DJ has a dream job: Rehashing the retro

  • Updated: May 12, 2012 - 4:22 PM

Jake Rudh

A "DJ" in the olden times was a hopped-up motormouth at a radio station, but the term has changed. It's still someone who spins records, but it also means the guy who stands on stage with the turntables and headphones playing music for a live audience. It's a craft, a skill: how to plot the playlist, how to weave old and new together, switch from popular to obscure. It's a hobby for most -- but for New Brighton native Jake Rudh, it's a profession. He not only does DJ gigs around town, but also hosts "Transmission," a "post-punk, new wave and indie dance music" show on the Current (89.3 FM) every Thursday night at 10.

You make a living playing records for people? That's a dream job. How'd it happen?

"You pursue your passion, and hopefully you find success," he said. "It's always something I've had to do on the side until five years ago, when I decided to go full time. Throughout college I was doing private parties, turned 21 and did clubs, and it's been going strong in the cities since. I've had 17 years holding down a weekly show -- a lot of people fizz out, have families and change priorities, but music is too important to me."

Jake's a married man -- "my wife is 100 percent behind me," he says -- but no kids yet. Diapers and strollers would cut down on nightlife, and the city has so much to explore right now:

"This city is one of the best in the world, and our music scene is blowing up. It's diversified. There's Americana, the old country music, Latin dance scene, awesome hip-hop, great electro-dance, and then there's bands who break out of the Twin Cities and go elsewhere. Howler, for example, is over in England gracing magazine covers."

Jake, you're making people feel old. Electro-what, now? Doesn't anyone respect the classics, like New Order or the Vapors or Ultravox? Now there was music, by cracky! He'd agree.

"There's a niche I seemed to hit -- I rehashed the retro. That means something different to different people, but retro means New Wave, British pop, the stuff MTV played in its time. I just did a tribute night to Depeche Mode; I got to be in-studio with Thomas Dolby. I grew up watching these guys on MTV, and now when they come to town I get to DJ, to bring them up on stage. I get to fulfill my dream, and it gives me butterflies."

You middle-aged types who remember clubbing to the Pet Shop Boys, the Stranglers, local geniuses like the Replacements and Husker Du: You were right. It was good. Still is, and thanks to Jake, the kids are figuring out it's still got something to spark a night out. But it can't last forever.

"I host 'Mad Men' TV-watching parties -- the mayor came to the premiere -- and I love that look, that period. But it'll wear thin, and something new will come along. Let's bring back the 1978 to 1983 look! Angular haircuts and red-leather pants."

See? You knew that your Members Only jacket would be back in style.

JAMES LILEKS

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