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Kirchen's Radio-Rich Career

30 Years (More or Less) of WMSE

Mar. 9, 2011
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Rich Kirchen has been a Milwaukee journalist for more than 30 years, working in various capacities as columnist, editor and reporter at TheBusiness Journal since 1990. Under one name or another, most recently as Rich Mars, Kirchen has also been a DJ on WMSE for much of that time.

You've enjoyed a dual career in radio and print...

I was a journalism major at UWM when I came across an article in the Express—you may have written it!—about a college radio station on the Milwaukee School of Engineering campus. I contacted the station and finagled my way into an air spot. For me, it was the coolest thing—sharing the music I loved on the radio.

You've been a volunteer on WMSE. Have you ever worked in commercial radio?

I was in Iowa for six years writing for the DubuqueTelegraph Herald. I looked into radio and spent a few months working part time at an adult contemporary station. It was mainly because I needed the money! I also did community access FM and sent tapes back to [WMSE DJ] Paul Host and anyone in Milwaukee who'd listen.

Why did you return to Milwaukee?

Milwaukee seemed like Mecca to me compared with Dubuque. And I had family and friends here.

And you returned to WMSE when you came home?

I have to give credit to Paul Host. I was ready to hang up my headphones, but Paul encouraged me to get involved in the station again. Paul said, "You're not too old," which sounds really funny 21 years later!

Describe the music you're playing nowadays.

I call it alternative for geezers—geezers being everyone over 40. I'm not hanging out in clubs. I'm not of the 20-something scene anymore. And yet, many of the people who still listen to radio are also 40 and up. Younger people listen to their iPods and Internet radio.

I still play six to eight new tracks per hour, but, frankly, it's music I like, so by definition it's geezer alternative. I'm playing the new Gang of Four, for example. I always try to play stuff from the last decade, but for anyone my age, anything that came out in the last decade is something new. I still try to play stuff you can't hear anywhere else in town. If it's on "Caf Tonight" or 88.9, I drop it.

And you're still excited about radio?

Radio has always been more of a hobby or a sideline for me. In the business community 90% of people will say "golf" when you ask them what they do for fun. For me, it's radio.


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