“What’s The Frequency, Campus?” highlights some of the intriguing shows and special programming happening on Toronto’s campus and community radio stations.
The Show: Mental Chatter
The Host: Denise Benson
Where and when: CKLN 88.1 FM, Mondays from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Denise Benson has been hosting Mental Chatter for an astounding 19 years. It’s an excellent Monday morning blast of musical energy—she spins everything from jazz to house to rock, as well as what she calls “sounds and artists that have not yet been tied to specific descriptives.” In keeping with the mandate of campus/community radio to provide a voice to those underrepresented in mainstream media, Benson has relished the opportunity to program female and queer artists on her show, and strives to highlight emerging and Canadian musicians. She says one of her favourite parts about hosting Mental Chatter is having the chance to discover new sounds and bring them to listeners each week. Mental Chatter’s recent playlists include artists as diverse as Feist, The Beach Boys, Nina Simone, Jamie Lidell, Blackalicious and Ottawa-based Afrobeat group Souljazz Orchestra. As Benson says of her genre-defying mix, “It’s there for people who are open to new sounds, period.”
Proving that underground need not mean inaccessible, Benson says that she “work[s] really hard to invite listeners in to the music, rather than speak to or play only to those already in the know.” Her work has paid off—she says that some of the most common feedback she hears is ‘I really didn’t think I would like this electronic stuff because I know nothing about it. Mental Chatter is really inviting.’ Listener calls and emails come in from a long list of countries, including the U.S., Japan, England, Costa Rica, South Africa, Brazil and Ireland.
Local listeners are lucky, as they can get a live dose of Benson’s DJ skills as well. She recently ended her monthly Savour party, but still hosts Synchro every Friday (except the first one of each month) at Andy Poolhall (489 College St.) and is about to launch Cherry Bomb with DJ Cozmic Cat. Cherry Bomb kicks off on Saturday, June 16th at Andy Poolhall, followed by special Pride events on the 22nd and 23rd at the Mod Club Theatre and Crosstown. Check out her website for more details on these happenings, plus Mental Chatter archives.
Photo courtesy of Denise Benson.