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There’s a beautiful kind of chaos that permeates college radio stations. It’s plain as day in the messy, dusty stacks of records and CDs with notes and comments written all over them, certain tracks circled and others crossed out. You can see it in the common space, which is often littered with music magazines, unwanted promo items – you mean you can’t use this Subpop Records-branded frisbee?! – show flyers, and the detritus of so many DJs. And you can certainly feel it on the airwaves where it’s totally acceptable to switch from First Aid Kit to Mephiskapheles to Missing Foundation to Tierra Whack to Autechre, no matter how listenable or unlistenable that mix might be.

But if there’s one thing that I’ve learned from my close to two decades as a DJ at WKDU and an occasional guest at other college stations is that chaos doesn’t just beget chaos. Even when someone is completely embracing it — shout out to the KDU DJ whose whole show one term was playing every single 7” in the library in a valiant attempt to alphabetize them — there exists a certain unavoidable order to that nebulous mess of music. 

The annual Electronic Music Marathon at WKDU is a perfect example of that balancing act. There really isn’t any other event in the city that brings together so many different DJs to hang out and play music literally all day and all night long for 85 straight hours. This weekend is the 16th annual EMM — which is impressive both for the longevity of the event as well as the fact that it’s changed hands multiple times over the years as organizers have came and left from the station’s student staff.

While past EMMs have benefitted a variety of causes around the city — most recently that’s included Mural Arts, PAWS, and Philly AIDS Thrift — the 2019 version is a direct fundraiser for the station itself. There are two afterparties that are affiliated with the event: Friday night there’s a warehouse show with celebrated producer and DJ Galcher Lustwerk and on Saturday Philly AIDS Thrift is hosting the EMM edition of the regular Thrifty Disco party.

The DJs this year are very much a microcosm of the entire Philadelphia scene, with selecters coming from across the wide world of what is considered electronic music. Although there are many familiar faces from past marathons, from the station’s current lineup and its alumni, and from the city’s nightlife, there are also a number of up-and-coming DJs who may very well be spoken of in legendary terms in the years to come.

For this preview we spoke to seven DJs from this year’s lineup including three who are affiliated with the station. Since the electronic music world can be a bit overwhelming when it comes to genres and subgenres we decided to allow the interviewees to define what it is they play in whatever terms they wanted. Each of the DJs we talked with were given the same set of questions in order to allow the reader to do a kind of compare and contrast across the whole article to be able to gain a better understanding of the event and its participants.


Jay Plus | via jayplus.bandcamp.com

Jay Plus

The Key: What’s your deal? What kind of stuff do you spin?

Jay Plus: I’m a musician and a DJ among other things. I’ve been making electronic music since the 90s when I was in high school, and DJing since the mid aughts. Recently someone asked what music I spin and a friend interrupted my hedgy “I play all kinds of stuff” answer to say that my sweet spot is Acid House explosion/melting pot material from 1988-1992. I can’t say he’s really wrong, but I think a more comprehensive answer is that I like to play music that feels playful, tender, sweet or mysterious.

TK: What’s your history with the EMM and WKDU?

JP: This will be my third year doing a set for the EMM – it’s always a blast to cook something up for it.

TK: What do you see as the differences between DJing on the radio and DJing at a club or a party?

JP: Typically at a party I am trying to play music that demands motion⁠, or at the very least I’m building towards that energy. Radio is a format where I’m not necessarily expected to make everybody dance, so it allows me to tell a different type of story.

TK: Do you have any go-to songs? Anything you’re looking forward to spinning during the EMM?

JP: I don’t really play it out so much anymore, but I will never tire of “The Jack That House Built” by Jack ‘N’ Chill. I am a big sucker for cheesy positivity and wingnut maximalist production. I’ve got a graveyard 3 a.m. set for the EMM this year, so I will probably be playing my most spaced-out set yet. No promises, but here’s a cut in the crate.

TK: Do you have a regular night, an upcoming party, or a new release you’d like to promote?  

JP: I’m working on a concept EP about trying to access healthcare while being chronically ill and low-income. In the meantime, you can check out my most recent release, forever endeavor.

