Sound Animal Interviews R Duck


(Originally published by Cave Dweller Music.)

R Duck is a fantastic experimental ambient musician whose innovative music can be experienced every week introducing his radio show, Sound Wheels, at the Stanford radio station, KZSU. As a DJ, he has a uniquely comforting, slyly playful, always calmly poised personality while he speaks during the two-hour episodes, giving us not only the playlist but other unexpected delights. The colorful visualizers for each show, found on Instagram and Facebook, showcase his immersive music as it sets the tone for each whimsically named musical extravaganza, which is archived on Podomatic and Mixcloud. Musicians Miko Biffle, Ernesto Diaz-Infante, Mean Flow, and Cousin Silas are often included. Let’s learn more…

Sound Animal: I come across your music primarily through your radio show podcast each week, as the pieces begin the episodes. I’m inevitably struck by the lit-up beauty of your pieces. Can you tell us where we can find more of just your music alone? Do you have plans to consolidate and of it and make it more easily discoverable?

R Duck: Most every Tuesday for Sound Wheels I am crafting new music sculptures and carefully assembling an assortment of other musical offerings which include submissions, hand selected listening and requests I make to performers. KZSU Stanford is very generous to allow so much abuse of their airwaves. It is all in good clean fun though. Local music heavy. Family oriented I guess you could say. If you have a pretty cool family interested in truly heart felt that speaks from and to its creators. The music comes from their own life experiences and creativity. 


I manage to keep a fairly complete archive of Sound Wheels at

Most every show starts with a modest contribution from myself to set the tone of the program. Like the opening monologue on late night TV or the circus barker presenting the evenings offerings and amusements. Using my openings, I create short promotional videos which are offered at


There is an old archive of programs and improvisations set to video on YouTube 


I look forward to consolidating these and other downloads at this summer.

Sound Animal: You answered that every Tuesday you craft new music for the show. Do you really mean that, that you make your piece on that day? I’d imagine it must take you much longer than that, as they’re complex, long, sophisticated, with lots of layers and ambitious sound design. It must be so nice to create pieces with the show in mind, because there’s a waiting audience.


And that’s interesting that you make requests from performers. Can you give me an example? 


Are you asking them for a certain emotion or use of an instrument? 


When you say local, do you mean mostly the musicians are in California as a whole?


Your words on the show do create a family atmosphere, though it’s a little hard for me to imagine youngsters relating to it as much as people with developed taste. Do you have a sense of the ages of the listeners?


The titles of the shows particularly show off your playful side. I enjoy the creativity you put into what you say during the show, which is tempered by your calm even keel. I always have the sense you’re having fun and relaxing into the enjoyment of the music. I like how you prompt listeners to get some hot tea and a comfy chair to prepare to settle into the experience. What’s the experience of DJing like and why do you do it?

R Duck: I have been performing and hosting on the radio for many years. Several appendages worth of digits of years now. At FRSC, KZSC, KUSP, KFJC and most recently KZSU. The actual role of being a DJ is fairly new and comes from my experience at KFJC. Also from growing up listening to my mom’s radio station selection before school hoping beyond hope school would be canceled for the day due to snow or a hurricane or something. Anything. The DJ’s had such deep classic tone. Measured timing as they would read off a list of the school districts and individual schools that were closed for the day.


 I think of them and remember the anticipation I felt. Later I would try to imagine what they thought their role was in people lives.


Sound Wheels is coming from a background of long form performances and improvisations. The entire program was all performed live in past years. With guests and many surprises along the way. The confined space and lack of ventilation made that impossible for a couple years now, so I started reaching out to performers to provide music. 


It has been a great experience and makes for a show pace I was not used to. I am excited to apply that to live radio performance again soon.

Sound Animal: Do you think you’ll move back to only having live performances on the show?
I’m very curious about your role at the radio station. How did you get that position? I think of it as being for students. Want to talk about your education and relationship to Stanford? Does your show logistically work similarly to the other shows at the station? What’s your relationship to their charts? 

R Duck: I spent some time at Stanford’s CCRMA as an outsider guest. I thought of Stanford as a place with outrageous music and experimentations in sound spaces, devices and software. I interacted with and had Jordan Rudess as a guest in the pirate radio times. Not long before starting at KZSU. At the time he was an Artist in Residence at Stanford CCRMA. I knew him as the motivator behind synthesizer sounds and his audio-stretching software because of Stanford. However, people tell me I may be a little singularly focused and naive. Apparently, Stanford does a lot of different things. 


