Two weeks ago it was my birthday and before I went off to celebrate with friends and family I had to take a test and go to work. But much more fun and interesting to me was the interview I conducted preceding those two events. Clint Beachwood contacted me way back last semester wanting to do an interview for The Sounds of State. My docket was already full so he had to roll over to this year, but he more than made up for the delay imposed upon him. We met up at the KCR studio and went upstairs to an abandoned room shoved into the corner of Hepner Hall. Clint is the second KCR alum I have interviewed after Joe Shrin, and like Joe he was one of the most engaging and interesting interviewees I’ve ever had on this blog. I like to let the DJ’s talk for themselves so without further ado let’s get right to it. As always, I edit for grammar in a sense that does not detract from the flow of the conversation as it actually happened, we are radio DJ’s after all.
Cameron Satterlee: Hello everybody! I am sitting here with Clint Beachwood, and thanks for joining me. So let’s just kick it off with the regular stuff, what is your radio slot?
Clint Beachwood: I’m on Thursday from 3 to 5 pm, and I’ve had the Thursday slot probably since 2001 except for about a year’s hiatus there about two or three years ago.
CS: So I guess like you mentioned you’ve been here for a while so it goes without saying that you’re a distinguished KCR alum. It’s great to have another one to interview. So you’re a music show yeah?
CB: I am a music show.
CS: So what kind of music do you play?
CB: I strictly play instrumental surf music. Well that’s not true, my show from 2001 up until a year ago was strictly surf instrumental music. This is not The Beach Boys cause The Beach Boys obviously sing. All the music I play doesn’t have any words, it’s all instrumental. And then to sort of expound on that instrumental approach about a year or two ago I changed the name of the show from A Day at the Beach, which it was all along, to Instrumentals Only. The first hour I just play an eclectic mix of instrumentals from all different genres and the second hour is strictly surf instrumentals. So I’ve changed it up just a little bit in the past couple of years.
CS: But you’re still keeping your surf roots.
CB: It definitely has a surfy feel to it and there are still no lyrics to sing along with.
CS: That’s a real cool idea for a show man, I mean that’s pretty out there. That’s kinda what we like here at college radio stations, just for people to do their own thing.
CB: It’s been a nice niche. You don’t see this style obviously on commercial radio and hardly anywhere. It’s usually all about the lead singer and about how egotistical they are and how they like to take over the band and my show is basically all about the music that the bands produce.
CS: And so why did you settle on surf rock?
CB: Interesting. So I grew up, I’m a little on the older side, I turned 60 just a little while ago, and I remember growing up in the early 60’s how the sport of surfing was quite popular and along with this new surfing craze there were surf movies and everything else and it included music. There was a surf style of music that went with the sport of surfing which was a real wet, drippy sound, Dick Dale was very good at that and he used a lot of reverb in his music and that sort of stuck with the sport of surfing. I grew up during that era and I recall that time as being very happy times in my life and I associate a lot of friends and fun things, even though I was just 10-12 years old, but still a lot of good times growing up in the LA area to this surfing craze and this great music. Which included The Beach Boys back at the time so it was very fun music and we were all very into it. And I always, for whatever reason, enjoyed the instrumental aspect of songs, I really like the guitar solo in the middle of songs and just the background type instrumentals more than I did with vocals. I don’t know why that is, just a glitch in my thinking or whatever. Not that I don’t like vocal songs, I do, but I really took a liking to instrumentals and it has just carried off into my adulthood.
CS: And so now that you’ve expanded your show into an ‘instrumental other’ category as opposed to a surf instrumental, is there anything in particular you play in this other category?
CB: I play a lot of Memphis soul like Booker T. and the MG’s and some other groups like that, I really enjoy that sound, but for the most part no it’s just all over the board. A lot of—like Alan Parsons does a lot of instrumentals—so a little bit of a progressive rock kind of feel. The roots really go back to surf music.
CS: Alright so this has been a great story so far, because you obviously didn’t graduate into KCR and become an alumni that way, how did you come back to us?
CB: Let me back up with the surf music thing, because it all starts back with my love of surf music. When The Beatles came along and the British Invasion came along, surf music basically died out. Everything was about The Beatles and then it got into the psychedelic thing. And so you heard very little, all these surf bands just sort of folded up cause they weren’t making any money and they weren’t popular anymore. The Beatles were popular. But sometime around the late 80’s, there were a few surf bands that kinda started up in this resurgent genre of surf music. But then it really kinda kicked off in the 90’s with the movie Pulp Fiction. Tarantino put several surf songs in the soundtrack and it really started another big interest in surf music. Around that same time, I was sorta enlightened to surf music again. It was part of my childhood, I never forgot it cause I always liked that music, but it really took off again in the mid-90’s. And I discovered these surf bands were playing, modern surf bands, were playing at the Del Mar fair. I heard a surf band playing surf music and I was blown away, and I go “this is great!” And the more I researched it, started looking on the internet, well we didn’t have the internet back then, but went into the used record stores and things like that and I saw all these old surf bands and I collected more and more surf music. My love of surf music was sort of reborn back in the mid-90’s. So at that point, I had been associated with Joe Shrin, I had listened to Joe’s show in the early 80’s. My wife and I just got married, we moved to Poway, we could pull up KCR through our color television connection to our stereo. I think it was 98.6 or something like that. And every Saturday morning I would turn on his show because he played some great oldies, a lot of instrumentals and he had no commercials and that’s really what I liked about it was the fact that you could listen to an entire four hours of oldies without any commercials. Except for his goofy commercials that he plays. And so anyway I became friends with him over the years, I would call, make requests, I would call, talk about the music, and I started going to school here and I would go to the studio. So we became good friends and I was sitting in the studio one time and I was looking at the student schedule, the DJ schedule on the board, and it was half filled. There were holes everywhere, and I asked him, cause I had started to accumulate quite a collection of surf music, probably 50 to 100 cd’s of surf music, and I ask him “what would it take to get a slot here? I graduated from San Diego State a few years back, I’m an alumni, what would it take?” And so we looked into it and long story short I got a gig and I’ve been here ever since.
