Your Music Show: Completely DIY

by James Duval

Justin Wilson and Donald (“DJ”) Blake are rarely serious. Throughout my 40-minute interview with them, a few self-deprecating words recur between the two to describe what they’ve been doing the past five years: “stupid”, “dumb”, and “terrible”. Before I even ask the first question, Justin asks, “Can I reiterate that, please? We’re pretty terrible.” At one point, DJ explains the origin of their project as such: “We played in some bands and nobody cared. And then we played in some more and nobody cared. And then [Justin] suggested we do something to make people care about local music. And I said, ’Well, that’s stupid!’ And then we started doing it anyway!”

 

So what exactly deserves such high praise from its creators? That would be Your Music Show, a live, completely-DIY podcast devoted to local music that broadcasts out of DJ’s home. Over the course of five years, they’ve brought over 100 local acts of all genres to play live sets in DJ’s kitchen, booked free all-ages shows on both the Southside and Peninsula for a series known as “Let’s Make A Scene” in an attempt to do just that, and more recently, started a separate one-hour program for WHRO’s alternative music webstream, AltRadio.org. Despite any claims they make, when it comes to supporting local music they are anything but stupid and 100 percent serious.

 

Justin and DJ have known each other long before Your Music Show, or “YMS” as it’s now more commonly known. They initially bonded in high school over a love for soccer (or a lack thereof in DJ’s case) and playing bass guitar (or a lack thereof in Justin’s case – his bass was simply a guitar tuned all the way down, which was eventually destroyed by DJ). As previously mentioned, jamming together led to bands, bands led to disappointment, and disappointment led to the decision to create YMS. In the beginning, Justin would create a playlist, the two would meet at DJ’s house, play the music and let whatever happened happen.

 

As for how the music was chosen, they decided to take a different approach than most music-based programs. Rather than screen a song or artist to see if it fit into the feel of the show or certain trends within the industry, they decided if they were going to celebrate local music, they would accept and play everything they were sent. Their selections were never previewed and the first time a YMS listener heard a song was likely the first time Justin and DJ heard it as well. Justin explains that “I always thought that was better…it’s not about whether I like it or not – whatever we play, someone that listens might dig it.” If a person requested a song or style they had none of, they would invite that person to send them music by their favorite bands or ask them to point them in the direction of bands. “We’re not playing the music for our ratings”, says DJ. “We’re only playing music to help the bands out; we see it as free promotion”. Raytheon Dunn of Dear Adamus says this tactic makes them “the best place to get your music out there. They’re like family to the bands featured on their [show]…playing our music and showing local music really has a support system like no other. They either see the love we have for something as beautiful as music or they’re just good people and love to support a cause.”

 

Several years later, Matt Thomas, friend of the show and lead singer of the Hampton-based band Uglyography, brought in a webcam and suggested having live bands play during the show. Soon, DJ’s kitchen became a place for bands to play live. Again the only requirement was that your music had to have been previously played on YMS. Sometimes there’d be an audience and sometimes the biggest fan in the room might be the oscillating one at stage right, AKA, the living room. Tyler Lavoie, who performs under the pseudonym King Canada played his first live show ever on YMS. “I had never played a gig before in my life,” he explains. “I told Justin this, concerned it might be a problem, but he just told me to come on and play acoustic. Playing in the kitchen was such a huge confidence boost to me…and getting applause was such a beautiful thing.” Jeffrey Dietz, formerly of R-K Radio and current member of Full Fledge agrees with this sentiment. “I was very nervous the first time I went on. I didn't know what to expect, [because] I had never heard of YMS previously, and I didn't know what the guys would be like. The performance was fun; it really felt like a chance for the music to be heard, at least to other artists in the scene. When I came back for my second visit, this time with Full Fledge, it felt like coming home.” What was once seen as a temporary venue – “I flip my house upside down every Sunday”, says DJ with Justin adding, “DJs house was always supposed to be only temporary until we could go somewhere else or someone gives us some money, but that never came.” – has now become something Jackie Paolella of DJP and MrT sees as “a rite of passage” for playing in Hampton Roads. She adds, “the sound isn't perfect, and the post music chatter sometimes meanders from the topic at hand, but it's real and live and that's part of the charm.”

