Staff Q&A/Mike Vasilikos

Assistant Music Director, WXPN Mike VasilikosPhoto credit: Mark Stehle

If the staff of WXPN likes a record, it gets played on the air.

It’s really that simple, says Mike Vasilikos, the station’s brand-new assistant music director and on-air host.

This independent spirit and willingness to bet on and nurture new artists is part of what makes ’XPN different from commercial radio stations. It’s also what drew Vasilikos to non-commercial (or non-comm) radio. Before joining ‘XPN earlier this month, Vasilikos worked at WTMD, the listener-supported, non-comm station licensed to Towson University, his alma mater, located outside of Baltimore.

Though still new to ’XPN (this is only his third week) Vasilikos is already very familiar with the station and its mission. In the non-comm world, ‘XPN is a big name.

"They’ve done an amazing job at WXPN and where I wasbefore this, we always looked to WXPN as sort of the leader,” he says.

Vasilikos, a Long Island, N.Y. native and former Baltimore resident, now resides locally—and so far, so good. “As a music town, it’s amazing. When I moved in, there were people playing on the street. We didn’t have that in Baltimore,” he says. “There are so many venues, there are so many bands I want to see. In Baltimore, [we had to drive] to D.C., so here, the proximity of the venues to where you live is just amazing.”

Q. What does your job here at WXPN entail?
A.
There are two parts of it. One will be on-air. I think I’m going to host at least one specialty show—the new music show, I believe. I’ll fill in for jocks when they go away so I’ll have a little bit of on-air and behind the scenes. Acting as the assistant music director, I’ll be reporting to Dan Reed—who’s the operations manager and music director—filtering through a lot of music. This place gets a ton of CDs, so it’s really filtering through a lot of the new music that comes in. If things stick out, I’ll pull them aside and some of the new stuff for Dan.
I’ll also maintain relationships with records labels, promoters, all those kinds of folks that are working the records, so I’ll be taking music calls. Lending a hand wherever I can, I guess.

Q. So are you and Dan [Reed] in an enviable position of being the first people to listen to the music that comes into the station?
A.
What I’ve noticed is that it’s very collaborative. Everybody on the staff is pretty active when it comes to music. It’s very collaborative and everybody knows when they hear something, to shoot out an email to say, ‘Check this new record out.’

Q. What kinds of records do you put aside for ’XPN DJs to play on air?
A.
I think anything that’s new and exciting and a little bit different. I think the great thing about ’XPN is it can play so many different styles of music. The beauty of this type of radio is that people like to hear all different styles of music and all different types of artists and if something’s new and interesting and a little left of center, it seems like this is the home for some of this stuff—a radio station that is still going to take a risk on a new artist, which you don’t find across the radio dial anymore.

Q. What’s the difference between working for a station like this one and working for commercial radio?
A.
I’ve only spent limited time in commercial radio buildings, but the bottom line is if there’s a record that we think is cool or an artist that we want to support, it’s that easy—you put it on the air and you support the artist. There’s nothing really else that goes into it. I’m a music fan, I listen to all sorts of different music, so this is just a natural fit. The playlist is wide, we play so much new music every day. We’re not limited—if we like a new record, we’re going to play it.

Q. So are you more a behind-the-scenes music guy or do you like being on-air?
A.
I like finding and discovering music. I like to see a project come to life, so I kind of like being behind-the-scenes for the stuff that I do.

Q. Any goals in mind?
A.
Just to contribute and make the radio station the best it can be. To be part of a team like this—I felt like a rookie walking into the New York Yankees clubhouse. You have people who are just amazing on-air talents and it’s really humbling to be able to work alongside some of these folks. When you’re in the same building with David Dye and Jim McGuinn and to be working with Dan Reed and Bruce Warren—I can’t think of a better staff to be around. These are great professionals, they’re great at what they do and I’m just really excited to work with them and to learn from them. At the end of the day, I’ll just have fun and play rock and roll.

Q. What are you listening to now?
A.
The new Ray LaMontagne is really good, the new Jenny Lewis is really good. Kings of Leon—I love the new Kings of Leon and the new TV on the Radio—really great records.

Originally published Oct. 30, 2008

Originally published on October 30, 2008