MUSIC | DJ Jake Rudh on ten years of Transmission: “I will definitely give the fans what they want”


Local fans of post-punk, Britpop, and New Wave should be well acquainted by now with the name Jake Rudh—or at least with his weekly event Transmission, currently hosted on Wednesdays at Clubhouse Jäger, a Teutonic yet cosmopolitan club in the Warehouse District of Minneapolis. There, Rudh spins an eclectic and always interesting mix of quality music, featuring theme nights once a month.

On a cold, cloudy March afternoon, I met with Jake at the swanky Kings Wine Bar in South Minneapolis. Over lunch, we talked about his lifelong passion for music in honor of the upcoming tenth anniversary celebration for Transmission, which will be held on March 18 in the First Avenue Mainroom.

Tell me why you started Transmission.
I started Transmission purely out of the desire to play some of my favorite music outside my office or bedroom walls. From there, the event has turned into a favorite hangout for like-minded people who enjoy the same music. I take people out of their homes and bedrooms and give them an opportunity to dance to their favorite bands. I’m a musichead, so it’s an unbelievable thrill for me to be able to make a living from what I love. I’m very fortunate.

A lot of musicheads talk about a pivotal moment in which a song or an artist completely opened their eyes. Who was that artist for you?
I own over 10,000 records. So I love lots of different styles and genres of music, but there are certain artists who have definitely hit home to me. When I heard them for the first time they spoke to me, even at an early age. I think my very first phase, believe it or not, was Duran Duran. I’m still a Durannie today: I’m a 36-old Durannie. As a kid I had their posters in my room, wore their painter’s cap, put their bumper stickers on my bike. I needed to collect everything they had. I just loved it all: the Rio album and Seven and the Ragged Tiger, and then seeing them on MTV, it all just came together. I was a fourth- or fifth-grader then, and I would go out at recess with my painter’s cap on and there would be seventh- and eighth-grade girls out there, and they’d look at me and say, “Wow, what a cool guy!”

My second phase, going into junior high and high school, was definitely the Beatles. I’m a huge Beatles fan. I just can’t speak highly enough of those guys, and obviously millions of others feel the same way. What’s fun for me about the Beatles is that I grew up with them. I was really was attracted to their early material first. When I was in junior high, I was intimidated by some of the stuff on Sgt. Pepper’s, Abbey Road, and the White Album. It was scary to me—I didn’t understand it. I was more of a “She Loves Me” and “Please Please Me” type of guy at that time. Then, as I got older, maybe 11th or 12th grade, I became more in tune with their psychedelic albums.

High school is where college rock entered my life. My first girlfriend introduced me to the Smiths and Morrissey. There’s no doubt that Morrissey was a massive influence on me. I’ve followed him around, seen him on three different tours, and had to get every Smiths record, every bootleg I could find. And that interest in Morrissey spread to like-minded artists, generally British artists: Depeche Mode, the Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Echo and the Bunnymen. And that’s basically what I play out at Transmission, as well as a lot of the music that inspired them—New Wave and glam rock like David Bowie, Roxy Music, and Kraftwerk.

Going into college, one of my first jobs was at a jazz station. I’d always loved jazz growing up because my mom’s a jazz head. But I really grabbed onto Frank Sinatra. I have 67 of his records; I’m just a huge Sinatra fan. So I know all the standards, all the classics, because he covers them. And loving Frank led me to songs by Cole Porter and Irving Berlin, as done by Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Mel Tormé, Bobby Darin, and all the other great vocalists. I’m a big, big fan of the swingers and the crooners. It was a thrill for my wife and me to finally meet Tony Bennett in New York last fall on our anniversary at the Village Vanguard.

College opened my mind, as it does for many people, to so much new music. I got a job at Radio K, the University of Minnesota’s radio station. It was a good time to be a college radio DJ, with so many great artists, cross-pollinations of genres-trip hop, techno, and good indie rock. And I haven’t looked back since. I just listen to music all day long, and I play it all night long.

What have you learned about music, or about people’s relationship to music, after ten years of Transmission?
I think people look at music very much the way I do: that it’s extremely personal to them. I get such a high when I play a song, lead into the next one when it’s just beginning, and hearing people scream for joy because this is their favorite song by their favorite artist and they get to dance to it. So, yes, music is very personal. They have personal experiences with certain songs and with the artists who have been with them through the highs and lows of their lives. I can certainly relate and most other people can, too. And I think that’s the power of music. I love being able to make that connection from the music to the people, being that middle guy—riding the joy, and, sometimes, sorrow. But Transmission is pretty much 98% joy.

