Red Bull Radio’s Vivian Host talks about Peak Time and her soundtrack to Berlin

Sonos is happy to welcome Red Bull Radio, one of over 80 integrated music services on the Sonos app. Celebrating Red Bull Music Academy’s 20th anniversary in Berlin (the city where it all started in 1998), Sonos recently teamed up with Red Bull Radio for 3 days of radio programming live from the Sonos Store Berlin. The broadcasts featured some of the city’s most intriguing artists that continue to shape Berlin’s music landscape. We had the opportunity to talk to Red Bull Radio’s favourite, Vivian Host about her personal highlights, her very own Berlin soundtrack and what she listens to at home when she’s not presenting her daily show, putting on events or playing in clubs across the globe.

Vivian Host is the voice behind Peak Time, Red Bull Radio’s popular daily show. The two-hour show is recorded live from the station’s Manhattan studio five days a week and features a blend of music news, new releases, in-depth artist interviews, cultural commentary and a selection of tracks that underpin and contextualise stories from both mainstream and underground culture alike. Next to a number of high-profile electronic music producers, Vivian has shared the airwaves with the likes of Charlotte Gainsbourg, Jean-Michel Jarre, Erykah Badu and legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog.

Recently Sonos brought Peak Time from New York to Berlin for a three-day radio pop-up, featuring a selection of some of the best Red Bull Radio has to offer. Next to DJ sets from Matias Aguayo and mobilegirl, Peak Time invited on a bevy of Berlin artists who define the city’s musical history over the last 20 years. Vivian talked to Alec Empire of Atari Teenage Riot about protest songs and resistance through music. UK bass mastermind The Bug and dancehall MC Miss Red spoke about originality and remaining inventive, and German artist Reinhard Kleist talked about the essence of Nick Cave’s songs during the life and times of his Berlin chapter.

A veteran music journalist and dj herself, Vivian has been the editor for several music magazines and has been a producer and dj herself operating out of New York. Originally from L.A. and growing up in warehouse parties as a teenager, the self acclaimed “Brooklyn queen of heavy bass” has as many insightful stories to impart as the artists she’s interviewing on her shows.

We had the opportunity to catch up about the shows she recorded from Sonos Store Berlin and talk to her about her musical relationship with Berlin and the role music plays in her home.

In the 3 days of shows what were some of the stories / thoughts and tracks that stuck with you? 

My guests during those 3 days – and Berlin artists in general – are so fearless in their self-expression and outspoken about their beliefs and the meaning of their work. It was super inspiring to see that idea translated in so many different ways and in different styles of music, from Alec Empire’s riot-starting breakcore to The Bug’s anti-establishment acid ragga to Planningtorock’s queer sonics. One of the biggest thrills was talking to electronic music pioneer Thomas Fehlmann about the scene in the mid-to-late 80s and playing special dance records that were made for the 1988 Seoul Olympics (and not available anywhere)!

The Bug talked about great music coming from political context and therefore having had fire in its belly. He mentioned that a lot of music today, ended up in a sea of mediocrity. What’s your view on new music in the internet age? 

I love that people don’t have to rely on a label to release their stuff or a journalist to write about it – some of the most exciting things I’ve heard came off a YouTube video or a Soundcloud or Bandcamp link. The internet puts me in touch with what’s going on all over the world; for instance, what’s cool in Cameroon or Chengdu! But because it’s so easy to put your music up and get noticed, I think artists sometimes don’t edit their work enough and musicians (but especially young, up ‘n’ coming ones) sometimes spend more time on the social media and marketing aspects than mastering their craft. In terms of politics, I see a wave of artists making more politically charged music at the moment. I guess the short answer is it’s both good and bad.


Is there an artist or a period in Berlin music history that inspires you?

Quite a few moments! I am really inspired by the techno that happened right after the wall fell, such as the early Tresor releases, and also early releases of Mayday king Westbam like “The Mayday Anthem” (1992) and “And Party” (1989)… I guess anything that would have been played at the first couple editions of the Love Parade. And I’m super inspired the Neue Deutsche Welle scene of the early 1980s (which is more Germany in general) with punk and proto-electronic bands like DAF, Einstürzende Neubauten and X-Mal Deutschland and lots of really great haircuts.


Do you have a Berlin specific track that reminds you of the city or a moment you spend here?

Ellen Allien “Alles Sehen” from 2003. The sound of this album Berlinette just reminds me of riding the U-Bahn through the city in the morning light after being up all night, and also just sort of typifies the quirky, very personal sound of the electronic music I associate with Berlin around the early ’00s.

Drop the Lime’s “Coal Oven Fevers” (on Tigerbeat6) reminds me of going to Berlin in winter of 2005. Luca (Drop the Lime) had moved to Berlin from NYC and lived in this old apartment in Mitte with a coal oven and a weird bathroom. I slept on a mattress on the floor for a week and we just went out constantly to squat parties, pop-up bars, kitschy old places and industrial punk spots. I particularly remember Hackescher Markt and how different it was back then. Everything was super raw and exciting and wild and it made a huge impact on me to this day. This song is about a Berlin winter and all those dark hungover days and the struggle of being an artist, and I think it’s still pretty relevant. And now Luca (who makes music as Curses) lives in Berlin again.


