Rob Blackwell discovered KEXP about twenty years ago. He was visiting a friend in Seattle and was blown away by the radio station they were listening to in his car. When he returned home, he was able to stream the station online, and grew to be more than just a fan — he became an active participant.
“I’ve done a lot with them,” Blackwell explained. “They used to broadcast live at South by Southwest. I used to help them with the live remote broadcast there. That was a hoot.... They are so pure to their mission of championing independent artists and independent music. I have learned so much about music from that station.”
One job that Blackwell never performed for KEXP was to spin records as a disc jockey. He wasn’t experienced in the field even though it was a secret dream of his. A few years back, he set-out to make this dream a reality by enrolling in a radio production course at Palomar College. Soon thereafter Blackwell had his own Wednesday night show (Not So Serious Radio) on KKSM, the university’s radio station. He became DJ Roob, a name inspired by members of a group he once managed referring to him as Reuben Kincaid, the fictional manager of The Partridge Family television band. The name eroded over time and shortened to just “Roob.” Roob’s show borrowed heavily from the KEXP playbook including live, full-band performances in their studio space.
“We’re at the San Marcos campus. The radio station and the DJ booth are in one of the buildings. Directly next door, there’s the room where we do the live performances. It was the room that was really for the television program at the school. A couple years ago they revamped the entire studio. They set it up and it looks like a talk show. I call it Good Morning America,” Blackwell said.
The opportunity to play live sets on the air caught on quick with local bands and artists. Taken By Canadians and Imagery Machine played early on, and eventually 52 bands performed on the show. In fact, 12 more bands are currently sitting on a waiting list to play a program that no longer exists.
Two factors led Blackwell to throw in the towel. The first was the “unbelievable crazy” workload that he was experiencing at his day gig, where he serves as the chief operating officer for a cannabis start-up. The second was the news that KKSM’s station manager would be unable to attend the live-tapings for the remainder of the current semester.
“I don’t have a back-up plan for that. I just can’t do it,” Blackwell said.
So, Not So Serious Radio was put to rest, but Blackwell hopes that someone else in the San Diego scene follows his lead and gives local artists a similar outlet to showcase their talents.
“We are the eighth-largest city in the US, and we have lots of stations who have more resources than I do on a scrappy little college radio budget, and I can’t believe that there’s no radio station here that would be willing to commit to the programming that we had on NSSR and support the local music scene. They’re dumb. That may not fit in their corporate mantra and guidebook and ratings and all that, but I tell ya, when you get local bands that come on, they’re telling their friends to tune in. Their moms are tuning in. Their cousins are tuning in. They’re watching it. People are sharing the videos. I think these radio stations are really ignorant to not try that here. It’s actually a big disappointment to me that this is the best we can do in this city from a radio standpoint,” Blackwell said.
Update: On May 24, DJ Roob posted on Facebook that Not So Serious Radio would be returning to the KKSM airwaves on June 12. The only change seems to be that the show will lose an hour and now run from 7-9 pm instead of starting at 6 pm.