Denisa Kraus
The Navigator

Steve Levington with his freshest selection of music.
Photo by Denisa Kraus

Interview with the station assistant, assistant music director, and support co-host Evil Steve.

Navigator: You are a travelling programmer, meaning you don’t have your own show but help out other hosts with theirs…

Steve Levington: I am co-hosting a show now; I am training Jupiter Jill. She was given a show shortly before the AGM [in October 2013] and was never trained on how to use the equipment. I’ve been sitting in and helping her with that. I also give her a bunch of music to play, and although she can choose not to play these songs, she usually trusts my music choices.

N: What other shows do you co-host or help with?

SL: That’s the only show I officially co-host, but I would almost have to grab a schedule. As the assistant music director, I bring in a lot of music for other shows. I will sometimes sit in on In the Red, which is a Canadian rock show, or on other shows when the programmers can’t make it.

Over the two years I’ve been here, I have done more than 22 different shows, from Blue Plate Special to The Lovecast to Groove Concept Radio which I’m still doing now. I used to handle all the live shows we were doing at the Globe. I also make promos for other shows and provide music for them. I have done folk, blues, reggae, world music, pretty much everything except jazz.

N: What does the ‘Evil’ in your nickname mean?

SL: My on-air name is Evil Steve. I call myself the Tyrant of the Airwaves. Sometimes when I sit in on a show I say I’ve kidnapped the hosts and tied them up. It began with the local rock group Breaden Marshal­––the two teenagers and their father. The kids might be old enough to get into bars now, but back then they were underage. They were playing upstairs at The Queens, and since underage performers are allowed to play in bars but have to be in a designated area when not on stage, they had to sit in the green room while their father was loading gear.

I saw them in there, chatted with them and convinced them to go in the booth and do an interview. This coincided with our fund drive, so I told the listeners I kidnapped Braeden Marshal and was not going to let them go until we got pledges. Since then, when I interview someone, I usually say on air I’ve kidnapped them.

N: Which parts of hosting do you enjoy the most?

SL: What I love the most about radio is when I get phone calls from people telling me they’re loving what they hear. I love the feedback. Otherwise I have no idea whether the listeners are enjoying what I’m playing. The whole point of me taking over somebody’s show is to keep the same theme, but I’ve had other programmers who were listening say they could tell it was me who was playing the music, even if I didn’t talk.

It’s because programmers tend to fall into a certain routine with the style of music they play and I try to do something different. For example, if I do reggae, I might play a different style within that genre––make it more punchy or ska. I also like to play a lot of new music the station gets and introduce it to the listeners. That’s why I like people telling me when they like it, so I know that I’m doing a good job as a music director.

N: Where in Nanaimo do you go for inspiration?

SL: I get inspiration in all sorts of weird ways. Sometimes I do a lot of prep. Sometimes when I do The Lovecast, our biggest show, I prep as much as humanly possible. Once I did a tribute to my favorite horn player who’s in 17 different bands. I played a song from each band and that took up the whole hour. Other times, I decide to do covers, reggae, or blues. I was talking to Sheriff Rich of Rockingham [Rich Travale, co-host of In The Red] and he suggested a show titled Bluesday Tuesdays, which I thought was a fun idea, so now when you listen to the radio overnight on Tuesdays, it’ll be mostly blues.

N: What was the most life-altering thing you’ve learned from hosting so far?

SL: I once booked an interview with Nardwaur, the biggest person in music in terms of hosting. He used to be on Much Music, and interviewed Lady Gaga and Snoop Dog. He broadcasts on CITR and is in a punk group called The Evaporators. He was doing a free show at Fascinating Rhythm and I made arrangements for the station to stream the show and managed to get an interview with him, but not by me.

I originally wanted him to be interviewed by Terence Fitzgerald who had a show The Riot Act, but the schedule didn’t work, so I got Katie [Gilray, The Riot Act co-host]. Terence did not learn about it until two days ahead and got really mad at me. He was pissed with me for weeks. We are good now, but I learned from that to make sure every interview is planned well in advance and book them for suitable shows. For example, if I want to book an interview with Mother Mother, I will offer it to In the Red because they play their music and are more likely to do it.

N: If you could host your dream show…

SL: As much as I’m not an actual programmer, I first came here to pitch a show that got rejected. I am a huge hockey nut and wanted to do a sports show. It got rejected because I didn’t have it planned very well and the station manager wasn’t into that kind of content. Then I co-hosted the Grateful Dead show, Three Packs a Day, with MC Mitti Swell, but then she left due people, so that didn’t work out.

So when I think of my dream show now, I’d like to do something with the new music the station gets all the time. I used to sit in on the show Fresh Cuts that was all about new music, and would like to do something similar, maybe use it as a training show for people who want to become programmers and DJs, and call it Pass the Test. They would co-host the show with me for a month and their last show would be run completely by themselves.

N: When you’re not hosting any shows…

SL: I sleep. But I’m usually here. I’ve had weeks when all I would do is sleep and come here. Other weeks, I’m out partying and going to music shows. I do radio for several reasons, but the most important is music. I believe in promoting music, especially Canadian, local, and genres that don’t get heavily promoted. So I go to ska shows, indie rock concerts…and I never miss any Bananafish Dance Orchestra. I don’t understand how these guys are not famous yet.