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The LAist Interview: Garth Trinidad

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Garth Trinidad is familiar to most LAist readers as the host of "Chocolate City" on KCRW, a show that contributes to a local radio scene that makes Los Angeles the envy of listeners across the country (fortunately for them, there's online audio streaming.)

Thanks to Garth's radio presence, heaps of hip hop, soul, jazz, and all sorts of underground and non-mainstream music is broadcast over FM radio that otherwise would be heard by far fewer listeners. As you'll read below, he puts his stellar music taste to work outside of the station.

1. Age and Occupation:

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30, Hustler of urban alternative music culture—DJ, producer, consultant.

2. How long have you lived in Los Angeles and what neighborhood do you live in?

30 years, Crenshaw District.

3. How did you come up with the concept for "Chocolate City" and find your way to KCRW? How has the show changed over the years?

I discovered KCRW post-high school, started as a front desk volunteer while in college, began subbing for DJ’s on occasion, was granted a late night time slot soon after, and struggled to come up with a name for the show. It came down to 2 names, which I asked the other DJ’s to decide on—"Chocolate City" was it.

The show has evolved as my ears have matured with the influence of peers, mentors, and resources. I’ve dug deeper into jazz, soul, reggae, and been turned on to world music, progressive dance, electronic music, etc.

4. What are some of the best things about the LA music scene now?

Dj’s that aren’t scared to be different…they’re out there, they’ve been there all along…always depends on who’s listening. Also, all kinds of folks are moving here, becoming a part of this bourgeoning scene—Jay Dee, Common, Andre 3000, Saul Williams, etc. and LA has indy institutions that continue to strive for progress—the Stones Throw camp, the Temple Bar, the Soul Children Collective, I & I Productions, the Root Down, Soundlessons, Beat Junkies, etc...

Keep reading after the jump for more with Garth Trinidad.

5. KCRW has developed a reputation of being the local (and now even national) taste maker. Do you agree with this claim? Which other public radio stations around the country have a similar status?

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I agree. When you're the station that's known for breaking ground, setting trends, etc. in a city full of cars and car stereos, you're bound to get that type of rep. There are other stations, even in LA, but the professional presentation we maintain makes us sound like the ideal commercial station, one that a mass cross section of listeners can grasp. No other stations around the country have a similar status that I know of--but I'm sure the car thing plays a role.

6. What else are you up to now that "Chocolate City" is on Saturday nights instead of multiple weeknights?

I'm being a dad, a better husband, basically. I have some other endeavors to pursue, but as soon as I started Saturdays and thought my time was freed up, BAM! Always something there to occupy your time regardless, especially when you're married with children.

7. Where do you shop for music?

Mostly Aron's, Amoeba, swap meets.

8. What's your preferred mode of transportation?

I have a kick ass ex-cop car, but I keep it pretty beat up because of how I drive. I like the SUV I got for the wife 'cus she has a stereo, cd player, and what not.

But I hate driving in LA regardless. There is no more rush hour, it's all one cacophonous traffic jam from 6 AM to 9 PM.

9. What's your favorite movie or TV show that's based in LA?

I don't really watch TV. On the movie tip, the original Breakin' with Boogaloo Shrimp, Shabba-doo, and Ice-T as the club rapper back in '84.

10. In your opinion, what's the best alternate route to the 405?

I used to take Laurel Canyon or Sepulveda, but the last time I tried, it just didn't matter.

11. What's the best place to walk in LA?

Married: the beach or the mountains
Single: dog parks

12. It's 9:30 pm on Thursday. Where are you coming from and where are you going?

I'm coming from 7-Eleven and going to sit down with ice cream and the remote—if possible.

13. If you could live in LA during any era, when would it be?

1940's, when the 'hood was doin' pretty good.

14. What is the "center" of LA to you?

Hollywood land.

15. If you could live in any neighborhood or specific house in LA, where/which would you choose?

I often fantasize about the black community; at peace, calm, serene...I don't want to go anywhere, but it pains me daily to see us in our current regressive condition. There are a couple of houses I've long admired, one on 3rd and Rimpau, one somewhere way up in the Palisades, that I would love to duplicate on a farm in Ladera or Baldwin Hills, even Venice Beach.

16. What is the city's greatest secret?

Can't tell.

17. Drinking, driving. They mix poorly, and yet they're inexorably linked. How do you handle this conflict?

Well, since I don't drink, I drive extra cautiously, prepared to run a drunk driver off the road in the blink of an eye...seriously.

18. Please describe your best LA dining experience.

2nd best...the best has little to do with food. Cynthia's restaurant on 3rd near La Cienega; the food is excellent, but the blackberry cobbler tastes like Jesus made it.

19. Where do you want to be when the Big One hits?

On Crenshaw and Slauson with a pogo stick...seriously though, not here.

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