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Meet The Staff - Nik Thompson

Have you ever met someone at their "day job" and wondered what they do for a hobby?  We wonder how many people have bumped into Nik Thompson during the week would know that he gets his groove on with you every Sunday morning on WEMU.  Get to know a little more about the host of "The Sunday Best" and his passion for bringing you the very best music he can find.  That's what you support when you listen and donate to WEMU - the passion of folks just like Nik.  

What's your current position at WEMU - Host of the Sunday Best

Where is your hometown - Ann Arbor, MI

What are your favorite WEMU shows -  Honestly, I like them all.  This is really difficult to answer!  Whatever’s on right now is my favorite.  I prefer the live and local programs, no doubt, and I’ll take music over news eight days a week.  I suppose I associate our programs with the personal habits of mine that tend to have intersecting schedules – meaning that listening to Memphis to Motown reminds me of yard work, since you’ll usually find me in the yard on a Saturday afternoon.  And this is important because I love yard work, and so I love Memphis to Motown.  Nothing like listening to some good, old-fashioned, love-making music while hacking at buckthorn with a machete.   

MTV. Nik Thompson - not a fan. Not even back when they played music.


What drew you to WEMU - The music first and foremost.    I was such a goofy kid.  I hated (HATED!) MTV, and that was back when they played music.  Commercials too drove me crazy.  I wanted real music, without commercials.  Music is just so crucial to me.  And I’ve said this before, but no matter how much time passes, and how much my priorities change, and my tastes evolve, and my opinions metamorphose, music is steadfastly positioned in the middle of my value circle.  This is true for all of my colleagues at WEMU.  I don’t think I recognized how special that was 20-years ago when I started listening. Or maybe I recognized it subliminally.  I was a kid!  Kids like music, so it didn’t seem that remarkable to me that the staff at WEMU loved music so deeply.  But now, old and busted and grizzled with time’s patina, I am even more in love with the staff at WEMU and their devotion to sharing music they appreciate.  It takes remarkable constitution to play records for people week after week, year after year, simply for the connection that a shared love of music brings to the broadcaster and the listener.  

What's your day job - I help very smart people find specific answers to complex questions that are brought about by our convoluted and confusing Internal Revenue Code.  Now that you’re mostly asleep, I’ll ask your subconscious to pledge early and often to WEMU’s next pledge drive.  

Where is your favorite place to eat - My mom and dad’s.  Not because the food’s good (it is), or that it’s provided in particular abundance (it totally is!), but really it’s because the environment there is so loving and caring and nurturing for the entire family that the food just tastes that much better.   

What's one song that's stuck in your head - Somewhere Along the Way – Dawes.  Two words:  vocal harmony.  

Is there an album you think everyone should hear - Speaking of vocal harmony:  Lake Street Dive – Bad Self Portraits.  They have an excellent new record out (Side Pony), but for me, Bad Self Portraits is absolute enjoyment and glee personified by four immensely talented friends and musicians.  The album is exuberance and joy and there isn’t a bad track on it.  In fact, I broke into their new release with trepidation – the standard set by Portraits was, to me, so high.  I was fearful of a letdown.  Bad Self Portraits really is that exquisite.  The new release is good too, for the record. 

Nik's car (yes, really) after a spring shopping trip.

Do you have a favorite shopping destination - A hardware store.  Lumber, caulk, electrical tape, and mulch.  Considering the stuff living behind my walls (literally and figuratively).  Bench grinders, and dual-bevel, sliding, compound miter saws, and wood putty, and weed whackers!  No joke, that first warm Saturday of spring, when I get to load my car to the roof – the roof! -- with bags of top soil and mulch and open my sunroof and blast Lake Street Dive as I head home to a full day of dirt and sweat…I’m sorry, what was I talking about?  I started hyperventilating, blacked out, and woke up crying in a snow bank.  

What is your favorite vacation destination - New Orleans.  It’s the best music city in the world, period. 
Also, people there reward me with plastic beads for that which brings scorn and raises ire (at best) elsewhere.  

Do you have a favorite person to follow on Twitter/Tumblr/Instagram/Facebook - Well, I don’t use the first three, and I’ve un-followed almost everyone on Facebook…I’m probably the wrong person to ask.  If social media wasn’t a useful counterpart to what we do at WEMU on-air, I’d probably be off altogether.  I like what Arwulf (former host of the Sunday Best) posts on Facebook – lots of obscure old recordings and video clips and whatnot. There’s an Ann Arbor Townie group that features old pictures of Ann Arbor in the 30s40s50s and so on.  Those are fun to see.  I’m part of a Jazz Vinyl Lovers’ group.  It’s mostly jazz snobs posting pics of 180-gram Japanese record pressings of reasonably obscure 1970savant-garde jazz records.  But man – those records have great covers.  

What's the last movie you saw - Honest answer is Aladdin.  Twice a day, every day.  Kids, man.  
But on the grown-up side: Black Swan. I’m way behind on movies (kids, man).  It’s a great flick and a true horror film by my standard.  It made me reconsider my hygiene tendencies in relation to my fingernails.  

What's your most memorable WEMU moment (so far) - I’ve used this example before, but I can’t help but throw it out there again.  Working overnight during the Blackout of 2003 was simply unforgettable.  
Ray Cryderman and I racing back and forth to the transmitter, using trial and error to isolate essential studio components with a small enough draw to run off of a single generator.  We spent 8 hours trying to get the station powered up, finally succeeding at about 5AM – just in time for Morning Edition.  True devotion.

WEMU's Nik Thompson at Growing Hope in Ypsilanti


I love public radio because... - There are no commercials.  I trust what I hear.  I can count on it no matter where I’m traveling in the US.  I love getting into a car in, say, Buffalo, Wyoming, ignoring the satellite radio options, and scanning through the “left side” of the dial for local public radio signals.  You get local color from the original programing, and a certain solace from the national content.  Plus, I get to see how well WEMU stacks up against other stations (turns out, pretty good).  

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