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Friday, December 21, 2007

David Sadof talks to the Mike McGuff Blog

David Sadof is one of Houston's last true radio DJs. I say that because this man is a musical force. In the early 90s when I (and everyone else apparently) was growing tired of glam metal, Sadof introduced me to the world of 'alternative' music on his Sunday night show Exposure which aired on Rock 101 KLOL. He's hosted similar shows on 94.5 The Buzz KTBZ and 97.5 KFNC.

A year ago I sent David 'The Last DJ' Sadof a list of questions about his radio life as we was leaving KFNC. He got the answers to me just in time for the launch of his new blog! READ THAT HERE.

Mike McGuff: Where did your amazing grasp and knowledge of music come from?

David Sadof: I’ve been surrounded by music my whole life and like a sponge, I absorbed everything. My Mom would stack 3 or 4 records on the phonograph and I would sit there and listen while looking at the record jackets and reading the liner notes. The first record I bought with my own money was a 45 of “American Pie” by Don McLean for a dollar. Well, actually, I got my sister to pay half. As a young teenager, I would ride my bicycle to the Cactus Records location that was on Post Oak across from where the A.J. Foyt Chevrolet was located. It was about about 3 miles from my house and I would make the trip about every two or three weeks. I would spend at least an hour in the store flipping through every record in the Rock/Pop section, memorizing all the album covers. I read all the liner notes on the albums I bought and I read all the music magazines I could get my hands on: Hit Parader, Songwriter, Musician, Cream, Circus, Grooves and a few others.

MM: Do you see yourself as the John Cusack character in "High Fidelity?"

DS: We do have some similar traits, but if I were to compare myself to movie/television characters, I would break it down like this:

30% Billy Crudup in “Almost Famous”
25% John Cusack in “High Fidelity”
14% Minnie Driver in “Grosse Pointe Blank”
7% Clint Eastwood in “Play Misty For Me”
6% Howard Hesseman in “WKRP In Cincinnati”
5% Tim Reid in “WKRP in Cincinnati”
4% Jake Gyllenhaal in “Donnie Darko”
3% John Cusack in “Say Anything”
3% Christian Slater in “Pump Up The Volume”
3% Jack Black in “High Fidelity”

MM: When you're at home, do you actually listen to the music you play on your shows?

DS: I do. I also listen to other music that doesn’t fit the overall feel and concept of my shows. I have a computer program called iTunes Statistician and it gathers information from iTunes about what you listen to on your computer. This may be more info than you want, but here are some Top Ten Lists for you based on what I listen to on my computer:

Top Ten Artists Listened To At Home
1. The Beatles
2. Bruce Springsteen
3. Tori Amos
4. Elvis Costello
5. Ani Difranco
6. The Clash
7. David Bowie
8. The Rolling Stones
9. Robyn Hitchcock
10. Echo & The Bunnymen

Top Ten Songs Listened To At Home
1. Candy by Morphine
2. Monkey Gone To Heaven by The Pixies
3. I Gotta Move by Ben Kweller
4. Eye Of Fatima (parts 1&2) by Camper Van Beethoven
5. Do It Clean by Echo & The Bunnymen
6. Ocean by Sebadoh
7. Teen Age Riot by Sonic Youth
8. Time Baby III by Medicine
9. (White Man) In Hammersmith Palais by The Clash
10. Chapell Hill by Sonic Youth

Top Ten Albums Listened To At Home
1. London Calling by The Clash
2. The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars by David Bowie
3. Pleased To Meet Me by The Replacements
4. Crocodiles by Echo & The Bunnymen
5. The Beatles (aka The White Album) by The Beatles
6. The Pretenders (self-titled debut)
7. Doolittle by The Pixies
8. My Aim Is True by Elvis Costello
9. All Mod Cons by The Jam
10. Blondie (self-titled debut )

MM: Essentially you are a dying breed. Are there many other DJs out there who still select their own music and know about it as extensively as you?

DS: I don’t know how many there are, but DJ’s who do this kind of radio tend to find each other and stick together. I have friends in other markets who still choose their own music and each of their shows is unique in it’s own way.

MM: The name David Sadof is more synonymous with alternative and cutting edge music, how was it working as music director at 101.1 KLOL in the heyday of metal and hair bands?

DS: It was great fun, all the time. My talent was being able to find the best songs on an album regardless of what sub-genre of rock the music was classified as. Getting The Cure or Echo & The Bunnymen added to the regular playlist of KLOL was just as satisfying as being the one of the first stations in the country to play Joe Satriani or “Sweet Child O’ Mine” by Guns & Roses. I was always passionate about getting great songs played on the station.

MM: You must have a good story or two from working there...

DS: There are a ton of great stories. Give me the name of an artist and I probably have a story about them. Now that I’m writing a blog at, I’ll be sharing as many as I can remember.

MM: How did you get a show like Exposure on the air at a rock station?

