An Inside Look at Night Swim Radio’s New Comp

If you enjoy diving into experimental hip hop and bouncy future beats, you owe it to yourself to check out Night Swim Radio’s latest compilation The Deep End – Volume 1. Night Swim is a Philadelphia based web radio show that has consistently selected amazing underground artists for their weekly mixes, live showcases and compilation albums. I had the pleasure of hosting NSR’s co-founder and all-around badass, Robert Ritter, for an awesome guest mix on Snack Time, so I reached back out with a couple questions to gain further insight into The Deep End and Night Swim.

Right in time for Night Swim Radio’s 2 year anniversary as one of the best tastemakers in Philly, you guys just dropped one of the hottest compilations of experimental future beats I’ve seen all summer. What has it been like getting this project together?

You’re too kind. We initially were going to try and secure some “bigger” artists for promotional purposes but then realized our first compilation should be from the Night Swim family. We sent out probably 20-30 emails and ended up with 10 artists that we have been promoting for a long time. Everyone involved is super excited to be a part and we can’t wait to keep working with them. Really just honored that they spent time on music for us to release.

How did you pick the title of the compilation, “The Deep End”? How did you tie all of the songs together?

Like our name, Jeff, the other founder, just said “how about The Deep End”? I am not very picky and said sure! We wanted to make it pool related and it just fit. Took about 10 minutes in total to design the cover once I had the name. I wanted to have the compilation run seamlessly and really craft the order but didn’t have enough time. I played the songs back and forth and landed on the order that it is, tried to split up the 3 songs with vocals. I knew I wanted to start with Pold x Baribal because that song is gorgeous.

On the weekly shows and on the new release, you feature lots of local artists who are killing it right now. Who from Philly should definitely be on everyone’s radar right now?

Kilamanzego for sure. She claims she just started producing but I don’t believe her because it is so good! Vendr is another very talented artist. Lastly, godchild makes some impressive music and goes to Drexel, although don’t quote me on that, I might be wrong.

One of your secret talents seems to be connecting artists through NSR to collaborate on tunes. One of your matchmaking successes, Rasiir and Prototyp3, got together on “The Deep End” for the track “Exodus”, which you released ahead of the full comp. How does it feel having such a direct impact on the community?

Oh man, that makes me happier than anything else Night Swim has done. Being from the Midwest, music is very communal. I used to play shows where every band knew each other and supported each other and wanted everyone to succeed. The east coast has been pretty different but I can’t get away from that desire, to help artists meet new people and grow together. The next compilation is going to be 100% collaborative, bringing together vocalists and producers.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned in your 2 years as founder/co-producer of Night Swim Radio?

Just trying to not care about followers and play count. Although it definitely helps to have thousands of plays, the point is creating a quality radio program and meeting and promoting new artists. You can get so wrapped up in wanting more followers and grow bitter but you have to remember that the whole point of this is to bring joy to the world, at least for me!

What do you have planned for the future?

The compilation was just the start of our newest venture, Night Swim Records. We have an EP from Prototyp3 coming out in August, definitely something with Rasiir in the works, we always release new singles through our soundcloud, and starting to plan out the next compilation!

To find out more information and keep up with new releases from Night Swim Radio, check out their brand new website, Soundcloud, Twitter, and Facebook.

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Chattin’ with Deeper Kenz (100% Silk)

Our friend & anonymous producer Deeper Kenz just put out a fantastic tape on the always-excellent LA-based label 100% Silk. They put together a disco-laced mix for us and we chatted about wandering, relationships, and of course, Kensington.

Peep the mix & our discussion below:

KDU: Where did the Deeper Kenz alias come from?

Deeper Kenz: The name of the project was meant simply to pay homage to the place in which the music was made. I first moved to Kensington in 2007 and was 19 at the time. I feel like I became an adult there. I owe a lot to the neighborhood and its different residents.

KDU: How did Philadelphia influence the sound of this tape?

Deeper Kenz: The Sound of Philadelphia is a wonderfully dense landscape and so many parts of it have affected me deeply- the city’s towering contributions to Soul, Disco, and Hip hop, the Experimental and Noise music communities of which I was a peripheral part, the Saturdays of Caribbean music on WKDU, the talented people I DJ’d with at clubs and parties, the dancers there- I felt so connected to and inspired by all of this while I was working on the tracks that would end up on the tape. I spent so many hours wandering around the city but I was always most attached to Kensington. The track names were an attempt to create a map of some of the details of the area that were most important to me.

