Nick Duncan,
College & Non-Comm Radio
of Sub Pop Records

1) Tell us a bit about the career path that led to where you are now.
Like a lot of people with a career in music I got my start in college radio.  I was the music director at KUGS while attending Western Washington University.  After graduation I got in touch with a fellow KUGS alumni who works at Sub Pop and they hooked me up with an interview for an internship in the radio department.  After months of slaving away on endless radio mailings I conned them into offering me a job.  The Sub Pop brass won’t admit it, but I suspect some of them regret that momentary lapse in judgment to this very day.

2) Why does college/community radio matter in today’s fragmented environment?
College radio stations offer a platform for people who are genuinely passionate about music to communicate directly with their community about the music they love.  Generally speaking, nothing is focus-grouped or groomed for airplay.  There aren’t any charts or graphs or numbers that determine the station’s rotation (if there’s even a rotation at all).  It’s a direct and sincere relationship between the people at the station and their community.  That is an increasingly rare thing.

For a label like Sub Pop we rely on the college radio community to help us develop our young bands, but also as a barometer for what new music people actually care about.  While commercial radio stations may use catchy slogans like New Music Discovery™, in reality that happens at the grassroots level.  That discovery happens in places like college radio stations.  College radio is a welcome interruption in a narrative increasingly full of competing commercial voices.

3) What is your favorite experience you’ve had in your career?  Perhaps a musical idol you got to meet?  A festival you were able to attend?  A project you were involved with promoting?
Being at Saturday Night Live with Father John Misty this year was pretty unreal.  That’s up there near the top for sure.  Just being in that studio, thinking of the musicians and cast members that have been come through that room and been on that stage…it’s pretty wild.

But I think the most rewarding thing I’ve done at Sub Pop has been working on the recent LVL UP record, Return to Love.  LVL UP were my first signing for Sub Pop.  Getting to help them make a record that we at Sub Pop all love and believe in was a real honor and a massive learning experience for me.  Plus those LVL UP guys are some of my favorite people, they’re the best.

4) What band/artist outside the realm of college/community radio would people he surprised to hear you love?
I listen to a lot of Randy Newman.  Almost daily.

5) What job do you think you would you be doing if you weren’t a promoter?
Oh boy, probably working at a bowling alley or something?  The whole “music saved my life” thing might be an exaggeration, but it certainly saved me from a life of boring dead-end jobs.

6) Do you think college/community radio will ever actually be an all-digital format?  And if so, when?
I hope it never goes 100% digital – even though the budget required to service the college radio panel with CDs is pretty insane.  I love that there’s still a place for physical CDs/LPs at college radio.  As archaic as it might sound to the uninitiated there is something special about standing in your station’s music library and pulling CDs while putting your show together.
The format will probably go digital eventually, but I think college radio will be a little worse for it when it happens.

7) What is your dream travel destination?
Iceland.  I’m actually going to Reykjavik for New Year’s Eve this year.  Fun fact: there’s only 4 hours of sunlight every day the week between Christmas and New Years.  Also, I’ve heard the Icelandic government lifts restrictions on fireworks during that time.  It’s going to be crazy.

8) What TV show are you obsessed with atm?  Or are you one of ‘those people’ that doesn’t watch TV?
I just started GLOW and am really digging it.  Also Hulu’s adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale really messed me up.  To balance that out my wife and I watch a lot of Chopped and American Ninja Warrior.  Also we’re going to attend Antiques Roadshow in Portland this summer.  Keep an eye out for us on PBS.

9) What is your favorite restaurant in town?
It’s not in Seattle, but if you cross the lake and head over to Kirkland there’s a place called Café Happy.  It’s a vegan Chinese restaurant w/ the best Soy Chickn Broccoli Stir Fry and Ma Po Tofu.  It’s insane.  I’ve crossed the bridge in rush hour traffic for dinner there more times than I’d like to admit.

10) You’re stranded on a desert island.  What five well known people (dead or alive) would you like to have there with you?
Donald Trump, Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell, Steve Bannon & Alex Jones.  If they’re stranded on the desert island with me they can’t fuck things up for the rest of you, right?  I’ll take one for the team on this one.