By Morgan James
When tragedy struck at The Coachella Valley Music Awards last month, a hero stood up and immediately began a Generosity campaign to help get the award show back on track, bringing a second chance to the local music scene’s only award show for locals, by locals. Program Director for 93.7 KCLB, Todd Killiam aka TK, went to bat for local music by not only using his position in radio to bring awareness to the campaign fundraiser but by donating the first $1,000. TK’s passion for music and generous spirit successfully hit one out of the park as the campaign resulted in over $3,000 being raised for the awards show just from the Generosity campaign alone, allowing an entire redo for all of the musicians and those involved in the local music scene.
While this achievement was a great one, TK is no stranger to bringing music to the community through radio. In his position at 93.7 KCLB, TK is proud the station “super-serves the community” by allowing local musicians to be showcased alongside what is being played on the radio. Over the last year, 93.7 KCLB has created an exciting platform for local artists to be showcased live on air and even have their music played in rotation. He boasts with extreme pride “KCLB is a station all about community- it’s all about the people who listen and the music. We bring it together.”
He goes on to explain how working for a radio station that is community minded is so deeply important to him, saying “I believe in providing the desert with great radio. I could care less about my own brand as much as I care about the people listening and the radio station and making the connection between the two. When I was at Indie 103.1 in Los Angeles I called myself ‘nobody cares’ on the air for three months before I said my name. That’s a true story… in the end it’s all about the people who listen, and it’s all about the music.”
With such passion for radio, one wonders what fuels that passion and questions where it all began. TK explains “I have a drive in me with a deep love for radio and music and it’s been with me since I was seven years old. At the time, I listened to WLS in Chicago and I remember thinking it was the most amazing thing ever. I immediately fell in love with radio and had to pursue it with everything I have. I get the drive from my dad. He was a Major League Baseball player and that drive is what got him there. He loved baseball the way I love radio and he practiced hard. He put everything into baseball, but when it came time for the family he put everything he had into it. He was a great family man and a really great dad.”
With such an influence and example it’s no wonder that as a mere teenager TK found himself already working in radio. “The plan was when I got out of high school I would go to college for broadcasting and all that radio stuff,” he explains, “but at 18 I already had a job in radio and the job was moving faster than my plans to go to school. Things just took off from there. I went from San Diego to Los Angeles and spent many years there. I had a stint in San Francisco where I filled in with a morning show, and back to San Diego and to the Coachella Valley.”
During all of his moves and all of his radio experiences building up local stations and creating community ties, TK was inspired by the incredible people who he was fortunate enough to come across, work with, and learn from. One memorable moment was “watching Johnny Ramone’s last interview at Indie. He was powering through it with a barf bag and he was basically green with final stages of cancer, but he was still being Johnny, even in his last moments,” TK recalls. “Hosting the CV Music Awards with Morgan James, I would definitely say that is a career highlight,” he adds. Other memorable experiences included engineering for Rob Zombie’s show where the radio aficionado learned a lot from Zombie. Another show in which TK engineered was for Dave Navarro, however an encounter where he hosted the 25th anniversary of Scar Face with Steven Bauer really excites. “It was legit,” TK beams. “There were a ton of Hollywood celebrities there. We had a great time.”
With so many career highlights, TK names a few more like working at KCLB with Dax Davis, Ronnie Stanton, and the Alpha Media family, plus hosting the morning show and afternoon show at Indie 103.1 Los Angeles and helping with programming and music. “It was radio heaven” he exclaims, “search Indie 103.1 on Wikipedia.” TK also notes working with Michael Steele and On-Air at 102.7 KIIS-FM Los Angeles as a notable career highlight as well as ‘punk’-ing Daddy Yankee on MTV’s popular show Punk’d. A long list of memorable radio shows have continued to add to TK’s career success, including shows with Rob Zombie, Dave Navarro, Matt Sorum, The Crystal Method, Danny Masterson and Brent Bolthouse, Darryl McDaniels (RUN DMC), Thurston Moore, Joe Escalante, Eddie Vedder, Johnny Ramone, Slash, Duff McKagan, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Killers, TV on the Radio, Glenn Danzig, Butch Vig, Dave Grohl, Courtney Love, Steve Perry, Sat Bisla, Ryan Adams, Keith Morris, Henry Rollins, Jesse Hughes, Kevin Bronson, Mo Herms, Muse, Jose Maldonado, Chester Bennington, Gerard Way, Rob Halford, Anthrax, Lemmy, Ozzy Osbourne, Donovan Leitch, Native Wayne Jobson, Full Metal Jackie, Jack Broady, Billy Idol, Steven Bauer, Brandon Boyd, James Hetfield, John Doe, and many more. With so much success in his radio career, one wonders what else TK has had time for!
