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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

“The Dreams in Which I’m Dying are the Best I’ve Ever Had”

posted by on September 24 at 10:16 AM

A couple weeks ago on Slog, Brendan Kiley wrote about a mildly disturbing run of songs—”Head Like a Hole,” “I Wanna Be Your Dog,” “Helter Skelter”—played by John Richards on KEXP’s “John in the Morning” show. Brendan’s curiosity about John’s increasingly dark mornings was picked up by the post’s commenters, who mused about Richards’ recent move to NYC and the possibility that the uprooting was messing with his head.

I didn’t think much of it—a run of three aggressive songs is not a reputable measure of mental health—but then came this morning, when I tuned in to Richards’ show and was treated to Gary Jules’ Donnie Darko-soundtrack cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” (sample lyric in the subject line), Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” (five minutes of begging God to give your life to someone else), Eef Barzelay’s “Could Be Worse” (about an inability to draw consolation from the fact that it could be worse), and They Might Be Giants’ “We Live in a Dump” (self-explanatory).

I do not believe it’s fair to diagnose DJs through their playlists. But if I did, John might be ready for an intervention, or at least a big hug.

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that was the first time i'd heard the kate bush song in it's o.g. form and not chromaticized. i was very glad to hear it this morning on my way to work.

Posted by ndrwmtsn | September 24, 2008 10:33 AM

maybe the fans are requesting the dark playlist, as the dark days of seattle's winter will begin soon. moving cross country is incredibly difficult - and in JR's case perhaps gong from big fish in little city to small fish in really, really big city is bringing on the angst.

Posted by xina | September 24, 2008 10:40 AM

I think it's just a difference in time zones--lyrics are probaby taking a back seat to the need for something harder-core at 11. I'm not adjusting too well to that happening at 8 our time. I'm also not adjusting to the "15 minutes after the hour" version of saying what time it is. Too NPR for me, not KEXP-ish at all.

I don't like change.

Posted by MJ | September 24, 2008 10:49 AM

We'd rather not moderate your comments, but off-topic, gratuitously inflammatory, threatening, or otherwise inappropriate remarks may be removed, and repeat offenders may be banned from commenting. We never censor comments based on ideology. Thanks to all who add to the conversation on Slog.

Posted by Comment Deleted | September 24, 2008 10:49 AM

I think people are reading way too much into John Richards' playlists.

Posted by genevieve | September 24, 2008 10:54 AM

Moving from Seattle to NYC is really, really hard; I just moved back from a couple years in Brooklyn a few months ago and am infinitely happier. But John has been playing "Mad World" on a regular basis for years, so you probably shouldn't read much into that particular song.

Posted by Liesel | September 24, 2008 11:00 AM

Well, the playlist might reflect current events that a lot of listeners have had to wake up to kind of suddenly, and it's got to be personally challenging to find himself in a much more expensive city whose economic underpinnings are center stage in a not very nice way. And maybe as a family man at his age, he's got something salted away for college and retirement and suspects those asset values are at risk too. "Could Be Worse" is perrrfect right now.

Posted by tomasyalba | September 24, 2008 11:16 AM

I've been listening every morning, and I've noticed this trend too. Actually, the other morning he expresses gratitude to the concerned listeners who have contacted him, and acknowledged that he's been having some personal problems.

I second David on the hug thing. I would like to give him a big Welcome-Back-to-Seattle hug.

Posted by tabletop_joe | September 24, 2008 11:21 AM

Third to the hugging.

We're very lucky in Seattle to have stations like KEXP, KUOW and KPLU on the FM dial. Their awesomeness stems in large part from their djs and hosts like John, Steve Scher and Abe Beeson (to just name a few). So to haters like #4--why be so mean? We got it good!

Posted by brinsonian | September 24, 2008 11:36 AM

@4...snap. Never mind.

Posted by brinsonian | September 24, 2008 11:38 AM

i'd be a bit insane too if i was living in nyc and only making 100+ thousand a year. poor guy!

kexp in the morning and daytime is plain awful. get over it.

