July 30, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

KCRW names new ‘Morning Becomes Eclectic’ co-hosts

Longtime radio tastemaker KCRW-FM (89.9) has announced a new host for its flagship morning show, “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” but instead of one voice, the left-of-the-dial stalwart has called in a tag team.

Starting at the beginning of 2021, weekend hosts Novena Carmel and Anthony Valadez will join forces to take over the show for music director Anne Litt, who has hosted since Jason Bentley departed at the end of 2019.

For the record:

11:00 AM, Dec. 08, 2020An earlier version of this story wrongly identified Anthony Valadez’s relationship with the label Plug Research. He issued music on the imprint, but did not found it.

The pairing is uniquely Californian. Carmel, 38, is the youngest daughter of soul and funk hitmaker Sly Stone, who got his start as a radio DJ in San Francisco in the mid-1960s before forming his band the Family Stone. She moved from Sausalito to Los Angeles to attend UCLA when she was 18, and has been a singer with acts such as BabyStone and Wallpaper. For the last 14 years, Carmel has been a concert booker and DJ. She joined the on-air staff of KCRW in 2018.

Valadez, 42, grew up in the Valley learning about music through KCRW’s late-night sounds. A beat producer who issued records on the L.A. electronic label Plug Research, Valadez is a turntablist and vinyl collector who parlayed that passion into hosting a TV show, “Cratediggers,” on Fuse TV. As a remixer, he’s done official reworkings of tracks by David Bowie, Ozomatli and Local Natives.

Litt, the station’s program director of music, said the pair felt like a natural for “Morning Becomes Eclectic,” which has been airing continually for more than 40 years. “Novena and Anthony are idea machines on every platform, not just radio,” said Litt via email. “They brim with positivity and collaborative energy and come at music from different perspectives — different, yet symbiotic.”

The pair will add a sixth chapter to a show that has been helmed since its birth in the late 1970s by Litt, Bentley, Nic Harcourt, Chris Douridas and Tom Schnabel. It will also mark a pair of firsts for the Santa Monica-based station: Valadez will be the first Latino and Carmel the first Black host of “Morning Becomes Eclectic.”

Asked about these historic firsts, Valadez said institutions such as KCRW “need perspectives from different socioeconomic places and races. I’m glad it’s happening and I’m glad we’re talking about it. This is something that’s been long overdue.”

Added Litt: “The issue of representation is foremost on KCRW’s mind. All of the candidates for this job were people of color. And we have absolutely found the best possible people for this position.”

The format of the show, which has long included live sets, will evolve, said Litt, both due to the vagaries of the COVID-19 pandemic and the hosts’ personalities. She said that even before she joined on as the station’s head of music programming last year, she had ideas for the show. “I knew that if I ever had that opportunity, I’d like to reimagine ‘MBE’ and the way the show interacts with our listeners and fans over multiple platforms.” She added that her vision for the show “is that it extends well past noon, incorporating the voices and perspectives of our hosts, and amplifying the expertise of our entire community of DJs.”

Valadez said he’s wanted to host “Morning Becomes Eclectic” since he was a teenager, and will dedicate himself to bringing his Los Angeles experience to the show. “I want listeners to hear the show and smell the taco shops on Sunset Boulevard. I really want to bring L.A. to the world.”

Adds Carmel of her approach: “Whenever I create, I like taking the temperature of what’s happening in the world and in culture. Always being open to that will make what you’re doing relevant to people.”

Those curious about her tastes can get a sense through playlists of her recent weekend shows. Across November she mixed new and old music from acts such as Azymuth, Parliament-Funkadelic, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Eliza Soares, Earthgang, Odetta, Brittany Howard, Chicano Batman and Millie Jackson. Valedez’s recent on-air sets have featured tracks from Kate Tempest, Steve Lacy, Sault, Khruangbin, Y La Bamba, Pete Rock, Prince, Ambar Lucid, Tokimonsta and Gabriel Garzon-Montano.

The announcement comes during a tough 2020 for KCRW. Like most media companies, the Santa Monica College-owned NPR affiliate has been hit hard by drops in sponsorship and underwriting money. In the summer, management accepted buyouts from more than two dozen employees and laid off four others. The reductions came a few months after producers and DJs signed their first union contract with the station. Last year the station moved into its new $38-million media facility on the college campus, but it’s been virtually empty since the pandemic forced most station employees to work from home.