Night Vibe: Taking Over the Airwaves… (NEH Magazine)

To follow is the cover story I wrote for the June “The Arts Issue” of NEH Magazine on the Night Vibe radio program featuring Elliott Ashby and Pinnacle TheHustler on TBSeFM.

I’ll be a guest on Night Vibe Monday night, July 18th. You can tune in using your computer or smart phone at http://tunein.com/radio/TBS-eFM-1013-s113003/, or the old fashioned way on 101.3 on the radio dial. They also just set up a live video stream, you can watch it at http://www.ustream.tv/channel/night-vibe-w-lp

The show starts at 10pm, I’ll be on shortly after.
———————-

This is how I recently spent a Thursday night in the studio of TBSeFM 101.3:

“But before we do this, I got to talk about the song we’re playing right after it, and my being upset with Korean words with letters that they can’t say. Why are you naming your group FX?”, Pinnacle asks. Show guest Papa Red serves up the retort, “What do they call it?”, Pinnacle immediately follows with an emphatic, “EPPE EXXUH, you know what I’m saying? I’m just saying.”

This leads to a discussion of why American newscasters insist on saying foreign names and words with bad accents, followed controversially once again by Pinnacle who says, “Because Americans are stupid. Uh, these are not the expressed views of Pinnacle TheHustler even though they were said by me.” “Wait a second”, Elliott chimes in, “You’re supposed to say these are not the expressed views of TBSeFM 101.3.” “I don’t care. Koreans make words that they can’t say and Americans are stupid. What. Black people like chicken” says Pinnacle with confidence, who is cut off by Elliott with “Let’s go ahead and play Supreme Team featuring Gecko of Dynamic Duo”.

This whole episode concludes calmly with Pinnacle’s outro, ”And then next up is Pinocchio by EPPE EXXUH. We will be back after the break.” Calm that is, until they are off the air and the studio erupts with cries of, “Oh my God,” and “I can’t wait to take your job next week”. Putting a halt to the laughter is the show producer, interrupting through the intercom with, “Jason, can you please come see me?” As soon as he exits, the elation continues.

Everyone in the room knows Jason Waller a.k.a. Pinnacle TheHustler, is going nowhere, and neither is the radio show he co-hosts with Elliott Ashby. You can hear Night Vibe with Pinnacle and Elliott for yourself 10pm to midnight seven days a week on TBSeFM, 101.3 on the radio dial. A lot of their listeners tune in online with their computers or smart phones. That night, I got to sit in the booth and witness the entertaining high jinks first hand.

According to Elliott, Night Vibe isn’t your average Korean FM radio program, or your average program anywhere for that matter. “It’s a program like no other. It’s importing culture into Korea. I feel like our show has a different feel and a different energy for Korea.” He explains, “We try to take from all of our experiences, and put out a product that’s really geared towards the people that we know are listening. So it’s catered to an audience, but it definitely has its own voice at the same time.”

To the chagrin of friend and bandmate Bekah– who was also on hand to take in the night’s radio show and sat in during our interview– Jason decides to use the analogy, “Night Vibe is salad.” Against her wishes, I’m going to continue with the comparison because I enjoy obscure observations. “What we do is take something from everything. We have tomatoes, we have lettuce, we have cheese. But here’s the thing that makes it so special.” He continues, “It’s not a gumbo. It’s salad. Because everything stays what it is. Right? If we have R&B night, we talk about R&B. Hip Hop night, we talk about hip hop. And it’s not B.S. that some would consider hip hop, it’s real hip hop. When we play club music, it’s club music. When we say we’re going to do something, that’s exactly what it is.”

To sum up the connection, “Just like in a salad, a tomato is still a tomato. As opposed to if it’s a gumbo, a tomato might be something over here and it might be something over here, but it’s all molded together. It’s not like that. We bring in a bunch of different things. We bring in the Korean industry, things from Europe, Australia, the States, Canada, South America. We bring it together on one show, but it’s still what it was to begin with. We’re not trying to mold this into something that it’s not.”

Beyond radio, Jason is widely recognized as a performer, musician and emcee. Elliott is more of a media personality who dabbles in music. Individually, they took their own paths into broadcasting, eventually leading to the team effort currently co-hosting Night Vibe.

Elliott attended the highly regarded Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University. He did a little radio back in America, as well as some voice acting, which he continued after moving to Korea.

He has been involved in a lot of production projects. Remember the viral music video for ”Soju Boy”? It was Elliott behind that, and the production set of the video served as the place these two would shake hands for the first time. Elliott then filmed a couple shows for Pinnacle TheHustler, before he started his band widely known around Korea as Pinnacle and The Antidote. From that point on, they have always kept each other in mind when networking for broadcasting opportunities.

For Jason, the entry into radio started in Korea. The Drive Time program was having a talent competition and asked him on to the show. During the three-show series of performances and interviews, the producer took a liking to how he sounded on radio and a few weeks later he was offered a job.

