April 2024

Brain Waves

NIMH NIMH NIMH NIMH NIMH NIMH NIMH NIMH Text: Laila Sakini Images: Benjamin Lichtenstein, Tristan Ceddia & Adam Biesot

Community radio stations are fundamental for so many reasons; broad (and narrow) casting marginalised voices, providing advertisement-free listening, and supporting musical experiments like Noise in My Head (NIMH). For since its inception in 2005, Michael Kucyk’s 3RRR program, has evolved into a hub of music knowledge, attracting contributions from international big boys including Michael Rother (NEU!/Harmonia), DJ Lovefingers, Beppe Loda and Tim Sweeney alongside a select few local talents. In a celebratory fifth year anniversary vein, Laila Sakini met with NIMH dreamer Michael Kucyk to revisit some of the shows magic moments, discuss future ventures and pay homage to the contributors that help to make NIMH such a rare treat on Australian airwaves.

Laila Sakini: What made you decide to start NIMH?

Michael Kucyk: When I first found 3RRR in the last few years of high school, it was the best feeling ever. I’d be hauled up in my bedroom working, constantly hypnotised by interesting music. There were a few shows that I was totally fanatical about, so I kind of built this affinity with the station just by being a listener. The thought of doing a show never really entered the equation. One of the shows I was deeply into was Woody McDonald ’s Wig-Wam Bam. I started contacting him because we shared an interest in garage rock, girl groups, prog and punk stuff and he later invited me to fill in for his show while he went to the US. I did graveyards and filling for most shows on the grid for a few years before getting a show.

LS: A variety of sounds can be heard on the program; house, balearic, psychedelic, disco, techno, italo, etc, yet it remains free from any genre labels. How would you describe your program to someone?

MK: It’s hard to describe as the show is always evolving. I just want to play good music. The show is driven by trying to represent music that isn’t getting played on any other program on any other station, in Melbourne, in Australia or even beyond. I would hope that a lot of people are hearing things for the first time and if they’re familiar with something it’s hopefully presented in a new context. I guess we mainly play a lot of mental and physical music, rather than emotional. Occasionally it’s this really disorienting spacey soundtrack stuff, sometimes it’s this ‘other’ music that kind of re-programs your heart beat, but not in an emotional sense. Someone once labelled it “rhythms from the other limits”. I always like that.

I’m definitely influenced by a lot of people around me and that’s the main reason why the show has changed format over the years to accommodate guest mixes by various DJs, record collectors and artists. I’m always contacting potential contributors who do something really unique. For instance I loved Gavin Russom’s homemade acid tracks but knew he was capable of making a cool mix of free jazz and psychedelia. Similarly, Canyons put out this mental 12” on DFA that had limited radio potential in Australia and I knew that having them on the show would present them on a platform where their brilliance would be recognised. The criteria varies but every guest is well considered. Lots of touring DJs drop in but I’ll only select people whose mixes or music inspire me.

LS: Compared to other music programs on Australian radio, the format of your program is less talkback, more continuous music, why do you adopt this approach?

MK: The timeslot dictates the format a lot. Who wants to listen to some punisher chew listeners’ ears off about some obscure French library record at 10pm on a Sunday night? The show isn’t about individual songs and their typical beginning, middle and fade out structures. You need to think about it more broadly. Brackets as a whole and how the music is threaded together to form an experience. I hate stopping the groove. I want listeners to be able to tune in and slip away. This is far more engaging than being constantly fed useless information. It’s a real privilege having this freedom at 3RRR.

LS: You have travelled globally on record hunts, and are an avid collector and discogs addict, how far have your gone to get a good/rare record?

MK: We’ve spent a fair bit on records over the years but that’s cool. There are some really good record stores in Australia – Liquorice Pie in Melbourne, and Revolve in Sydney. Other than that I mainly buy online. I reckon I’ve developed a sleeping disorder by sitting on Discogs and Ebay burning the retinas until 2am most nights. I try to go on record buying trips every year. Going to Tokyo and hitting up 30 record stores a day – that’s pretty excessive. Once in Chicago I went so far into the deep south, I completely fell off the grid, and gun shots started ringing in the neighbourhood. Hardly worth it for a Bohannon LP. Or maybe it was. It’s all part of the experience and the record does have two killer cuts.

