Kool Kat of the Week: Get Jet Lagged and International with DJ Yoon Nam as She Spins Us into the Trippy, Psychedelic Vintage Air-Waves of WRAS Album 88.5

Posted on: Nov 12th, 2014 By:

by Gretchen Jacobsen
Contributing Writer
Yoon Nam on the deck

Yoon Nam, Korean-American DJ and queen of vinyl, gets retro and internationally bizarre, supplying our hungry ears since 2006, with all things ’60s and ’70s international psych, prog and outsider folk rock, spinning us into the trippy, psychedelic vintage air-waves of Georgia State University’s WRAS Album 88.5’s Jet Lag! Tune in and catch a unique show filled to the brim with vinyl recordings of the weird, obscure and enticingly strange, on air every Sunday night from 8 to 10 pm! She also delivers an all-classic jazz show, The Blue Note, exclusively using vinyl recordings, every Sunday afternoon from noon till 2 pm!

There is a ritual most Sunday nights at my house. I sit on the floor in a corner of my kitchen and chat with my husband while he makes dinner. We also listen to the radio, always WRAS Album 88.5.  It took us a while to wrap our minds around the trippy, jazzy international sounds that comprise the vast Jet Lag” sonic-sphere, but once we finally “got it,” we were hooked. I wanted to learn more about Yoon, her tastes and her vinyl, so I thought I would just go ahead and ask her!

ATLRetro agreed that she’d make a perfect Kool Kat of the Week, so I caught up with Yoon Nam for a quick interview about her love of ‘60s and ‘70s psychedelic tunes and her adoration of the vintage-ly weird!

ATLRetro: What is “Jet Lag”?

Yoon Nam: The show features psychedelic music from around the world, focusing on the ‘60s and ‘70s and almost always played from vinyl. I especially enjoy featuring music that isn’t very common or heard on the radio much. When I started doing the show, I was taking over an earlier jetlag_01international music show on WRAS. I knew that I wanted to play a lot of prog, psych, strange folk and other music like that, so I eventually settled on the name Jet Lag. It is the name of an album from one of my favorite bands, PMF (Premiata Forneria Marconi). The name, of course, has to do with tripping, and the topos of travel since the show features music from all over the globe.

How did you become interested in this type of music?

I grew up in South Korea, and over there a lot of ‘70s prog and psych bands were actually famous. I was surprised when I came to the U.S. and found out that the general public often didn’t know about bands like PFM or Banco (Banco del Mutuo Soccorso). Italian prog is widely admired in Korea. Also, as I try to let people know through the show, there were a lot of amazing Korean psych and folk artists in the ‘70s, and they were still popular in the ‘80s when I was growing up.

There was a little record store called Wooden Horse Records near where I grew up in Seoul that I liked to hang out in, even when I was quite young. I heard a lot of European and American jazz and other stuff there. That’s where I spent my first allowance money from my parents. There were also clubs called “Dah Bang,” where DJs would play records while they served tea and coffee. They were just quiet tea and coffee rooms, but they had DJs playing records. While the DJs would play some of their own records, these “Dah Bang” would always have a large built-in collection of records, and so the customers could also pick and request the music from the library. The big collections of vinyl always impressed me a great deal. I would sneak in with my father sometimes and listen. My father was friends with a DJ, and he inherited a lot of records from that DJ when one of the clubs closed down. The whole retro-vintage culture movement in Seoul has brought “Dah Bang” back—all vinyl records, even—which is awesome.Yoon Vinyl

Why does the Jet Lag sound appeal to you?

Although the show started in 2006 with me playing both CDs and records, three or four years ago I started playing almost all records. It’s about texture and sound. I love listening to records! I don’t play much, if any, newer stuff because it just doesn’t sound right or mix in well. There’s just something about the way they started recording music in the ‘80s. I’m also not particularly into information or sharing information; it’s mostly about sound – not necessarily about the rarity, though I do play a lot of obscure records on the show. When a person walks into the room and hears the music and wonders, “Where am I?” That’s what I like. Jet Lag is about travel and trips, both in terms of distance and culture.

How do you discover new sounds for Jet Lag?