He started working as a guest on the Steve Hatherly Show in the afternoon. When it came time for him to take a vacation, the producer asked Jason if knew of anyone good to fill his spot in his absence. Elliott stepped in temporarily and killed it. So when this same producer started up a new morning show, Elliott was given an opportunity to contribute.

Elliott spent six months doing street interviews on the Kick Start program while Jason was a guest on the Steve Hatherly Show. Independently, they both found out about an opening on a weekend show and individually campaigned to get on board. The catch: There was only room for one host in the budget. Rather than compete with each other, they accepted the budget cut and decided to work together. “It wasn’t about the money”, Jason says, “It was about the experience and the potential for progress and growth.”

And that is exactly what happened. After nearly four months on the The Weekend Chart program, they got a call saying they were being taken off the weekend show. They were now being offered the coveted 10pm to midnight time slot, seven days a week.

Together on Night Vibe, they bring their listeners a fresh show that is as spontaneous as it is structured. Each night of the week has a theme, so listeners have an idea of what to expect. However, what takes place within that theme even they sometimes don’t know until it happens. They might bring out one of their numerous voice characters or recurring motifs. Sketches and skits– they got those too.

It’s not typical radio in the sense of repeating the same set list of hits. According to Elliott, “That would suck to have to play the same tracks every single day.” As a result, the musical programming is unique because their producer has given them the freedom to steer away from the repetitive Top 40 charts.

A great deal of research goes in to each and every show. Autonomy with regards to musical programming results in a lot of necessary analysis and exploration. They make it a point to bring breaking news, the latest trends, the hottest new songs as well as not-so-new songs that are relevant to the theme of the segment. Jason says this allows them to be fresh and spontaneous, while sticking to the structure of the theme of the day or segment.

Improvisation can be a positive attribute for a radio show, but deviating from regular protocol opens the door to stumbling. You have to take risks to be successful, and the most successful are those who learn from mistakes, or can adapt on the fly. Live edits are no stranger to Night Vibe. It’s the nature of live broadcasting, especially radio of this variety. In fact, while I was in studio there was a mad scramble to rectify a potential negative situation as the show producer popped in with, “Did I just hear the N word?”, over the intercom while one of DJ Quick’s new tracks was being played for the first time.

Usually while the guys are not on the air, the booth is a jovial place emitting good vibes in a loose atmosphere. However, as this happened, the studio got silent and lyrics were double-checked as they prepared for the possibility of going live earlier than anticipated. I’ve known these two for a quite a while, both are friendly guys that can give the appearance of having the best of times in a social setting. In this instance, it was strictly business– it’s obvious they take their job seriously.

Let’s attempt to break down the programming themes and guest segments like this:

Monday is Funk and Soul, as well as the Revolving Guest Door where they have the opportunity to bring just about anybody in to the studio.

Tuesday is R&B as well as Get Out the House with Eugene. Eugene brings useful, instructional information about things that not only you need to do, but want to do. He will show you how to make the most of your time in Korea by getting out of the house and doing things.

Wednesday is Popular Music as well as Kicking It with Mimi, who gives you a wide spread of all the events going on. Mimi knows where the party is at, how much is costs, the dress code, VIP instructions and special promotion information.

Thursday is Fresh Produce, brining you all new music as well as What’s Poppin’ with Poppa Red. Poppa Red brings a weekly challenge, an under the radar pick of new music that the listeners need to know about, as well as a lyric breakdown where he shares what he likes and doesn’t like about the particular song.

Friday is Club Music as well as something that is unique to radio in Korea. They bring in DJ Tom Slick to spin, cut and mix live on the turntables.

Saturday is all Hip Hop as well as The Underground with Soo Min. She’s Korean, from Canada, and connects the listeners to the best of underground hip hop, frequently bringing live guests on to the program.

Sunday is a list battle called “Top 5 Live.” Elliott and Jason take a topic inspired by a current news story and create their individual Top 5 songs related to that particular theme. Communicating with fans via social networking discussions plays a big role in selecting their personal lists, and feedback from listeners during the show determines the winner because according to Elliott, “Neither of us would openly admit defeat otherwise.”

Their goal with Night Vibe is simple: To get the people that don’t regularly listen to radio in Korea, to listen to radio in Korea. They also aim to create a positive community of radio listeners and participants in Korea and beyond that thrive on interacting with each other.

To close this out, let’s reiterate a few key points and further dispel the mystery surrounding radio in Korea:

You used to listen to radio at home, but don’t know where to find quality programming in Korea? Listen to Night Vibe. Don’t have an FM radio at home? They are on the internet, you can even use a smart phone. No, the program is not in Korean. They are Americans that speak English. No, they don’t play Top 40. The programming is carefully selected to match the theme of the day and they are always on the cutting edge of bringing you what is new, fresh and relevant.

Tune into Night Vibe with Pinnacle and Elliott.

http://tbsefm.seoul.kr/efm/NightVibe/

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~ by ripcitytoseoul on July 17, 2011.

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