DJ Name: Rainbow Riot
Show Name: The Riot Hours
Show Description: The Riot Hours with Rainbow Riot airs every Wednesday morning only on WKNC 88.1 FM. Playing you the very best in music from all decades, including all the hits, back catalogue tracks, and forgotten tunes your speakers can handle. Tune in from 7 to 10 every Wednesday morning to experience The Riot Hours.
Without ruining the magic of it all– can you walk me through the process of how you curate your sets?
Sure, oh my gosh, it’s so much listening to radio. It really is. It’s a very organic process. For me, if I hear something that really catches my ear, I’m like, “oh, that’ll be in the set.” …At any given time, I’m working on three or four sets at a time, just because I hear so many different songs, because I’m always kind of looking. And I think that’s maybe part of the process, is the insanity of it. I would say each set is curated, based off of one singular, fleeting, I guess we’ll use the word “magical” moment when you hear a song. And it’s like, that’s what that song is.
From the Beatles to Lily Allen, a lot of different types of music live within the Riot Hours Realm, how do you determine if a song is up to par to be included in a set?
I am really bad about this… because I have a third hour that’s solely for requests in my show. The first two hours, I kind of make those sets without anyone else in mind. So it’s, it’s very, very selfish and very narcissistic. But it’s all kind of it really is a joy to make every playlist because that’s me in it and so it just kind of feels like almost like character development in a really weird like way. Like for a writer, that’s kind of what it is for me. So I guess it does just kind of click and I figure it’s almost like the, like Marie Kondo method of like, does it spark joy? And if it does not, it does not go in the set.
Is there a story behind your DJ name and show name?
I really wanted to do a drive-time show. […] My DJ name I got from a Herbie Hancock song. And I loved it. I was like, this is amazing, because I think one of the songs is called “Rainbow Riot,” I was like– wait, not Herbie Hancock, I’m so sorry, BB King. It’s a BB King song. And it’s got a big fat cake on the cover of the album and I just thought that was so lush and so cool and very, like, almost Sofia Coppola’s Maria Antoinette. Like I just love the lusciousness of it all. It’s kind of both of these things where it’s like really chaotic and crazy, and kind of runs off the rails sometimes and is also a burst of joy and color. That’s where Rainbow Riot comes from. And I just thought it fit, I felt like Rainbow Riot. So it’s pretty natural and The Riot Hours kind of transcended from The Riot Hour because I was originally doing one hour but I didn’t want to do anything too complex or abstract. Because my DJ name was already a little bit weird so I figured I’d just make it you know be the blank hours and riot fit in.
What is your aspect of being a DJ?
I love becoming a completely different person. It’s second-best only to talking to listeners which is so fun. Because the best to hear that kind of be back. I feel like you have a really solid degree of narcissism to be a DJ because it’s just kind of like constant reinforcement. But I am normally pretty introverted, unless I really know the people by which I’m surrounded. It’s difficult to love performing, but hate performing in front of other people. Which is something that I definitely struggle with. Yeah it’s the worst combination. And so to just shut the door, have that light turn on on the outside and be like, I’m going to be this person for two hours, and they have jack sh** idea that I’m not this person. And that’s so funny to me. So it’s an element of transformation that I really get a kick out of.
Were you expecting such a dedicated listenership?
This is so nuts because I didn’t realize they were there, literally. […] And so I was kind of chugging along, you know, I was doing my show, and then out of nowhere, like maybe my 16th or 17th set, I got a bunch of calls. And it was like, I don’t know why this is happening. But up until that point, I mean, I’d get like one or two calls during my other sets, like my mom, being like, “What do you want for dinner?” You know? I mean, and it wasn’t even, it was like 10 calls. And I was like, “Oh, I really like that.” It’s really good to hear people being like, this reminds me of that memory, or this person or whatever. And so it just kind of hit all of a sudden, and it just kept climbing and climbing and I form bonds with people and you start to recognize people’s voices who call? It’s easy. Yeah, that’s kind of how that happened. And I completely did not see it coming.
Do you hope to do radio after college?
I do plan on it. I won’t lie. Right now I’m applying for my doctorate. But I would really love to, I think a part of me that loves neuroscience, which is what I’m applying to, is also really communication inclined. So yeah, I could definitely see myself continuing this. And I feel like it’d be such a waste. Because two years ago, Rainbow Riot did not exist. So I don’t want to throw her to the wind and be like, “Okay, I graduated and so I’m done. So, you know, there goes all that.” So yeah, I definitely want to continue this.
How has your show evolved over time?
It was a hot mess. [During my first set] … I was red in the face and so, so nervous. I had stayed up all night writing this script. And I remember I played “Custard Pie” by Led Zeppelin and was like “this is going to be the very first song of my set.” And I wrote out this huge dribbling monologue about who wrote it, and you know, the different studio versions. And so I went in the studio…and I just started talking and then I hit play. And then Jamie came in the room. And she’s like, “Are you okay?” And I’m like, “Yeah, I’m fine.” I had just delivered the best friggin opening of my set. She’s like, it was two minutes of dead air. I never turned my mic on. I looked at my phone and I had texts from my parents who were like, all the sudden worrying if I was dead or passed out. And I was like, “No!” It just felt like such a waste. […] I think it’s all kind of the part of the humiliating learning curve that you go through, when everybody kind of starts out not fantastic…but it’s kind of just transformed, based off of experience, and really finding a niche that I love making kind of kind of similar linked playlists that aren’t all the same, but have kind of the same idea.
Do you have any guilty pleasure music?
I had to make a promise to Jamie that I would never play Wham! I love George Michael and really love Wham! And I also really, really loved bachata and Selena Quintanilla. I’m a massive Selena fan. I don’t even feel embarrassed about her. But I just don’t know where I would even fit that in my set. Yeah. But yeah, Wham! is a really big one. I really do enjoy some early 80s synth-y bubblegum pop.