——-

photo courtesy of bgkiki

bgkiki

The Key: What’s your deal? What kind of stuff do you spin?

bgkiki: I started djing on the radio at WKDU eight years ago and have been spinning at clubs since 2014. My past musical influences span many genres; notably psych, art rock, ambient, pop, and process music. I’m also classically trained in piano. My sets over the last two years have transitioned into a purely electronic-based practice. Still, I weave all of my past and current interests experiences into what I play, which falls into the techno, electro, acid, and house genres.

TK: What’s your history with the EMM and WKDU?

bgkiki: WKDU Alumni and former Program Director/Music Director. This is my second year djing for the EMM. Being a part of WKDU has been a formative experience for me and I care deeply about the station and college/community radio in general!

TK: What do you see as the differences between DJing on the radio and DJing at a club or a party?

bgkiki: I feel a lot more freedom when djing on the radio in some ways compared to playing at a club. There’s no pressure to entertain or play for a crowd and I can mess around with moods and tempos and be a little more free with letting the mix get carried away for a bit. When I’m at a club and there’s a bunch of people dancing, that can be great motivation, sometimes the energy feedback is unbeatable.

TK: Do you have any go-to songs? Anything you’re looking forward to spinning during the EMM?

bgkiki: I am so excited by all the great work that women, non-binary folks, and other marginalized groups are doing within the dance music scene presently. The production of electronic music can be a leveling field; you can’t immediately tell anything about who the artist is, which is an incredible release for some creators. I have been interested in a lot of music coming from Sweden, Denmark, and Eastern Europe, Russia in particular. It is fun to see what is coming out of the US and classic Detroit grooves making a resurgence. Also Vancouver is doing some pretty cool stuff too.

TK: Do you have a regular night, an upcoming party, or a new release you’d like to promote?

bgkiki: I host a monthly party with Zillas on Acid called Melt You Down at Ulana’s. Our next one is this Saturday, Oct 12. I have a Soundcloud where I repost things I like. Instagram is @_tambourinedream

——

photo courtesy of Precolumbian

Precolumbian

The Key: What’s your deal? What kind of stuff do you spin?

Precolumbian: I like to spin mostly experimental club, deconstructed diasporic rhythms, or whatever I feel like.

TK: What’s your history with the EMM and WKDU?

Precolumbian: This will be my third EMM; I played 2016 and 2018! I love WKDU, I listen to it alot in my car. I’ve also played on a few different shows on the station over the last couple of years, like Hot Mix and Core Radio.

TK: What do you see as the differences between DJing on the radio and DJing at a club or a party?

Precolumbian: For me spinning on the radio is more free and I can basically do whatever. DJing parties is more of a dialogue between you and the audience and those vibes will influence my set.

TK: Do you have any go-to songs? Anything you’re looking forward to spinning during the EMM?

Precolumbian: I don’t necessarily have a go-to song, I like to keep each set fresh. This year I’m doing a b2b with my friend KATRA and I’m excited to see what we come up with together!

TK: Do you have a regular night, an upcoming party, or a new release you’d like to promote?

Precolumbian: Yes, I throw Seltzer in Philly and in NYC with Bearcat. We have a couple of November parties: November 1st is our third annual Seltzerween here in Philly — we are announcing next week — and November 9th we have our Seltzer at Nowadays in NYC with Bambii from Toronto. I also recently released a 2 song EP with Estoc on Apocalipsis to benefit Morris Home here in Philly!!

—–

Westov Temple | via juno.co.uk

Westov Temple

The Key: What’s your deal? What kind of stuff do you spin?

Westov Temple: I’m Justin. I release music and DJ under the name Westov Temple. I play a wide range of unusual electronic music, for or not for the dancefloor. As a jazz drummer playing electronic music, I look for ways to manipulate or rethink rhythms in the moment. It’s a bit of an improv game and it can get me into trouble in the mix sometimes, but it’s more interesting to me than playing safely and predictably.

I’m also a person who’s driven to create opportunities and platforms for other creative people, which has resulted in my running a practice space and event space – Inciting HQ – for the last 14 years, as well as a record label – Great Circles – among other projects.

TK: What’s your history with the EMM and WKDU

WT: I genuinely love radio, to the extent that I use a lovely radio with a heavy, sensitive tuning dial as an instrument in most of the music I create. I grew up in northeast PA, about 100 miles north of Philly. As a kid I slept with a transistor radio playing quietly under my pillow. In my late teens and early 20s, college radio was one of the most important sources of new music. After a few years of living out west, I landed back east in Philly in 2005 with the band I played in at the time. Driving around Philly in a band van with a junky radio, I was relieved to find WKDU and WPRB.

