Like a lot of ‘80s kids, I was a big fan of synth pop, early hip hop, new wave and The Smiths, and I was obsessed with the radio. I was a bit of a weirdo growing up in mylittle Nebraska town, but music was evidence of an outside world where there were people like me—and radio was a connection to that world. When the weather was just right, I could dial in Omaha stations, catch “Rock Over London,” “Dr. Demento,” a hip hop show or weekend dance mix. Any chance I had to travel (marching band trip to Denver!), I’d obsessively record radio broadcasts on my little Walkman, and these tapes were my prized possessions.
It was probably inevitable I’d end up working in radio. At my college station (KRLX 88.1 FM at Carleton College in Minnesota) my shows evolved from ‘80s flashbacks to tripped-out techno. When I got a show at LIVE 105 in San Francisco, I took every opportunity to try and create those unexpected moments that had always thrilled me as a mopey teen: new music, surprising connections, awesome segues, and, sure, ridiculous novelties. Unexpectedly, my own silly mashups and remixes ended up taking me around the world as a DJ, and along the way I got to absorb even more music into my always ravenous brain.
Like most of the Pandora music heads, my tastes are all over the place. I have a whole collection of Russian punk records and own every Lungfish album. J Dilla changed my life. The band I’ve seen the most live: Queens of the Stone Age (at least 20 times), and New Order and Joy Division take up the most space on my record shelves. Right now I’m trying to figure out if Jamie xx or Tame Impala made the album of 2015—and if you’re curious, I’ve posted all my previous year-end rankings (from the past 18-ish years!) over on my web site at http://partyben.com/charts/.
However, at Pandora, my job isn’t really to “judge” music. It’s more like I can be a conduit that brings music from the world to your ears. I’ve always loved creating those surprising and entertaining listening experiences, but now, the difference is we’ve basically got infinite channels to work with, and the power of our Music Genome and all that awesome stuff. It’s like we live in the future! So whether it’s the latest EDM banger, a dance classic or the freakiest blast of avant-garde electronic noise ever, I want to help make sure the right music gets to the right people.