By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Aug 24, 2011 at 1:03 PM

Marcus Doucette cannot be compartmentalized when it comes to his person, his spirituality or his musical tastes. Born in Milwaukee to a black mother and a white father, he grew up in a Sikh ashram where he practiced yoga daily and music was ever-present in the religious services.

Doucette attended public schools during elementary and high school and went to college at Marquette University, all of which further contributed to the diversity in his life and his taste in music.

"As a biracial dude from the '70s and '80s, I neither knew what I was 'supposed' to be into nor did I need to distinguish my taste against those of any other. And this is probably why I love 88Nine, that I can be a DJ that's like me as a person and individual," says Doucette.

Doucette is a DJ at 88Nine RadioMilwaukee where he holds down the 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. time slot. He hosts the popular world music program "Sound Travels" every weekday at noon and Sundays at 7 p.m. His rich, recognizable voice and vast musical knowledge has helped shape the independent station into a true Milwaukee gem.

Recently, kicked back with Doucette and talked about music, neighborhoods, yoga, goals, loneliness and whether or not he gets recognized in public often. Before you were on the radio, people always told you that you should be in radio. Why exactly did they say this? Is radio something you wanted to do for a long time, or did it come to you later?

Marcus Doucette: So before there was radio, there was regular life. Not that radio isn't, it just was a different chapter of mine and to make a living I did all sorts of stuff, from landscaping and painting houses to teaching and telemarketing. Right before I started working in radio for real, I was waiting tables.

When you're doing work that isn't your true calling or even in a position that you aren't sure what it is you should do, people, situations and really the universe will give you hints as to what that should be, and if the truth is the opportunity you are waiting to grasp, you'll figure it out because the answers are almost always in front of you and probably in plain sight.

For me, whenever and wherever I was working, people of a certain age would remark that I should be in radio. I never paid it much mind because it's a hard business to get into and like everything else, you gotta know someone. And that's before you can show them that you know something at all.

Now I'd been a DJ for a while, and had my own gigs and was collecting records mainly because I loved music. I'd gotten into it later in life than many, and was making up for lost time by digging deep and buying in bunches. I DJ'ed wherever I could and one night I met Tom Crawford, station manager at 91.7 WMSE. We met in the context of one of my gigs, got to talking and in the course of a deep conversation about the world music I was spinning, ended up getting offered a chance to DJ on 91.7.

From there, I volunteered for a couple of years, got a bit better and when 88Nine came along, got a serendipitous call that ended up in an interview. Now I'm on the air every day on RadioMilwaukee.

OMC: Where did you grow up? Are you from a musical family?

MD: I was born in Milwaukee, spent grade school years in Kansas City and moved back during high school. I went to Tosa East, college at Marquette and have been here ever since.

My family isn't particularly musical, though I remember when I was little my dad played a bit of acoustic guitar, that he'd later quit. I did grow up in a Sikh ashram however, and in this environment there was always music and singing.

Sikh religious services are very musical, often with tablas, harmoniums and guitars and such as the musical background to poetic readings of what I would call scripture. So I guess in a way, my family is musical, just another kind of gospel.

OMC: Have you ever been in a band?

MD: I've never been in a band. And I grew up listening first to the chants, mantras and music of Western Sikh Dharma, and later on, music of the eras and contexts I was in. With my mom, soul, funk and classic black music. With my dad's side of the family, classic rock. Around my friends, '80s pop and the nascent hip hop that was entering, naively, what we now call its golden era. And alone, I would listen to really weird stuff, like Indian Ragas, deep Celtic roots, even some classical music. Somehow all of this still sits in my aesthetic for music. Never mattered what format, though I was around tapes, CDs – when they got cheap enough to afford – and records, as well. For what it's worth, records are still the best, just not always practical.

OMC: How did you start DJing?

