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Morning Becomes Eclectic 30th Anniversary Interviews: Chris Douridas

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Chris Douridas can currently be heard as the host of "New Ground" on KCRW 89.9FM (Saturdays, noon-3pm) and on the online only version of "New Ground" at KCRW.com (Monday-Friday, noon-2pm & 8pm-10pm and Tuesday-Saturday, 4am-6am). From 1990-1998 Douridas hosted "Morning Becomes Ecelctic."

Continuing the celebration of MBE's 30th anniversary, we had a chance to bounce some questions off Chris about MBE, being influential, and new technology.

LAist: By definition, MBE gives a DJ wide latitude as to what they can play. Did you ever find it to be too wide or too narrow?

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Douridas: The parameters of the show are defined by our taste. I wouldn't stray beyond those parameters because I wouldn't be true to my own taste

LAist: KCRW and MBE in particular are well known for giving new and unsigned artists their first airplay. Of those who you've debuted, which was your favorite (whether or not they were everyone else's fave)?

Douridas: Beck is the obvious choice for me because he continues to surprise and excite me as an artist. Gilliam Welch was fun because I got her demo from a producer here at the station who worked on "Which Way, LA?" and had gone to school with her.

LAist: The New York Times referred to KCRW and MBE in particular as a "purveyor of semipopular music." How do you fit (or not fit) this description?in particular as a "purveyor of semipopular music." How do you fit (or not fit) this description?

strong>Douridas: I don't really agree with that definition. It makes it sound like KCRW is always trying to stay below the radar. We simply gravitate to music we love and play it on the air – whether it’s popular now or will be popular later. We are simply aware of what’s available to us and play what we love.

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LAist: MBE started out as a local show on a terrestrial radio station in Los Angeles. Would it have been as important or influential in any other city, small or large? Is the listening audience as important or influential as the show?

Douridas: Maybe New York but probably not.

Is the audience as important? Absolutely.

I hosted a show similar to MBE in Dallas for years before coming to Southern California and, while it was celebrated locally, it didn’t have much impact beyond the Dallas/ Fort Worth area.

The moves we make at KCRW seem to have a ripple effect that we often see permeating far beyond our signal. The audience is made up of multipliers who take the ideas they love into their work each morning.

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LAist: How has the change from being a local radio show to being an international broadcast (via the internet) changed MBE?

Douridas: If it's changed anything, it's changed the influence.

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LAist: At one point in your tenure, Entertainment Weekly juxtaposed you with Howard Stern as the "Power DJs" of your respective coasts. At the time you were truly a local DJ in Los Angeles and Stern was syndicated nationally. What did this say about your respective audiences at the time, if anything, and how do you think that's changed now with KCRW being international, via the web, and Stern going to satellite?

Douridas: It said that the impact of MBE locally rivaled Howard Stern's impact nationally, which goes back to the power of our audience. In regards to the growth of both programs, it's just a sign of their ongoing successes.

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LAist: When you hosted MBD, did it help being both show host and music director?

Douridas: Being the music director as well as the show host simply gives you more latitude in steering the station and its efforts. For example, when Nic came in as the Music Director, he instituted several concepts that helped further market what KCRW was already doing very well, including the institution of “KCRW Presents” and the annual A Sounds Eclectic Evening benefit concert.

LAist: Talk a little about that thing you guys do where you're playing song, you pot it down for a few seconds and talk over the track, you bring it back up and then back down and talk over it a bit more. I think you were the first guy I heard do that. I don't know that I've heard that on any other station, but I've heard it a lot on KCRW. It simultaneously bugs and delights me. Is that a public radio thing? A Chris Douridas thing?

Douridas: Put it this way, I certainly didn't invent that. The only music we talk over, unless it's a pledge drive or we are running out of time, is instrumental in nature. And the bed music just helps extend the mood or propel the forward motion of the show.

LAist: There's been a lot of talk about the upgrades to the KCRW music library. What effect, if any, will the digitization of the music library change your show? Will the change of workflow change a show's content? Might you eschew the new system and stick to CDs and vinyl?

Douridas: First of all, that puts a copy of every song in the library at the fingertips of any DJ working in any studio, at any time. Right now, in the mornings when I tape my daily show for KCRW.com, I'm halfway across the station from the library and I'm sharing CDs with two other DJs doing shows at the same time. We are all running stuff back and forth between studios. Once it is digitized, we can play the same song at once if we have to.

LAist: Speaking of new technology, how has the internet changed the way you source new music? Do you use sites like MySpace, iTunes or PodShow's music network to find new music and/or do bands find you via those same sites?

Douridas: I'm probably playing stuff I found online on MySpace and iTunes and other outlets on every show I do these days. I also use my MySpace page as a way of showcasing to listeners the bands I am supporting. I don't add a band unless I've played them.

Top photo by Nima Taradji
Second photo by KCRW

KCRW promo featuring the voice of Chris Douridas

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Yesterday's interview with Nic Harcourt available here.