How long have you been a WFMU DJ and how did that come about?
I’ve been DJing on WFMU for almost a year now. In January 2015, I got an e-mail from WFMU’s music director Brian Turner, asking if I’d ever considered doing radio at WFMU and if so, would I be interested in auditioning? I was navigating some seriously rough waters at the time, so that e-mail was a gift from the gods of “throw that girl a bone!” The chance to DJ my records on America’s most whacked out and wonderful free-form radio station?!! Sweet Jesus! Am I dreaming?!! So of course I jumped at the opportunity—made an audition tape, did a couple of fill-ins, and next thing you know I’m given my very own show—“Sophisticated Boom Boom.” A girl-pop dream come true.
Can you describe the concept for “Sophisticated Boom Boom” ?
Since I was a kid, I’ve always been partial to the female voice. I like to tell the story of how completely devastated I was to learn that the Bee Gees were men, because I was absolutely certain those vocals came from women. So even at a very young age, I was trying to find humans like me—girls—making the pop records I loved. The music business is very much skewed in favor of men, and so with my fanzines, compilations, A&R work, and now with “Sophisticated Boom Boom,” I sought to bring much-needed attention to the creative n’ musical output of women and to help balance the gender inequality in music. I describe “Sophisticated Boom Boom” as “female-fronted pop from the past, present, and future, and from all over the globe. And the occasional man.” Hehe!
You really have no boundaries in terms of decade or genre that might confine some of your WFMU cohorts. For instance, it’s possible to hear The Crystals, Wanda Jackson, The Breeders, and Bikini Kill mixed in with J-pop, indie pop, and electronica in one set. And, you are not shy to play mainstream or modern pop. Can you really get away with anything?
The beauty of WFMU is precisely what you’ve said above—you can get away with anything! WFMU is the proud bastion of freeform radio where mixing genres, decades, and styles is absolutely encouraged. I think “Sophisticated Boom Boom” is actually quite tame and accessible compared to a lot of the other shows on the station. There are DJs who play 45 rpm records at the “wrong” speed, 20-minute songs of toilets flushing, as many different versions of “Eleanor Rigby” as can fit into a 3-hour slot. It is musical insanity! I play what I love and respect, and that can be anything from an obscure soul 45 from 1966 to Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair.” But most of what I play is very much rooted in what I love about pop—melody, hooks, and magic.
Outsider readers might be surprised to learn that you’re a huge Megadeth fan. Where does this love come from? How do you manage to include Megadeth into sets of cutesy girl pop?
I fell hard for metal at age 10, and used to stay up late to catch “Headbangers Ball” on MTV at midnight. I remember catching a clip of Megadeth performing “In My Darkest Hour” from the documentary, Decline of the Western Civilization Part II: The Metal Years. Oh my god…that combination of dark, overwhelming rhythm guitar with Dave Mustaine’s voice and melodies. It’s hard to explain why I was so taken by it, but since then I’ve always been a huge Megadeth fan—especially their “Rust In Peace” album. I feel complete euphoria and liberation listening to it. I think the only common thread between Megadeth and girl-pop is the melodies. Megadeth are an extremely melodic band, even though the melodies are not as obvious when set to fast and furious metal riffs.
I have had some experience with travel. The first thing I think about is the record shops and what exotic finds might be hidden in them. Can you describe your international experiences with record collecting? Do you travel for the sole purpose of discovering new sounds on vinyl or is it something you do while on holiday?
I definitely travel for the sole purpose of buying records! Some of my most memorable trips were to the gigantic record fair in Utrecht, Holland (sadly this was before the vinyl resurgence, so the fair was depressingly heavy on CDs/ DVDs), my first trip on the Eurostar from London to Paris in ’96 where I discovered a record shop that sold strictly 60s French girl-pop, and when I was living in Tokyo, I would venture beyond the city to these teensy towns with teensy record shops that specialized in 45s from the Shouwa era.
One of the most memorable crate-digging experiences for me was when I was a student in France. My friends found this decrepit castle that held an indoor flea market on weekends. I didn’t the yé-yé treasures I was looking for but it was fun. Do you have any similar off-beat experiences like this? If you can’t think of anything, what is your favorite record store and why?
