Amped and ready, DJ Kevin Schatz climbs the ladder of the radio industry
by Christian Orozco
“His moustache is a powerful aphrodisiac. Hairs from his moustache brush are incredibly sought after to be used in love potions and fertility centers around the world.” These words from the movie “Anchorman” were used to describe the moustache of the iconic character Ron Burgundy. They are words that ring true to all men who groom their moustaches to polished perfection everyday. For Kevin Schatz, his waxed and perfectly-curled upper lip hair brings laughter to the people who listen to him on 97.1 Amp Radio in Los Angeles. The 2007 La Verne alumnus has paid his dues in the radio industry and has now taken over the Los Angeles airwaves from midnight to 5 a.m.
“Monday through Friday they’re letting me talk to L.A.,” Kevin says. “I don’t know what they’re thinking.” This man with the moustache also produces a series of quirky, online videos, and he directs a summer camp on the side. But before you can know the many sides of Kevin Schatz, let’s back up. A humble man, from a humble university, fittingly, comes from the humble, small suburban town of Lomita, Calif. “It has a lot of quiet charm and personality,” Kevin recollects. “I take a lot of motivation from that city.” Kevin’s first memories of being heard behind a microphone come from Narbonne High School. He would do the PA announcements for his school. “I loved it, I loved the feeling of people at my school recognizing my voice and the things I had said.”
Kevin came to the University of La Verne knowing he wanted to do something with his voice, so he entered as a communications major. The decision between television broadcast and radio broadcast was easy for the aspiring personality. “TV was the obvious choice,” Kevin explains. “I don’t like choosing the obvious choice.” Looking for something new and challenging, Kevin was ready to embark on the radio broadcast curriculum and live the life of a Leopard. “I look back at La Verne with nothing but fond memories,” Kevin says. “I was really ingrained with the community.” While engaging in the curriculum Kevin took several classes with Mike Laponis, professor of communications and adviser for LeoFM. “I remember Kevin always having a unique take on things which led to him being great on-air because he would present things in a unique and interesting way,” Mike says.
Along with being a resident’s assistant on campus, Kevin was heavily involved with the University’s radio station, which at the time was KULV, but is now known as LeoFM. “They really teach you to do things how they do it in the industry,” Kevin says. “A lot of college radio stations I’ve heard about kind of let you have a free-for-all. You bring in your music, you talk for as long as you want, and it gives you the chance to express yourself, but it doesn’t prepare you for what you’re actually going to come across when you step into the actual radio industry.” At KULV Kevin was given the opportunity to do hands-on work with equipment that is used in the professional industry. “It’s a learning laboratory about how to run and operate a broadcast facility, how to be on the air, do promotions, production and contests,” Mike says. “The purpose is to make it as real as possible.” After receiving the knowledge of how to operate a radio board in a professional manner, Kevin felt that he was ready for something bigger. “It made the transition of going into a professional radio station a lot easier,” Kevin says. KULV gave Kevin the opportunity to participate in production work, promotions, and his favorite on-location broadcasts. “There’s a way to be creative and reach audiences,” he says. “Whether it be in person or on the radio doing creative and fun things like (on-location broadcasts). It connects with people.”
While at La Verne, Kevin interned in L.A. at KROQ’s nationally-syndicated morning show, “The Kevin and Bean Show.” He took a full load of classes while driving into his internship, which began at 5 a.m. each day. After graduation Kevin found himself in a position many post-grads find themselves in—jobless.After being unemployed for four or five months Kevin received a call from a friend at KROQ telling him that the station was looking for a phone operator. After applying, he interviewed and was hired on the spot. Soon enough he transitioned from the phones to the board and handled the phones for KROQ’s late night sex advice show “Love Line.” He eventually became a producer and board operator for the show where it all began, “The Kevin and Bean Show.” After the various opportunities at KROQ, Kevin saw another one at a radio station that was in the same building, Amp Radio. “I’ve known him since I was on the air at KROQ, and he was a phone op at KROQ,” Assistant Program Director at Amp Radio John Michael says. “I liked him enough to hire him here at Amp after his gig at ‘Love Line’ ended. I didn’t even know where I’d put him at the time. I just knew I wanted him back in the building.”
When he began at Amp Radio, Kevin was in charge of operating the boards. Always looking for a new challenge, he began pursuing an on-air vacancy at Amp Radio after only being there for a year. Kevin recorded a few air check demos and sent them to Amp Radio’s afternoon personality, Booker. Immediately after hearing the air checks, Booker told Kevin that he was ready for the air. Then Michael heard Kevin’s live air checks and assigned Kevin the midnight to 5 a.m. slot. “I just felt like it was worth a shot given what we do over here,” Michael says. “We want our air talent to relate to and connect with listeners. It’s really more about being real and authentic than being slick, and that pretty much sums up Kevin.” While many on-air personalities like the sound of their own voice, Kevin always remembers what the listener is actually listening for, the music. “It’s about giving them their music without being that annoying guy that’s getting in the way of their music,” Kevin explains. “I don’t want to be a guy who people are tuning away from as soon as he gets on the mic. I want to be someone who’s going to have a conversation with the listener, connect with them and give them something interesting.” Kevin pumps out contemporary pop during his shift, and he loves it. “He lets the music be the reason why people are listening,” Mike says. “He’s always been good, but his skills are sharper now.”
