Paul Slavens began his career in public radio in 2004, hosting the meticulously curated grab-bag of a program, 90.1 at Night. He quickly became a recognizable on-air personality even though he took up a relatively small amount of the listener’s time on Sunday evenings, due in no small part to the complete and refreshing disregard he had for genre, theme, or era. Though he is has a noteworthy career as an improvisational performer, as well as a member of Ten Hands, The Baptist Generals, and various other projects that definitely have helped his local profile, in this interview I decided to instead really pick apart Slavens’ activity as a radio host.
To celebrate his nine years on the radio, Slavens has put together a trio of acts that reflect particular facets of his broad taste, to perform at a KXT-presented show in Denton on Thursday. Dark Rooms, Blackstone Rangers, and Diamond Age will all make appearances at Dan’s Silver Leaf.
Unfortunately, I was not able to conduct this interview by phone as I had planned. I caught a summer cold, or perhaps a “party flu,” and luckily for everyone around me, I lost my voice completely. So instead, the following was conducted by the always-reliable magic of Facebook:
FrontRow: This is your first time curating a KXT event. Did you ever organize a live performance for KERA?
Paul Slavens: I have never curated a concert before, so I am very excited to do this. I would love to be able to create opportunities for local bands to get some exposure and hopefully make some money.
FR: How did you come up with the lineup for this show? No offense, but it doesn’t immediately leap out at me as your typical KXT show. Even if I have heard these artists on KXT, their booking isn’t always necessarily reflective of what might be on your show in particular, versus the rest of the week’s lineup.
PS: I wanted to showcase a stylistically cohesive collection of bands. And I wanted to show some love for some musicians that I personally think are very good, and who will probably not get airplay on KXT (except on my show). This cohesiveness is not reflective of the philosophy that I use to make my radio show, which is all about eclecticism and is doggedly not stylistically cohesive. I wanted to not only promote these groups, but equally I wanted to promote the general style of music they represent. I personally like that style of music and think there is a good chance that it represents a growing trend here in the Metroplex.
FR: What has been the difference between hosting your show on KERA versus KXT, if any?
PS: When I was on KERA, I was for several years the only music program on the station. I very much liked that situation because I have always felt that my program is more about education then purely entertainment. I hope that it is entertaining, but that is not the main criteria for my music choices. Being on a news and talk station I always wanted to present music in that same fashion, as information, not necessarily to be liked, but to be digested and considered. If there has been any change about being on KXT it is that I am now surrounded by music on the station. I try to pay attention to what the station is already providing to the listeners and offer other things. Also, a couple years ago I switched from asking for suggestions by email to running the blog, and that has really revolutionized the way I find the music. I realized early on that I could not rely simply on my own taste in music, or else the show would get stale.
I remember the great Glenn Mitchell calling his audience “the smartest audience in the world,” so I took that to heart and decided there was no one better to ask when it came time to get introduced to a wide range of music. Almost all of my current favorite music is stuff that I was introduced to by someone on the blog. It has been such an amazing education, there is so much music out there, it really helps to have people bring me their favorite things. I get introduced to amazing new and old music I have never heard, every single week. I never wanted my show to be “Let me tell you what is good music.” I always wanted it to be, “Hey, what do you like that you think people should hear more of? Turn me on to some new cool music!”
FR: How do you feel your show has changed over the years? Is there anything you played 9 years ago that you wouldn’t play now? And is there anything that you feel you came late to, that you wished you had known about in the early days of the show?
PS: Addressed a bit above. Every week I find out about some amazing music that I wish I had known about. But that is the fun of the thing. It keeps me energized to do it. Someone gave me a wonderful compliment a while back that I took very much to heart and which I remind myself of every single time I am picking music. They said that I was fearless in my music choices. I like that, and I try to be fearless every week, but the tricky part is not being fearless for the sake of doing it; I don’t want my show to be thought of as weird, or quirky, kitschy, or a novelty show. I want people to open their ears to all kinds of music, especially music they might have convinced themselves was “bad” music. Sometimes that means playing something you know is going to irritate some people. You just have to know that there will be other people who will be very happy to hear that same piece of music. I have always thought that I should probably be pissing someone off with every track I play, but winning them back with the next song.