CS: Wow that’s awesome.
CB: That’s my story.
CS: It seems like Joe’s had quite an impact. Yeah I interviewed him a couple of months ago and he was full of interesting information.
CB: Yeah I read that. Joe, he loves this station and it really shows with his show, and his dedication.
CS: And so, you said you’ve been here since 2001, KCR as you said before was a lot more of an open space where you could do whatever you want. But it’s developed over the years, especially recently. How have you seen the changes that have gone on?
CB: Right, it was fun because back in the summertime it was pretty much Joe and I were the only ones doing a show. Being an alum and living in San Diego, we would come in every week regardless of whether school was in session or not. At the time since we didn’t have preprogrammed music to put on after our show if no DJ replaced us, like in the summertime for example. When I would leave the studio I would put on old recordings of Joe’s show and let it play until he came in on Saturday mornings and when he got done he would put on my shows and would play over and over until Thursday when I came in. So it was kind of funny that people heard a lot of Joe and Clint in those days. But now it’s nice to have this whole mix of music, and much better programed music I think with the way things are set up now. The station is run right now the best I’ve ever seen it in my 14 years that I’ve been here. It’s impressive what the student managers have done with the station in the last few years.
CS: Yeah we’ve undergone quite a change. I’ve only been here for three years and you can tell that we’re moving towards great content all the time instead of having great DJ’s like you but once a week. Which is fun for you guys, but we gotta fill out the 24 hours 7 days a week, man. So you play older records almost exclusively but is there anything that’s been grabbing your attention recently? It could be old songs that you just haven’t heard of before or newer stuff.
CB: Surf music is as popular now worldwide than it has ever been. There are bands literally from around the world that play surf music. One of the nice things about it is that since they’re all instrumentals you don’t have a language barrier. So there are bands in Japan and Europe and South America and even Russia. All over the world there are instrumental surf bands, and I will get cd’s from them constantly. I’ve gotten a few from Spain just recently and I wish I could remember the name of this on band that I just heard this week, for the first time and it just blew me away how good they are. It’s something that has continued to keep my interest. A lot of people who have listened to surf music without a real trained ear, without really getting into the genre, think it all sounds the same because it’s mainly drums and guitar and bass. Sometimes an organ will be thrown in, some bands will throw in a few horns. But a lot of people think it all sounds the same, but to me, and I know the difference between a lot of these bands, I can hear stuff that is really, really good. And those are modern surf bands that are just coming out, playing live right now.
CS: It’d be nice to hear some of them so if you send me the links I’d be happy to throw them up on the blog. So final question, I always like to end with this one, and I think you’ll have a very interesting answer since you’ve been here for so long, you’ve had a lot of time to hone your craft, but what would be a perfect show to your high standards? What would make you go from the studio and just say “man I just nailed that one!”?
CB: Well it’s funny because when we were in the other studio over where the associated student building is, back in the old Aztec Center it was a bigger studio and I could have live bands play and I did have a lot of band come in from around the world. I had a band from Japan, I’ve had a band from Spain, Belgium, a lot from the United States. I probably had about 20 band play live at one point or another. And having a live band play during the show is probably my favorite because it’s spontaneous, it’s live music happening right now going over the internet and it’s all generating from this little studio in KCR at San Diego State. Other than that a normal show now consists of me playing songs and trying to pronounce the names of the bands correctly especially if they’re in Spanish or something like that because my foreign language skills are atrocious. I strive to do a good show, I strive to cut the mistakes down to a minimum but I’m not a perfectionist say like Joe Shrin, who really, really strives for a good show every week. I realize that my listeners are fairly loyal, they’re those who like surf music as a nice little niche. Since you don’t get surf music everywhere, there are few stations who will play it consistently, I try to be there every week, I try to start on time and have everything ready to go and just a clean, smooth, and mistake free as possible show.
CS: Alright well sounds great. Thanks for sitting, or I guess we’re standing and doing this interview, it’s been great. Very informative, thanks.
CB: Well thank you Cameron, it’s been a pleasure.
After we were done, Clint and I walked together talking more about surf music, KCR, and his fascinating side projects that spawned from his visibility as one of the lone highly dedicated surf rock DJ’s out there. We had to part ways there as I headed to work.
A few days later Clint sent me a link of that one Spanish band he mentioned in the interview. Check them out here.
Remember to tune in to Clint’s show Instrumentals Only from 3-5 pm on KCR College Radio, the Sound of State.