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Interview: Adam Thompson of 88.1 Indie Toronto

posted July 29, 2013, 9:00 pm by ROCKthusiast | Filed Under Interviews, Music News | comment Leave a Comment


On Wednesday, July 31st at noon, the Greater Toronto Area will welcome its newest radio station, Indie 88. As a music fan who has lived here my entire life, I have been waiting for this day for a long time. It’s not like there’s a dearth of listening options in this market, the 4th largest city in North America, but there’s never been a frequency dedicated exclusively to the type of music that’s been emanating from our vibrant, multicultural streets for decades and only continues to grow. With apologies to Toronto’s incumbent modern rock station, when bands like Broken Social Scene and The Deadly Snakes started making noise in the early-2000s, they went the way of Linkin Park and nu metal, and are only now trying to play catch up. Indie 88 promises a constantly evolving playlist filled with up-and-comers as well as artists who were unknown not long ago, a large majority of them home-grown.

Indie 88’s journey to the airwaves has certainly been an interesting one. The signal formerly belonged to a university community station until its license was revoked a little over a year and a half ago. In September of 2012, it was surprisingly awarded to a company now known as Central Ontario Broadcasting, who already operate a station out of Barrie called Rock 95. One of their first and consequently most important hires for their foray into Toronto was Adam Thompson as Program Director. He is charged with the responsibility of shaping this pioneering station’s identity based not only on his own music knowledge, but the feedback of a well-educated and hungry fan base. Not to mention hundreds upon thousands of local bands who have been crying out for years for an appropriate outlet to represent them. No biggie, right? It’s a bit of a daunting challenge, but one Mr. Thompson seems eager to tackle. Even though he’s been psychotically busy, @Adam_Thompson on Twitter was good enough to take some time out of his sleep deprived schedule to answer a few questions about 88.1 Indie Toronto.

Gilles LeBlanc: For starters, congrats to you and the entire Indie 88 team on your forthcoming launch. Can you even begin to describe what the last year has been like getting ready for the big day?

 

Adam Thompson: As you can imagine – lots of work! The company (Central Ontario Broadcasting) has been trying to get the license for the past six years. It was awarded last September, and since then, it’s been an absolute whirlwind!

 

GL: This is a question probably best suited for your new music director, Raina Douris – While your station’s focus will undoubtedly be on emerging artists (with plenty of CanCon), are there plans to try to tell the rich history of Toronto’s indie scene through the music you play?

 

AT: Of course. Once we officially launch, we’ll find out what our listeners are hungry for. From there, we’ll fill the gaps.

 

GL: Not to put you on the spot, but do you already know what song is going to be played first when you go live? Or to put it another way, do you have a list of personal favourites you’d like to hear? And who’s wise idea was it to play Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up” NONSTOP in the week leading up to Indie 88’s debut?

 

AT: We’ve been asking people through social. We’re getting loads of great ideas, and will go with one of them. Our focus on this station is the listener, and we want to involve them every step of the way.

 

GL: Can you talk a little about legendary radio personality Alan Cross’ role as a “guidance counsellor”? How valuable has he been to legitimizing this new station to the very savvy Toronto music community?

 

AT: Incredibly valuable. Alan has over 25 years in Toronto. He’s got unmatched insight on what connects here. It’s like having a walking, talking encyclopedia on staff.

GL: We are living in a time where the majority of new music discovered has been via the Internet. How does Indie 88 intend to revert back to when DJs were considered the ultimate connoisseurs of what’s cool, carefully curating the songs and artists they felt need to be heard?

 

AT: Like everyone else, we mostly discover music on the Internet too. We look at what’s best connecting, and make decisions on what to add based on all the info we gather. There isn’t an “ultimate curator” of music. If that person existed, they’d probably be on Apple’s payroll. We have to look at crowdsourcing to pick the best of the best.

 

GL: What are your thoughts on the 4479 initiative and the notion of Toronto being acknowledged as the new/next Music City and establishing an alliance with Austin, Texas?

 

AT: Toronto is teaming with talent ready to explode. We’re thrilled to help raise our city’s profile.

 

GL: Let’s say you had access to a WABAC machine like Sherman and Mr. Peabody did in the old Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoons; who’s the one person, band or event you wish you could go back in time to experience?

 

AT: Tough question. I can tell you I was able to experience Daft Punk unveil the pyramid at Coachella in 2006. That was, easily, the greatest show I’ve ever been to in my life. People were crying.

 

GL: Finally, how ’bout we end by you telling prospective listeners throughout Toronto and beyond what exciting stuff they have to look forward to in terms of Indie 88 becoming a go-to destination for great music.

 

AT: We need to build a relationship of trust with our listeners. That will come by continually introducing them to the right bands. We can’t wait to start building that connection, and be seen as a peer – not a faceless radio station.

 

You can put a face to the names you’ll be hearing by going to Indie88.com. I sure know what I’ll be listening to on July 31st, and probably for a long time to come. Here’s wishing Mr. Thompson and everyone at Indie 88 all the best as they embark on this exciting music adventure!

 

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