LS: Current top five records?

MK: At the moment. Not of all time:

Dominik Von Senger – The First LP
Steel Mind – Boss Man 12”
Ash Ra Tempel – Starring Rosi LP
East Wall – Silence LP
Reese & Santonio – The Sound/YOU CAN’T TELL US HOW TO PLAY OUR MUSIC! 12”

LS: Could you share some program highlights from the past five years?

MK: Misha from P.A.M.’s first guest spot really opened doors in my mind. Brian Damage was his alias and Brian first introduced us to acid [house music]. Even while absorbed in his live to air mixes, Misha would never stop making art or goofing around. Doing sleeve faces, rearranging signs in the studio, shooting videos, making collages. CAN are probably one of my favourite groups of all time so interviewing Holger Czukay had me shaking and feeling nauseous. I remember thinking he was being really hostile during the interview but that was my own paranoia. Listening back he was really friendly and pretty hilarious.

LS: Considering the calibre of some of the past guests I imagine you have ticked off a few artists from the wish list, who’s left?

MK: I’d love to host exclusive mixes from Yamantaka Eye and Daniel Baldelli knowing that they are gods and would create something really special. There are some incredible DJs in Tokyo that I really want to get involved in the show but they aren’t easy to communicate with – Nozaki, Hikaru, Watarude, Taro, and KZA. It would be great to interview any member of Throbbing Gristle only the broad subject matter is a little daunting. So many projects, so many aspects.

LS: What are your plans for the development of the program? There are talks of a NIMH t-shirt series???

MK: We’re just going to keep doing what we do. We’re going to find more interesting music and continually uncover gems. We’ve just had a stream of great guest mixes from DJ Jus-Ed, Justin Vandervolgen and Sal P and are expecting futures from LA based space wanderer Eddie Ruscha, and Flemming Dalum who owns the biggest collection of italo on the planet. Hopefully that wish list that we talked about before gets more realistic. I really like the idea of doing a commemorative t-shirt so Josh Pethereick is working on something now that we’ll package with a mix and a poster. I’d like to do Noise in My Head slip mats too.

LS: NIMH seems to be a team effort, with regular contributors playing their part almost every week. Also many listeners may not know that there is often a group of friends at the station with you while you are on air, how is this presence conducive to good radio?

MK: I used to do the radio show alone and it’s a pretty daunting exercise, having yourself being broadcast to an audience that you can’t see. I started inviting people in to keep me company, and before I knew it became a regular thing of ordering pizza, drinking and playing records. Now every Sunday is a celebration. I definitely feel like that’s present in the way the show is presented, I definitely sound a lot more excited, than when I was sitting there alone.
Three DJ buddies Biscuit, Bell-Towers and Michael Ozone pop in randomly with new record acquisitions. Individually they have a huge impact on me so it’s great to share this with listeners. Each DJ has a really unique approach. Bell-Towers leans more towards synth pop and Italo, his cuts are quick and dry. Biscuit is this wizard who can mix any two tracks for eternity and lives in a deep house. Michael Ozone digs a lot of new beat and slow music with these dark afro grunts, and always runs these amazing live vocals through the mixer. Noise In My Head is never a dull moment when these guys pop in.

LS: You have the same frequency as Chicago’s iconic WMBX radio station, known for its 1980s ‘Saturday Night Live Ain’ No Jive’ program. Can you draw anything from this spooky coincidence?

MK: Maybe the spirit of WBMX is in this show? When I found this parallel I was mind blown! It’s a validator!

Catch Noise In My Head every Sunday on 3RRR, 102.7FM from 10pm-12am. Or visit www.noiseinmyhead.com to download podcasts and check out playlists.

Next story: A Beautiful World – Aaron Rose