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The LAist Interview: Ben Adair, Public Radio Producer

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We in Los Angeles sure do love our radio. And lucky for us, we’ve got some of the best programming in the country to engage us. The latest addition to the bounty on the airwaves is “Pacific Drift,” which premiered last night on KPCC 89.3 FM.

"Pacific Drift" is the brainchild of Ben Adair, whose previous positions include producing the former public radio show “The Savvy Traveler.” After traipsing to all corners of the globe, Ben’s focus is now squarely on our region. This new audio project promises to continually deliver interviews and insights from intriguing locals, told within a unique format and narrative structure. Ben’s enthusiasm for LA enables him to tap into the vast resources of culture and intrigue, while using radio as a tool to reveal and bridge disparate worlds contained within our endlessly fascinating and often misunderstood city.

So read what Ben has to say about LA, and be sure to tune into "Pacific Drift" Sundays at 9:00 PM!

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1. Age and Occupation:

33 years old. I’m the host and creator of “Pacific Drift”, 89.3 KPCC’s new showcase of art, culture and documentary focused on Southern California.

2. What can the LA radio audience look forward to when “Pacific Drift” airs?

This is, without a doubt, the most exciting, interesting and hardest thing I’ve ever worked on. Also the most ambitious.

Pacific Drift’s first mission is to explore Southern California on its own terms. This region is full of exciting, fascinating, heart-breaking, bizarre people, places and things – anybody who either loves or hates LA really doesn’t know all that much about it. It’s an extremely complicated place. Pacific Drift explores high, pop and street cultures. Pacific Drift has documentaries about all aspects of life here. The show features conversations with some of the smartest, most interesting people doing super exciting things: artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, scientists, academics and lots and lots of people just like you me – people trying to find their way through this crazy place we all call “Los Angeles.”

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3. So, what can the LA radio audience actually look forward to when “Pacific Drift” airs?

Right. Well, the first show featured Miss Vaginal Crème Davis, LA’s most notorious drag queen; Erika Rothenberg, a sculptor and public artist; Charlie LeDuff, a Pultizer Prize winning journalist; Paul Chihara, a world famous classical composer; George Russell and Adam Byram, two Orange County-based photographers; a great, local writer named Steve Abee; and, believe it or not, much more.

My working metaphor for structuring Pacific Drift is a DJ mixtape. Only, instead of scratching and blending records to make one long song, we’re mixing characters and ideas and conversations. There’s a through-line connecting all those people above and it’s both subtle and intuitive. Of course you’ll have to listen to see how it works!

And, in addition to making a kick-ass, fascinating hour of radio each and every week, we have two other, larger goals for the show, born both out of my frustrations living in LA and KPCC’s own mission to “strengthen the bonds that unite Southern Californians.”

First, I want to build a creative community through the show – reach out to all the people who are doing more or less the same thing public radio is doing, just in different media – people who care about the world and the sorry lot of the human condition right about now. I want to reach out to the thousands of crazy talented people working all over Los Angeles, be they “successful” or “struggling.” The genius playwright who’s stuck writing or reading crap scripts? Let’s do something for the radio. The hidden piano prodigy working late nights at the liquor store? Drop me an email. The successful filmmaker who wants to make something real? Give me a call – there’s nothing more real right now than public radio.

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Second, we want to use Pacific Drift to build an actual community around it and KPCC. We’re eventually going to have a live performance series to get everybody together – the people involved in making the show and the audience listening – and make introductions. My great hope for Pacific Drift is that it can forge new friendships, new collaborations, new ideas and a new feeling in Southern California: we are not all isolated, alone, in our cars or single family homes. We’re all Angelenos and we’re all in this together. So let’s have fun with it. This is a really cool place!

4. What’s your process for conceiving of and producing stories?

I’ve been really amazed by the number of people who’ve stepped forward to offer help – mostly in the way of story ideas. Everybody has their own pocket of Los Angeles that they know really well and love – and want to share. Of course Queena Kim, my producer, and I are reading all the papers, the internets, we’re talking to people on the phone all the time, but we’re really depending on our audience to send in their own story ideas. That’s an important part of what this is all about.

In terms of producing, we’re staying out of the studio as much as possible. Studios are quiet and boring. The streets of Southern California are noise, dynamic and way more fun. We’re producing everything on location or in places that make sense for the story.