My first awareness and involvement with the marathon was in 2014. A friend from the Rizumu crew recommended I inquire about the EMM, so I did. Dan Trevitt, M//R and I played that year in a Great Circles block. I’m pretty sure I’ve participated in the EMM every year since then, usually with some kind of Great Circles takeover. Along with the fundraising and community components, the dedication of the WKDU crew is what makes me want to come back every year. I love coming down the stairs and into the station, encountering people who are 100% psyched to be there as hosts and who have also clearly been napping here and there because “we’re not leaving…it’s a marathon!” Also, the EMM t-shirts!

TK: What do you see as the differences between DJing on the radio and DJing at a club or a party?

WT: For me, the biggest -and most liberating- difference is that DJing on the radio leaves more room for imagination and creativity, because you don’t have the audio/visual information of how many people are in the room, whether or not they’re dancing, or listening, or talking louder than the music. With radio, you can imagine any situation you want in which your sounds are being transmitted through a radio or a computer to peoples’ ears. That’s not say it’s better, because the feedback loop of the club or party can inspire you to play differently and explore new ideas, and that’s exciting…but radio has the power to create personal listening experiences you won’t witness but can imagine.

TK: Do you have any go-to songs? Anything you’re looking forward to spinning during the EMM?

WT: I always come to EMM with a mix of tracks weighted heavily to unreleased and recently-released tracks from Great Circles artists and friends, accented with a few things that are very interesting to me at that moment. Since WKDU has true FM radio reach I try to select music and approach the mix in a way that will sound interesting on a radio.

TK: Do you have a regular night, an upcoming party, or a new release? Promote yourself!

WT: We’re in the final weeks of closing down my underground space of 14 years, Inciting HQ. We’ve got three final parties coming up very soon: Derek Plaslaiko all night on Saturday the 19th, Patrick Russell all night on Friday the 25th, and then the ultimate finale with our label crew and friends, starting at noon on Saturday November 9th and going for at least 24 hours.

We’ve also got new releases coming up on Great Circles, including a new digital release from WOLF DEM, which is dropping in the next few days, and a new record from Radere that should be out on vinyl and digital in the next 6 to 8 weeks. With Inciting HQ closing, I’m also working with a few people on a new venture that I’m really excited about.

—–

photo courtesy of Lil Dave

Lil Dave

The Key: What’s your deal? What kind of stuff do you spin?

LD: I’m not exactly sure what I’m gonna play yet.  There will definitely be a bit of freestyling to my set.  Whatever I play will be soulful, upbeat, and dancable.

TK: What’s your history with the EMM and WKDU?

LD: I’ve been a DJ at WKDU since 1996, so I remember the first EMM. 

I’ve hosted a few different radio shows over the years, but my current show Eavesdrop Radio (Fridays 6pm-9pm) has been the one i’ve been part of the longest.  I host that along with DJ Junior.

TK: What do you see as the differences between DJing on the radio and DJing at a club or a party?

LD: Playing clubs definitely requires careful selection and crowd control to be more adventurous with the music you play.  The radio is great because you can really take people on a journey and they will ride with you.

TK: Do you have any go-to songs? Anything you’re looking forward to spinning during the EMM?

LD: I always try to mix in some of my own music and remixes.  I have a few surprises for everyone.

TK: Do you have a regular night, an upcoming party, or a new release? Promote yourself!

LD: Definitely check out HIGH LIFE every 4th Saturday of the month at Chatayee Thai.  We play deep house music with an afro-latin vibe.

——

via soundcloud.com/wassupgina

Wassup Gina

The Key: What’s your deal? What kind of stuff do you spin?

Wassup Gina: I play a variety of different genres at different club nights around the city. I mainly play house, disco, 80s, goth, indie and techno but am known to venture out of those genres from time to time.

TK: What’s your history with the EMM and WKDU?

WG: This will be my 3rd time participating in the EMM.

TK: What do you see as the differences between DJing on the radio and DJing at a club or a party?

