Setlist: TransPacific

Sitting down to talk with DJ Chris H. about TransPacfic, his sixty-minute radio show, on a Thursday afternoon at the BreakThru Radio studio in New York is refreshing for me—Chris is a DJ who is comfortable in his own approach to both music and radio.

“All the way back to the Easybeats, people [bands from Australia and New Zealand] have been trying to crack the American and English markets. It’s not selling out at all. I think they’re just trying to be successful and make good music just like anyone else. They don’t care who buys it,” says Chris.

This all may be true, but I don’t get the feeling that it is part of the motivation behind DJ Chris H’s TransPacific show. He plays the music he wants to hear, tracks he thinks are worthy of attention, and comes across as too wise as to get caught up in a popularity campaign. This is a personality trait that bides well with the bands he features; Australian/Kiwi musicians are aware of how far away they exist geographically from the rest of the Western World’s music scene and hold true to a “I aim to please no one” attitude.

I lived in the two countries for a little over a year and can recall being impressed with the independent attitude of musicians from these sub-Equatorial commonwealth islands. TransPacific marches to the same tune: “Even if you get twenty calls saying, ‘You’re a load o’ shit,’ and the next caller says, ‘Ya know what, that record’s really fucking good,’ it changes your dynamic completely,” Chris remarks stoically.

Tame Impala

So what is played on the program that makes TransPacific “really fucking good?” To start with, Perth, Australia’s Tame Impala, a band BreakThru featured as Artist of the Week not too long ago and earned lots of airtime nurtured by DJ Chris H. himself, is gaining more and more notice as summer 2010 enters its final month. This week’s program also featured a five-song stretch from the Vanderbilt EP by Faux Pas right in the middle of the show, a refreshing break from the Indie Rock sound that accompanies a lot of our programs. This is something that isn’t done enough in radio, the laying down of an entire album side. The listener gets to lose him/herself in the motif of an album this way, and Faux Pas is the perfect choice as example.

The fun thing about doing a regional program is the range it allows. DJ Chris H. can play anything from Jazz to Hip Hop, and from Indie Rock to Dance Pop—as long as it comes from the Anglophone Pacific region, it is good to go. “There is a big, big dance music culture there. And there’s been a remix/laptop DJ culture for a long time as well,” Chris informs. “Melbourne has more of an even spread of different styles of music.” Chris elaborates on the transition across the great ocean: “I think for American audiences, they would be familiar with a lot of that stuff because a lot of those artists, both Australian and New Zealand, tour North America a lot.”

This is something Chris knows a lot about, both because of his experience in radio and the music industry and his awareness of the Aussie/Kiwi challenge to break into North American or European music scenes. Contending that the highest principle to a successful band is to “physically be in the market you want to be selling,” Chris stresses the importance for Aussie and Kiwi bands to get airtime in America. “If you want to be successful in America, you have to tour America. And you have to tour a lot. You have to invest the time, and of course that means the money as well, to just tour the shit out of the country, otherwise no one is gonna know you, and that is kinda like the old days anyhow, isn’t it?”

You should really tune into TransPacific on BreakThru Radio. It’s a program with a wide array of genres. The Aussies and the Kiwis have something going on down under. And with DJ Chris H’s obstinate attitude to only sticking to music he wants to hear and he thinks is good, you won’t be disappointed in the sounds coming through your speakers.

When asked about his parameters for the show, DJ Chris H. gives a straightforward answer that sums up TransPacific.

“Anything. I mean anything. If it’s good, I’ll play it. Ya know? If I find it, and it’s good, I’ll play it.”

Be sure to listen to TransPacfic which airs Saturday on BreakThru Radio.

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– Kory French


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