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The Other Side with Eagle Radio's G. Matthew Mapes

Eagle Radio (WQBR) show host G. Matthew Mapes explains how Irving Sarin helped to foster his love of music, discusses his transition from record store clerk to radio DJ, and tells how independent musicians can schedule on-air performances in this week's Other Side. 

Eagle Radio’s G. Matthew Mapes was first introduced to the world of music as a young, classically trained trumpet player studying under Irving Sarin. By the time he hit adolescence, Mapes began teaching himself how to play a number of different instruments, including guitar, keyboards, and banjo. He recalls, “I remember hearing Heart's song "Barracuda" in 1977 [and it dawned on me] that I wanted to be a musician. I first exercised my interest [in musical performance] by singing in the school choir, but when my voice started to change, that ceased to be an option, so I moved on to playing instruments in junior high.” Fondly remembering the day he received his first bass guitar, Mapes explains, “It was Christmas Day of 1989 and I promptly fell in love.” Around that same time, he began working as a clerk at the Metro Detroit record store Dearborn Music, a place that profoundly influenced Mapes’ development as a musician. He notes, “I played in dozens of different settings throughout the early '90s, honing my skills and expanding my frame of reference.” In 1996, Mapes joined the band Fez, while co-running a recording studio in Plymouth, Michigan. “My tenure with Fez and the studio both came to an end in 1998,” Mapes recalls, “Around this time, I began experimenting with electronic music [through] a project called Visceralum, which is still active today. Since the dawn of the millennium, I've been keeping a rather low profile as a musician. As a bass player, I've done a few recording sessions and have jammed with a few different groups to keep my chops sharp, but I've primarily been concentrating on the electronic genre. I do, however, intend to play in a band again at some point.” 

These days, Mapes partitions his time between working on his musical endeavors and earning a degree in Creative Writing at Eastern Michigan University. He explains, “Since high school, I have dreamt of being a poet, so now, I'm finally pursuing that dream. Another childhood dream was to work as a DJ. When I first started out as a student at EMU, I declared Communications as my minor. After a couple of days, it was quite clear that wasn't for me, so I switched my minor to Electronic Media and Film Studies, mostly so I could host my own radio show. I went on air as an Eagle Radio DJ for the first time in September of 2011 for academic credit, but now [I work as the host TENSION] for the fun of it.”



We were able to convince G. Matthew Mapes to step away from his DJ booth at Eagle Radio long enough to tell us what it’s like to be on The Other Side:


Green Light Go: You currently host a radio show called TENSION for Eagle Radio (WQBR). What inspired you to get involved in college radio?

G. Matthew Mapes: I have always loved the idea of programming and hosting my own radio show, which is a freedom that college radio allows. Though the higher-ups do suggest working within a genre framework, it is not absolutely required.  So, the only constraint I put on my show is that the material comes from the 21st century, that way I can cover all of my musical interests.


GLG: For decades, Metro Detroit has been known as a national music hub. How involved is Eagle Radio with the Detroit and Ann Arbor music scenes?

GMM: The ‘local’ involvement depends on the DJs themselves - some have shows that concentrate almost entirely on [music that comes from Detroit], while other DJs, myself included, spin some local content. We used to do a whole lot more on-site broadcasting, but funding doesn't really provide for that these days.


GLG: How do you determine what gets played on the radio? Do the DJs get free reign of the airwaves, or are they expected to integrate specific new artists or songs into their shows?

GMM: The DJs pretty much have free reign, though we did have a meeting late last year with the people from the Red Bull Music Academy, in which we discussed incorporating some of their pre-generated material. As far as I know, nothing ever came of that. Personally, I try to play five or six tracks that are current during each episode, while the rest of the stuff spans over the last dozen years or so. I like to play at least one track from a number of genres like metal, hip-hop, classical, electronic, country/bluegrass, and reggae/dub, while the rest of the music I play on the show leans toward jazz and world music. I also have a block of three songs each week, which features the music that my wife likes; these songs tend to be more pop or rock-oriented. I also spend several hours each week preparing material and doing research for my on-air announcements.


GLG: How often do musicians come in for on-air studio performances during radio shows and how are these artists chosen?

GMM: This does occur from time to time, although sometimes [the DJs will organize in-studio performances themselves, while other times, one of the station’s instructors will accommodate someone]. There are other shows on the station that feature a lot of in-studio performances, but I generally stick to a pretty rigid playlist, which is what I'm most comfortable with.


GLG: If an up-and-coming or touring artist wanted to schedule an interview with a DJ, how would they go about doing so?

GMM: Anyone interested in scheduling an interview should contact Megan Gore at She is the boss and will generally accommodate any reasonable request. The DJs at Eagle Radio are usually pretty gung-ho about doing interviews.


GLG: What have you been listening to lately? 

GMM: Lately, I've been on a real avant-classical kick. The contrabassist Stefano Scodanibbio passed away back in January, and since then, I can't stop listening to his records. I’ve also been listening to Bang On A Can All-Stars, So Percussion, Arnold Dreyblatt, and Alarm Will Sound, who are playing a highly anticipated gig out at Oakland University on March 30.  Some of my favorite (non-classical) records of 2012 include Ani Difranco's Which Side Are You On?, Punch Brothers' Who’s Feeling Young Now?, Taraf de Haidouks & Kocani Orksestar's Band of Gypsies 2, Lamb of God's Resolution, and Füxa’s Our Lips are Sealed. Füxa’s Randall Nieman is an old friend (and a Detroit space rock legend); he's making some of the best music of his career right now.


Matt Mapes will be participating in an inter-media cabaret at the MIX Marketplace in Ypsilanti, MI on March 15, 2012 at 8:00 p.m. in collaboration with poet Nick Compton.

This week’s Other Side is brought to you by: Lauren Mercury Roberts

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Janelle is the owner of Green Light Go. When she's not spreading the word on her favorite bands she can usually be found riding her road bike through Michigan, designing super hip clothes or analyzing people much to their dismay.
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