Posted by itchy not scratchy | September 24, 2008 11:47 AM

You don't move to New York City in your 30's with small children. That's when you move OUT of New York City.

I'd be surprised if he wasn't depressed.

Posted by Sean | September 24, 2008 11:56 AM

Sounds like his typical fare to me.

I know this may sound crazy, but perhaps a better way to measure how the guy is doing would be to listen to him when talks. Does he sound sad? Is he saying sad things? No? Just the usual self-deprecating charm? Okay then. John has publicly shared his rough moments with his listeners before (his mom's passing comes to mind).

@8's comment is the most relevant one on this post.

Posted by matt | September 24, 2008 12:53 PM

Can you commentors say "kiss-ass?"

Posted by Hal | September 24, 2008 1:17 PM

John's a great DJ. KEXP is a phenomenal station. What it offers to the bands of Seattle is huge.

You don't have to listen to it, you don't have to give.

You should try getting your band on the radio in LA, San Fran, or Chicago. If you hate John, you'd really hate those stations. You'd come crawling back to KEXP and be praising it and the chance it gives your band. Cause that chance doesn't exist elsewhere.

Name me a station as big as KEXP who will listen to your demo and if they like it, play it.

Posted by seattle musician | September 24, 2008 1:29 PM

I'm with itchy not scratchy. I'm newish to Seattle and cannot understand the region-wide love for JitM. Move, schmove his playlist is predictable and repetitive. One of my least favorite KEXP djs.

Give it up for Jack and Stevie.

Posted by rainking | September 24, 2008 1:29 PM

Ugh, that "Mad World" cover is sonic herpes. A song that somehow manages to be both turgid and one-note. Bleh.

Posted by christopher h | September 24, 2008 1:37 PM

Gag me. John got KEXP listeners to finance his move to NYC and now he isn't happy there? Boo fucking hoo. People in NY couldn't care less about KEXP. Is anyone surprised this expensive syndication experiment is failing? Perhaps this has all been a vehicle to get Richards and his wife closer to the Marc Jacobs store? KEXP lost the plot a long time ago. I can't believe there isn't more outrage over his 120k salary. Think about that for a minute: ONE HUNDRED TWENTY THOUSAND DOLLARS PER YEAR. For playing records. I won't even comment on his mediocre taste. Are the other (far more interesting) long time KCMU vets still volunteering their time? Richards can afford a good therapist, and he can hire someone to give him hugs. Just bill the listeners who are still dumb enough to donate during one of their many self-love drives. I used to give every year, never again. There are far worthier causes out there.

Posted by wendy | September 24, 2008 2:44 PM

wendy @18: Finally somebody is saying this. I could not agree more. The NYC move underwritten by kexp donors is just sick. That's only the tip of the iceberg, though. I wish an enterprising reporter would do an in-depth investigation of Richards & kexp generally, see what their business practices are really like & where all the money goes. And get to the bottom of what were they hoping to accomplish with the NYC move. Besides getting John's wife closer to the Marc Jacobs store. Did they have goals for what they wanted to happen that their listeners/donors can hold them accountable for? It would be interesting to see what kind of progress they're making toward those goals.

Posted by Folsom Bob | September 24, 2008 5:08 PM

yeah! troy in the morning! rachel in the morning! i bet any number of far more talented djs would happily take over the job for a fraction of jitm's gigantic paycheck. i'm sure john is a nice, hard working guy...but how can 120k be justified? for reals? is kexp still considered a non profit?

Posted by yeah | September 24, 2008 6:21 PM

I really don't mind John's show, but goddamn! Once Sheryl Waters comes on at 10am, I go running for the OFF switch. I can't stand her boring and hazy music selection. It's mid-day, I want to wake up, not be put back to sleep!
What really cracks me up is that it's supposed to be "listener powered" but if you even attempt to call in a request during her show, no one ever picks up the phone.
I just wish they would get rid of her as she is definitely the weakest link in the chain that is KEXP...

Posted by FireFireFire | September 25, 2008 3:08 PM

hit it herb....

Posted by hahaha | September 26, 2008 10:39 AM

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