Dead Air is one of the most personal books I’ve written in terms of it touching on a very important period of my own life: my late-90s college radio experience.
I was 16 years old the first time I sat behind a microphone in a radio broadcast booth, and it changed my life forever.
In my final year of high school, which was all told a fairly horrible experience, my close friend Corey and I came across an open call for radio show hosts at CJMQ, the station hosted by Bishop’s University in the small town of Lennoxville, Quebec, where I grew up. Bandmates, life-long music obsessives, and carrying the kind of blind confidence that only teenagers seem to possess, we immediately applied, and, surprisingly, were granted an interview with station manager Matt Shepherd. Even more shocking was his acceptance of our pitch that what CJMQ needed was a prime-time Friday evening show that combined absurdist humor with extremely eclectic musical taste.
Previously running at a mighty 25 watts, the FM broadcaster had just been granted ‘Campus & Community’ status, a license from the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission that allowed it to expand its purview past the confines of Bishops itself. This went part and parcel with its impending boost to 500 watts of transmitting power, giving it a signal that within six months of Corey and I hitting the airwaves would be able to reach most of the Eastern Townships region of the province.
Looking back, it’s really hard to understand what Shepherd saw in us as potential radio hosts. While a big component of moving to the Campus and Community designation meant expanding CJMQ’s programming to address more than just the needs of university students, I’m not sure that meant hiring on a pair of high school kids with zero broadcasting experience.
That being said, I’m infinitely grateful that he saw something in us past our boundless enthusiasm for sharing music and cracking jokes on-air, because it didn’t just save me from the misery of trying to graduate from a school that very much didn’t want me to be there. It also put me on a path where sharing the music I loved with as many people as possible was of prime importance, foreshadowing my future in the rave scene as well as well my writing of books like Code 45 and now Dead Air.