 

You’d think with all the freedom that Justin and DJ have – scheduling shows whenever they can/want, playing whatever music they like, adhering to rules they create, no fear of cancellation due to lack of listeners or sponsors – that they’d be completely happy with their method of broadcasting. But that’s not necessarily so, or so says Justin. What he really wants to do is take YMS to the radio. While hosting YMS, he has also had two stints on the FM airwaves: the first was as a character on “The Mike and Bob Show, formerly on 96X. The second was as a co-host to a second podcast he’s involved with, Your Wrestling Show, which previously aired on 102.1 FM. Both of those programs were cancelled due to either changing technologies in regards to how ratings are acquired (“Mike and Bob”) or the station changing formats (“Your Wrestling Show”). Knowing this, I asked Justin why he favors taking a risk with radio over having total control of his program. For the first time throughout our conversation, he becomes completely serious.

 

I have a terrible love affair…a dream, and it’s a terrible dream because radio’s very much a dying industry. There’s just something about the intimacy of radio: sitting in front of a mic, opening up the phone lines…I can remember calling up 96X and instead of ‘What’s your request? Leave me alone.’ talking to Mike Powers through song breaks. I got a small taste of it last year doing Your Wrestling Show and I want it back…

And then his humorous side returns: “We’ve established I’m dumb.”

 

Earlier this year, Your Music Show received their first Veer Music Award nomination for Best Digital Media (Supporting Local Music). These awards are voted on by various members of the local music scene, ranging from music journalists, local bands, disc jockeys, and so forth. Justin and DJ have never seemed like the type to aggrandize themselves and their response to this nomination was fitting. “Being nominated was really cool, “ says Justin. “[It was] nice to be recognized for our hard work but to me the year before was way cooler. Having Broken Mouth Annie thank us when they won, having several YMS "chants" break out, and just seeing so many of our friends nominated [was a] very cool feeling. So to share in that “very cool feeling”, let’s end this article with some praises of YMS from bands who have played in the past.

 

“These guys are performing an invaluable service to the local music scene. They give people, that might normally only play in their bedroom, a platform to showcase their art. If there is another show like theirs, I don't even know about it because YMS is the best and has it's finger on the pulse of local music. Most importantly, the guys running the ship are genuinely good people.  I could never thank them enough for just allowing me to be a part of the show. “ – Justin Lavoie, King Canada

 

“I played with the Pornadoes and R-K Radio. I remember it being one of the most comfortably uncomfortable experiences ever as a musician. I really didn't know what to expect the first time I got to hang out with them….They basically just set up, we played, and then we did exactly what we do every day, but with people who are actively contributing to the local music "scene" - and in a REALLY big way. I always see a spike in Facebook likes after we play or after we're played on the show. They have an audience that actually cares. Because they care.” – Steven Wesley Cutter

 

“Those guys have always seemed to be some of my biggest fans and supporters to all the music I've made in either group. When it comes to Justin, DJ, and the whole YMS crew, they're the kind of people the music scene needs. They're professional and fun hosts who show a deep care and commitment. They're passionate about music and the area, and about bringing everybody together for one great cause: to promote, create, and enjoy great LOCAL music. In my opinion...your band doesn't matter unless you've been on YMS...PERIOD.” – Jeffrey Dietz: R-K Radio, Full Fledge

 

“You have to respect the hell out of them when you see the enjoyment they get from doing this week after week for barely anything. Hampton Roads is very very lucky to have people like Justin and DJ caring so much about local music. “ – Zach Jones: Little Pants

 

“Our new album, pays homage [to them] in two ways. One, Gagagoogoo mentions "Let's Make A Scene" and its attempt to bring together the quote un-quote scene in the area. We were actually [going to] have them sing it on the album with us but never got around to it. Two, at the end of our video for “Charles Of The Raven” is a thank you for their undying support of SICMaN. It was a last minute idea and they were the only ones who came to the video shoot. Joe [Welch] mentioned DJ was going to come so I called Justin on my way to Hampton and begged him to come too. I thought it would be cool to have them be the end of the video. …It all started with YMS. “ – Matt Holloman: SICMan Of Virginia

 

All these accolades from all these bands have come from Justin and DJ doing what they love for five years for no compensation, a whole lots of headaches, and a whole lot of hard work. Not bad for a couple of idiots.