A Conversation With Matt of The Space-Mind Continuum
Matt Crook, the mastermind behind The Space-Mind Continuum, speaks with Brett Stewart about the 60's, 70's, and taking on the persona of a DJ up to his eyeballs in chemical refreshment.
Taking a look at your playlists, it's clear that you have a firm grasp of the late 60's and early 70's, especially since your curated selections more often than not involve deeper cuts rather than well-known hits. How did you become so attuned to this era of music?
Well, I discovered my parent’s record collection at an early age and flirted with artists such as The Beatles, CCR, CSNY, and Bob Dylan. I distinctly remember in 1985 when David Crosby got busted and remembering that my parents had ‘Deja Vu’ squirreled away and listened to that record for days on end. From there, a natural curiosity developed for that strain of music. I was never satisfied with mainstream music and its dubious appeal to the masses. Call me a contrarian if you will. It's not that I don't enjoy other genres of music; it's just that this period of music captures an incredible time capsule of social, societal and emotional gravitas. Also, I simply dig the freedom and experimentation of this era.
When most people think of the era you're covering in your playlists, different acts tend to emerge as the most prominent. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Who, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, the Beach Boys, and so forth. Your playlists don't necessarily feature these artists, though. Instead of opting for a well-tested 'Harvest' track, you elected to include 'The Emperor of Wyoming' in a playlist, a much less known instrumental track of Neil Young's off his debut record that many overlook. Is the obscurity in the playlists intentional? Is that a factor in your curating process?
I try to lure the casual listener in to my headspace by playing artists that I know they recognize but also introduce them to something new. That's why I chose "The Emperor of Wyoming" rather than a more well known track by Mr. Young. I'm catering to these people and also people who live for new music and love to be turned on to lesser known artists. So, yes, obscurity does play a factor in my playlists, because of the aforementioned factors, and the fact that it has to turn me on as well. If i don't believe in the music, then I have no right to pass it along to others. If I may digress, it is the shitty programming on so-called "classic rock" stations that rendered the groups you mentioned as one dimensional and, in effect, has neutered them due to oversaturation of a small component of their tremendous catalogs respectively. Rant over.
The time period your playlists occupy is one of the most poignant in popular music's history. The British Invasion, folk and folk rock, progressive rock, glam rock, and the pinnacle of the singer songwriter genre all unfolded over the course of less than ten years. (Along with many other genres as well.) How do you balance such a colossal scale of music when picking songs for a ten track playlist? Is there anything you're more particular to or anything you tend to stray away from?
It is precisely this incredible variation in genres that makes my show a joy to program. It allows me to greatly vary the listeners' experience. Essentially, there is nothing off limits, though progressive rock can be a bit tedious to my ears, so I don't often indulge in prog rock.
There's a very interesting dichotomy between many of the artists in the era you're featuring and their musical trajectory long after that time. Do you ever utilize your playlists and song picks to give context to an artist's future music? It would make sense that someone so invested in an era of music would want to use that knowledge to lend reasoning to an artist's later works. Many of these artists went through stark changes in the years after the period in which you're covering.
It's funny you ask that, because during this past week's show I ranted about Neil Young's latest album, "The Monsanto Years." I grew up on Neil, and, in fact, he helped me get through puberty. Without “Rust Never Sleeps” I wouldn't be the post-pubescent humanoid I am today. At any rate, I expounded on the weakness of his music of the last decade or so while noting that I undoubtedly think his heart is in the right place. This didn't sit well with a listener who took me to task. I basically told this disgruntled soul that it's simply a radio show, and my radio show, to be more specific.
Everybody's music taste evolves as they get older and throughout their lives. For devoted music fans, however, that pursuit of new music is amplified significantly. How has your taste changed over the years? Did you grow up in a home that presented you with all sorts of music, or was that something you explored more independently?
As I stated before, the discovery of my parent's record collection got me started on this past, but during high school I rebelled against precisely this genre of music. I turned my back on so-called "classic rock" and began to discover the likes of Husker Du, the Replacements, Mudhoney, Dinosaur Jr. and others of that ilk. I basically subscribe to what Duke Ellington once said, which is there are only two types of music... good and bad.
Your show is essentially transcribed into a playlist for kind.fm listeners to access. It typically airs on WZBC radio at Boston College. What do you include in your show on your end that isn't translated to a simple playlist? As the host, what do you try to bring to the table on the normal broadcast?
I include the human element. If I'm feeling happy I'll let everyone know it, and I'll also let everyone know if I've had it with the human race; however, I do this in a humorous way, as I take on the persona of a DJ up to his eyeballs in chemical refreshment. In addition, I tend to pepper my show with vintage radio commercials and soundbites from the era that do not get catalogued in my playlists.
Has the local Boston scene has an influence on your musical preferences? Is it a city that lends itself to creatives and more specifically, music related endeavors? What about your experience at Boston College?
I think the people rather than the bands themselves have had a profound influence on what I listen to. In addition to fellow DJ's on WZBC, there are many DJ's at WMBR, the station at MIT, who truly love music and love to turn people on to new and long forgotten sounds. My experience at Boston College has been an interesting one. I'm always hopeful for the future when a student has the love of music and truly knows their musical history. I've made many great connections with this younger generation over the years.
What I find compelling about your show is that it's on a college radio station. Typically, these kind of playlists wouldn't find themselves on college radio. What is the response from your show like locally? Do the students enjoy the new musical avenues you're trying to pave on the show? I must say, I was intrigued and impressed by some of your song choices. Bob Dylan's 'Wigwam' ? I'm fairly certain that song has never received any radio play... period.
My response locally is interesting. Since I first started doing this, I've had one caller tell me about the Owsley Sunshine LSD they took at the Fillmore East in 1968 whilst enjoying Moby Grape as well as other such hallucinatory anecdotes. You can't make this shit up. I get more of an interest from this crowd than I do students. Boston College students on the whole don't seem to be interested in the station at their school. WZBC is somewhat of a bastion of freakdom in an otherwise conservative environment.
Can you elaborate on your pursuits in radio? Is this a fun hobby to fill time with, or a potential career path? If so, are there any specific DJ's or stations that you've looked up to or drawn inspiration from?
I just love to turn people on to sounds that are new to them. Music is the best, man. Right now, it's a fun hobby, but if something more comes of it then that'd be great, so long as I wouldn't lose any creative control. Once you inject business into art, it generally becomes lifeless and then dies. As far as other DJ's go, I really dig John Funke, Mark Francis and Brother Wayne at WMBR and Pip, Rav, and James at WZBC. All these DJ's love music, and it shows.
Explore Matt's show, The Space-Mind Continuum, by streaming playlists instantly on kind.fm
You can also hear the show live by tuning to WZBC on Wednesdays at 6PM EST.