By Emmanuel Sayer
How did you get involved in CHUO? How has it impacted you?
Alex Kemp: I got involved at CHUO in the spring of 2013. I can’t remember how I learned about the station, but I decided to apply to become a contributor, and the rest is history. Being involved at the station has impacted me in a huge way and, at this point, is a large part of my identity as a person. CHUO was and is a safe place to learn and try new things which, as a shy kid, was really welcoming and empowering. I’ve met really great people, learned a lot about myself, and been given a platform to express my ideas in a meaningful way, both on and off air. The thought of moving from Ottawa and not being able to trek down the stairs into the basement of the building we’re in is rather unpleasant!
How did Negativland get started? Where does the name come from? What is the goal of the show?
AK: Negativland started when Motorik, a show I had hosted previously, ended. Motorik was focused on krautrock, and after 16 shows, each an hour-and-a-half long, it was getting tough to keep the playlist fresh week to week. So, by shifting to a new name and a slightly different mandate, I’ve had the chance to look at the lasting legacy of experimental music from the 1970s, cover newer artists pushing boundaries like krautrock artists did in their time, and highlight incredible music happening in our own city.
The name comes from Neu!’s 1972 song Negativland. It’s a good sonic reflection of the show, I think, and begs some interesting questions. Is it noise? Is it some weird proto-punk? Why is there a jackhammer sample?
In general, I’d say there is a lack of critical language around music, especially when compared to other areas like the visual arts. Encouraging a different way of thinking about and listening to experimental music is one of the show’s main goals, then. Playing certain songs by Krzysztof Penderecki, Matana Roberts, and Kara-Lis Coverdale, for example . . . they all may use the human voice in prominent ways, but how it’s treated and what they hope to convey is wildly different. Looking at how artists break down the same problems and traditions is something I think has value, or hopefully sounds good, at the very least.
What are highlights from the past year of hosting Negativland?
AK: Interviewing Dean from the band Odonis Odonis was a definite highlight for me. Odonis Odonis is a band I discovered through contributing to CHUO and hosting an hour of the collaborative arts and music program Radio Active with a friend who I met at the station.
To me it’s a culmination of a few of the things that make CHUO so great: learning about amazing music you may not have otherwise, being given the skills and support to do a show, and eventually being able to interview artists whose music means something to you. Same feeling goes for interviewing Alex from Heavy Bedroom or, more recently, Jason from Possible Worlds, Low Noise Productions, and Spins and Needles.
More generally, getting messages from people saying they went to shows I mentioned on-air or simply dig the music is really nice.
What are 5 songs that you think epitomize the spirit of Negativland?
AK: This was tough! All these songs, at least to me, represent a blurring of musical lines and ideas that I try and highlight each week on the show. By no means definitive, but . . .
Colin Stetson and Sarah Neufeld – The Sun Roars Into View
Tim Hecker – Virginal II
Matana Roberts – All is Written
Kara-Lis Coverdale – Arcane
Odonis Odonis – Highnote
Negativland airs Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on CHUO 89.1 FM & chuo.fm •