I came to KZSU from KFJC. I had DJ’d there for a time as a fill-in wanting to create a live late night radio program. The late nighttime was great. Nighttime is when sound conjures. I felt free there and they have an amazing music department that always had something new I could mash up on the air. But there never felt like there would be a time when I could bring in the guests and perform freely. Regularly. It seemed like a great match, but complications stood in the way.

 It was at KFJC a fellow DJ (Dangerous Dan) let me know KZSU wanted a couple new DJ’s and there I went! First with my friend and Serge modular guru Doug Lynner. We cohosted Bloop and Quack. Then onto Sound Wheels.


 Before KZSU I was performing very long programs on a pirate radio station in Santa Cruz, Ca. These weekly shows included performance of many instruments, turntables, storytelling, snacking and sensible meal planning along with guests and surprises. Those programs would run quite late into the night. At KZSU the R Duck Show became Sound Wheels. A Gee Bee Super Sportstar caught on flypaper. Fast paced while still held onto by an incredibly sticky, malleable, flexible and floppy piece of tape. I like to think they make flypaper from the archives of the magnetic recording of Burt Bacharach.

Sound Animal: What is the live performance aspect like logistically, and is the practice returning now as things are opening up more? Are people jumping on the opportunity and are you embracing it as much as ever? Any wild stories of live shows where things go unexpectedly?


R Duck: Having performances at the radio station was put to a stop until very recently. The radio station is well set for live performance but requires an engineer do the mixing and keep levels within reason. Since that is not usually available to me, I use whatever handy mixing device I can muster that can, preferably, record separately the various signals being sent to me from the performers. I prefer performers to bring their own mixer for all their sound sources. This lets them monitor themselves and I think helps them get the sound exactly the way they intend. Once the signal hits the stations mixing board, I have very little control. Only overall volume. A radio station mixing board is a unique device, very different from the mixers many musicians are used to using at home or in their studios.


 The finest performances of danger I have had the privilege to be associated with is via MicroHausen, a small offshoot of Woodstock Hausen. In this venue performers are truly free to express their audible and visual dreams. I’ve seen audiences set up in rows blindfolded while children run through the aisles rustling branches and clacking sticks, four audio channel surround sound modular systems, duct tape run rampant and gunpowder lit from audio speakers playing the most ungodly music you can imagine. Much of that mayhem originates from Later Days and his cohorts from the original Woodstock Hausen. If rumor holds true the festival may be reincarnated at Woodstock, NY this summer!

Sound Animal: You’ve said so many wonderful things, thank you. I love learning more about how you think… Nighttime conjuring, Bacharach flypaper, running children clacking sticks, wow! 


Can you describe the process you go through to create your own music that you put on the show? And do you plan on ever putting out albums of your pieces past or present, through a distributor, for example? Even if you aren’t -- care to make up any imaginary album names for them?

 R Duck: I will talk, assuming the music selections are not indulging the requests or desires of the majority of music listeners. The performers stand on their own to be experienced on their own merits. To me anyway. The composers and producers are creating music that they want to hear perhaps hoping it will resonate with some others. If the music is on the show, it has at least inspired me. I hope the sounds can reach other people that feel some connection to it as well.


 The music on the Sound Wheels is self-supporting. It does not need a backstory. The music is an experience of listening and feeling. 


 My own music contributions come from a physical connection to my instrument. The processing and effects are deeper expressions about time. The music unfolds and refolds itself as it is performed. It is mostly improvised coming from my own experiences and reflections. The music is a reflective and refractive poem.


 It can start with a note, series of notes or a chord of notes. But sometimes it is a sound or utterance. Rhythm is important to me as well.


 It would be nice to have a place to share the music I have made. I am thrilled to create the show and get to share some of it that way and would be tickled if a distributer wanted to help.

 That may be the first album, Tickled.


Sound Animal: Your music is so dreamlike that I’d be curious to hear anything you’d like to say about your dreams at night. 

R Duck: The music is like a waking dream or maybe an auditory hallucination. It comes out of the unconscious and is materialized through a physical process of playing and manipulating my instruments, special effects and dark chocolate consumption.  Like a dream, the story lines can be quite jumbled and sometimes defy common natural laws. 


 In contrast my sleeping dreams can be quite pedestrian. Focused on the days works and events. Sometimes reaching toward new spaces. But then, I usually wake up.






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