[Aural Reports] KUCI DJ Belle Otero Warms to Freeform

Eclecticity's In the Air
Belle Otero warms to freeform on KUCI

KUCI DJ Belle Otero, host of Port Out, Starboard Home, can't be confined to one genre.

How do you describe your radio show's format?

[Port Out, Starboard Home is] freeform. My tastes tend to bounce around a lot. I've always allowed myself room to switch over from week to week based on my mood or how I'm feeling. The idea of having to commit to one genre . . . that's just not me. I go through phases. Music is the background to my experience, and that's how I approach my show and deejaying.

Are there things you don't play?

I tend to stick more toward electronic and experimental. I'll do some hip-hop, but since I'm on the air in the evenings, I can't play anything with profanity. Unfortunately, a lot of really good hip-hop does have that. I really like older country and folk, but I find it doesn't really fit in with some of the other stuff I play. My show is a complete balancing act. There are so many genres that I like, but they don't always fit together. It would be different if I had a morning show.

What's your history with KUCI?

I went to school at Loyola Marymount. They have a really awesome radio station there—KXLU. I always really wanted to get involved, but I was too shy. I ended up taking a year off from school, and I was driving around Irvine, checking out radio stations, and I happened upon KUCI. I really enjoyed what I was hearing, and I also ended up working for someone who was a DJ. In the span of two weeks, I met a few people related to KUCI who encouraged me to go through training. That was about four or five years ago. This is my third show. I started at the 4-a.m.-to-6-a.m. slot, as most of us do.

We have an amazing library. The access to the music, the people you meet, and just being able to play practically whatever you want over the air is really exciting. It's a nice contrast to where I live in Irvine—not in a bad way, but it's a nice contrast. Most people, when they hear I deejay at a college radio station in Irvine, they're surprised by it. And they're surprised I can pick out whatever music I want to play.

Is it because that idea is at odds with what most people expect of Irvine?

I think so. I don't want to categorize everyone, but I feel a lot of people still aren't even aware KUCI exists. A lot of people live in LA and work out here and maybe aren't aware there's a really cool radio station down the street that they could stream from their office if they'd like to. As someone who grew up in Orange County, I think a lot of us complain, like, “It's so boring. It's a bubble.” And then we go away to school, and we come back because we have to because we can't support ourselves in San Francisco or LA. And it's like, “Oh, there are some really cool things going on here.”

Even with new ways to share music digitally, it would seem that a live radio show is still more interactive than podcasts or music blogs.

Completely. That's part of why I went back to the radio station after taking a break. After graduating, it seemed like all of the record stores were going out of business. I don't want to drive to LA constantly. I wanted that connection to cool music that you can't find everywhere and other people who like to listen to more independent music. And it's a very creative, very special environment, that radio station. There are some very unique people there.

Did you ever try that radio-DJ banter to try to fill dead air?

I don't think that's really necessary. That's something I've gone back and forth with. I think it's another balancing act that DJs find their own comfort with. Some DJs do like to banter a lot. Others focus more on the music. Each show has its own personality, its own style. It's really a reflection of that individual DJ.

Did you want to work in the music industry when you started at KUCI?

I was an English writing major. Now I work in database management. I love my job, but it's not related to music, or writing. KUCI has been the perfect place for me to still be in the game. I'm not always a realistic person, and KUCI allows me to keep that aspect of my life alive.

Belle Otero's Port Out, Starboard Home airs on KUCI-FM 88.9; www.kuci.org. Every Sat., 6-8 p.m.

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