Ray Velasquez: Nocturnal Transmission listeners may know it as the groundbreaking radio show that aired on the Lazer from 1993 until 2003 and helped pioneer and elevate electronic music from underground obscurity to mainstream accessibility.
But before that, I performed an earlier version of Nocturnal Transmission on KKFI (1990-92) that integrated dance-oriented indie rock with techno and house, which was very consistent with the global scene at the time.
Originally, Nocturnal Transmission was born at KJHK at the University of Kansas the summer of '83, as a Sunday night chill-out show, a good five to six years before the advent of chill-out culture that would emerge from the U.K. Acid House and early rave scenes of the late '80s. So instead of playing music by the Orb, Aphex Twin, Irresistible Force, or Global Communication, which didn't exist, I blended fully formed songs and abstract compositions culled from chilled pop, Krautrock, synth-pop, post-punk, goth, industrial, psychedelia, film music, and acoustic experiments from artists like Erik Satie, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Pink Floyd, Joy Division, the Blue Nile, the Beatles, the Durutti Column, Tangerine Dream, Chris and Cosey, Clan of Xymox, Cabaret Voltaire, the Cure, New Order, Brian Eno, Cocteau Twins, Steve Roach, Cluster, David Bowie and Kraftwerk.
So the music to create the vibe existed, but not the culture or community which came much later. I was really more interested in exploring a musical realm that transcended genre and freed the listener from the cultural shackles of the fabrications of fashion and the tyranny of trend. A vibe where the impact of emotional content reigned supreme. My goal was not necessarily to inspire passive recuperation from one's daily grind, but rather to inspire active aural engagement and to invite the listener to immerse themselves into the deepest shades of emotional possibilities. In other words, I had hoped that they would listen to the color of their dreams.
What genres do you prefer to work with?
I get asked that all the time. "What do you play?" "What's your style?"
It's always been difficult to answer. The funny thing is, many of my rock friends see me as the techno guy, my house-music friends see me as the post-punk guy, and over the years I've been introduced by friends and colleagues as a drum-and-bass DJ, a chill-out DJ, a Brazilian DJ, a house-music DJ, and the list goes on. But my high school classmates will always know me as the Beatles fanatic of Bishop Miege. Which I am still.
So musically, I'm an eclecticist.... When opening for Suicide at the Knitting Factory, I prefer playing post punk. When opening for Bebel Gilberto at Summerstage in Central Park, I prefer playing samba electronica and drum 'n bossa. When playing with Ben Watt, Kruder & Dorfmeister, or Jazzanova at Cielo or the Soho Grand, I prefer playing deep, tech house. And when opening for Paul Weller three consecutive nights at the Irving Plaza, I prefer playing classic '70s punk, new wave and ska on night one, jazz funk on night two, and British and American '60s psychedelic rock and pop on night three.
Did Nocturnal Transmission end because of the format shift or for some other reason? How did you find out?
You'll have to ask the Lazer that question. I found out on a Sunday night from a listener who e-mailed and asked why the show wasn't playing that night. That was it. It was pulled off the air without notice or explanation. I didn't even have a chance to sign off, to say so long, and to thank my audience for 10 years of loyal support, intellectual curiosity, musical courage and stamina, and an apparent healthy sense of humor.
The reality is that, at the time, KLZR was no longer a mom-and-pop-owned local radio station. Frankly, the fact that the Lazer was locally owned is probably the reason I got the gig in the first place, having previously been employed there years earlier as an advertising account executive. I enjoyed a positive professional relationship with Hank Booth, who trusted me enough to give me a show even though he may not have completely understood the concept. That kind of local broadcasting instinct no longer exists. Professional colleagues may not always see eye to eye, but I will always respect and value my colleagues and my experience at KLZR.
It was a few years ago at RecordBar. They were great to work with. Really looking forward to the Czar Bar gig. I dig playing sincere and versatile performance spaces where you can hear a great live act one night and dance your ass off to a wicked DJ the next. Or hell, even enjoy both on the same night.
But it would be nice to come back to KC sometime and play a proper dance club or hip lounge. But I understand from friends that they don't really exist in KC. At least not in the context where quality, advanced music, and an enhanced cultural and social experience are at the creative core of the concept.
Awhile back, I read about a "New York" style club that had promised to take the KC club scene to "the next level" because it featured bottle service. Need I say more? Holy cow, if the crown jewel of your club scene is little more than just another cultural placebo, that's one hell of a bitter pill. Go ahead, swallow. Don't worry, I promise you won't feel a thing. Go Ask Alice … when she's at the mall …
What do you do now?
I continue to stimulate the cultural clitoris and generate social lubrication for deeper penetration.
Your career has spanned several decades - what trends have you seen come and go?
All of them.
Your compilations have been rather critically well-received. Is there anything in the works at the moment?
That's kind of you to say, but the music industry, like radio, is a very different creature these days. There are always possibilities, but whether they will be recognized, explored and nurtured is another matter all together.
So, yes, something is always in the works. But if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a buck?