Dancing with the bones of the Elephant Man!

No, there's no clever pun in my use of this album cover as the header. I just really like this cover.

Oh hi guys, I didn’t see you there.

Maybe you remember me.  In case you don’t, let me refresh your memory.  My name is John.  You can call me “Freakman John.”  I do a little show on Boston University’s radio station called “Freakshow!”  It’s a garage, punk and psychedelic rock show.  It’s pretty cool if I say so myself.

Did you know I’ve been back on the air for about three weeks now?  No?  Well I have.  And boy did WTBU fuck me over this time by putting me on at 8 in the morning which was cutting my show short.  It’s not been very good, honestly.  In fact, I don’t blame you for not knowing that this happened.  I did a pretty good job of not telling people I was back while spiting WTBU and trolling them on air and playing curse-laden Ice Cube songs for a half-hour straight.  I am proud of myself for that.

This blog entry totally has a point; just bear with me here, folks.

Now that we’ve gotten that all out of the way, I have a few announcements to make.  First of all, starting Monday, February 7, we are rebooting Freakshow! To put it another way, we have changed time slots and we are calling a do-over on this season and doing right by it.  Freakshow! now airs every Monday morning from 8 – 10 AM on WTBU, and you should listen to it live because it’s awesome.  But if you suck and can’t do that, we have you covered: every episode is going to be recorded and uploaded to the Freakshow! blog. I think I’ve figured out how to get around WTBU’s usual tactic of not having their shit work, so this shouldn’t be a problem anymore as it has been in the past (and by the past I mean two weeks ago, where my first show is stuck in one of the station computers.  Seriously!)

But the most important announcement of all is that the Freakshow! blog is moving to an actual for-realsies domain.  Sometime next week, you will now find us at http://freakshow-radio.com, where we will have the same goofy content as well as some other fun stuff I have planned.

Lastly, like the good abandoning father to you all that I am, I’m showing up after my long period of absence with gifts.  At the bottom of this post you will find every single Freakshow! episode I have recorded and saved on my computer. Bear in mind, some of them are going to be rough as I haven’t done clean-up on them (including the most recent episode, which I am literally just burning over from the CD and putting up here).  Also, I have some more episodes floating around somewhere that I will be sure to upload once I get the chance, so keep checking during this weekend for more fun!

This season’s been a bit rough-going so far, but it’s going to get better and it’s going to be awesome.  Mark my words and keep tuned in, because we love you more than you could ever know.

-“Freakman” John Maxwell

Freakshow! – 1/14/10
Freakshow! – 4/1/10: Pax Freakout – A Retrospective
Freakshow! – 4/15/10
Freakshow! – 4/22/10: Can Music Save the World? An Audio Essay

Freakshow! – 2/3/11

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God I love the Blue Van

With any luck, this entry won't leave you blue...

Before you say it: yes, I know.  I have been neglecting the blog.  I have done a bunch of episodes that I keep saying I will upload, but I haven’t in spite of the fact that I’ve even finished editing a couple of these episodes.  Yes, I still intend on uploading them when I get the chance, and yes, I intend to do better next season (if there is a next season, but we’ll get to that), just like I did better with the blog this season.  Until then, however, here is an entry in which I am going to vent and give you a bit more “inside baseball” into this show and how much it means to me.

I was going to save this for my last Freakshow!, the epic Season 3 finale, but unfortunately it just isn’t going to happen.  I just don’t have the time or the energy to put together one last show, and considering this show is my lifeblood, you KNOW I must be in dire straights for this to happen.  But I’ve been thinking a lot about what the future holds for the show.  And the simple answer is: I don’t know.  To say the least, though I will still be getting a BU diploma, I’m not sure if I will be finishing my academic career on BU grounds.  Honestly, I can deal with that, and I would probably be happier at a community college or whatever.  But that would mean no Freakshow!… and that scenario petrifies me more than almost anything I have ever dealt with in my life.

