KXT's Joe Kozera: "Natalie Merchant Chased Me With A Strawberry"
Joe Kozera is the quiet, modest voice you often hear on KXT 91.7 FM. OK, so everyone on air sounds laid back there, but Kozera takes it a step further. He seems to sound at peace on the air at KXT.
As the station takes more time to remain non-profit and commercial free, we caught up with Kozera during KXT's fall fundraising drive, a tedious, telethon-like process that, over the years, they've managed to make less so with shorter campaign drives, bigger incentives and giveaways for members, and more local artists as special guests. As far as new music discovery goes, our local arts community is fortunate to have an outlet like this, and they seem to be pitching in to keep it alive.
So it's fundraising time again. It sounds like you've come a long way in your presentation.
It's going very, very well. We had an historic first day of fundraising; more people joined or renewed on the first day of our campaign than ever before. We set a goal of finishing the drive in just seven days, which is almost unheard of, but at the rate people are joining and becoming members, it'll happen for sure! I can't say enough about the people here at KXT who work and have worked very hard on shortening the drive, boosting the incentives, and have authored those "tactics" that you'd mentioned. As far as it being tedious, well... it can end. As soon as you contribute!
To further that question, how much support are you able to get from the local music community? Are they able to make a significant dent in contribution goals? How about alternate ways the local arts community is helping?
There have been many local artists and musicians who have called and emailed us, even showed up at our front door asking if they could jump in and help in any way. We've had some local artists as guest DJs: Eric Harvey from Spoon, Jessie Frye, Chris Johnson from Telegraph Canyon. These have really helped with contributions. Financially challenged notwithstanding, our local music community has shown their appreciation and support for KXT many times over. And as a result, lots of their fans have helped support KXT financially.
You grew up in Vegas. Is that where you were bitten by the music bug?
I remember being about four years old and hearing about this person who was coming to town, and my mom's friends were all going nuts about going to see him. His name was Elvis something. I heard "Hound Dog" and you couldn't pull me away from our console record player from that day on. My dad was (and still is) a music lover. He had tons of records, and he introduced me to the sounds he loved as a kid growing up in New York.
At what point did it movie from record player to radio station for you?
Music and radio went hand in hand for me, as it most likely did for those of us who were kids pre-Internet. So it was a love for radio that I had early on, like in third or fourth grade. I could pick up this one AM station that happened to play all the same music my dad had introduced me to. I wrote to that station (720 K-DAWN in Las Vegas). A couple days later, some kids at school came up to me to tell me the DJ had read my letter on air, and invited me to come down to the station. Again, that was it. To my brother's dismay, I turned our bedroom into a full fledged 24-hour radio station, complete with automation system (old diaper box fitted with a broken reel-to-reel) two turntables (Levi's portable phonographs), microphone (empty toilet paper roll suspended from ceiling), and even a broadcast antenna (old 8-foot ham radio tower I found out in the desert).
Do you play any instruments at all? Ever given it a shot?
I do, actually! I have done the "sing-along/dueling pianos" thing around town and out of state since about 1997. I've played drums in some local bands, too, and I'm a harmony freak. I'm even writing some music for a buddy of mine in L.A. who's producing an animated film.
The live performances are really starting to stack up. Who's the most fun to have up from the local talent pool?
John Pedigo and Taylor Young from The O's were a hoot. They're so dang funny. They dubbed me "Crazy Joe" when they were here last. Here at the station, there's a huge whiteboard that KERA's news department would use to update the news goings-on. Well, Taylor and John decided to leave us some messages on that whiteboard, like "Crazy Joe's Ice Cream Party," "The O's Were Here," "Employee Free Day-Take The Day Off."
I was a huge Deep Blue Something fan back when I was playing in bands. Our second or third in-studio was with Little Black Dress, and it was great to get to meet Toby Pipes. He is a really cool and kind guy. We just had an in-studio with Smile Smile. I'd recorded that interview, and when we were done, the entire interview, before the songs, went on for about 35 minutes. It was a blast to get to just sit and talk with Jencey and Ryan, and it felt like I'd known them for years.
Same question, but national artists that visit?
Natalie Merchant was here a couple of years back. Eric, my boss and the sound engineer for all of our live sessions, told Natalie that I didn't like strawberries. When I walked into the studio, Natalie Merchant chased me with a strawberry. I've stepped in a few times to run the sound if Mark Abuzzahab does an interview and Eric was not available. Right before the first time I ran sound, I wanted some practice because I was really nervous. So one weekend I sneaked in some members of Morning Elephant and recorded them. That was so great too; Clay Pendergrass and Manya Repnikova are just great talents.
Who are some of your favorite local producers/songwriters?
I think Salim Nourallah is a tremendous talent, both in his own music and his producing. I was particularly hit with his songs "Be Here Now" and "1978." One day he came up to the station and handed me Carter Albrecht's one and only solo album (that Salim happened to have produced). I think it's outstanding.
John Dufilho is another great talent; his in-studio as John Singer Sergeant and the musicians he'd brought was just incredible. It was the first time the musicians even performed together. I just learned not long ago that John lives about a block away from me. I'm a big fan of the Pipes brothers, Todd and Toby. I said before I was a big DBS fan, but the stuff Todd's doing on his own, and what Toby's doing with Calhoun and Little Black Dress, I just love.
I understand you saw Tripping Daisy before they were signed.
Oh, I saw Tripping Daisy early, early on. They played this show at Across The Street Bar that was incredible. At the time, I had no idea who they were. Highlight of that show: While going into "Green Tambourine," Tim DeLaughter yelled out at us, "Happy Halloween, mother-_____ers!"
How about local voices?
One of my favorite voices ever, and for sure my absolute favorite voice here in DFW, is Manya Repnikova of Morning Elephant, Blue Petal and now with Clay Pendergrass as Manya and Clay. Manya is something special and has something truly unique; it would be a travesty if she was in just a cover band. If she was, I'd protest her shows. I would love to see her get more exposure and have more people hear her voice. The truth is, we have such an incredible wealth of talent here in North Texas. It is a thrill to get to play as much local music as we do. It makes me very proud to get to announce local music.
Can you take us into the future of KXT?
You're going to hear more and more new music. That's a blast, too, especially on our New Music Mondays. There will be many more festivals and events, not unlike our Third Birthday Bash next month, the inaugural Index Music Festival, and Summer Cut this past June. You're going to hear and see lots more great in-studios. That's all I am able to tell you right now; there'll be lots more surprises next year.