WG: I feel like on the radio you have way more freedom to play whatever you want. You can’t read a crowd while on the air so there isn’t any pressure to maintain a specific vibe.

https://soundcloud.com/wassupgina/sets/2018-wkdu-emm-mix-live-from

TK: Do you have any go-to songs? Anything you’re looking forward to spinning during the EMM?

WG: I honestly have no idea what I’m going to play. My first year i played all 90’s rave stuff. Last year I played all disco. So this year I’m thinking about going really dark. Who knows.

TK: Do you have a regular night, an upcoming party, or a new release you’d like to promote?

WG: My set schedule every month is as follows:

First Fridays @ The Dolphin for Rhythm of the Night[90s house] and other random parties

Second Fridays @ The Barbary for Shadowplay[Goth/Darkwave]

Third Saturdays @ The Barbary for Hands and Knees[House/Acid]

Fourth Thursdays @ The Barbary for Thursday Night Fever[Disco]

Every Monday @ The Barbary for Tigerbeats[Indie/Nu-Disco]

——

photo courtesy of Dr. Plotkin

Dr. Plotkin

The Key: What’s your deal? What kind of stuff do you spin?

Dr. Plotkin: I primarily spin disco, house, and funk music. My sweet spot to play in is that mid-tempo feeling right before a party gets bumping, when it’s still slow enough to nod your head and tap your feet but chilled out enough to be able to think without the music taking control. More recently, I have started developing a love for deeper house records with either jazz samples or live jazz instrumentation over a hypnotic beat. Beyond even that, I love spaced out ambient-influenced techno for how the aural soundscapes expand my mind.

TK: What’s your history with the EMM and WKDU?

DP: I first joined WKDU as a sophomore in college after learning about the station the year beforehand during a freshman activities fair. I always had very strange taste in music compared to my friends growing up, so the idea of being able to play whatever I wanted, and to be supported by an entire community to do just that really appealed to me.

I first learned about the EMM a year later in 2013 when reading Amazon reviews of old trance records and seeing one from “DJ Roo Girl” (shout out Laura Walters!) who said she used to play that album all the time back in the 90s on WKDU. I then started googling “DJ Roo Girl” and found all this information pre-2007 (which I believe is as far back as the records on wkdu.org go) and learned she, Jenn Louie, and some other people used to run an event called the Electronic Music Marathon. I mentioned at a general body meeting for WKDU a few weeks later that we should bring that back and it turns out all the alumni who used to play and organize it were totally down. It took another year of working with Chris Burrell, Peter Liu, and Es Hamidi (among quite a few others) before we managed to bring it all back, but since 2014 WKDU hasn’t missed a single year!

TK: What do you see as the differences between DJing on the radio and DJing at a club or a party?

DP: DJing on the radio brings the freedom to play literally WHATEVER I want, since I don’t have a dance floor to worry about. Creatively, that can be very freeing, but without the feedback of the audience sometimes I have no idea if it sounds good unless people at home let me know they like what I’m hearing. On the other hand, in a club when I’m playing stuff I really like, weaving together a narrative, and then seeing the crowd response positively to what I’m doing is a feeling that can’t quite be beat. Personally, I really like opening a club night because I get the best of both worlds: I already enjoy playing lower tempo music and since less people are there I get to stretch out more creatively while also getting people dancing after awhile.

TK: Do you have any go-to songs? Anything you’re looking forward to spinning during the EMM?

DP: God, so many but I’ll give three examples: Air – La Femme d’Argent (just a perfect song for chilling out and relaxing my mind), Daniel Leseman – On My Mind (love playing this in opening sets), Kraftwerk – Autobahn (whenever my wife or I have shitty pop music stuck our heads we sing this song to each other).

TK: Do you have a regular night, an upcoming party, or a new release you’d like to promote?

DP: I am part of the DJ and sound collective LEFT RITE (Facebook/Instagram @leftritephl) that hosts a regular drum and bass night every 2nd Wednesday of the month called Reignforest. We also own and rent our soundsystem, which focuses on not just powerful bass but a well-rounded overall sound for all occasions, from the after party venue to the wedding venue.

WKDU’s 16th Annual Electronic Music Marathon kicks off at noon on Friday, October 11th and runs nonstop through midnight on Tuesday, October 15th. Listen at wkdu.org.

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