KALX DJs transmit untraditional sounds

Michelle Kim/Staff

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A cat-behavior consultant, cooking enthusiasts, movie and museumgoers, those who wish to wander — all found their voices over the university airwaves at 90.7 KALX. A student-run organization, KALX plays to the musical passions of a multifaceted student body, usually before listeners find these songs on their own. The Daily Californian interviewed four dynamic KALX disk jockeys — all UC Berkeley students — to learn more about the personalities behind the setlists.

For 24 hours each day, when listeners are in school, studying, sleeping and partying, KALX DJs swelter in Barrows Hall’s dingy, windowless basement. The DJs, students and community members alike, spin sets that synthesize genres in ways that always surprise listeners. Senior Arielle Parnes-Katz, known as DJ Misnomer, described KALX’s diverse playlists as indicative of the Berkeley environment from which they stem. 

“There is such a wide range of people with very diverse background and different musical tastes that work at the station,” Parnes-Katz explained. “So naturally there is a wide variety of what is played. I think not having any rules or boundaries about what types of music can be played is a huge strength for the station by letting their DJs’ personalities really come through.”

With so much diversity to incorporate, KALX’s “grandmother rule” — playing three genres per hour distinct enough for a grandparent to differentiate — assures listeners that their DJs are true audiophiles. 

DJ F*Bomb, graduate student Mikel Delgado, explained why she loves the three-genre requirement. “It would be easy to just go and play music that I really like, but my listeners may not always agree with me — playing diverse styles of music has forced me to check out music I wouldn’t have otherwise, and a lot of it is amazing! It has really expanded my musical horizons.”

 Not all the DJs knew they wanted to be on air before coming to UC Berkeley, though. Josephine Shetty, a sophomore known to listeners as Mantis, found KALX more serendipitously, through friends she made her first year at UC Berkeley. Similarly, Parnes-Katz discovered DJing through a friend who broadcasted on another college radio station. Delgado had DJed during her undergraduate experience and returned to the mic when she came to UC Berkeley. But whether they planned to join KALX or decided through friendly persuasion, the DJs have found an association of music lovers with whom they can grow and explore new sounds and experiences. 

Each DJ espoused similar sentiments of a curious and accepting network within KALX’s audience and staff. “The station formed a really solid community for me,” Petel said. “It not only gave me a place to talk with people about my favorite bands and what I’m listening to now, but it gave me an opportunity to listen to my peers and learn from them — even the listeners call in and introduce me to new things. It’s an amazing collective.”

KALX, run by and for students, plays the soundtrack to life at UC Berkeley — alternately familiar and bizarre, seamlessly incorporating the past into the present and inspiring listeners to never stop exploring. 

From funk to punk, the KALX audience craves an eclectic sound that the DJs strive to convey. “I think that’s what makes us really special — the listener has no idea what is going to come on next, and it teaches us as DJs how to synthesize different types of music into one cohesive show,” Petel explained. “It’s an amazing thing to share with listeners.”



Contact Cara Cerino at [email protected].

A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to KALX DJ Mikel Delgado as male.