FR: As an admitted fan of “solo electronic and small electronic driven ensembles,” what are some others in that genre—locally, specifically—that you would like to have booked?
PS: Well, hopefully I can do more of these concerts. I would love to have Zhora, Bethan, Darktown Strutters, Vulgar Fashion, Wanz is usually doing something interesting, Pinkish Black, Nervous Curtains, Night Game, Myopic, Fight Bite, New Fumes. I am sure there are more, but just that list there shows how many bands there are that are really cool, and in that general stylistic ballpark. Even Ishi, falls into that category, John Mudd introduced me to Apparat, for which I will always be grateful.
KXT Presents Paul Slavens’ 9 Year Anniversary Party at Dan’s Silver on Thursday evening. Dark Rooms, Diamond Age, and Blackstone Rangers will perform. Show is at 9 pm. The Weekender—
Baths/These Machines are Winning/Ice Eater/Son of Stan (Three Links): Music critics often like to talk about how this or that show left them partially deaf, but I am still hearing phantom tones of some sort from Baths’ set at Fun Fun Fun Fest a couple of years ago. I was in awe that a man with a laptop could command such attention in what is often a rock-intensive festival, but he did it. Son of Stan will feature ex-Neon Indian guitarist Ronnie Heart for their set, and I’ve been increasingly impressed with the artist’s solo project.
Deb Doing Dallas (The Gin Mill): Maybe Deb will get to the play that Yoko song that got cut short when I saw her at the Dram. Presented by the publication THRWD.
DJ Mike B/MC Leo J (The Crown and Harp): Hip Hop’s “Golden Age,” also known as the eighties or nineties, can often be controversial, since purists of the era are often overbearing about their insistence that younger generations should brush up on their history. A lot of the material has held up quite well, and you can either find out what you missed or return to your glory days at this all classic hip hop event. Presented by Too Fresh Productions.
“Lost Generation” (The Crown and Harp): Resident DJ Wanz Dover has been working on a project where he combines the horns and rhythms of afrobeat and African funk music and Detroit Techno. Dover says that a mixtape will be available this weekend, and I’ll update as soon as we have that. Gabe Mendoza is the guest this evening, and the focus will be the aforementioned genres, along with rare groove and soul sides.
Other Thursday events—
“The Turn Up” (Beauty Bar)
“Big Bang” (The Travis)
Cleric/Bitch Teeth/Raging B****/Ascites (Taqueria Pedritos): Tonight’s taqueria punk event will be a fundraiser for No Thanks Fest, an annual hardcore event which takes place each year in Emory, Texas. The cover is five dollars.
“Road to Breakaway Music Fest: Hip Hop Challenge Club Show” (West End Events Center): Three undiscovered rappers will square off against one another for a chance to be included in next month’s Breakaway Fest. That means they’ll be in such company as Juicy J, Wu Tang Clan, and heck, even Ra Ra Riot. Who says rappers only listen to rap? The contestants have been named, and they include Raw Elementz, Aaron Tarrant, and SpadeBlast the Villain.
DJs Dtrik Schlatter and Big J will provide backing tracks, and you can find more information here.
Marshstepper/Jock Club/Ssleeperhold/AFTV (Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios): Early in the summer, I told you about Marshstepper’s performance at Taqueria El Picante, which I described as “the most accessible band I saw” that evening. But make no mistake, most of the acts on the bill were just more extreme, focused on buzzing and hissing; squealing and screaming. Marshstepper makes an unsettling racket as well, they just happened to be more focused on the beat than the rest of the lineup.
Taking the idea of the beat several steps further is Jock Club, which has a friend has described as being similar to the famous industrial act Coil, during their flirtation with house music. Jock Club is making extremely interesting dance music, and I can’t see it doing well outside of their niche micro-circuit. You can hear a big chunk of their music by going to this generous upload.
