Meta media: An interview with 107.7 The End’s Harms

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If you live in the Northwest and listen to FM radio chances are you’re familiar with 107.7 The End. The station has become a bastion of rock radio in Seattle with its influence spanning the world.

The End was the first to play the likes of Weezer, Beck and other titans or modern rock and has championed modern acts like The xx, Mumford and Sons and many, many more. A quick look at the station’s playlist shows a wide variety of ranging from Pearl Jam and the Offspring to Foster the People and Cage the Elephant, refelcting the station’s diversity when it comes to playing what’s popular with the commercial rock radio crowd.

If you’ve listened to The End any time during the past decade or so there’s a good chance you are familiar with the voice of Andrew Harms, the station’s program director and midday host. His enthusiasm for the music he plays has made him as much a fixture of local radio as The End itself. I caught up with Harms over email last week and we talked about the station, local music and his career in radio.

What’s your title at The End and what do your job involve?

Assistant Program Director/Midday host. Aside from my show, I’m part of the team that programs the radio station. In reality, my job is defined less by what I do and more by what I try to avoid (meetings, conference calls,  terms like “let’s think outside the box”).

How long have you been in radio? What made you want to start a career in broadcast and how did you get your start?

I’m in my 13th year at the radio station. I never planned on being a broadcaster or working in radio.
I was studying business at the UW and working at the front desk of my dorm when a friend of a friend suggested I apply to The End’s promotion department.  Passing out stickers at rock shows sounded more fun than passing out keys to locked out freshman in footy pajamas so I applied and I got it.

From there I steadily moved up and to the side, eventually getting on the air and doing almost every shift we have at the station. Today there is only one other End employee that was here when I got hired. There’s been a lot of change at the station and a lot of turnover.

On the surface being a DJ seems like a pretty cushy job since you aren’t on air forty hours a week. What’s the most difficult part of your job and what are some things that go down behind the scenes that would surprise people who think radio is easy?

Radio is a cushy job. There’s certainly more to it than the image of a dude in a Hawaiian t-shirt with his feet up on the console playing records. There’s a good amount of strategy, marketing, event planning, social networking etc. There are some long hours and tough situations that are often challenging.

But let’s be honest, we’re not working as hard as guys doing construction, sacrificing like members of the military and not doing anything as important as curing cancer. We get paid to listen to records, go to shows and generally have fun. Our role is to do the best job we can making a fun, informative, entertaining radio station.

Do we work hard? Sure. Do we use our power of broadcasting to help out the community? Yes. Do we take what we do seriously? Of course. Is it “cushy”? Compared to most other jobs out there, absolutely.

I’m guessing you get to meet a lot of cool people, what have been some of your favorite interactions with musicians? Do you ever get star struck and geek out while talking with musicians?

When I first started at the station I ran into Krist Novelselic at the old Tower Records in the U-District. That’s the closest I’ve ever been to being starstruck. Nirvana has long been my favorite band and just running into Krist seemed that something that couldn’t happen.

He was by himself and despite every bone in my body telling me not to bother him, I made my move. It was a short interaction. I went up to him, asked if it was him and simply said “thank you”.  Before he really had a chance to say anything I bolted.

I’ve had the opportunity to meet most of the artists that we play on the station over the years. You would assume that the assholes would stick out but I usually remember the ones that went out of their way to be nice. Immediately Chris Martin, Doug Martsch, Lars Frederickson, Dangermouse and Zerbrahead (yeah … Zebrahead) come to mind as people that went out of their way to be cool.

Really, I’m a bad person to ask about this sort of thing. When we have artists/celebrities stop the station I usually put up my work blinders and focus on getting done what we need to get done. I wanna make as professional, courteous and comfortable atmosphere as possible. I don’t usually try and buddy up to them. That’s not me.

I’m also guessing you’ve had your fair share of awkward moments on-air during interviews. What have been some of your worst interviews, or most surprising interactions with musicians?

Interviewing is usually a pretty awkward thing. Rarely does one go by without some sort of squeamish moment. An interaction with Lars Frederickson from Rancid stands out in my head as being both surprising and a little uncomfortable.

I had a phone interview with Lars a couple weeks before the Warped Tour came to town one summer. The conversation lasted about 45 minutes, we talked about Joe Strummer (who had just died), Rancid putting out a record on a major label for the first time and all sorts of other topics. It was one of the best interviews I’ve ever done. A good, entertaining, natural conversation.

So much so that at the end of call Lars said it was maybe the best interview he had done and that I should stop by their bus backstage at the Warped Tour when they were in town and hang out.  Being relatively new to that kinda thing I brushed it off as something he said to everyone and didn’t show up (not wanting to be a bother).

Six months later Rancid was back in town to play our Deck The Hall Ball. Before the show the band was gonna record an End Session. I introduced myself at the session assuming, as always, these guys meet people every day and meeting me would be a rather dull and forgettable part of their day.

I went to shake Lars hand and introduce myself and he said. “Yeah, I know who you are. You didn’t show up backstage at the Warped Tour. What, did you think I would forget?” and then he walked away.

That was kinda awkward.

I’ve noticed the Head and the Heart and Fences have broken into rotation at The End and that the station has been promoting itself as harbinger of the old Seattle sound. Does this mean The End will be adding more smaller local artists to its regular playlist and does part of your job involve keeping tabs on the local scene?

The End has always supported NW musicians. Even before I worked here (going to high school in Bremerton) it’s something that I always loved about the station.  Head and the Heart and Fences are good examples of recent artists that have made it to regular rotation on the station but our support of NW artists goes beyond just that. From our Sunday night local show (hosted by Megan Seling), constant in-studio performances and the booking of local bands at End sponsored shows around town we try and support NW bands as much as we can.

Any advice for local musicians wanting to get airplay on The End, or anyone wanting to get into a career in radio?

Advice to local musicians: Make a good record

Adivce for a career in radio: Apply. We’re looking for a night DJ right now

Travis Hay

About Travis Hay

Travis Hay is a professional music journalist who has spent the past 14 years documenting and enjoying Seattle's diverse music scene. In 2009 he established Guerrilla Candy and is currently the site's editor and publisher. He has written for various media outlets including MSN Music, the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, Seattle Weekly, and others and was the founder and editor of defunct music site Ear Candy.