There are few local radio DJs who pull off a quality soul program like Jeff Long (aka Benjamin Stencil) does with his Sunday morning show, Love Is A Real Thing. Jeff arrives by bicycle at the University of Hawaii’s college radio station KTUH around 5:45am each Sunday with a backpack of vinyl and a few CDs to spin from 6am to 9am. (Check out his playlists on his blog.)
I first met Jeff earlier this year when my fiancé, aka DJ Leilow, became one of the newest members of the KTUH DJ lineup. All the new DJs start out with a super early morning timeslot: 3am to 6am. I tagged along to each of Lei’s shows, sleep-deprived but grateful to be on air. By the end of her three-hour show (which I’m still amazed we managed to pull through each one) we would be exhausted, yet excited.
Excited because Jeff Long took to the airwaves following us, with his ever-soulful playlists and insightful commentary on the music (Jeff’s taking a course on African American literature this semester, which he says will give him even more knowledge about the music he loves to spin).
Luckily, Leilow no longer has the 3-6am timeslot. She’s moved a few hours later: 9am-noon on Sundays. Which means we still get to see Jeff every week after his show. We’re just not so bleary-eyed and delirious now.
Jeff will be joining me and Oliver Seguin at Soul Time In Hawaii this month. Be sure to stop by.
Here’s our interview with Jeff Long, as heard on KTUH, August 24, 2014.
Leilow: We’re interviewing Jeff Long of Love Is A Real Thing.
Jeff Long: Hello!
LL: Is Love A Real Thing, Jeff?
JL: I believe so. It’s there, you just have to acknowledge it.
LL: That’s true, kind of like music, you just have to tune in to it.
Roger Bong: So tell us, Jeff, we met you a few months ago when Lei first started her show at 3 to 6am—what’s your background? What’s your connection to Hawaii, what got you into DJing…
JL: I’ve been with KTUH since ’98. I’ve been here for quite a long time.
LL: ’98? Wow.
JL: Yeah, I started when I was an undergraduate student. My first show was a blues show, it was 6 to 9 at night on Wednesdays. That’s how I got into soul, as an extension of the blues, because I was there for several years and felt like I had tread enough ground there. I wanted to branch out.
I’ve been off and on at the station for a while. Before I came to this particular slot I was doing a soul show from 6 to 9am and a blues show from 6 to 9pm. So I’ve been all over at KTUH.
I’m from Arkansas, actually. I have some family here. I moved to Hawaii in 1992, right before the hurricane [Iniki].
LL: When did you started collecting records, or consciously collecting music?
JL: In high school, my dad’s record collection—which he had stopped listening to—was my foundation. A lot of Bob Dylan, even a lot of country stuff that he had. I had a record player and started hitting all the stores and all the thrift shops.
Back in the 90s there were some records that we’re being released by new artists, but a lot of the old stuff could just be found in the thrift shops and the record stores. And eventually the record stores stopped selling vinyl altogether, they moved to CDs and tapes. Now the record stores are basically gone, there’s just a couple of them left. I’ve been trying to pull together some records, and there used to be a lot of great venues [for buying records] but now you gotta kinda search for them in interesting places.
You guys just came back from Maui, can you tell me about your records you found there?
RB: Uh oh, he’s interviewing us now! [laughs]
JL: They have some great stories about how they founds records out there.
RB: Well, the first day we got to Maui, which was last Sunday, we went to this guy’s house off craigslist on our way to Hana.
LL: Interestingly enough he was selling off a collection he had bought in Oahu, shipped to himself on Maui, and now is trying to get rid of because he was moving out of his place—
RB: —he didn’t have any space for them. The first thing he said to us when we got to his house was, “Welcome to the record store.” And he opened his front door and his records were lined up on a table, ready to pick through, everything was a buck.
LL: He was in Tibetan goods trading for 10 or 15 years, too, so he had a lot of tapestries he was trying to sell to us.
RB: Where else did we go? We went to Requests in Wailuku.
LL: Requests on Market Street. It’s a great place to go because they support local music. They have everything: CDs, records tapes, used CDs—
LL: Yeah, it’s a head shop mixed with a music store. And then thrift stores, we found a lot of stuff at Friends of the Library. W found some great things there. And then we went to that guy’s [from craigslist] storage unit on the second day.