Marshstepper and Jock Club have released music on the label Ascetic House, which has also released music by the slightly more familiar Ice Age, and Destruction Unit. The award-winning Phoenix label has not only helped raise the profile of that city’s music scene considerably, but they also will send their music, completely free, to any prisoner in the United States. Commendable. Austin’s Ssleeperhold and local act AFTV will round out the bill. This show is by far your best bet in Denton on Friday night.
Gabriel Mendoza/George Quartz (Texas Theatre): Tonight’s DJs will be spinning themed tracks following the showing of Iceberg Slim: Portrait of a Pimp, which despite being a highly watchable documentary, also leaves you wanting to see more of the original interview footage with Slim himself. It’s definitely worth a viewing.
Lil Wayne/TI/Future/2 Chainz (Gexa Energy Pavilion): Please see our informative writeup of this stacked lineup, as featured on our events calendar.
Other Friday events—
Balmorhea (Live Oak Music Hall and Lounge)
Sealion/Savage & the Big Beat/Sphynx (Dan’s Silver Leaf):
The King Bucks (Sundown at Granada)
My Bloody Valentine/New Fumes (Verizon Theatre): I’ve given up on ever again arguing about My Bloody Valentine, since I’ve found it to be one of the most fruitless arguments in the tiny, sad, world of debating the merits of music. While I enjoy some of their songs quite a bit, the group is literally the favorite band of such a wide-ranging section of pop enthusiasts, so saying anything other than “Yes, they’re the greatest band of all time,” will result in a verbal barrage that even I can’t sustain, especially if it comes from an entire drunken group. All that said, they are truly unforgettable as a live experience, and their lifelong dedication to punishing beauty should be witnessed by everyone. If you get the chance, that is. Their tickets are never cheap.
Local act New Fumes aka Daniel Huffman, will have the singular of opening the show, and will also perform with the group in Austin, which may be even more significant for awareness of the artist. Sorry, Dallas. The world watches Austin. I didn’t make it this way. Huffman is no stranger to grand stages, however, as he also been a frequent collaborator with the Flaming Lips. Speaking of which, the Flaming Lips have also taken some interest in the Pour Le Corps act, Def Rain. The Dallas band will appear on the Lips’ tribute to the Stone Roses, which the Guardian reported back in February.
Glamorama (Beauty Bar): Neo Safari is Blake Ward’s guest this evening.
Other Saturday shows—
Flatworld/HR & the Service Reps/The Gets (Gilley’s Dallas)
Blackie/Terminator 2/Limb/Hex Cult/D-Mar & Stu Brutal (Fry Street House)
Dwight Yoakam (Billy Bob’s)
Willie Burns/Convextion/R9/DJ Gavin G/Tiago Varjao (Elm Street Bar): This show may be a last-minute engagement, but it’s not to be overlooked. Decorated label head, DJ, and producer William T. Burnett is from Texas, but has now operated his extensive list of projects out of New York for well over a decade. He has worked under various names, including Grackle, Speculator and the more obvious Willie Burns, as listed above.
Back in February, Burnett’s Speculator moniker took up one side of a split record release with TX Connect, which is actually our very own, Gavin Guthrie, who is also performing under his own name tonight.
Not to bury the lede here with some of you or anything, but besides collaborating with Guthrie on a release, Burnett has one other notable credit to his name: He produced an album by Breaking Bad’s Krysten Ritter under the name, Ex Vivian. The music is far different from the dance output for which Burnett and his label WT are known, and the dark and minimal folk songs benefit from having such an unconventional engineer in the chair. Give that a shot if the thump of electro and deep house are too much for you. If not, do your best to make it to this smartly selected show.
Other Sunday shows—
Frauen/Eyes, Wings & Many Other Things/Poppy Red/Classy Nude/Lemuria (Bryan Street Tavern)
Photo: Marshstepper, performing at Taqueria El Picante in Denton, June, 2013. Credit: Andi Harman.