See my answer above for off-beat digging experiences. My favorite record store was a shop called Beanos in Croydon, just outside of London. On the second floor of this enormous shop lived an old rocker with a long silver beard who used to guard the rare 45s boxes. They had about 5-6 enormous boxes dedicated to 60s British girls and it is where I amassed a hefty chunk of my Brit girls collection. I would make monthly visits to Beanos (when I lived in London at age 18), shyly ask Lord of the Rare 45 Boxes if I could have a look at the guarded goods, and have mini-heart attacks as I pulled out 45s on my want list. Sadly, Beanos is no longer, but oh the memories!
I lived in Japan for 7 years. It’s where I got my start as a vintage vinyl DJ and part of that was because I was going to record hops with fanatical Japanese record collectors who welcomed me into the scene. How did you get into Japanese Beat Girls and Showa Pop tunes?
I must credit my friend Marty (who used to play guitar in Megadeth) for introducing me to Japanese pop music by way of a mix-tape with artists like Puffy, Lindberg, Seiko Matsuda, and Momoe Yamaguchi. So after I developed a very unhealthy obsession with contemporary J-pop, my curiosity turned towards Japan’s musical past. When I visited Japan for the first time in 1998, I picked up a compilation called “60s Japanese Cutie Pops Collection” on the Victor label. My first listen was hugely disappointing. I found the heavy vibrato and Oriental melodies completely unlistenable. It wasn’t the super-melodic, girlie-pop that I had envisioned. But after a few more listens, I grew to love all the “foreign” elements that I initially dismissed. And I quickly discovered that there were certain singers + songwriters + producers that I was drawn to, and I began to search out original copies of those records. I was SO lucky to get into 60s Japanese pop when I did, because very few people in both Japan + the West were looking for those records, so most of ‘em were fairly easy to come by.
Can you tell a bit about your involvement in the Nippon Girls compilations? How did you find such exotic and fun music? Can you describe in words how fun being part of such a project must have been?
“Nippon Girls” naturally evolved from my collecting 60s Japanese girl-pop 45s. Ace Records had done a couple of Group Sounds compilations called GS I Love You, but no label in the West had done anything on 60s Japanese girl-pop. Given the years I spent studying Japanese and amassing the 45s n’ photos n’ magazines n’ information on the subject, I thought I could do a pretty good job of putting together a Japanese beat girls compilation that would appeal to Western ears and also honor the artists + music without the Western tendency to exoticize.
Let’s bring it back home… What events are you involved in in NYC? How did the Hudson show come about? Any plans in the future for forays into the Hudson Valley?
Aside from my weekly WFMU show, I host a 60s rock n’ roll party called Sh-Boom at Our Wicked Lady in Bushwick, Brooklyn every third Friday of the month. We’ve got 60s erotic cult-films projected onto the walls, New York’s much-loved go-go-girl, Anna Copa Cabanna, and local and international DJs spinning all-vinyl sets of French Yé-Yé, girl groups, garage, British freakbeat, Northern Soul, glam-rock, soundtracks, doo wop, R&B, easy listening, and Japanese fuzz-pop. Think the Factory circa 1968, white go-go boots, space-age pop, Brigitte Bardot, Vampyros Lesbos, Mary Quant, and mini-skirts. A friend of mine who lives in Hudson suggested I DJ at the Half Moon. It’s always such a treat to DJ outside of NYC, and I’ll definitely be back at the Half Moon for a gig this summer.
Lastly, I’m starting a column in Outsider where I give an international pick, national pick, and a local pick in each issue. What songs would you choose at the moment?
International pick: Juniore “Marabout” Juniore are a new 60s pop-noir inspired girl band from Paris who are releasing an album on Burger Records on May 20th. National pick: Pom Poms “123” Giddy surf-pop from LA-based band that I can’t wait to hear more from! Local pick: Beverly: “Victoria” A dreamy, indie-rock duo from Brooklyn, whose new album “The Blue Swell” is out on Kanine Records.
Follow news about Sheila B.’s girl-pop events and projects on her webzine Cha Cha Charming. http://www.chachacharming.com Tune in to “Sophisticated Boom Boom” every Friday from 3pm – 6pm on WFMU 90.1 in the Hudson Valley or online. https://wfmu.org/playlists/CF Marty Shane Hodulick can be found rescuing 45s from dusty crates hidden in the nooks and crannies of the Hudson Valley and spinning garage, surf, soul, and punk records at local venues as The Stately DJ Wayne Manor. https://www.facebook.com/statelydjwaynemanor