Kevin is inspired by two on-air personalities, one of them being the radio personality who comes on right after him on Amp Radio, Carson Daly. “I grew up watching Total Request Live on MTV, so when I see him it’s like ‘Oh my gosh, you used to be in my living room, now I share a studio with you’,” Kevin says. He also looks up to KROQ’s on-air personality, Sluggo. “I try to bring Sluggo’s creativity and Carson’s genuine ability to connect,” Kevin says. During his shift he executes and articulates words that resemble Carson Daly, but uses a combination of puns and wit that take him back to his KROQ roots where Sluggo first inspired him.
Camp La Verne is a summer and weekend winter camp in Angelus Oaks put on by the Church of the Brethren. Kevin first came to the small, rustic camp when he was seven and returned for 12 years. Currently, he co-directs the camp with his older sister Erica, who also graduated from ULV. “The opportunity to work with my brother on something that had such a huge impact on both of our childhoods growing up, I couldn’t pass that up when Kevin came to me with it,” Erica says. “And now we work together to try and create a similar experience for the kids that attend Camp La Verne now.” Kevin says he and Erica have easily delegated the responsibilities at the camp. “She can handle activities I might struggle with, and I can handle activities she might struggle with,” Kevin says. “It makes it so much easier.”
“It is a church camp so we try to use a religious angle,” Kevin says. “But a lot of the time I’m more about just teaching the idea of humanity and being a good steward to the Earth, taking care of the Earth, taking care of the people on this Earth, being loving and accepting to everyone. If I have anything to teach I try to teach things like that.” Erica is a school teacher and is able to handle the children well. Both Kevin and Erica agree that their favorite part of the camp is the night hike they do at the senior summer camp. “The kids respond very well to the hike,” Kevin says. “It’s really interesting for the kids who have never camped before because we go out there in the woods and set up camp for the night.” Kathy Doramus, Church of the Brethren’s camp manager says the summer camp is the most popular activity among the kids at the church. “All the kids look forward to going to this camp,” she says. “Not only because it’s the summer camp but because Kevin and Erica really make it a memorable experience.”
“It’s part of my identity, but it has a mind of its own.” Those are not the words Kevin used to describe a robotic limb built by Skynet, but rather the words he used to describe his moustache. The bare-knuckle-boxer-like upper lip hair has rested on Kevin’s face for two years, but he also had the moustache earlier, at different times in his life. “He has had the moustache long before the hipsters had it,” Erica says. Kevin says his moustache hero is Tom Selleck because of Selleck’s longtime commitment to his moustache. Kevin sees his own moustache as more than just upper lip hair. It is a social experiment. “I like to see how many looks I’ll get. It’s a great conversation starter, and it’s funny to see who will say something about it and who won’t,” he says. The humble Kevin Schatz switches identities when talking about his glorious ‘stache. He turns into, what he calls, the Moustache Man. “One thing I will always brag about is my moustache,” Kevin says. “I feel like it’s its own entity. When I’m talking about how great it is, I’m not talking about me, I’m talking about it.”
Kevin’s moustache has helped him connect with people and his audience, and it has sparked his brain child: a series of online videos called “I moustache you a question.” Kevin first created the videos for fun, but they are now a part of the Amp Radio website. “I moustache you a question” is a person-on-the-street video series where Kevin goes to different places, whether it be a Justin Bieber concert or the streets of L.A. on New Year’s Eve to collect kisses before midnight. Wherever he goes, he finds himself asking strangers ridiculous questions. “We all know Bieber threw up on stage a few nights ago. Do you feel like you’re going to be disappointed if you don’t see Bieber throw up on stage tonight?” Kevin asks two women standing in front of the Staples Center waiting for the Bieber concert to begin. They shrug their shoulders and tell Kevin they would rather not see Bieber vomit tonight. “Ok, because here’s my thought process on that,” Kevin begins to explain to the women. “The fans in Arizona (where Bieber vomited) got to see way more Bieber than anyone else. They literally got to see his insides, you know? Like, don’t you feel like you would be missing out if you don’t get to see that too?” The women giggle and look at each other, waiting for someone to answer the awkward question. One breaks the silence and quietly says, “No.”
Along with his online videos, Kevin also puts his creativity and humor in his social networking sites such as Vine and Twitter. “Kevin is very active with making videos, be them long form or on Vine. We don’t ask him to do it, but he enjoys doing it, and he’s good at it. It’s organic, it’s authentic,” Michael says. “If it garners him a following and earns us both more fans, so much the better. I think most people that use social media know the difference between real and hype so you can’t really say to someone ‘Hey, go do things that get followers.’ Then what? It has to happen organically or else it’s noise.”
Kevin does not consider himself a comedian. He’s a guy who is trying to make people happy with laughs, music and his moustache. “We’ve seen the person-on-the-street thing done a bunch of times,” Kevin says. “But a lot of people try to draw laughs from being vulgar, and I sort of pride myself on not being like that. I try to be genuine and relatable in everything I do, so I really draw on that. There’s a way to be entertaining without being vulgar.”