You’ve been listening to and have loved music for a really long time. What changes have you seen over the last 20 years, in music styles and scenes?
There’s no doubt that music is cyclical. Many people say “It’s all been done already.” Part of me believes that and part of me doesn’t. I don’t want to believe it. I still want to hear new, exciting things that I haven’t before, and I do. But a lot of stuff I listen to, that I play down at Transmission—60s British Invasion, glam rock, new wave, post-punk, punk—has a massive influence on all the new music, at least the stuff I listen to on The Current. You hear bands today that sound just like bands that were coming out in 1978. Is this Joy Division or is this Interpol? Is this Gang of Four or is this Radio Four? It’s very cyclical. But I think that’s a great thing, because it introduces a lot of new listeners to the old classics.

What do you think is the most exciting thing you see today in young people who are just getting into music?
At Transmission, we have people who are just old enough to get into the bar, 21, all the way to their late forties, early fifties, who experienced these artists way back in the day. But when I play, let’s say, a great electro-tinged New Order song, the 21-year-old had maybe not heard it before, and is thinking, “Wow, this sounds like Ladytron,” or “This reminds me of LCD Soundsystem.” They can hear an artist’s influence on their favorite bands that they hear on the radio. And their excitement excites me. Then, in a week or two, they’ll come down to the club, and they’ll say, “You know that song by New Order that you played? Can I hear that? I’d like to request that. I loved it. Thanks to you I went out and bought their Technique record, because you played it.” So I love to assist people in building their collections, too.

Who are your favorite new bands?
That is a great question. Broadcast were one of my favorite bands. They weren’t a new band, but they were a current band. They were putting out new material. But we just lost their lead singer, Trish Keenan. When she passed away, the news hit me really hard. I had to do an instant tribute to her, just to say “thank you” to her for everything she did, for my music collection and for my life, because she really introduced me to a lot of great psychedelic tunes from the 60s and 70s.

There are a lot of great local bands right now that I’m excited about: Satellite Voices, Blue Sky Blackout, Communist Daughter, Idle Hands. A lot of these artists are really Brit-centric, fellow Anglophiles, so that’s why I really like them. As a matter of fact we’re listening to one right now—you know, they play nothing but local music here at Kings during the day. There’s so much new stuff out there. I just heard a new track on The Current the other day for a band I saw in ’05 called The Go! Team. This new single features Bethany Cosentino from Best Coast and sounds like a late 80s, early 90s female-fronted, bouncy pop song, like the Primitives, or Lush, or the Flatmates, or Heavenly, or Talulah Gosh. I also really embraced a new genre that came out in the last three to five years called chillwave, even though that whole scene has passed, it’s kind of passé now. Lots of great artists who play a kind of relaxed New Wave came out of that genre. It’s not herky-jerky guitars: it’s more ambient, melodic synthesizers, with great vocals and awesome harmonies.

So what’s next for Transmission?
Well, of course, the next big event I’m focusing on is March 18th at First Ave, and it’s a tall order to fill that room, but I’m going to certainly try. There’s a really good buzz going on right now. I’m extremely excited about this night. Otherwise, we just have a great pace going. I just celebrated four years of DJing at Clubhouse Jäger. The patio at Clubhouse Jäger will be opening in the next month. It’s probably one of the best patios in the Twin Cities, and the music that I play is wired out there. It’s a beautiful patio. You can hang out, drink, smoke a cigarette, and then, when you hear your favorite song, you can rush in to the dance floor. It’s a great scene. I love springs and summers at Jäger.

So besides all of that, what else should people mark their calendars for, over the next few months?
The next theme night is coming up. We will be officially celebrating the four year anniversary of Transmission at Jäger, and then the next big theme night after that will be a tribute to Depeche Mode, which I’m personally excited for, because I’ve never held one before. This will be a first, even though I’m a fanatic about the band. I’ve seen them five times—again, another band whose every bootleg I had to collect. I have 45 of their CDs at home, so I’m a massive fan, and I will definitely give the fans what they want.