Luckily, I did grow up with a lot of the music I play on the show. Sometimes it is simply a matter of something I’m really into showing up to be BANCOadded to my collection (since I never, ever play computer files on the show). In truth, a lot of the records I buy these days come from overseas, but I often find cool stuff in Atlanta’s awesome used record stores, too. I also like a lot of ‘60s and ‘70s international movies. When I hear things I like, I track them down. Whenever my husband and I visit Korea, we always go to the underground arcades and record stores in Seoul and find fantastic records. I listen to stuff all the time, and I’m always on the lookout for records that I haven’t heard before or that might contain awesome music. The Internet is a really crazy resource, but it goes without saying that if I don’t like something enough to track down a real copy of it—a vinyl copy, that is—I don’t share it on the show. The show is personal. I have to really like something to play it on the air.

Are you a musician?

No, unfortunately. But I can hum and I love Karaoke!

Where do you go to see live music in Atlanta?

Atlanta is a great city for live music. I love 529, The Earl, Eyedrum and a lot more places. I try to catch jazz and classical music at Cobb Energy, Symphony Hall and Spivey Hall down at Clayton State, too.

What are you currently listening to that you’re not playing on the radio?PMF

I’m really enjoying pre-1975 Vietnamese pop 7-inch records. It’s so wonderful; a collision of jazz and pop and traditional Vietnamese music. I listen to jazz constantly, but mostly stuff from the ‘70s and before. Again, something about the recordings sounds better to my ears.

How is the WRAS takeover affecting you and the staff at Album 88?

What happened was really unfortunate because it robbed Atlanta of something fantastic. It’s more than just losing music during the daytime hours on the radio to a duplicate of what already existed. It’s a symbolic loss. I still do The Blue Note—all classic jazz and vocals played exclusively from vinyl—every Sunday from noon till 2 pm on WRAS, but Jet Lag is no longer broadcast on FM after the takeover. We are still working hard at the station and really, really appreciate the outpouring of local support for us!

What are your plans after GSU?

Wow, plans? I’m writing my Ph.D. dissertation now (16th and 17th Century British Literature). I want to keep sharing music and making art after I graduate. Exactly how? Let me think about that after I am done with my dissertation!

Is there anything else we should know about Yoon?

I don’t actually know what to say about myself. I am a product of two different cultures—Korean and American—and music is something that 10264514_10152420993828658_1715209705951625765_nconnects them both for me. Even though I love music, I try not to be that person who shows up at a party and starts talking about nothing but music. Some people seem to be so competitive about what they know. I do DJ around Atlanta occasionally. Also, I enjoy making art about my female calico cat, Reginald.

*Due to the “daytime” takeover of WRAS airwaves, Album 88 programming, Jet Lag is still on air but The Blue Note can now only be heard via the WRAS HD2 stream or online through places like Tunein (Search for WRAS-HD2). There is also a free WRAS streaming app for Apple users that was created by a loyal WRAS listener.

*The fight for the return of 24 hour student run radio to WRAS is not over. Visit the Save WRAS page on Facebook for updates or to lend your support.

All photos courtesy of Yoon Nam and used with permission.

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Kool Kat of the Week: They’re All About You: Getting Happy, Sad and Metaphysical with Jason Elliott of Spirits and the Melchizedek Children on the Release of Their New LP and Tour

Posted on: Sep 25th, 2014 By:
photo by chad hesss

L-R Jason Elliott, Ryan Odom, Bryan Fielden, Joe McNeill. Photo credit: Chad Hesss

Spirits and the Melchizedek Children have just released a new LP, SO HAPPY, IT’S SAD was produced by Benjamin Price (OutKast, Little Tybee) and has been receiving more than a little buzz from the music press as a creative breakthrough. Recently dubbed a “Southern Sigur Ros” by the A.V. Club, the Atlanta psychedelic dream-pop outfit is about to embark on a tour, but locals can get a sneak preview at a free gig at 529 in East Atlanta on Monday Sept. 29. 

ATLRetro likes what we’ve heard and heard just enough of a dynamic merging of  classic sounds that we made vocalist/guitarist Jason Elliott Kool Kat of the Week. In the last few days before SAMC’s departure, we found him happy and maybe a little sad, too, to muse about the band’s influences, double meanings and new directions.

ATLRetro: Some bands like to be compared. For others, it’s a limiting proposition. How do you feel about being called the “Southern Sigur Ros”? 