Peak Time is on five days a week and features in-depth artist interviews all across the musical map, how do you prepare for it? 

I search for new music and music news every morning (and all day long) and try to break it all down into what is the most interesting, relevant and cool. I also do a lot of research for the artist interviews and try to ask people questions that they might not have been asked before. It’s kind of like studying for a test every day but it pays off! Other than that, I just try to find different ways to cover music news and culture and have interesting guests on. The show is a daily digest of what’s new in music but we also go in-depth on topics – I guess I look at it as what I would want to listen to from a daily show that I don’t get from all the stations I listen to. And I could not do any of it without my amazing producer Sara Casella, who books the talent and just generally keeps the ship sailing.

Peak Time is a really great way to discover new music, what’s your process in selecting the tracks for each show. 

I check out all the new releases, listen to promos, follow my instincts based on Twitter and Instagram and YouTube finds. On the show I really just want to distill it down to what’s new and interesting across genres, what people are talking about (usually avoiding straight up pop because it doesn’t need any more promotion!) and making sure to put some new gems in there from around the world. A main thing is drawing connections between tracks and giving things context. Having so many artists and journalists come through the studio you learn a lot about what new music is being worked on, and being a club DJ and going out often also helps find fresh new things.


What do you enjoy most about Peak Time? Is there a highlight from over 1.5 years of shows you can share with us? 

I love learning so many new things every week. Music is a great window for talking about culture, politics, history, personal stories, etcetera. It’s also been very special doing the show live around the world – being able to do a baile funk show in Sâo Paulo for instance or doing the show live in Atlanta from Mean Streets Studios while Lil Uzi Vert was finishing his album in the next room. Interview-wise, talking to Werner Herzog and Jean-Michel Jarre was a real trip, Oneohtrix Point Never and Rico Nasty were very special, and also interviewing Zaytoven, who is one of hip-hop’s biggest producers, while he sat at a grand piano across from me and played me songs was very memorable.


Apart from Peak Time, what other shows on Red Bull Radio can you recommend? 

I really love the Federation Sound show hosted by Max Glazer: it’s the place to go for all the new reggae/dancehall cuts. He’s a real New York king at this point — an amazing DJ, radio host and party promoter and he always gets the wildest guests like Spice, Mr. Vegas, Chronixx and even Wyclef Jean and Sting! If you’re into NYC hip-hop, soul and funk history, Across 135th Street is always a good listen; Chairman Mao is such a great interviewer. And our Alumni20 Mix series going on right now featuring brand new DJ mixes from Nina Kraviz, Black Coffee, Toxe, Marie Davidson, Mumdance, Sinjin Hawke and other alumni of the Red Bull Music Academy is proving to be pretty mind-blowing.

You mentioned somewhere you grew up attending warehouse parties and were fascinated by rave culture as a teenager, was there a particular artist or track that led you into it? 

I used to watch a music videos show after school to see New Wave and industrial videos and I think that might have been where I first heard the music. Videos they played are Radioactive Goldfish “LSD is the Bomb,” Messiah “Temple of Dreams” and The Prodigy “Out of Space.” But it was The Prodigy that really ended up having a huge effect on me — I saw them at the Hollywood Palladium in 1993 and it changed my life forever.


What posters did you have on the wall as a teenager and what music did you listen to? 

I had Depeche Mode and The Cure posters on my wall that eventually turned into rave flyers I guess. I listened to all kinds of electronic stuff, shoegaze, 80s punk, indie and lots of rap (which was all around in L.A.). If you would have asked me when I was 15 or 16, my favorite groups were Sonic Youth, Fugazi, The Prodigy, Depeche Mode, Dead Kennedys, Moby and Meat Beat Manifesto plus some local punk bands and local DJs like R.A.W. and Trance & Fester.


What’s your home listening go-to? Do you have an album or track to relax and kick-back to at home?

A strong favorite is still Huerco S. For Those Of You Who Have Never (and Also Those Who Have) from 2016, plus Visible Cloaks, Aisha Devi and if I’m feeling nostalgic and dramatic then maybe The Soft Moon or Tamaryn. Speaking of Berlin, I’ve really been returning to dub techno lately listening to some of the old Chain Reaction releases and Rhythm & Sound.

Peak Time airs Monday – Friday 12-2pm EST / 6-8pm CET on Red Bull Radio.

Red Bull Radio is one of over 80 integrated music services on Sonos.

Red Bull Radio is now available to enjoy in the Sonos app. To stream Red Bull Radio on Sonos, select “Add Music Services” from any Sonos Controller app, scroll down to the Red Bull Radio icon and click “Add to the Sonos”. From there, you can tune into Red Bull Radio’s on-air broadcast and all Channels.

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