A couple of cool things made their way onto the planet in 1982. USA Today went into circulation, the first permanent artificial heart began beating, Michael Jackson dropped Thriller, and Arizona State University's student radio station went live.
The Blaze 1330 AM celebrated its 30th birthday last week, and to mark the occasion, the current staff is inviting alumni in to broadcast some retired programs from yesteryear.
For years, the station has been a proud champion of the local music community through former programs such as The Basement and continues the tradition today with Raising Arizona. Tonight, the airwaves will be filled once again with the voice of former DJ Ashley Harris (who currently works for Sony in Los Angeles) for a one-night return of The Basement between 8 and 10 p.m. Local glam rock/power pop combo Ladylike will also join Harris for the trip down memory wave.
We caught up with Harris to talk about the show's ska/punk roots and the significance of tonight's broadcast.
Ashley Harris: The Basement was born my sophomore year of college, in 2006. I started working at the radio station my freshman year and you have to go a few rounds before you can kind of start your own show. I started it initially to be a ska/punk show and realized that the station didn't have a local music contingent, so eventually it sort of morphed into a local music show where I played only Arizona artists for two hours.
At some point as I was getting more involved in the music scene, I started bringing bands in to do interviews and performances and by the end of my senior year I had a band in every single week where they would do an interview for 30 minutes, an acoustic set for 30 minutes, and then the hour after I would play local music.
After I graduated in 2008, Becky Bartkowski [currently New Times' Night & Day editor] was there for about a year and took over The Basement. And then I think it sort of morphed into other sorts of local shows. I believe they have one right now called, Raising Arizona.
The reason it's coming back this week is because The Blaze is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year, so they've invited a lot of alumni back to do their shows. We've had a whole week of people calling in and going through memories. It's just a really exciting celebration because The Blaze meant so much to me when I was in college and it really set me on the path to where I am right now. I'm excited to give my thanks by letting more people know about it.
Up on the Sun: What's your favorite memory from your time doing The Basement?
My favorite was the very first episode of The Basement. I invited a band called Skybox, who was based in Phoenix at the time. I told them they needed to be at the station at 7:30 to have time to get set up for the 8 p.m. show. This was all done over MySpace. So then I get a call at 7:30 in the morning saying, "Hey, Ashley, it's Tim, we're already at the station and we don't know where you are." So I give them a hard time for that every time I see them.
What does reaching this landmark say about the station?
The way the music industry has changed in the last 30 years -- it's a seismic shift. The way people discover things and how they discover it, I think, The Blaze has been really good about innovating with that kind of stuff. We've been streaming online since I think 1999, so there's been a lot of doors that have opened up in order for it to stay the pacemaker that they have been. There's also been a lot of support from the community. Maybe it's because I'm tied closely to Arizona music but everybody is really excited and has always been supportive of the station and what it represents for developing music and tastes and being apart of the overall music scene that Arizona has. I think it's really important to recognize the kind of work that goes into something like this and the different ways you can be exposed to music.
What can we look forward to during tonight's broadcast?
The great thing about Ladylike is that they are made up of two different bands that have been on The Basement when I was in college. So they sort of represent everything that we were trying to achieve in the community. I'm really excited because they're old friends and they're hilarious so I think the first hour will be a memorable one.
I [remember] feeling bad about leaving Arizona and everything I sort of built there, but when I graduated, a friend of mine told me, "it's more that you go out there and be a representative of Phoenix and show people what Arizona has to offer." I really took that to heart.
Tune in tonight from 8 to 10 p.m. on www.blazeradioonline.com.
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