RB: It was kind of a bust, though.
LL: He wasn’t ready to part with it.
RB: He wasn’t ready to show everything yet, yeah.
LL: That’s the beauty of collecting records is you end up going to these people’s houses and talking to them about music.
RB: He might be listening right now.
LL: He could be, we told him about [this show]. We found out that he was a manager at a record store [in the Midwest] and that’s where his collecting began.
JL: Wow. So, awesome record buying trip to Maui.
LL: Yes, it was great. We came back with some good finds.
RB: So, Jeff, you’re gonna be really busy this week with a couple of gigs?
JL: Yeah, and I was talking to Leimomi and Roger, you know, I’m not an excellent DJ, but I like playing out. I have a couple of shows this week.
There’s the Aloha Got Soul show at Bevy, which is a great, it’s great without me but I’m contributing whatever limited skills I have to that. But I want to thank Roger for the opportunity to play some records there.
And then we also have the Art+Flea event which is, is that like a kid & play thing? I think it’s got a house party vibe to it. But there’ll be some KTUH DJs there.
I’m happy to be out, just playing records for the listeners.
LL: Your mode of transportation is bicycle, so you’re lugging records around on bike?
JL: I have this green canvas army backpack that has straps that cut into your shoulders. But basically it’s this heavy thing I have to ride around with on my bike.
LL: But it might save your life one day. Maybe, I mean, let’s hope this doesn’t actually happen—
RB: —hypothetically speaking—
LL: —hypothetically speaking, if a car hits you and then *pow*.
JL: Yeah, I’ve got good back protection. It could also break my back though. [laughs] it’s good, I prefer riding rather than driving around the city.
LL: It’s so small, it’s nice. Kudos to you.
RB: So, what can we expect to hear from you at Soul Time In Hawaii on Thursday?
JL: Probably a lot of the older stuff. I like a lot of the older R&B groups, the more dance-oriented stuff like The Orlons who’s sang “Wah Watusi,” you might hear some Sly & The Family Stone “There’s A Riot Going On.” And then some more funk-oriented stuff like Curtis Mayfield, which I always play on my show as well. But I want to intersperse the older R&B dance and party music, you know. That’s what I gravitate towards when I do live gigs.
I’m looking forward to it. That’s this Thursday at Bevy.
RB: It starts at 8pm and Jeff hops on around 9ish.
JL: So, I have a question: How long have you been doing this event?
RB: He’s interviewing us again [laughs]
We started it in March, Soul Time In Hawaii. It started as a dual city party, we had one here in Honolulu at Bevy and we had one in London. They’re actually going to be starting up the London gig again on September 6th.
Basically, we want to just spin some really good music for people, keep it all vinyl, and make it free for people to come through and add something to the calendar for people to enjoy.
JL: And it’s a great venue as well. I’ve been to Soul Time before and what I heard was excellent, loved it. It was right up my alley.
LL: Lots of good music listening to be had this week, live as well.
RB: All vinyl, too. Motown On Monday you’re doing all vinyl?
JL: Yeah, I’m more comfortable on vinyl. I know a lot of people use laptops or CDs, but for me it’s easier to manipulate. Plus, it gives me something more tangible. I can’t just look at something on the screen and know when it’s going to play. I have to be able to see the grooves, to be able to queue it up where I want it to be. So. I’ve always been more comfortable playing vinyl out and about.
RB: Love it.
LL: Awesome. Well, thanks for hanging around.
JL: No, thank you for having me! I’ve got to run over to Kaneohe now but I’ll be listening to the program as I always am every week. It was great at the 3 to 6am [timeslot] because I was able to ride my bike into the station and caught most of the show early in the morning.
LL: And not have to worry about cars.
RB: Well, now you can ride your bike to Kaneohe, right?
JL: Oh, no! No, I’m catching a ride to Kaneohe. But I do remember this one time, I think you were playing Kitaro, there was this, maybe, three-quarters of a moon peaking out as I was riding up University [Avenue] and it was the perfect moment to be listening, to just be. Just to live.
It was a great morning.
Anyway, I hope you guys have a great show. Thank you for having me on, thank you for allowing me to participate.