On the Air

On The Air: Pop Drones

by Jacey Gibb

photo provided by Mark Richardson
photo provided by Mark Richardson

Statistically speaking, Wednesdays are the worst day of the week. Any afterglow of the previous weekend has long faded away and you’re stuck with a handful of dreaded days before the next one. Luckily Mark Richardson, host of the radio show Pop Drones, is on standby every Wednesday on CiTR to provide a sweet escape through “unearthing the depths of contemporary cassette and vinyl underground.”

Someone’s never heard of Pop Drones. What do you tell them to make them want to listen?

It’s for anyone who’s interested in what’s going on in modern music. If you like more adventurous music — if you want to know what’s happening now, or in the last few months — then it’s worth listening to.


How did Pop Drones come to be?

I had a friend who started his own show and told me how easy it was to get going. During that time, I also ran a mixed tape club, which I had taken over from a friend. I loved making these mixed tapes and so that was the idea behind [Pop Drones] when I started the show. It was like, “What am I going to do? What’s the focus going to be?” I wanted to focus on something and it had to be contemporary music; the idea is like making a mixed tape every week. This is the best way to get a mixed tape out to as many people as possible, through the podcasts and being on-air.


How was Pop Drones changed over the five years since it’s been on the air?

When I first started, because I play a lot of styles of contemporary music, I would try to jam everything into one episode. I would usually start off with some garage rock or bedroom pop, rock-based music and then eventually hit multiple genres and at the end it would be a drone or noise track. So it would hit everything in-between. But then I started to think, “Am I attracting people or am I turning people off?” There are a lot of people who are genre-specific and there’s not a lot of crossover between people who love garage rock and listen to noise music as well or listen to solo acoustic, finger-picking stuff. A couple years into the show, I changed the format to be genre-specific or at least things that were in a similar vein. If I want to do noise, I’ll do all noise; if I want to do drone, I’ll do all drone.


Why play underground/bedroom/pop/lo-fi/etc.?

It’s what I’m into. That’s just a small portion of it. Pop Drones really hits a lot of different genres and themes every week. I honestly play things on the show that I like and listen to and buy and support. There’s no other agenda. I think most people run their show like that.


Anything you’ve always wanted to do on the show but haven’t yet?

For five years I’ve been slacking on making an opening theme for my show. I have nothing. I literally play a song when I come on and I announce that Pop Drones is now on the air. “I’ll be with you for the next 90 minutes.” I’ve been putting off doing an ad, but nothing I’ve been dying to do.


The apocalypse is happening and Pop Drones is on-air. What album do you play to send the world off with a bang?

Wolf Eyes’ Stabbed in the Face 12-inch


What do you have planned next for Pop Drones?

The genre-centric episode format I have now is pretty great. I could do a three-hour show of new music every week, for sure. The future for me might hold a longer show, late at night, so I could really pour on the new music and maybe even give more of a spotlight to someone. Play some old music that relates to new music. One of my favourite shows for a while — that isn’t running anymore — was Art for Spastics. It was like a punk, post-punk, weirdo-punk show. He played a lot of new stuff; it was always about 70 per cent new music and then 30 per cent older stuff, but it always related. That would be the dream show somewhere down the line, where I’d have a two- to three-hour show and I’d be able to play a little more old and new music and connect the dots. Having some sort of reference musically and a lineage is a lot more interesting to me. I’ll eventually retire the Pop Drones thing and maybe do something that’s more along those lines.

Catch Pop Drones every Wednesday from 10:00 to 11:30 a.m. on CiTR 101.9 FM.