KWCW Show of the Week: Cosmic Dread Radio

Community DJ Gary Young offers a blend of reggae and dub music that differs from the typical college radio show.


Photo by Alan Mendoza.

Eric Anderson, Staff Writer

For those living on campus, it can be easy to think of KWCW as being “college radio,” run by Whitman students for other Whitman students. But shows like “Cosmic Dread Radio,” hosted by community member Gary Young, serve as a good reminder that there is more to the station–and its contributors–than meets the eye.

“Cosmic Dread Radio” is a music show that focuses on the music; as Young notes, “I mainly try and play music and talk as little as possible.” While Young doesn’t limit himself to a single genre, he primarily focuses on reggae and dub.

Young, a Walla Walla native, hosted his first shows on KWCW during the summer of 1981, while spending the school year at Western Washington University. At college, Young grew attached to the reggae genre, and all his shows since have reflected this interest accordingly. Over the past ten years, Young has been consistently running his show on a year-round basis.

With his music, Young attempts to push past the typical fare of both standard radio and college radio shows. “I like to play music no one’s heard before,” says Young. “So I do play a mixture of reggae and dub.” Describing the genre, Young notes that, “Dub can be kind of anything.” It mixes in elements of blues, reggae, funk and African music. “It’s just a wide variety,” he says.

Over the years, Young has noticed some confusion regarding the meaning of his show’s title. “Not a lot of people ask,” he says. “They might think of Cosmic Dread as something…fearful, or bad. I think of a dread as like someone who wears dreadlocks.” Similarly, “cosmic” refers to “space, [like] a spacey universe-type thing.” According to Young, “Dub music is kinda, sometimes spacey music, so…that’s pretty much where I came up with the name.”

So “Cosmic Dread Radio” is a reference to the primary genres explored in the show, as well as the nature of the songs themselves.

While some of KWCW’s radio hosts might cringe at the thought of revisiting their previous shows, Young finds it the best part of the entire experience. “I try and record most of my show[s] so I can listen to them.” In particular, Young enjoys listening to a show he recorded years earlier and finding that he played one of the same songs he aired again recently. “I don’t always remember what I’ve played but…it’s interesting.”

Photo by Alan Mendoza.

Additionally, Young simply enjoys the way the songs on his radio mixes flow together, and finds it valuable to preserve the specific mix of songs. “It’s kinda like making your own mixtape, I guess,” he said.

When asked about whom he would recommend his show to, Young responded that, “You kinda have to be open-minded, and willing to listen to something you’ve never heard before, and give it a chance…because it’s not for everyone.” Despite this, he suggests that skeptical viewers should offer it the benefit of the doubt, saying “I think it could be [for everyone] if you …are just open to new sounds.”

As a community DJ, Young’s experience with KWCW is rather different from student DJs. However, he regards the community DJ experience positively, saying, “I think the management realizes that community DJs are [an] important part of the station, just like the students, because community DJs are the ones that, especially in the summer…come in and do their shows regularly and really like to do [them].”

“I’m glad to have the chance to keep doing the show,” says Young.

This semester, “Cosmic Dread Radio” airs from 6:00-8:00p.m. on Tuesdays.