MD: Somehow my past never seemed to add up to me being a DJ, but somehow it did. I guess my passion for music comes from not really digging deep until I was older. By then, I had a lot of catching up to do. And when you're young, music has a lot to do with who you think you are or are going to be. I never had a clear idea of what that meant for me. So I accept a lot of music, and am into a lot of different things because, as a biracial dude from the '70s and '80s, I neither knew what I was "supposed" to be into nor did I need to distinguish my taste against those of any other. And this is probably why I love 88Nine, that I can be a DJ that's like me as a person and individual.

Playing diverse sets of music, and in my "Sound Travels" program, I can indulge in deep world music that I discover and in turn introduce it to other people. I love bringing sounds that people wouldn't find on their own. 88Nine gives me plenty of opportunity to do just that.

OMC: You have a great shift. How did you score that? Is it a coveted shift by other DJs?

MD: I love my time slot: 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Perfect for me. I get up early. Since I've been at 88Nine for almost five years now, it's hard to remember that Tarik (Moody) almost had my slot, but I always wanted this one. Not mornings, evenings or drive time, just mid days. I don't know that anyone else covets it, but it is mine, and I intend to keep it. It's the time when I hang out and be me. Anyone who hears can see.

OMC: What are the drawbacks of your job?

MD: There's not a lot that I don't like about my job, actually. The stuff that I don't like to do actually puts me in position to do the stuff that I do, so I can condemn none of it. It's all a part of the experience.

OMC: People sometimes complain about radio, all radio, including RadioMilwaukee, saying the same songs are played too many times. How do you respond to this age-old radio complaint? Do you really think RadioMilwaukee is different from commercial stations and if so, how?

MD: To the age-old radio complaint, I say, "Yawn." and then I say, "find the station you really like." I wish I knew the perfect formula and all the right cuts to play, but I try. We all try at 88Nine to do our best.

I think it's a special approach to radio with a lot of new music, Milwaukee music, classic cuts, community storytelling as well as artists who we really believe deserve to be on radio. Plus, we have some special programs like Sound Travels, The Rhythm Lab and the Saturday Session that absolutely bring unique flavors to the table. But really, it's all up to the individual to decide what they like. I do like that we have conversations about the music and everyone on air can speak freely about what we like and don't like. The efforts are collective and that's special.

OMC: What are your thoughts on the Milwaukee music scene? Does the city support local musicians enough? How do you support local musicians?

MD: The Milwaukee music scene is pretty solid. It has its moments good and bad, but there is a lot, I mean a lot of talented musicians working in Milwaukee. And we do our best to make sure that Milwaukee knows.

My feeling is that there is a lot more work nowadays for local musicians, so I'd say we do support the scene. Could it be better? Yes, but tomorrow is a new day and there's plenty of work to do. Even a lack of support could be that there is an opportunity to make it better and the future is not yet writ.

OMC: How often do you DJ?

MD: I DJ once or twice a week. Maybe more, if the gig or the money's good. Every Sunday I'm at The Nomad. 8 p.m. Just sayin.'

OMC: Do you still teach / practice yoga? What kind, where? What else do you do when you're not on the radio?

MD: I stay busy enough now that I have only a little time to teach yoga and will be doing more of that in the near future. Growing up with the Sikh Dharma meant growing up doing Kundalini Yoga daily, at 4:20 a.m. after a cold shower.

I may miss a session here and there but I take care not to miss the point of having it as a discipline. It keeps my soul together and my spirit elevated. Kundalini is Raja Yoga, connects your mind, body and spirit and awakens you to your soulfulness. In Kudalini we breathe, chant and stretch so that we can sit, meditate and be ourselves in comfort, good cheer and prosperity.

Other than that, I watch a lot of movies, like 8-10 a week. Mostly I watch weird stuff to foreign to philosophical, even dumb action movies. I love cinema. I also read a lot, lately devouring Cormac McCarthy's twisted westerns. I also am into track bikes, beer and vegetarian food – because if you don't, you'll just end up eating another whatever.