Some of you may remember the way I ended Season Two (and as an aside: I fully intend on uploading that and some of the other Season Two episodes I have lying around at a later date).  For those who don’t remember, or blocked it out as I have tried to, I, on the verge of tears, asked my audience of what I supposed to be no one: “why do I even bother?  Why do I care so much about this show when I’m the only one who does?”  And the reason I came up with is because I am Freakshow! This show only works because I put every single piece of who I am into it.  Every single song I’m into, emotion I’m feeling, terrible thing that has happened to me, news story that bothers me, nerdy interest I have that most people would not like to indulge or statement I feel needs to be said; they all go into Freakshow! and become these sets that I spend so much of my time carefully crafting.  That, truly, is where the “harmonious dissonance” comes from, and how I feel I’m able to do this show the way I do.  It would be one thing if I knew my time was up, that I had no other choice than to move on and start thinking of what comes next.  But I don’t.  I don’t know if my time on WTBU is done or if I’ll even be allowed back on the air if I’m back here in the fall.  And this fact frightens me beyond belief.

So Peisin, or Sarah, or anyone else on the E-board: if you’re reading this, yeah I know my application was a bit late, but I’d really love my show again if you can find it in your heart of hearts to forgive me for forgetting that it was due Wednesday and not today.  Just saying.  But I digress.

Whatever the future holds, though, I know one thing for certain: Freakshow! will be back.  I don’t know where and I don’t know when, but this show cannot and will not die.  Even if I have to pay to create my own internet radio station that only two people can listen to at a time, I will make sure Freakshow! has a home somewhere.  You know why?  Because this show is everything to me, and I couldn’t let it go silently into the night even if I tried.  So will we be back in the fall?  I can’t say.  But keep checking this blog during the coming summer months, because I have some content very much in tune with the show planned aside from uploading these missing episodes (a site relaunch may even be in the cards… but more on that later).  But until then, let me just say this: it’s been both my pleasure and my honor to do this show for three amazing semesters, and my only hope is that it never has to end.  And if I’m lucky, I can stave off that horrifying possibility for another four beautiful months.

Much love.

-“Freakman” John Gawarecki-Maxwell

A Special Thanks

September 16, 2009

The strange thing about doing a one-man show at WTBU is how isolating the experience usually is.  Yes, I know this sounds like something that should be painfully obvious, but hear me out for a second here!  You’d think that a college radio station would be bustling with all kinds of crazy characters: the music junkie looking for a fix; the starry-eyed intern that is so stoked to be on the air that he’s selectively forgotten that he’s had to sacrifice three hours of extra sleep only to be told to play a couple rotation songs by his DJs; the e-board member who may or may not have office hours and just wants to relax in the station, pridefully monitoring their fief like a hawk.  Alas, nine times out of ten, I’m the only one in the station when I show up just before ten, the only one in the station when I’m wandering around at various points throughout the show to stave off the dementia of solitude, and the only other person in the station when I’m turning the reigns over to Overpowered by Funk at noon.

It made sense last semester; after all, only an idiot or an unlucky bastard would be stupid enough to be up at six in the morning blasting music and causing a ruckus, even if said music is “the best in garage and punk!™”  Since I unsurprisingly fit both those categories to a T, that shift was the perfect fit for me; but I digress.  The point is, there’s something kind of renegade about being in the station all by your lonesome so early in the morning.  It’s an altogether different story when it’s the past the point of the day beginning for the majority of people.  Then it’s just kind of eerie.

Well, much to my surprise, there was someone else in the station during my show last week.  And that man was Josh Friedman.  Perhaps you’ve heard of him – he’s one of the heads of Underwriting (read: advertising) at the station, and is the DJ of Taken Out of Context, which is on Thursdays from 8-10 PM on WTBU, and you should really listen to it because it’s awesome.  Well, it turns out that Josh really liked the show.  So much so, in fact, that he gave me this obscenely nice shout-out and plug at the end of last week’s TOoC:

The nicest fucking shout-out ever.

