughed. FreeFAM Inc. certainly stands out in the world of hip hop because its founding members are actually family members, including one business-merchandising mom and one legal-advising uncle. With familial support driving their music’s success, it’d be pretty hard to keep that appreciation from accenting each song.
Practicing what Nick preaches also includes staying in touch with independent creative sources at their roots. He mentioned open mic nights and events at Young Chicago Authors. “The first time I went to YCA really shaved down my ego,” he told us. The appreciation these artists have for these experiences are what keep FreeFAM’s writing aware and self-reflective.
One thing you’ll notice listening to FreeFAM’s music is the energy that comes across in the writing and the performance. You can witness this live or in their recently released music video for “Guarantee,” but Nick rarely stops moving. When I pointed this out, all four artists chuckled. “You can’t write a club banger sitting down,” Nick offered, and explained his writing process. Each track has a specific emotion he wants to convey, so each has to be approached differently. “Not every song is meant for bringing your problems out in the open. Some are meant as an escape.”
My last open question was a curiosity about the genre in general. I asked if the group thought it was possible to make rap less excluding without selling out. After some silent head-shaking, Nick decided that if you begin with a positive message, and maintain the same vibes throughout your career, it doesn’t matter if you get a bigger audience. He rolled his eyes. “Everyone wants to get money, and who cares?” The trick is to be consistent. And it probably wouldn’t help if you only get a starting niche audience with a negative message that doesn’t leave any room for growth. “And you should be your own boss,” Christian interjected. Everyone nodded.
So what’s next for these guys? Well…
A new song “Make a Toast” is dropping next week; in fact, Nick plans to drop a new song each week for one month to promote their music. Keep an eye on their Sound Cloud here, the FreeFAM Facebook, and search them up on Spotify.
November 4th: Music Garage concert on the West Side (these are awesome and cost about $10—highly recommended!)
November 16th-17th: FreeFAM will be visiting Denver and hitting up some local venues.
“Running through my Mind” will soon have a video!
This is the near-future. Long term, the group sees more trademarking and legitimization of their music to add to their professionalism and credibility. With more videos and more shows, of course. But when I initially asked the group what’s next, Christian immediately said, “Ramen! It’s almost lunch time.” I eventually left the studio wishing I could join the freedom family.
A few of us Radio geeks managed to arrange a tour of the Cumulus station HQ, recently established in the NBC tower on North Michigan Ave. Cumulus manages a few of Chicago’s most popular radio stations, including 94.7 WLSFM, 8.90 WLSAM, 97.9 The Loop, and our favorite (and the subject of today’s blog) 101 WKQX.
Walking through the two stories occupied by Cumulus, it amazed me just how many different professions it takes to keep a radio station successful. We met the administration side and sales team, engineers who keep the equipment running, videographers, copy writers responsible for the website and contests, graphic designers who create the logos and online platforms, program directors who arrange gigs and design programs to connect with listeners, interns who keep everyone caffeinated, and radio DJs, of course!
We had the absolute pleasure of sitting in ❤ Lauren’s set for a few minutes (she’s on weekdays from 10-3). She visited our station in August for a Q&A with the UIC Radio staff, but that didn’t stop us from pestering her with questions. She reminded us to make our own opportunities and that a handshake goes further than an e-mail, especially if the goal is to get on-air. ❤ Lauren has been DJing for years in multiple cities, and from her perspective, the standard for radio has changed considerably.
She described a modern era of radio where listeners didn’t want to hear talk. Young listeners only want to hear music and music promotion, while the older listeners enjoy hearing discussions with their favorite hosts. Personally, I’m in the young listener category, and I appreciate my radio time to be filled with as much music as possible.
Walking past the studio for Mancow’s talk show on 97.9 The Loop proved ❤ Lauren correct. This is Chicago’s classic rock station (that may be copyright…), which is mainly targeted towards older listeners, and the studio was immense! It was full of chairs for guests and visitors. I had to appreciate the style of radio our parents listened to when they were young. We get to use Twitter and FaceBookLive to reach our favorite hosts, but in Ye Olde Times, those on-air discussions helped DJs make connections with their listeners.
I’m certainly not going to be that annoying friend who says technology makes us asocial. Definitely not! All that’s important is we continue making connections.
This is why I feel so lucky we got to listen to Laura Jane Grace from Against Me play a live, acoustic set in 101 WKQX’s Sound Lounge. The experience was very powerful and intimate (I also hate that word in this context, but it’s the most accurate); Laura has a voice that resonates, and though it booms through the studio, it’s open and friendly and gives you the impression she’s telling a story just to you. It’s quite a talent, and I cannot push the quality of her and her band’s music enough.
What an afternoon! I can’t thank the 101 WKQX staff enough for having us wander through their offices and interrupt their day to take pictures and ask questions. Everyone smiled and waved and asked us to come back and visit!
They better be careful what they wish for, or we just might.
Ivan of Noteworthy here again (Mondays, 6PM-8PM at uicradio.org). I’m back to share an interview with Kandace Springs that I aired on this week’s show. She’s a jazz singer/pianist from Nashville who just released her debut album, Soul Eyes on Blue Note Records and has even shared the stage with Prince. The album features production work from Carl Sturken and Evan Rogers (the guys who discovered Rihanna) and Grammy-winner Larry Klein (Joni Mitchell, Herbie Hancock). We talked about why she decided to go in the direction of jazz for her first album after working mostly in R&B and hip hop before and watching movies with Prince. Listen to the interview below and keep up with Kandace at kandacesprings.com and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.