KCRW is turning hosting duties for the influential “Morning Becomes Eclectic” to a two-fer for the first time, appointing two DJs who already had shifts on the Southern California station, Novena Carmel and Anthony Valdez, to become co-hosts in the three-hour morning music slot.
The public radio station, based at Santa Monica College, will not be accused of making hasty moves about the highly coveted spot — or, as it surprisingly turns out, spots — as the move caps a year-and-a-half-long search. Previous hosts, including originator Tom Schnabel, Chris Dourides, Nick Harcourt and Jason Bentley, had each spent a decade or more as “Morning” host since the show premiered in 1979. The last full-time host, Jason Bentley, announced in June 2019 that he would be exiting both his on-air gig and his job as program director. Longtime KCRW personality Anne Litt took over as “Morning” host last September and will continue until Carmel and Valadez settle into their new roles in January.
Litt was also named KCRW’s musical program director this past January and will continue in that position. She won’t be leaving the air when she gives up hosting the weekday morning show; the station says she will continue to be heard on a new show, “time and day TBD.”
After 18 months — most of that time spent with Litt turning what was envisioned as a quick temp role into full-fledged ownership of the legacy slot — the station decided it had its best picks right under its nose, already spinning records in weekend or late-night slots, with tastes that are suitably eclectic. The duo is expected to bring an easy familiarity to their shared airtime, even if they haven’t co-hosted in the past, having been friends for years, with Valadez even describing Carmel as “my best friend.”
“I feel ecstatic and a bit like I’m dreaming,” said Carmel. “I greatly admire Anthony’s work and what I would call his ‘creation ethic’: he seems to never stop creating and finding inspiration for creativity everywhere. We already have a lot of fun and exciting ideas for the show, and I’m so looking forward to collaborating more with the KCRW team and connecting with the listeners.”
“I’m excited to wake up with L.A. and Novena,” Valadez said. “She’s my best friend, but what I admire the most is her ability to stay positive and always add perspective.” He calls himself “a fan of the show’s celebrated history and hope to be an extension of it moving forward. It’s not a position I take lightly. I’ve always wanted to be at the intersection of ‘culture’ and ‘institution.’ KCRW has been the launching pad for ideas that fuse tech, social media, and execution of music discovery. These varied platforms have given me creative freedom to spotlight emerging artists and talent, and while I get the sense my aesthetic is perceived as ‘the sound of L.A,,’ in reality, it’s the sound of the world.” Added Valadez, “KCRW is held to such a high standard. Let’s go higher! Something new implies a fresh palette of ideas and colors. This new format will allow us to venture into something that’s never been done before.”
Said Litt, “I am so excited to pass the torch of MBE to Novena and Anthony. Novena is pure joy and Anthony is the heart and soul of Los Angeles. Together, they will explore fresh, new ways to reach music lovers globally. My journey will be to delve deeper into my role as program director of music, bring our roster of incredible DJs to their fans, and capitalize on the boundless talents of our entire music department across all of our platforms.”
The announcement comes as a happy one for KCRW after September headlines about budgetary distress that saw more than 20 DJs, producers or other staffers accepting voluntary buyouts, including some beloved longtime air personalities and producers. The cutbacks were an unusual show of vulnerability for one of the preeminent public radio stations in the country and certainly the most prominent on the west coast, one that had been bullish enough prior to the onset of COVID-19 to move out of its former basement space and open a new $38-million building on the Santa Monica College campus in March 2019.
Besides being an air personality, San Francisco-born Carmel has sung in a number of L.A. bands, and has some renown as the daughter of Sly Stone, of Sly & the Family Stone legend. The UCLA grad worked for Temple Bar Concepts for the last 14 years handling bookings for venues including Temple Bar, Zanzibar and the Virgil. Since become a DJ six years ago, she’s spun records at places ranging from Dublab and Ace Hotel to the Natural History Museum. While currently not part of a band, she does still sing with the Voices of Creation, a soul/jazz choir.
A native of L.A., Valdez has been working longer as a DJ, being on the air at KCRW since 2008 following with stints on stations as different as KCSN, KPFK and even KROQ. He, too, has spun at that DJ hotbed, the Natural History Museum, as well as at Temple Bar in L.A. and the SLS in Las Vegas. L.A. Weekly readers voted him “best club DJ” in 2016. He was seen on television as host and co-producer for three seasons of Fuse TV’s record collecting show, “Crate Diggers.” He’s released three indie albums of his own as well as working on official remixes for David Bowie, Local Natives and Ozomatli.
A look at the playlist from the new duo’s most recent individual slots on air gives an indication of broad tastes that will do nothing if not live up to their new gig’s title.
On Dec. 6, Valdez opened with Gabriel Garzon – Montano and went into such familiar and less familiar acts as Stevie Wonder, Los Hermanos Latinos, Earth Wind & Fire, Sly5thave And The Club Casa Chamber Orchestra, Kendrick Lamar, Iman Houssein, George Harrison, Dave Brubeck, Groove Theory, Tank and the Bangas, Talking Heads, Nature Boy Flako and Cautious Clay.