To say that this was generous of him would be a painful understatement, as would be saying that I was elated to hear this.  Taken Out of Context is a fantastic show and Josh is a fantastically talented DJ.  Just listen to his show and then to mine and I think it’s pretty clear that this guy is a DJ whereas I’m just a music snob with an eclectic taste who likes making setlists and occasionally talking into a microphone when the mood moves me.  I would absolutely love to take him up on that offer to work together sometime, and maybe something will come out of that someday.  But for now, all I can really do is thank him from the bottom of my heart.  As much as I try and get people to listen to this damned show – if only to validate how much of my free time I put into making it – I’d never say that I do this show for any kind of recognition or fame.  I love music, I love sharing my music with people, and I have fun creating these sets.  That’s all Freakshow! has ever been and all it ever will be.  But even though I might never attempt to pursue this show as a career, it doesn’t make these sips from the nectar fountain of peer recognition any less sweet.

Doing Freakshow! full time for four months has been quite a eye-opening experience.  That’s not to say the show went poorly.  Quite the contrary, actually; I think that I really knocked it out of the park plenty of times, which is especially great for a show that came out of nowhere and was brought up into the majors at the zero hour.  That said, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I can improve Freakshow! for its (hopeful) return in September, and I thought why not share it with you guys, the loyal fans who probably don’t even know this site exists follow every aspect of the show closely and whose feedback would be invaluable.

The mantra I’ve always held to since I started toying with the concept of a radio show two years ago is that the show is going to be all about the music.  A lot of shows primarily focus on having a strong, charismatic DJ that commands the airwaves and spends most of his time endlessly ranting between sets about incessantly boring or asinine topics; the show’s voice is that of the DJ instead of the type of music, and as such most of the music becomes completely interchangeable with every other show.  Perhaps in part due to my apathy for having to use too much brainpower at six or seven in the morning after sleeping for something like four hous, I wanted to break away from this cult of personality that surrounds the man on the microphone and bring it back to what matters – what people are listening for.  And so Freakshow! became about assembling the best, most interesting and varied sets of stuff I like interspersed with a couple minutes of talking about the last songs and whatever else comes to mind before immediately retreating back into music haven.  And I think it went incredibly well; I put out some absolutely awesome sets, and you shouldn’t be surprised to see some of those sets reused or reconfigured for future shows.  Yet, I think I went too far.  The setlists became longer and longer, until I had sets that took up half the show, and the required time I would need to talk would prevent me from even finishing the show without going over the two-hour time limit.  Planning the epic three-hour season finale was a sobering experience, as I crunched the numbers of my planned sets to find that not a single one clocked in at under an hour before I tried trimming as much fat as I felt I could; it was one of those moments where I felt like Dr. Frankenstein, throwing my hands into the air and crying “what has science wrought?” from the horror of my creation. And then, when I went on the air and everything seemed fine, I found that I kept getting the same complaint: the music was great, sure, but people didn’t understand why I wasn’t talking.  Maybe it was just that they got to me, or maybe I was enlightened or something, but even I started to get bored halfway into sets and started taking way more talking breaks just to stop the steady, neverending flow of music.

So that brings us here: what comes next for Freakshow!?  How do I take the lessons I’ve learned from this inaugural season and put them to improving my show in the fall?  Here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • Pre-determined set lengths.  The show will aim to have 100 minutes of music, broken up into either four twenty-five minute sets or five twenty minute sets.  The remaining twenty minutes will be used for show openers and closers and talking time to be used as I deem fit.
  • Not so surprisingly, I want to talk more.  By forcing myself to talk on-air, even when I don’t want to, I’ll improve my radio persona and ability to command the mic with confidence and skill, and I’ll be able to get the confidence to try new things for the show, like skits or other random crap.  As for topics, I don’t think I need to have pre-determined sections (much as I enjoyed “The Drop” and the running gag of Kidz Bop 16, there just simply isn’t enough albums or concerts coming out per week to have a section discussing cool new releases), but I should definitely find interesting things to discuss and have at least some idea of what I’m talking about.
  • Reach out.  Obviously this includes advertisers, as WTBU would very much like it if I brought them some money, but I also want to reach out to bands I like and other talent that I think people should know about and bring them on the show.  Outside of feeling like a creepy stalker, I have no problem hanging out after concerts and talking to Electric Six and the Giraffes – why not ask them to step up to the mic for a one-on-one recording session?
  • And finally, and perhaps most importantly: I need to stop neglecting this site.  The age of John neglecting his blogs ends now!!

Thoughts?