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Mr. Webster's Musical Dictionary 

The best local release of the year is a...box set?

Charlotte's Andrew Webster drinks a lot of coffee. Works at a coffee shop, in fact. Which figures. A guy would have to be pretty amped up on joe to have two local radio shows (one on Gaston College's 91.7 FM and another on WBZK 980 AM), a planned local music TV show, and time to produce an eight-CD box set of Charlotte-area music.

Yes, you read that correctly. The 25-year old Webster, a former member of the well-received alt.country outfit Memphis Quick 50, has compiled what is not only the single most comprehensive local compilation ever, but probably the most comprehensive document of a music scene in a city of our size ever. Featuring everything from new teen acts to tenured talents like the Spongetones and ANTiSEEN, techno to traditional, Webster's Complex Radio compilation has something for everyone. Which, to hear Webster tell it, was the point of the thing in the first place.

Creative Loafing: When did you first get the idea to do the compilation?

Andrew Webster: I interned at (Charlotte's) MoRisen Records last Christmas through the spring, which was my last semester at Queens University. I graduated in May, and had to figure out what I was going to do. I was really into Charlotte music, and had been doing the Complex Radio shows. I was really into what I was doing, and had some great resources. Initially, the first Complex radio show came out of brainstorming for stuff to do. After working at MoRisen, I started thinking I wanted to do something in music that would reflect my own tastes. I was talking with Bobby Gillespie (Memphis Quick 50) about things to do, and he mentioned low-power radio. I started looking into it, and then I e-mailed Jeff Powell at Gaston College, mentioned that I was thinking about it, and asked if I could go visit his studio. I gave it some more thought, and decided I had all I needed to do a local radio show. I went around and collected some music and made a pitch to them, and they said "why not?" I started out doing the show on Friday nights, and did the show every week at home in my basement on my computer. A couple of months later, I got the new time on Monday, and got to go in and do it live.

So, soon I had all these albums. I was inspired by it, and inspired about all the good music that was here in Charlotte. I had no idea, really. I was trying to figure out something to do after I graduated, and I had all this local music I had collected, and so I thought of the box set idea. In reality, it took over eight months, and I'll be lucky to get my money back after it's all done.

Did you doubt at any point you'd get it done? Getting all those releases signed by the musicians, the production, that sort of thing?

I had this real strong feeling that it was the right thing to be doing within the first couple of months. I was (initially) going to release it at the end of the summer. Once I started working on it a few months, I started to get some doubts. There were a few nights that I thought the whole thing was a stupid idea and wasn't going to happen. Ultimately, though, I had so much fun doing it that I knew I was going to go through with it. So now I have about 20,000 CD sleeves in my dining room, and we're going to have a "packing party." My friend Jason calls it a "sweatshop party." (laughs)

How did you go about finding all the folks on the compilation?

A lot of them were people that came out of the woodwork for the show. I've always been somewhat outgoing, and so I'd go see a lot of bands, or, if someone recommended someone, I'd send them an e-mail. Some of them I sought out: The Spongetones, ANTiSEEN, etc. And a lot of it is people that do most of their music making on a computer, and I started seeking that kind of thing out, too. It's cool stuff, but there's no real outlet for it. I keep running into people that do that sort of thing, and I'm glad I got the chance to put some of that on there.

"Complex Radio" is obviously the constant in all this. Where did the name come from?

It's not just for one kind of person. There's all kinds of things on there, and I want everybody to be able to pick it up and get into new stuff and be turned on by it. This gives people an introduction into new things. They might pick it up for the bands they like, but then hopefully they'll see there's a whole world out there outside of "their" scene. It ties into Complex Radio, and the whole concept behind it: that people are capable of appreciating lots of different types of music. If you go to any music website or radio station, there's always a format, which is usually pretty limited. With the radio show and the box set, I was turned on to lots of new things. Some of them I don't necessarily understand so well, but I can appreciate it. The name ties into the age thing too. You know, there's a lot of teenagers that don't just want to listen to punk rock all the time, and probably some older folks curious about the younger crowd. It's got something for everybody.

The CD release party for Complex Radio: Charlotte Area Music Compilation, is happening at both the Evening Muse and Neighborhood Theatre this Friday, Dec. 19, from 7pm-12am. $15 will get you in to see the bands (over 15 of them) and a copy of the 8-disc box set. Local retailers The Record Exchange and Manifest will stock Complex Radio, or you can get it off the net at CDbaby.com.

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