Born near Chicago, but relocating to the Southern California city of San Diego as a pup he used to surf. “I used to be a hardcore surfer when I was younger,” he explains, “Until I was surfing Mission Beach and I caught a weird wave that bent my body over and felt like my back was about to break. It was so scary I felt like I might have died, having that happen and the very same night watching Shark Week. I saw where Great Whites would drop off their newborns only a few miles from the beach I’d surf. It was the end for me. From then it was music and radio.”
There was a time when playing music himself was a pastime for TK. “I used to be in a band called Scrotum Pole. It was a punk band and kind of a joke band with other radio station people in San Francisco. We would play out and open for big bands coming through the city. We had songs such as ‘Your Mom,’ ‘Boobs,’ and ‘Deodorant.’ It was ridiculous, but it was fun. I play bass pretty well honestly, drums, and suck at everything else.”
When asked to share a surprising fact about himself TK laughs and said “I drive a Prius. That would be a surprise to people I guess; Mr. hard rock guy driving around in a Prius.” In fact, this ‘hard rock’ guy loves road-trips and traveling in general in his free time. “I’ve been all over America. Last summer I drove to Chicago and it was fun getting there, though not so much getting back,” he adds. “I’m thinking Hawaii next. I haven’t been in years; that’s usually my go to. I like Oahu because you get the country on the East side and night life in Honolulu.” With family in San Diego not too far away, TK admits that he makes the trip there often to visit. “I adore my niece,” he beams, “She is seven and at that age where they’re still kids, you know, innocent little balls of God.” As for his time living in the Coachella Valley the last three and a half years, TK explains “Living West of Washington St., the SCE bills are not my favorite thing,” and laughing he continues, “but seriously, I’ve had a really good time here and love it. The people are friendly and we really do have a great music scene for the size of the area. There’s a lot going on and it’s an exciting place to live.”
This ‘hard rock radio guy’ continues to move and inspire others in the Coachella Valley and pushes to bring the community closer to the music through his position at 93.7 KCLB. Working very hard to better himself and his own career, he has advice for newbies trying to break into radio; “Don’t show up to an interview and already have a long list of days you need off to go to some festival. In fact, don’t take time off,” he laughs. “You have to SHOW UP, work hard, and be a part of the team.” It takes commitment and passion to impress this radio guy and it is no wonder coming from his successful background. After Rolling Stone Magazine named his Los Angeles station Indie 103.1 “the coolest radio station in America” twice, it’s easy to see that TK’s work has paid off as he proudly boasts about the station’s accolades as a whole. When it comes to personal awards, however, the team player dismisses any importance, stating “I am proud of what my stations have accomplished and am proud to be a part of it. I haven’t received a lot of awards personally, but with the body of work that I’ve done, I really don’t give two sh*ts. I’m not in this for awards. I do it for the love of radio and making people happy. That’s my reward. I mean ‘Best Radio DJ’? C’mon, that’s embarrassing.”
As for the future of his career and for life in general, TK’s tone straightens, yet he states wistfully “I really believe in being a positive force on this Earth. Radio is my avenue to channel that positivity. The way coffee lovers wake up and slurp up some coffee in the morning and get that caffeine rush, I wake up and get that from radio. All my goals have been met radio-wise though, and honestly, I could die tomorrow and be alright. I think personally, I would love to meet a beautiful person and start a family because that’s something I haven’t done being so focused on radio. Moving ahead with 93.7 KCLB, I want the station to continue to bond with the community. I feel like we are already so connected and doing so much. Let’s continue to grow this Coachella Valley music scene. I am all in!”