KDU: Were there any artistic influences that went into Deeper Kenz?

Deeper Kenz: I was obsessively digging for Techno, House, Disco, Funk, and Soul tunes at the time I was working on these, so I’m sure I was fully processing my education. I also was trying to make music I could play out Djing and would fit in the context of my sets. I was also inspired by the personal relationships I had at the time and the inexhaustible current of music flowing through so many of them. I hope the gratitude I feel shows in the music.
KDU: How did you get involved with 100% Silk?
Deeper Kenz: I got in touch with 100% Silk through some mutual friends- Britt Brown had written a review of another project of mine and we first began corresponding about that. He was interested when I told him I had some music that sounded vaguely appropriate for the label and I was ecstatic when they agreed to release it. I hadn’t exactly intended for these recordings to come out- they were just for myself and my friends. All this comes as a pleasant surprise.
KDU: What is your favorite food and/or drink to eat before or after hittin tha club?
Deeper Kenz: Ha- thanks to everyone at W/N W/N who fed me whether I asked for it or not.

Pour yourself a nice covfefe & enjoy the full Deeper Kenz tape here.

WKDU Feature: Kevin Garrett

— Interview by Ryan Stone

 

You may not have heard of him yet but you probably will soon.

Kevin Garrett, a singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist from Pittsburgh by way of Brooklyn, has had quite an impressive few years, from getting cosigns from Sam Smith & Katy Perry to songwriting and producing for Beyoncé – and all off the strength of one EP and handful of singles.

Just last month (February), Garrett dropped his awaited sophomore project, another EP entitled “False Hope.” To support the album, Garrett embarked on his first headlining tour with openers A R I Z O N A.

Before his sold-out show at World Cafe Live on Friday, March 3rd, I had the opportunity to speak with the budding “odd soul” artist to see how his new music is coming along and much more.

Continue reading “WKDU Feature: Kevin Garrett”

The Black Experience on WKDU, Part 3: The John Minnis Big Bone Band

By Esmail Hamidi

Well, a lot of times things happen to you, and the only thing you can say about it is, “what can you do?”

So this blog entry is a big one for me. This blog entry covers the tape that started this whole project.

mnmn

The John Minnis Big Bone Band was a 21-piece ensemble headquartered in North Philadelphia. They were headed up by its namesake, John Minnis, the trombone player and vocalist. Among their ranks were some of the finest studio and touring musicians of Philadelphia, many still active today. And guess what radio station interviewed them in 1977?

Back in the winter, I found this tape in a dusty box with many, many others. Some of my findings on the Black Experience programs in the ’70s have been covered in Part 1 and Part 2. But this one is definitely among the crown jewels of KDU. The music they play from the band’s then-newly-released album, Classic-I Live, is top-notch. The tape’s in perfect shape. The interview…is pretty funny, to be honest. The hostess and musicians cover lots of info, with plenty of the goofy awkwardness endemic to college radio. Based on the remark that John Minnis’ birthday, May 22nd, was a Sunday coming up, I can (pretty confidently?) date the interview to Spring 1977. We might be dealing with some unreliable narrators here:  given that the record is supposed to have been released in 1979 (and how everyone on the tape seems to be feelin’ some kind of way), this date seems unlikely, but who knows.

I’ve probably listened to this interview fifty times. There was a period in the winter where I would listen to it on the way to class every morning. And while its 35 minutes are jam-packed with, well, jams, I knew I needed to track the full record down. According to the interview, if I was around in 1977, I could have picked it up at any of ten record stores – the long-defunct 3rd St. Jazz and King James Record Shop among them.

Trying to find the record: I put out feelers to all my record-collecting friends, with no luck. Apparently it was reissued in Japan in the mid-1990s, but a friend’s travels in Japan failed to yield anything other than directions to the “big band” sections of numerous record stores. Blast.  I ended up finding a copy online, and paying a stupid amount of money. But I got it. Score.

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The record itself has some great rough edges. The decidedly mid-fi production value of the live cuts leaves some flubbed notes out to dry. But – after all – this is a big band! The idea of 21 musicians (count ’em – 21!) churning out grooves like this live on stage is positively electrifying. I cite the extended percussion workout of “What Can You Do” (evident at the 11:30 mark in the interview) as a prime example. They just keep going. And the studio cuts are genuine rare classics. There are covers of Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye tunes in there  (WHAT?!?) – someone’s bound to sample this one of these days. If you ever see this record while digging, grab it….

