Every Friday morning, I go to my special place when I tune in to KXLU-FM 9am-12pm for the International Voice of Reason radio show. The mysterious, silky-voiced host—let’s call him IVOR for short—is one of the best freeform radio DJs of all time in my book. Noise, space age bachelor pad, international obscurities, uncategorizable sounds from beyond… I am never less than surprised by his track choice—and I’ve heard and own a freaking ton of music.
But these days, with KXLU on indefinite lockdown and IVOR’s radio show on re-run mode (though still a must-listen), I’ve been a little despondent.
Imagine my delight when the International Voice Of Reason launched IVORtv this past weekend!
IVORtv is one of the best uses of YouTube playlists I’ve ever seen, and one of the singularly most creative and hopeful things to come out of this grim crisis. (There are others—keep reading this site in the coming weeks.)
But for now relax, sit back, open your eyes and ears and enjoy IVORtv. What the heck else are you gonna do?
By the way this is the very first interview with the International Voice Of Reason. After 20 years on the air I think he’s overdue for a sit down:
What’s your name, what do you do, and how are you doing?
I’m the International Voice Of Reason. I’ve had a weekly rock variety radio show for almost twenty years on KXLU. For a day job, I edit videos & make animations for pop stars and music festivals…so you know, business is booming.
While everyone seems to be on day six of this isolation, I’m on day sixteen. I got a good head start and I’m definitely getting squirrelly. Me and two tuxedo cats, hunkered in downtown L.A. Not sleeping well, no appetite, just living in a constant state of anxiety and panic. Seems like I’m in good company though.
How would you describe the International Voice Of Reason aesthetic?
I’ve gone through so many phases and rabbit holes over the years that at this point it feels like I’m picking the greatest hits from most conceivable genres and corners of the world. There’s an infinite amount of music and most of it is bad, but that still leaves huge piles of overlooked and underappreciated smash hits everywhere. So much left to sift through.
In true college radio fashion, you shouldn’t really know what you’re going to hear next but you trust that it’ll be interesting.
Which is also why I love radio and I don’t deejay in public. Live settings you have to read the room and be in the background for passive listening. But radio is a one-to-one relationship between you and a person in a car or someone walking around with headphones. It’s a real delight and a privilege to connect with people that way.
Tell me about your “year of living uncomfortably”?
Great, yes. Let’s get into it.
For the past fourteen years I’ve lived with fluctuating degrees of back pain, ranging from aggressively sore to “Oh, I can’t walk anymore.” This past summer was really rough and my doctor sent me to a physical therapist who basically changed my life forever. Within two weeks my pain was almost gone and now I’m 100% pain-free for the first time since 2006. It’s truly, supremely surreal.
This really changed everything. I’m in a great mood pretty much all the time (present days excluded), I’m going out more, reconnecting with old friends. Starting to make things again. It’s really wonderful and I’m so grateful.
So my theme for this year is to just say yes to all the things that I’d normally shy away from. Go out to that show, hit send on that text you’ve been rewriting, stop futzing with that project and just let it be a little sloppy. Get it out there. Put your dumb, drunk face on YouTube because you miss being around your friends and maybe you can make them laugh (with you?) in these supremely dark times.
Be uncomfortable. It’ll be okay.
What possessed you to create in this format? I’ve never seen another show (organized like a playlist) before…but maybe I’m just naive?
Earlier this week, KXLU went on lockdown so I was considering recording some shows and putting them on Mixcloud, but that doesn’t feel right. Live radio is magical and I find it near impossible to get that feeling when it’s pre-recorded.
I was a big fan of this website Network Awesome, created by the great Jason Forrest (DJ Donna Summer) that would do curated youtube playlists and they’d insert little station IDs between every other video and do big blog posts about the selections. It was an incredible resource for sifting through the vastness of youtube and pulling out real gems. Curated rabbit holes.
So I figured let’s just steal that and smash it with a drunken version of MTV’s Total Request Live or something.
What’s your criteria for selecting clips?
Right now, I’m trying to find my classic favorites, things I’ve played a million times on the air. The fact that I’ve never seen so many of these videos is hilarious to me. I’m having the best time seeing some of these songs come to life.
