Guidance Counselor: Liquid Todd
By Rob Brink
Here's another one that was intended for Stance and never made it to the mag because it folded. The column was called Guidance Counselor and it showcased cool jobs that the audience might be interested in learning about. Although this piece was from May of 2002 and Solid State is no longer on the air, Liquid Todd is still working in NY and has a show on KTU and another on Sirius Satellite Radio.
Name: Anthony Todd Wilkinson
Liquid Todd's baby, Solid State showcases some of electronic music and DJing's finest on 92.3 K-Rock in New York City, where it reaches anywhere from 250,000-300,000 people every Saturday night. Todd recently won Best Radio DJ in the first-ever American Dance Music Awards—the 2002 DanceStar USA Awards, which were held in Miami Beach during the Winter Music Conference. Not a bad title to receive for your first award, eh?
What's your job description?
Well I don't really have a job description. I've kind of created my jobs. I actually don't like the word “job.” What I do is my passion, and I can't imagine doing anything else. I set goals for myself and I achieve them. Solid State is a show I created from scratch and it's the most exciting sounds on the radio. I also write music and produce remixes in the digital recording studio I built in my spare bedroom using a Power Macintosh and Pro Tools. It has all sorts of toys in it and that's where I spend most of my time. I also produce my DJ mixes there, record my radio show if I'm going to be out of town (I almost always do my radio show live), and do all sorts of audio and video editing there. It's like my little laboratory complete with a ridiculously fast Internet connection and three or four Macs.
Also, lately I've been getting back into the field I went to college for—journalism—by writing a series of “How To Be a DJ” feature stories on Starpolish.com.
How did you get started?
I bought a cheap DJ mixer and started making tapes. That led to more equipment purchases, classified ads, an internship at WDRE on Long Island, high-school dances, weddings, small club nights in Queens, a production internship at WDRE, and then my first full-time radio job in Augusta, Georgia. That damn Gemini DJ mixer was the end for me. I remember when I first brought it home from Sam Ash. I stared at the sliders and the knobs for hours and fantasized about having my own pirate radio station. I was hopelessly hooked.
What was your first big break?
Hard to say. I've had the privilege to work with some incredibly talented and patient people who taught me so much. Dennis Daniel at WDRE took me under his wing and showed me how to be a production director. Kurt St. Thomas at WFNX rescued me from WCHZ in Augusta, Georgia and brought me up to Boston to be the Creative Director. He was the one who let me go on the air with Spin Cycle, my second radio show but the first one that didn't suck. They really let me be myself at WFNX and make a name for myself. And then Steve Kingston at K-Rock had the vision and the guts to put me on the air with Solid State.
What are some of the perks?
Getting free records and being able to get into clubs for free isn't why I became a DJ. Although to be totally honest, I used to spend all of my money on music and when I started getting free records I was psyched! Being able to play the music I love for thousands of people every week on the radio is the greatest feeling in the world. I played for 40,000 people at Woodstock—you can't beat that feeling.
What are the cons?
Being a radio DJ is work sometimes. Fun, but work nonetheless. Dr. J. once said something that I think is very true about work and professionalism— “Being a professional means doing what you love even on the days you don't feel like doing it.” That's how I feel about being a DJ. How could I possibly complain about having my own radio show where I can play and say anything I want—in the number one radio market in the country and the greatest city in the world? But I have to admit, after doing a Saturday night radio show every week for the past nine years there have been times when I just didn't want to leave my apartment.
What were some of your earlier, non-radio, non-glamorous jobs?
Oh I've had many. I've waited tables, worked in bookstores, a large home-improvement store, cleaned pools, and worked as a newspaper reporter in a weekly Long Island newspaper. I was the only reporter on the staff.
How did you come up with the name Liquid Todd?
It was given to me by the copywriter at WFNX in Boston. He used to change my name every week I DJed at the club Axis where we did a night called “X-Night.” I was Phat Todd, Premium Todd, etc. Liquid Todd just stuck.
How would you direct someone looking to make a career of being a radio DJ?
Don't give up. The people who make it in this business are not always the most talented or brilliant artists or the sharpest businessmen. It's the people who pick themselves up off the floor and get back to work who make it. It's easy to get discouraged when you fail—especially when you are performing in front of people or doing creative work—but if you want to win, you can't let that stuff stop you. Everyone you admire in this business has made mistakes along the way. If you never take any risks you probably won't make any big mistakes, but you also will never win big either.
Another thing I hate to hear is when someone tells me they really want to be a DJ (or any other creative thing) but there are just too many other people who want to be DJs too. So what? Did you think that you were going to be the only one? Anything worth doing is going to attract a crowd. Concentrate on growing as an artist and as a person instead of worrying about everyone else and when you are presented with your first big opportunity you'll be ready. If you spend all of your time worrying about other people instead of preparing yourself you won't be ready. There is no such thing as luck. Luck is where preparation and opportunity meet so make your own luck.