DS: Ahhh, I thought you would never ask. I suppose it was by accident. KLOL had been running a one-hour syndicated show on Sunday nights called, “The Dr. Ruth Westheimer Sex Talk Show” and it was about to end. Our Program Director was asking for suggestions on what to do for that hour. I had only been there for a couple months and had the title of Music Assistant. I submitted a proposal based on the show I did in college called, “Explosions In The Glass Palace”. (The name comes from an EP by The Rain Parade, a band that begat Opal and later, Mazzy Star). “Explosions” was a Neo-Psychedlic show featuring Echo & The Bunnymen, The Psychedelic Furs, Siouxsie & The Banshees and others. I was told that Houston wasn’t ready for it and they went with a show that had been submitted by Dr K. who was the Music Director at the time. He actually came up with the name, “Exposure” and the original concept was to play songs from new releases. I still have the playlists from every show and some of the earliest shows highlighted new albums by Foreigner, Whitesnake and well, you get the idea. I started to submit a list of suggestions for the show every week and Dr. K would include some of them. Eventually, more and more of my suggestions were being used until I was programming the entire show. Eventually, I began hosting the show and before anyone at the station realized what the show had become, it was a successful program with great ratings and there was no reason to change it back. Unknowingly, I had a very distinctive way of saying the word, “Exposure”, and people would often stop me in places (being stopped in the middle of a grocery store comes to mind) and ask me to say it.

MM: KLOL was a big part of the Houston community for many years,
were you surprised by the public's reaction to its demise?

DS: Certainly, it was sad to see KLOL go away because of it’s history and those
of us who have worked there are like family. A dysfunctional family (lol), but
family none the less. Having said that, I was not surprised when it happened.
For me, the writing on the wall came in 1991 when I was hosting Exposure, but
was no longer working as Music Director. On a Saturday morning, I interviewed
two members of a band that had just released their debut album a month or so
earlier. With the help of my friend, Doug Ray, we produced the interview into
a one-hour radio special and played it on my show. When I the gave the Program
Director a copy of the program to listen to, he wasn’t interested. It would
be at least another 3 months before the band was played as part of the regular
format. The two people I interviewed were Stone Gossard and Eddie Vedder and
the band was called Pearl Jam.

MM: 94.5 The Buzz KTBZ was a very different station musically from the time you worked there to present day. What happened?

DS: I wonder that very same thing whenever I hear the current incarnation. Part of the answer would be that I’m not there, but of course, that’s not the whole story. If you look at other stations around the country who report to the same industry charts, they’re all playing the same music. The record labels realized that even if they had a song played in heavy rotation on a Rock station (ie: KLOL) it didn’t even come close to generating the kind of album sales they could reap by being playing in medium rotation on an Alternative station. The labels started pushing harder for acts like Kid Rock, Korn, Linkin Park and (does anyone remember) Brother Cane. I had always thought of Alternative as a format whose core artists would include The Pixies, Sonic Youth, The Replacements and Echo & The Bunnymen. Not only had this not become a reality, but now things were changing for the worst.

MM: Talk about the shows you developed while at 94.5 The Buzz. One I'd love to hear about is where you brought in rock bands like Green Day to play music. How did you pull that off?

DS: The show you’re referring to was What The Hell Is This? The concept was to do something completely different every week for one hour immediately after my Sunday night show, Lunar Rotation. All of the DJ’s at the station were encouraged to come up with a idea and host one of the episodes. One week it might be an entire hour of Punk Rock songs that were under 2 minutes long. Another week it could be a Goth show, covers of KISS songs, or a celebrity guest DJ.

We always had artists stopping by the station and when we asked if they’d like to host a What The Hell Is This? episode, they were thrilled to do it. No one had ever given them that opportunity before. We told the artists they could play any music they wanted regardless of what genre it was. There were no restrictions. If we didn’t have it, we’d get it. The artists recorded their voice tracks for the show and we would put it together with the music. Some of the artists that did this were Ani Difranco, Self, Soul Coughing, The Flaming Lips, No Doubt and a few others. More than any of the other guests, The Flaming Lips just couldn’t believe we were letting them do this.

I don’t believe Green Day did a What The Hell Is This?, but they did the nationally syndicated show, Modern Rock Live, from our studios following their concert at The Astro Arena.

MM: When you started at 97.5 KFNC how had things musically and
in the radio world changed? Any surprises?

DS: The biggest change was the fact that computers were being used to play the music, the commercials and automate the radio station. When I left The Buzz, those changes had not taken place yet, although they were on the horizon. Of course, the music for my show was never in the computer. I would plan my show in advance and bring my music with me.

MM: What's next for you? What do you want to do?

DS: I would love to return to the airwaves again and do another show. The thing I would enjoy most is programming a Classic Alternative station.

MM: You actually dj clubs too, right?

DS: I’ve dj’d some shows at Rudyard’s, The Proletariat, and The Mink spinning between local bands. In the early 90’s there was a club called The Magic Bus and I dj’d there once a week for several months. My dj night was called Music For The Somnambulistic. Some of the artists I played were Mazzy Star, Sisters Of Mercy, Peter Murphy, and Siouxsie And The Banshees. My regulars included a lot of the people from the Goth scene.

MM: Anything else you want to add?

DS: I just want to thank you for this opportunity. You’ve asked some really great questions and it’s my pleasure to participate. Actually, I think you’ve gotten me to tell some of the stories I was planning on using in my blog, so don’t be surprised if you see them again in the future.

(interview end)

I want to thank David Sadof for stopping by and make sure to check out his blog. Now excuse me as I go hit the iTunes Store after reading over his lists of music.

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