I am an expert people-watcher and have a weakness for brunch, though that's not much of a hobby.

OMC: Do you find your job on the radio to be lonely or a connector to people or both? I mean, you sit alone during your shift, but you know all of these people are listening. And then you go into public and people know you, but really, you seem like kind of an introverted guy. Are you?

MD: My job is lonely in the studio, but I'm decent at it so it's pretty lively on the streets. I guess I'd say I feel like a connector, but it takes at least two to tango and someone else would have to confirm. Though I am in fact a pretty private dude, I am embarrassingly open-minded and accept pretty much anyone. I don't hang out with everyone, though.

An only child who felt a little alone, I have a pretty extensive internal conversation going on. 'Dunno, maybe crazy, a genius or neither. I'm easy to know, but hard to really know deeply. On the intro, I'm an extrovert but I think those that really know me know I'm pretty private. Most people don't really want to know people, but I think I try. I listen to other peoples' problems and stories before I open up and tell my own tales of self and being. I'm only private because not many ask the right questions. I just try not to be ingratiatingly loquacious. To be fresh in the flesh, not just the word.

OMC: Do many people recognize you out and about and if so, do you like that? Ever just wish you could be anonymous?

MD: It's an interesting life being a DJ. I do get recognized, my voice is distinctive enough for people to recognize at times. I like that a lot. I'm kinda shy, but kinda not. If someone recognizes me, I do my best to honor that and be grateful.

I'm secretive with myself in a way that revels in my own revelation. Having a purpose gives me greater purpose and a point to be solid from. Although I must say that no matter how well known I am, I think I'll always be a bit unknown. It's possible to be many things from that point of reference. Free enough to be myself.

OMC: What are your favorite genres of music? What is your favorite album from 2011 so far?

MD: I have no single favorite genre of music, I like too much to be exclusive. A favorite album? More like favorites. When people ask, "if you were stuck on an island and had only one album, what would it be?" I think no matter what it was I'd be sick of it in a matter of days.

That said, let me list some stuff from this year: Vieux Farka Toure, Orchestre Poly-Rhythmo, SMOD, Tinariwen, Portugal The Man, Radiohead, Alborosie, IamOmni, Theophilus London, TV On The Radio, Sbtrkt, Seun Kuti, The Lumerians, Midnite, Magic System, Rubblebucket, Systema Solar, The Weekend, The Black Keys, Radiokijada, the Beastie Boys, Toro y Moi, Dennis Coffey and a bunch of Milwaukee bands – which will remain nameless lest they think I play favorites. All of these got major play on my iPod. And that doesn't include the compilations I'm currently in love with or the artists I've only just discovered.

OMC: What neighborhood do you live in? RadioMilwaukee does such nice spots on Milwaukee neighborhoods. Do you think they resonate with people?

MD: I live in Riverwest now. But I have also lived in Bay View, Wauwatosa, Shorewood, Sherman Park, Brewers Hill and Jones Island. I love Milwaukee a ton and I think Radio Milwaukee does, too. Our Neighborhood series is so popular we might as well call our entire storytelling segment "The Neighborhood Project," though it is in fact much more than that. The neighborhood part resonates that well with people.

OMC: Do you find Milwaukee segregated?

MD: Yes, Milwaukee still segregates itself and the city sometimes struggles with its collective identity. The issue is as huge as it is profound and problematic. I don't sweat it too much though. I live where I want to and hang out with anyone and everyone. I'm not here to fight limited logic, I'm here to inspire and live in love.

OMC: What are your goals for the future? What are some things you would like to do while on the planet?

MD: I want to do this radio thing as long as I can, I love being on the radio. I'm living the dream as they say. In the future, I'd love to be in a position to finish what I've started and help people more than I do now. This life is not about me, at least not without all of you. Other than that, maybe some more travel, to be deep in my yoga and a lady to kick it with and love. Let the rest take care of itself. We are spirits in a material world, in dust we must and keep an eye to our sky.

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.