PS: This record was also mastered by Frank Virtue – a mentor of Gamble & Huff, and a prolific human fountain of Philadelphia independent music. And, as it weregarage rock…..

PPS: This May 22nd, 2016 is also a Sunday, as it were. If you’re reading this – happy birthday, John.

 

 

The Black Experience, Part 2: A Few More Finds

By Esmail Hamidi

One of the most fun parts of this project is the alumni of WKDU I’ve had the pleasure of talking to. In gathering information, they’ve been invaluable. So first thing, I’d like to thank everyone I’ve spoken with so far: Kevin Brown, Johnpaul Golaski, Mel “Average Guy” Holmes, and Al Knight.

Today’s find was by way of Facebook. The alumni of WKDU have a group where they keep in touch and post the artifacts of those days. Browsing some shots from the 1974 Lexerd (Drexel’s yearbook) yielded this:

Continue reading “The Black Experience, Part 2: A Few More Finds”

The Black Experience on WKDU, Part 1: A Teaser from the Archives

 

A few months ago, I discovered a long-overlooked box of reel-to-reel tapes in the studio. After blowing my nose and clearing the dust, I grabbed a few and headed over to a friend’s place to hear them. Thank heavens for friends with reel-to-reel decks.

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low noise? yeah right…

Every other tape we tried had already completely disintegrated into a pile of dust and polymer goo. When tapes are old and dying and you play them, they squeal in pain. The dried out oxides that make up the tape scrape across all the parts of the tape machine, peeling and crumbling everywhere. It’s pretty much the worst thing ever.

But after wading through tape after tape of hiss and warble, I found some true gold. And it was in pretty nice shape, too.

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“Absolute Touchlessness to Be Observed”

This is a portion of a live tape recorded at the Kim Graves nightclub on December 29th, 1978. The Black Experience crew was there to record a band called The Production, a local group headed by Curt Campbell. The show was to be aired later on Kevin Rice’s show. They hit record when the house band was warming up….

It’s an amazing listen, with tight funk and hilarious crowd banter. The band finishes up with a cover of Expansions by Lonnie Liston Smith, which rules. WKDU alumnus Kevin Brown was present for the recording. Here’s what he has to say about it:

“This is a very interesting piece here because you have major stars in the Philadelphia music and sports scene in attendance. The host is Dr. Perri Johnson one of the top [personalities] on WDAS-FM  whose music sometimes overlapped with what we were playing on the Black Experience in Music. Also Kenny Gamble one of the founders of Philadelphia International Records. Darryl Dawkins [of the 76ers] was also one of the judges of the show. The hilarious comedian was “May West” a black male comedian in drag doing a spoof on the real Mae West.”

Now, the plot thickens: Since hearing this tape, I’ve determined that The Black Experience on WKDU was the catch-all name for a group of DJs that ruled the weekend airwaves from around 1972-1981. Jazz, funk, disco, and other smooth styles were the focus. Little information has survived from that era, but as I talked to alumni and others, it’s clear that there was a lot of cool stuff going on. Patience, college radio historians:  I promise there’ll be more on this in the near future.

Kevin Brown was nice enough to send me another reel full of station IDs, promos, and other cool stuff. Here’s a station ID that’ll flip your lid like it flipped mine:

 

 

 

 

 

Some Really Good Tunes: The Mystery of the Missing Records

A couple Friday mornings back, I went to the station. When I got there, this was leaned up against the door….

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(re-enactment by author)

Inside were about 50 records. All were tagged WKDU circa 1971-1981. I can only speculate that maybe a former DJ, in an act of redemption, decided to give them back after “borrowing” them.

At KDU, there aren’t a lot of rules, but one stands out: NO STEALING. Says so on the door, probably written in DJ blood.

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It’s interesting that these records made it back, but even more interesting that they were left on the outside. It implies that whoever gave them back is far enough removed from the station that they couldn’t enter. Otherwise, they could’ve put the records back themselves, or hidden them somewhere within the station’s many nooks and crannies.  The plot thickens….

So I started looking through the records, because that’s what I do when a random bin of records appears on my doorstep. Here are some of my favorites from the stack. Oh, and in case you’re curious: Yes, I did put them back on the shelf, where they belong.

Continue reading “Some Really Good Tunes: The Mystery of the Missing Records”