Radio DJ Ron Gerber, who currently hosts the show every Friday night on KFAI, started it when he was in college.
MINNEAPOLIS — When darkness falls in Minneapolis every Friday night, if you tune your radio correctly, you might hear the boogiemonster. Ron “Boogiemonster” Gerber, that is.
Gerber is the radio DJ behind Minneapolis community radio station KFAI’s longest-running show, Crap From the Past. The uniquely named show airs every Friday night from 10 p.m. to midnight. In January of this year, he celebrated his 30th birthday.
KARE 11’s Eva Andersen sat down with Gerber who shared all that goes into creating a show with such longevity.
Eva Anderson: How would you describe Crap from the Past?
Ron Gerber: It’s a graduate course in pop, that’s what I’m saying on that. It’s a pop music radio show that plays older pop – that’s been around since 1992. And really, we’re targeting people who’ve been listening to the radio for 40 years.
If you were in the 80s and listened to the radio, you are my target audience. Basically, you are me.
Anderson: Can you elaborate a bit more on what you mean by “advanced level pop course”?
Gerber: I’m targeting people who already know quite a bit about pop music. So if you’re new to pop and hearing about the show, you’re welcome with open arms. But if you know a lot about pop, I’ll challenge you with some stuff you don’t know.
I will wrap [songs] in a context that you can relate them to something you already know. For example, if I play an obscure Duran Duran B-side, I’ll give you the context and say, well here’s the A-side, but I bet you’ve never heard the B-side.
Or Peter Gabriel singing that particular song in German. There are plenty of examples, but I’m going to challenge you in a way that other radio shows never would. Nobody in their right mind at a commercial station fighting for ratings is going to play B-sides or stuff recorded in foreign languages, or a lot of the staples that I like to play.
Anderson: So do you ever play music that’s really shit?
Gerber: I can go as low as possible. I’ve got some horrible stuff on kids’ records, but there’s one label in particular that’s at rock bottom. And so I like to sprinkle in stuff like that from time to time.
I like bad songs. I’ll play bad singing on the air. It’s like a dessert. You couldn’t make an entire dinner out of dessert.
Behind the mic with KFAI radio host Ron Gerber
Anderson: How did the show start?
Gerber: I thought, I’m going back to my old college radio station and I’m going to play them a show called Crap from the Past. And see what happens. At the time, I kind of wanted to play things that I didn’t hear on the air.
The radio station at my old college put me on from 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday… or Friday, I can’t remember.
I was playing to an audience a bit younger than me because I was in graduate school at the time, so I was playing in front of the students, playing music a bit older than what they know. Only a little. Because I felt the music from 1983 was better than the music from 1992. So I started playing hits that were 9, 10 years old. And it took off, it was huge.
In April, there were 100% requests and the request line was lighting up before I got to the station.
In May at the end of the semester they said there was a particular dorm where you could walk through the dorm and hear it play in enough dorms where you could continuously hear the show playing wherever you went in the dormitory. It worked well.
Anderson: How much time does he spend consuming all this music?
Gerber: Like when you microwave something that’s on 50% all the time? It’s like that. So I have stuff that percolates all the time. My ears are always searching for something I can use. So what about pure prep time? That’s about half an hour a week of real prep time. But there are always things that percolate at 2%, 5%.
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Anderson: How do you prepare for a show?
Gerber: There’s a lot of improvisation going on.
I have enough knowledge here just because I’ve been a music freak since I was 10…I can pull things out of a hat that I can sometimes surprise myself.
There was one thing when I was playing stuff on the hands. And I came up with Slow Hand from the Pointer Sisters and Hands to Heaven from Breathe, Keep your Hands to yourself…the part I could find on the fly is the one that peaked at #2 on the Hot Hundred. I was pretty happy with that! It’s just something I know – useless information that’s lodged in there.
Anderson: It was obviously a huge time commitment. Was there ever a time when it was really hard to keep the show going?
Gerber: Year No. 19. I thought, ‘What am I doing? It’s every Friday night, it’s exhausting!’ And I let one or two people go like, ‘Should I stop doing this?’
And they said ‘Oh, no – for God’s sake, don’t stop!’
And now I definitely have a second wind.
If I was paid for it, I would have my doubts because the motivation would be different, but I do it because… I like to play my favorite music.
andersen: You don’t get paid for this? Why are you doing this?
Gerber: I like it. You get the bug. And it’s hard to describe the bug to people who aren’t on the radio. In fact, I went out of my way not to make money just to have a clear conscience.
Anderson: Do you feel lucky?
Gerber: Oh my God, I’m so thankful that KFAI and community radio as a whole exist and let me do what I do.
I’ve found that a lot of commercial radio people kind of envy me for what I do. Like oh I wish I could do that. But you can’t. Not if you’re aiming for the grades. And you’re going to see a lot of people watching your show regularly. On a commercial radio station, you’re not going to make it sound like Crap from the Past. Yes I’m lucky.
I adhere to FCC rules. I’m doing well with pledging campaigns, and we’re bringing in money, and otherwise they leave me alone. I am the luckiest guy in the world.
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