Reporter’s Note: Having joined KZSC in winter 2021, I witnessed firsthand the benefit of being a part of this community during such an isolating time in my life. The impact of being a part of the station changed the way I listened to music during quarantine and made me curious about others as well. I first heard about the DJs profiled below through KZSC staff and class meetings and wanted to use this profile as an opportunity to speak with them and share their experiences.   

Perched on stilts and nestled into the overgrown hillside behind Crown and Merrill colleges sits KZSC, the student- and community-run radio station at UC Santa Cruz. The station’s worn wooden exterior blends into the towering redwoods that surround it. Inside the station, shelves overflow with records and the otherwise stale walls are covered in student art, posters, and flags hung from the side beams. An ideal environment for what is the hub of Santa Cruz music culture. 

The backbone of KZSC are its DJs and their eclectic music tastes, from ear busting rock to groovy disco to mystifying jazz. When the COVID-19 pandemic seemed to shut everything down in March 2020, the DJs of KZSC stayed engaged with the UCSC community by programming both remotely and in the station. 

DJ Dolce, DJ Buddha Hannah, and DJ NEB808 are three of many DJs who make up the greater whole of KZSC. These three DJs lead their double lives as UCSC students. DJ Dolce – a fourth year ecology and evolutionary biology major, DJ Buddha Hannah will be entering their third year as a fine arts major, and DJ NEB808 is a third year environmental studies major. The DJ’s of KZSC dedication and love for music carried them, and their listeners, through a bewildering era.

DJ Dolce: From “The Funk Zoo” to Peru

DJ Dolce recording live in the air room at KZSC on Jun 15. 2020. Courtesy of Audrey Peshkam.

Audrey Peshkam, also known as DJ Dolce, found herself spiraling into the abyss of sad music last March. Despite the gloom, Peshkam used her place at the station to lift people’s spirits and combat the quarantine blues with new playlists. 

For the past three quarters, Peshkam has hosted “The Funk Zoo,” her disco funk show that highlighted music ranging from ‘80s Nigerian pop to American Rock ‘n’ Roll. Peshkam’s show gave her something to look forward to during quarantine. But as time passed, remote recording became taxing, and it lacked the buoyant energy of live in-person recording.

With Zoom fatigue in full force, Peshkam found moments during quarantine that wouldn’t have been possible pre-pandemic. She got the opportunity to interview one of her favorite rock bands from Peru, Manduka, for KZSC this past year. 

“With Zoom, we were able to think past an in-person interview,” Peshkam said. “I felt I had the courage to reach out to someone across the world and schedule an interview like that.”

Peshkam became the genre director of international music at the station at the end of her junior year in 2020, a little over a year after she first got involved with KZSC. Her goal as director was to hone in on historical and cultural differences between international records, instead of holistically labeling them as world music.

“There was a disconnect with the [international music] section of our CD library and how folks were interacting with global music,” said Peshkam. “I’m glad that I was able to help reinforce these ideas of respecting other cultures, and understanding the importance of why we should be talking about things and accurately respecting the geography and the language.”

If you were stuck on a deserted island with only 3 records, what would you choose?

Exodus by Bob Marley, Ctrl by SZA, and Bad Brains’ self titled album

DJ Buddha Hannah: Pandemic Power in the Lonely Hour

DJ Buddha Hannah in the air room on Nov 1. 2020 for their first time back at KZSC after quarantining at home for 6 months. Courtesy of Hannah Rouland

While many were dazed and confused in spring of 2020, Hannah Rouland, or DJ Buddha Hannah, took the uncanniness of quarantine and embraced it. Rouland created the show “Quarantine Complex” to explore the convoluted emotions felt at the beginning of the pandemic. 

“All of the songs were really about what we were experiencing,” Rouland said. “Sometimes it was music that you were jumping around in your room to, sometimes it was sad music that you were mourning to, because that’s something that happens due to COVID.”

Rouland is the design director for KZSC. Their job entails creating and managing art for show designs, among other responsibilities. Next year they will be the program director for the station. 

Rouland has been a KZSC member for three years and found that being a part of the station during the pandemic gave them a sense of purpose and something to channel their energy into.

Since their show in spring 2020, Rouland has tried to stick to more upbeat music in their daily listenings.

“Sometimes listening to sad music when you’re sad is not going to make you feel better,” said Rouland. “I’m learning to be a little bit more positive, and trying to get excited about going back into the world. So my music is reflecting that, I’m listening to a little bit happier music now.”

If you could invite anyone on your radio show, dead or alive, who you pick?

Kurt Cobain

DJ NEB808: Quarantine DJ on Replay 

DJ NEB808 stands in their garage in Santa Cruz holding up their mixing board in April 2020. Courtesy of Ben Cook.

With a mixing board app in hand and a global pandemic knocking at their door, UCSC  third-year, Ben Cook, also known as DJ NEB808, launched themself into the world of EDM. But, Cook’s road to being an EDM powerhouse of KZSC started long before stepping foot in the station, with an Italian dinner party mix curated by a friend in high school.

“[My friend] put on this really cool, smooth Italian music playlist for a fancy dinner, and I was like, ‘Damn, this is so sick. What a cool playlist to have on hand,’” Cook said. “So that week, I basically made my own version of his playlist and then I really got into curating Spotify playlists.”

With some unexceptional trumpet and drum skills, Cook said that DJing was the perfect musical option that combined their love for music through curating playlists. 

Alone in their room during quarantine, Cook practiced on their mixing board app, quickly upgrading to a physical one. Cook got involved with KZSC in fall 2020, producing their first underground dance music show, ‘Bee Boo Bop’ in the winter 2021 quarter. Cook described quarantine life to be stagnant, but found excitement through their journey in improving as a DJ.

“DJing has been like a rock,” Cook said. “It really transports me to a different world for a little bit where I can just kill some time. […] There’s never been a more important time in my life to have a hobby to grasp on to and to fill my time with, and DJing has been that hobby for the last year.”

If you were to plan a music festival at UCSC, where on campus would it be and who would headline?

In the woods of upper campus. Headlined by Ben UFO, SHERELLE, and DJNEB808

Listen to DJ Buddha Hannah’s, DJ Dolce’s, and DJ NEB808’s top songs from quarantine here. Tune into KZSC at 88.1 FM in Santa Cruz and Monterey County’s or stream online here.