Jason Elliott: We were honored to be compared to Sigur Ros.  Adding the adjective “Southern” next to the Icelandic voyeurs implies that we may have a little bit more dirt and heaviness within our sound, which we do. While yes, I, in particular, am a fan of Sigur Ros, as well as many other dramatic, post-rock groups, the “southern gothic” undertones are also a very strong influence. The South is viewed by many as a strange and backwards place. That’s very true to some respect, but as a whole, the South offers little hidden secrets for finding ones self.

SATMC_SHIS_TourPoster_Fall14You have a diverse set of influences including — Steve Reich, Pink Floyd, Moody Blues, Can, Neu!, Eric Satie, Tchaikovsky, Brian Eno, The Beatles and Velvet Underground. Yet they all make sense because we’re listening to many of them right now. What binds those musicians and groups together for you? Is there a rediscovery/renaissance of mood-driven ‘70s  rock? 

History has and always will repeat itself. And today it seems that everything will repeat at least three times. People are dying for true innovation and mystique. While every generation has innovation and mystique, we feel that it is important to listen to timeless music so you can learn from those that have done it right. We strive to make timeless music and have little time to make a pop song that people will quickly like and then lose interest in what seems to be the same amount of time. We constantly turn back to the classics. Listening to the little things that were totally ahead of their time is a vital aspect to our listening habits and inspiration. Taking those little headphone treats and embellishing on them and making them our OWN.

What’s the secret origin story behind the band and what’s in the name Spirits and the Melchizedek Children? 

Melchizedek was something or someone that I had always heard about and looking more into the word,I found that it was quite endless. Melchizedek is talked about in all sorts of beliefs, religions, occults and books. And is always referred to as a “Holder of Keys, Keys to the Kingdom” whatever kingdom that might be? Who knows? It’s similar to the idea of Alchemy: there is no magic stone or secret formula that will change coal into gold or silver – it’s YOU! YOU are that piece of shit coal that needs to be turned into gold or silver. You hold the keys to whatever you desire. You just have to find away to use them properly, just like a child that’s trying to find its way. Or, I can give you the shorter answer. The word Melchizedek is mysterious. I wanted that to connect with our post-cryptic-quasi-cultist-mystique music.

Does the band have a mantra then?

YOU are here to save YOU

Slug Magazine referenced “the spectral folk of a doomed American West.” Is that something that particularly interests you?

Why? YES! That does interest us. I grew up out West and have only had seven wonderful years here in Atlanta. The West is a special place and seems to be very lonesome and wide. I think Modest Mouse coined the phrase by naming one of their best records THE LONESOME CROWDED WEST. That meant something to me. Moving and traveling all over the West Coast as a child, I had Always felt that certain Haunting that comes with vast, barren landscapes – always wondering if this was going to be our not-so-distant future. For me, storytelling through soundscapes and moods has always been the best way to convey that thought.

Photo 2 by Taylor Mumford

L-R Jason Elliott, Bryan Fielden, Ryan Odom, Joe McNeill. Photo credit: Taylor Mumford

SO HAPPY, IT’S SAD is a double-edged title. What’s the story behind it?

It was shortly after we had released our first record WE ARE HERE TO SAVE YOU! I was taking some time off to travel with my young son. We found ourselves in the middle of the Salt Flats on the Nevada/Utah border. I was very excited to introduce this part of the country to my Son. I had been to all of these places before, but wanted to experience the ever cherished “first experience” of anything magical. My son’s reaction to the barren beauty that day in the desert was something that I wanted to take note of. Experiencing his “first time” made me happy, then quickly realized that it also made me sad. I had spent so much of my life ignoring the simple things around me. Instantly I saw that my surroundings were everything. Here we were in the middle of nowhere, alone and silent. The beautiful emptiness filled us completely with memory and thought. At that very moment Amanda Emmo captured this experience in a simple photo of my son and I conversing with one another which later became the beautiful record cover of SO HAPPY, IT’S SAD.

Tell us a little more about the new release. How does it build upon your previous work? 

Our songs and sound have matured so much over the years. After writing and playing our new tunes live for a bit, we were able to really study what we needed to change and develop as a band. The first record was a introduction to what we wanted to sound like and gave ourselves enough room to grow. By the time we were ready to record SO HAPPY, IT’S SAD we were almost a totally different band. Band members had changing and we had a different outlook on what we wanted. Without straying too far from our haunted melancholy undertones, we were able to really look deeper into our songwriting capabilities. We had more confidence and knew exactly what we wanted our songs to do to the human mind and ear.