When I woke up today, instead of starting the day with a horrifying Twitter scroll session, my eyes popped open and I started searching youtube for Veronica Lipgloss and the Evil Eyes. Go down that rabbit hole, popped out on the other end of a huge Yoko Ono dive. Way better way to wake up. If I haven’t mentioned, I’m having a great time.
Please define what is a “smash hit” in IVOR land…
So many smash hits! A smash hit is undeniable. It’s always fun to play. It feels like you’re cheating because it’s too easy. A real softball, even if it’s super obscure. You can play it to a random person on the street and they might think you’re a weirdo but once they really soak it in, they can feel the spirit of that song. A smash hit can come in many forms, sometimes it’s just a great hook, sometimes it’s a scream that comes four minutes into a song and it’s so incredible that your eyes bug out. God, I love a good scream.
Not sure how to shoehorn this idea into the world, but if anyone knows about a new wave record that has yodeling…that’s my white whale. I don’t think it exists. In my head that’s the best record: super thick synthesizers, loud drums, unhinged female yodels. I would die.
Are you enjoying playing songs with swear words that you can’t play on your radio show?
I love good swears! It’s so disappointing when you love a song but it has too many swears in it to play on the radio. I’ve started bleeping things if it’s just one or two, but only if I really, really love it (aka, smash hit).
I’ve always loved trainwrecking a set with a Longmont Potion Castle prank call. It’s a wonderful way to change moods, so I envision that continuing. I definitely want to keep it an experimental music show, but if something dumb can bridge a gap – what a delight. As long as it always feels like a party.
How long and how many episodes have you done of your radio show?
It’ll be twenty years in September. That’s just so wild. That’s like 1000 episodes?
One could probably argue that’s too many and I wouldn’t disagree, but also I’d like to keep doing it until I die. It’s never not fun.
I sometimes sit Shazaming your whole show. So, I wanted to ask: where do you get your music from? What is your archive like and how much time do you spend on it daily or weekly?
You know I do a live International Voice Of Reason playlist that you can just look at. It’s timestamped and shit.
That said, I have also Shazammed things while they’re playing. I have a great deal of “unknown artist” favorites that I’m always hoping I’ll get answers for one day.
I have so many piles of music. I’ve been all digital since maybe 2005? I like to ask friends who are smarter than me if they’ll give me their entire digital collections, uncurated. Just let me sift through it on my own.
I’m constantly going down rabbit holes on Soulseek. Soulseek is incredible. It’s like if Napster never died but now everyone has everything. I have a love/hate (mostly hate) relationship with Spotify. My brain is built for sifting, not searching. I love a huge pile of shit I’ve never heard of before. I can find things that feel like my show anywhere.
I own very few tangible pieces of music. That feels weird to say now that I see it typed out. Classic heavy sigh.
How did you get Captain Ahab‘s “Snakes on the Brain” in hi res—after all this time?
That’s been the real bummer in searching for things I love from the early/mid 2000s. So many great things in such poor resolution. I was so happy when Jonathan responded to my request for a clean copy of that video. It’s just too silly not to celebrate in high def.
Who are your biggest inspirations in life right now?
The Bon Appétit test kitchen channel. (My top five faves, in order, are: Claire, Carla, Andy, Brad, Sohla.)
I really do love them, been watching them for years. They figured out how to do it perfectly. It’s the best show on tv.
I moved into a new apartment recently and have this crazy kitchen, so I’ve been planning on starting my own youtube cooking show. It’s a sincere and wholesome mid-life crisis. Except I’m doing great. Relatively.
What’s your dream for the post-COVID world? Will we ever be silly again?
Doing this dumb TV show is born purely out of desperation for friendship and comradery, communal joy, sharing good things. It’s only been a day, but people keep sending me photos of me screaming on their living room TV set. It’s so silly, but a version of me is partying all over the place today, having a great time with my friends, strangers and probably a handful of very confused co-workers.
This is such a terrifying time that we’re all enduring. Thinking about being in a big group of people, at a big show or a packed restaurant seems CRAZY to even think about right now.
I’m not going to wait for some magical day where it’s all okay to be silly with my friends. I’ll take any and all avenues for getting weird I can get. Now.