Wisconsin Sessions

a chat with Brad Kolberg about his WPR show, which highlights Wisco musicians

James Johonnott

ON AIR WITH AERO. Aero Flynn – with plenty of Eau Clairians in the lineup, knock one out for Wisconsin Public Radio’s new Set List Show.
ON AIR WITH AERO. Aero Flynn – with plenty of Eau Clairians in the lineup, knock one out for Wisconsin Public Radio’s new Set List Show.

More Wisconsin-grown music is about to hit airwaves. WPR’s popular talk show Central Time is now airing Set List, a Friday afternoon, summer-long series of segments that showcase Wisconsin musicians. The series is produced by Brad Kolberg and Karl Christensen, former students at UW-Eau Claire, and members of the Madison-based band Icarus Himself. Volume One recently got a chance to talk to Brad about the program and how it fits into Wisconsin’s rising music scene.

Volume One: Was there a core idea behind starting Set List? How did it come about?

Brad Kolberg: I’ve had the idea for a while and just needed to find the right time. I think there’s a portion of our audience that tunes in for news and issues stuff, and then heads somewhere else for their music fix. I know Wisconsin has a lot to offer musically, and I want to package that for our listeners. I want WPR and Set List to be the music fix.

How does Set List fit into the growth of Wisconsin’s budding music industry?

“I’m trying hard to create an atmosphere for these bands where they can have one of those ‘great’ sessions. I want it to be laid-back and easy. I want it to be kinda like a rehearsal – just hanging out, playing muci, cracking jokes. That’s when I’ve felt best as a performer.” – Brad Kolberg on the vibe of his new WPR program, Set List

It’s been really fun to watch things take off in the last few years with so many people finding success around the state – Eau Claire in particular. I went to UWEC, have played in bands, toured the state and the U.S., and shared the stage with lots of people who are doing great things. I think Wisconsin is “on the map” lately, and I hope Set List can help spread the word and turn people on to new stuff that they may not have heard of.

How have the first recording sessions gone?

It’s been an adventure. We have a great space at our Madison offices called “Buck Studio” that had gone underutilized for years. It’s original use was orchestra recordings, it’s great for bands, and it gives me a chance to toy around with lots of vintage mics and gear. Most of what I’ve done as an engineer over the years has been talk-radio stuff, so working with bands has been a thrill. I was kind of inventing the wheel a little bit since we just started doing this, but I’m really happy with the results so far. I think I shocked a few co-workers with the noise a few times, but I’ve gotten a lot of enthusiasm more than anything.  Everyone has been really supportive. 

Aero Flynn was great – maybe my favorite session. Their setup is really cool and unique – drum pads, sequencer stuff, synth foot pedals, vocal effects and loops, so it was a blast to record and film them doing their thing.

In what ways have you brought your experiences with Icarus Himself into Set List?

Icarus Himself had a little success for a while and got the opportunity to tour and do some studio sessions, and we had great and not-so-great experiences. I’m trying hard to create an atmosphere for these bands where they can have one of those “great” sessions.  I want it to be laid-back and easy. I want it to be kinda like a rehearsal – just hanging out, playing music, cracking jokes. That’s when I’ve felt best as a performer, and I hope that all these artists leave feeling like it was a no-stress, fun time. 

What are the future goals for Set List?

I hope that Wisconsin likes what they hear and see from Set List, and that I can continue doing this for a long time.  I think another benefit of Wisconsin musicians having such success lately is Wisconsin is an even stronger destination for other touring bands.  I’d like Set List to work with bands that are touring through and really reinforce Wisconsin as a music destination. I’d love to gather the local and Wisconsin music community and partner in events and festivals – get out of the studio and produce on-location content, collaborate with blogs and publications like Volume One on shows, playlists, sessions – sky’s the limit. Wisconsin has a great music scene, it’s part of a great national scene, and I’d love to document that in as many ways as possible.

You can listen to Set List as part of Central Time at 4:15pm Fridays on WPR’s Ideas Network (WHWC-FM 88.3 locally). A schedule, full performances, and more information can be found at www.wpr.org/setlist.

Press and hold the up/down arrows to scroll.