Jason_SATMC

Jason Elliot. Photo credit: Chad Hesss

What was it like working with Benjamin Price as producer? 

Ben is our guy! He got it right away. I have a hard time trying to explain my deepest thoughts, but Ben understood me through just talking with him and getting to know him as a person. All of us are Psycho-Naughts, and having him at the helm of our recording was a pleasure. We had our songs written and ready to track, but once we got in the studio we quickly found that Ben was a lot more than just some engineer that sets up mics and hits record. We all had the same mindset of wanting to make it a very spacious record, really capturing the overall theme of the record through depth and dynamics. Ben is a vital part in what we do now for sure.

Your Atlanta gig at 529 is on a Monday night, not always the best for bringing folks out. Why should they be sure to come out? 

Yes, Mondays are tough, But hey it’s FREE, We are leaving on tour the next night and two other great bands are playing, 100 Watt Horse and The Pauses. What the FUCK else are you going to do on a lame Monday night?

What other musicians/bands are exciting you now?

We are constantly listening to Do Make Say Think while driving to the next city. I’ve been listening to them for over 10 years and they never get old. The War on Drugs‘ new album is amazing and so is the latest Helms Alee record. We’re constantly trying to find new music. It’s hard to keep up. We try to listen to anything that is recommended to us while we are out. We love when someone comes up to one of us after we’ve played and ask if we have ever heard of a certain band, just to quickly tell us that we would really dig ’em because of what we sound like. Its a good way for us to get an idea of what people truly think when they hear our music.

What’s next for Spirits and the Melchizedek Children? 

Writing, recording, touring, REPEAT!  Our fall tour will be our last of 2014, so we’re focusing on a few projects to keep our momentum strong. Next year is already starting to map out very busy. We have a music video releasing very soon, and have been finalizing an original film score for a short by Raymond Jones called BE HERE NOW, which is a subjective take on the self-titled book by Ram Dass. We plan on releasing an EP as well.

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Kool Kat of the Week: Stalking Tender Prey: The Residents’ Molly Harvey, Jeffrey Butzer and Friends Treat You to a Free Nick Cave Tribute Show at 529 on Tues. Oct. 30

Posted on: Oct 26th, 2012 By:

Molly Harvey performs at Black Mass 2011 Halloween show at 529. Copyright Vincent Tseng 2012. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

When Jeffrey Butzer clues us in about a gig, we always perk up our ears. But when Tender Prey turns out to be a FREE Nick Cave tribute show the day before Halloween featuring such interesting denizens of the Atlanta/Athens music scene as Jeffrey, Molly Harvey of The Residents,Cave Women, Andy DeLoach (The Lady Vanishes) and Ben Trickey – and also songs by Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and PJ Harvey – well, you betcha we’re ready to head down to 529 on Tues. Oct. 30, declare it our Birthday Party and see what Bad Seeds may be planted or men be grinding.

Yup, we’re bat-crazy about Cave and have dug The Residents for longer than we can remember. There’s this pesky rumor that Residents rarely, if ever, give interviews, but Molly Harvey even was so awfully badass as to answer a few questions. So hell, yeah, we just had to make her the Kool Kat of Halloween Week. For your reading pleasure and because the show is on a Tuesday, it’s no trick. We’re going ahead and treating it to you early…

What’s your earliest memory of Nick Cave and was it disturbing?

I can actually remember where I was, in the living room of a $100/month house in Richmond, VA. My roommate was a big Birthday Party/Nick Cave fan, and he’d play them a lot. I actually did feel disturbed. Nick Cave’s music represented that [part] of the world which was still very unknown to me and seemed out of reach, like a language I never had any hope of learning.

Nick Cave has evolved chameleon-like through a number of musical iterations from the Birthday Party to solo work to Grinderman? Which Nick Cave will you be representing at Tender Prey and why?

We’ll be playing a variety of his music, not sticking with one album or era. We just tried to pick stuff that we like and that is a bit Halloween-y. Looks-wise I am fond of that Bad Seeds fancy bad man look. I’m encouraging suits and nice shoes. We’ll see.  Nick and the Residents certainly seem to share an obsessive interest in the odd, as well as pushing musical boundaries and making people uncomfortable.

Was Nick Cave an influence on you or the Residents or vice versa?

I would say he was probably not an influence on The Residents. I am always surprised by how many artists they DON’T listen to. But I could be wrong – they may be huge Nick Cave fans. I love his music, but I’m not an obsessive fan, and there is plenty of his material that I’ve never heard. So musically/stylistically, he’s not an influence but definitely is someone I admire. I love that no matter what he does, his stuff has a very definite signature, yet not all his stuff sounds exactly alike. That’s a delicate balance to achieve.

Can you tell us anything more about the Tender Prey show, how it came about, and why we shouldn’t miss it?

Well, you should come out because aside from our band, there are about 17 other acts (or two or three) doing great stuff: Leonard Cohen tunes, PJ Harvey, Tom Waits. It’s going to be high caliber songwriter night with a bunch of solid musicians. And did anyone mention it’s FREE? It’s free. So that’s always good. We did a Halloween show last year at 529 that was a lot of fun, so we thought-what the heck. Let’s do it again. And there will be puppets.  This is going to be a totally fun night, because everyone knows these songs we’re playing. All the bands that night are paying homage to artists we love, so right there it sets a really positive note up for the night. Jeffrey and I participated last year in a Halloween show at 529 that we called a Black Mass. It was silly and tongue-in-cheek, but I wasn’t interested in even parodying that energy this year. This is more celebratory.

You’ve been with the Residents, hang out with Jeffrey Butzer, and now you’re doing Nick Cave. Do you ever do anything musically that could be classified as remotely normal? Would you ever want to?

Normal like…doing commerical jingles? Or Christmas caroling? I would. No one asks me to, though. I actually auditioned for all these theaters here and didn’t get one call, so I think I should stick with weird. Normal people don’t usually really care about what I do.

The Residents, "Demons Dance Alone" concept album 2002. Photo courtesy of Henrik Kam.

How did you meet up with Jeffrey Butzer anyway and aren’t you collaborating with him on some stuff?

Jeffrey and I met through our mutual friend Matt Steadman, who is also playing guitar in the show. I guess Jeffrey was a Residents fan, and Matt and I worked together, and someone mentioned something and – voila! We are trying to collaborate on some stuff. We really want to make some original work together. It’s a matter of us being in the same place for enough time to develop something. But the wheels are turning for putting a little band together and doing original stuff. We’ll see.

This isn’t you, is it? http://www.mollyharvey.com/ Are there ever any uncomfortable mix-up moments and what would you say (or sing) if you were asked to lead a corporate soul woman leadership forum?

I actually have been told that there is a girl in [San Francisco] who pretends – or at least used to pretend – to be me. She apparently gets very drunk and blabbers on and on about her and The Residents. I hated hearing that. That’s the kind of thing that may have created misunderstandings that I don’t even know about. As far as the Corporate Soul Woman, I WISH I would get some of her clients. I’d tell them to listen to their hearts, but only for the month, that at the end of the month they’d have to come back and get checked out by me so I could give them more timeless wisdom.

What else are you up to right now, and when you will be playing live next?

I am momming it up. I have a young child and that takes up pretty much all my time. Creatively, I am a sewer. That came out wrong. I like to sew. I make things with fabric. I am also working on fleshing out a character who I hope will be singing with Jeffrey before too long.

The Residents at The Fillmore, Halloween, 1997. Photo courtesy of Henrik Kam.

Finally, since it’s Halloween and you have been known for some pretty insane stage costumes, are you willing to give a hint as to what costume you’ll be wearing? Any favorite place to shop for over-the-top clothing in Atlanta or Athens?

Funny, I have no intention of dressing up this year in any costume. Maybe that’ll change between now and next week, but if anything I sort of just feel like looking nice, like being onstage is a special occasion that I want to honor with a dress and matching socks and washed hair. Since dressing up for me has been the norm in my musical career, I want to explore and see what it’s like to create characters solely with my voice, face and body. But shoot, maybe I’ll find a great wig between now and then and that desire for realness will be over! Shopping-wise I have found some great, funny things at Rainbow, but thrift stores are always my favorite places to find that unintentionally over-the-top outfit.

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